Ten albums you cannot miss this month – October 2012
A follow up to her hit single Lights (an afterthought bonus track on the eponymous album largely overlooked in the US), Goulding looks to insert herself into the canon of radio-ready, pop-diva electronica. She has been known to hang with Skrillex, simultaneously emulating his characteristic dubstep and Adele’s soulful ballads. With Halcyon, Goulding is casting a broad net over a variety of genres; the question is if it can capitalise on the energy brought by the single Lights that started her on the path to international stardom.
In Red, Swift set out to create the perfect break-up album. Some detractors might point out the difficulty of this task, as it is hard to distill such a diverse swath of emotions into a collection of songs. Swift chose the colour “red” as the title of the album. For her it represented all of the “intense love, intense frustration, jealousy, [and] confusion of her toxic relationships” during her past two years. The album’s lyrics may be painted red, but it certainly sounds as if she is singing the blues. Her hit single, We are never ever getting back together debuted as the top downloaded song on iTunes, proving that with Red she had struck a chord, and that in her cathartic, southern-tinged ballads we all might find common ground and shared experience.
Bugg began writing songs at the age of 14. He is one of the exciting new voices in songwriting coming out of Nottingham. His first self-titled LP debuted in October, full of songs in which the 14-year-old Bugg is still audible. The now 19-year-old Bugg released this album as a follow up to his much-touted EP Two Fingers. In his full-length album, Bugg alludes to Donovan, Robert Johnson, the Beatles (his stated influences) and the nearby Mancunians Oasis, giving us continued cause to follow his still-nascent career. His style has been hailed by the likes of Chris Martin, Noel Gallagher, Elton John and Damon Albarn.
It has been ten years since we last heard from the Montreal-based post rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor (abbreviated GY!BE). Aside from scattered, scathingly intense live performances the group has been largely silent, causing fans to wonder if their self-proclaimed hiatus would indeed be permanent. They responded to these doubts with much aplomb in their newest work: Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! Clearly there are few words to describe the album, as the landscape of GY!BE is often a desolate one, devoid of words or inherent meaning. It is the listener’s place to fill the devastating chasms and heroic climaxes of the music with their own thoughts, or perhaps better to leave them un-captioned, and let them be the un-accompanied soundtrack to a haunting experience that is both beautiful and inexplicable.
Most agreed on the demise of the New York City post-punk revival of the early 2000s, but the jury is still out on the music’s legacy amidst the modern music scene. Its survivors, mostly solo-act spin-offs like Paul Banks strive to maintain relevancy and revive the revival of the malaise and uncertainty present in the overcast assortment of Joy Division and Smith songs. Interpol found its niche in the last decade, Banks’ melancholy melodies hovering weightily over Sam Fogarino’s persistent, unforgiving groove. Paul Banks attempts this revival in his namesake album and follow up to the EP Julian Plenti Is …Skyscraper. As one listens to his latest offering in the revival, particularly the persistent chorus of I’ll Sue You, it becomes clear that we are no longer listening to a Curtis or Morrisey, but rather a voice of uncertainty in for a new decade, singing about the new music scene as it shows us just how much times have changed.
As the chorus to Laura – the hit single from Natasha Khan’s third album – begins to unfold, the mind quickly anticipates yet another artist in the tradition of female singer/songwriters Fiona Apple and Cat Power. Once the instrumentation of sparse piano chords and gentle horns begin, however, we see a new direction for the dynasty, and one that is uniquely inhabited by Khan, as she continues to create a genre of her own: one that is concomitantly danceable, heartbreaking and joyous. The Haunted Man is a signpost on the path of an artist that cannot be ignored; it proves (as the chorus to Laura reminds us) that Khan is “more than a superstar”.
A 34-song retrospective? Who else could get away with this but Art Garfunkel? The Singer marks Garfunkel’s bold return to music after a two-year battle with vocal cord paresis. The album’s collection was hand-picked by Garfunkel, and showcases his evolving styles from his years with Paul Simon and beyond. A proud critic of today’s music industry, Garfunkel seeks to remind us through his songs of the way things used to be (or at least the way Art saw them.) This indulgent nostalgia is heart-warming when the familiar notes of Sounds of Silence or Bridge Over Troubled Water appear on the stereo, but also leaves us mourning the departure of his better half while listening to some of his later solo work.
The world caught a glimpse of Parallax part deux in the 2011 EP from Between the Buried and Me, Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues; the anticipation built over the past year has certainly not gone unrewarded. Guitarist Paul Waggoner explains the concept: “two human characters who live in different planes of existence, separated by millions of light years, we find that each is confronted with similar personal issues…” The conclusion to this concept reveals a decisively more mature hardcore unit, one that avoids some of the pitfalls of its earlier releases, and one with a new-found clarity and cacophony in their sound. BtBAM will take you by the hand, and guide you through the texturally rich world of metalcore, in all of its glorious noise and beauty.
We missed Andrew Bird in the nearly eight months since his last EP. His release of Hands of Glory is considered (by Bird)to be a follow-up to the March release Break it Yourself, and is the perfect period to a dangling sentence that began earlier this year. The classically trained Bird puts his master-violin/whistling skills on display in this wonderfully understated album. The two EP’s strive to become the most distinctly American of Bird’s discography. If only the gentle pizzicato/strummed accompaniment of Orpheo could lull us to sleep every night.
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Kendrick has arrived. Formerly known as K. Dot, and Dre’s protege, he releases this album, his third but the first on a major label(s) (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope.) Lamar cites the 1995 collaboration of Dr. Dre and Tupac in California Love as one of the defining moments of his life, and with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City we can easily see its legacy. Lamar’s offering has all of the trappings of a classic west-coast rap album, simultaneously carefree and sinful. Lamar innocently repeats the reprieve: “Lord forgive me, lord forgive me (for) things I don’t understand.” Lamar knows exactly what he’s doing in M.A.A.D City.