Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do.
This is the most distilled Fiona Apple album yet. While her celebrated previous work was marked by eclectic musical flourishes courtesy of producers including Jon Brion and Mike Elizondo, The Idler Wheel is fearlessly austere in comparison. She worked with touring drummer Charley Drayton on the album, and his touches are light and incisive. Speaking of the record’s signature clattering percussion– including thigh slaps, truck stomps, and “pillow,” according to the credits– Apple associated the homemade sounds with an increased freedom: “I just like that feeling of: ‘I’m in charge, I can do whatever I want.’” And this musique concrète approach is not random. Every single waveform is pierced with purpose, from the muted heartbeat thumping through “Valentine” to the childlike plinks popping around the uncharacteristically optimistic “Anything We Want” to the chugging factory sounds that give “Jonathan” its uneasy rhythm. Read the full review on Pitchfork
Liars – WIXIW
For this album, Liars holed up in a studio under the 101 freeway in L.A. and learned how to produce electronic music. The space has no windows and is situated in a forgotten area of the city, where the glitz of L.A turns to grime and decay. This environment shaped the contours of WIXIW. It is an album about sequestering yourself and digging deep inside your own head. Beginning with opening track “The Exact Color of Doubt” it’s clear that, sonically speaking, this theme translates into an expansive yet intensely intimate sound. Sweeping, dreamlike synths circle around sparse percussion and Andrews’ voice (something like an unpolished Thom Yorke) meanders aimlessly. It’s a song fit to be played during a nighttime scuba diving excursion. In fact, most of the record feels deeply associated with water. Specifically, being alone and deep, surrounded on all sides by pressure and the unknown, looking up at one guiding light on the surface. Read the full review on Pretty Much Amazing
Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
This is the album that needed to surface back in 2007. With Zeitgeist, Corgan lost himself amidst a complicated jigsaw puzzle that was always destined to lay unfinished on the dining room table, namely because he kept looking for the missing pieces in other boxes. It didn’t help that the only support he received was himself and producer Roy Thomas Baker, whose sensationalized, glossy production made everything feel as real as a Hasbro action figure. On Oceania, however, Corgan exerts a different kind of authority, one that’s level-headed enough to go somewhere, and with people behind him. The songs actually feel like songs and not tracks digitally titled “Smashing Pumpkins anthem.” But why? Read the full review on Consequence of Sound