A surprisingly common occurrence – that’s unsurprisingly really fun for me – is when friends or acquaintances hand me their phone and say, “download some new albums you think I’ll like.” Considering music is peanuts in cost (cough, buy your music), it’s lovely when someone just hands over their device and trusts me with $16 of their account in return for a couple dozen great new songs. It’s either that or an urgent request in the form of someone squealing “send me new music!” over the phone – which can be a little more stressful and time consuming. Whether the latter or the former, either way – it comes down to some people recognizing that they, understandably, don’t know where to start in the sea of weekly new releases.
One thing I’m very sure about, though – is that weekends, summer and (hopefully) hot weather call for good music. Therefore, no one should go without. Although I’m not toiling around on your phone or assembling a personalized playlist, these five picks for what should coast through your car windows or blast from your porch party might cover off the basics.
Yeezus – Kanye West: By now you’ve probably read far too many think pieces on this highly anticipated release, and are probably straddling the fence as to how you’re supposed to feel about it – considering half of critics think Ye dropped the ball and half think he’s never been more ballsy. I happen to side more with the latter. Yeezus is challenging, raw and not for the faint of heart – but the fact that I hang off his every word for the duration of the 40 minute album, intrigued and impressed by his mechanized beats and snarling confessions, kind of tells me he’s still iconic and, somehow, only edging towards his full potential. Either way, listen to it and feel how you want to feel about it – there’s an idea. Hear: “Black Skinhead” and “I Am A God”
X – Arts and Crafts 10th Anniversary Compilation: If you can even believe it’s been 10 years since the foster parent label of the Broken Social Scene brood and all of its various spin-offs originated on the Toronto music scene, then you need to pick up the anniversary compilation featuring A&C’s favourite artists and friends. Arts & Crafts has such a special place in the heart of Canadian music critics and listeners, so, to have the family reunite for a disc of new tunes and interpretations is nothing less than special. Hear: “Lonely is As Lonely Does” – Hayden and Jason Collett and “Nothing Good Comes to Those Who Wait” – Stars and Chilly Gonzalez
Desire Lines – Camera Obscura: The first album in four years from Glaswegian indie poppers Camera Obscura is just as precious as anyone would expect. Filled with those 50s surf-rock melodies that bounce under Tracyanne Campbell’s sweetheart croon, Desire Lines is the happy answer to your humid summer apartment parties and the perfect pairing with a PBR-filled night on the rooftop. Some call it simple or predictable retro rock, whereas I think quite the opposite; in over a decade of serenading us with perky and youthful anthems, their lyrical aptness and melodic knack hasn’t faltered. Hear: “New Year’s Resolution”, “Do It Again” and “Fifth in Line to the Throne”
Avalanche – Quadron: Falling in line with the latest neo soul music craze – a blend of alt-R&B and funk combinations that likely won’t make it to the top 40 but spawned genius contributors like Rhye and Jessie Ware – Quadron have wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon with their two magical albums. Avalanche, which features the same creamy groove ingredients and vocal delicacy as Rhye (because producer Robin Hannibal of Quadron is also one-half of Rhye) is the perfect sexy soundtrack for summer 2013, thanks to his polished production and singer Coco Karshøj’s airy vibrato. Hear (and try not to kiss a stranger): “Better Off” featuring Kendrick Lamar and “Crush”
…Like Clockwork – Queens of the Stone Age: Josh Homme chanting and Dave Grohl drumming are a fine combination in any of my books. Add in the fact that the newest release from the alt-rock powerhouses was inspired by Josh Homme’s near-death experience on an operating table – and things get just that much more interesting. Conceptually, …Like Clockwork’s darker, more serious storylines show a maturation from the sometimes radio-rockers earlier days – but, not to worry – the album is anything but too mature; the searing guitar licks and operatic build-ups kick it into their usual energetic high gear. Hear: “I Sat By The Ocean” and “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”
Born Sinner – J. Cole
Olympia – Austra
I Love You – Said the Whale
Kveikur - Sigur Ros