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Album of the Week: Light Chasers by Cloud Cult

I'm posting these as questions, but I figured I'll post them here as well. If anyone else wants to do something like this, go ahead. Consider this like the album of the week archives though.
So, I'm interested in doing this for fun and to share some albums I like. I think some album choices will be albums that have largely been slept on. Some might be not slept on at all, but I just like them and want to talk about them. Not really sure how this will pan out, but I'll post when I remember to. Not going to hold myself real tightly to the weekly deadline.
When I decided to start this, Light Chasers had to be my first choice. It's been a favorite album for a decade now and I really think it's that good. To listen to it, I also decided to go stargazing while listening to it, so I drove to my cabin to go stargazing with friends and listen through this album, and that is the type of person I am and the way I listen to music that's important to me. For Light Chasers, this album was written primarily while stargazing and is a concept album that is all about space travel. Space travel used as a metaphor for navigating a life.
This was Cloud Cult's first album after the birth Craig Minowa's second child Nova. Previously, Craig suffered an extreme loss of two year old son and has expressed grief in past albums, but he was also using that grief as a vehicle to explore afterlife, meaning, and recovery. Every album has gotten more uplifting and hopeful as their discography has grown, and Light Chasers really does feel like a culmination or height of this recovery with the major event being this new child. This album feels extremely important to Craig, and that importance is imprinted on to me as well at this point. It also feels inspiring on the highest level they've ever been with tracks like Forces of the Unseen and There's So Much Energy In Us. While other albums were explorations of recovery from grief, this album is a celebration of life.
The album at some points does feel like a father figure giving a long and abstract lecture on life, which it is sort of. The album is very much made for his children, with the most obvious comparison at You Were Born, which addresses Craig's first child as "You". But he also references himself a lot too. He uses "You" a lot as well as "Me" and "We", so there is sort of this blurring of who this is for, and with that we can sort of infer all of us too. Yes, it does get preachy. Responsible I think is most guilty of that, but for the most part the album doesn't feel so indulgent that personally it feels more like validation and pondering than like a lecture. The album explores different aspects of life and the messages are in tune with how I navigate the world as well. I think mostly it's just saying to take life as it comes and embrace the present rather than escape from it or try to control it. Those are the sort of things you'd also hear from a DBT therapist or other mindfulness expert. It also just has the message of like just keep trying and celebrating humans for our resilience.
Musically there is also so much variety that still all seems united under lyrical themes as well as just general atmosphere. The album varies between sparse and minimal to lavish and energetic, but it all still feels connected. It feels both extremely close and encompassing. I think that a lot of the songs just have clean enough production and clever instrumentation backed by like a 10 piece band. There is also a mix between electronic and acoustic instrumentation, with digital instrumentation and sampling adding to the spacey element and live orchestration adding to the personal element. Personally, I'm really big on variety in an artist and within an album, so although I do like albums that feel very cohesive, I'm also really a fan when that can be done AND there's a lot of variety within an album. This album nails that, completely.
I think that covers my thoughts on the album. Amazing concept album with a lot of variety and still very cohesive. A story of exploring the universe that doubles as a metaphor for moving though life. An extremely personal love letter from Craig to his children and for life. Yeah, that's about it. Highly recommend. Highlights are There's So Much Energy In Us, You'll Be Bright, and Running With the Wolves, but really I love everything on here.

I have the most recent album of the week pinned to my page. I'll post a new one tomorrow.
  
