SCM Music’s Album Picks: April to June – Glowing men, Teens Of Denial and Strangers
WOW, WHAT an eventful three months we’ve had.
WHAM! Prince died. BAM! The UK left the EU. THANK YOU MA’AM! A load of great albums were released. In fact it’s been incredibly difficult to pinpoint my ten favourite albums from this past quarter. The ones I have picked are beautiful, fun, outrageous and mesmerising. They prove that, even in the most fucked up situation, music will always provide escapism from the real world.
If you haven’t listened to these album, you’re missing out.
Weezer – Weezer (The White Album)
Weezer’s 10th studio album is a late career highlight. After treading rocky ground for a while, The White Album gives us ten really, really good songs. It’s the best Weezer have been since Pinkerton, and simply because it’s so simple yet so good. It’s kind of weird that the band have come out of nowhere with this great record, but it’s hardly worth complaining when the songs are really that good.
Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Human Performance saw Parquet Courts advance their sound, distancing themselves from that awful Monastic Living EP. The band step away from their Garage Punk sound to a more produced light, without losing any of their integrity. Those quirky sound effects are there, so is the (more prominent) Velvet Underground influence, but with a greater swagger and confidence that makes Human Performance their best album to date.
PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
While Harvey’s latest release may not be as immediately striking as Let England Shake, it’s a grower that still finely exhibits Harvey’s talent for effective and relevant songwriting. Songs such as ‘The Community Of Hope’, ‘The Ministry Of Defense’ and ‘The Wheel’ are brilliantly powerful numbers that see Harvey combine elements of World music, Baroque Pop and Alternative Rock. It all acts as a vehicle though, for her strong and brilliant wordplay.
Laura Gibson – Empire Builder
When Laura Gibson lost nearly everything in a fire, she searched for her identity. Empire Builder is a result of that search. Hopelessly tender and nostalgic, it’s an album where Gibson weaves Folk based roots into Indie sensibilities. Songs like ‘Damn Sure’ and ‘Two Kids’ are surprisingly upbeat considering the circumstance, while ‘The Cause’ is nearly heartbreaking. A must for those who like their music wonderful.
Julianna Barwick – Will
Will is perhaps one of the most hauntingly beautiful records to come out this year so far. Barwick’s manipulated vocals are enough to create an eerie atmosphere, but her additions of synths and piano to some tracks builds up the sound of the songs to something heavenly. Relatively short at only nine tracks, Will is modern ambient music at it’s best, and something everyone can find something to love about.
Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
Bottomless Pit sees Death Grips do what they do best; tear the fucking roof off. Having already established themselves as one of the most anarchic groups in modern music, Death Grips maintain this, while producing some great Hardcore Hip Hop. The distorted vocals of the likes of ‘Eh’ and ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas’ show MC Ride and Zach Hill nearly blend into one, with some extreme digitalism on both parts.
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Admittedly, Jozef’s linked article is a controversial opinion on the Oxford group’s ninth outing, but here at the Music section, we’re firmly in love with this album. Perhaps their most tender to date, the entire record combines Folk-like guitar work and Jonny Greenwood’s brilliant orchestral work into a tear-jerker of a record. See ‘Glass Eyes’, ‘Daydreaming’ and (a final studio version) of ‘True Love Waits’ for some real moving music.
Marissa Nadler – Strangers
Marissa Nadler’s Strangers feels, at times, Operatic, or at the very least, classically influenced. Strangers feels like an album written at a train station, as Nadler sat and watched the people go by. The result is beautifully loving and nostalgic, with songs relating to the city, and to love. Strangers isn’t an album full of energy, but requires patience. But in return, it’ll reward with some beautiful and fantastical music.
Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
Car Seat Headrest have really tapped into something with Teens Of Denial, their 13th(!) studio album. Front man Will Toledo’s deadpan drawl echoes Lou Reed, with some surprisingly beautiful poetry echoing over the almost-pop-punk sensibilities. It’s really hard to dislike this record, with someone inherently naive, yet intelligent, about the band rooting itself into the very fabric of this record.
Skepta – Konnichiwa
Skepta’s Konnichiwa is perhaps up there with Boy In Da Corner and A Grand Don’t Come For Free in terms of importance in Grime music. Konnichiwa is a great rap record; it’s catchy in all the right places, it’s funny in all the right places (check out the brilliant sampling in ‘Shutdown’) and features come really well placed cameos, from the likes of Pharrell Williams and Wiley. As someone who has previously barely dabbled in the Grime scene, Konnichiwa totally converted me.
Swans – The Glowing Man
Swans conclude their ‘resurrection’ trilogy with the stunning and meditative The Glowing Man. With much in common with the likes of To Be Kind and The Seer, The Glowing Man takes the listener to musical extremes, be that through intense musicality, or through chilling story telling. It’s an album that takes patience, but repays the listener with lush instrumentation and moments of fear and beauty.
Yeah, I put 11, sue me.
Honourable mentions: Beyoncé – Lemonade, Cat’s Eyes – Treasure House, Bleached – Welcome The Worms, 9Bach – Anian, Gold Panda – Good Luck & Do Your Best, Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini, Margaret Glaspy – Emotions & Math, Xiu Xiu – Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks, Winterpills – Love Songs, Jessy Lanza – Oh No.
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