Swim Into The Sound is back with another Monthly Roundup! I’m honestly not sure how long I’ll be able to stay this “up” on new music, but so far I’ve been having a good time keeping track of new releases and compiling my thoughts.
As great as January was, February was even better, both in terms of quantity and quality, so I’ll waste no time in jumping into it. Here are some of the best/most notable releases from February of 2018.
Cameron Boucher & Field Medic - Split
Released on Valentine’s Day, this lovely and heartfelt split features two songs from Kevin Sullivan of Field Medic and two from Cameron Boucher of Sorority Noise. With both artists coming off wildly-successful2017 releases, this split seems to be a low-key acoustic victory lap of sorts from two of emo folk’s current reigning champs. Oh, and all of the album’s proceeds go to Covenant House, so on top of the great tunes, these two dudes are also class acts.
Hovvdy - Cranberry
Easily my biggest surprise of the month, Hovvdy is a band I’d never heard of until I sat down to listen to this record. When I hit play, I instantly fell in love with the warm, hazy, nostalgic sound of Cranberry, and with each subsequent listen a different track has jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. Both spiritually and stylistically, this album reminds me of Turnover’s Peripheral Vision from 2015. Both albums hooked me on first listen and bear the same fuzzy spaced-out sense of nostalgia. While Turnover’s record is more pop-punk influenced, Cranberry finds itself taking cues from bedroom indie, Americana, and even country at times, but both play out like a distant memory that slowly grows to shroud the listener in their own nostalgia.
MGMT - Little Dark Age
MGMT have had a long and storied history since their humble college-based beginnings in 2002. Continually straddling the line between synthpop, psychedelia, alternative, and indie, their 2018 record Little Dark Age finally seems to have attained the perfect balance of every one of their styles. While nothing may ever be as iconic as the breakthrough “Kids” or instantly-recognizable as “Electric Feel,” this album strives for (and achieves) something much different. From the opening narration-based exercise of “She Works Out Too Much” to the far-off echoes of “Hand It Over,” every move on Little Dark Age seems more self-assured than ever. A compact, addictive, and beautifully-crafted comeback.
Turnstile - Time & Space
Hardcore will never die, and bands like Turnstile are here to prove that single-handedly. Over the course of 25 minutes, the Baltimore group runs the listener through an obstacle course of unbridled ferocity, pure aggression, and raw power. You’ll experience throat-shredding vocals, chest-pounding riffs, and thunderous drums, eventually to be spat out on the other side invigorated and aggressive. Proof that there’s beauty in brevity, the forceful grouping of songs off Time & Space rarely cross the two-minute mark. Turnstyle doesn’t seem to be interested in wasting a second of the listener’s time or expending one ounce of wasted energy.
Various Artists - Black Panther: The Album
Unlike Drake’s More Life, the Kendrick Lamar/Top Dawg-helmed Black Panther album feels more like a playlist than a record. With a (loose) central theme, a wide range of guest collaborations, and consistent contributions from its figurehead, Black Panther: The Album is what all collaborative art should strive to be. Well-performing on its own right outside of the already-successful movie, Kendrick’s accompaniment is both an achievement for Marvel and an artistic work that stands on its own. Between the album’s pop bops, futuristic chase songs, and braggadocious fight music there’s something here for everyone. When I saw a grandma groove out to SZA as the movie’s credits rolled, I was more confident than ever of this album’s universal appeal.
2 Chainz - The Play Don’t Care Who Makes It
2 Chainz has been on a roll for years now. Often opting for smaller, more bite-sizedprojects and collaborations over full-on albums, The Play Don’t Care Who Makes It is the newest installment in Mr. Chainz’ series of low-commitment EPs. Coming in at a crisp four songs over 16 minutes, each song is expansive enough for Tity Boi’s usual comedic bars, a couple of guest features, and even a loving shoutout to all of Atlanta’s strippers. The Play is 2 Chainz incarnate: every song hits, and the short running time doesn’t leave any room for it to wear out its welcome.
Justin Timberlake - Man of the Woods
Whew. I don’t want to spend an excessive amount of time shitting on this record because I’m far from the first to do it, but also because it feels a little over-done… that said, Man of the Woods is a pants-shitting mess from front-to-back. Self-described as “Americana with 808s,” this album was doomed from conception. Even one half-attentive viewing of the “Supplies” music video is a good indicator of the full-album experience: a violently-bright and schizophrenic country-fueled acid trip gone wrong. Each track feels like Timberlake is throwing everything at the wall, indiscriminately mashing ten ideas into one track, laying terrible lyrics over the top, and then just delivering it all in the most earnest way he possibly can. In a way, I admire it.
