Saturday, December 16, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

'Twas the weekend before Christmas and all through the house, speakers were blaring, annoying the spouse. Well, not really. I have a pretty damned awesome spouse! Welcome to the last traditional Roundup of the year before I roundup my personal favorites of the year the was in music. This week I take a look at some new releases that I finally got around to listening to. Over the next several days, I will revisit my favorites records of the year and try to settle on a final list. Until then, enjoy.

Jim James - Tribute to 2: The My Morning Jacket's lead singer releases his third solo record, and this time it's an album of covers that range from country classics, 70's pop, and legendary folk all reinterpreted in James' eternal groove. As with any covers record, the key is to put your own signature on the songs, and he accomplishes this. All of these sound as though they could be James originals. Certainly something fans will want to check out.  "Baby Don't Go," "Crying in the Chapel," "Funny How Time Slips Away," "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," and "Lucky Man" are my personal favorites.

Simon Joyner - Step Into the Earthquake: The indie singer songwriter's new album follows suit with his catalog of releases. For the past two decades, he's been one of the more prolific, and yet still widely unknown indie artists, despite playing a brand of Americana folk that has a wider following than he. I've come in and out of his albums, certainly not hitting every one, but enjoying those I have. This album reminds me of Silver Jews in it's delivery. An honest and interesting album with "Hail Mary," "I'm Feeling It Today," and the amazing "Flash Forward to the Moon"
Elizabeth and the Catapult - Keepsake: The new album from the Brooklyn based indie band pays homage to '70s pop-rock and folk-rock, as does her previous albums. I love her Carol King meets Karen Carpenter sound, though to be sure, steeped in contemporary indie pop. There's something timeless about her work, something the reminds me of the radio of my childhood. "Magic Chaser," "Better Days," "Land of Lost Things," and "Wishing Well" are my personal favorites.

Bjork - Utopia: Two years after her last record, which was fantastic, the Icelandic icon returns with another record that combines chamber music, ambient, and electronica into an elevated piece of art. Probably not as accessible as some of her work (though some would argue that none of her work is accessible) this is what she does best. She experiments with voice and sound until she creates something new, and that's what I really like about this album. It doesn't sound like anything else, and that's a rare thing these days.

Morrissey - Low In High School: It's been three years since Moz's last album and the ex-Smiths leader hasn't lost his touch. At nearly 60, he's angrier than ever at the world, yet hasn't lost his touch at expressing his frustration at world futility in most poetic terms. Musically, this album is more aggressive than recent albums, and it benefits from it. Easily his best since 2004's You Are the Quarry. "My Love, I'd Do Anything for You," "Spent the Day in Bed," "All the Young People Must Fall in Love," and "Who Will Protect Us from the Police?" are standouts for me.

The Sun Machine - Turn On To Evil: The Austin five-piece's newest record is a fuzzed bit of psychedelic bliss that takes from the '60s and adds a California sunshine glow to it. Reminds me a bit of Skygreen Leopards in mood, but with more of a lo-fi garage sensibility. I really enjoyed it, as did my 2 1/2 year old, who asked with each song, "Is the The Sun Machine? I like this music." So there you have it, straight from the mouth of babes...this is music worth liking. " I Want to Do Drugs (With You)," "The Wasp," and "The Wolf" are my personal favorites. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Fiction Friday (67)

As the year winds down, I'm continuing my recap of recent books read. As I mentioned last week, there are a bunch of graphic novels prepared for upcoming weeks as I chose the genre for my focus during the final project for the course that has been providing me with material for the Fiction Friday segment this Fall. This week I look at a fun and somewhat silly book that I enjoyed. I hope you enjoy it too.

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson
(First Second, 2015)

Is romance dead? Well, if you're the princess of the Underworld, then technically yes, it is dead. But is it as difficult as it can be for the living? When Princess Decomposia has to hire a new royal chef for the many diplomatic banquets she is hosting in the castle, she is introduced to Count Spatula, a vampire with gourmet taste and a gift for baking. But his treats aren't the only thing about the Count that the Princess finds extra sweet. For her entire life, nobody has treated her like a person rather than a princess, that is, nobody before the Count. But will her father, the laziest king in the Underworld, approve of a romance between his daughter and a vampire cook? Will he banish the Count from the castle forever? Or is it true that nothing can stand in the way of love?

This lighthearted story is told in comic strip panels with quirky illustrations that match the quirky story nicely. This was a quick read, and entertaining, though like the Count's deserts, it's very sugary and doesn't stay with you for very long.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

Welcome to the weekend, the first of the season where snow is expected here in the Hudson Valley. The whole day has that snow feel and it's nice and seasonal and perfect for staying inside and listening to music. It's been another week of new releases that I've been looking forward to. Most were as good as expected, though there was one that was a bit of let down. You can't win them all though, so I'll take it. Hopefully there's something here you'll want to check out. Enjoy.

Electric Wizard - Wizard Bloody Wizard:  The ninth album from the now legendary UK sludge metal band may just be their finest album to date, which is saying a lot considering how much I love this band. It was a bold move to name it after Sabbath's classic, but it lives up to the name. Since their early heavy days, they've embraced psych metal more and more over their past few releases.  "Necromania," "Wicked Caresses," and "Mourning of the Magicians" are standouts on a fantastic record.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Who Built the Moon: Noel's third album since leaving Oasis doesn't stray far from the sound he's established for his new project. It's hyper-produced and filled with lots of guitars, the marked difference on here is the lowered vocals, which I actually believe to be a mistake. Noel's voice gets lost in the sound, falling into background noise. It picks up on the second half, after starting off very sub-expectations. "Black and White Sunshine," "Be Careful What You Wish For," and "Dead Man in the Water" are standouts. It sounds more like an album Ian Brown or Johnny Marr would put out than anyone associated with Oasis. It's okay, but Liam's album is better.

Langhorne Slim - Lost at Last Vol. 1: The seventh album from the NYC based singer songwriter is another gem to add to his catalog. After a slightly disappointing album two years ago, this is a return to the stellar form of 2012's The Way We Move. Though I still prefer that album, this is one of the better folk rock albums of the year. His storytelling has always been one of his strengths, along with his pickin' skills, both of which shine on this record. "Life is Confusing," "House of My Soul," "Never Break," and "Alligator Girl" are my personal favorites. 

Kadavar - Rough Times: The fourth album from the German stoner metal band is their best since their 2012 debut. Though I've enjoyed all of their work, this one shows some real growth as they delve into the heavy psych genre with great success. With this album, they've cemented themselves as one of the premiere bands of the genre. "Die Baby Die," "Tribulation Nation," "The Lost Child," and the title track are among my favorites.

Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger in the Alps: The debut album from the L.A. indie singer songwriter is a truly beautiful piece of moody folk that reminds me a bit of Conor Oberst in it's honesty (who guests on this album), and a bit of Catpower in it's soft strength. A truly beautiful album that is perfect for early mornings (or late nights that turn into early mornings). "Scott Street," "Would You Rather," and "Killer" are standouts on a wonderful debut.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Fiction Friday (66)

As the current grad quarter comes to a close, so does my reading marathon. Though I still have a few more Fiction Fridays ready to go, they will once again become far less frequent than they've been during the past few months. It was great to be forced to read so much YA fiction over these past few weeks and I'm glad I was able to share them with you all. For the past few weeks, I concentrated on Graphic Novels, which was a good excuse to read a bunch that had been sitting on my To-Read list for a long time, including this one which I bought several years ago with the intention of reading it right away. Enjoy.

Saturn Apartments Vol. 1 by Hisae Iwaoka
(Viz, 2011)

In the future, the entire Earth has been declared a nature preserve and humans have taken to living in a manmade structure orbiting 35,000 kilometers above the surface. The structure consists of three levels of apartment complexes, with the wealthy inhabiting the top, sunlit floor and the lower classes living on the dingy bottom floor where it is too risky, and far too expensive to ever clean the windows. After graduating junior high, Mitsu goes to work in the guild responsible for cleaning the windows on the structure, the same job his father did before a tragic accident sent him spiraling down to the surface. The work is dangerous, but Mitsu continues with it, hoping he might uncover some secret about his father’s accident. During the course of his work, the windows give him a glimpse into the private lives of the Saturn Apartments’ many inhabitants. Mitsu learns that people are a lot like the window, and that there is much to discover if one looks below the surface.

Amazing art and very interesting, subtle story. I can't wait to read Vol. 2, which is sitting on my shelf. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

Entering the last few weekends of the year, I'm frantically trying to catch up on some 2017 releases and offer my thoughts on a few of them this week. It's a pretty mixed selection of bands that I've been following for years. Some were nice surprises, others not so much, but all in all, an interesting week of listening, not so much musically as simply for personal reference to my own not so distant past. More to come next week, so make sure you tune in. Enjoy.

Radio Moscow - New Beginnings: This is the sixth album from the hard rock trio, which has new members joining founder and core contributor Parker Griggs. This is another band, like last week's Buffalo Killers that is a bit of a classic rock throwback band, though on this record they leave the '70s hard rock sound in the rear-view a little bit more than on previous albums. It's heavier and faster than they were, but still blues based. "Driftin'," "Last to Know," and the title track are my favorites on a solid album, but one that I wish had a little more diversity. Too much of it sounds the same to be truly great.

Gwar - The Blood of Gods: The 14th album by the thrash medal outfit is their first record since founding singer Oderus Urungus returned forever to the Underworld. Blother, the founding bass player, takes the lead on this record which is certainly more traditional metal than some of the band's other offerings. Never one to take themselves seriously, this is exactly what it is supposed to be, fun metal that takes the music seriously if not the industry. "Swarm," "Fuck This Place," and "Phantom Limb" are my personal favorites.

Starsailor - All This Life: After eight years of silence, the Brit Pop band returns with their fifth album. There was an undeniable beauty to the sadness on their debut sixteen years ago that I still identify with. Later albums saw them move farther into pop rock, and this album represents their rebirth into that genre. Those who follow my Roundup will not be surprised to find that I'm not such a fan of this change. This is one of those albums that's okay if it's on, but not one I'd put on. At best, it's tolerable and mildly entertaining, but in the wrong mood, I could see myself hating it. 

Masta Killa - Loyalty is Royalty: The Wu-Tang member's fourth solo record comes just as the full Clan releases their new album, and that's both good and bad in a way. It's nice that the Wu should get some visibility with the two releases, but it's not so great for Killa that his album is far outdone by the Wu. While this is classic Clan rap, it suffers from being uneven (as does the Wu album to be fair). But one of things that makes the Wu so appealing is the variety of styles the members bring. And while this album has the typical slew of guest appearances, it's far from being as dynamic as the group's effort. Worth listening to if your a Wu fan.

David Gilmour - On An Island: Released in 2006, this was Gilmour's first solo album in over 20 years, and only his third as of then. This is a very quiet, moody record. When Gilmour is playing guitar, it's as brilliant as ever, but the album suffers from its own quietness. There are a few standout tracks, but even more cringe worthy tracks that makes this one that even hardcore fans could do without, though I would still recommend giving it a listen, because as I said, when Gilmour plays, it's always great to listen to.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fiction Friday (65)

As we enter the last month of this quickly passing year, my reading habits have continued at a frantic pace. For the next few weeks, you'll be seeing a lot of graphic novel reviews from me as I chose that genre for the focus of my final project in the class that is responsible for this burst in reading accomplishments. This week I look at one of the more cherished graphic novels of the past decade, one whose art and subject matter are exceptional. Enjoy.

Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell
(Top Shelf, 2008)

Ruthie has a thing for insects. She collects them in jars which she compulsively arranges and rearranges on the shelves in her room, convinced that if she can just get them in the correct order they might open a door to another world. When her obsessions evolve into episodes of hallucinogenic visions, the adults in her life take her to see a doctor who prescribes medicine that might help her cope with the onslaught of her acute schizophrenia, a disease that has ravaged her grandmother and also effects her brother, though his goes undiagnosed in the story. The visions continue, and grow stronger, until they threaten to swallow Ruthie whole.

Having done a lot of research on this disease for my own novel on the subject, Life is But a Dream, I can say this is an engaging and heartbreaking view of the disease that really captures the panic felt by those who suffer from it. The one thing I will say is that I felt as though the book didn't explain what was happening thoroughly enough for younger readers. I would have liked to see Ruthie be a little more aware that something was wrong with her, but I understand the choice that Nate Powell made as a way of remaining honest about a character who was lost in her own illness.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The holiday weekend marches on, the weekend that began two days ago for most of you. After the blockbuster new releases that made up last week's Roundup, this week is also made up of new releases from bands that I've followed for a long time, though less blockbustery. I was really pleased with these albums, most exceeded my expectations. There's a nice mix of varying rock here, so hopefully you'll all find something to listen to out of this offering. Enjoy.

Buffalo Killers - Alive and Well in Ohio: Eleven years after their debut the Cincinnati band release their sixth studio album (which this is, despite the title that would suggest it's a live album). This has always been a throwback band, bringing a classic rock sound that is authentic and engaging. They channel their John Lennon on this album as many of songs fit the type of groove he went for on his solo records. This is my favorite of their albums thus far, and I've been following them since the beginning.

Nik Turner - Life in Space: The former Hawkwind frontman continues his space odyssey on his new album, released at the end of September. His last three records, released over the past four years, have revived the legendary Space Rock sound that Hawkwind trademarked back in the '70s. It's a guitar filled soundscape that tours through the regions of the mind's outerspace. "Why Are You?," "Back to Earth," and "End of the World" are standouts on this groove fest. 

The Horrors - V: The London neo-psych band's fifth album, not so cleverly titled V, is their first in three years. They don't stray far from the sound they worked to develop for the last record, a sort of psychedelic version of shoegaze. The result is that music that can sometimes lean toward the boring is kept interesting. They also throw in enough elements of their earlier punk style, albeit updated with an 80's vibe, to make the album flow. "Pres Enter to Exit" "Machine," and "World Below" were standouts for me.

Stars - There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light: The Montreal indie pop band's first album in three years is the first of theirs that I've checked out since 2010's The Five Ghosts. I was pretty into this band during the last decade but got kind bored, I guess. This album reminded me why I was into them to begin with. They embrace their pop and disco sound, much like St. Etienne, and don't try to disguise it as artrock the way fellow Canadians Arcade Fire have done. "Privilege," "Alone," "The Gift of Love," and "California, I Love That Name" are my personal favorites on this enjoyable album.

Carved in Bone - Higher Consciousness: The second album from the Spokan WA metal band is heavy sludge metal that is is one riff after another that pounds out of the speakers. It holds some similarities with fellow Pacific Northwest band Earth with their instrumental soundscapes. It can get a little repetitive but that speaks a little to my patience with instrumental drone metal. "Mountains of God," and "Against the Grain" were my personal favorites. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fiction Friday (64)

On this Black Friday, my tour of recent reads continues with the first in a string of graphic novels that I'll be posting about in the coming weeks. I begin with this one as it is considered the first modern graphic novel and because the award for best graphic novel is named after the author. This was an interesting read for that historical context alone, as well as being an interesting read on its own merit. Enjoy.

A Contract with God by Will Eisner
(Norton, 1978)

Billed as the "first" graphic novel, though that claim is debatable, this was a groundbreaking collection of four interwoven stories that offer glimpses into the lives of fictional inhabitants of a Bronx tenement building during the Great Depression. Like any great storyteller, Eisner blends humor with desperation, love with lust, and success with failure, giving these stories a depth that goes beyond the slimness of their pages.

As with any well-done graphic novel, the art adds to the meaning of the text in dramatic ways. The characters expressions tell the real emotional story of their plight. And what a great cast of characters it is! Having lived in NYC for a decade, granted 70 or so years after the story takes place, these types of people still existed in the city...though I believe they exist less so today than twenty years ago. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has arrived and the Roundup has returned after a week off. This week's list is another look at some recent releases that I'd been looking forward to hearing. Some of these are bound to be big albums of the year and deservingly so. Others are more nostalgic listens for me, but didn't disappoint. As the holiday's approach, I enter my mad rush to listen to the albums from the year that I might have missed in order to finalize my thoughts on the year that was in music. Hopefully you are all doing the same. Enjoy.

Beck - Colors: The long delayed new album from the funky Scientologist is his much anticipated follow-up to 2014's masterpiece "Morning Phase." This album is his interpretation of modern pop rock and it's quite fantastic. Having released the first single from this album over a year and half ago, and subsequent releases over the past year, many of these songs are familiar, but it's nice to hear them as intended. "Wow," "Dear Life," "Up All Night," "No Distraction," "I'm So Free," and the title track are my personal favorites.

Queens of the Stone Age - Villains: For their first album in three years, the stoner metal band turned to Mark Ronson to produce it and give them a fresh sound. The combination works much better than I would've imagined. It has a more radio friendly sound that actually suits them well, while keeping their signature creepiness and rock riffs. "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," "The Way You Used to Do," "Domesticated Animals," and "Head Like a Haunted House" are standouts for me.

Wu-Tang - The Saga Continues: It's almost 25 years since the Wu burst onto the underground and ain't nuthin changed, still better protect ya neck because they're still coming. Their 11th studio album continues the material arts saga they began with, thought their lyrics take on a more conscious hip-hop feel, urging men in the community to step up and be fathers. The originals are back, along with great guest spots with Redman. "Lesson Learn'd," "Frozen," "Pearl Harbor," "G'd Up," and "Hood Go Bang!" are standouts for me. A definite for fans.

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard - Sketches of East Brunswick: This is the third album this year from the Austrailan psych band. It mixes elements of jazz fusion with indie psych and ends up sound like a funkier Flaming Lips or a wilder Beck. This is a California of the mind kind of record that sets up a groove that runs throughout the record, and like all of their work, it's definitely meant to be digested as a whole so the listener can be immersed in the atmosphere. It's different, and groovy, and for those reasons, I enjoyed it.

Sisters of Mercy - Some Girls Wander by Mistake: In the time before their debut, the goth band invaded the goth clubs with single after single that developed their trademark sound. Like The Cure and Joy Division, they reworked punk into something new, dark, and danceable. This '92 compilation captures the early years and some of their most iconic songs. "Floorshow," "Alice," "Temple of Love," "Anaconda" and their cover of The Stooges "1969" are my personal favorites.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fiction Friday (63)

Hello again! It's another Friday and that means another book review thanks to the imposed reading placed on me by my desire for self-betterment via graduate school. One of the great things about the YA Literature class that I'm taking is that it's forcing me to read books outside of my usual interests. This week I had to delve into Chick Lit, a genre I'm not well-versed in or have any particular curiosity in discovering. I decided to read something by Meg Cabot, given her wide ranging popularity in the genre. I really hated this at the beginning, but grew to not hate it by the end. Enjoy.

How To Be Popular by Meg Cabot
(Harper, 2006)

Everyone wants to be popular, right? Well, maybe not everyone. But nobody wants to be the person whose name has become synonymous with making a blunder. That has been 16 year old Steph Landry's fate for the past five years, but she's determined to change fate with the help of an old self-help book found in the attic of her soon-to-be stepgrandmother's house. She diligently studies the lessons in the book as it directs her towards achieving popularity.

Becoming popular turns out not to be as complicated as Steph had always thought. Sure, it takes hours and hours of work, a complete attitude and fashion make-over, and sort of dissing the friends you currently have, but in the end, it's all worth it...or is it? As her master plan progresses and things begin to fall into place, Steph suddenly has everything she could have hoped for, except that it doesn't feel that way. And are the popular kids really into her, or just using her? Is she really in love with the most popular boy in school, and if so, what is she actually feeling for the boy who has always been her best friend?

The is a quick read, one that reads like a mash-up of every 80's John Hughes movie. It is extremely predictable for anyone who has seen those movies, and some major plot points feel far-fetched. It also simplifies the motives the behaviors of teens to a point that may feel condescending.

This is like junk food, but we all like junk food every now and again. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here, actually it's more than half over but for some unexplained reason, I forgot to post this yesterday. I'm continuing to work my way through some recent releases, and will continue doing that for the next few weeks. There's most rock on here, from space rock to lo-fi to garage rock. All in all an interesting week of music with promises of great things to come. Enjoy.

Ruby the Hatchet - Planetary Space Child: The third album from the Philly heavy psych sees them venturing into space rock, as the title would suggest. As a result, it's much more wandering than their previous records, and less heavy...but not any less entertaining. They show growth as musicians on this record. It has some 70's groove metal influences that really make it standout. "Killer," "The Fool," "Symphony of the Night," and "Lightning Strikes Again" are my personal favorites on this solid record.

Guided by Voices - How Do You Spell Heaven: Released back in August, this is the second album this year from the legendary indie lo-fi band. They continue to be in top form on this record and cease to run out flashes of brilliance to release on records. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish one record from another, but this one stood out as one of the best in a long time. "King 007," "Steppenwolf Mausoleum," and "Tenth Century" were my personal favorites.

Thee Oh Sees - Orc: The San Fran lo-fi pysch band has been one of the most prolific bands in recent years and they return with another quick flash of an album. While their earlier stuff was always a little hit or miss, they've really come into their own over the past few years. They keep up a frantic pace here, with tunes that slightly heavier than they usually do, but just as strange and enjoyable. "Jettisoned" and "Drowned Beast" are my personal favorites.

Lords of Altamont - The Wild Sounds of Lords of Altamont: Based in L.A., the four piece hard rock band have a raucous sound that is very L.A. glam rock influenced, which was always based in punk. It's no wonder they remind me of early L.A. Guns mixed with Dead Moon.  It's raw and fast, and good. These are short songs that pack a punch and was a nice surprise, given that I'd never listened to them though they've been around for nearly two decades. "Like A Bird," "Going Downtown," "Death on the Highway," and "Where Did You Sleep," are standouts.

Josh Ritter - Gathering: This is the indie folk rocker's ninth album, and while I'm familiar with his work to some degree, I admit to not having listening to much of his work. This album is steeped in Midwestern Americana roots that gives it a country folk feel, which I found refreshing in the current world of indie singer songwriter output. There is nothing here that is groundbreaking, just good folk music. "Showboat," "Train Go By," "Dreams," "Myrna Loy," and the great "When Will I Be Changed" with Bob Wier are standouts for me.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Fiction Friday (62)

Well, one good thing about taking a graduate course that requires the reading of two novels per week is that I'm back into the reading groove and have been encountering YA books that I never would have picked up or come across if I hadn't been forced by way of assignments to chose them. This week we did Fantasy and instead of the usual fare, I picked up this book which was fascinating and about JuJu magic, something I knew little about but am certainly intrigued by. This book is packed with imagination, something you all know that I admire. Enjoy.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
(Viking, 2011)

Sunny is a bit of an outsider in her Igbo community in Nigeria. As she states in the beginning of the novel, she confuses people. She was born in America, then her parents returned to Nigeria. So she is American and Igbo. But neither of those qualities are what truly make her an outsider, being an albino is mostly to blame for that. In Igbo communities, albinos are thought of as people who are half ghost, having one part of themselves existing in the spirit world.

