2021-10-20
Sufjan Stevens
A Beginner's Mind

Sufjan Stevens has been in the mix for so long now. Michigan was like, what, 20 years ago? So long! And what's interesting is that, this whole time (so long), every Sufjan release has felt like some sort of event. They've been grand experiments, comforting returns to form, stylistic left turns, theatrical projects, deeply personal confessions. Whether or not they've all been successful (though he does have a better 20-year batting average than most), they've all felt like something happening. A Sufjan release makes you notice.

A Beginner's Mind is the first new Sufjan album that I can really remember that just kinda came out and that's that. I think there's a bit of a theme to it: it's technically an album co-attributed to Angelo De Augustine, written and recorded by the two of them during the pandemic, locked up in a cabin somewhere, seemingly writing songs about the movies they were watching and books they were reading. Or something like that? The point is that isn't really important in this case. It's not a grand testament about life and the cosmos. It's not a confessional ode to his parents. It's just a nice collection of songs, maybe his best in a handful of years. A comforting return to form.

2021-10-17
Low
HEY WHAT

I had a borderline religious experience listening to this album last week and extraordinarily high volume while walking around the city late at night. I'm certain it's the best Low album and I'm not sure when I'll ever listen to it again.

2021-10-17
Shannon Lay
Geist

This is a mostly straightforward folkie Americana singer-songwriter album, but it's an awfully good one.

2021-10-17
Sweeping Promises
Hunger For a Way Out

The first couple tracks on this album got me real excited to hear a new post punk band that eschews post punk monotony and revels in melody. Then the rest of the tracks just kinda do post punk stuff.

2021-09-28
Fluisteraars
Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking

Fluisteraars has done this to me twice now. They got on my radar a couple years ago by releasing one of the most interesting black metal tracks I've ever heard—interesting in that it didn't seem to have much interest in black metal orthodoxy, occasionally throwing in some alt rock power chords and some actual humane vocals. Then they put their first full-length out, and seemed mostly to fall back into your standard black metal. I was bummed.

But then I kept listening to it. Something kept pulling and pulling me back, and I started to hear that humanity inside of it, even without any of the alt-rock tricks. It ended up being one of my faves of that year, and I listened to it a ton.

The same thing seems to be happening with this new one. The band recorded it almost on a whim, with the intention of creating something lo-fi and honest, the sound of a band in a room. And just like last time, my immediate reaction was disappointment. Because, well, it sounded lo-fi and like a few guys screaming in a room. But also like last time, I keep coming back to it, and man I think I like it.

If you sat me down and asked me to describe to you what makes Fluisteraars good, I couldn't do it. I don't know. I don't know what they're doing that other black metal bands aren't, I just feel it when I hear it. There's just more passion, more desperation, more soul in the sounds that they make. The screaming feels more human, the drums are hit with a little more catharsis, the guitars feel like they're in a room instead of plugged into a 4-track. And I guess also that they actually play melodies. Simple ones, but melodies nonetheless, which turn into earworms. There's a few other odd bits on this album that make for something—extended drum breakdowns, some trancy shit—but mostly it's Fluisteraars doing their Fluisteraars thing. And at this point I'm fully on board wherever they want to take me.

2021-09-28
Johnny Football Hero
Complacency

I don't know if this is an EP or a full-length or maybe like a "mini album," but I'm not going to try to sort that out now. Because it's mostly not that interesting.

I'm just posting this to stan for (please remind me to change that to something else when I get a minute. I really hate using "stan for" as a phrase) the first two songs on this thing. "Cap'n Oblivious (Deficit)" and "41". Boy this paragraph has been a punctuation nightmare, I'm going to go ahead and start a new paragraph.

Anyway as you can fucking obviously tell by the band's name, Jonny Football Hero is an emo band. Or rather somewhere on the emo-hardcore-power-pop spectrum. I don't know. And most of this little album see that descriptor through. But those first two tracks, they rip. Like balls to the wall, no expense spared, conga drum breaks and blazing guitar solos, throat destroying prog-core. Prog-core? Sure. Anyway, those first two track seriously rule and then the rest of the record is mostly whatever. Anyway.

