Load up your holds list for all your New Year’s gatherings (or to provide a soundtrack as you have some alone time to recover from all that socializing) – it’s time for the final new music arrival round-up of 2017:
Lucinda Williams – This Sweet Old World (Highway 20 Records) – Twangy, mournful, and full of life’s hard-learned lessons. Williams revisits some of her back catalog, giving a new worn-in and worldly interpretation to some of her earlier works.
Moses Sumney – Aromanticism (Jagjaguwar) – Swoony, ethereal, loungy, and full of eclectic instrumentation with hints of electronic production. Sumney has the kind of falsetto that made me fall in love with Jeff Buckley. For an album that revolves around the rejection of romantic love, I find that kind of funny.
Lindstrøm – It’s Alright Between Us As It Is (Smalltown Supersound/Feedelity) – Bright, poppy, dance-floor-friendly house music with strong cosmic disco overtones.
Porter Ray – Watercolor (Sub Pop Records) – Seattle rapper Porter Ray’s Sub Pop debut gives a very intimate look into his tumultuous life. Watercolor’s lyrics dive heavily into the artist’s processing of the murder of his brother, Aaron. The tracks have a dreamy, often ominous feel to the production with a blending of current and throwback styles.
Dale Crover – The Fickle Finger of Fate (Joyful Noise Recordings) – After 30 years with the Melvins and early work with Nirvana, drummer Dale Crover aims his skills at a solo project. The album at times can feel a bit disjointed as Crover jumps from style to style – gritty and driving, acoustic and meandering, or even slowly-unwinding noise-rock. If you’re not looking for an album to take you on a journey this shouldn’t be too much of an issue; the ground that’s covered here is covered well.
Simo – Rise & Shine (Provogue) – Simo ventures a little out of their blues rock comfort zone into the uncharted waters of funk, soul, and psychedelia. The resulting fusion leaves the listener with a solid album to jam to at home and promises heat on the stage when touring with this material.
Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (Kemado Records, Inc.) – With a title that is a homage to the turbulent life of an outsider musician who was once groomed to give The Beatles a run for their money, Ariel Pink’s latest seems steeped in references to his musical influences. The album has a whimsical though dark feel to it, somewhere between psych-pop and new wave.
Margo Price – All American Made (Third Man Records) – Price comes out swinging with “Don’t Say It,” a rowdy rollicking jam and one way or another she doesn’t let up. This is an album that pulls no punches; it’s a stripped down look at life in America through the eyes of a woman raised in rural America. While this listens like a classic country album, from start to finish it also has the feel of a collection of folk-inspired protest songs that would make Woody, Pete, Joan, or Buffy proud.
Talib Kweli – Radio Silence (Javotti Media) – In his 8th studio album, Kweli brings you the kind of consistent, compelling music hip-hop fans have come to expect from him. As always, socially conscious lyrics are backed by beats of intricately-woven soul samples studded with collabs and cameos.
John Maus – Screen Memories (Ribbon Music) – Ever the craftsman, Maus spent the six-year span between albums essentially trying to hand-create electronic music from wires to vinyl, going so far as to build his own modular synth. While he said that the experiment was largely a disappointment, as his creation didn’t sound wildly different from commercially produced equipment, his output on Screen Memories doesn’t let the listener down in any way. This similarity may have more to do with the fact that he’s carefully honed his sound over time, rather than any failings in his synth construction. It’s a nice complement to his older work, showcasing his brooding deep vocals and moody synth-pop aesthetic.
Sly 5th Avenue – The Invisible Man: An Orchestral Tribute to Dr. Dre – This album brings me endless joy. It’s like the thrill of recognizing a favorite song in the QFC Muzak, but far funkier and infinitely more enjoyable. I think any fan of sample-driven music would appreciate what Sly 5th Avenue has accomplished here; it feels like an album just waiting to be remixed, sampled, and molded into new creations.
Ibeyi – Ash (Xl Recordings) – A powerful second album from Ibeyi. This eclectic offering of musical styles defies generification, blending vocal harmonies, minimal electronic production, hints of jazz, hip-hop, soul, and occasional flurries of West African and Yoruba percussive styles. The duo of twin sisters use their songwriting to address some of the violence they have faced as women of color in France, though this is less an album of protest than one of solidarity and strength with others engaged in similar struggles.
Julien Baker – Turn out the Lights (Matador Records) – Soft, slow builds with radiant finishes. Baker’s storytelling skills shine within the musical landscapes she painstakingly crafts. Heartrendingly soft and beautiful, her often mournful vocals deliver what feels like a deeply personal collection of songs.
Odonis Odonis – No Pop (Felte Records) – Dark, minimal, almost elemental industrial music. No Pop is pretty much right on the nose with the title. This album kind of recreates the feel of early Nine Inch Nails for me. You get an overwhelming sense of a world falling apart, and the desolation that will surely follow the collapse.