You’ve found the one place of refuge from the upcoming American Election!
If you’re anything like me, you’re sick and tired of election talk so forget about all of that for a brief moment before checking your social media.
Instead, get lost in the music with this week’s In No Particular Order – a busy one at that. With five albums on the pedestal and a handful more on deck, the first week of November is one to celebrate – regardless of the results from the “greatest country in the world”.
Darcys – Centerfold
For awhile, Toronto indie rock group The Darcys seemed to struggle to find their place in the indie music scene. Described as a niche-art rock group, the original five-piece-turned-four went through numerous lineup changes, tough/life-threatened tour dates, and after four releases, eventually dropped back to a duo of founding members Jason Couse and Wes Marskell.
But the change didn’t stop there; their latest album Centerfold rejects the indie art-rock beginnings and instead looks to the current trend of dance floor-hungry indie electro-pop. And I think the Darcys have found where they belong.
Glowing synthesizers, ’80s-born rhythms and disco elements are brought into the 21st century with polished production and popular modern tastes. Although Centerfold is nothing to get overly excited for, it is still a fun pop-filled record perfect for Friday night pre-drinks and feel-good moments.
Must-haves: “Miracle” // “San Diego, 1988” // “Coming Up For Air”
Palace – So Long Forever
U.K. indie rock group Palace have been around for just over two years now, and they’ve wasted very little time recording music and releasing a debut record. Two years to be exact – So Long Forever is their debut full-length, and captures the alternative blues spirit of their music, pushed forward by glossy indie rock and brooding vocals. Based out of London, the band share some musical overlap with fellow Brit rock groups like Foals, (early) Coldplay, and The Maccabees, and will fit comfortably in the music library of fans of Kings of Leon and Hozier. Although dynamic, their music fills the space with a more relaxed demeanour, using subtly to create passion translated through enduring percussion, melodic guitar parts, and crisp vocals.
So Long Forever takes the gritty, sombreness of blues rock and uses it as the backbone of the band’s dynamic, indie rock sound. It flows easily, yet still edges its way forward with strong-handed instrumentation and expansive musicality that leaves a sweet aftertaste and warming spirit.
You can listen to the full album through Spotify, and order a copy through Fiction Records.
Must-haves: “Break the Silence ” // “It’s Over” // Holy Smoke”
Jim James – Eternally Even
It’s of no surprise My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James would release a psychedelic, experimental alternative rock album – especially since his 2013 debut solo album Regions of Light and Sound of God was a fairly experimental acoustic effort.
But while the 2013 debut was a secluded, somewhat-acoustic experimental collection, his follow-up Eternally Even is a much denser, more active record. Soulful songwriting, and puzzling lyricism are trademarks of James’ music, and a welcomed set of characteristics into the already-mesmerizing and glowing instrumentation found on the record. The psychedelia and experimental tendencies of James’ songwriting make for a powerful and pensive record, one that begs to be played front-to-back (good luck putting it on pause anyway).
Must-haves: “Same Old Lie” // “Here In Spirit” // “True Nature”
Lampchop – FLOTUS
Even though Lampchop are often categorized in the country section, their heavy experimental and electronic practices almost completely dissolve the western elements (aside from Kurt Wagner’s trucker hat). The only real connection to the genre is their Nashville origins, but definitions aside, they are progressive and unique – and veterans in the music world. Formed back in the early ’90s and with twelve studio records under their belt, Lambchop’s latest release FLOTUS (For Love Often Turns Us Still) is seen as a continuation of their two-decade existence.
Amongst a constant, fluid shift in members over the years, Lambchop’s frontman Kurt Wagner has remained the common element of the artist collective. His songwriting and ranging vocal presence comes alive once again on FLOTUS, as he puts his voice through effects and distortion, guiding the electronic textures and percussion behind him towards a comprehensible, yet unpredictable end goal.
Lush, meditative, and strangely appealing, FLOTUS is a capturing release from a band well ahead of its time. Filled with minor detailing and musical trinkets, the band’s twelfth studio album is a relaxing listen. You can stream the full album through Spotify, and get your copy through the band’s website.
Must-haves: “Relatives #2″ //”NIV” // “The Hustle”
Common – Black America Again
So there’s hip-hop (with pop intentions in parenthesis alongside), and then there’s hip-hop. A genre created and used by those looking to transpose and express social issues in a way they can share and feel at liberty to be artistic. Without turning this INPO into a history lesson, hip-hop has always been heavily rooted in Black America. Wordsmith, producer, and Chicago native, Common is continuing the tradition of the genre’s roots, turning his social observations and ideologies into soul/funk-inspired hip-hop tracks on his latest release Black America Again.
As a young, White male living in Canada, the album’s themes and subject is out of my realm of understanding (although frankly I would rather not turn this into a social/racial discourse), but it can still be appreciated from a distance, in the same way a history lecture points out the decisions and acts out of my immediate control. Take the album’s title track: it is a politically-charged anthem that is both a poetic and artistic way to continue the discussion in the U.S. about racial discrimination and inequality – and it makes for a passion-fuelled hip-hop track for those on the sidelines of the current situation.
One thing you can count on from Common is his consistency for staying true to his sound, even amongst a few experiments. His old-school delivery, fashioned over his 20-something year career comes back to life on his eleventh studio album. Melting ’90s hip-hop/R&B with that of the early-2000s, the album’s production rejects the current formula for hip-hop. Common’s articulate and smooth delivery is what has given the hip-hop star such a sturdy career, and with a handful of features on the new record – including John Legend, BJ the Chicago Kid, Bilal, and Stevie Wonder – Black America Again becomes a collective act, as Common leads the pack and the conversation, something he does well.
This is protest music, and it couldn’t come at a better time for American fans. But it’s also hip-hop music, something music fans can still enjoy.
Must-haves: “Black America Again” // “Pyramids” // “Letter to the Free”
La Coka Nostra – To Thine Own Self Be True
Four years since their sophomore record Masters of the Dark Arts, hip-hop supergroup La Coka Nostra have returned with To Thine Own Self Be True – a 12-track collection that stays true to the heavy-hitting, lyrically-dense hip-hop of Danny Boy, Slaine, and Ill Bill.
Slow Hollows – Romantic
Brit post-punk group Slow Hollows join the club of ’90’s lo-fi rock-revival bands with their lush, jangle pop release Romantic. Fresh out of high school, the young musicians are already making waves in the music industry. And providing a slightly more dynamic edge to the minimalistic genre certainly helps them stand out.
STRFKR – Being No One, Going Nowhere
Pronounced Star-fucker (hey, wasn’t my idea), dance-pop artist STRFKR has released his fourth album, continuing the trend of anti-pop electro-dance-pop hits. Drenched in irony, his new record is charming, catchy, and entertaining, an odd way of trying to make music not meant to be enjoyed by the masses. Nevertheless, Being No One, Going Nowhere has enough pep to get you through the day.
Sims – More Than Ever
Based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, alternative hip-hop artist Sims is now onto his third record More Than Ever, and refuses to slow down. Lyrically-driven, the new release is filled with dynamic production, and energized delivery, putting Sims within the ranks of Minnesota favourites such as Atmosphere, Eyedea, and Astronautalis.
Waterparks – Double Dare
Houston, Texas pop-punk group Waterparks turn their electronic-infused sound into youthful, worry-free tunes on their debut full-length. The young band struggle to find diversity in the 13-track release, but nevertheless, their music is catchy, energetic, and fun.