Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Best 5 Albums in August 2014

August was a bit light, and even some of these releases are not necessarily as strong as some from earlier months this year, but still some great writing and interesting songs on all of these.

Bear In Heaven - Time Is Over One Day Old

The three previous records by Bear In Heaven have all been rooted in dark synth tendencies, but on Time Is Over One Day Old, they really spend some time playing in a moodier sandbox. They never veer into the ranks of the downtrodden, but where I Love You, It's Cool saw them leaning a bit toward more upbeat electro pop, this one sees the Brooklyn lads exploring deamier and jammier stuff. Even with some of the sprawl, only a couple tracks cross up over five minutes. This is the most mature and focused Bear In Heaven have sounded to me. Like a band settling nicely into their skin after taking a few records to try some things.

Merchandise - After The End

Much has ben made of Merchandise's nods to late 80's Manchester bands. To be honest, it is probably what put them on my radar to begin with. Unlike some of their earlier material however, After The End  sounds borrowed from some of the less high profile Brit and Aussie acts from that era, like The Mission and The Church. Influences aside, Merchandise sound like a band more comfortable with who they are than a band of their tenure should. The record sounds polished enough that it could sit nicely on modern rock radio, and even make someone some money in the process, yet the melodies speak to artists past and present like Lloyd Cole or The Mighty Lemondrops, who had all the makings of commercial success, but maybe all the wrong timing. Regardless, a band this young from Tampa has no business producing a record this strong or this British.

JJ - V

Just about every month this year, since I started attempting to write a bit about five cool new albums each month, I have shamelessly ranted and raved about some great Swedish band or artist, with unapologetic hyperbole. Here is this month's version of that rant. This is the third release from JJ and like both of its predecessors, V manages to flow seamlessly from start to finish. Also like the two records before it, this one projects a listenability without ever veering into the over glossed world of modern cookie cutter club pop. The subtle hip and trip hop influences are still here, and their airy mystique hovers above just about every track. Lovely record from start to finish.

Spoon - They Want My Soul

One of the most common ways critics, reviewers, and fans choose to describe Spoon is consistent. The changes they make from album to album tend to be subtle, but each record ends up having its own sense of character, while never sounding like anything other than Spoon. Their last album, Transference,  was the first in a while that seemed to lack the solid song craft fans expect from Spoon. They Want My Soul sounds like a rested band getting back to what they do well. "Do You" is classic Spoon, yet they can also drop in a track like "Inside out" that really does not sound quite like any song they have written before. I was actually ready to not like this record. I had in my head and heart that maybe the boys were on the downside and their best years are past. To this view, They Want My Soul is actually proof that Spoon is still one of the most consistent and clever song focused bands of the last twenty years

Zoot Woman - Start Climbing

This is perhaps the least strong of the now four Zoot Woman releases, but it still speaks to a calibre of song and production in an electro pop group that sadly gets over shadowed by higher profile (quality) bands like Cut Copy and Hot Chip. The electro pop space seems more cluttered than when Zoot Woman started. When they sounded more like Human League crossed with Hall and Oates. Perhaps that is why Start Climbing might not sound terribly ground breaking in 2014. Nonetheless, on a track like "Silhouette", you can hear can the influence of the work Stuart Price has done with artists like Madonna and Pet Shop Boys. His penchant for 80's pop is still evident here, just perhaps made less outwardly obvious at every turn of the record. Still quality craft and warm production start to finish.

The New Pornographers - Bill Bruisers
Childhood - Lacuna
The Rosebuds - Sand + Silence