New Music Tuesday: James Blake • Jake Bugg • The Knife • Kurt Vile • The Dear Hunter • White Fence

James Blake - Overgrown

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


James BlakeOvergrown

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Retrograde”
“Voyeur”
“Digital Lion”

Album Highlights: James Blake continues his standout formula with his sophomore LP; confessional musings with vocal modulation and repetitive lyrics are matched by deconstructed R&B dub step beats and orchestral builds. The most successful tracks are the ones that discover new territory within Blunt’s sound aesthetic. “Voyeur” drops into a blissful dance track for the last third of the cut, driven by moaning synths and surprisingly, a cowbell. “Digital Lion” possesses a tribal ethos that will entice auditory climaxes at concerts all over the world throughout 2013. “Retrograde” is the quintessential track of the record – Blake’s wordless crooning grows into haunting vocal layering as the song progresses.

Album Lowlight: In the end it can be classified as moody music, in that you need to be somewhere between a mellow or drab mood to really get into Blake’s music. Lots of folks will give Overgrown a cursory listen and not notice the intricacies of the record. This would be a mistake.

Takeaway: While this record is a bit of a grower and is exponentially better upon repeat listens, it’s still hypnotic fresh out of the box. The collaboration with RZA on “Take a Fall For Me” flashes even further genre-diverse potential in Blake. With a range that extends from gospel to electronic music to hip hop, the future is blindingly bright for the young British artist. At the age of 24, Blake has crafted an impressive second record with less obvious singles than his self titled debut, yet as a whole his newest effort is more cohesive. It’s worth reiterating how impressive Blake’s writing is. Gems like “I don’t want to be a star, but a stone on the shore, no door frame to wall, when everything’s overgrown” display seriously mature songwriting skills.

~Mike Frash


Jake BuggJake Bugg

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Two Fingers”
“Broken”
“Lightning Bolt”

Album Highlights: It’s impossible not to sound hyperbolic in describing 19 year-old Jake Bugg. England’s finest and fastest-rising young artist has created a record exploding with exported Americana at it’s best. No shit, it sounds like Joan Baez is about to pop up and start a duet at any moment. All you have to do is listen to the first two tracks “Lightning Bolt” and “Two Fingers” to recognize the kid’s got it. These two songs would have been radio hits in the 60’s, and they should be now. “Broken” is a remarkably beautiful song, one that is lovable at first listen. The low-fi, one-take production works well, and it reinforces Bugg’s throwback sound.

Album Lowlight: Bugg’s lyrics would benefit from a bit more bite – maybe some contempt for society or a cause to rally for (or against) would give some songs more meaning. His songwriting point of view will only strengthen and mature with time.

Takeaway: He’s Dylan without the drawn out vocal exclamations, or Kristian Matsson (The Tallest Man on Earth) with less passionate howls. And I feel fine making these comparisons, as Bugg’s self-titled debut exhibits songwriting potential that could be on par with the aforementioned by the time the he finishes puberty. Plan on watching Jake Bugg’s career evolve indefinitely – he’s sure to keep gaining popularity going forward, and deservedly so.

~Mike Frash


The KnifeShaking the Habitual

2.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“A Tooth for an Eye”
“Full of Fire”
“Without You My Life Would Be Boring”

Album Highlight: “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” being the crowning achievement of their fourth studio album, this beat-driven banger exemplifies the Swedish duo’s ferocious return to the EDM scene after a seven-year hiatus. Karrin Andersson’s layered vocals pitch perfectly with the varied flute samples and southeast instrumentation. A looping rhythm section composed of tribal drum rolls and feverish tambourines keep pace throughout the entire track, and this ups the ante in respect to the band’s production quality and composition.

Album Lowlight: Clocking in at a whopping 19:52, “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized” is more of a glorified soundscape than a corresponding track within the record. Waiting for the musical substance to kick in becomes a perilous journey through distant distortion and ambiguous song structure. I envision this piece contextually effective as a cinematic score or accompanying an art installation. Interesting as it is to listen to The Knife on an experimental level, the track placement as well as duration push the limits artistically into semi-obnoxious territory.

Takeaway: Marching to the beat of their own drum machines, Karrin Andresson and Olof Dreijer destroy the sample-laden “Full of Fire” with masterfully quirky cohesion. The Knife sibling’s chemistry, even amidst the structure of the most complicated effort on the album, can be heard and it is captivating. The song is elaborate and possesses a sound quality that at times can be overwhelming. However, true to The Knife’s form, it compels the listener’s attention and will provoke most to make an attempt at comprehending it’s complexity.

