SCM Music’s Album Picks: April to June – Dinosaurs, Beach Houses and Parquet Courts
We’ve had a pretty crazy quarter, so much new (and great) material has appeared, this segment of Album Picks has easily been the most difficult one so far. So much so that I insist that you listen to every album in ‘The Best’ and ‘The Rest’ sections – just because they didn’t make the best of list doesn’t make them throwaway records.
Get stuck in!
Beach House – 7
After a lacklustre few albums, it was great to see Beach House back on form with this new record. While many traits from previous albums remain, it appears working with Spacemen 3’s Peter Kemper has given the band a new lease on life, producing some magnificent tracks. ‘Pay No Mind’, ‘Lemon Glow’ and ‘Drunk in L.A.’ all create an ethereal, other-wordly vibe that resonates even after the song has ended. Beach House feel like they’re back creating quality material, and what a welcome return it is.
Boy Azooga – 1, 2, Kung Fu!
The debut album of Cardiff’s Boy Azooga is a genre-blending, earnest and full of life. With strong influences from the likes of William Onyeabor, Metronomy, The Beach Boys and Caribou, 1, 2, Kung Fu! is an uplifting listen. Boy Azooga know how to craft an infectious riff, as seen on lead singles ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’ and ‘Loner Boogie’, but can also deliver a guy punch straight to the feels with tracks such as ‘Jerry’ and ‘Waitin”. With what looks to be a promising future ahead of them, 1, 2, Kung Fu! is a must listen to debut.
Christina Vantzou – No. 4
The aptly titled fourth solo record by American Ambient Orchestral musician Christina Vantzou, No. 4 is a haunting record. The use of Vantzou’s gorgeous vocals contrasted with the shuddering, ominous and tense bass makes for an incredible and breathtaking listen. There’s a handful of albums that incite fear, and No. 4 is definitely one of those records. For those who are really into their Ambient music, but like an edge that makes it sound like a dreamy Horror film score. Definitely don’t miss this one.
Death Grips – Year of the Snitch
If you took element of The Powers That B and Bottomless Pit, you’d probably end up with Year of the Snitch. Death Grips dabble in hooks and sonic experimentation; one minute this album swings to the Avant Garde, the next it feels as accessible as The Money Store. But whatever sound they go for on this release, it’s always essential Death Grips. Like all Death Grips albums, this definitely will not be everyone’s thing, but those who follow the band are sure to find enjoyment and fulfilment in this record.
Dinosaur – Wonder Trail
Following the great Elliot Galvin record earlier this year, Dinosaur return with with another great album. Whereas their 2016 debut felt more like a straight Cool Jazz record, Wonder Trail is a great development for the band, dabbling in the addition of vocal and electronic elements, as well as pushing the boat out into the Avant Garde area. Clearly Dinosaur are expanding their sound and it’s great to see. If Wonder Trail is the start of the evolution of their sound, we’re going to be treated to a lot more great material as time goes on.
Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
After the sprawling, somewhat critically polarising Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman’s new record pulls it back to basics. He produces some tragically comic yet melodic and personal songs on God’s Favorite Customer, sprinkling the charm that comes with every FJM album over every track. While he doesn’t necessarily produce anything groundbreaking this time around, Tillman’s songs are so well written, it’s hard not to fall for these well crafted tunes. This will definitely please his existing fans, and he might even pick up a few more along the way.
Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
While Wikipedia happily classes Hop Along as an Indie Folk outfit, this new album of theirs doesn’t seem quite as easy to pin down. Bark Your Head Off, Dog, flits between Indie, Emo, straight Rock, and sometime a bit more. Hop Along’s lust for experimentation comes to the forefront on quite a few songs on this album, which helps give an extra kick to their already exceedingly well written Indie music. Don’t let this one pass you by, especially if you’re a big Rock fan.
