Half a Year Gone Already
With half of July behind us, it is time to take a look at some of the releases that are already vying for album of the year. This week I want to highlight four records from the first half of the year that are strong contenders for my year-end “best of” list. All of these records have come out in the past six months and they have each received heavy play around our house. A couple of these artists have recently been through town and hopefully a couple more will be joining us soon.
Hop Along – Painted Shut
Hop Along began as Frances Quinlan’s solo project around 2004. Since that time, Quinlan has been joined by her brother Mark on drums and Tyler Long on bass. Together, this trio has released two excellent records. Their most recent effort, Painted Shut, was released on May 4th. This album is a concentrated blast of indie rock. The songs are tight and well considered, the sentiment is earnest without being overt and Quinlan's voice is simply astounding. The sound here is reminiscent of the Belly/4 Non Blondes era of '90s rock. There is a power in Quinlan's voice that drives the songs right to the breaking point before pulling them back to harmony. Check out their excellent Tiny Desk Concert Below.
Howard – Religion
For a while now Folktronica has bubbled just below the surface of the indie scene. This often striking blend of dance rhythms and acoustic instrument sampling has been seen on records like Four Tet’s Pause and Caribou’s Milk of Human Kindness, to name a couple. This spring, Howard released what has already become a definitive record in the genre. This is the album from this year that has received the most play from me and is a strong contender for album of the year. Check out their performance of “Religion” below from Sofar Sounds.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit an Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
I have talked about Barnett here several times before. At this point she seems nearly unstoppable. Her album is astounding. Her live performances are both powerful and heartfelt. It is clear that she is supremely comfortable in front of an audience but she is not haughty about it. The stage is set for this to be Courtney Barnett’s year. The official video for Avant Gardner is below.
Pale Honey – Pale Honey
This debut record from the Swedish duo of Tuva Lodmark and Nelly Daltrey is everything that I look for in an album. There is an intensity to this record, which has been carefully focused on an oscillation between quiet malaise and furious noise. Lodmark’s voice floats above the tracks, never quite melding. There is a critical or ironic distance between the lyrics and the sound that carries them, which creates a very interesting critique of the state of music in general and the indie pop scene in particular. Check out the video for their outstanding single “Youth” below.
To Do This Week
On Friday check out The Lonely Biscuits at Gasa Gasa. TLB have a new sound and are getting ready to premier their new record this fall. This will be a great chance to watch them stretch their legs between large tours and prepare their new material for the stage. On Saturday you can catch Morning 40 Federation at One Eyed Jacks. Monday night, The Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Mansion will play Champions Square.
To Listen This Week
- MS MR has a new single.
- Time Spent Driving have released their first record since 2007. Stream it from Brooklyn Vegan.
- Yo La Tengo covers The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” with a great video.