I'm just going to go ahead and call this year for James Blake. A breakout album featuring a very popular Feist cover, sold out shows, including a stand out performance at this year's Pitchfork Festival, buzz over some snarky comments about state of dubstep in America, and now a second release. On the whole Enough Thunder is significantly quieter than expected, especially considering the tone of his live show has been growing more energetic and bass heavy (read: fun). The beautiful Joni Mitchell cover, "A Case Of You", is completely un-Blake-erated; just the voice and the piano. "Once We All Agree" and "We Might Feel Unsound" are both icey tracks, hinting at dropping into something deeper, but that never materializes. The Bon Iver dream collab seemed like no-brainer, but actually it's just overwhelmingly meh, the low point of the album. Enough Thunder is a worthwhile addition, especially for those who are already fans, but this is not an album of progression so much as it's a deeper exploration of where Blake is right now.
This is the third full length release for Future Islands, and On The Water finds them in fine form. The Baltimore-based band's particular flavor of synth-pop ranges from light and poppy dance tracks ("Balance") to serious ballads ("On The Water") ; these guys know how to write a killer break up song. But something every listener must come to terms with is frontman Samuel Herring's over-the-top theatrical voice, sounding like a Shakespearean actor is emoting every word. You will either love it or won't be able to deal with it, but for those who can move past the initial shock, an album full of beautiful and toe-tapping moments awaits.
If you were recently chastising yourself for not getting to the ballet or the museum to artistically challenge yourself in some manner, relax; the new Bjork album is here. A release from Bjork is always a celebrated event, and the buzz surrounding Bilophilia is no different. Bjork has always been an early adapter (creator?) of all things cool, and to that end the album is a collaboration with Apple, allowing each track will be issued as an app for the iPad. As for the music itself, while it may be wonderful, it is also difficult. Her voice is perfectly tailored to the bizarre and beautiful melodies, but the whispers and shrieks tend to run together after awhile and sometimes the songs are downright scary. Spend a little time with the lyrics and you will hear all manner of scientific and nature-based stuff woven in: talk of proteins, transmutations, crystals, creation of the universe, dark matter and so on. "Virus" opens "Like a virus needs a body / As soft tissue feeds on blood / Some day I’ll find you, the urge is here" - we are very far away from "Quiet," but it is one of the prettier tracks, just to confuse you further. "Crystaline" is the stand out with frenetic drum and bass beats pulsing towards the close, but there is no single here for radio play. This would be an amazing album to see performed live; listening to it more than once in a row could be a chore. But let's remember, it's Bjork. This is how she wants it.
Still Corners are English duo Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray. The songs are beautiful and lush, sad and mysterious, with Murray's dreamy voice floating effortlessly over the moody production. Charming at turns, it's all very David Lynch-ian and somehow instantly familiar. You will think of Portishead and The xx and School Of Seven Bells as you try to figure out where you've heard these guys before. It's a wonderful album to be enveloped by. Headphones are a must for at least a couple listens.
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