Jessica Risker – I See You Among the Stars
One of the most beautiful singer-songwriter albums of the year, I See You Among the Stars is a quiet, charming and often beautiful release. Jessica Risker gives us Psych-Folk short stories of love, loss and the bliss of every day existence. It’s an album that demands attention through small details, and rewards those the give it the time it deserves. Not overstaying it’s welcome at only eight tracks in length, I See You Among the Stars is one of the albums that everyone should make time for in 2018.
Kamasi Washington – Heaven & Earth
Always the ambitious composer, Kamasi Washington’s new one and a half hour long double LP takes the saxophonist’s skills to new heights. After the amazing The Epic and last year’s Harmony of Difference EP, some might question what more Washington can do. Rest assured that he quashes any doubts with some of his most soulful and playful material yet, while letting his music wander down new avenues of sound. A must have for any Jazz fan.
Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
For all intents and purposes, the collaborative project between Kanye West and Kid Cudi should have been a disaster (let’s just say you won’t be seeing Ye on this list). The finished product was anything but. Kids See Ghosts is a wonderful, colourful creation that brings out the best in both rappers and showcases some of Kanye’s finest production in years. The samples choices are unexpected and quirky, while the musical direction has shades of RnB as well as Alternative Rock and Grunge. Kid Cudi sound unexpectedly brilliant while Kanye dips into elements of his past (see: College Dropout and Yeezus). A fantastic collaborative album.
Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
Following 2016’s underrated I, Gemini, Norwich’s Let’s Eat Grandma switched up their style, introducing more electronic elements to their sound, including a collaboration with SOPHIE and Faris Badwan of The Horrors. As a result, I’m All Ears contains some of the finest Pop songs released so far this year. ‘Hot Pink’, ‘Donnie Darko’ and ‘Falling Into Me’ are the definition of a banger, while deeper cuts ‘Ava’ and ‘I Will Be Waiting’ show a more tender side to the duo that they have mostly shied away from in the past.
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
With every release Parquet Courts manage to outdo themselves, and Wide Awake! is no exception to this rule. The sixth studio album from the band mixes political mantra’s and themes with an the bands most accessible Indie Rock sound yet. With elements of Dance and Funk wound into their sound, it’s no surprise that the band covered the title track from this project on Ellen. But even with this fresh approach, the band never compromise or sell out, instead crafting what is arguably their finest record to date.
Pusha T – Daytona
The first instalment of Kanye West’s Wyoming Sessions, Pusha T’s Daytona clocks in at just over 20 minutes, features some old-school stunning production, a fire diss track and King Push spitting some killer lines. The anthemic ‘If You Know You Know’ opens the record with a screwed-up Air sample, while ‘What Would Meek Do?’ features an incredible verse from Kanye, especially surprising after the controversy he attracted before this release. Daytona is a great album, and could easily be Pusha T’s magnum opus.
SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
After drumming up a following with her incredibly left-field production, and work with artists such as Charli XCX and Vince Staples, SOPHIE finally released her debut album in June. Despite only being nine tracks long, SOPHIE dabbles in elements of Glitch-Pop, Ambient, Avant-Garde and Noise, pulling out the stops to deliver an album that requires several listens to really notice every details. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this album is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
Unknown Mortal Orchestra continue their streak of bright, colourful Indie Pop meets Funk with a somewhat political edge on this new release. The bands vocal irritation at politics is often voiced over Twitter, and now has been translated onto this record. Their critique on modern society plays over whimsical, catchy and infectious grooves and rhythms. While the band seem to be sliding towards the mainstream, they still maintain their trademark sound and musical integrity.
Charles Watson – Now That I’m a River, Chvrches – Love is Dead, Confidence Man – Confident Music for Confident People, Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel, Gruff Rhys – Babelsberg, Illuminati Hotties – Kiss Yr Frenemies, Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer, Laura Viers – The Lookout, Lump – Lump, Mammoth Penguins & Friends – John Doe, Natalie Prass – The Future and the Past, Remember Sports – Slow Buzz, Saba – Care For Me, Snail Mail – Lush, Sock – Fresh Bits, Teyana Taylor – K.T.S.E.
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