Album of the Week: In Sickness & In Flames by The Front Bottoms

Week two and I'm already doing a "hear me out" sort of album rec. So, hear me out: In Sickness & In Flames is a very messy and flawed, and at some times just lazy, album, but it's also the most cohesive album The Front Bottoms have ever made. When I was listening to this album on a walk, that actually partially inspired this album of the week idea. I decided while listening to it that this is the best TFB album, which I've since retracted. The Front Bottoms AKA Slow Dance to Soft Rock AKA The Album With a Face On It has too many bangers and the hits fuck way too hard for that not to be my favorite. And Talon of the Hawk similarly fucks. However, I don't retract what I said before: This is the most cohesive album The Front Bottoms has ever made.
While The Front Bottoms the album and Talon both have some amazing songs, the songs don't really coalesce into a bigger picture and the music doesn't feel like it puts you into a place in the way that In Sickness and In Flames does. I think the closest they come to that is that with all TFB music, he nails this character of Brian Sella or like the persona he creates in music. I feel like especially in those two albums, we get this character who equal parts honest and relatable and, like, unhinged. But, like, I think if you mixed any of the earlier albums at all, the songs would still sort of fit in any order on any album. That's what I mean when I think of them as a collection of songs rather than serving a cohesive album.
Not the case with In Sickness. Yes, I think this still sounds very much like a Brian Sella project, but it fits within its own perspective and musical space. I think the two main features to pick up would be 1. How pretty much every song has a spoken word section and 2. All the weird sampling, vocal effects, and strange interludes/transitions between songs. But there's a lot more going on.
But let's look at those two things first. So those spoken word sections sometimes work and sometimes they don't. At best, they feel like they open new spaces for songwriting and musical styles. At worst, they feel like lazy white raps thrown in to spice it up. So, like 'new song d' is a good job of new spoken word sections and I think 'camouflage' is both a bad spoken verse as well as just sort of a bad song in general. But this spoken word style does also serve the cohesion of the album as a musical motif of sorts. As for the transitions, I think that helps the flow even more. Yes they are super weird and may sort of be an additive experience you're not looking for if you just want to listen to the song by itself, but it helps with the album flow, such as how 'leaf pile' jumps right into 'new song d.' It just makes an enjoyable listen when the songs feel like they fit together like that. And then taken together, both these spoken word sections along with the transitions put the album into more of this like ethereal and stream of consciousness sort of plane that feels like we're just like exploring like Brian just like thinking random thoughts almost. Which sounds similar at first to how past albums function, but this sounds intentionally like that. Like we are put into Brian's head rather than just hearing his meanderings.
Okay, so I can't plug this album without talking about the bad. I think I've been ignoring it so far, but like yeah some of this album is straight trash. The thing is, TFB is always sort of trashy but beautiful and poignant at the same time. Like "I will remember that summer/as the summer I was taking steroids/'cause you like a man with muscles/ and I like you" is like trashy and like extremely important and moving songwriting at the same time. I think they really walk this tight rope on this album and sometimes it really veers on the trashy side. 'jerk' is straight trash ("Yeah I know that I look like a jerk, like a jerk/Yeah I know that I look like a jerk, like a jerk" etc.). Aforementioned 'camouflage' is also sort of trash. 'bus beat' is trash ("I do it like that because that's the way my baby likes it/I do it like that because that's the way my baby likes it" etc.)
Okay, but despite the trash, the good songs and good moments really shine. I think it's important to remember that this album is a little different than past TFB albums, so different songs shine and they shine in different ways from past albums. In the past, songs had this youthful, wild spark that like would make you want to mosh and scream with tears in your eyes. Now, they're older and more reflective, which is at the heart of this album. This album is loaded with references to past songs ("even fooled myself a couple times my name is Steven", "just let me take you on vacation, just like I promised"), and I think the album is a reflection of Brian, his relationships, his relationship with drugs, and with his fans. Things are complicated now. Things aren't as easy as they used to be. He knows now that drugs, the band, his relationships are muddy and not all good or all bad, contain multitudes. It seems like he knows relationships are more difficult and complicated than they used to be, and he continues them anyways.

tl;dr: Great album flow, some really personal and reflective songwriting on Brian's history as a whole, stylistic transitions and pitch modification along with spoken word sections give the album a sense of cohesion TFB has never had before. Some of the songs are trash, but it's still a good listen from start to back. Some favorites are 'love at first sight', 'everyone blooms', and 'make way'
  
