This week brings with it some really fantastic releases that I’m excited to tell you about. What’s even better is that many of them are available to stream in their entirety so you can take them for a test drive. Don’t forget, if you’re on Twitter and are looking for some music advice, just add the handy #MyGayDJ tag and we’ll do our best to get the right tunes to your ears. By the by, just saying, “I need new music to listen to” isn’t all that helpful. If you can add some kind of adjective to that sentence it would be appreciated.
Y La Bamba — Court The Storm (Tender Loving Empire)
Since first seeing this Portland band on an episode of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, I have been absolutely enamored with Y La Bamba — lead singer Luz Elena Mendozain particular. Her voice not only commands attention, it practically sweeps you up and takes you on a ride you don’t want to get off of. I enjoyed 2010’s Lupon very much and, so far, Court The Storm is making my ears very happy.
It’s kind of funny because, even though their songs are sometimes sung in Spanish and there is a very clear Mexican influence to their style, there is also something very inherently Pacific-Northwest about their sound, too. I would even say there is something very Tender Loving Empire about them.
When you listen to another one of my favorite newer bands, labelmates Radiation City, there are just so many fantastic similarities to their sounds and textures, even though I wouldn’t consider their music to be all that similar. I’ll be listening to this one a lot this spring. Check it out for yourself over at NPR.
Amy Ray — Lung of Love (Daemon Records)
Amy Ray, I hardly knew ye! “Glow,” the second track off of her sixth solo album, sounds like a mid-’90s power rock jam. The big shocker is that I don’t hate it! Not all of the 10 tracks on Lung of Love make me think of The Foo Fighters — in fact, the very next track, “I Didn’t,” brings things back to the folk-rock harmonies I recognize from the earlier Indigo Girls records in my collection. The rest of the album jumps around in terms of style, but one thing is for sure: The string parts, be they cello or guitar, electric or acoustic, are front and center. I mean, “Give it a Go” — where did this come from? Now excuse me while I go check out what I’m sure is a shocked expression on my face. Go ahead and stream the album over at Spinner.
School of Seven Bells — Ghostory (Vagrant Records)
Admittedly, not all of the nine songs on this moody electro-pop group’s third release are really grabbing me and begging for a second listen. It’s not that they are bad, but they could fade into the background without you ever paying attention to the fact that they were on in the first place. However, the songs they get right, they get really right. When “Low Times” first played, I came to a full stop. Other standouts for me include the eighth and ninth tracks, “White Wind” and “When You Sing.” It’s possible that I’m just in the mood right now for something a bit faster-paced, so I’ll revisit some of the slower tracks when I’m trying to wind down.
Nneka — Soul is Heavy (Yo Mama Recordings/Decon)
Quite simply put: There needs to be more music like this coming out. Nneka brings her political and personal worlds to life through a beautiful mix of hip-hop, soul, reggae and some New Jack Swing comin’ atcha! Her track “My Home” has given me the worst case of spring fever while “Camouflage” is giving me flashbacks to a dance club I used to go to in college with my straight friends and would always end up dancing with a bunch of guys from Haiti. This is such a great change of pace for me and I hope it is just as good for you. Stream it over at Spinner.
Memory House — The Slideshow Effect (Sub Pop)
After one listen, this is kind of average indie-pop album. It’s not bad, it’s not great, it’s just there. The problem that I’m having is, I’m guessing, there have been some really great albums from this genre recently, so any album coming out right now needs to have something special to stand out in the crowd. Unfortunately, this seems to be about as interesting for me as sitting through a stranger’s slideshow (and not the cool hipster art show kind either). Stream the album over at Spinner.
Anna Vogel — Canary in a Coal Mine (Anna Vogelzang)
I’m not even sure how to describe this album besides imagining a very specific group of women in my life dancing around in a circle to it. It’s kind of a pop-folk mixture but with some really impressive and layered instrumental arrangements complete with fiddles, a horn section and an accordion. (Little known secret: I’ve kind of got a thing for accordions. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with Sheryl Crow). This won’t suit every mood but it did the trick to put a smile on my face this morning.
Honorable Mentions: Soft Swells, WZRD, Rocco DeLuca, Deer Tick, Fanfarlo, Gabriel and the Hounds, Hunx, Lyle Lovett and Jason Mraz.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there is a large amount of releases coming out this week and not enough time for me to give them each a fair listen before sending them your way. So, get ready for Your Weekly Women to Listen to where I’ll review Julia Nunes, Loreena McKennitt (I still love “The Mummer’s Dance”), Carolina Chocolate Drops The Cranberries (I am such a fool for them) and Estelle!