In Review: January 2018
Since today is a pretty light day for releases, I’m going to use it to start my year-end review.
I could probably just have stopped listening to albums after last January. I had so many albums that I liked and that became my ultimate winners in the end. Here’s the top of my January:
Thomas Strønnen and Time Is A Blind Guide, Lucus - The album ebbs and flows beautifully with dramatic pieces like “Baka,” energetic pieces like “Friday,” or sparse beauty on “La Bella.”
Xylouris White, Mother - I haven’t been able to figure out how to write about this one. It is what it is? Greek, jazzy, a little undercurrent of something else perhaps too.
Joachim Kühn, Eric Shaefer & Chris Jennings - Crisp jazz with clean lines that, while not simple to execute, don’t belabor and pound the listener over the head with the idea that “we are amazing improvisers who can play lots of notes and know a lot about music theory which is why we are moving between chords and modes and scales like the Jazz Gods we are.” It’s more humble than that, I’d compare it to that point in cooking when you realize, sometimes doing something simple really really well is in itself the greatest evidence of talent.
Martinho Da Vila - The best samba music is effortless to listen and dance to, even though if you really listen to the way the rhythms overlay each other and sit/don’t sit together, you really start to understand how tricky this music is to actually create.
Negative Gemini - chill out ambient music to zone out with
We Youssi and the County Champs, Down Low - I’m still going to champion the actual country singers out there instead of the ones that tend to be popular on “country” radio. And Wes Youssi is one who is bringing new stories to old sounds proving it’s still worthy of making.
Tango With Lions - I’ll be honest, I need to be in the mood for this but when I am, I love this album. It’s smooth and intriguing with layers that draw you in.
Bedbug - makes me want to lay down in a prairie field in the middle of a Minnesota State Park with my headphones like I did in high school on family vacations listening to Bright Eyes, The Microphones, Dismemberment Plan and The Busy Signals, watching the grasses sway and clouds pass over me.
A Grave With No Name - chill out indie music to wear your slippers to. Is there slipper music? Well, there is now.
Ghost Music - Still chill out music but it’s more deserty and west coast sounding than A Grave With No Name.
Khruangbin - chill out music with a cinematic feel to it.
Belle Adair - It’s pretty standard “really likes ___ from the 60’s or 70s” but done well and there’s always a place in my hear for such things
Bell & Sebastian - I thought the new releases were worthy, obviously relevant, and I’m glad to get new Belle & Sebastian when I can.
Inara George - The essence of a Jill Sobule song with the last 30 years’ influences and trends added in.
Calexico - Different from previous albums, yet still connected to them through some invisible link, I like this album that is very influenced by life of now.
Tiny Little Houses - Weezer/Cage The Elephant/Pavement are the obvious comparisons one can make for this, but there is more to it . The songs are brutally honest and delivered with that Malkmus free speak singing lyric while the music stays rooted together behind it.
Django Django - This album settles into itself well, but I feel like the track order doesn’t quite work. I think Sundials would be nicer towards the top adn perhaps the first two tracks in the middle. Django Django has their signature rhythm section throughout the album but the instrumentation has changed up a bit on this album and gives an interesting dimension to the band
They Might Be Giants - TMBG is prolific, rivalling Robert Pollard prolific, and that can have its ups and downs. This album is definitely an up. Songs that take me back to familiar feels from previous albums and others that just feel like They Might Be Giants. Which is a dark wittiness cloaked in crazy or fun or odd music.
Super Whatevr - Starts like the music for a 90s teen slasher credit roll, and then it just becomes this indie rock jam that I keep listening to until the album is over, even if I’m trying to only sample the albums to remember the gist of them…
Starcrawler - It sounds like one of the bands from Scott Pilgrim has climbed out fo the movie and settled into our world. The attitude, the fuzz of the guitars, and great drumming make this band’s sound huge.
Dream Wife - “Let’s make out or are you too shy?” followed by a song with lyrics “I am not my body, I am somebody.” kinda sums up the relational game of today. The music is rough, visceral and amazing. And how is F.U.U. about a hair cut? But it is. And it’s great.
Closer - I’ve raved about this all year. It’s in my top 10. It is everything you wanted screamo to be. Arty, raw, loud, harsh. This album never left rotation in my year.
Well there you go. And that’s why I could just have stopped listening last January, so much good music and a great variety too. The worst part is that as I’m working through my notes, I’m realizing I forgot to drop some albums into my liked pile, which means there more. But this is a good start. I’m hoping to have another month together every few days, so stay tuned for more of 2018 as 2019 slowly gets its release wheels rolling. Happy Listening!