Five Notable Releases of the Week (2/5/16)
by Andrew Sacher
This is the first installment of the new "Five Notable Releases of the Week" feature, where, as the title implies, I'll be picking five releases that come out each week that I think are worth hearing. It will mostly be full-length albums, but EPs and mixtapes will count too (just not individual singles). Even with New Music Friday, release weeks are still sometimes arguable, but I'm going with anything that becomes readily available from the previous Saturday through the time of this post each Friday. Ideally, you'll be able to hear all five picks at the time this thing goes up.
Head below for this week's picks...
Lucinda Williams - The Ghosts of Highway 20 (Highway 20 Records)
The Ghosts of Highway 20 is alt-country singer Lucinda Williams' twelfth album in a 35+ year career, and it's one of those late career albums that sounds inspired and entirely of the moment without succumbing to modern trends. Like Harvest Moon, or Push the Sky Away. Sadly, much of the inspiration on this one comes from the 2015 death of Lucinda's father, but the album's heartache is what gives it so much weight. It's a somber album that really takes its time (it's almost an hour and a half long), and the power in Lucinda's words and delivery keeps you paying attention the whole time. With music this gripping, comparing it to her classic albums or worrying about her current relevancy feels unnecessary. It just deserves to be heard.
Pick it up on iTunes.
Field Music - Commontime (Memphis Industry)
The Brewis brothers have stayed busy over the years -- David released a new School of Language album, Peter did a collab LP with Paul Smith of Maximo Park, and the band composed a score for the 1929 documentary Drifters -- but Commontime is the first Field Music album of original material since 2012's Plumb. That's the longest break between albums they've had yet, and it did them good. This is one of their most cohesive and consistently strong releases. Their sound is eccentric as ever, honoring a handful of disparate influences but bringing them all together for a mix that's distinctly Field Music. Some of the album's funky parts sound like Talking Heads meets Devo meets Discipline-era King Crimson, but there's also Beatlesque baroque pop in there. Hints of Yes are there, and Steely Dan comparisons have come this album's way too. For another band, that might come off like one hell of a chore. But for musicians as immensely talented as Field Music, it sounds like anything but.
Listen to it here.
KING - We Are KING (KING Creative)
If you can excuse the unmemorable (and unoriginal) name, it's instantly clear that KING have written a seriously accomplished debut album. It's R&B that pulls equally from the slow jams of the '90s, '70s quiet storm, and the kind of neo-psychedelic soul that's been in style since Frank Ocean hit. KING nail the mix of sounding almost startlingly familiar and nostalgic at times, but clearly futuristic at others. Early single "Hey" was definitely the immediate hit, but other moments reveal themselves over time too. The band's intricate vocal harmonies are their most powerful weapon and probably the thing that makes them most likable, but their complex arrangements shouldn't be overlooked either. When you listen to the basslines on "Red Eye" or the piano on "Supernatural," it becomes obvious why this R&B/soul band fit right in on Winter Jazzfest last month. Not that it's too cerebral or anything. It's one of those albums that's perfect background music for entertaining guests, but even more rewarding when you listen closely.
Listen to it on Spotify.
Junior Boys - Big Black Coat (City Slang)
Junior Boys immediately had a sound that was distinctly their own with their early EPs and their 2004 debut album Last Exit, and that's something that never really changed. You could look at that negatively and say it means they've never broken as much ground as they did on Last Exit, but Junior Boys deliver every time. Big Black Coat is their first new album in about five years, and it has them sounding fresh as ever. As synthpop bands in the indie pop realm have continued to enter the actual pop realm, Junior Boys' more minimal sound is starting to feel like a well kept secret. Even similar and usually-great bands like Hot Chip, Cut Copy and M83 have offered up bangers that are perfect for festival crowds, but Junior Boys still sound like that band playing the small late-night tent past 2 AM. The beats are heady and carefully produced, and the vocals remain hushed and romantic. Even on the album's closest thing to a banger, "Over It" (with drums that feel straight off of an '80s Michael Jackson album), Junior Boys' pop leanings are subtle. It's a refreshing album from a band who sounds like they never care what's going on around them.
Listen to it on Spotify.
Sicko Mobb - Super Saiyon Vol. 3 (self-released)
Don't let their name fool you, Sicko Mobb's music is far from vile or gruesome. Super Saiyon Vol. 3 is bubbly auto-tuned rap that's a pure rush of euphoria. If you rate rap based on how close it comes to Illmatic, turn away now. Sicko Mobb have little to no interest in that, but they do have interest in making delightfully weird pop music. The only true pop on the album is the guest spot from their Chicago neighbor Jeremih on "Expensive Taste," but even he adapts to Sicko Mobb's style on this one. It's built for dancing, but it's also got this airy quality that washes over you in any environment. Picture being turnt up but wanting to lie back under the sun at the same time. That's kind of what listening to Super Saiyon Vol. 3 feels like.
Listen to it on Soundcloud.