Words About Music
Good news, everyone.
JAKOB’S ALBUM REVIEWS IS BACK!
After a short hiatus, I’m returning to bring you regular album reviews. You saw what my favorite albums of 2014 are, and because a month of 2015 has gone by, I’m going to tell you what my favorite albums of this past month are. These will be order from most loved to least loved, though I must tell you that all of these albums are pretty great and totally worth your time.
I do believe that this is the way I will operate the blog from now on, though I may do regular album reviews again depending on my schedule. If you’re looking for some album reviews, just search for my name at http://www.dailyuw.com
ALBUMS I WAS PSYCHED ABOUT:
No one does music quite like Björk. That’s been true since the early ’90s, and it remains to be true. Though it was supposed to be in March, “Vulnicura,” the Icelandic beauty’s 9th album, came out last week after it was cruelly leaked to the Internet. I guess the real winners here are the fans that get to hear this amazing new album in its entirety two months before initial planning. “Vulnicura” is scary, dark, beautiful, depressing, and very personal. Björk’s string arrangements add an extra finesse to Arca’s mad beats and The Haxan Cloak’s warped production. Needless to say, this is one of Björk’s trippiest, most gorgeous albums to date. It’s awesomeness incarnate.
Viet Cong “Viet Cong”
Born from the ashes of Calgary-based post-punk quartet Women, Viet Cong is a whole new breed. Industrial hammering, electronic synthetics, passionate vocals, heavy bass; it’s all here. “Viet Cong” is one of the most essential post-punk albums in years. It’s noisy, voracious, and simultaneously cold, robotic. It’s a disorienting album, but one that is totally worth every bit of anticipation. If noise rock and post-punk (with a touch of shoegaze) seem like they’re in your ballpark of taste, you should absolutely listen to this album.
Sleater-Kinney “No Cities to Love”
The best rock and roll band in the world is back! “No Cities to Love” is the Olympia trio’s first album in ten years, and the band has shown no signs of aging whatsoever. Corin Tucker still has the voice that kills, Carrie Brownstein’s guitar riffs are as serious as “Portlandia” isn’t, and Janet Weiss’ drumming is as top notch as it gets. While I’d like for this album to longer, it’s still a badass punk record that takes no prisoners and holds no grudges. In a world where anyone can call themselves a punk band, Sleater-Kinney is back to reclaim its title as one of the most significant, consistently awesome bands to ever walk the planet. I’m so happy they’re back.
Joey Bada$$ “B4.DA.$$”
It’s rare that the debut album of a mixtape rapper is as strong and consistent as “B4.DA.$$.” Hell, the title of this album is more clever than what a lot of mixtape rappers come up with when they eventually give in to the capitalist machine. Thankfully, “B4.DA.$$” is an excellent record that features some of youngster Joey’s best raps yet. He’s not 17 anymore, like he was when he released his debut tape “1999,” and he’s here to prove it. His commentary is sharp, his rhymes are incredible, and the beats are fantastic. Hip-hop fans should be rallying over how good this album is, especially in an era where mixtapes are where it’s at.
Natalie Prass “Natale Prass”
Our girl Natalie is off to a great start. “Natalie Prass” is a debut album full of some of the most fun, beautiful songs of the past month (it’s a shame that we have to relativize quality music to months). Equal parts Joanna Newsom and Jenny Lewis, Natalie Prass brings almost a Disney Princess vibe to the table. Horns, strings, and a little bit of country twang make this album a surprisingly sharp debut. Though Prass’ music wouldn’t usually be my thing, I can’t help but get transfixed in her excellent voice and catchy choruses. I didn’t expect to enjoy this album the way I did, but if you let its multiple sounds envelop you, then you should find something to love in “Natalie Prass,” both the album and the singer.
Napalm Death “Apex Predator – Easy Meat”
No, I didn’t expect to be rocked so hard by a band that is 30 years into its career. Yet, here I am. Raving over the latest Napalm Death record. And I guess the fact is, if you love grindcore music the way I do, it doesn’t matter how old the artists are. Napalm Death is and probably always will be the best grindcore band of all time. And that absolutely carries over on the superb “Apex Predator – Easy Meat.” Parts industrial experimentation, parts no-B.S. slaps, this album will destroy you. If you’re a fan of heavy music, you’re a fool for missing this album. Sure, it’s Napalm Death’s 15th, but that doesn’t mean that a band can’t strike gold late into their career.
Cloakroom “Further Out”
This band sounds like what would happen if golden aged Nirvana, Sunny Day Real Estate, Dinosaur Jr., and Earth all collaborate for a record. It’s a superb shoegaze stoner emo garage rock record that delivers everything that Nothing and Whirr didn’t last year. Sure, a lot of the songs sound pretty similar. But “Further Out” is definitely a good start for what could be 2015’s most promising emo band. In a world where emo music is beginning to taper off and become stale, it’s good to see bands like Cloakroom continue to revitalize the genre. Listen to this album.
Death Grips “Fashion Week”
Though this isn’t the Death Grips release everyone wanted and expected, it’s still pretty damn good. Loaded with 14 fiery, multi-faceted instrumental songs (MC Ride doesn’t make any vocal appearances on this album) it’s still a very sound, consistent, and enjoyable mixtape of music that combines house, dubstep, trip-hop, and some of the jazzy alt rap stuff Madlib works on. It’s arguably Death Grips’ weirdest release to date. And with “The Powers That B” making its full, highly anticipated appearance sometime this year, you can consider this the band’s form of “Sorry 4 the Wait.”
