Returning to the regular format this week, I've picked out a selection of albums that I've been listening to over the past week and half or so. This is a pretty wide-range of tastes, and many of the bands are ones that I knew little about before listening to these records. Some were real surprises and others were slightly disappointing, but due mostly due to the fact that they don't conform to what I typically enjoy. I took some chances, and that's always a gamble. Sometimes you win big and sometimes you don't. Enjoy.
Curren$y - Return to the Winner's Circle: Having come late to the game to this New Orleans rapper, I've been trying my best to catch up by going through the abundance of outstanding mixtapes he's put out over the past few years. This 2011 tape is extremely tight. One reason there are always so many guest spots on hip hop albums is that it's rare for one flow to remain engaging for an entire album. Curren$y doesn't seem to have that problem because he can vary his delivery so easily, and always make it sound smooth. He's also got a great ear for beats, never choosing the easy club beat over a more dynamic one. Worthy of special note for the Wu Fans out there, "Rain Delay" is rapped over Raekwon's "Rainy Dayz."
Black Box Revelation - My Perception: Released last year, this is the Belgian garage rock band's third album. They take a slightly more psychedelic approach to garage blues rock than some other bands, creating a really great sound. There isn't a weak track on the album, keeping up a relentless pace for over 45 minutes. Being only two guys, guitar and drums, there's definitely a valid Black Keys comparison, but they actually manage to achieve a sound that also borrows from the chaotic danger of Death from Above 1979. Easily one of my favorite albums that I've heard from the past few weeks.
High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis: This Oakland metal band has been releasing records for over a decade, but I hadn't heard of them until last week. Periodically, I'll look at the top user rated albums of the current year on Rateyourmusic.com (the site I always link to). Currently at #35, I decided to give this one a go. Musically, this is very heavy and aggressive, with some great riffs. Vocally, it's very guttural and deep, with moments of screaming. While certainly a quality album, with exceptional playing, it's certainly nothing terribly original. And at over an hour long, it does begin to grow tiring, but I find that true for a lot of metal records. Certainly good if you're looking for some pounding, relentless rock.
Julian Plenti - Julian Plenti Lives: Better known as Paul Banks (of Interpol), this EP is the second release under the name Julian Plenti, following 2009's Julian Plenti...is Skyscraper. On these five very different tracks, there is an attempt at expansion. It opens with the compelling soundscape composition of "Perimeter Deactivated" and continues onto the standout "Summertime is Coming," a beautifully scaled back song. After that comes the sampled, experimental track "Mythsysizer" which is interesting, if not forgettable. From there, is the odd trip-hop version of Frank Sinatra's "I'm a Fool to Want You," which I enjoy for its pure strangeness. The last track, "Cavern Worship" is a decent experimental track, though it never really goes anywhere. All in all, a nice collection of songs that don't quite feel like they belong together.
The Knife - Deep Cuts: This 2003 album is the Stockholm electropop band's second. Karin Dreijer's (now of Fever Ray) voice is really what makes this album interest. She has this haunting quality even when signing dance music. Heavy on synthesizer beats of a decade ago, the album is best taken in small doses. There are moments of Bjork quirkiness, which also exist in Fever Ray, that really make this worth checking out, and it does hit a groove quite often. Overall though, probably only for fans of Euro synth music.
Paper Route - The Peace of Wild Things: Nashville is not the first place one would think of for an indie synth pop band to emerge, but that's exactly where this quartet hails from. Released last week, this is the band's second album. It opens with probably the best track on the album, "Love Letters," which sounds like a more swirling, uptempo Manchester Orchestra. From there, the album goes into a more heavily 80's influence, relying on lots of keyboard and a delivery that feels made for a blockbuster 80's soundtrack. It's really well done for what it aims to be, it's just doesn't happen to be my thing. However, I'm sure there many people out there who would appreciate this record.