Monday, March 31, 2014

Best Music of the First Quarter of 2014

When I'm not writing about books and stuff here, I'm writing about music over at Is It Too Loud. There's been a lot of great music to come out so far this year, though, and I wanted to share a little of it here like I normally do every once in a while. Hopefully you find something you like!

Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues: It's impossible to really talk about the newest release from Against Me! without talking about the circumstances surrounding lead singer Laura Jane Grace, who transitioned/is transitioning from male to female after coming out as transgender in 2012. The album's title, as well as many of the song titles if not most of the songs themselves, deal with this new reality for Grace, and as someone who a) was not an Against Me! listener previously and b) probably wouldn't have given this album a second look were it not for the circumstances surrounding the album (chances are if you read any music press, you're aware of the album and Grace's life changes), the album is pretty great. It's a pretty rocking album from start to finish, and it got me curious enough to look back a bit into their catalog and see what else there is. A pretty great release for the beginning of the year.

St. Vincent - St. Vincent: From the rock of Against Me! we have St. Vincent. Her first album was an instant favorite for me, weird without being inaccessible. Her other efforts left me wanting a lot more - a few good singles here and there, but it never really reached the heights of what I wanted. The David Byrne project she did last year, Love This Giant, was great for reasons I had initially chalked up to Byrne's involvement, but St. Vincent's new release is great. A lot of common musical themes from the Byrne collaboration, for sure, but it ultimately feels like Annie Clark has figured out the right balance in her music that has been lost at times for me with her music. This is a rock-solid album, certainly her best since the debut, and perhaps better than anything she's done on her own so far.

Curtis Eller's American Circus - How to Make It In Hollywood: A friend turned me onto Curtis Eller a while ago - she's the same person who got me addicted to Two Man Gentleman Band however many years ago, so when it comes to sometimes goofy, sometimes historical rootsy music, I tend to trust her judgement. The new album by Curtis Eller is at its most polished even if the cohesive unit is not quite as good as my personal favorite of his, 1890. Overall, though, this is an album that you really need to make it a point to listen to. You aren't likely to be disappointed.

The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams: To be honest, the last few releases from The Hold Steady have left me cold. I didn't go into this one expecting much, but this album has inadvertently ended up being one of the best albums of the week as well as a solid contender for great albums released this year. There are a lot of solid individual songs as well as the sort of cohesiveness we haven't seen from them since at least Stay Positive. A great, old-fashioned rock record from a band that has really returned to form.

Katy B - Little Red: I became a fan of Katy B shortly after her first album, On a Mission, came out. It's been a while, but the British singer is back with an even better album of dancefloor tracks. The album is much more cohesive and miles ahead of its predecessor minus one major misstep in a slow ballad-type song. Even the extra bonus tracks on the deluxe edition keep things going. Some of the catchiest music going right now, even with other dance artists like Kylie Minogue still putting stuff out. If you're into Europop, you really need to give this album a listen.

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