By: The Busted Amp Staff
Here's a quick summary of a few albums that we missed in the last few months. The rest of the year has some highly anticipated releases, so we wanted to make sure these didn't get lost in the hype. Hope you find a good listen or two (or four) in these. Cheers to new music.
By: The Busted Amp Staff
One of my personal favorite artists right now, Kishi Bashi, formerly the violinist for the band of Montreal, has been quietly cementing himself as one of the most talented musicians in the industry right now, ever since he captivated us with his incredible performance of "Manchester" from his debut solo album, 151a. Now 3 albums into his solo career, K. Ishibashi has managed to achieve the rare feat of making each of his albums better than the last. I was really worried that Kishi Bashi was not going to be able to follow up the wonderful Lighght, After hearing the first single, "Say Yeah," this worry did not go away. While I did somewhat enjoy this song, I was not sold on the new 80's style for Kishi Bashi. Well, after hearing the entire LP, I can say I am extremely sold on this new and fun style. About the only misstep on the entire album ironically is the debut single, "Say Yeah" which turned out to be an extremely odd choice given the rest of this terrific album.
However, despite this slightly lackluster single, every other song on this LP is phenomenal. Kishi Bashi immediately captivates the listener in the opener "m'lover" and delivers lyrics in a way only Kishi Bashi can. "I want to do what lovers do with you/I want to walk the edge of the earth with you/I want to say to you the minute we feel the heat would you be m'lover?" The album never lets up, as after "Say Yeah" it feels like each song is better than the last. "Honeybody" is a lovely and distinctly Kishi Bashi track that is a great closer to Sonderlust. This is a track that.....if you've never heard any Kishi Bashi song in your life, is as good a place to start as any.
If there's one thing that can inspire the creative process, it's heavy, personal struggle. In K. Ishibashi's case, marital issues and a brief separation from his wife inspired Sonderlust, an album that is filled with darker lyrical subject matter, but manages to keep the upbeat, poppy sound that's relatable and enjoyable. Album opener "m'lover" brought to mind what an Animal Collective and Passion Pit love child would sound like. The sampled production, the upper tenor vocals, and the danceable, catchy chorus all come together successfully to open the album on a high note.
Lead single "Say Yeah" is sandwiched in between my two favorite songs on the album, "Hey Big Star" and "Can't Let Go, Juno". While I wasn't as down on it as Joseph was, I will say that it wouldn't have been my choice for lead single. With that being said, these are the three strongest songs to appear consecutively on an album that Kishi Bashi has produced thus far in his career. "Can't Let Go, Juno" is the highlight of the album for me, with its synth keys and some of the most heartbreaking and personal lyrics that I've heard from him. It's a raw peek into his life and the emotions that laid the foundation for the album. This is the strongest top-to-bottom release yet for Kishi Bashi, and it's not even close. The arrangements on these songs are bigger, bolder, and more layered than ever. The attention is less focused on K's solo violin playing, and in many cases it's why the songs work in expressing the pain he's feeling. The only miss for me is closer, "Honeybody", which is a silly, island music-sounding song that just doesn't fit with the other songs on the album. Or maybe I just don't get it.
Derek just doesn't get it.
By: The Busted Amp Staff
JOSEPH: Siiiiiiiiiigh. What a disappointment. Dawes, one of the more popular folk-rock bands out there right now, has officially hit a major bump in the road with their latest installment. Following up their album All Your Favorite Bands which made both Derek and myself's list for best albums of 2015, Dawes has officially pulled a Mumford and Sons with their latest installment. Well, ok, that might be unfair to Dawes. At least their transition from their traditional folk-rock sound to this....mutt of an album felt more creative-based than publicity-based at least, but it doesn't excuse how rushed and messy this album feels. It starts with the complaint I just mentioned. This album is a mutt. It doesn't really fall into any particular style, and thus it struggles to find any coherency. I think nowhere is this lack of coherency more prevalent than the first single, "When the Tequila Runs Out" even though this song has grown on me and I was particularly impressed with the live performance of this song at Live on the Green, it doesn't forgive the fact that this song is messy from start to finish, and is held together by a weak shout chorus, even by Dawes standards. "When the tequila runs out/We'll be drinking champagne." Brilliance.
