Time for another review of some of my favourite new music released throughout April. There were quite a few major releases last month, but I have tried my best to balance these with some albums that may have slipped by quietly. Please don’t let some of the longer tracks deter you as well, because they’re some of the best tracks of April, if not the year:
“A Different Time”
From: A Different Time
Better known for his funky jazz explorations with Medeski, Martin & Wood, this is John Medeski’s first solo piano album. Intimately recorded so that you can hear his piano creaking in the background, this is a more contemplative Medeski than usual. So while MMW may have moved your body in unexpected ways, this release is more likely to move something more intangible.
“Wakin on a Pretty Day”
From: Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Genre: Folk Rock
The album cover for Kurt Vile’s new full-length very much reflects the mood of Wakin on a Pretty Daze. While his last album Smoke Ring For My Halo indeed had a smoky late night feel to it, this new one feels more like a laid-back sunny afternoon. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Smoke Ring… much more, but there is plenty to like here, especially the monster opener “Wakin on a Pretty Day”.
“Full of Fire”
From: Shaking the Habitual
Double albums are always frustrating to listen to. Rarely does a band have enough material to justify such a lengthy album, so I can’t help but mentally cull the album down to a more digestible form. The almost manic “Full of Fire” is one of the best songs of the year so far and would make my single-disc cut of this album, but I wouldn’t be hopeful for the 19-minute ambient centrepiece.
The Flaming Lips
“Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die”
From: The Terror
Considering the bombastic experiments of the Flaming Lips over the last few years, The Terror surprisingly feels more like a companion piece to their atmospheric Christmas on Mars soundtrack than Embryonic. This is a dark album, and although they have always flirted with darker themes even in their most ecstatic moments, they have never been this explicitly sombre.
Genre: Future Garage
James Blake’s 2011 self-titled album was one of the most exciting debuts in a while. While that album may have best demonstrated Blake’s skills as a producer with its unique identity, his sophomore album shows how he has matured as a songwriter. It offers a much more consistent listen from start to end, and it even has a Portishead kind of sexiness about it.
Thee Oh Sees
From: Floating Coffin
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
While most bands take years between albums, Thee Oh Sees have never been ones to sit around and wait for inspiration. A quick look through their back catalogue suggests they release a new album about every 8 months, so we may even get another dose of their heavy, psyched out brand of rock before the year’s out. Well, let’s hope anyway, because they’re always great fun.
“To See More Light”
From: New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz
Considering I’m such a music fan, it’s actually rare that I have an emotional response to music. I was surprised then to experience something close to that when I first heard the hypnotic arpeggios that build throughout most of “To See More Light”. I wouldn’t be able to explain why this piece affected me in such a way, but I can only hope that you might share a similar experience.
Steve Earle & The Dukes (& Duchesses)
From: The Low Highway
A father’s lament that he’ll pass away before his child grows up, “Remember Me” closes out Steve Earle’s excellent new album The Low Highway. It is a sweet little ballad where all he asks is to be remembered kindly, but it’s just one of many highlights here. Earle demonstrates great versatility, dancing through nearly all different flavours of traditional Americana music.
As always, this is just a small sample of notable new music from the last month. Charli XCX’s True Romance is a pop explosion that I was surprised to find myself enjoying, especially “Stay Away”. Although I’ve always had a mixed relationship with Iron & Wine, Sam Beam expands his ever-evolving sound into jazzy lounge territory on Ghost On Ghost. Malian singer/songwriter Rokia Traoré’s Beautiful Africa is also a great listen; perfect for your next cocktail party or similarly suave event. And then there’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Mosquito, which starts off strong with the excellent “Sacrilege” but failed to capture my attention for much longer. There is of course plenty of other music that I didn’t around to listening to, with new releases by Paramore, Phoenix, The Haxan Cloak, Akron/Family, and plenty more all receiving favourable reviews.
As one monthly review ends, another begins taking shape. Here is a brief run-down of a few major releases expected in May:
- Hugh Laurie’s Didn’t It Rain (6 May)
- Deerhunter’s Monomania (7 May)
- Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (17 May)
- The National’s Trouble Will Find Me (21 May)
- Laura Marling’s Once I Was An Eagle (27 May)