I have a lot of catching up to do on all the music I’ve been listening to lately. Here are five mini-reviews that cover some of the newer releases that have been in my ears.
- Junk by M83
The long-awaited studio album from M83 has finally arrived. Since 2011’s masterpiece Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, we’ve only heard some forays into film scoring (Oblivion and You & the Night) and soundtrack music (songs for the first two Divergent films). With the arrival of his latest album Junk, Anthony Gonzalez has finally delivered something substantial. While HUWD channeled the artsy-er streams of the 70’s and 80’s, Junk is an ode to TV music, New Wave one-hit-wonders, and contemporary indie electronica. And even amidst the kitsch, none of that is a bad thing. It’s just a little jarring, even from the ever-adventurous M83. If you don’t expect a textbook M83 album, Junk will be an enjoyable experience. The open-mindedness required to enjoy this album perhaps does make it a textbook M83 album, though it’s of a significantly different flavor.
Stream the whole album on YouTube here.
- Are You Serious by Andrew Bird
Are You Serious is a pop-rock album for intellectuals. Clever arrangements and eclectic influences keep the music from becoming stale, and the highbrow poeticism at work in the lyrics keep the songs engaging. From the biographical “Puma” to fourth wall breaks in “Left Handed Kisses” to the Catholic references in “The New Saint Jude,” Bird has proved his songwriting proficiency in a pleasant and tightly-produced album. Topping off the album are Bird’s vocals, both in singing (which reminds me of a mix between Father John Misty and James Mercer of the Shins/Broken Bells) and, of course, in whistling.
Listen to “Roma Fade” on YouTube here.
- Ology by Gallant
The beats and vocals on this full-length debut are impeccable. The lyrics sometimes drift into “philosophical” babble, but Gallant has proven that R&B doesn’t have to be devoted to anti-intellectual sensuality. It may seem like an odd choice for Gallant to be a tour companion to singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, but Gallant proves his spot in the indie scene (as well as the R&B/Soul scene) with his fresh approach to the genre.
Stream the whole album on Soundcloud here.
- Thistle – EP by Manatee Commune
Without becoming overly saccharine, Thistle has encapsulated the best of the Pacific Northwest in a 21-minute journey through delightfully sunny and (sometimes literally) bubbly soundscapes. The field recordings and unique samplings are what set this record apart, and the Commune does an excellent job here at keeping the textures and layering lush and complex without becoming dense and overpowering.
Stream the EP on Bandcamp here.
- “Skin” by Fiery Crash
I’m a little embarrassed that I haven’t posted about this one yet. Fiery Crash recorded a new track using only his iPhone, and it’s as gorgeous and outstanding as you would expect. While Josh Jackson will continue to make music in the future, the Fiery Crash outlet may be seeing its end in the near future. The news paints this track in a sort of bittersweetness, but I am nevertheless excited to hear what the future holds.
Stream and download the track on Bandcamp here.