[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
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.
[Memphis Industries; 2016]
Throughout the history of rock and roll, the arrival of parenthood has often marked a decline in an artist’s creativity and output. We sometimes get gems like Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” and David Bowie’s “Kooks” as a result, but the schmaltzy, lackluster content that most post-parenthood artists churn out far outweighs the memorable material.
Field Music have bucked this tradition with their recent release, Commontime. The band’s past five albums were overtly busy and bookish, often riddled by a case of having too many cooks in the kitchen. The two head chefs, brothers Peter and David Brewis, both recently entered parenthood, and based off of the songs on Commontime, the distraction that having a child brings has helped the band be more carefree with their songwriting approach.
[In the Red; 2016]
Since emerging from the San Francisco music scene back in 2008, Ty Segall has released eight albums (not including his two albums with side-project Fuzz, a handful of EPs, and a collaborative album with White Fence). His workhorse output has resulted in a breadth of material that can become bewildering for avid fans. Despite every album having its highlights, there comes a point where much of his garage rock anthems begin to all sound the same. There are a couple of exceptions to this commonality: 2012’s Slaughterhouse was a nice, doomy side-track, and 2015’s Manipulator was a blatant and largely unsuccessful stab at glam rock. But for the most part, Ty Segall’s sound has remained the same for the better part of eight years.
The Agent Intellect
Hardly Art; 2015
In the past few years the once crumbling city of Detroit has seen a resurgence. In the wake of the automotive industry’s near collapse, companies like Quicken Loans and Shinola have made the corpse of the motor city their home. In 2010, Detroit became the fastest growing region for technology jobs with names like Google, IBM, and ProQuest seeing the bedraggled city as a great place to make their mark (tax breaks don’t hurt, either). As a result of this resurgence, many in the area fear that this gentrification of the city is wiping away the remnants of the city’s rugged history.
Protomartyr, a band of Detroit natives, execute this narrative perfectly in their latest release, The Agent Intellect. On the surface, Agent Intellect explores frontman Joe Casey’s struggle with the recent death of his father, but this discussion of mortality also doubles as an omen for the state of the band’s hometown. This isn’t Dan Gilbert’s squeaky clean, renovated Detroit; this is the seedy underbelly, filled with songs of arson, auto theft, drug abuse, and violence.
Sun Coming Down
One look at the presidential race in the two respective parties, and it is easy to assume that the United States has lost its mind. Leading the GOP is Donald Trump, a megalomaniac millionaire who trumps himself daily with more and more offensive/ludicrous statements that somehow only bolster his standing with conservatives. Young democrats have found their flavor of the week in Bernie Sanders, a self-declared socialist whose idealistic platform seems highly unachievable in a beltway that is more partisan than ever. One can’t help but wonder how these two unlikely candidates have gained such a following.
I like to believe it’s not so much the message of this duo that has excited the American people – it’s the fact that they are outsiders. Both candidates have refused to take money from corporate entities and special interest groups, the usual suspects who have put a stranglehold on the government, making citizens feel frustrated and powerless.
The Canadian quartet Ought have mirrored this frustration in both of their releases on Constellation Records. On 2013’s More Than Any Other Day, the band boiled down this helpless feeling to a life where shopping for milk is a highlight in a world where we can only assure ourselves that “everything is okay” while always “sinking deeper.” It’s common for bands today to focus on the dystopian, apocalyptic downfall that lies ahead, yet Ought have remained focus on the mundane patterns of everyday existence that we have all passively agreed upon.