~Molly Kish


Kurt VileWakin on a Pretty Daze

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Girl Called Alex”
“Pure Rain”
“Shame Chamber”

Album Highlights: God Bless Kurt Vile. He is truly a beautifully patient writer, musician and performer whom creates some of the most genuine music of our time, not to mention he is consistent. The wait after 2011’s blisteringly magnificent Smoke Ring as My Halo was well worth it with a full, even lengthy, album packed neatly with Vile’s signature psychedelia. The title track leads off with a hazy acoustic romp that sets the tone for the majority, and this song is full of Vile’s twang-electric solos that one can easily get lost in. Vile’s everyman confessional comes through on “Too Hard” with lyrics like “Take your time/ so they say/ that’s gotta be the best way.” Displaying a lyrical maturity akin to the Walkmen would be a fair comparison.

Album Lowlight: No huge departure in sound, just a tightening of a signature style. Though “Air Bud” does add a synth layer that is a bit more contemporary for this artist. Lengthy songs may prove difficult to those whom don’t possess musical patience.

Takeaway: Upwards and onwards is a great way to describe this album, as well as Vile’s future in the industry. Banner sets at Coachella will likely prove to be a highlight, and the accompanying tour is sure to generate buzz, as has proven true in the past for the Philly native. Songs like “Girl Called Alex” sludge along in an upbeat manner, building precisely with warm organ flourishes in the background, equally a sonic thickness he has become so praised for. Wakin on a Pretty Daze is likely to be the soundtrack of the summer, and for excellent reason.

~Kevin Quandt


The Dear HunterMigrant

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Shame”
“Shouting in the Rain”
“Girl”

Album Highlights: A small indie rock band originating from Rhode Island, The Dear Hunter has been making a splash in the indie scene since 2006. Brainchild of Casey Crescenzo, The Dear Hunter’s 5th album Migrant is a departure from their previous conceptual album The Color Spectrum. Casey’s powerful and emotional lyrics, both in delivery and content, are the clear highlight of this record. Haunting at times, Crescenzo’s commanding lyrics take the listener on a euphonious journey. This lyrical adventure is something listeners have become accustomed to when listening to The Dear Hunter albums.

Album Lowlight: The same reason I praise it above, is the same reason I criticize it here. Casey’s lyrics are powerful, but at times they become effusive. I almost had lyrical fatigue a couple of times listening to this record. This criticism however, is likely a personal preference, and should not be judged until you hear this record for yourself.

Takeaway: The Dear Hunter’s music falls somewhere in the indie, progressive, post-rock genre. Mixing traditional rock instrumentation with a string accompaniment, Migrant incorporates many styles to create a unique blend of “rock.” The Dear Hunter is a band that has had great critical reception, yet they have not taken off with widespread audiences. They are a well-kept secret of the indie music scene that has earned them an extremely loyal and dedicated following. Perhaps it is the concept albums of the past that have prevented them from breaking through with the masses? The talent and star power are there, it’s just a matter of putting this music on as many ears as possible.

~Kevin Raos


White FenceCyclops Reap

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Beat”
“Make Them Dinner at Our Shoes”
“To the Boy I Jumped in the Hemlock Alley”

Album Highlights: Here comes another serving of Tim Presley’s patented brand of lo-fi psychedelic guitar rock. This time we are treated to a single release, as opposed to the double album that was Family Perfume. Presley re-imagines the era of trippy rock and roll that dominated the late 60s with his nasal, English-tinged vocals coupled with twangy guitars swirling to create an aural whirlwind. “New Edinburgh” fully displays the fuzzy sound that has become characteristic of this project. One can only hope to snatch up a vinyl copy of this album, as that seems to be the way it was meant to be heard.

Album Lowlight: At times the production can come across as too busy as seen in first single “Pink Gorilla.” In a live format, the band has a much crisper sound that is a little more palpable for the masses.

Takeaway: One of the more unique acts championing the lo-fi psychedelic sound at the moment, and this album shows off the production skills Presley has gained over the past decade. White Fence has garnered some solid critical success in the past few years, and will likely add-on to that even if the masses prefer the more slick take on 60s psychedelia played by the likes of Foxygen and Tame Impala.

~Kevin Quandt

Comments

  1. ID PREFER WHITE FENCE TIM PRESLEY ANY DAY OVER TAME IMPALA WHOM I DONT LISTEN TO AT ALL OR FOXYGEN WHO IM PRETTY SURE AT LEAST RADO WOULD PROBABLY AGREE AND SAM FRANCE I THINK WOULD TO BEING THAT TIM IS ON THE NEW STAR POWER ALBUM IS MORE OF AN INSPIRATION TO THEM FOXYGEN WHO I THINK ARE GREAT BUT SORRY IF I HAD TO CHOOSE WHITE FENCE ALL DAY MAN LOVE ALL TIMS ALBUMS I LIKE DARKER MY LOVE ALOT BUT WHITE FENCE IS HOW I LIKE MY MUSIC IT JUST GROOVES MAN DIG IT

Trackbacks

  1. […] post-dubstep crooning go down in any better environment? The 21st century troubadour released a more cohesive album with his sophomore effort Overgrown in April, and he’ll have this new material ingrained in […]

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