Sunny never believed that superstition, at least not until she sees a vision of the end of the world in the flame of a candle. With the help of her mysterious new friends, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha, she begins to learn the secrets hidden within her community, and in her own past. Perhaps the superstitions are more than simple folklore? Perhaps Sunny really does have a connection to the spirit world? But will her connection, and the juju magic that she learns really be enough to put an end to the Black Hat killer's murder spree or prevent the end of the world from actually happening?

This was a unique kind of fantasy novel, one that was so full of effortless imagination. Nothing felt forced or over-explained. There were moments where I wished it would have gone into more explanation, but I also enjoyed how it left a lot for the reader  to imagine. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here and with it comes the return of the Roundup format. This week I continue to share my ramblings of some fall autumns that I'd been excited about. It's all indie rock on this list, but a wide range of indie rock so hopefully it won't feel boring. Some really great records on here, a few that will probably end up on my favorite albums of the year. Others were a little disappointing, but not terrible. I hope you all can find something on here that's worth checking out. Enjoy.

Wolf Parade - Cry Cry Cry: The Canadian indie band reformed last year and finally released their first new material in seven years. This was one of my favorite bands of the last decade, consisting of two of my favorite songwriters, so needless to say, I was looking forward to this. I'm glad to say it's just as good as their best work. It's the kind of indie rock that was so prevalent in the last decade but isn't made any more. It's emotional, powerful, and void of any pop influences. The Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Moonface) songs are as brilliant as I'd expect, with "Lazarus Online," "Flies on the Sun," and "Baby Blue." Dan Boeckner's (Handsome Furs) tunes are catchy, with "Incantation," "You're Dreaming," and "Artificial Life" . The balance is what makes them such a great pairing, as exhibited on "Weaponized." One of my favorites of the year. 

Black Pistol Fire - Deadbeat Graffiti: The first album from the Austin based blues rock band is perhaps their best yet. This is one of those bands that seems to get better and better with each record, perfecting their garage blues rock sound. Their early albums reminded me of The White Stripes, but they seem to be moving toward their own sound and have finally claimed it. This album blends the garage rock style with a gritty Southern blues that reminds me more of a wilder Kings of Leon "Youth and Young Manhood." There aren't any weak tracks on here, but "Bully," "Speak of the Devil," "Hearts of Habit," and "Coattails" are standouts in my opinion.

Andrew Bird - Ecolocations: River: This the second release in Bird's Ecolocations series, following 2015's "Canyon", with a standard album released between the tow. These minimal instrumental records are mood pieces meant to reflect a state of calm that the locations typically convey. As is to be expected from an album like this, it's very much a mood piece that best exists in the background. "Gypsy Moth" is my personal favorite track on here. Not essential, but fans will appreciate it.

The Rural Alberta Advantage - The Wild: This is the fourth album from the Toronto indie band. Coming nine years after their outstanding debut, this is their finest album. Though I've enjoyed all of their work, this record feels complete and triumphant. The honesty that comes through on these americana inspired rock tunes is both dark and inspirational. "Beacon Hill," "Dead / Alive," "Alright," "Selfish Dreams," and "Wild Grin" are my personal favorites.

Milburn - Time: After ten years, the Sheffield band returns with their third album. As they were in the past, they continue to be a less interesting version of Arctic Monkeys, and not quite as catchy as The Fratellis. They are certainly in the second tier of pubrock bands of the last decade and half that have come out of England, but they are still enjoyable. By no means is this essential, but it's worth checking out if you enjoy the genre.