December 2017 Album of the month: U2 “Songs of Experience”

…and here we are with the last month of the year. Crazy how time flies…and how I enjoyed doing this monthly review. It has sure has been a lot of time spent listening to hundreds of records but worth the effort. December as usual is not the month with the highest number of releases and this month’s big names were a bit of a downer (Van Morrison, Miguel, N.E.R.D or Eminem to name but a few). However, the below selection remains very good and worth listening to

Album of the month: U2“Songs Of Experience” – Pop Rock – Always difficult to judge a new album from a very famous group as either you want to slag all their new records since… the last one you love or you love everything, meaning your voice may not be credible. I tried to be as objective as possible, knowing U2 is one of my favourite bands ever. Of course, expecting them to be as powerful as during their peak years of the late 80’s / early 90’s may be wishful thinking but the fact that they are still around with important things to say … and good songs is something remarkable. So, I think… this is a good U2 album. A few songs may be judged too Coldplayish and made for stadiums but there are at least 5 or 6 great songs, with very personal words this time. Let’s see if this LP stands the test of time but for the time being I really enjoy it.

 

  • Runner-up: Nabihah Iqbal“Weighing Of The Heart” – Electronica – First effort under her own name from young British electro artist. Very fresh sounds and interesting words coming from someone who knows what trying to be integrated in a society means.
  • Also recommended:
    • QTY “QTY” – Rock – NY female/male duo, produced by Bernard Butler.
    • Neil Young + Promise of the Real – “The Visitor” – Rock – Another release from the wise man, who is as angry as ever.
    • Hans Chew “Open Sea ” – Psychedelic Country – The genre says it all…
    • Cindy Wilson “Change” – Electro Pop – Unexpected very good album from The B52’s‘ former singer.
    • Chris Thile “Thanks For Listening” – Mandolin Pop – The second time the mandolin virtuoso is in this review after his dual album with Brad Mehldau in January. Almost as good as Sufjan Stevens.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – OCS – “Memory Of A Cut Off Head

 

November 2017 Album of the month: OCS “Memory of a Cut Off Head”

We are already reaching the 11th month of the year and I hope you enjoyed these regular reviews as much as I liked doing them. November was probably not the best month of the year but with still enough material to find seven records to enjoy. Stay tuned for next month as you will get two for the price of one: December Album of the month but also the usual Best of the Year list!

Album of the month: OCS“Memory of a Cut Off Head” – Pop Rock – I was actually quite happy to be able to promote this album as the best of the month as a kind of reward to its main creator. John Dwyer is an incredible talent and his energy is limitless. He leads at least three different bands (OCS, Thee Oh Sees and Damaged Bug) and releases in average two records per year. This is actually his third record of 2017 and with OCS you will discover his soft side whereas he is dedicated to psychedelic rock with Thee Oh Sees and to German-influenced repetitive rock with Damaged Bug. What makes this record probably different from his other works is that there is a real sensitivity and female voices… which to my mind is a great thing as I am a huge fan of women in rock.

 

  • Runner-up: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds“Who Built the Moon?” – Pop Rock – …good question indeed Mr G…. While Liam G. has recently released a quite boring LP, his big brother keeps on being more adventurous and his latest work is by far the most interesting of all post-Oasis productions. A mix of psychedelic rock with a few dance sounds whilst keeping the melodic sense of their leader. In other words, a record that should please Oasis fans as much as less traditional music fans.
  • Also recommended:
    • Shamir “Revelations” – Pop Funk – Post depression blues album for the young transgender man. Not always easy to listen to but a few tracks are very moving and beautiful.
    • Eera – “Reflection of Youth” – Pop Folk – Latest opus from the UK-based Norwegian young woman; very much PJ Harvey and Joni Mitchell-influenced.
    • Charlotte Gainsbourg “Rest ” – Pop Rock – Probably not the masterpiece defended in the French media but there are a few very good tracks. I guess it may be a grower in the months to come.
    • Morrissey “Low in High School” – Pop Rock – Morrissey did not become a nazi as read here and there but this is true that his words are sometimes ambiguous… There are a few very bad tracks in this album but also a few great ones so this is definitely a record to discover.
    • Mavis Staples “If all I was was Black” – Soul Rock – Another great collaboration between Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and the amazing 78-year old Mavis Staples. She is one of the truly greats of all times and I consider myself honoured to see her in 2011 at Austin City Limits. Beautiful music and important words in today’s America…
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – “Lotta Sea Lice

 

October 2017 Album of the month: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile “Lotta Sea Lice”

Another busy month for records’ releases; I guess it never really stops except in December. A few big names with listenable but slightly boring records (hello Liam Gallagher, Beck, Stereophonics or Bill Corgan) and a very embarrassing one from former hip-hop legends the Wu-Tang Clan… However, a great number of very good records and as usual very tough to keep a selection of seven of them. Anyway, here we go for October:

Album of the month: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile“Lotta Sea Lice” – Pop Rock – …and yes, I know, Kurt and Courtney… Having mentioned that, when two of one’s favourite and cherished artists of the last years decide to collaborate on a record, one is very often suspicious about the results. In other words, in music, the sum of two great talents on a record is often disappointing. This is not at all the case here and on the opposite, it looks these two musicians improved their games vs. their recent releases (well, this is true at least for Kurt Vile…). They met a bit by chance after making known their respective interest and appreciation in each other’s music and eventually made a song, then enough material for an E.P…and lo and behold here you are with one of the best records of the year. Very laid back and beautiful music and the kind of records we would probably have enjoyed in summer time…so enjoy it everywhere you live and especially for our beloved Brazilian readers!

 

  • Runner-up: St. Vincent“Masseduction” – Pop Rock – A bit samey here as I had a bad feeling concerning the new record from Annie Clark, alias St. Vincent for stupid reasons: she got famous in tabloids, her music looked less and less from the heart, etc… So good news are that I was entirely wrong. Her album is as usual quite different from previous ones and ready to explore electronic sounds but in a very emotional context overall and with beautiful songs.
  • Also recommended:
    • The Weather Station “The Weather Station” – Folk  Rock – Meet Canadian singer Tamara Lindeman and her beautiful Joni Mitchell-sounding songs…with bitter lyrics.
    • Robert Plant – “Carry Fire” – Pop Rock – Another beautiful album from the former Led Zeppelin singer where he mixes his love of rock’n’roll and oriental music
    • Sananda Maitreya “Prometheus & Pandora ” – Every style – 59 (!) new tracks from the artist formerly known as Terence Trent d’Arby. Not everything is great but there are a few gems to discover. And what a joy to hear that amazing voice of his again.
    • Bully “Losing” – Pop Rock – The Sundays meet Nirvana. Great guitar record.
    • Fever Ray “Plunge” – Electropop – Great and weird new album from Karin Dreijer, singer of the Swedish band The Knife.
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – The National – “Sleep Well Beast

 

September 2017 Album of the month: The National “Sleep Well Beast”

September in music is also a kind of back-to-school period and the quantity and quality of records released this month hasve been amazing. I have listened to no less than seventy (!) new records released this month and I must say that apart from the atrocious new Miley Cyrus LP, I enjoyed to hear all of them. The fact that a few personal favourites such as Foo Fighters, Mogwai, Hue and Cry, The Dream Syndicate or Four Tet are not part of the below selection shows how good the chosen few are.

Album of the month: The National“Sleep Well Beast” – Pop Rock – I know this statement may not be shared by all but to me The National are the best band of the current decade. All their records are inventive whilst keeping their own style and their music has been evolving little by little, each record adding up audacity and creation. Their strength lies in the team spirit of the band and with Matt Berninger they have a beautiful singer and leader. This new record is no exception and this time they put more electronic sounds in their beautiful songs, making it familiar and fresh at the same time.

  • Runner-up: Moses Sumney“Aromanticism” – Pop Rock – I was eagerly looking forward to listening to this new record as I had felt under the charm of this young singer at the recent End of the Road festival. This record comes from outer space and I am pretty sure once again that Moses Sumney will be an important artist and name to follow in the next… thirty years? Difficult to describe as he plays all styles of music with such grace and beauty so the best is for you to discover it.
  • Also recommended:
    • LCD Soundsystem “American Dream” – New York Grooooovy thang – What? They are not in the month’s Top 2, despite the fact that this is their excellent come back album? No… but they should!
    • The Horrors– “V” – Pop Rock – Album #5 for Faris Badwan and his band; great as usual.
    • Torres“Three Futures” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part I
    • Zola Jesus “Okovi” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part II
    • Chelsea Wolfe “Hiss Spun” – Pop Rock – Interesting woman makes very emotional record – part III
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – The War On Drugs – “A Deeper Understanding

 

August 2017 Album of the month: The War On Drugs “A Deeper Understanding”

I was really expecting to struggle to find seven good albums in August but things did not work out as planned… August was actually probably the best month of the year so far in terms of quality of albums and the ones selected below are all reaching levels of excellence.

Album of the month: The War On Drugs “A Deeper Understanding” – Pop Rock – The War on Drugs is the brainchild of Adam Granduciel. After many years in being a very good band (one of his former member being the excellent Kurt Vile), their leader defined a different formula with their 2014 LP “Lost in the Dream“. It took me a bit of time to love that album which basically topped all 2014 best of lists but I must say seeing them live at End of the Road 2015 festival convinced me entirely. Their new record goes even further in this formula with hypnotic long songs. A bit as if Bruce Springsteen were playing “Dancing in the Dark” with a proper drums sound for over an hour ; who could ask for more?

  • Runner-up: Grizzly Bear“Painted Ruins” – Pop Rock – It had been quite a long time since we did not get any news from this great band but it was worth the wait. Despite having a sort of hit in 2009 with “Two Weeks“, Grizzly Bear are more a band known for their work on sounds and moody atmospheres. The first track of their new LP is called “Wasted Acres” and I guess after 20 seconds you will know if you are a fan of the band or if you feel bored. On my side, the choice has been made a long time ago so I am delighted to get a new record from such a beautiful band.
  • Also recommended:
    • The Districts “Popular Manipulations” – Pop Rock – in the same genre as TV On The Radio
    • Ghostpoet – “Dark Days + Canapés” – Urban Groove- Latest opus from soul/hip hop/indie rock master of sounds Obaro Ejimiwe
    • Nadine Shah “Holiday Destination” – Pop Rock – Hypnotic pop with political words
    • Iron & Wine “Beast Epic” – Pop Folk – First proper solo album since 2013 from our beloved Sam Beam
    • Queens of the Stone Age “Villains” – Pop Rock – This record would have been album of the month any other month. Josh Homme is the best person in the music industry with Jack White and Dave Grohl!
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – This Is The Kit – “Moonshine Freeze

 

July 2017 Album of the month: This Is The Kit “Moonshine Freeze”

Summer holidays for a few of us… but the blog is never on leaves! I was expecting a lazy month in terms of new releases but this not was so so let’s go for our July review.

Album of the month: This Is The Kit “Moonshine Freeze” – Pop Rock – One of the most expected releases as far as this blog is concerned following the great gig I attended at End of The Road festival in 2015. Not a disappointment to say the least as you will not find a more moving and beautiful record this year. This Is The Kit is the brainchild of Kate Stable, an English woman expatriated in Paris. As with all great records, the best thing is to listen to it and you will understand from the first track onwards.

  • Runner-up: Nine Inch Nails – “Add Violence” – Ok, I must admit I am slightly cheating here as this is a (long) 5-track EP and not an album… but what a record. Everything this blog adores about Trent Reznor and his band: power, melodies and amazing sound ideas. By the way, the band recently appeared in the new Twin Peaks series 3 in the episode 8, probably the most surreal episode of all series ever.
  • Also recommended:
    • Broken Social Scene  “Hug of Thunder” – Canadian collective pop rock
    • Toro Y Moi – “Boo Boo” – One man dance machine
    • Lana Del Rey “Lust for Life” – Lynchian girlie songs; her best album so far
    • Arcade Fire “Everything Now” – Euphoric dance pop. Not their best album but a few really great tracks
    • Benjamin Gibbard “Bandwagonesque” – Pop Rock – Death Cab For Cutie’s singer covers Teenage Fanclub best album: a fan’s dream come true
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – Ride “Weather Diaries”

 

June 2017 Album of the month: Ride “Weather Diaries”

A very busy month with a few okish records from favourites (Phoenix, Sufjan Stevens) a few real disappointments (Royal Blood, Fleet Foxes, London Grammar), an awful record (DJ Khaled)..and the worst record ever made (Katy Perry). However, good news is that the selection below is pretty awesome so enjoy!

 

Album of the month: Ride “Weather Diaries” – Shoegaze Rock – Amazing really to be in a position to write that Ride’s new album is our favourite of the month but this is for real! A great balance between what they used to be and what music is now, it sounds equally retro and modern. These guys give their best when they are together. Welcome back!

  • Runner-up: Lorde“Melodrama” – Pop – 2nd album from New Zealander Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor. After shaking the world with her debut released when she was 16 (!), she is back at the ripe age of 20 with an even better second LP. Great catchy melodies, weird arrangements, very original voice, moving lyrics,… everything pop should be (and Katy Perry will never be…)
  • Also recommended:
    • TOPS “Sugar At The Gate” – Canadian Power Pop
    • Cigarettes After Sex – “s/t” – Ethereal Pop (..and nice band name!)
    • Kevin Morby“City Music” – Cool folk rock
    • Flotation Toy Warning“The Machine That Made Us” – Complex Radiohead-influenced rock
    • Vince Staples “Big Fish Theory” – Hip Hop
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month – The Afghan Whigs – “In Spades”

 

May 2017 Album of the month: The Afghan Whigs “In Spades”

Once again, another great month in terms of releases. Despite new excellent records, bands or artists such as At The Drive-In, The Charlatans or Todd Rundgren were not selected so enjoy the following great records!

