Well, my friends, it’s a beautiful day and there is a good amount of great new music out today. There is also a very sad review that I have to give. Just as I’m sure I’ve given a lukewarm review to a band that some of you love, today I have to give a bad one to one of my all-time favorite bands. At least you’ll all know that I don’t play favorites up in this piece. Let’s rip that band-aid off quickly, shall we?
Gossip — A Joyful Noise (Columbia Records)
I can’t even begin to tell you how depressed I am to have to write the words immediately following this sentence, but I must. One of my favorite bands, and certainly favorite live bands, has put out a shitty album. A Joyful Noise sounds like it was uninspired, easy to make but sloppily thrown together and, at best, a collection of songs discarded from Music for Men. Beth’s voice is overshadowed by way too much synth but the times her voice is able to peak through, it almost sounds as though she strains to be on key in vocal ranges that shouldn’t need straining. I feel like I’m betraying a friend by writing these words; but knowing what they are capable of and comparing it to this release, the differences are jarring.
This album will be played and remixed on dance floors and there is nothing wrong with that. When I listen to a Gossip album though, I want more than just music that will make me dance (which it does, like no other and I don’t care how much of an asshole I normally look like in the crowd at their concerts, it is the only place I’ve ever allowed myself to act like a fool and not care). Their music makes you feel things, mostly it makes you feel strong or powerful because even if the divine Ms. Ditto is singing words of being lied to or being cheated on, the power of her voice bowls you over with the sense that everything’s going to be OK. This makes me wonder where the love went. I hope they can come back with a vengeance — even if it takes them just as long between albums. Don’t worry Hannah Blilie, you’re still one of my Hot 100 picks. Stream the album over at Spinner.
Royal Thunder — CVI (Relapse)
This band has taken me by surprise in so many ways. The sound pouring through my headphones when Royal Thunder’s debut album is on is a much harder one than I’m used to enjoying, but this album is so enjoyable that it makes me want to explore more of the acts that might fall into the same genre. There are glimmers of Led Zeppelin, Alice in Chains, Metallica and Grace Slick throughout CVI, but the album remains unique, powerful and soulful through the hard rock. Spinner is letting you all take it for a test drive at their site.
Ladyhawke — Anxiety (Modular Recordings)
Anxiety surpasses the expectations I had set for it after what seemed like an excruciatingly long wait. Her mixture of pop rock and soft electro-pop sweetness is a great sound to have in your ears on a sunny day or when you’re getting ready to go out at night. The out artist from New Zealand has delivered the goods and somehow managed to make depression and anxiety sound kind of sexy. Stream and enjoy her second single, “Sunday Drive” on Soundcloud.
Kimbra — Vows (Warner Bros.)
All of you outside of the U.S. and Canada have had access to Kimbra’s album for quite a while now and it’s been a long time since I last visited her solo tunes so it was a tad bit weird to hear her outside of Gotye-mania. Once I let go of the voice and painted face firmly ingrained my mind, I was able to let this great album sink in and appreciate the fun and somewhat theatrical debut from this versatile artist. Stream it here.
Kaia Wilson — Two Adult Women in Love (Jealous Butcher)
When I think of Kaia Wilson, I think of a music legend responsible for helping usher me into both the queer scene and the punk scene. What I do not associate with her, regardless of any backing she has done for Amy Ray‘s band, is singer-songwriter and alt-folk tunes. Or, I should say, I didn’t associate those genres with the Team Dresch and The Butchies co-founder, but all of that has changed. Two Adult Women in Love is a soft toe-tapper with folk-style storytelling and literally made me flash back to the song circles we used to have every week at the Jewish overnight camp I went to as a young teen. For lovers of Kimya Dawson, this might be right up your alley. Check out the music video Kaia shot and edited on her iPhone for “Canopy.“
Exitmusic — Passage (Secretly Canadian)
It took a little while for this album to grow on me but I feel like my patience has paid off. There is an androgyny to the music that I find really intriguing, not only in the voice of singer Aleksa Palladino, but also in the way the music pulses and swells; is a beauty and a beast. I have a feeling I’ll be bringing this back out once the fall comes. You can stream the album in its entirety over at NPR.
Honorable Mentions: Sara Bareilles (EP), Laid Back (fans of Jarvis Cocker, check out their song “Cosyland” — I love it), Amon Tobin, Tom Jones, Chris Baio (EP), Saint Etienne, Joey Ramone, El-P, Kitsune America sampler, Kris Allen, Guided By Voices, John Mayer.
Other Music-Related Things: You can listen to the last recording of the late, great Whitney Houston performing with Jordin Sparks.
Garbage is playing Webster Hall tonight and you can stream the show courtesy of MTV Hive.
Download Diplo’s remix of “Demons” by Sleigh Bells:
That’s all for this week but as always, feel free to drop me a note, friend me on Facebook, Tweet me or subscribe to my Spotify playlists. If any of you live in Chicago, you should come on out to The L Stop’s 1-year anniversary party and say hello!