Editor’s note: I drafted this in August 2014. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it.
One of the things I do in my “free time” is volunteer as music director at WRIR. Basically, I be a librarian for the genres we don’t already have covered by genre directors, namely Rock, AAA (Adult Album Alternative), and RPM (electronic). I receive the physical and digital albums from promoters and labels, keep track of how many times they are played, create weekly charts of the top 30 albums, and make sure that the new & recommended shelves stay fresh.
As you might expect, I get to hear tons of new music. We receive 25-40 new albums a week, depending on the time of year. It’s particularly notable, then, when an album catches my ear more than, “Oh, that’s pretty good. So-and-so will probably play it on their show.”
Land Observations – The Grand Tour (Mute)
This is the second album by James Brooks with the moniker Land Observations. It reminds me very much of Tycho, with whom I am mildly obsessed. Hypnotic patterns and melodies driven by acoustic guitar over electronic soundscapes evoking hazy dusks in late spring when the air is perfect and all seems right with the world. [Spotify] [Amazon]
Jenny Lewis – The Voyager (Warner Bros.)
I’ve been a fan of Rilo Kiley ever since I heard their 2007 album Under the Blacklight. Yeah. A little late to the game. I tried following Lewis after the band split up, but her music didn’t grab me until this album. Tight pop/rock arrangements that remind me of the early 90s in that they don’t have the over-produced sheen of modern rock. She doesn’t shy away from tough subjects in the lyrics, and the voice that drew me in seven years ago is still compelling. [Spotify] [Amazon]
Damien Dempsey – It’s All Good: The Best of Damien Dempsey (IRL)
Dempsey is an Irish singer/songwriter with an impressive catalog, as reflected in this double-disc retrospective. And yet, I hadn’t heard of him before. Well, technically I had, as he’s the subject of Amy Ray’s song “Damo,” but I didn’t know that until I listened to this album. Poignant lyrics paired with acoustic rock arrangements and a rough but steady voice you’ll learn to recognize immediately. [Spotify] [Amazon]
The Glitch Mob – Love Death Immortality (Glass Air)
I was introduced to the band through their last album, Drink the Sea, and played the song “Drive It Like You Stole It” more times than I’m willing to admit (last.fm says 17, but it’s probably more). Needless to say, I was looking forward to the new album, and I’m happy to say I was not disappointed. For the most part, the arrangements are driving, glitchy, electronic, and melodic with an aggressive rock vibe. It’s hard to sit still while listening. [Spotify] [Amazon]
Tycho – Awake (Ghostly International)
Scott Hansen’s first album as Tycho (Dive) came out in 2011, and I heard it because I happened to play it on my show at the radio station back when I was doing mostly electronic music. I was instantly captivated by the acoustic guitar and synth hooks over atmospheric soundscapes. Where Land Observations’ The Grand Tour reminds me of late spring dusks, Awake is more like cool summer sunrises. The styles are similar, but Tycho puts a little more drive in his arrangements, which almost lend themselves to lyrics and vocals, but remain instrumental. [Spotify] [Amazon]