It’s that time of the month again. Year. I mean year.
What have you been listening to? Tell us. We’re lonely.
First up is Unknown Mortal Orchestra with ‘Sex & Food’. This is an addictive little record and if there’s a song more addictive than ‘Hunnybee’ this year then you’d better steer well clear of it as IT WILL RUIN YOU. One of the many things we love about UMO at TSOFDs is they turn that home recorded feel into something universally appealing and that’s a neat little trick to pull off in this world of formulaic cookie cutter pop by numbers.
J. Cole with KOD. What an impressive lyrical flow this man has and the production of this LP is sublime. Perhaps not one for the children bearing in mind the swears. Naughty J. Cole. A record that more than suggests this is an artist not about to hold back from calling it how he sees it. We like that. Especially when it sounds this good.
Sting and Shaggy. No not really. Had you going for a second though. Janelle Monae with ‘Dirty Computer’. What about that ‘PYNK’ video huh? One for riling the repressed. HERO. Monae is one of those ridiculously talented characters who can do the lot – sing, rap, dance, act, etc. And there is certainly no better time to celebrate female artists stepping forward and proclaiming that their pussies grab back. Wouldn’t you say Donald? The poppier elements of this album might grate on some ears but it’s worth a spin for the winning moments, which are plentiful.
Gaz Coombes is back with ‘World’s Strongest Man’. You might remember him from Supergrass – a top, top band from years past. Well don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a dude stuck in the 90s. Very up to date and interesting, modern production. A lush little album with great grooves and melodies. A man on top of his game and it will be intriguing to see what he does next.
Jon Hopkins with ‘Singularity’. Always one to take a turn for the cosmic, this record got a little bit of stick in some quarters but that seems unfair. Is it the best that Hopkins has come up with? Arguably not. But should it occupy a place in your future listening schedule? We think so.
Arctic Monkeys – ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. There’ll always been a place in my heart for these, um, little monkeys, if only for YouTube compilations of Alex Turner looking out of it in interviews yet always remembering to call interviewers by their first name. Turner has churned out a broad range of music during his still sickeningly young career and the different types of output will obviously appeal to different tastes at different times, making it a challenge for the band to take all their previous listeners with them from release to release. This latest ‘Monkeys record takes a brave step back from the chart conquering style and swagger of AM and embraces something more conceptual and experimental. When it works it really works well and at times it’s positively Beatley. Never a bad thing.
Beach House have returned with ‘7’. This has weirdly gone from slightly underwhelming to being probably my favorite record of the quarter. Seriously, I’ve always been one for ‘growers’ but this record is the longest grower I’ve ever experienced. Ahem. Soz if that sounds a bit dirty. Anyway, first of all I was instantly hooked on certain tracks. But I had the impression other songs on the record didn’t stand up to scrutiny and the overall quality wasn’t there of, say, a ‘Teen Dream’ or a ‘Bloom’. I wondered whether a different producer and a new way of working that wasn’t as painstaking hadn’t quite worked out as well for listeners. I was wrong. Something just kept pulling me back in and now I find this record as even and as balanced as a record could possibly be. I’m not sure whether it’s my favourite Beach House record. But it’s definitely challenging for the title.
Courtney Barnett – ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’. What a delight of an album. In one way it’s easy to see why the vile cretins Barnett calls out in the song ‘Nameless, Faceless’ mistakenly come to the conclusion she has no talent. She makes it seem so straightforward and easy. But it’s not easy to produce something of this quality. Not easy at all. This is an artist with a real knack of knowing how to not mess a song up by over-egging the cake and that also understands how to pick the right people to work with that will give her writing what it needs in the studio. That said, I’d like to see Barnett take a teeny tiny bit more risk with her next album because I think she’s capable of even more.
Parquet Courts with ‘Wide Awake!’ have arguably made their most fun record to date. Sometimes it even, whisper it, comes across as a bit Talking Heads. Spiky. Bubbly. Colorful. More of this please. There’s a nice pace to the record as you might expect but this time round it comes with more grooves and some really neat little twists in the arrangements. Banging.
Father John Misty is a uniquely gifted fellow. And this is no less apparent on ‘God’s Favorite Customer’. Some have mildly complained that this isn’t of the same grandiose level of artistic statement as previous albums. Not interested. What you have here is an album of gems. It’s supposed to be about the songs after all. I’d file this next to ‘Fear Fun’ in the sense that it’s an album that does what an album’s supposed to do. Fire brilliant songs into your lugholes. I’m just a traditionalist like that I guess.
Last up is Gorillaz with ‘The Now Now’. Not had a proper listen yet. But from what I’ve heard it sounds like it’s more than worth a spin. Thanks for reading.