Another week has flown past in the dizziness of early summer. Thankfully the temperatures have dropped and it's been more like the Pacific Northwest out here in the hills of the Northeast. Perhaps that's why this week's list features nothing that really feels like summer music to me. Granted a number of these albums were released in the late winter and early spring, which makes it very different from last week's list since I've heard many of these albums quite a few times. But there is one brand new release here just to keep it fresh. Enjoy.
HIM - Tears on Tape: It's hard to believe that it's been 16 years since this Finish love metal band first appeared on the scene, and even harder to believe that they can continue to produce such genuinely great music. Sure they continue to tap into the same metaphors of death and love to weave their ballad metal tracks, but it always manages to feel sincere. "Love Without Tears," "Into the Night," and "No Love" are stand out tracks on the album. The inclusion of live studio versions of the band's most popular songs is a nice addition. Definitely a must for fans.
Scorpions - Taken By Force: One of the most under-appreciated bands of the '70s, mostly due to the image damage done by the 80's and the radio sterility of "Rock You Like a Hurricane." Before all that though, this was an amazing glam metal band. Released in 1977, this is the follow up to their legendary Virgin Killer album, and the last studio album with Uli Jon Roth on guitar. After the simple intro track, "Steamrock Fever," the album picks up with the prog gem "We'll Burn the Sky." The rest of the album continues on a prog metal vibe with songs like "The Sails of Charon" and "The Riot of Your Time." Though missing some of the manic genius of its predecessor, with exception of "He's a Woman - She's a Man," this is solid heavy rock album and certainly worth checking out.
Skip Bifferty - Skip Bifferty: Released in 1968, this is the only album from the psychedelic pop band. It's an inconsistent album, but a decent enough curiosity with some good songs like the "See Emily Play" inspired "Jeremy Carabine." Vocally, it's melodic but not exceptionally strong. Musically the guitar is easily the best part, featuring some great psych riffs. "Time Track" is the one really exceptional song on the album. Having recently listened to The United States of America album, released the same year, this album pales in comparison for an experimental pop album, but interesting nonetheless.
Shout Out Louds - Optica: The Swedish indie pop band's fourth studio album owes a lot to the 80's synth style pop. It's been six years since their breakthrough album Our Ill Wills, featuring the irresistible "Impossible," and somehow it seems the band is still chasing that sound. There is an attempt at a playful back and forth between the male and female voice, but the music in the background feels so dated that it has way of making it all fall a little flat. Recently I've been listening a lot to Joy Zipper, which attempts the same thing and achieves it with far superior results. All that said, this isn't a terrible album. It's easy to listen to, it's not offensive, it just kind of fades away even as your listening to it. My favorite tracks are "Sugar," "14th of July," "Destroy," and "Hermila."
Husky Rescue - The Long Lost Friend: The second Helsinki based band on this week's list, this is the fourth album in nine years from the indie band. I love the way they are able to mix dream pop with electronic elements to create a sound that reminds me of The Xx meets Broadcast. They definitely push the experimentation which allows the album to remain intriguing throughout. Definitely an album you need to be in the mood for, but when in that mood, it's quite nice. "Under Friendly Fire," "June," and "Mountains Only Know" are my favorites.
A Hawk and a Hacksaw - You Have Already Gone to the Other World: Fronted by former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer and organ player Jeremy Barnes, this experimental Balkan folk music duo has now released six albums. This, the band's newest, might be the most ambitious to date. Inspired by the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors this album takes their sound to a new level. Now based in Budapest, AHAAH have fully committed to the gypsy folk of the land's past. In many ways this sounds as if it were a field recording of some crazy woods tribe celebration. Authentic and brilliant, beautiful and surprisingly accessible. Definitely one of their best.
Kanye West - Yeezus: It seems appropriate to review this album on Father's Day, the day after Kanye became a father for the first time. Due out on Tuesday, this is the long awaited follow-up to 2010's triumphant My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He's definitely kept busy between releases, releasing Watch the Throne with Jay-Z and showing up in a million other places. But for the first time since his last solo record, it feels as though the artistic innovator has returned. It would be so easy for someone of Kanye's stature to simply repeat himself and play it safe, which is one of the reasons why it's so commendable that he continues to push himself to give people something they've never heard before. This record, like his last, is the sound of an iconic artist given the space to experiment and succeed. Tapping into an industrial electro rhythm, he adapts his flow to fit the dark mood of this record, and still delivers insightful lyrics that continue to tear apart the culture of celebrity and wealth to reveal the sinister workings that lie beneath the surface. Quite brilliant.