Album of the Week: The Execution of All Things by Rilo Kiley

So, this one I first heard from a post in the Rate the Song thread. Someone posted A Better Son/Daughter and I can't find it even through the search feature. It's probably some sort of crime that I don't remember who posted in it, but I've fallen in love with the song and the album as a whole.
The album as a whole is very sad and depressing and is centrally about breakups, resentment, and depression, but the album still manages to convey so many emotions within those themes and so many different perspectives about similar issues and ideas. The bright moments, such as A Better Son/Daughter, really resonate as impactful, and it's not even just that song, but pretty much every song is moving in a different way. Coming from Capturing Moods, we get this 6/8 upbeat song that has some incredibly hard hitting lyrics underneath this warm arrangement and seemingly optimistic narrator: "There's friendly people in cities too/just ask them where they are going to" but then going right into the chorus of "I don't mind waiting if it takes a long, long time/I don't mind wasting the best years of my life." So I feel like I've digressed into just like the amazingness of just that song, but then we jump right from this deceptively sad song into A Better Son/Daughter. That song being an anthem of persevering through depression and hardship. Then moving right into Hail To Whatever You Found From The Sunlight That Surrounds You being sort of more casually resentful and sort of light in a sarcastic sort of way. And we also get rockier moments. We get sweet moments. We get folkier moments. We get just dismal moments. We get a lot of resentment, which is where I'm getting the breakup vibes. For one, there is the ongoing transition song from a child about her parents' separation that appears and bookmarks several moments of the album, which I will get to and cover as its own paragraph probably. But So Long, Hail To..., as well as Three Hopeful Thoughts all seem to be pretty strongly break up songs and/or just completely resentful songs.
As for the aforementioned "child perspective" songs, there is this song that appears after seemingly random songs about a girl "in Alaska" sometimes with her mom who "cried about money and time" and "left" and her dad who "played in the bar" and was "sorry for not being around." I haven't made absolute sense of that story, but from what I can tell, it is an ongoing story of a child whose parents fought and separated. This is all told from a child perspective, using that perspective to portray hardship brought onto an innocent child, and thus affecting perhaps the perspective of the narrator in adulthood. At the same time, though, the story ends with her skating around "more times than I counted" and the narrator stating "that's how I choose to remember it" suggesting sort of the inverse of that last idea, that the narrator is able to put a positive spin on even her worst moments.
However, this all intertwines into a swarm of resentment, depression, and emotions flying everywhere on this album. And that is really what A Better Son/Daughter sort of captures best in the album "And sometimes when you're on/You're really fucking on/And your friends all sing along/And they love you/But the lows are so extreme/That the good seems fucking cheap/And it teases you for weeks in its absence." But the album also hits you with inspiring moments in spite of that "You'll be awake/You'll be alert/You'll be positive though it hurts/And you'll laugh and embrace all your friends." And that's just one song. The rest of the album reflects all of this vast array of emotions and perspectives even if it's all under the blanket of resentment and depression. The album is honest. This album knows how bad it hurts sometimes and it's proud of you for doing it anyway, and the album at its best makes all that shit seem worth it somehow. That seems extreme, but this album is extremely powerful. This album has made me cry more times than I can remember. This album seems to get me, and get me through highs, lows, disorientation, resentments, hopelessness, hopefulness, and just somehow the human experience I swear. It's good. I'll leave it at that.
Tl;dr this album is centrally depressing and resentful, but also a vast array of emotions that all still fit together and flow naturally. This album WILL make you cry. But like a good cry probably.
Some people have been sending me recommendations, which I absolutely will listen to, but I can't promise I will review. I haven't listened to any yet, but I will listen to all. I have several albums I want to plug first, but if an album someone suggests really strikes me, I may also put it on here.
  
In Sickness & In Flames is a very messy and flawed, and at some times just lazy, album, but it's also the most cohesive album The Front Bottoms have ever made.


Ooh, that's an interesting take. I've only listened to In Sickness & In Flames a couple times so sorry for replying without being able to point to specifics, but I wouldn't say that an album has to have an overarching storyline to be cohesive. Their older albums vary a lot less in terms of musical style and theme, plus on a personal level they're way less hit-or-miss for me in terms of actually enjoying the songs. I'd say Talon is their most cohesive overall, and all their previous albums also have pretty clear overarching sounds even if the themes are a bit all over the place with that grainy lo-fi vibe. I definitely get what you mean about a lot of their old work sounding the same, and especially S/T's songs could easily mix in with their old stuff, but you do see their overall sound evolve with time between S/T and Talon - Talon kind of gets more gritty and real, but at the same time the mix gets cleaner and I think the gang's getting more confident telling a narrative

Then Back on Top and Going Grey aren't my total favorites but it is cool seeing them evolve their sound and experiment more with orchestration

Anyway, that's just my opinion and I'm only sharing it because I was excited to see someone talking about them here, haha. I really like how you said "TFB is always sort of trashy but beautiful and poignant at the same time." That's so true, and there are songs I can't stand on each of their albums so the fact that there are some on S&F that don't resonate with me kind of add to the charm. I really agree with you about their mixing, orchestration, and storytelling just getting better and better, and it makes me happy too whenever they include throwbacks to their old albums

