Five Notable Releases of the Week (5/19)
I’m out of town this week so I’m gonna keep this short. One thing I’d like to point out before I get to the list is that one of my picks, Aldous Harding, plays a BrooklynVegan-presented show in a church in Greenpoint in June. We hope you can make it out!
Check out my picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Tigers Jaw’s great 2014 album Charmer was their last album with longtime members Adam McIlwee, Dennis Mishko, and Pat Brier before all three of them left the band. It was also a stylistic departure from the band’s previous material. Their pop punk and emo-pop roots were starting to fade away, and a moodier, Smiths-y sound was taking over. Though the band’s lineup is drastically different on spin, the sound of Charmer carried over, causing Charmer to sound less like the end of an era and more like a new beginning. Since Charmer‘s release, Tigers Jaw has been led by Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins, the only two people who perform on this album. Like Charmer, they recorded it with the great producer Will Yip (who now runs the label Black Cement, an imprint of Atlantic, for which this album is the first release). At this point, Yip is as crucial to Tigers Jaw’s sound as the band members themselves. He helps them achieve a sound that’s clear as day but void of polish and very human.
It’s the first time Brianna has written her own songs for a Tigers Jaw album, and her new songs rank right up there with the band’s best and fit right in with Ben’s. At this point, Tigers Jaw really have a sound they can call their own. Acoustic and electric guitars meet, and they usually fall somewhere between jangly and driving. Brianna’s synths float in the background, and the vocal melodies remain addictive song after song. A recent album that spin reminds me of is Joyce Manor’s Cody, my favorite punk album of 2016. Like Joyce Manor, Tigers Jaw are veterans of the exciting wave of bands that have been straddling the line between punk and indie rock for about a decade now. It’s been there since day one — Tigers Jaw came up touring with punk bands but they were named after a Microphones lyric. Only recently have they perfected that blend to the point where the line between punk and indie rock seems invisible.
In 2014, New Zealand’s Aldous Harding released her very good debut album on the esteemed indie label Flying Nun. Now she’s on a larger esteemed indie label, 4AD, and she teamed up with PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish to make it. Another John Parish collaborator, Perfume Genius, sings guest vocals on two songs (“Imagining My Man” and “Swell Does The Skull”). Aldous has been getting approval from some of the most respected people in the music industry (and Lorde!), and it’s not hard to see why. Her debut was a fine ode to ’60s/’70s loner folk, but Party is far more than that. Party is the kind of album that people who like Perfume Genius or PJ Harvey or classic 4AD records need in their lives. It’s one of the more impressive albums from a new, rising artist to come out this year.
The hushed folk of her debut shows up here on songs like the gorgeous “The World is Looking for You.” On the title track, she brings back memories of The Milk-Eyed Mender-era Joanna Newsom, and she does so in a way that actually feels about as exciting as the first time we heard Joanna Newsom. On Party‘s best song and second single, the aforementioned “Imagining My Man,” Aldous interjects the song’s somber art-pop with jarring shouts of “hey!”, in sort of an early-Kate Bush kind of way. Comparisons to artists as beloved as these would come off as overhyping if Aldous didn’t deserve every single one of them. With music this uniquely stunning, she does.
Land of Talk not only reunited around the same time as fellow Montreal band Wolf Parade, but they also played a big show together here in NYC, so their comebacks are kind of linked in my mind. Both bands also scratched a much-needed itch when they came back. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t ready to give up indie rock as we knew it in the early/mid ’00s — the kind of music that was too ambitious and accessible to stay unpopular, but too weird to get truly mainstream. That stuff sorta fizzled out by the turn of the 2010s, and a lot of the bands did too. 2010 was the last year that Land of Talk and Wolf Parade (and Broken Social Scene and LCD Soundsystem) released albums before all going into hibernation (and all making recent comebacks). That sound still feels fresh, so it’s a nice feeling to finally be getting all these new albums. The new Land of Talk album scratches that itch, but it also doesn’t feel nostalgic. She’s never really made an album like Life After Youth before.
Recorded with Sharon Van Etten, Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, Sal Maida (Roxy Music/Sparks), and Besnard Lakes members Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, and co-produced by Jace and Sonic Youth/Dinosaur Jr producer John Agnello, Life After Youth is the least “rock” album that Elizabeth Powell & co. have ever made. It’s shinier, synthier, and a little on the lighter side. That said, it’s as powerful as much of Land of Talk’s more classic material in its own way. Elizabeth remains a commanding singer, and her songwriting hasn’t lost its touch one bit. Some of the best moments are the parts with Sharon Van Etten, whose style blends almost too perfectly with Elizabeth’s on this album. Considering Sharon’s rise sort of coincided with Land of Talk’s hibernation, Sharon’s involvement might be bringing Land of Talk some new fans for this album. If she does, those fans shouldn’t be disappointed. Life After Youth stands on its own as a great album, whether you’ve heard the rest of Land of Talk’s discography or not.
The Mountain Goats’ last album Beat the Champ was wrestling-themed, and their new album Goths (their 16th), is another themed album. This one is about — yup, you guessed it — goths. John Darnielle’s lyrics are as clever, insightful, and full of super-specific references as ever. You gotta have some sense of humor if you’re gonna write an entire album about goth, and Darnielle does, but the album also feels sincere. “There’s a club where you’d like to go / You could meet someone who’s lost like you,” Darnielle sings on the album’s opening track and darkest song, “Rain In Soho.” In addition to possibly nodding his head to The Smiths, Darnielle taps into how goth culture (or really any counter-culture) does bring fellow outsiders together. You get the sense that Darnielle really cares about this stuff.
At the same time, those humorous moments give the album the self-awareness you need for an album like this. On the chorus of “Wear Black” when he sings, “Wear black when it’s light outside / Wear black when there’s no light,” you have to assume he’s doing it with a wink. The album’s best moment, lyrically, is closing track “Abandoned Flesh,” an ode to the ’80s-era UK goth band Gene Loves Jezebel. The song starts out talking about how people like Robert Smith and Siouxsie Sioux are doing pretty well these days, “but the world forgot about Gene Loves Jezebel.” The best line: “Billy Corgan brought them on stage / It was 2011 / It’s on their Wikipedia page.” It’s sort of a Mark Kozelek-style song, and not exactly the kind of thing Darnielle would have written in his super-earnest period when he wrote classics like The Sunset Tree and Tallahassee. His style might be changing over the years, but his attention to detail and knack for a good melody is unfaltering.
Wavves are a modern-day indie rock band with a clear love for ’90s major label pop punk, and for a minute there, they became a major label band themselves. Their last album, V, was on Warner Bros, and Wavves frontman Nathan Williams was not happy with how Warner handled his band. Fortunately for Nathan, he quickly got out of the major-label world and he’s releasing V‘s followup on his own label, Ghost Ramp. It’s still not entirely clear just how much Warner interfered with the sound of V, but You’re Welcome is a noticeably rawer and weirder album, the kind of album it’d be hard to picture coming out on a major anyway. It’s not a return to Wavves’ lo-fi roots though — it’s still bigger and clearer sounding than that. It’s a new chapter of Wavves, with hints of past albums but looking forward rather than backwards. The peppy, sorta-dizzying opening track “Daisy” is kind of a refined version of the King of the Beach songs, while the angsty “Animal” could fit with the most Kurt Cobain-ish moments of Afraid of Heights. Wavves’ everlasting Beach Boys love comes through on “Come to the Valley.” Save for a few darker moments, mostly every song on You’re Welcome is fun, summery, indie-pop punk. If you dig this kinda stuff, few bands do it as consistently well right now as Wavves.