But I think my biggest problem with this album is how rushed it feels. I really don't know why Dawes decided to come out with a new album just one year after All Your Favorite Bands but it makes this album feel like all the B-tracks that didn't make last year's installment. I think even the band knows they do not have a great album here as evidenced by the fact that they only played "When the Tequila Runs Out" during their 90 minute show at Live on the Green just a few weeks ago. Tear it down and start again, guys.
Joseph's Number: 3/10
DEREK: Oh, what to say about this album. Only a year after their fantastic LP "All Your Favorite Bands", Dawes returns with an album comprised of what feels like the B-sides and stuff that didn't quite fit on the last release. I was really intrigued with album opener "One of Us", which is probably my favorite song on the album. The churning guitar riff and the stellar vocal performance by lead singer Taylor Goldsmith start the album off on really solid note. Unfortunately for all of us, that's the last truly noteworthy song until lead single "When the Tequila Runs Out" stumbles into the picture during the second half of the record. As Joseph mentioned, the weak shout chorus is Dawes' attempt at a party anthem, and it really doesn't go over well. Yes, it's catchy. Yes, it's a tolerable listen. In fact, you may even find yourself singing along; the words aren't that difficult to pick up by the third repetition. But good golly Miss Molly is this the lowest common denominator kind of song that I never expected from Dawes. Typically, their songwriting and storytelling are superb on every song, but this is a huge swing in miss from my perspective. That being said, the rest of the album, lyrically, is good. Musically, however, it's a 46 minute long yawn.
Derek's Number: 4/10
By: The Busted Amp Staff
DEREK: The indie neo-soul movement, filled with crooners attempting to capture the essence of years past, certainly has its winners and losers. Artists like Leon Bridges and Anderson East have successfully created authentic sounding indie soul, whereas artists like Fitz & the Tantrums have turned their backs on soul in favor of a more popular poppy sound. Luckily for us, St. Paul & The Broken Bones falls into the first category. Coming off their solid full length debut Half The City, the band returns with an ambitious, fuller sounding sophomore release that doesn't sacrifice anything in terms of the soulful identity, yet gains a more pronounced, mature sound.
The album is divided into three sections, with each separated by an interlude titled "Crumbling Light Posts" parts 1, 2, and 3. With the opening interlude, it's immediately apparent that the listener has a much different adventure awaiting them than what was on their debut. Swelling and expansive, I pictured braving a storm on the Sea of Noise and coming through to calm, serene waters on the other side. This simple clarity sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is more focused, better produced, and features performances, especially those by lead singer Paul Janeway, that are honest, heartfelt, and passionate.
"Midnight on the Earth" brings a surprising dosage of funk to the record that plateaus with a rousing horn finale. Janeway's falsetto is a highlight here and something that he hasn't showcased much outside of overdubbed backing vocals. Lead single "All I Ever Wonder" is probably the best song that the band has produced up to this point. The driving chorus "I can't tell what side I'm on / I can't tell what's right or wrong / We ain't ever gonna sing one song / Love goes hate goes now I'm all alone" is the high point of the album.
While this album is noticeably more up tempo compared to their debut. "Burning Rome" is restrained and lets Janeway's vocals shine through with subtle horns and keys guiding the melody. Hold your love ones close for this one, folks, because this is the perfect slow dancing song.
Overall, SP&BB showed more growth than I expected and produced a fantastic neo-soul record. Take note Fitz, it can be done!
Derek's Number: 7.5/10
JOSEPH: Many artists go through a sophomore slump. This is nothing new. However one band that does not suffer from this is St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Delivering one of my current favorite albums of the year, (Sturgill Simpson finally has company) St. Paul takes us through a listening experience here in Sea of Noise. As much as I love a good single, I can equally dig an album that completely lacks any standout tracks. St. Paul and the Broken Bones chose to focus on the album experience as a whole, and it leads to a great listening experience.
Now that's not to say this album doesn't have some stand out tracks. Derek already talked about the highlight in "All I Ever Wanted," but I will also mention "Brain Matter." Frontman "Saint" Paul Janeway has some wonderful vocal cues throughout this song, and the instrumentation is extremely catchy. This song screams to be selected for a scene in a movie involving a romantic dinner or something, because it oozes class. Additionally, I really loved the "Crumbling Light Posts" interludes. Those interludes were outstanding and did a phenomenal job job in adding to the overall listening experience of this LP. X Ambassadors, I hope you're listening to this because St. Paul and the Broken Bones just put on a clinic for what to do in album coherency. One thing is for sure: I cannot wait to hear this album done live, and honestly that's about as high a praise as I can offer.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.