I used to be a pretty big TFB fan but like I said, haven't listened to them in a while so it's cool to see someone talking about them! I'm looking forward to seeing more album reviews from you (:
  
Thank you! And thanks for sharing your take. I appreciate musical discussion with these as well. I don't have any points in mind to disagree, as I think everyone has a right to their own reading. Instead I'll just acknowledge them and take in mind with future listens. It's fair to say that music doesn't need a story to be cohesive, and I think Talon and the self titled are both like highlights as like the most pleasant listens throughout and just like really good writing as to picturing Brian/Steven as a character. For my own credit, I picked this album over either of those more because I think it's a worthy listen that is somewhat overlooked, even if I end up liking either of those two albums better.
As to the like trashyness mixed with the poignant, I think that like embracing the trash is a good way to look at it because yeah I think they're always walking that line.
  
Album of the Week: Half-Light by Rostam

I think this was the debut album for Rostam. It was at least his first after producing for Vampire Weekend for their first 3 albums as well as making music with Discovery and producing for several big ticket artists. Rostam left the rest of the band on good terms, I think. He left to focus on his solo career, and as sad as I am to see him leaving Vampire Weekend, goddamn this album was worth it.
It's hard to say for me if I like this better or Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend better. While I may not say one is objectively better, I think it's worth it to say that this album certainly is in league with the original three Vampire Weekend albums and easily outpaces Father of the Bride. While Modern Vampires has a knack to just give me some nostalgia and dopamine like injected right into my ears, I think that this album resonates with me a little more personally. Rostam came out as gay, or at least not straight though I think he's one who doesn't like labels. I feel like this album explores queerness or a lot of things that come with it. Half light explores duality as well as the concept of like dawn and like that space. This album is a perfect listen late at night, or even better at dawn, after a long and eventful night. I think like the ideal listen would probably be like dawn alone after like a complicated night with a significant other right before you break up haha. That is exactly where the album takes place.
The song Half-Light itself takes place when someone is leaving after a night with someone. It explores like the concept of someone leaving both in a physical and metaphorical sense, and the narrator who "can't see it, I refuse". It is in the scene of someone opening maybe a door to leave ending on "baby all the lights came up to illuminate the room/blinding me, I shut my eyes to see an imprint left of you. "
But then from that light blinding and leaving that imprint, we're left on Thatch Snow, saying "the window's open/the light is soaking/I see it coming/over the ocean", which seems intentionally put after Half Light, suggesting after the person leaves, there is a new light, a dawn you might say. And then Wood, after that, extends that saying "sunlight on your eyelids, you were sleeping". I think Don't Let It Get to You also explores like the "new day" idea in a more metaphorical sense, being about change in a person with the insight of "it's still all up to you" being an inspiring and hopeful message.
The other aspect of Half Light also comes out heavily in the music. Rostam is also Persian who grew up in the United States, and I think he explores his bicultural identity in a really cool and unique way through the music. Throughout the whole album there is a mix of Persian instrumentation as well as just Persian influence in the songwriting blended seamlessly with modern American EDM production, synths, and heavy vocal effects. I think it creates a worldly and novel sound stronger even than like Contra I'd say.
I think the one thing that initially turns some off of Rostam is his voice. I remember when I first heard Don't Let It Get to You, I was initially a bit wary. However, like a lot of voices, with a little time a wariness turns into fondness. At least it did for me. I love his voice now. I think it has so much charm and character. I can't really argue much with people who don't like someone for their voice though. It's just not something I can really convince because everyone has their own taste, but unless a voice is significantly off-pitch, vocal tone and timbre are rarely an issue for me, so it's also just something I can't really compare or see eye to eye on about with people.
This album is good for late nights, but it's also good for sunny walks, long drives, and post-breakups. It's good for nice days where you're already feeling nice and want something to compliment and it's also nice for sad days when you need something to feel better. I say it's good for post breakups as well as it seems to be a lot about a break up. Half Light being sort of the main one, but also Hold You and Warning Intruders. But I think it still puts you in a good mood despite that, as the album does have both the transitioning new dawn feeling as well as that duality of both those sad and reminiscent moments mixed with exciting and motivational moments as well as moments of just like appreciating the moment as it is now.

tl;dr This album is very good and very underrated. It's a good mix of Persian influence and modern EDM production. About duality as well as new beginnings, as well as old endings. Very cohesive and a great flow from start to back.