The Body & Thou “You, Whom I Have Always Hated”
The Body and Thou are two bands that are responsible for some of the most offensive, raw, psychologically traumatic sludge metal albums of the past few years. And that’s just on their own. When they come together, the beast is only made angrier. While this album is more of an EP, running at only a half hour long, I’m sure the bands could’ve easily come together for a much longer release. I was hoping for more, but ultimately, “You, Whom I Have Always Hated” is a solid EP that includes a bangin’ cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Terrible Lie.” If you can’t wait around for the next release from The Body or Thou (who both released music last year) then you should definitely give this a listen.
ALBUMS I WASN’T PSYCHED ABOUT
Rae Sremmurd “SremmLife”
While this duo shows promise in the popular trap-rap world, there’s not enough great material on here to satisfy a full album. I do look forward to future Rae Sremmurd releases though, and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to pronounce their name.
Panda Bear “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper”
While I was highly anticipating the latest from Animal Collective’s best solo artist, “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper” kind of shat on my expectations. The album ended up feeling unfinished, noisy (in a bad way), and nowhere near up to par with the musician’s best. While there were some interesting songs and sounds on this album, I was ultimately left bored by the content.
Belle and Sebastian “Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance”
I guess I’m just not a huge Belle and Sebastian fan, but the latest from this Scottish indie stalwart didn’t do it for me. The band’s first three albums are undeniable classics (as are a few others in the band’s discography) but nothing on this album really stuck with me or turned me into someone who can call themselves a fan of Belle and Sebastian.
The Decemberists “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World”
Like with Belle and Sebastian, I just don’t think I’m cut out to be a Decemberists fan. While I appreciate the orchestral layers of indie folk music the band offers, as well as Colin Meloy’s singing voice and lyrical ability, I wouldn’t say there’s a full Decemberists album that I actually like. “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” continues in that vein. I didn’t like it quite as much as the band’s last album, “The King is Dead,” but it’s still decent psychedelic indie folk pop for people who are into that sort of thing.
Lupe Fiasco “Tetsuo & Youth”
While the past few Lupe Fiasco albums haven’t been widely well received, “Tetsuo & Youth” was assumed by many to be a change of pace. And for many, it was. If you liked Lupe’s first two albums, “Food and Liquor” and “The Cool,” then there’s a strong chance you’ll enjoy “Tetsuo & Youth.” If Lupe’s preachy, not-necessarily-pretentious-but-kinda attempts at being ambitious songs and albums bother you, then you probably won’t like this album. Lupe is a phenomenal MC when he wants to be, but this album is too overloaded with guests and poor attempts at thematic structure to make it an essential release.
Aphex Twin “Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP”
“Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments” could’ve been a damn good EP. Fresh off the release of “SYRO,” enigmatic producer Aphex Twin is back once again with an EP of electronically controlled instrumentation that sounds like acoustic instrumentation. There’s drums and piano backing this thing, but it’s undoubtedly been computerized and synthesized. The music itself is good, but this EP comes with a surprising amount of filler. Good thing there’re still vaults of music for Richard D. James to sort through!
Periphery “Juggernaut: Alpha/Omega”
Probably the most laughable entry on this list (I didn’t listen to the new Fall Out Boy record) is the third album from Maryland-based progressive metal band Periphery. If you’re unfamiliar with Periphery (which I was until I heard this album) the band sounds like a poor mix between Meshuggah, current Dillinger Escape Plan, Asking Alexandria, and maybe a hint of Circa Survive. It basically combines the whiny faux-emo of this year’s Warped Tour lineup with the heavy djents of a thousand nine-string guitars. This double album is double the length it should be, and the few good moments come during very long songs. If you’re looking for a raucous metal album that will warp time and space, look literally anywhere else.
OTHER JANUARY ALBUMS I JUST DIDN’T LISTEN TO:
Mogwai “Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1.”
I guess it’s an EP by Mogwai, which is a band I really like. Are EPs even worth listening to these days? I’m sure some are. Lemme know if this one’s any good, otherwise I probably won’t listen to it.
The Dodos “Invivid”
I don’t think I’ve ever actually listened to The Dodos. I figured they were one of those bands fresh out of the tail end of the garage rock revival that had maybe one slight hit. I could be wrong though. Is this band any good? If not this album, then are there others worth checking out? A friend of mine told me this album sucked.
Papa Roach “F.E.A.R.”
This must be this band’s last resort.
Howlin Rain “Mansion Songs”
Poor Howlin Rain. I first heard these guys back in 2012 and I remember really enjoying them. I wonder if they’re still good. Maybe I’ll check it out.
Pond “Man It Feels Like Space Again”
Eh, I’ll just wait for the new Tame Impala. Unless enough people tell me this band is worth checking out.
Marilyn Manson “The Pale Emperor”
Ah, to be 13 again.
Enter Shikari “The Mindsweep”
Ah, to be 15 again.
Fall Out Boy “American Beauty/American Psycho”
Didn’t these guys just release an album? Whatever, I’ll just be over here blasting “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” until Panic! at the Disco breaks up.