[Dead Ocean; 2016]
When we finally reach adulthood, all of the pains of puberty are supposedly left behind for a more measured and mature livelihood. We all know this myth is far from true. In fact, often those feelings of insecurity and fear are heightened with age, all of us bumbling around like big dumb teenagers trying to find our way in the uncertain future. Mitski explores this perpetual adolescence on Puberty 2, an album that exposes the endless battle to find happiness in the mundanity of adult life.
Trans Day of Revenge
[Amoeba Music; 2016]
Whatever happened to teenage angst? When I was an adolescent, teens who were frustrated with the state of the world found their battle cry in the music of bands like Propaghandi, Pennywise, and Good Riddance. The generation before me fought the reign of Reagan through bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag, and yes, Reagan Youth. But what do the frustrated youth of today turn to when upset? A snarky tweet with an @ mention? Holding up a hash-tagged sign in an Instagram photo? A Change.org petition that will be about as effective as a petition for the government to begin construction on the Death Star?
The Glowing Man
[Young God; 2016]
Swan’s front-man Michael Gira understands what many other artists realize too late – in order to continue, you must constantly evolve. Over the past three decades, Gira has reinvented his vision multiple times. Once a pioneering band of the abrasive, no-wave movement, Swans would go on to soften their blows with a more melodic approach in the mid-80s, and then move to a somber, almost conventional stint on MCA Records. Between 1983 and 1996, Swans went through four different line-up changes, and currently, the band’s alumni features a list of 18 musicians. After a 14 year hiatus between 1996 and 2010, Gira emerged with his fifth line-up, returning with a sound more ambitious and potent than anything explored by the band before.
[My Animal House; 2016]
Animal Collective’s 2016 release Painting With feels a bit like a final effort for the band. It’s a palatable album but lacks the spirit of adventure found in early AC works. After a 16-year span where they’ve released 11 albums, you can’t blame the boys for going through the motions at this point. It’s not that they’ve lost their muse – Panda Bear continues to create his melodic atmospheres on critically acclaimed solo albums, and Avey Tare’s boundary pushing solo work has reached incomprehensible levels (in a good way). Much like The Beatle’s near the end of their run, AC seem more comfortable and willing to take risks as solo artists. In 2016, the underappreciated and mysterious Deakin has emerged as AC’s biggest secret with his first solo album, Sleep Cycle. Continue reading
The Hope Six Demolition Project
For her latest project, PJ Harvey took a voyeuristic approach to the recording process by allowing the public to witness the band in the studio through one-way glass. On face value, this seems a bit gimmicky, but it’s a pretty fitting reflection on PJ’s songwriting for The Hope Six Demolition Project. For the concept album, she was an observer herself, taking on the role of a reporter, viewing the impact of American capitalism on the world.
City Sun Eater in the River of Light
As I watched Woods put on a stellar show at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday night, I had a strange image cross my mind during the performance of one of their latest tracks, “Can’t See It All”. As the song’s brooding bass line slink into my psyche, an image of a snake entered my mind. It seemed like a random vision, and I chuckled to myself at the weird places my brain can take me during a concert. But as I watched the band continue to play a set composed largely of material off of their latest, City Sun Eater in the River of Light, I began to think about how this band has been able to slither its way through the past decade, shedding skin with each album and returning with a fresh new take on psychedelic folk rock.
Despite my constant search for new music, there are times where I’ll buy an album simply because it’s being released on a great label. Names like Merge, Sacred Bones, and Dischord are a seal of quality and will rarely do you wrong. Such was the case when I decided to get Heron Oblivion’s debut album on Sub-Pop (another trustworthy entity) after only hearing a couple of songs on YouTube. I didn’t know where the band was from, how long they’d been together, or how many albums they’d released. The combination of the Sub-Pop name and the hints of early 2000s Comets On Fire psychedelic space rock were enough to sell me on them.