My latest draft blog post covers Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson and includes lots of gossip on teams’ preferences for their first picks. I’ve got a top 100 draft ranking due to run on Tuesday.
Django Django – Shake and Tremble. Due on Tuesday, Django Django’s sophomore album, Born Under Saturn, marks their first output since their Mercury Prize-nominated debut, an album that likely would have won the award had it not run into the alt-J juggernaut that year. If you liked “Default” and “Hail Bop,” this lead single will be up your alley, with a similar psychedelic/dance beat but more hints of the heyday of pop-rock in the 1970s and ’80s.
The National – Sunshine on My Back. I shouldn’t like this song, an unreleased track from their Trouble Will Find Me sessions that combines two vocalists whose singing styles I dislike, Matt Berninger and Sharon Van Etten. You can understand Berninger’s words here – maybe that’s why they left it on the cutting room floor – and I love the way all of the instruments work together to provide an enormous buildup of tension that calls for a catharsis that never arrives.
Houndmouth – Sedona. Roots-rock that draws from alt-country and american folk traditions. I could see Houndmouth becoming the new Mumford & Sons, a band that crosses over into the mainstream by putting harmonic elements and pop arrangements on top of genres that don’t typically attract top 40 attention.
Drenge – Favourite Son. The most Drenge-like track from their strong sophomore album, Undertow, which I reviewed two weeks back.
Lord Huron – Meet Me in the Woods. I reviewed Strange Trails, the band’s second album, in mid-April; this is one of my two favorite tracks on the album.
Mumford & Sons – The Wolf. Speaking of Mr. Mulligan and friends, they’ve plugged in for their forthcoming album, Wilder Mind, which comes out on Tuesday … but so far I’m not hearing anything remotely new in the singles they’ve released. It sounds like Babel with electric guitars, and, speaking as someone who truly enjoyed their debut album, I am not interested in a rehashing of their somewhat stagnant follow-up.
The Wombats – Emoticons. Their latest album, Glitterbug, feels like it has some breakthrough potential, with more consistent work across the record’s eleven tracks, slightly poppier melodies, and all of the wit and wordplay that has made Matthew Murphy one of my favorite lyricists.
San Cisco – Too Much Time Together. I’ve only given their sophomore album, Gracetown, a couple of spins so far, but I’ve liked most of what I’ve heard; this track is my daughter’s favorite and I think it’s easy to hear why.
Tame Impala – Cause I’m A Man. The lyrics are a step up for Tame Impala front man Kevin Parker, although I find his falsetto a bit cloying; I could see this ballad getting cross-over airplay thanks to the music’s heavy influences from 1960s and 1970s soft-rock artists, without abandoning Tame Impala’s trademark psychedelic sound.
Kero Kero Bonito – Picture This. My pick for the feel-good hit of the summer; KKB’s previous songs are all disposable if not outright embarrassing J-Pop trifles, but this song has an obnoxious edge to its lyrics (mocking folks who photograph every aspect of their lives so they can share the pics on social media) and music that was absent from their previous efforts.
Failure – Hot Traveler. This alternative trio will release their first album in nineteen years in late June, and only their fourth full-length release overall. They suffered a bit from overgenrification in their 1990s heyday, touring with Tool (a much heavier, more prog-rock act) while not quite fitting in with the grunge or post-hardcore movements that were the flavor of the year. If you don’t remember Failure’s work, you probably know of former member Troy Van Leeuwen, who is currently a member of Queens of the Stone Age and played with A Perfect Circle on three albums.
Wild Beasts – Woebegone Wanderers II. An unexpected new release from the British art-rock quartet whose music is only consistent in its weirdness, this song is a sort of sequel to the track of the same name from their 2008 debut album, Limbo, Panto.
Speedy Ortiz – The Graduates. Their second full-length album, Foil Deer, came out on April 20th, with a very similar overall noise-pop vibe to their debut, featuring Sadie Dupuis’ faintly warbling vocals and the band’s heavy use of unexpected chord changes and tritone-based riffs.
Jamie xx with Romy – Loud Places. Both members of the Mercury Prize-winning, highly overrated indie-pop act the xx, Jamie (producer) and Romy (singer) collaborated on this, the only decent song I’ve ever heard from him (Jamie). It’s by turns sad and ecstatic, a pastiche of song scraps that wouldn’t appear to work together until you hear them.
Strange Wilds – Pronoia. Strange Wilds are a power trio from the Pacific Northwest who bear a strong resemblance to pre-Nevermind Nirvana and are signed to Sub Pop, the label that owned grunge before the term went mainstream. Their first album is due this summer.
Ceremony – Your Life In France. Post-punk that derives musically from Wire (whom they covered on a 2011 EP) and Gang of Four, but here skipping the politics for a song about loss and regret. “The Separation,” another promising track from their forthcoming album, is getting some airplay on Sirius XM.
Violent Soho – Fur Eyes. The best track from the Australian alternative band’s album Hungry Ghost, which was released in their home country in September 2013 but didn’t come out here until a year later, and is just now getting a fresh marketing push.
Of Monsters and Men – I Of The Storm. I might be looking forward to this album as much as any due the rest of this year.
Kid Astray – Cornerstone. This Norwegian sextet had a hit on alternative radio in 2013 with “The Mess,” a song that was both catchy and incredibly quirky, sounding at multiple points like the band had cut up several tracks and stitched them back together at random. This track has a much more conventional structure, and the shared male/female vocals have them firmly in Naked & Famous territory.
Torres – Sprinter. I’m not a huge fan of Mackenzie Scott’s solo work (that would be Paul Boyé’s domain), but there’s some promise in the singles from her upcoming second album. I think it’s her voice that keeps me from becoming a bigger fan.
Blur – Lonesome Street. Remember when Blur’s music was cheerful and energetic, even when Damon Albarn’s lyrics were their most biting? “Country House,” “Charmless Man,” “Chemical World,” “Girls and Boys” – these songs were all exuberant in contrast with their satirical nature. Blur’s new album, The Magic Whip, their first since 2003, is positively maudlin in contrast with all of their work from the mid-90s, before their discography took a turn for the worse with 13. Only three tracks from this album could stand up with their Britpop halcyon days – “Go Out,” “I Broadcast,” and the opener “Lonesome Street,” which boasts a shuffling, syncopated guitar line that seems like a lengthy allusion back to Modern Life is Rubbish. It’s good to have a little bit of the old Blur back, but the album as a whole was a disappointment.