When Edmonton’s Jessica Jalbert first began performing solo under the name Faith Healer, the alias was her way of avoiding being pigeonholed as a singer-songwriter. Now, however, times have changed: Faith Healer has blossomed into a band, with singer-guitarist Jalbert joined by drummer/multi-instrumentalist Renny Wilson and their first album as a duo is Try ;-). The follow-up to 2015’s Cosmic Troubles was largely recorded during an intensive month-long session in September 2016 at Wilson’s personal studio in Montreal. During the process, Jalbert rented a room in Wilson’s house and the pair spent hours jamming and listening to bargain bin rock records in the basement. The resultant pop-rock arrangements are overflowing with beautiful sonic details-from the Twin Peaks synths that enshroud “Sterling Silver” to the funky clavinet nestled within the paisley-patterned pop of “& Waiting.” Jalbert and Wilson were also inspired by the garage-punk snarl of Wipers, the deadpan drama of Leonard Cohen’s Death Of A Ladies’ Man, and the classic songwriting chops of Scott Walker and Elvis Costello. The intensive creative process of making this album inspired the title and serves as a reminder that sometimes you need to grab life by the horns rather than waiting for inspiration to strike. As for that winky face: “I always use that winky emoticon,” Jalbert says with a laugh. “I think it’s hilarious. I think it’s cheeky and fun, which is something I was trying to access a little more with this record.” Balancing melancholy lyrics with playful moods, lush melodies with straightforward arrangements, this album is the sound of an introspective loner leaving her bedroom to make a rock record with her best bud.
The United States’ myriad inequalities, hatreds and phobias are painfully evident in 2017, offering proof that the age-old dichotomy of “political bands” versus “apolitical bands” simply doesn’t exist. Either you are comfortable and unfazed by the current reigning power structures, or you use your music as a vehicle for the dismantling of oppression and the creation of something better. No matter what your songs are about, you are choosing a side. Cost of Living is their third full-length, following a self-released 2012 debut and 2015’s Full Communism on Don Giovanni Records. They recorded it with Guy Picciotto (Fugazi; producer of Blonde Redhead, The Gossip), one of indie-rock’s most mythological figures, in the producer’s chair. Picciotto fostered the band’s improvisational urges while pulling the root of their music to the forefront: unflinching choruses, fearlessly confrontational vocals, and the sense that each song will incite the room into action, sending bodies into motion that were previously thought to have atrophied.
A tear in the firmament. Beyond the noxious haze of our national nightmare – as structures of social justice and global progress topple in our midst – there lies a faint but undeniable glow in the distance. What is it? Like so many before us we are drawn to the beacon. But only by the bootstraps of our indignation do we go so boldly into the dark to find it. And so Sheer Mag has let the sparks fly since their outset, with an axe to grind against all that clouds the way. A caustic war cry, seething in solidarity with all those who suffer the brunt of ignorance and injustice in an imbalanced system. Both brazen and discrete, loud yet precise, familiar but never quite like this, Sheer Mag crept up from Philadelphia cloaked in bold insignia to channel our social and political moment with grit and groove. Cautious but full of purpose. What is it? By making a music both painfully urgent and spiritually timeworn, Sheer Mag speaks to a modern pain: to a people who too feel their flame on the verge of being extinguished, yet choose to burn a bit brighter in spite of that threat. With their debut LP, the cloak has been lifted. It is time to reclaim what has been taken from us. Here the band rolls up their sleeves, takes to the streets, and demands recompense for a tradition of inequity that’s poisoned our world. However, it is in our ability to love-our primal human right to give and receive love -that the damage of such toxicity is newly explored. Love is a choice we make. We ought not obscure, neglect, or deny that choice. Through the tumult and the pain, the camaraderie and the cause, the band continues to burn a path into that great beyond. But where are we headed? On Need To Feel Your Love, they make their first full-length declaration of light seen just beyond our darkness. Spoken plainly, without shame: it is love.
There’s a track on Laurel Halo’s first album, 2012’s Quarantine, called “Joy.” At first it glows with warmth, but after a while dissonant chords cool the mood. On a record full of angst and paranoia, the message seemed to be that joy was something lost, or unattainable. Halo’s music since has pursued the emotion. On 2013’s Chance Of Rain, she ditched the anguished singing to focus on spry drum tracks inspired by her live sets; at the time, she wondered if “this is the kind of music that I’m meant to make, because it just makes me feel better. It’s more of a joyous process.” Dust, her latest and best LP, returns to vocals but goes one further: it’s “the happiest album I have made.”
A new Mount Eerie album unlike anything else in the Mount Eerie or Microphones back catalog. Eleven stark songs about basic deep grief, loss, real death, love, significance and non-significance, reality. Nothing wise or learned, just the described experience of living through unimaginable domestic obliteration, with names and dates.
