SCM Music’s Album Picks: April to June – Pleasure, Romance and Melodrama
HERE we are again.
April through June passed (scarily) quickly, so much so that it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the decent music that has appeared in that time. But fear not – we are hear with our contributions, with which albums to look out for, which to avoid.
We’ve handily included links to samples of these records – just click on the album title for a taster!
There’s so much more that could go into this section, but in the mean time here are the 13 best albums of the quarter.
Yazz Ahmed – La Saboteuse
Potential Jazz album of the year, Yazz Ahmed has been a collaborator and side musician for a while now. But now with her new album, the multi-instrumentalist brings her repertoire to the ever expanding Cosmic and Spiritual Jazz scene that has been appearing over the last few years. This album is a true testament to what can be done with Jazz in the 21st century. With some truly mesmerising material here (including an unexpected Radiohead cover) do not let this is album slip through the cracks if you are a fan of the likes of Kamasi Washington and The Comet Is Coming.
Chastity Belt – I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone
Slacker Rock always has the issue of potentially falling flat, but that’s not the case on this new Chastity Belt album. IUTSSMTA is very much a lament to a past life that still feels like it’s ghosts follow the narrator around. Chastity Belt have had enough experience in their scene to put together a tune, and this album shows just how well the group work together, giving us some relaxing, superb, North-Western alternative rock.
Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
This Old Dog is a more introspective release from Canada’s Mac DeMarco. Leaving behind elements of jangle pop and slacker rock that could be found on Salad Days (SCM Music’s album of 2014), This Old Dog is more low key, utilising more synthersisers and acoustic guitar, as well as drum machines. It’s a pleasant shift for DeMarco, who sings about his relationship with his father prominently on the record, as well as his own fears about growing up in his shadow. It’s a release that’s bound to win over some new fans, as well as impressing his existing ones.
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
The good Father returns with a less personal, but more political, follow-up to the SCM Music’s Album of 2015, I Love You, Honey Bear. Pure Comedy is a long, winding affair that showcases some of FJM’s best lyrical work to date, while simultaneously making it the best American political album to come out in the Trump era this far. There are no tired cliche’s or boring ‘protest’ lyrics on this record – just witticisms at every turn, coupled with some simplistic, yet majestic modern Folk music which keeps the audience more than intrigued.
Feist – Pleasure
Pleasure saw Leslie Feist step her game up after the Polaris Prize winning Metals. Her lyrics are both whimsical and nostalgic, lamenting over love and life in a wholly original way. Pleasure is, at it’s core, a great indie folk album, but it’s Feist’s quirks and song-writing that make this album so standout. The Jarvis Cocker cameo, Mastodon sample and tweaks to Feist’s vocals are the cherry on top of this wonderful album that make it her strongest effort to date.
Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
With six years passing since Fleet Foxes released Helplessness Blues, one might worry that Robin Pecknold and co. might have lost their charm. Thankfully that isn’t the case, and Crack-Up is a spectacular Baroque Folk album. The classic Fleet Foxes harmonies weave their way into the dense and textured music creating an epic tapestry of sound. But with some delicate production on this thing, it’s far from overwhelming – instead it feels powerful, yet tender.
H.Hawkline – I Romanticize
H. Hawkline returns with another healthy dose of Psych Folk, with many similar elements to his previous releases, but with some killer writing on this thing. Hooks are a plenty, with every song carving its way into your brain with an ear worm and a quirk. H. Hawkline’s vocals are adventurous yet accessible, the music sharp and fun; this is a must for those who enjoy the likes of Talking Heads and Cate Le Bon.
Joey Badass – All-American Badass
While B4.DA.$$ was a really decent introduction for Joey Badass, it didn’t quite tick all the boxes it needed too. All-American Badass does, and brings Joey into the fold of race discussions in modern day America. He does it over various smooth instrumental beats that are are incredibly cheerful for an album that deals with the topic of race. Still, All-American Badass is a very mature and enjoyable album – perfect for anyone wanting an introduction to Joey Badass.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
DAMN sees Kendrick once again in his element, creating a more accessible album than To Pimp a Butterfly that delved into incredibly deep lyrical territory that dabbled in everything from God to Love to Kendrick’s own family history. Tracks like ‘Humble’ and ‘DNA’ are some of Kendrick’s most single-friendly, but don’t feel out of place on an album that goes so hard on the matters of life and death. Where there was hope to TPAB, there is anger on DAMN, and frustration with his scene, his country and his peers. A must listen.