2021-09-19
Nala Sinephro
Space 1.8

This is a kinda spacey kinda electronic jazz trio album that still mostly sounds like a traditional jazz trio album, which has been getting rave reviews in the last few weeks. Honestly I don't hear much remarkable from it yet; it's good, sure! But not sure what else it has to offer yet. But it has really great cover art so I'm going to stick with it for a while.

2021-09-18
Deafheaven
Infinite Granite

At first, this album bummed me out because Deafheaven no longer really sounds like Deafheaven. Shit, they sound more like Failure than Deafheaven. Which should be exciting for me, but mostly just leaves me confused.

But then after running through the album once or twice, I found myself continually coming back to it. Trying to crack its code, trying to connect the dots of how the end of almost every track kinda ruled, but it took work to get there each time.

Well the ends kinda ruled because they sound like Deafheaven. Fucking big and fucking huge and fucking metal and fucking somehow simultaneously something altogether outside metal. Like Deafheaven. It's all the stuff leading up to it which just sounds weirdly like somewhat psych-y alt rock with kinda weak vocals and way too much tinkly delay guitar that turns me off. So ultimately, I just don't think this thing is going to sit with me for the long run.

2021-09-01
Turnstile
GLOW ON

I absolutely love this album and I wish I was 22 again so I could go lose my shit at one of their shows.

2021-08-11
Typical Sisters
Love Beam

Cool, lively, Tortoise-y, post-jazz guitar jams that make for a very nice listen while doing other things, but I don't think I'm going to be telling all my friends about Typical Sisters for the rest of the year. I mean I just had to look up that they're called Typical Sisters because I've forgotten their band name a dozen times already.

2021-08-02
Laura Mvula
Pink Noise

Laura Mvula finally came back after like 6 years with a new album, and it's inexplicably an 80s-inspired, wet-drum dance party, which is better than that flippant description would lead you to imagine, but still nothing I really need in my rotation.

2021-07-22
King Crimson
Three of a Perfect Pair

Nobody ever told me that Three of a Perfect Pair rules. Like it's kinda like Discipline, and I've always liked Discipline but it's never been my favorite or anything. This one came later and I always thought it was, like, King Crimson's ReLoad. Well, Beat was ReLoad so this is more like ReReLoad.

But nope. Spanks.

2021-06-24
Japanese Breakfast
Jubilee

The first Japanese Breakfast album was real good. The next one wasn't as good. This one isn't as good, but it's sure better than the last one.

Well, no. Actually this might be better than the first one? Maybe? I just get confused because the first one has "Everybody Wants To Love You" on it, which is such a good song that it warps the gravity of all the other songs around it. So really I don't even know how good that album is. But I also know it's the best thing anyone has ever recorded.

This one only has "Be Sweet," which is only the second best song they ever recorded, even though it would maybe be another band's best song if another band had written it. But alas Japanese Breakfast is the unlucky band who wrote "Everybody Wants To Love You," and I'm sitting here trying to do the math.

2021-06-17
Black Midi
Cavalcade

Black Midi sounds like King Crimson now and I think that's a great decision on their part.

2021-05-20
Matt Sweeney & Bonnie Prince Billy
Superwolves

Every time Will Oldham releases something new, I immediately think "It's his best album in a decade!", and then immediately forget about it. But I think this one might actually be the one.

2021-05-09
Arooj Aftab
Vulture Prince

Arooj Aftab makes music that lands somewhere between Jose Gonzalez, Nick Drake, and Sade, all filtered through the melodic intuition of someone raised with a deep love and knowledge of her native Pakastani music. It's totally beautiful, and flawless from top to bottom. Even the somehow-not-regrettable reggae track.

2020-12-09
EmilyManhattan
Burger

Some people say the Emily burger is the best burger in the city. I'm not going to go as far as to say that it is; when I ate it, it was delicious, but I felt that I was more impressed by the burger at Mu (a precisely constructed work of burger art), and more spiritually satisfied by the burger at Andrew's Luncheonette (like a good no bullshit midwest bar burger).

However. If you were to come up to me right now, with a tray containing a Mu burger, an Andrew's burger, and an Emily burger... I think I would choose to eat the Emily burger.

What does that mean?