T for Tom

2015 Midseason Review on Music

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsontoms on July 7, 2015

Through the midway point of the year, here’s the five best records I’ve heard so far, in some particular order:

Seoul – I Become a Shade

A Montreal-based trio of shoegaze ethics filtered through an indie, new wave lens. This seems less like the rough debut from a young group of musicians, and more like the final culmination of a musical generation’s combined aspirations and creativity. Seoul has taken everything about the last five years in alternative music and perfected it.

Reptar – Lurid Glow

There will never be another David Byrne, but Reptar give it their best shot by crafting finely tuned, tightly wound, and rapidly moving rock’n’roll in the spirit of Talking Heads meets Yes. You don’t have to be a fan of progressive rock to appreciate the alternative simplicity that keeps this broad piece of work tethered to the ground, while remaining positively spirited and full of energy. It feels like its from outer space, twenty years ago and twenty years coming on.  Get your feet moving.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Carrie & Lowell is held back for the same reason it is lifted to the top of this year’s music: it’s just so damn heavy. For a record of hymns, soulful mourns, and sheer whimsy, it is both profoundly spiritual and drearily burdensome. It is the best listen you will have all year, but also the most painful. Recommended listening is once in a while only every now and then, to keep its beauty in perspective and to keep your emotions stable.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Hip-hop’s new king has done it again, in fuller and broader context. Butterfly is missing anything resembling a radio hit (and probably is the sole reason for its un-marketed and hasty release), but not to any defect. Like 2012’s Good Kid M.A.D.D City, Butterfly is more a story than a music album, peaking to its finest moment as the record closes: 8-minutes of conversation between Lamar and collaborator Common whose discussion of racial division and ethics in modern America ties the record and its story of antagonist Lucy together, while imploring the listener to understand that Lamar’s music is as much protest as it is art. Any listener can immediately grasp this gravity just three tracks in where Lamar refers to himself as “King Kunta”; any listener failing that comparison needs a primer on racial politics in media history, as much as we need this record.  You cannot listen to any one track and hear a masterpiece, but you should listen to it from start to finish to fully grasp its genius.

Passion Pit – Kindred

The marketing of Passion Pit’s third LP, Kindred, immediately evokes M83’s 2011 master-work, Hurry.Up.We’re.Dreaming, but it never seems stolen or borrowed in context. It is still very much Passion Pit music, with its melodic flights and soaring choruses built on strong, falsetto hooks. Passion Pit succeeds by simply taking his popular equation and making it tighter – unlike Manners and Gossamer, Kindred takes us quickly into the heavens and quickly out without ever getting lost. Recommended listening: loudly with the sun shining.

All New Releases So Far:

Belle & Sebastian – Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance

Leon Bridges – Coming Home

Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi

Dr. Dog – Live At a Flamingo Hotel

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers

The Early November – Imbue

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

Jose Gonzalez – Vestiges & Claws

Guster – Evermotion

The Helio Sequence – The Helio Sequence

Jamie XX – In Color

Kendrick Lamar – How To Pimp A Butterfly

Lord Huron – Strange Trails

My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

Of Monsters & Men – Beneath The Skin

Passion Pit – Kindred

Purity Ring – Another Eternity

Reptar – Lurid Glow

Seoul – I Become A Shade

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Toro Y Moi – What For?

Twin Shadow – Eclipse

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