My favorite album so far this year (Run the Jewels 3 dropped in 2016) has been a total left-field selection. Country music doesn’t normally get my attention though the Americana genre being heralded is on my radar. But for whatever reason, when NPR’s First Listen hosted Natalie Hemby‘s Puxico (GetWrucke Productions) I queued it up and found myself hooked. At that time there was little fanfare elsewhere on the web for the singer/songwriter’s debut album but since then she’s been covered by Rolling Stone, The New York Times and more.
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Having released 12 albums in as many years, one would think Electric Six would by now be running out of ideas, stamina or things to sing about.
Instead, as anyone who listens to their new album Fresh Blood for Tired Vampyres will tell you, it’s as if they discovered the fountain of youth. Their latest is a collection of electro-disco numbers that incorporate metal riffs, spoken bits, and sound effects that would seem welcome in an Ed Wood film. It’s impossible to listen to the album without wanting to throw a block party, their mastery of dark themes with infectious beats a welcome antidote to a world that just keeps getting darker. What remains surprising is how they’re able to inject life into situations that seem uninteresting, their ability to see magic in the mundane as always being their best asset.
Aesop Rock is a very busy man.
Just earlier this year, the New York native released The Impossible Kid, his seventh and arguably most acclaimed solo album to date. Particular praise went to his lyrical content, which reflected a more personal, direct edge than ever before. For fans of Rock’s more abstract stuff, however, the emcee has also seen fit to release his second free EP collaboration with friend Homeboy Sandman under the name Lice Two: Still Buggin’.
He is a two-time Grammy award winner. He’s worked with legends like Smokey Robinson and has garnered praise from such musical luminaries as Public Enemy’s Chuck D. And still there are too many people who have yet to hear of him. Timothy Bloom has been diligently working the music circuit, writing and recording for the last six years or so. But he managed to turn some heads with his 2014 self-titled debut, an illustrious jewel of rousing blues and silky soul which featured his incredibly versatile singing.
There are a few bars on “Kokopelli”, one of many tracks from Mild High Club’s Skiptracing that manages to occupy the middle ground between shadowy noir and neon psychedelic grooves (for a visual depiction of this look no further than the album cover), which perfectly sum up what motivates his craft. Artists may muse on a seemingly endless number of topics, but it isn’t that often that someone simply expresses a love for what they do so explicitly and broadly, free of genre signifiers, caveats, and the spoils that come with success.
“Music touches me / When you’re choosing / Keep shuffling / Because tuneage beats suffering,” Alex Brettin sings slyly, warbling ever so slightly on the vowels in “music” and “choosing.”
Skiptracing is a record that could only be made by someone with the kind of musical appreciation that Brettin demonstrates. The songs are lush and dreamy, with just a hint of the occult; the album could double as a fitting soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Inherent Vice. The songs are rich and diverse, a blend of Mac DeMarco style melodies and laggard hooks with the instrumental diversity of Andrew Bird. There’s an easygoing charm to much of the record, and a listener without a lot of formal knowledge might take Mild High Club’s latest project as a pleasant, vaguely surreal trip back in time. Those in the know, however, will find smart interpolations and riffs on jazz concepts that belie the pseudo-slacker reputation that comes with the DeMarco association and reveal Brettin’s extensive theory background and deep musical knowledge.