03 May, 2013

Staff Picks: Henry’s Top 5 New Albums for Spring

Forgive the phrase, but spring has sprung for independent records early here in 2013, with big names releasing LP’s that have not disappointed. With the winter hibernation from touring and releasing officially over, groups like Wavves and Thee Oh Sees are back at it with their personal brands of surfy garage rock and new psych in two strong new records. Kurt Vile has returned from the studio with his new folksy effort, out just last week, while the Smith Westerns ready their trademarked glam infused pop sound for release in early June. Even old favorites of Sweden, The Knife are back with their first full-length in over seven years. It seems as though the stars are aligning for this journalist’s tastes. Follow me through these five releases of the springtime

1. With Wavves having come through Denver with fellow California punk stalwarts FIDLAR, my excitement is still at an all-time high. The San Diego three piece has ridden succes following their 2009 release, King of the Beach, and have found an excellent follow-up in their 4th record in 5 years, Afraid of Heights. Find the band dressed in drag in the following video.

The record melds the lo-fi beginnings of the band with a more mature and produced sound courtesy of new label, Mom + Pop. The album gets a 9/10 from me, I even went so far as to purchase the vinyl copy at their Larimer Lounge show I mentioned. A most excellent record for the summer ahead. Follow the hilarity that is Nathan Williams Instagram right here.

2. The last time The Knife released a “record”, we heard their experimental attempt at art-inspired opera, with 10 to 20 minute tracks with ambient tones sprinkled throughout operatic shrieks and tones. Hardly something listenable in comparison to their 2006 effort, Silent Shout.

Since 2006, fans of The Knife have had to wait patiently for something from the Swedish duo that could measure up to Silent Shout, and their new release, Shaking the Habitual is pretty close. With their M.O. on this album being quite literally ‘shaking the habitual’, the band have combined their inspirations in long-form tracks and dark electronic beats together into something interesting. One half of the band, Karin Dreijer Andersson has described the new record as something challenging social norms and values, reflective of their perception of what is the new world atmosphere. I give the record a 6/10 solely because the record is half and half. Part Silent Shout and part conceptual gimmick. I only give the extra point out of excitement for The Knife US tour which is surely in the works.

3. If anything went together like peaches and cream with the new Wavves release, it was the release of Thee Oh Sees 7th record, Floating Coffin.

Leader of the group, John Dwyer has described this record to be darker and heavier than their last releases according to Pitchfork, but that foreboding statement bodes well. Dwyer, a fixture of the San Francisco psych and garage rock scene has released numerous LPs, EPs and mixtapes with various iterations of the band, formerly going by The Ohsees, and OCS (for Orange County Sound). You can check the list of releases on their Wiki page. Needless to say, the man is a workhorse, and the tried and true sound Dwyer has grinded out in the last 16 years has come to a zenith. With their last LP coming out only 7 months earlier, the band is at a musical clip that is truly only matchable by SF counterpart Ty Segall who recently had his own reverb pedal made for him. Truly immortal for both parties. The record gets another 9/10 from me, the nine only being for my listening to it once. It will become a ten, but everybody knows a song from Thee Oh Sees grows on you like the pimples you had in 9th grade. Quickly.

4. With the release of Dye It Blonde back in 2011, Smith Westerns broke into the independent music sphere with their beautiful worked pieces of guitar woven love songs and glam rock fantasies. Dye It Blonde was truly something to remember with the Chicago four-piece made up of a pair of brothers, Cullen and Cameron Omori along with Max Kakcek and Julien Ehrlich releasing one of the years best.

But now, they’re teasing their fans with a new video from their forthcoming LP, Soft Will. The track is called “Varsity”, and it’s hardly something that we wouldn’t expect from the band.

The band has found themselves as labelmates with Wavves on Mom + Pop which expect to release the album on June 11. Look out for my rating on that album soon.

5. Finally, last but not least, we have Kurt Vile. The gangly looking long-haired self-described ‘creature of habit’ is a Matador mainstay and has released excellent pieces of guitar-heavy folk dreamscapes over the past few years. With his last release being Smoke Ring for My Halo, Vile had great expectations to measure up to with his latest. Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze is the album out now, and in with the classic Vile calm, follows up beautifully.

Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze is laden with the traditional Vile sounds that we’ve grown accustomed to from his time in his solo career as well as with his former band, The War on Drugs. Growing up in Philadelphia, Kurt spent time picking at his banjo and moonlighting as a forklift driver, cultivating the lo-fi down home folk sound comparable to Neil Young and John Fahey. Regardless, Vile is his own unique voice that enraptures the ears and similarly, the soul, with the new tunes on his 5th LP taking you on some journeys that clock in at 9 minutes. 10/10. Go listen to Kurt Vile if you haven’t already.

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