Every week I will select a few new releases to discuss in this spot. This week we have a surprise knockout from a new artist, a flashback to my high school days, the most interesting "re-release" of recent memory and a project with so much potential but falls flat. So without further ado, here we go.
Here's the playlist BTW
St Beauty - Running to the Sun
This is my first exposure to the duo from Janelle Monae’s Wondaland Arts Society. I originally intended to put this album on while multitasking but as soon as the haunting vocal on the album’s first track, Borders, started I knew it would demand more attention. I loved this album more than I ever could have anticipated. The two absurdly talented singers use their lovely voices to deliver minimalistic and emotion evoking lyrics dealing with love, breakups, and depression. Their voices play off of and complement each other in various ways throughout the album that will continue to keep your attention and awe. The music is very diverse as has come to be expected from Wondaland projects. In most cases it is just present enough to not take away from the heavenly harmonies and it flows in and out with some really nice grooves when the vocals drop out. They are sure to draw SZA comparisons and that seems about right but they really are their own thing and deserve a listen. This is definitely my recommendation of the week and easily my favorite release of the past couple of months.
Fall Out Boy - M A N I A
Fall Out Boy was my favorite band in high school. I say that to let you know they will always have a special little angsty space in my heart even if more recently they have become somewhat of a guilty pleasure band. I am still unsure if this album is objectively good but I did enjoy listening to it. Their pattern of chasing music trends is once again present on M A N I A as it is the most electronic and dancey we have heard from the foursome. For the most part the album is, to borrow a phrase from High Fidelity, “dance music for old people.” It is actually pretty impressive how they integrate said trends into their sound in a way that does not feel forced. It is mostly a testament to lead singer Patrick Stump’s growth but the rest of band aren’t too bad either, particularly drummer Andy Hurley who is more present than ever on this. The last few tracks starting with Heaven’s Gate feel a bit more like the familiar Fall Out Boy sounds we’ve heard before. The contrast listening through the album is fairly interesting. There is more bass drums with isolated vocals that has been a bit of trademark of the Chicago based group's recent releases. This time however those elements are accompanied by pianos and precede electronic beat drops, if you are not a fan that Fall Out Boy sound I would avoid this. But if we’re being honest and you’re still listening to Fall Out Boy or of an age where this poppy electric rock appeals to you you’re going to listen to it anyway. I am going to stop before I reveal more embarrassing details like my weakness for John Cusack movies. This album is a quite engaging and a commendable next chapter in their catalog and I recommend it.
The Shins - The Worms Heart
The Shins went full Kendrick with this re-release of sorts of their most recent album, Heartworms, with a reverse track listing. Unlike Kendrick The Shins did record different versions of the songs for this new release. This leads to, as was the case with DAMN., me enjoying this much more. They are almost two different albums so the comparison may be unfair but releasing an album with the same track name will do that. The reasons I liked The Worm’s Heart more is it flows a little more smoothly and though the songs are the titled the same, a lot of the arrangements are quite different and more often to my liking. Rubber Ballz for instance has a slower much softer sound that really lends itself to the song better. Heartworms is pretty great in its own right and there tracks like Mildenhall that are strong on both even though they radically differ from eachother but I am not sure there is a song I like more from last year’s release. The electronic leaning arrangements found on Heartworms are nice and all but The Worm's Heart is more of what I enjoy from the Shins so naturally I gravitate more toward it. I recommend both if you missed Heartworms for whatever reason or if you did not enjoy it, give this once a chance as it is different and better enough to be worth your time.
Dont Say I didn't warn you:
Porches - The House
A big complaint of mine in the music industry over the last couple of years is the lack of good producers. The reason I bring it up in this is because it suffers from that problem. Good producers do not allow songs that go on unnecessarily long or allow mediocre tracks onto albums. They are there for their expertise to help capture an artist’s sound and rein them in when they are too close to their art to see it is not as good as they may think; not every song needs to be recorded and not every recorded song needs to be on an album. With that being said The House is rife with this folly. I am still getting my ear for newer electronic music since I inexcusably ignored it for too long but I do not think I like this. On his previous release Pool Aaron Maine, who performs under the name Porches, walked a fine line of simplistic yet interesting electronic pop very well. On The House he tries to keep the same balance but does so with the grace of a toddler. Songs like W Longing and Wobble appear to go off the rails and devolve into unappealing jam sessions with conflicting chords that grain and detract from the overall product. If he is happy with this and it is was he was intending to make all the power to him but it does not appeal to me and is a let down from Pool, sadly I can not recommend this.