March 2018: Album Review Roundup

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This is getting out of hand.

As I do my best to stay up on “the culture,” my monthly lists of notable releases seem to be growing longer and longer. While I’m trying to limit these roundups to fewer than ten albums per post, roughly thirty albums came out this month that grabbed my attention in one way or another. There’s so much new stuff I almost don’t know where to start, yet I must.

Here are some of the best/most notable releases from March of 2018.

Previous Roundups: January, February.


Soccer Mommy - Clean

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While she made some waves in 2017 with her career-spanning Collection, Soccer Mommy (whose real name is Sophie Allison) has arrived in full-force this year with her debut album Clean. This 2018 release finds Allison moving away from the solo bedroom recording of her previous work and into full-band indie rock territory. With sparkling guitars, a rumbling rhythm section, and of course Sophie’s passionately-delivered vocals, Clean is the raw emotion you’ve been waiting for. Sometimes spiteful and vitriolic (“Your Dog”), other times writhing in insecurity (“Last Girl”), and occasionally wholly-triumphant (“Scorpio Rising”), the tunes off this record have cemented Soccer Mommy as a well-deserved star of the indie circuit, and the voice of a million awkward people fumbling through their own relationships.

 

Camp Cope - How to Socialize and Make Friends

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Fists clenched and voices raised, the outspoken Melbourne trio has returned with the follow-up to their much slept-on 2016 full-length. Striking while the iron’s hot, How to Socialize is an album for right now. Fraught with political commentary and much-needed callouts, this is less of an album and more of an open defiance. The catalyst for change and the soundtrack to a long-overdue rebalance, this record is a blunt and open dialogue giving words to a group that’s needed them most. The music itself is beautifully-goosebump-inducing. Exploding with unrestrained vocal takes, cresting guitar strums, bouncy basslines, and rocksteady drum patterns, Camp Cope is the exact type of band that the music industry needs right now.

 

Sorority Noise - YNAAYT

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YNAAYT is a full-album reimagining of You’re Not As _____ As You Think that casts new light on last year’s landmark emo record. Not content to merely swap electric instruments out for acoustic ones, YNAAYT indeed is best described as a “reimagining.” With loving acoustic arrangements, beautiful orchestral flourishes, and a remixed tracklist, Sorority Noise transformed what could have been a one-off gimmick into a gorgeously-composed piece of art. The songs are reworked, shifted, and changed just enough that it’s almost unrecognizable from the LP upon which it’s based, making for a compelling back-to-back listen. Released alongside a hiatus announcement, this would be a graceful note for the band to go out on (as much as I hate to think about it). This album is concrete proof that there’s beauty, serenity, and eventual recovery in grief.

 

Jack White - Boarding House Reach

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I’d describe myself as a “begrudging Jack White Stan.” For better or worse, White has played the single biggest role in the formation of my musical taste. The foundation for everything I like, and an artist that has loomed large in my library for a majority of my life. In spite of (or perhaps because of) his importance to me, his work post-White Stripes has been hit or miss for me. While I eventually came around to Blunderbuss, Lazaretto came across as the musical equivalent of jerking off while staring into a mirror. Perhaps feeling the need for a pivot himself, White described his 2018 album as “a bizarre one” that sounded like “good gardening music or roofing music or… back-alley stabbing music.” The craziest thing is he isn’t wrong.

It seems that in between unearthing old music, sounding like an old man, and being hopelessly conceptual, Mr. White actually had time to cook up a decent record. I’ll admit that (of the two sides of Jack) I’m a bigger fan of his more thrashy garage rock half, so the fact that this album takes that distorted riffage and cranks it up to 11 makes me a very happy stan. There’s still a decent amount of jangly country Nashville sound, but “Rock” (with a capital R) is this record’s primary language. There are moments of unbridled weirdness, which are to be expected (ironically), but at its heart, Boarding House Reach is the best album that I can expect from Jack White in 2018.

 

Earthless - Black Heaven

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Speculate what you will about where music is “headed,” but there will always be room in my heart for a great rock album. On Black Heaven, the typically-instrumental Earthless gives us a collection of sprawling and hard-charging metal tracks. Their fifth album as a band, Black Heaven is a psychedelic heavy metal odyssey. 39 minutes of forward momentum and chest-inflating riffs that fire on all cylinders up until the final notes. An album for driving through the desert as fast as your car will allow while the sun is at its highest point.

 

Yo La Tengo - There’s A Riot Going On

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While Yo La Tengo may not be the biggest band in the world, their influence can be felt all over the indie rock sphere. Over the course of their thirty-plus-year career, they’ve hardly ever made a misstep, and There’s A Riot Going On only adds another layer of greatness to their legacy. Half ambient, half traditional Velvet-Underground-Esque slow jams that they’re known for, Riot is best described as a pleasant album. A record you can devote yourself to entirely, or let run in the background, both to equally-enjoyable ends. A calm, relaxing, and chilled out hour of new material that will provide the soundscape for years of creativity to come.

 

Haley Hendrickx - I Need To Start a Garden

On I Need To Start a Garden we witness as Haley Hendrickx attempts to balance the cultivation of her soul with the well-being of those around her. With deeply-cutting lyricism, haunting, fragile vocals, and wonderfully-arranged instrumentals, Garden is a carefully-crafted record. At its best moments, the album’s minimalism serves Hendrickx’s style well as the songs crest from held-back whispers into full-blown explosions of sound and emotion.