Are people liking this? Hope some are reading these and/or listening to the albums I'm suggesting. A lot of people said they were interested initially, but I don't get many comments. I assume it's just bc I'm leaving it as a review rather than asking a question, so there's not much to respond to.
  
Album of the Week: Double Negative by Low
Always known to reinvent themselves, Low came out with this album from my perspective sort of out of nowhere. I actually didn't know low before this album, but I was very intrigued when they released the tryptic of Quorum/Dancing in Blood/Fly and just amazed when I heard the full album. Low has come out with electronic, noise, drone, and minimal before but this album seems to be in sort of it's own sonic universe as an experience best listened to all at once.
I will probably focus a lot more on the music, production, and arrangement in this one than the lyrics. I don't exaggerate when I call this album an experience, as the album is very rarely silent and seems to be always moving, even if some transitions are more simple as fades between songs or an early note coming in to introduce the next song. Even if some transitions are a bit more simple, they all work to keep this sense of continual atmosphere within this music. Everything within the album is distorted and this interesting mixing style that is both very very produced and very lo-fi at the same time. There are plenty of moments where you can't even make out what the vocalists are saying, and when you can, it's incredibly abstract and minimal. And yet, you can pick out so many layers when it comes to the mixing on each song. Some instruments are very intentionally overblown, And many of the songs have two or three part harmonies as well as several other distorted instruments coming in and out on top of that. I honestly can't really make out what a lot of the instruments and sounds really are, but they all fit together in this sort of synthetic and robotic, but also unsettling, sample heavy, and lo-fi atmosphere.
The lyrics themselves, as I mentioned before are very minimal and abstract. I think it works in the album's favor, as there's debate on, even, like, what the lyrics are. I think that's great. That leaves so much room for interpretation! Tempest is my favorite song on the album both for the amazing overblown production and the lyrics that literally have like 3 different versions of what the lyrics actually are on 3 different lyric sites. So the lyrics I actually hear are mine and I have my own interpretation, which I think is not extremely far off from the original intent. For the record, I think it has to do with genuine forgiveness vs an act and what that even is or could be, or if it's even possible. But that's my interpretation and anyone is completely welcome to hear something totally different and interpret it differently. I saw a genius annotation on the song Quorum stating that it had to with Mormon officials denying gay marriage, and someone else was like "what? No. A quorum could mean a whole list of things. It might not even be literal, but metaphorical." And I buy that. I could buy the mormon thing too on some level maybe. I've generally interpreted this album to be both a reflection on political uncertainty and havoc with songs like "Dancing in Blood," "Dancing in Fire," and "Rome (Always in the Dark)," but I've also seen it just as much a personal reflection both on drug addiction with lyrics like "tired of seeing things" and "they say you let it in when you took the drugs", but at the same time it's just as much a general self reflection on like conflicting and distancing the self from others with lyrics like "gonna leave you in the dark that's the price you gotta pay" and "you glare/grin at them all". And those are just my main themes out of a whole well of possible interpretations. I think that it can be so interpretable depending on the person is amazing.

tl;dr This album before anything else is a sonic experience. Lyrics aside it is as unique as it is enveloping. But when you take the time to listen to the lyrics, there is another level of addiction to the album to try to just piece together abstraction into something personally meaningful.
  
