Weird Al Yankovic, Mandatory Fun: Honestly, probably the only album worth caring about today. Weird Al actually gets more popular with each passing year, and that fact delights me to no end. Parodies of “Happy,” “Royals,” “Blurred Lines” and a Pixies homage (“First World Problems”) that sounds more like the Pixies than the Pixies do these days RECOMMENDED
Morrissey, World Peace Is None of Your Business: Morrissey is back, and he’s more bitter and insular than ever. I am one of the world’s biggest Moz fans (I see him every time he comes to NY), but on World Peace, he’s operating at a whole new level of smug and self-satisfied. Douglas Wolk says:
On his 10th studio album, and first in five years, Morrissey offers no surprising changes of direction. It is, rather, the most concentrated blast of Morrisseyism yet crafted by anyone. In its dogged pursuit of operatic outrage, its high-aesthetic delicacy, and its self-righteous loathing for anyone who oppresses Moz by being unlike him, it does exactly what it says on the tin. In effect, that means that World Peace Is None of Your Business is, in places, a genuinely beautiful record; that, in places, it’s a self-parodying embarrassment; and that, in places, it dives so far past self-parody that it becomes, once again, genuinely beautiful.
b>Bleachers, Strange Desire: The newest project from fun.’s Jack Antonoff. Maura Johnston says:
The baggage accompanying Bleachers’ debut will probably dominate much of its coverage, which is too bad, because Strange Desire itself is a solid series of effervescent homages to past New Wave triumphs, delivered with arena-sized ambition. “Shadow” opens with a jittery guitar before transforming itself a soccer-crowd rework of Joe Jackson’s “You Can’t Get What You Want”; “Reckless Love” has a militaristic beat over which Antonoff’s lower-depths voice asks for “a chance to remember.”
Jungle, Jungle: A fresh slant on dusty old soul. Barry Walters says:
Longtime friends Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland sing everything together over riffs they clearly crib from old R&B, funk and disco. But they play them as an adventurously arty post-punk band might, and then feed their performances through 21st-century production that turns it into something ghostly yet extraordinarily tense. Imagine blaxploitation soundtracks with the mutes permanently stuck in not just the trumpets but every single instrument, or a Marvin Gaye/Joy Division mash-up given a Lee “Scratch” Perry dub mix.
Luluc, Passerby: Acoustic folk that succeeds because of, not despite, its classicism. Simon Price says:
Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett, an Australian indie-folk duo who live between Melbourne and Brooklyn, never do anything with their tranquil and traditionalist acoustic folk that would startle anyone familiar with the Civil Wars or, for that matter, the ’70s works of Richard and Linda Thompson. In fact, Passerby is so free from modernity that if someone told you it was a long-lost recording by a pair of Bleecker Street bohemians, you wouldn’t blink.
Reigning Sound, Shattered: Bright new record from the rightfully-enduring Reigning sound. This is the cleanest and most direct guitar-pop frontman Greg Cartwright has ever written. Stephen M. Deusner talked with him about his life in song.
Anna Calvi, Strange Weather: Lovely, eerie EP from Anna Calvi full of super-minimal arrangements that leave plenty of room for Calvi’s dark, chalky voice. Riveting.
Puss ‘n’ Boots, No Fools, No Fun: That Norah Jones is cooler than the music she makes under her own name implies is something of an open secret. You get the sense she keeps inventing aliases to exercise her other impulses while keeping the main Jones brand pure. And so: Puss ‘N’ Boots, a country record that, while not exactly boundary-pushing, is still freer and looser than Jones tends to be on her own. There’s a cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.,” as well as a song called “Sex Degrees of Separation.”
Army Navy, The Wilderness Inside: The latest from our pals at Army Navy is full of the same great, ringing power pop that made us love them in the first place. Sturdy, shining songs, executed expertly. God bless ‘em.
Fink, Hard Believer: Bristol-raised DJ Fin Greenall dedicates his latest Fink LP to somber, lushly orchestrated songwriting. Victoria Segal says:
The title track’s stately gothic feel suggests Mark Lanegan, while the expansive “White Flag” sounds like a woozy vamp round a lost Bad Seeds piano motif. With two live albums — 2012′s Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet and 2013′s Fink Meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra — to the Fink name, Greenall’s ambitions have always been admirably grand, and Hard Believer should bring their fulfillment ever closer. As he sings on the moody Radiohead glower of “Pilgrim”: “From small beginnings come big endings.” After a slow build, Hard Believer feels like something of a career climax.
Honeyblood, Honeyblood: Moody, shadowy guitar-pop from Scottish duo is, by turns, churlish and charming (the chorus of “Super Rat” goes “I will hate you forever”).
The Deep Freeze Mice, The Best Of (1979-1988): I’m really into this. Naturally. The excellent Night People label bring us a compilation from super-weirdo UK post-punk combo The Deep Freeze Mice, which straddles the line between post-punk and proto new wave and just plain bonkers. RECOMMEDNED
Slow Club, Complete Surrender: More soft-n-slinky nighttime pop music from Slow Club. Like a sleepier St. Etienne.
Richard Reed Parry, Music for Heart and Breath: The Arcade Fire member pens a sometimes-jarring classical piece. Seth Colter Walls says:
The big “orchestra” piece on the album, “For Heart, Breath and Orchestra” is sketched more patiently than it was on a prior recording by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, in 2011. But the tempo-free pointillism loses tension for stretches, and seems a less ideal venue for the sighing motifs heard in the earlier “Heart and Breath” pieces. The following, seven-movement “Interruptions” (for a nonet that includes the brothers Dessner on guitar), has a sour, brooding quality, all without abandoning the judiciously “at-peace” sense of Parry’s music. It would have been a fine way to end the album, though the composer gives us two more lovely, if inessential, looks at the “Heart and Breath” series, with a “Duet” between himself on piano and Nadia Sirota on viola, and then a Kronos Quartet version of the “Quartet.”
Princess Superstar, I’m a Firecracker: The original Kesha returns with six new smartass rap songs featuring her patented snapping-bubblegum delivery. The production is a little glittery (it’s a far cry from the genius of “Bad Babysitter,” but it’s a new Princess Superstar EP, and “Chick Habit” nicks the melody from “Laisse Tomber Les Filles,” so, I mean, come on.
Mexican Slang, Inside the Velvet Castle: Pretty excellent little scuzzbucket EP of grinding, guitar-driven garage with snarling, swooping vocals. RECOMMENDED
United Nations, The Next Four Years: A potent sucker punch to anyone who found Thursday too “soft.” Andrew Parks says:
The Next Four Years drops a stable quartet of storm troopers on the frontlines alongside Geoff Rickly, however, producing an LP that could actually land on the year-end lists of proper metal publications. “This is serious business,” Rickly sing-speaks toward the end of the album’s first track, answering our earlier question in a roundabout way. He then spends most of the next half hour screeching like a grindcore singer, discrediting the dopiness of song titles like “Fuck the Future,” “United Nations Find God” and “Meanwhile on Main Street.”