Saturday, August 23, 2014

5 Best Albums in July 2014

Summer months tend to be quiet, at least in terms of the volume of new music releases compared to other months, but this past July was an incredibly efficient month for new music, with some surprisingly strong records from old farts and exciting sounds from new kids on the block.

Morrissey - World Peace is None of Your Business

I had planned to be very much disappointed by this album. Contrary to popular belief, I do not fall into the blind following obsessive category of Morrissey fandom. I will say, time off serves him well. Much like after the five plus year layoff ahead of You Are The Quarry, Moz sounds refreshed and full of well earned signature pomposity. He still turns a phrase better than just about any young working lyricist, and has managed to infuse these songs with musical sounds not strictly explored on previous works. It feels like maybe it should be a swan song effort, but if one watches the daily press, he is still happy to run his mouth with unpopular opinions, perhaps in the strict interest of trying to remain relevant. So it seems unlikely he is done just yet. Morrissey makes it hard for a lot of people to like him, but this record is very hard to hate. As a friend said to me recently, "what else is he going to do? It's not like he would have any friends."

Army Navy - The Wilderness Inside

This is the third album by Army Navy. Like the previous two efforts, there is absolutely no incentive here to make anything weird, contrived, pretentious, or trendy. This is a guitar pop record. Army Navy make the best kind of guitar pop records. They stay in the song and they do not apologize for not kicking in any muscle or distortion to distract from their sincerity. Ironically, no matter how familiar these songs feel, there is nothing the least bit derivative about what these lads do, and against the current landscape of bands, there is not a single other relatively well known band doing anything like this. "The Mistakes" will inevitably end up in the top five part of my 100 favourite songs this year. No one makes this kind of music to get rich. They make this kind of music because they care about writing wonderful timeless pop songs, for people like me who care more than we should about bands who write wonderful timeless pop songs.  

Jungle - Jungle

I never feel strictly qualified to write thoughts on records like this, even though I do not even really write proper publication style music reviews. I think it has something to do with a perceived need for cred and legitimacy and for really knowing your electronic/club/dance/dj stuff. I feel on the periphery of most music like Jungle, so my angle with stuff like this is much more simplistic. For a couple Brit dudes who seem to know their way around a production board, they also seem to have a profound sense for how to pull in 70's inflected soul and funk vocals and grooves. This is unquestionably an album that belongs in 2014, but anyone with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye or Earth Wind & Fire albums can throw this on and feel not only like they belong here, but that were part of the experiences that went into these songs sounding the way they do. A tremendously consistent recording, with razor sharp focus yet it never feels anything short of organic and hand crafted.

Eugene McGuinness - Chroma

Apparently this bloke has made three records prior to this one. Based on how much this one resides smack dab in the middle of my power pop wheel house, it is sort of embarrassing to never have heard of him. Better late than never though as they say. A comparison to Halifax legends and Sub Pop signees, Hardship Post, would be lost on most, but the opening track unknowingly channels that very band along with equal parts Day Tripper and saucier Costello songs. This is a compact set of songs, full of hooks and bouncy bits. Occasionally it feels like he still has untapped potential, but keeping these songs on a proper even scale without the temptation to pump them full of dumb stadium rock swagger keeps this recording grounded in all the right stuff for the type of sound it initially promises up. 

The Acid - Liminal

In the circles where bands like The Acid get talked about, they have been described a number of ways, but "shadowy" is the one description that sticks with me when I listen to Liminal. This is a complex set of songs that engage with the listener for sure, but require effort and investment well beyond some of the other albums I am highlighting this month. There are some surprisingly soulful moments here, mostly in the vocal lines. There are not a lot of spikes in the style between tracks, yet not one of these songs is remotely similar. A song like "Fame" carries with it such a profound warm sadness, while something like "Red" feels much more vast and expansive with soaring synths and gorgeously blended vocals. This is a fascinating record. Perhaps not for everyone, but completely rewarding if you stick with it.

La Roux - Trouble In Paradise
Monomyth - Saturnalia Regalia!
The Raveonettes - Pe'ahi
Slow Club - Complete Surrender