Well, October’s here; I guess that means that things are about to get a little spooky and a whole lot more pumpkin-flavoured for the next few weeks. Not sure about you, but 2016 is flying by…
Fortunately, that means there has been a candy bowl full of fantastic new albums over the past 10 months, and with this week’s In No Particular Order, you’re getting five more!
For the entire list of new sweets (i.e. releases), click here. And don’t forget to follow me for more exciting updates on Twitter and Instagram! Who knows, maybe there are more sweet candy puns circling my social presence.
Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win
Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin is making a humble, yet gradual shift into the spotlight, as the young musician was named “Australia’s biggest rising star of 2016”. The combination of her lo-fi musicality and her lush, sweet-covered vocals make for a mesmerizing pair. On her debut record Don’t Let The Kids Win, Jacklin flaunts both, complete with some sprinkles of honest lyricism.
The 11-track effort, preceded by the lead single and opening track “Pool Party”, captures the essence of Jacklin: quiet, well-spoken, passionate, and charming. The indie folk/lo-fi rock opener sets the tone for the rest of the album with toe-tapping rhythms from the fuzzy guitar chords, fronted by Jacklin’s shimmering twang.
Although not overly enthusiastic, she finds her magnetism on tracks like “Pool Party”, “Coming of Age”, and most notably, “Leadlight”, before slowing things down for the bulk of the album. Her heartfelt delivery on”Elizabeth” matches the melancholic story within, as she works the dynamic of her guitar and voice. “Small Talk”, “LA Dream”, and “Sweet Step” follow similar fashion, allowing herself the space to put her rich vocals to take the forefront of the music. Title track and album closer “Don’t Let the Kids Win” puts the final stamp on the record, leaving the listener wanting more, as we await to see what’s next for the rising star.
Must-haves: “Pool Party” // “Leadlight” // “Elizabeth”
Phantogram – Three
Although Brooklyn trip-hop duo Phantogram lack creative and ingenuity on titling their third record Three (surprise, surprise), they make up for it with electrifying mashing of sounds, textures, and hooks. In a genre best known for its heavy focus on the highs and lows of sound, Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel are a perfect match; Carter finds the right punches and backbeats in the bass lines and Barthel’s glowing vocals take the higher ground. And as for the middle? That’s where the poles meet, generating the anthemic alt-pop energy which gives Three it’s sturdiness and appeal.
Jumping between gloomy dark-pop, electrifying dance floor hits, and moody ballads, the tracklist hits a few different angles of trip-hop, extracting varying emotions and degrees of intensity derived from clever samples and driving bass lines. Lead single (and frankly one of the best songs from the duo) “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” pushes forward with thumping percussion backed by Barthel’s intoxicating vocals. You can almost take it as a sequel of their 2014 hit “Falling in Love”. The heavy-weighted synths take on the melodic duties, as “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” boasts being one of the top songs of 2016.
But Phantogram are just as capable of making intoxicating, charged tracks that find their strength off of the pop-spectrum. Shifting the intensity between pop to synth-rock to dark-R&B, Three opens with the lush, shadowy track “Funeral Pyre”, moving into the multidirectional “Same Old Blues”. Synth-pop, dubstep, and hip-hop bleed into each other on “Same Old Blues”, giving the track not just different edges, but a mountain range of character. The aforementioned “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” completes the blistering head start for the album, as Three slows down momentarily for the magnetically alluring “Cruel World” and the oddly-placed, orchestral sampled track “Barking Dog”.
Although there are a few slower tracks scattered throughout the album, Three certainly makes a point to keep the blood pumping and energy high, with the hypnotically dark “Run Run Blood”, synth-pop ballad “Destroyer”, and dance floor pop closer “Calling All” checking all the boxes.
Consistency is often the key to holding on to your fanbase and finding new listeners, and Phantogram proved to be able to recreate the dynamic and electronically-charged sound found on their two previous records; this time with the confidence of artists who know they’re moving into the mainstream.
Must-haves: “Same Old Blues” // “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” // “Calling All”
Green Day – Revolution Radio
Before you read any further, if you’re expecting something similar to Dookie or American Idiot, you are going to be disappointed. However, if a steady, familiar dose of Green Day is more your expectations, than please, continue.
It’s been about four or five years since Green Day frontman Billie Joel Armstrong checked into rehab and put the band on hold (note: if you read the entire INPO, you’ll notice a similar timeline for Sum 41. Have at it conspiracy theorists). So, 2016 and Revolution Radio mark four years sober for Armstrong, as they test the waters of the current era with their new album.
