Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
Will we ever be able to judge Lana Del Rey’s music by its own merit and leave behind any persistent thoughts of her mysterious/so-called calculated rise to popularity and Saturday Night Live performances that caused the Internet to explode a couple weeks back? Who knows — the dust has yet to settle ahead of the release of the 25-year-old’s debut Born To Die tomorrow. Most of the reviews of the album range from cautious or skeptical to downright scathing. Head below to see our roundup of what the critics have to say about Del Rey’s first big outing as a pop star. Read the full Meta Review on Idolator
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
While Cohen’s always played on the insistence of mortality, the album tremors with a sense of finality that leaves one to wonder whether this is the last batch of Cohen originals. This is certainly at least partially due to the assumption that he can’t keep doing this forever, but songs like “Amen” (which visually strikes like a conclusion to the grandeur of “Hallelujah”) with its graveyard horn solo and talk of the Lord’s vengeance strike that note too strongly to ignore. Read the full review on Consequence of Sound
Gotye – Making Mirrors
with his newest release, Making Mirrors, Gotye has figured out how to remain sonically voracious while still giving his listeners a sturdy foothold. He finds room here for psych-rock, soul, earnest balladeering, creepy retro-futurism, electronic and Tropicalia touches, and, yes, scads of serious-minded 1980s pop. It’s in that last category that most of album’s best moments reside. Without ever settling in one spot too slavishly or lengthily to come off like a mere imitator, Gotye deploys his sincere, powerfully expressive voice (under-utilized on Like Drawing Blood) in evoking those bombastic 80s pop architects[...] Read the full review on pitckfork
Ani DiFranco – Which Side Are You On?
DiFranco will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and she seems to understand and accept that the audience she has gathered before her is the one who will still be there for the end of the show. “Amendment” is an angry, righteous sputter. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an amendment to give civil rights to women?” she asks, then answers herself sardonically: “that’s just redundant. Chicks got it good now; they can almost be President.” On the brooding, Nick Drake-like “Zoo,” which closes out the set, DiFranco seems to startle herself with new insights. “I think I’m what they call sensitive and easily thrown off my game,” she acknowledges, almost apologetically explaining that she can’t keep up with television because “all that shit and pettiness just makes me feel drained,” finally adding that she walks “past all my old self-loathing like I walk past animals in the zoo, trying not to really see them in a prison they didn’t choose.” Read the full review on SoundSpike
Skrillex – Bangarang
Skrillex is back with his third EP (I don’t count More Monsters and Sprites, it was just remixes ), and without a doubt, he brought his A game. It’s a seven track EP, each stuffed to the gills with pure Skrillex amazingness. Sonny Moore’s production is utterly unique; a totally distinctive style that occasionally avoids transitions altogether, preferring to just smack you in the face with his instantly recognizable distorted wobble bass. Read the full review on Salacious Sounds
Chimes of Freedom – The Songs of Bob Dylan
he music of Dylan and Guthrie has been used prominently in “Occupy” protests across this country and at game-changing political uprisings in other countries. And these projects surrounding their work come just in time for what looks to be an exceptionally volatile presidential election year, one that comes on the heels of last year’s Arab Spring protests that toppled long-entrenched repressive governments in several countries and helped foment myriad “Occupy” demonstrations in the U.S. and abroad.
Plus, both the Guthrie and Dylan projects tap a broad swath of artists from the pop music world, efforts that will likely draw attention across disparate genres, social and economic strata, gender, race and geographical boundaries.
The pairing of artist and beneficiary for the “Chimes of Freedom” project is a natural: Dylan released his first album in 1962, a short time after Amnesty began lobbying on behalf of prisoners of conscience. Both were informed by the conflicts between forces of totalitarianism and freedom during World War II and the consequent politics of the Cold War. Both found inspiration and validation in the politically minded music of Guthrie as well as that of Seeger, the Weavers and other folk revivalists who came to the fore in the ‘50s. Read the full review on The Boston Herald
Dum Dum Girls - Only In Dreams This is hands down my most listened to album of this year. Everything about this album is exactly as it should be. Understated, but not too simple and very catchy. Her rich voice brings unexpectedly dark lyrics; all of the songs are about love, loss, and death. This album has a lot in common with country and Americana in terms of sound and lyrical content, almost like a goth-pop Neko Case or something. Wasted Away is my current favorite of the bunch, but it changes daily. Each track is a gem.
Cold Cave - Cherish the Light Years Surely you know by now that this is the project of Wesley Eisold, vocalist for hardcore bands Some Girls and American Nightmare, both of which have a total cult following, especially here in Richmond. Both of which I never really got into. That would even be an overstatement…I don’t think I’ve ever even heard the band Some Girls. In high school when all of my friends were getting into hardcore, I was realizing that I was probably not all that punk, and that I wanted to dress better. Oh well. The first Cold Cave record was great, although totally derivative of that No-wave minimal synth, Joy Division thing. Not to detract - for those of us enamoured with the 80’s no wave sound, Love Comes Close was welcomed with open arms, mostly because the 80’s are over and I’ve played all those Joy Division songs a billion times, and this is something new. But there wasn’t anything wildly different about it. It was catchy and dark and dancey and that’s great, but it feels like he put that record out to sort of say, “Here is this completely different thing that I can do, get interested in that,” so that he could grab people’s attention, and once the hype was up he drops this crazy bomb Cherish the Light Years on us. It is over the top, there is even a track with a huge ska-esque horn section. But it’s interesting, and the tracks are each different enough to stand out, and I even dig the melodramatic lyrics.
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake She can do no wrong. While I really loved White Chalk, I am glad that her newest is less ethereal and a sort of return to that tried and true PJ Harvey sound. She does sing a lot of those eerie high notes, a la White Chalk, but it comes and goes here. The content here is political, more mature, and less personal; some of the meaning is almost out of reach for someone not born and raised in the UK, but that doesn’t stop it from sounding hauntingly gorgeous.
Crystal Stilts - Radiant Door EP and In Love With Oblivion The EP is only 20 minutes long and 2 of the tracks are covers, but it got more plays than their full length at my house. Lots of Velvet Underground and No-Wave influences here, but nods to lots of other genres too. The cover of Lee Hazelwood’s ‘Still as the Night’ sounds like some rockabilly horror movie soundtrack exerpt. His vocals are deep and hazy, I like that they are often fuzzed out or mixed into the background enough to make the lyrical content not a huge part of the point. Jangly, reverby, lo-fi, goth-pop at its finest.
Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost I can’t help it, I love this band. This new record sounds like their masterpiece and I think they know it. The packaging is deluxe, the songs are deeper, more thought out, and draw from a wider array of musical styles. Front to back this album rocks, there isn’t a bad track in the bunch. Every time I read anything about this band there is mention of the fact that the front-man Christopher Owens was brought up in the Children of God cult, which means he was very sheltered from popular music and culture. While that is a really interesting fact, I think it ultimately has nothing to do with his music or success. This record is heavily influenced by 60s and 70s rock, but there is a little bit of everything thrown in here, from classic metal to alt-country.
My name is Alan, I am a former Pure Pop employee. Josh LaClair’s year end list has a lot of the same stuff that I’ve been listening to A LOT, but I left those albums off bc his write ups are already very good, so just look at that. ALSO AWESOME: Wye Oak – Civilian, Machinedrum – Rooms, Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact, Cass McCombs – Catacombs, Zola Jesus – Conatus, Amen Dunes – Through Donkey Jaw, Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder, Oneohtrix Point Never- Replica.