Lorde – Melodrama
Melodrama is the surprisingly mature sophomore album from New Zealand/Los Angeles singer Lorde. Pairing up with Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff could have lead down the path of cheap Pop hits, and too an extent there is a radio friendliness to Melodrama. But past that are some great song-writing, charming lyrics and excellent production. Lorde’s voice is just a enticing as on her debut, perhaps even more so as she tries and experiments with her vocal styles (listen out for the Kate Bush-like number). Melodrama might require some warming to, is worth sticking with after a few listens – you won’t regret it.
Colin Stetson – All This I Do For Glory
Colin Stetson once again combines power with hypnotic rhythms, this time with added percussion. All This I Do For Glory is a beautiful and frightening record; the assorted sounds that Stetson creates are inhuman, like nothing a saxophone should be able to make. This album is like watching a horror movie that you can’t look away from in the best possible way. The sounds suck you in until the album ends – and my God are these sounds good.
SZA – Ctrl
SZA’s debut album finally makes an appearance after a much delayed release. Was it worth the wait? Hell yes! Ctrl is a stripped back Neo-Soul album with hooks and a fantastic central performance from SZA herself. While appearances from Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott are nice additions, it’s really SZA’s writing that makes this album so great. Tracks like ‘Drew Barrymore’, ‘Supermodel’, ‘Anything’ and ’20 Something’ all contribute to themes of frustration, love and youth.
Tender Prey – Falling Off Chairs
Falling Off Chairs is an album soaked in quirky Indie rock, so much so that it almost detracts from the self-aware lyrics that shine throw this album with a crooked smile and rolled eyes. This is an album that will those who enjoy weird Alternative music, but also those who are into singer-songwriters. For Tender Prey has an eloquent and entertaining way of phrasing her lyrics and getting her message across to her listeners. Pure underrated brilliance.
Don’t be fooled by the throw-away title, these records are excellent are well worth your attention.
Alt-J – Relaxer, Arca – Arca, Brockhampton – Saturation, Amber Coffman – City Of No Reply, Karen Elsen – Double Roses, Fazerdaze – Morningside, Joe Goddard – Electrilines, Marika Hackman – I’m Not Your Man, Mountain Goats – Goths, Tara Jane O’Neil – Tara Jane O’Neil, Paramore – After Laughter, Penguin Cafe – The Imperfect Sea, Perfume Genius – No Shape, Pond – The Weather, Sufjan Stevens/Bryce Dessner/Nico Muhly/James McAlister – Planetarium, Roger Waters – Is This The Life We Really Want?
Unlike the former sections, these album really let down the past few months, give them a listen if you dare.
Gorillaz – Humanz
Unlike the Fleet Foxes record, a lengthy gap has not been kind to the Gorillaz. Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s new record is incredibly flat and flaccid, so full of guest appearances it hardly feels like a coherent record. Not only this, but the songwriting is incredibly sub-par, lacking any charisma and charm, making the songs themselves incredibly forgettable. It pains me to say this, but Gorillaz rank alongside Deep Purple and Ed Sheeran as one of the worst albums of 2017.
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
While the singles from Styles’ first solo album had promise, the majority of the tracks on this album are quite hollow and lacklustre. While there is definitely promise with what Styles is doing, this album does not fulfill it. If you’re already a One Direction fan, this might interest you, even if Styles abandons his Pop sensibilities for more *shudder* “serious” song-writing.
Sylvan Esso – What Now
Unlike their 2014 debut, Sylvan Esso’s difficult second album doesn’t quite possess the charm of their first. The Pop hooks are few and far between, and while the production is admirable, it fades into the background more than it grabs the listener’s attention. Still, the singles ‘Radio’ and ‘Die Young’ are enjoyable, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything nearly as good on the rest of the record.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Murder Of The Universe
With a supposed four or five releases coming in 2017, you had to question how decent the quality of these King Gizzard albums was going to be. Especially after how great Nonagon Infinity was, and how enjoyable Flying Microtonal Banana was. Alas, it seems the group have hit a wall already; Murder Of The Universe is bloated and exhausting. While it’s spoken word premise is an interesting idea, it’s used to death, so much so that it kills the rest of the album with it. Here’s hoping their free Jazz phase goes a little smoother…
Slowdive – Slowdive
Another comeback album that nearly ruins a legacy. Next.
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