For Sugar At The Gate, their third and most ambitious album to date, Montreal’s TOPS peaced out to LA. They lived and recorded at “Glamdale”, a mini-mansion and former brothel located in the Jewel City, Glendale, CA. The unassuming record unfolds slowly, taking time to reveal itself. Like nearly everything TOPS does, multiple meanings overlap with the album’s title referring to orgasm, but also to carrot chasing, gatekeeping, and the social contract. Vocalist-songwriter Jane Penny, at this point one of the most distinctive vocalists of her generation, took time during the recording learning how to drive in the Forest Lawn Cemetery parking lot. “Living in LA was living out a teenage fantasy, living with your band and practicing in the garage. It was also the first time we’ve ever had that much space to make music. I took the experience of living LA as a challenge to make music that I know is real to me, in the sense of it feeling true and containing true feelings, but also recordings of great songs, the real thing.”
Damn (stylized as DAMN.) is the fourth studio album by American rapper Kendrick Lamar. It was released on April 14, 2017, by Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records. The album features production from a variety of record producers, including executive producer from the Top Dawg Entertainment label-head Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Mike Will Made It and Ricci Riera; as well as production contributions from James Blake, Steve Lacy, BadBadNotGood, Greg Kurstin, The Alchemist and 9th Wonder, among others. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
Supa Dupa Fly is the debut studio album by rapper Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, released July 15, 1997 on The Goldmind and Elektra Records. The album was recorded and produced solely by Timbaland in October 1996, and features the singles, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”, “Sock It 2 Me”, “Hit Em wit da Hee” and “Beep Me 911”. Guest appearances on the album include Busta Rhymes, Ginuwine, Nicole, Keith Sweat, Magoo, Queen Latifah, Da Brat, 702, Lil’ Kim, K-CI & JoJo and Aaliyah. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It sold 1.2 million copies in the United States, where it was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, their third and finest full-length to date. Recorded live in July of 2016, with producer Matthew Simms (Wire) at Jackpot! in Portland, Oregon (birthplace of some of their favorite Elliott Smith records), it’s a dark and uncommonly beautiful set of moody post-punk that finds the Seattle outfit’s feelings in full view, unobscured by humor. There is no irony in its title: Before she had Chastity Belt, and the close relationships that she does now, Shapiro considered herself a career loner. That’s no small gesture. I can make as much sense of this music as I can my 20s: This is a brave and often exhilarating tangle of mixed feelings and haunting melodies that connects dizzying anguish (“This Time of Night”) to shimmering insight (“Different Now”) to gauzy ambiguity (“Stuck,” written and sung by Grimm). It’s a serious record but not a serious departure, defined best, perhaps, by a line that Shapiro shares early on its staggering title track: “I wanna be sincere.”
Beach House fans were spoiled in the late 2010s: Not only did the band release Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars within a year of each other, they followed it with an even deeper dive into their music with B-Sides and Rarities. Covering more than a decade’s worth of songs, the collection underscores that while Beach House’s music sounds fragile, it’s also surprisingly resilient. Their albums range from charmingly lo-fi to ethereal perfection without diminishing any of their poignant beauty, and B-Sides and Rarities is nearly as consistent. The set is bookended by a pair of songs that are classic Beach House: The previously unreleased “Chariot” begins with glowing keyboards and a ticking drum machine that are instantly, reassuringly familiar, while the drifting “Wherever You Go” closes the album with a slow fade. In between, B-Sides and Rarities points out the similarities and differences in Beach House’s music over the years, even if its tracks aren’t in chronological order. “Rain in Numbers,” a hushed, demo-quality song from 2005, proves once again that the interplay between Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally was magic from the start, while “Used to Be (2008 Single Version)” hints at the more polished approach they took on Teen Dream. Elsewhere, the Bloom outtake “Equal Mind” reflects that album’s crystalline beauty, and the whispery ruminations of “Baseball Diamond” (the collection’s other previously unreleased track) are lovely even if they’re not quite up to the standard of the songs that appeared on Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Many of B-Sides and Rarities’ scattered gems come from 2009 and 2010, including standouts such as a remixed version of “White Moon” from their iTunes session EP and the aptly narcotic “10 Mile Stereo (Cough Syrup Remix),” which inflates the song’s melancholy to vast proportions. Meanwhile, other Teen Dream-era outtakes like “Baby,” a sardonic waltz about an overly confident lover, and the ’70s sunshine pop-indebted “The Arrangement,” serve as reminders that the band’s rare glimpses of humor are a refreshing part of their music. A live version of “Norway” with a different bridge, and a lullaby cover of Queen’s “Play the Game” are treats for super fans that round out a collection that’s lovely in its own right, and in its own way, is just as representative of Beach House’s music as a traditional best-of would be.