Album of the Week: Good Luck Everybody by AJJ
This is another new album that I think is underrated. Like my review of In Sickness and In Flames, it's not my favorite by AJJ, but rather I recommend it as a still great album that flew under most people's radars. I think some have been waiting for AJJ's "comeback", and maybe some dropped off assuming that "comeback" never came. While I don't personally love Christmas Island or The Bible 2, I do appreciate them for a new direction for AJJ. However, I do think in some ways this album is both the return to form the AJJ "purists" might be looking for as well as an integration of the new and the old sounds in a really satisfying way.
Something to get to before I get to far into the review is that this album is extremely topical as a momento for 2019 when it was written (yes it was written in 2019) and then prolific as a prediction of 2020. I mean, it wasn't hard to guess that this shitty world under a shitty president would get shittier, but like god damn. The album ends with A Big Day for Grimley which seems a personal anthem of basically feeling broken down, but it has the lyrics "And now I don't suffer any more bullshit gladly/even though everything's bullshit now in 2019/and you can bet it's gonna be a bunch of bullshit too in sweet 2020." There are also moments made even sadder by Covid, such as Feedbag, which (among other songs) suggests that social connections are the antidote to the hate we've been fed by social media and the government.
But yes anything that is topical can also lose relevancy. A lot of these songs are just hate mail to Donald Trump (No Justice, No Peace No Hope; Mega Guillotine; and Psychic Warfare to name a few) and several other references. Though the album does an amazing job giving the broader picture that things are bad not only because of Donald Trump, but the conditions that led to where we got here ("he's a symptom and a weapon of the evil men who really run the show") and more bigger picture concepts of 2019 being really bad for lots of reasons involving "the golden age of theft and greed and dicketry.' There are also references a lot to being "post truth, post anything" and saying basically that we're in an age where there is no real truth anymore because there is so much misinformation online now.
So I think of it in the return to form as I mentioned before in exactly what I'm talking about. Even if it's pretty topical, AJJ is doing what they do best, which is lamenting evil in the world and basically hating everyone again, They've also picked up their folk-punk sort of sound along with their provocative, grotesque, witty, and charismatic lyrics. In terms of integrating the new sound, I think they're incorporating some of their production techniques from their last few albums in line with the classic folk-punk sound. So like sometimes Sean whips out the shaky lo-fi voice effects, or other more electronic effects and sounds, And then other songs are just the classic like fast folky sound they've started with. And then there are the moments that are more like punky/rocky. I think of this album being somewhat similar to Knife Man in that it's both very holistic as an album and songs work together, and in that there is a lot of exploration in the way of musical styling and genre.

Tl;dr This album is a really nice mixture of the old and the new for AJJ. Lyrics are just as punchy as they started with. The album is extremely topical to 2019 and 2020 but the songs are so well written I think they'll still stick with me at least even when Trump is a distant memory. But they're still varied with style and implement some of the newer sounds well within the album.
  
Album of the Week: Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers

So I think that this will be my first album rec here that is qualifiably not slept on. Each song on this album has millions of plays on Spotify, Phoebe was nominated for several Grammy's, and has played several major performances such as SNL. But I just can't stop thinking about it, so I'm going to write about it.
This album is stunning and a slow burn at the same time. A lot of the songs are quiet or understated in a way, but they are still so beautiful when you just give it some attention. For one, Phoebe's lyrics are just consistently on point throughout. For another, songs are produced in a way that is just lavish and beautiful. In the way of Phoebe's lyrics, they are all at the same time witty, engaging, and personal, with a lot of motifs of death and darkness blended in. The first lyrics of the album are "Someday I'm gonna live in your house up on the hill/and when your skinhead neighbor goes missing/I'll plant a garden in the yard." But like within that song Phoebe also explores like change and growth and getting over things that "haunt" you. Punisher also has a very gripping intro "When the speed kicks in/I go to the store for nothing" and then covers this idea of being a punisher in that she is completely obsessed with Elliot Smith to an unhealthy level, but I think also seeing art as punishing in her being a "copycat killer" of Elliot Smith.
In terms of the instrumentation and sonic atmosphere, this is again where I think the slow burn elements come into play. Everything in the album is extremely beautiful, but picking up sort of the appreciation for songs individually takes some time. A lot of the songs have slow moments and are sort of sad, but there is a lot to explore musically here. Graceland Too is a more country-folk sort of song about getting out of the hospital. Kyoto is the hit, but also just like the more indie rock oriented song. I Know the End starts slow, but builds as it goes until there is screaming and chaos by the end. And there are more variations as well. Although there is like sort of an umbrella in this album of generally being like sad ballads, there is definitely variation. And within a lot of this sort of sad and quieter sort of vibe, there is a lot to appreciate within that sound. Like the guitar tone of Garden Song is an extra layer of captivating as it sort of bounces and gets like quieter and louder. A lot of cool effects with vocals and vocal layers throughout with features from Conor Oberst and Julien Baker.

tl;dr This album is just gorgeous, really. Amazing lyrics throughout when you take the time to listen. Very personal with hints of darkness underneath a bit. A lot of sad ballads, but variation within even though together it's very strongly within this sort of chill but pretty atmoshpere.
Fav tracks: Garden Song, Punisher, Graceland Too
  
Album of the Week: Alopecia by Why?