As a whole, Man of The Woods feels like some sort of Joaquin Phoenix-esque meta career move in which you’re not quite sure how much of this is serious and how much is parody. Featuring Do-wop vocals, dueling harmonicas, and unnerving narration, it’s like Timberlake heard Young Thug’s Beautiful Thugger Girls and thought “I could do this” … but he can’t.
Some cuts are perfectly fine and listenable (“Montana” is pretty great, “Breeze Off the Pond” is at least pointed), but the remainder of the songs are comically bad and go on for minutes longer than they need to. The album’s most definitively bad moment comes in the backstretch when a half-awake Jessica Biel provides the excruciating introduction to “Flannel” which sounds like Lonely Island performing a children’s lullaby.
At the end of the day, this is just a pop album from Justin Timberlake, so I didn’t expect high-art, and I didn’t expect a mind-shifting release. That said, it’s been fun to revel in the collective schadenfreude of watching someone fail at such an audacious genre experiment in such a spectacular and public way. The full album may leave the listener in a state of ongoing agony begging for it to end, but the good thing is: it’s just pop.
Car Seat Headrest - Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)
For the sake of getting the rotten taste of Man of the Woods out of your mouth, we’ll end with one of the best albums of February: Car Seat Headrest’s remake of Twin Fantasy. Already a breakthrough record in its own right, this 2018 release is a version of the record that’s been completely remade from the ground up. While the original album is still up for streaming in all its lo-fi charm, it’s hard to deny the absolute achievement that Twin Fantasy represents.
Just as verbose, meta, poetic, philosophical, and fraught with emotions as the day that it was first recorded, Twin Fantasy will stand the test of time as an album about the most universal of journeys. About the simplicity of letting go and putting your hands around someone else’s shoulders and the complexity of everything that tends to follow. Temptation, rejection, debauchery, desire, contradictions, fears, manias, sexuality, routine, experimentation, depression, addiction, nervousness, otherness, love, and heartbreak. This album somehow manages to touch on every one of those topics in a raw, poignant, and open way that rarely is captured in life, much less crystallized on an album.
The fact that one of this generation’s most pivotal breakup albums could not only exist but be remade not to its own detriment is a testament to the creative core and message at the center of this record. Car Seat Headrest managed to improve the original, change it just enough that it feels new, and managed to keep the original spirit intact, all of which sounds like an impossibility, yet at the end of it all, there’s this album. It’s the most accurate portrayal of modern love ever captured in sound. It’s love and heartbreak on an oceanic scale. It’s Twin Fantasy.
Because I may not have a lot to say, but I listen to a lot, and I like to be thorough.
• Ratboys - GL: A four-track EP of slidey, female-fronted emo songs in which every move is measured, and every past action is regretted.
• Dashboard Confessional - Crooked Shadows: Chris Carrabba’s first album in 9 years is the definition of “hit-or-miss.” We’ll probably never get another song as precious or hard-hitting as “Ghost of a Good Thing,” but this album still has its moments.
• Rhye - Blood: Adult contemporary, but not in the way you’re thinking.
• Pianos Become the Teeth - Wait For Love: An unrelenting, explosive, and propulsive grouping of 10 songs from the post-hardcore torchbearers.
• Caroline Rose - Loner: Yet another album filed under “surprises provided by the internet,” Loner is the exact type of lowkey hyper-conscious slacker indie that’s eternally-appealing to me.
• Superchunk - What a Time to Be Alive: The 90’s DIY-rockers are back with 11 tightly-wound tracks that they volley at the listener without pause.
• Ought - Room Inside the World: Ought lurch forward sadly with this collection of glowing tracks that bubble up to the listener’s ears with palpable remorse and moodiness.
• Palm - Rock Island: Traditional time signatures be damned! The fourth record from the Philadelphian math rockers is polished, jagged, and filled with more unexpected moments than a Black Mirror episode.
• Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending: It’s ok.
• U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited: Psychedelic, sexy, and occasionally-dancy indie jams that explode with violence and lust.
• Ravyn Lenae - Crush EP: Slow-moving and delicate, this Steve Lacy-helmed EP is a brief outing that should fill the R&B-shaped hole in your heart.
Plus we’ve also got fresh singles/covers from Frank Ocean, The Wonder Years, Beach House, Courtney Barnett, Ryan Adams, Father John Misty, Blocboy, Parquet Courts, Sorority Noise, Underoath, Code Orange, Run The Jewels, 6Lack, Kero Kero Bonito, Girlpool, Mount Eerie, , Remo Drive, Rae Sremmurd, The Voids, Flatbush Zombies, Car Seat Headrest, Post Malone, Julien Baker x Manchester Orchestra, Janelle Monáe,Jay Som, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Kim Petras, Chvrches, Soccer Mommy, and Future.