Califone - Echo Mine
A new record from Chicago songwriter Tim Rutili’s Califone is never a simple thing. Fluttering between folk, experimental noise, electronics, rock and more, the songs seem to blossom organically but unpredictably, a thrilling ride for fans and listeners that has led to a devoted fanbase. Echo Mine begun as music for Robyn Mineko Williams’ dance piece of the same name, which debuted in Chicago in December. Tragically, the lead dancer of the piece passed away unexpectedly during its creation, and Rutili’s father passed as well, leading to a somber beauty that clearly bubbles up through the cracks of the music and lyrics. It’s Califone’s most fully-realized record in years, and will make you fall in love with the band all over again.
Moses Sumney - græ Part One
Los Angeles musician and songwriter Moses Sumney creates an emotional and experimental style of R&B that quickly garnered attention from critics and listeners. His newest release, græ Part One, is his most left-field release to date, showing definite influence from his time touring with Dirty Projectors. A jagged, anxious musical backing is topped with his fluttering, melodic vocals and unusual harmonies, each song refusing to stay in one place for long. It’s a captivating record, as a whole, that finds Sumney growing creatively as an artist to whole new heights.
King Krule - Man Alive!
London based King Krule clearly doesn’t play within any defined boundaries or rules, creating music that blends electronica, hip-hop and rock into a tangled, fascinating mess. Man Alive may be his most outwardly emotional work to date, lyrically flipping between raging anger and gentle love throughout, all in a poetic style that few other songwriters can compare. There’s a definite gloom that hangs over the album, a dark, minor-key musical basis matching his distinct, haunting vocals. An album that will take multiple listens to truly immerse yourself in, Man Alive may be one of the most interesting records released yet this year.
Ozzy Osbourne - Ordinary Man
The Black Sabbath frontman’s first record in a decade is surprisingly better than you’d expect. Ozzy channels the hard-rock, riff-based sound of his earliest (and arguably best) solo records for the majority of the record, with predictably dark lyrics delivered in a voice that has somehow survived over time. The record falters with a couple of Post Malone collaborations tacked onto the end, but one has to applaud the man for still taking risks. If not essential listening, Ordinary Man is still certainly worth a listen.
Guided By Voices - Surrender Your Poppy Field
The 90s cult favorite Guided By Voices remain prolific, releasing their 30th studio album this week. As is typical for the band, the album features a slew of genres and musical ideas, all built around singer-songwriter Robert Pollard’s belted vocals and distinct songwriting. Though Surrender Your Poppy Field certainly isn’t reinventing the wheel for the band, it doesn’t need to. It’s a great set of tunes that doesn’t aim to do more than please its rabid fanbase, making it yet another success for the band.
Best Coast - Always Tomorrow
Bethany Cosentino’s lo-fi indie project Best Coast has grown and matured along with its songwriter, as seen in both the lyrics and production. Always Tomorrow is the cleanest, most straightforward effort from Best Coast today, with a clean production and lyrics surrounding Cosentino’s efforts toward self-improvement and sobriety. The catchy melodies remain intact, giving a clear nod toward 70s radio rock.
Lee Ranaldo & Raul Refree - Names of North End Women
Sonic Youth guitarist and established songwriter Lee Ranaldo teamed up with Spanish producer Raul Refree to create Names Of North End Women, an experimental album inspired by a late-night walk he took through a section of Winnipeg where the streets are all names after women. Musically, the songs feature dense, percussive backing, eerie synths and very little guitar. Renaldo switching between singing and spoken word, David Bowie’s Blackstar coming to mind as a comparison. It shows that Renaldo’s experimental tendencies are still intact, and makes for a fascinating listen as a whole.