I wouldn't really say this album is slept on as it's the band's biggest album and songs have millions of plays on Spotify each. But it's still not like super mainstream as none of these are like top 40 radio hits or anything. So I thought I'd share this one for anyone who hasn't heard this or only knows a few songs off this album. There are some missteps for sure, but overall it's a worthy listen front to back.
Why? is centrally a trip hop or psychedelic rock band, and I think the first thing that stands out in the album is the knack for experimentation. Why? has always been keen on experimenting and trying new sounds, but I think this album is where it has always consistently landed most. Like I said, there are some songs where some experiments don't really land as well. Like a lot of their albums, I think that it loses some steam in the later half of the album and those songs sound a bit less unique and gripping. For instance Twenty Eight and The Fall of Mister Fifths are sort of interchangeable, and A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under is also sort of underwhelming.
HOWEVER, I think it's more than made up for for all the songs that do land. The album opens with The Vowels pt 2 going right into Good Friday which are their two biggest hits and are bangers in their own ways. Vowels is a bit more rocky, and Good Friday is more of like a dark rap song that is equal parts chill, funny, and dark. Song of the Sad Assassin is very much in its own league, and hard to explain. For one, the song is a polymeter between 4/4 and 12/8 in a really disorienting way. And then midway through the song it becomes something else. A new melody increasing tempo until the end of the song. I can only describe it in terms of these odd technical musical characteristics because I don't even know how to describe or characterize it otherwise. AND THEN there's Simeon's Dilemma, which is sort of a love ballad, but distorted through Yoni's twisted writing style making a ballad out of like being a stalker and writing "25" carved into his own hand as like a visual metaphor of his own obsession.
And yeah, let's get into the writing style a bit. Not just in Simeon's and Good Friday, but throughout the album we're painted this picture of this very dark and sort of disturbed character. The Vowels is all about like trying to fake suicide attempts for attention. Good Friday is about drug and sex addiction. These Few Presidents has the repeated line of "even though I haven't seen you in years, yours is a funeral I'd fly to from anywhere." I would say the album is centrally about like being aware of death and living in the moment because of it. Which is like not the most unique theme, but they explore it in interesting ways. There is the line that comes up throughout the album of "while I'm alive I'll feel alive and what's next I guess I'll know when I've gotten there" and it's not like the basic like "carpe diem" or "live like you could die" message. I think, like I said before, there's a lot of darkness within Yoni's writing, so there's also sort of a warning of sort of the griminess and consequence of living only for vice, but also a freedom in it. It's complicated and I think explored very well in the album's run time. I think it's explored in a way that you may not even notice these themes or you might find your own because of course generally art is free to interpret by the listener, but this album also takes on a lot of ideas while still being consistent.
On the subject of consistency, I think that the album while exploring a lot of sounds and concepts, I do think that this album is very cohesive, not just in the themes I mentioned above, but also it feels like a vibe, it feels like sonically consistent as well. There is a darkness and a lightness always sort of at play. It always feels like the band is enjoying creating this. And there's also a level of cohesion in the production that ties it together, though I have a harder time speaking on that one. Even with the variety though, these songs all feel like they're working together. Even the ones that don't land with me quite as much. Oh, and the transitions between songs add an extra layer of flow to the album.

tl;dr This album is uncomfortable and dark and weird, but at the same time fun and personal in a way that never feels contradictory. Repeating lyrical themes as well as musical and production consistency make the album feel like it all works together to create something bigger.
Fav tracks: Good Friday, Song of the Sad Assassin, and Simeon's Dilemma
  
