Here we are again, and this week brought with it a handful of exciting new releases. But this is not another list of all 2014 albums. I took some time this week to catch up on a few albums that had been on my wishlist for a long time but that I haven't had the chance to track down until now. Like last weekend, this is another rock heavy assortment. It's that time of the year, I suppose. But these aren't really traditional rock albums, many have mixed influences that makes them all feel as if they belong to a wide range of sub-genres. This week also brought along at least one album that I'm already positive will be on my best of the year list. Hopefully there is something for everyone. Enjoy!
Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence: Due out this week is Lana's follow-up to her stunning 2012 Born to Die album. This is perhaps the album I've been most looking forward to this year and I'm happy to say it more than lives up to my expectations. This album is stunning in so many ways. There's a tragic beauty to every song, reminiscent of "Dark Paradise." Gone are the uptempo, trip-hop influences that dominated much of her last album, which might have actually been my favorite part of it. But as soon I began to listen to this album, it didn't take long before I didn't miss that aspect of her style. There's an incredible richness to the music on this album, mixing slowcore and jazz elements, creating a mood that feels like a Mazzy Star album if it were produced for a David Lynch film. I've read a lot of people complain that the songs all kind of sound the same, but I disagree. They are certainly connected, but not replicated. And perhaps it might grow boring over time, but for now it simply sounds hypnotic and brilliant. There are too many great songs on here to pick favorites, but I suppose "Cruel World," "Sad Girl," "West Coast," and the title track stand out for me. The digital release contains three tracks not included on the physical releases.
Paul Banks - Banks: Released in the Fall of 2012 was the Interpol singer's second solo album, the first being released under the name Julian Plenti. For whatever reason, this album sat unlistened to in my collection for a long time, but upon hearing that the band was recording again, I decided to catch up a little bit. Unlike the Julian Plenti material, this album very much feels like an Interpol album. But unlike a lot of solo albums from lead singers which feel as though there is something lacking, this album doesn't. Paul has always been the driving creative force in Interpol and was able to produce a record that feels just as layered as the band's. "The Base," "Arise, Awake," and "Paid for That" are standout tracks on an album that should definitely appeal to fans waiting for the NYC band's long delayed return.
Andrew Bird - Things Are Really Great Here, Sort of...; After putting out two albums in 2012, the Chicago singer songwriter took a short break before releasing this album last week. Much of this album was recorded in my neck of the woods last year when he played in Woodstock, and debuted a handful of the tunes on here. As with his 2012 releases, there is a Midwestern country folk feel to his typical baroque style, the combination of which is mesmerizing. "Giant of Illinois," "So Much Wine, Merry Christmas," and "My Sister's Tiny Hands" are my personal favorites at the moment. Once again, Andrew Bird has proven himself to be one the best songwriters of his generation.
Heavy Planet - Bong Hits from the Astral Basement Volume One: This blog compilation, featuring 61 tracks by 61 different stoner metal bands, came out last year and has been in my rotation for several months. Needless to say, with that many bands and that many songs, there is a ton of forgettable moments and it's highly recommended that listeners trim this down to a manageable length. But once the songs that don't appeal to you are weeded out, this is a tremendously brutal collection of predominantly unheard stoner rock bands. "Listen" by Gonzo Morales, "God Forsaken Prostitute" by Concrete Sun, and "Road to Burn" by 1000mods are my favorites, and truly not to be missed. Definitely worth checking out if you're into stoner metal.
The Icarus Line - Wildlife: This L.A. noise rock band has been among my favorites for the past decade, but this, their fourth album released in 2011, remained illusive to me until this week. It seems all of their albums go criminally unheard, but none more than this one. It has a mere six ratings on rateyourmusic.com which only goes to document the forgotten status it maintains. Well let it be known that I will do my best to make it remembered. As with all of their records, they bring an L.A. sleaze attitude to their aggressive rock with brilliant results. Though there a lot of bands that I could compare The Icarus Line to, none really feel close enough. They are such a unique blend of punk, blues, and glam that they stand alone. Yet another stellar album from a band who may just have the best catalog of the last ten years. "We Want More," "Sin Man, Sick Blues," "King Baby," and "We Sick" are among the best on a album that blisters its way through from start to end.
Guano Apes - Offline: The sixth album from the German rock band that has been around for 20 years. They take their time between releases, averaging about three years between albums. The problem with this record is that it feels as though it could have come out 20 years ago. There is an omnipresent 90's alternative rock feel to the songs. It sounds a little bit like Garbage, with driving guitars and soaring vocals that apply some of the quiet-loud-quiet technique so popular in music two decades ago. The one thing that makes it somewhat redeeming is that they are all quality musicians, so it's not bad...it's just nothing special. "Numen" and "Fake" are the two most appealing songs, but neither are essential. This isn't really my genre, but fans of by-the-book alternative rock might find this appealing.
King Buzzo - This Machine Kills Artists: The first solo album from the Melvins frontman comes on the heels of two recent disappointments from the band. Because of that, I was weary of this record, though I should have known better than to doubt the King who influenced Kurt so strongly. This album is a pioneering attempt at folk punk with atonal acoustic guitar blended with King Buzzo's familiar growl. It's rare anymore that I hear something that feels new, but this is one of those records. Much like the death folk wave of several years ago, this album touches a nerve that hadn't yet been exposed. The only down side might be that, at times, it kind of feels like one song, with each leading seamlessly into the next. But it's a damn good vibe, so no real complaints here. "Useless Kings of The Punks," "The Blithering Idiot," "Illeagal Mona," and "Dark Brown Teeth" are among the standout tracks on album that Kurt might've made had he stuck around.