As I did last month, I’m playing a little catch-up here on BDWPS and wanted to share some of my favorite albums of the past few months. With the year end lists coming, it also helps me to have some of these write-ups in the tank, so here’s an early glimpse at some of the albums that may make the cut on my year end, top 40 albums list.
Also, be on the lookout for the best album covers of the year list next week!
As mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, my last few months at work have been overwhelming. Not to make excuses, but this would explain for the lack of reviews posted here as of late. I’d first like to apologize to my faithful readers (if you’re still out there!) and let you know that I’m still listening to loads of great music while being swamped at work. With the end of the year looming, I decided I’d take this one night of breathing room to post some of my favorite albums from the past few months. I hope to post a similar series of reviews like this in a few weeks (but don’t hold me to it).
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
Murder of the Universe
All signs would suggest that Murder of the Universe, the 11th release from Australian psych outfit King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, should be a disappointment. It’s 21 tracks long. It’s a concept album centered around the creation of outlandish altered beasts. And it’s the second release in a year where the band has promised to release five albums, resulting in possible oversaturation and carelessness (update: they released their third album of the year today). Yet somehow, all of these negative precursors somehow propel this album to new heights, making for one wild listen.
[Dead Oceans; 2017]
For over a decade, journalists have been writing think-pieces on the death of rock and roll, but not until the past couple years have their omens seemed possible. Two weeks ago Nielsen announced that for the first time in the rating system’s existence, rock music was not the most popular genre in their mid-year report. There’s no need for concern (yet). Rock music is closely trailing R&B/hip hop overall and in the category of albums, rock reigns supreme making up 40% of sales. Regardless, it does seem like rock and roll is on the down swing in popularity. For those in need of comfort during rock’s decline, Kevin Morby’s City Music plays as a perfect album of appreciation and reflection on the genre’s adventurous past.
The Magnetic Fields
50 Song Memoir
If 50 Song Memoir is proof of anything, it’s that Stephen Merritt is at his best when facing a monumental challenge. In 1999, he released 69 Love Songs, a box set that was just that – 69 songs about love, each told with Merritt’s signature bittersweet, often humorous lyrics. Since that seminal release, Magnetic Fields have stagnated a bit with a handful of meandering, mixed-bag albums. But in 2017, the songwriter has returned to his muse with another gargantuan challenge: to write 50 songs about his 50 years on this planet. Not only does he meet the quota, but the massive task helped him to shake the cobwebs off of his muse and write some of his best material in over 20 years.
Some may find the idea of a five-CD, 50 song album to be a bit too tedious, but Merrit masterfully tells his story in a way that is endlessly entertaining and continuously mysterious. This isn’t a straight-forward memoir (we never learn the names of his parents, if he has siblings, or the names of his lovers); instead, each song plays as a snapshot – sometimes a hilarious story (a mean cat, failing an ethics class in college, a song about how surfing is a dumb sport) and sometimes a heartbreaking revelation (the impact his mother’s boyfriends would have on him over the years, fears of the AIDs epidemic, mental illness). Merrit is at his finest though when the songs are a combination of both his signature snark and sadness.
Father John Misty
[Sub Pop; 2017]
Whenever I listen to Father John Misty’s 2017 release, Pure Comedy, I can’t help but think about the works of one of my all-time favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut. To place Josh Tillman, the man behind FJM, on the same level as Vonnegut would be a bit hyperbolic, but Tillman’s satirical portrayal of a misguided human race is reminiscent of Vonnegut’s hopeless take of humanity.
Stillness in Wonderland
[Age 101; 2017]
Over the past three years, Little Simz, the up-and-coming London hip-hop star, has shown her range. Her 2015 underground hit, “Dead Body”, hinted toward a dark and brooding artist while 2016’s AGE 101 DROPX EP aimed toward a more electronic approach. 2016’s conceptual effort Stillness in Wonderland continues in her path of unexpected turns with an album that is mellow and soulful, reminiscent of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun.