Welcome back to the usual format where I share my ramblings on the music that I've been listening to lately. Still in the midst of the spring barrage of new releases, most of the albums on this week's list are new in the last few weeks. Already, it seems like this year is more exciting than last year, simply in the scope of music that is coming out. Then again, it always seems that way in spring, then there is the lull until Fall, so we'll see how it all turns out. I've also included a few older albums that I'm just got around to hearing for the first time. It's a nice mix of music, hopefully there's something for everyone here. Enjoy.
Tena Tenebrosa - The Purging: The second album from the Swedish sludge metal band sounds like something that has been unearthed from some ancient burial ground. I confess to being drawn to it for the cover art, decided to take a chance, and was not disappointed. Musically it does everything a sludge album is supposed to do, unleashing heavy grooves that wrap around on themselves. What makes this unique is the vocals, which sound very demonic, but not in an artistic way. They are mixed low, making them feel as though they are haunting the album, invading it and taking over. A wonderful spooky album.
The Strokes - Comedown Machine: The NYC band's fifth studio album, released a few weeks ago, is quite surprising. Since their breakthrough debut in 2001, it seems everyone has been waiting for them to recreate that album. Though I love that album, I haven't particularly hoped for a sequel. However, I have hoped that they would break away from the murky staleness of the three albums that followed. And this album does that. There is at least some variety on this album, paying tribute to their garage roots while expanding their sound to include more complicated pieces. We saw some of that with 2011's Angles, but it really comes together better on this album. I like the overlay of keyboards that add an interesting element to the jangle guitar mixed with injections of garage roughness. I found this to be a very enjoyable album. Stand out tracks for me, "Welcome to Japan," "50/50," and "Happy Ending."
Samantha Crain - Kid Face: For the past several years, ever since I saw her perform live, Samantha Crain has been one of my favorite singer songwriters. Her voice is easily one of the best around and her songs tell beautiful stories. This is her third full length album, and first since 2010's You (Understood). On this album, there's a return to the gloom that hangs over her first EP, and which works phenomenally well with her voice. This is a powerful album and hopefully will finally give her the wider audience she deserves. Stand out tracks are "Taught to Lie," "Paint," "Kid Face," and "Sand Paintings."
The Gray Havens - Where Eyes Don't Go: This is the debut EP from a husband and wife team out of Illinois. It has a chamber folk sound that reminds me of a cross between Andrew Bird and Cajun Dance Party. The songs have a momentum to them that's captivating, building into a near pop-like crescendo during the chorus. All in all, an enjoyable six songs and a promising start to a career. I look forward to seeing what comes next.
Benoit Piolard - Hymnal: This is the eighth full length album in twelve years from Benoit Piolard. It is a drone folk piece that has a field recordings quality to it. Drone folk is certainly not for every one as it can often feel like listening to campfire ramblings coming through on waves of static. But that is also the appeal of the genre, making the listener feel as though they are catching a broadcast from someplace far off in both time and space. This album does a fair job of it, and is quite beautiful, though it does tend to drag a bit. All in all, an interesting listen, and a decent album to have on while writing.
Fionna Apple - Extraordinary Machine (Bootleg Version): Though the official album wasn't released until 2005, it was recorded in 2003 and this version was leaked in 2004. It has a different production and track order than the official release, but what doesn't change is Fionna's amazing lyrical talent and incredible voice that works like an instrument through these beautiful songs. The overlay of strings, which can sometimes feel forced, works seamlessly here, creating a rich sound to go with the violent delivery of words. My favorite songs are "Not About Love," "Oh Sailor," and "Window."
Loop - Heaven's End: Released in 1987, this is the London psychedelic band's debut album. I came to this while reading the Spacemen 3 biography which discusses the vast influence that band had on Loop. Both bands draw heavily from late '60s American psychedelic rock like The 13th Floor Elevators and Velvet Underground. And though this band was the follower, their debut album is much stronger than Spacemen 3's debut. The swirling reverberation and aggressive guitar sounds amazing on this record. The shoegazer bands of the 90's would eventually take a softer approach to the same idea, but you can hear the roots of that sound taking shape here. There isn't a bad song on this album, truly great stuff.