Easily my biggest surprise of the month, and an early frontrunner for album of the year, Haley Hendrickx is a person to watch, with a record to love. For my full review of I Need To Start a Garden, click here.

 

Quick Hits

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Two Dozen albums from the past month. All summarized in one sentence.

  • Donovan Wolfington - Waves: Released posthumously following the band’s untimely demise, Waves is a textbook shredder of an album. Proof that it’s better to go out on top than not at all.
  • Disco Inc. - The Boredom Keeps me up at Night: Five forthright and punchy punk rock tracks stretched across 15 electrifying minutes. Equal to or greater than the energy received from a cup of coffee.
  • Titus Andronicus - A Productive Cough: Eschewing all previous conceptual frameworks and punk-leanings, A Productive Cough finds frontman Patrick Stickles embracing, emulating, and achieving a pitch-perfect version of the singer-songwriter music that he was brought up on.
  • The Breeders - All Nerve: As if the last two decades never happened, the Deal sisters are back alongside their primo ‘93 line-up. Together they deliver a collection of 11 beautifully-grungy tracks that prove the 90’s aren’t dead yet.
  • Superorganism - Superorganism: Eight pseudonym-clad bandmembers deep, this synth-laden indie pop group formed, and turned this record around within the space of a calendar year. Bright, vivacious, and charming as all get out, Superorganism have already made a name for themselves with this bubbly debut.
  • Lucy Dacus - Historian: Slow-moving and heavy-minded singer-songwriter moodiness for a rainy day or a broken heart.
  • Gulfer - Dog Bless: Tappin’ guitars, screamin’ vox, bombastic drummin’, Gulfer deliver emo revival goodness on their gleaming sophomore album.
  • Lil Yachty - Lil Boat 2: Coasting off the recognition of his breakthrough mixtape, Lil Yachty offers up 17 sleepy and unfocused tracks that only occasionally meander into genuine entertainment. Overall, it seems like Yachty has lost the plot.
  • Logic - Bobby Tarintino II: Rick and Morty skits aside, the latest Logic mixtape isn’t as cringy as the internet would have you believe. Packed with dense lyricism and hyper-technical bars, this release cuts out all the fat and gets straight to the rapping.
  • Young Father - Cocoa Sugar: Electronic, unpredictable, and utterly new, Cocoa Sugar is future music.
  • Vile Creature - Cast of Static and Smoke: Optimistic queer black metal from the fantastical Canadian duo.
  • Remo Drive - Pop Music EP: A trio of fresh tracks from the breakthrough pop-punk band. Aptly-titled, this 8-minute release is catchy, bright, and colorful. Essentially the musical equivalent to fructose-laden soda.
  • Of Montreal - White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood: A groovy, dancy, funkwave inferno of radiant two-sided indie tracks.
  • Nap Eyes - I’m Bad Now: Indie rock with Lou-Reed-esque vocals that display resolve, even while in the calamitous eye of the hurricane.
  • Mooseblood- I Don’t Think I Can Do This Anymore: The UK pop-punks offer up a vague and uniform 36-minutes of relationship strife on this blue follow-up to Blush.
  • Mount Eerie - Now Only: Another long-form meditation on the death of a loved one. Heartwrenching and spell-binding.
  • The Decemberists - I’ll Be Your Girl: The Portland, Oregon five-piece return with a mixed bag of brightly-colored election reaction tracks.
  • Preoccupations - New Material: sharp and bombastic post-punk from a future that almost didn’t exist.
  • Citizen - Live at Studio 4: Live in-studio versions of three of the best cuts off 2017’s As You Please.
  • Hot Mulligan - Pilot: Chicken soup for the modern emo’s soul.
  • Blessthefall - Hard Feelings: Neon-lit metalcore with a hyper-clean and poppy approach.
  • The Sword - Used Future: Equal parts jammy, psychedelic, stoner, and riffy. This is a chill and laid-back album that’s perfect for the outdoorsy metalhead.
  • Trace Mountains - A Partner to Lean On: Chilled-out Alex G-esque Americana with an electronic slant.
  • The Voidz - Virtue: An hour of political indie rock from the outspoken and leather-clad Julian Casablancas.
  • Frankie Cosmos - Vessel: Verbose (professional) bedroom folk from the Princess of Bandcamp.
  • Czarface x MF DOOM - Czarface Meets Metal Face: Bars. Just. Bars.
  • Casey Musgraves - Golden Hour: Lovely, lovesick, loveless country music made for sun-drenched valleys and porch-lit beers.
  • The Weeknd - My Dear Melancholy,: Six smutty, spacy breakup songs from the void of heartbreak.

Plus singles from The Voidz, Gucci Mane, The Wonder Years, Snail Mail, Jack White, DJ Khaled, Royce Da 5’9”, God Is An Astronaut, Parkway Drive, ZHU, Half Waif, Anderson .Paak, Beach House, Dj Khaled, Vince Staples, The Decemberists, A$AP Rocky, Grouper, Dr. Dog, Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett, Weird Al, Panic! At The Disco, Underoath, Flatbush Zombies, Miguel, Jens Lekman, , Our Last Night, Iceage, Cardi B, Migos, Manchester Orchestra, Alvvays, Lil Pump, CHVRCHES, Rae Sremmurd, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Hop Along, and N.E.R.D.