There is something about this time of year. It is a warm season of change, filled to the point of bursting with memories and possibility. This week’s edition contains a few recommendations fueled by the freedom of summer, testaments of struggle, tried and true favorites, R&B newcomers, and solo debuts. Escape the world a while with this week’s fresh batch of songs.
Haley Bonar – Last War
A period of personal upheaval (which included the struggle of balancing motherhood with record industry politics) is the backdrop for Haley Bonar’s fifth album. As result, Bonar moves away from her previous folky acoustic sound and decides to pair the subject matter and emotional tone of these songs with a more aggressive and driving indie rock sound.
This dynamic, electric rock sound is the focus of this album. Loping melodic bass lines that, at times, recall early R.E.M or New Order, pounding drums, synths and chiming guitars are all set against Bonar’s sweet vocals and clever, impactful lyrics.
“Kill The Fun” is the album’s bright and shiny opener where the song’s protagonist acknowledges the fact that her lover will be with her until morning when he will “get back on a plane and go back to work where you never knew my name”. Yet she still wished that their relationship could mean something more special to each other.
Whereas “No Sensitive Man” is a fantastic diss at the phony assholes Bonar has come across in the music industry. And “Bad Reputation” pokes fun in a self-deprecating way to the complaints of an adult’s mundane everyday routine.
As a bonus for Bon Iver fans, Justin Vernon recorded backup vocals for two songs, “From a Cage” and the acoustic and gorgeous affirmation of surviving in the music business “Eat For Free”.
With nine songs in just a shade over a half hour, this album demands and rewards repeated listens. – Chevel
John Parish and PJ Harvey – Dance Hall At Louse Point
This week I found myself going back and listening to some old favourites. So this week I have to recommend John Parish and PJ Harvey – Dance Hall At Louse Point. It’s a 1996 album by Harvey and her longtime collaborator John Parish. The music was all written and played by Parish while Harvey provided the lyrics and vocals. I think a lot of PJ Harvey fans may have overlooked this album since Parish had top billing and his name is more obscure, but the album is really a gem. It’s full of bluesy guitar, haunting melodies, and unpredictable jarring moments. I always found it to be kind of haunting, and it can be scary to listen to when you’re all alone in the dark. Give it a try. – Christine
Throwing Shade – 19 Jewels
Fit Londoner Throwing Shade killed it for me this week with her EP 19 Jewels. Indelible cosmic R&B. – Rocky
Radar Brothers – And the Surrounding Mountains
I decided to dust off a yearly summer rite of passage while on vacation this week. Simple song structures, backed by guitar, synth, and piano that carry a summery shuffle, push this album along as it finds itself constantly building momentum. There is an absolute stunning beauty captured within each song, usually capped off by swirling guitar work and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The irony in all of this is the underlying evil of the lyrics. Jim Putnam slowly explains how some bad shit is happening at these Surrounding Mountains. Sisters: “Head out and cut the light, drink blood as if it were wine, & hold the holy shroud to your bleeding head.” The family themed songs give you thoughts of cult murders while you nod your head happily at how pristine the music sounds. I mean, there’s a song called Still Evil and you will find yourself singing along to the chorus, “You are still evil, in my sword you’ll be caught.” There’s even a beautiful Satanic backwards lyric thing at the end of Uncles that sounds more Sigur Ros than The Devil. Don’t let the lyrics scare you away from enjoying an album that offers musical beauty everywhere you look. It is a lovely work of art that has withstood the test of time. – Chris
Mike Sempert – Mid Dream
The most recent album to dominate my listening is the introspective work of singer/songwriter Mike Sempert. Mostly known for his work as the front-man of Birds & Batteries, Mid Dream, his first solo record, doesn’t depart dramatically from the stylings of his band, but it is his most intimate and reflective album to date. With the feel of a classic 1970s record, Sempert proves he is a songwriter not to be overlooked with standout tracks like the beautiful “Survival,” the catchy “Finest Line,” and the groovy “Together Swimming.” – Scotland
Our Lady Peace – Spiritual Machines
I admit to taking a bit of a chance with this week’s recommendation, but it is about what we’ve loved the most for the week in question. Right? Let’s just agree.
Our Lady Peace release Spiritual Machines in 2000 and the summer that followed was one of the most memorable for me. It was filled to the brim with change, growth, decisions, emotions, and introspection. There is a good chance my ears drip with those memories whole I listen to these tracks, but that realization does not lessen my love for them.
This album, for me, was the best from OLP and it has been called the “end of an era” for the band. It was the last album I personally really cared to hear from the band. It was the most honest and passionate.
Spiritual Machines was recorded over the span of two months while the band continued to tour in support of their previous album Happiness Is Not A Fish . . . You Can Catch. It evolved into a conceptual album interpreting Raymond Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines. Kurzweil recited passages from the novel to introduce certain songs and the album as a whole.
This album represents a space in time for me. I seem to gravitate toward it every year as the weather warms up and school bells ring for the final time. It fits perfectly in the tight space between the end of thing and start of another. Press play and take a ride with me. – Jeremy