In the last week or so, I’ve come across so many excellent new albums. It’s that incredible combination of new summer jams and the half-year reviews that just pile up into an inscrutably excellent June tune-topia, and I’m going to tell you all about it!
For starters, another Polaris review (though admittedly one I would be listening to regardless): Patrick Watson’s Adventures in Your Own Backyard. The two highlights of this album, as far as I’m concerned, are Into Giants firstly, and secondly everything else. I saw it written somewhere that Into Giants really is something very special, and I might add that we may not grasp just how special for a couple years yet. It really is just a great song, a melody and lyric that one feels ought to have been written decades or centuries ago, a hit I don’t anticipate tiring of anytime soon. But even as I re-listen to the album now, I can’t honestly say whether it’s the best song on the record. I can, however, say with certainty that Into Giants in no way eclipses the rest of the album, which swings between songs which would have been at home on Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha over to the lighter end of Timber Timbre with a couple George Harrison leads and some pretty stereo trickery to round out the whole affair. I saw Patrick Watson live in 2010 (The “Wooden Arms” Era?) and the intensity and inventiveness of the live show were what really convinced me to listen to and respect the records. After this satisfying and expansive follow-up, I wouldn’t miss a chance to see him again.
Next up, Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls. I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, and I admit I haven’t yet given the record as much time as I intend to, but I just want to register my thorough agreement with the indie establishment in pronouncing this a really really really great band. I really can’t put it better than the guys over at the Sound Opinions podcast, who praise Alabama Shakes for being a soul band without ever being revivalist. Current, hip, funky, soulful, and word is their live show absolutely kicks ass.
One more for today, Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors. I was worried about this album. I loved Bitte Orca (and a handful of their older albums), was so-so about Mount Wittenberg Orca (their Bjork collaboration), and was really unimpressed with The Gun Has No Trigger, the new album’s first single. Sure enough, in the context of the full album, Gun Has No Trigger has become one of my favourites. Alongside songs like About to Die, Impregnable Question, The Socialites, and Irresponsible Tune, No Trigger really finds its place. In retrospect, I should have realized that I never would have lost it for a song like Temecula Sunrise (Bitte Orca) without the influence of the songs surrounding it. Bitte was my 2009 summer album without a doubt, and Magellan is a major contender for 2012.
In retrospect, the cool thing these albums have in common is the overall release’s relationship to its single. Though I didn’t go into it, Alabama Shakes’ Hold On is the unabashed single from Boys & Girls, and I have heard the album’s few critics argue that the rest of the album doesn’t live up to that first track. I don’t share that opinion, but it is worth mentioning at least for conceptual symmetry. I ought to go back and reframe this whole post as an analysis of the way albums and their singles relate, but this is the internet and there is no time or place for edits. PEACE.
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music: The opposite of bullshit. Totally sweet mainstream-ish release from Killer Mike. Dig the complete tonal shift between adjacent songs like Jo Jos Chillin and Reagan, or between Butane and Anywhere but Here.