 

Album of the month: The Afghan Whigs “In Spades” – Soul Grunge Rock – The Afghan Whigs are one of my favourite bands ever and their come back record in 2014 (“Do To The Beast”) after a 18-year hiatus was sensational news. However, despite being very good, one was expecting an even better record for their future ventures… and “In Spades” is such a record. Greg Dulli’s voice has never sounded so good and all the songs are memorable, beautifully mixing a soul sensitivity with a grunge sound. This has always been their forte but the least one can say is that they are back to stay this time. Nice cover as well from a Brazilian artist.

  • Runner-up: Mac DeMarco – “This Old Dog” – Cool Rock – The more it goes, the less Mac DeMarco should be considered as a nice and funny guy in the music industry but as a real fantastic songwriter. You will not find a cooler record to listen to during summertime but behind the easiness of the music lies fantastic songs.
  • Also recommended:
    • Paul Weller  “A Kind Revolution” – Mod Psychedelic Rock
    • Jane Weaver – “Modern Kosmology” – Space Pop
    • Benjamin Biolay “Volver” – Bittersweet French Pop
    • Slowdive“s/t” – Shoegaze Rock
    • The Mountain Goats “Goths” – Literate Rock
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month  Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.”

 

April 2017 Album of the month: Kendrick Lamar “DAMN.”

April was a very good month in terms of diversity and I listened in particular to a few very good metal/doom records. They were not in the final choice but that was just to illustrate that there are so many good releases on a monthly basis…and hip-hop is back to the top this month.

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Album of the month: Kendrick Lamar “DAMN.” – Hip Hop – I hesitated a lot this month between Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$ and Father John Misty as these three Americans all released splendid records that may be considered as masterpieces when/if time confirms it. I did not find Kendrick’s new LP as great as the previous ones after a couple of listening but this album is a real grower and on par with his best material when you take the time to do so. What puts Kendrick aside from the rest of the competition today is probably the fact that he has the best balance between sound creativity, quality of songwriting and subtlety in words. To put it differently, today’s fight against the powers that be is to me more powerful if done this way rather than stating the obvious. One should note as well that Kendrick reminds everyone here of his excellence as a MC…and that the collaboration with U2 (“XXX.”) is actually very good!

  • Runner-up: Father John Misty – “Pure Comedy” – Pop/Rock – Quite difficult to summarize this record how complex and demanding it is. In terms of music style, Joshua Tillman digs the 70’s Elton John sound he started to play with his excellent former 2015 “I Love You, Honeybear” album. But the texts are amazing here and not easy to put in boxes. These are the words of a man in the middle of a weird and wide political and emotional world. Best way to understand what I am talking about is to listen to the 13-minute song “Leaving LA“.
  • Also recommended:
    • Timber Timbre “Sincerely, Future Pollution” – Synth Folk
    • Joey Bada$$– “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$” – Hip Hop – An extraordinary record as well; it would have been record of the month if no such competition.
    • Splashh “Waiting A Lifetime” – Indie Rock
    • Gorillaz “Humanz” – Damon & friends playing all kinds of music
    • Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm “s/t” – Soul Blues
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month  Spoon – “Hot Thoughts”

 

March 2017 Album of the month: Spoon “Hot Thoughts”

…one more month…and what a month it was in terms of quantity and quality of records. This blog’s writer is a pro so he went until listening to music he would never listened otherwise. Lots of records in March, a few regular favourites, a few big names (Bob Dylan), youngsters, veterans, a few deceptions (IAM, Jamiroquai), etc… So for the record: 1) Drake’s new LP is ok but no more 2) If you like Ed Sheeran’s atrocious new album, you probably are very sick and this blog is your cure!

Album of the month: Spoon “Hot Thoughts” – Pop/Rock – Spoon is one of my favourite bands ever and they are actually part of my Top 100. Describing them is difficult as their music sounds so simple and direct that they do not really impress at first. Their strength is probably to be found in this easiness they have in creating punchy and very rhythmic songs with a beautiful sense of melody. This new album is no exception and every new listen brings more pleasure and subtlety. Album of the first quarter by far!

  • Runner-up: The Jesus and Mary Chain – “Damage and Joy” – Rock – A not so unexpected come back from the Reid brothers 20 years after their last album. Very close to their 1994 “Stoned and Dethroned” album in tems of sound, they remain a fantastic force in the industry with their Velvet Underground meets the Ronettes style.
  • Also recommended:
    • Depeche Mode “Spirit” – Synth Blues
    • Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness” – Pop/Rock
    • Sleaford Mods “English Tapas” – Lad’s Laptop Punk
    • Grandaddy “Last Place” – Pop/Rock
    • Thomas de Pourquery/Supersonic “Sons of Love” – Space Jazz
  • Lest we forget: album of the previous month Aquaserge – “laisse ça être”