Now, considering Green Day have been together longer than I’ve been alive (four more years to be exact), their resilience and musical endurance is impressive. You’d think they’d be tired of Green Day by now, with their formulaic brand of guitar-chord-crushing hard rock meets pop punk.
But that’s just the type of combination that keeps Revolution Radio afloat, with lead singles “Bang, Bang” and “Revolution Radio” capturing that attitude and spitting it back out in 2016.
There are quite a few “misses” however, with “Outlaw”, “Bouncing Off the Wall”, and horrendously pop-esque “Still Breathing” taking up the middle of the tracklist and steering them downhill. It’s a slow climb back up with “Too Dumb to Die” hitting the accelerator finally. Most surprisingly of all? They chose to close on the acoustic track “Ordinary World”, letting Armstrong show he’s more than capable of slowing things down and preforming as a singer and artist.
Overall, don’t hold your breath on this one. But if you’re a Green Day fan through and through, or if you’re like me and don’t mind pretending it’s 2002 again, then it wouldn’t hurt to give Revolution Radio a try.
Must-haves: “Bang, Bang” // “Revolution Radio” // “Ordinary World”
Norah Jones – Day Breaks
There’s something about the fall that makes it the perfect time of year to enjoy the smooth sounds of lounge jazz – especially that of singer-songwriter Norah Jones. A comfy chair, dimmed lights, and your favourite hot beverage are the perfect accessaries for her latest record Day Breaks.
After her 2002 debut Come Away With Me (it’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since “Don’t Know Why” won a Grammy and sold millions), Norah Jones dabbled in the world of country music, releasing a handful of records outside her familiar beginnings. Only a few took notice, and although Jones’ voice is beautiful and naturally encompassing, it didn’t seem to have the same comfort and belongingness as her debut (even though she’s a Texas native). Fast forward to now, and her sixth record Day Breaks is the much welcomed return to that crooner, jazz sound Jones was welcomed in open arms.
It’s important to point out nothing on Day Breaks seems to reach that apex of “Don’t Know Why”, but a few tracks certainly come close (I’m looking at you “Carry On”). Nevertheless, this album isn’t set on breaking records or making history – she’s already done that over the course of her 15 year career. It’s simply one meant to be enjoyed.
Norah Jones’ voice is enough to get lost in, and her soft, gentle piano playing is just the right addition to melt into your chair. Composed of nine original tracks and three covers, Day Breaks has Jones at her most comfortable, with “Tragedy”, “Carry On”, and “Flipside” standing out as her best original compositions.
As an American from the south, Jones makes a point to touch on the current civil injustice through reviving Horace Silver’s “Peace”, using the song originally from 1959 to dictate her position in 2016. Her effortlessness behind the keys comes through on the song, giving Day Breaks a helping push forward.
Jazz may not be for everyone, but Norah Jones is talented enough to capture the attention of even the most stubborn of fans. Head to her website to order your copy.
Must-haves: “Carry On” // “Tragedy” // “Peace”
Sum 41 – 13 Voices
For most people, almost dying is often a time to call it quits. It’s literally the universe telling you that what you’re doing is going to kill you.
For Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley, alcoholism took him out of the music world and eventually into a hospital bed, putting the future of Sum 41, and more notably, his future in jeopardy.
Nevertheless, Whibley found a way back to health and with it, Sum 41’s sixth album, their first in five years. They’re just the latest band from the early 2000s to release music a generation later (Blink-182, Green Day, and Jimmy Eat World to name a few). Trying to revive the glory days is a big risk, and considering what the band has gone through, the risk was even bigger. 13 Voices staggers and stumbles slightly, but all considered, it’s a decent addition to the Sum 41 discography.
Did I mention Whibley almost died? Hence the morbid opening triad “A Murder of Crows”, “Goddamn I’m Dead Again”, and “Fake My Own Death”. But within the death-themed lyrics, Sum 41 find their footing back in familiar style, melting together pop-punk, metal, and radio-friendly alt-rock.
One noticeable characteristic of 13 Voices is its enduring consistency in style. Aside from the ballad-style “War”, and slower-moving “13 Voices”, the album holds up to the days of suburban pop-punk and their youthful relentlessness.
If you want to feel 13 again, 13 Voices is a great album. Otherwise, we just have to give credit to Sum 41 for trying with their current situation, and give credit for producing a fun album with a handful of mosh-forming, hair-spiking, pop-punk tunes.
Must-haves: “Fake My Own Death” // “The Fall and the Rise” // “Twisted By Design”