Album of the Week: How to: Friend, Love, Freefall by Rainbow Kitten Surprise

I don't have a very extensive knowledge on the background of Sam Melo or the rest of the band, but what I've picked up does give context on how they've gotten to the sound that they have. Sam's parents were missionaries in the Dominican Republic. I think that sentence alone explains how we've gotten to the sound that this album has. This album is an exploration of self and a coming out for Sam and exploring how he has differed from his parents' ideals, as well as more broadly exploring life and relationships.
So I've brought up the context to the sound of this album, but I haven't actually talked about the sound itself, so lets get into that. Yes, Sam is white and there are a few moments of, like rap. Outside of that, he does have this delivery that is like a mix of rock, folk, and, like, soul, or at least like blues. And that's I think where context comes in. He grew up in the Dominican Republic, but then also spent a lot of time in I think North Carolina, and the end result is something completely unique and engaging. If you draw the line at white rap, that's fair, though I bring all this up to say not only does it get more complicated than that, but his complex upbringing just creates something so distinct.
And it's not just something I'm reading too much into to like point it out as an interesting fact. The song "Hide" is all about his coming out and it feels like a confession to his parents "He's a better kisser than you'd think, Ma/He's a better listener than most". Religion comes through several times throughout the album. You can tell that it's important to him, even if he's not in the same place religiously as his parents. "Called to the devil and the devil did come/Said to the devil Devil do you like drums?" is the opening lyric to the song It's called: Freefall, which seems to be about turning to the devil for friendship and the devil suggesting suicide, which is dark, but this song approaches it, again, in a way that is very much their own.
I almost regret revealing all this backing info to the band because at the same time, the uniqueness of the vocal delivery is like part of it. If you asked me what the singer looked like, I would've guessed a black woman, but it's surprising to find especially his maleness. And yeah maybe there's something messed up about the fact that he gives off that impression as a white man, entering appropriation territory, but at the same time, he's just unapologetically his own person with his own style. And that transfers to the rest of the band as well. There are different styles and genres explored sometimes even within the same song. Fever Pitch is the prime example for this, constantly switching tempo and style, but there are a lot of songs that follow this variation. There's sort of an unpredictability with the album and an exploration in composition that never fails to be interesting and is always catchy even if it's pretty experimental and, like I've said several times here, unique.

tl;dr this album is all at the same time peculiar, explorative, and catchy. Extremely honest and very much it's own. Most comparable to TV on the Radio, but still it's own sound easily. Fav tracks: Fever Pitch, It's Called: Freefall, Hide
  
Album of the Week: IX by Rent Strike

Boy howdy, I've been holding out on y'all with this one. I don't know how active all my fellow folk-punks are on here, but I know there are some still here. If you've ever at all liked AJJ, The Mountain Goats, or other major folk punk acts, these guys are honestly up there with the greats. They're up and coming, and currently still have like 10,000 monthly listeners (which is nothing to scoff at), but they're only going to break out more as time goes on, and partially just because of the quality songwriting they have, as demonstrated by IX.
This album is self described as a prog-folk concept album centered around heroin addiction and Lord of the Rings, and if that doesn't already spark some interest, I don't know what will. Personally, I don't see much of the LotR aspect, but like they do have songs like "Me, Myself, and the Eye." Also, there is just like an epic sort of cohesion to it, like he is off on some sort of journey, which is perfect. I do, however, easily see themes on addiction, identity, and especially change. Their biggest song off the album is "II, The Road Giveth" with the chorus of "I'll always be angry/I'll never be sober/I'll never grow old" highlights those ideas. There is also the opening song stating "I won't wait forever" but then the final song being a reprise and retraction saying "I'll wait forever", which I think highlights the ideas of the album really well. I'm just like a nonstop list of quotes here, but there's another lyric about "if change is ever gonna come/let it leave me numb" and to tie all that up, I get a lot of ideas on not wanting to change, but sometimes being changed anyways. Like, with drugs, it's like "I'll never be sober" but at the same time, there's an inherent admission that drugs changed him before deciding to never change again to Stop taking the drug. And then despite saying "I won't wait forever" there is a change in the narrator from Not waiting forever To waiting forever, but that change also involves sameness, like settling to waiting and therefore not changing. There's a lot to think about here, and honestly I'm still on my own journey of my understanding of the album and what it's really trying to say. But I think that's a good thing. Like there's always something to muse on this album.
So, let's get into sound a bit. I brought up AJJ and The Mountain Goats as classic folk punk artists, but I also brought them up as classic examples of folk punk artists with a really good sense of theme, cohesion, and image. I think Rent Strike is on par with both on all these fronts. Like, on top of all these lyrical ideas I talked about, the album all fits together really well while also exploring all sorts of sounds. Like, Don't Let Love Bog You Down is a really relaxed bluegrassy, folky song about just like relaxing and taking time to rest and it's like a celebration of that, while the song after that (XII: ) is like this slow death march sort of sound about identity, ending with the singer screaming like "what is my name?" But yeah there are screamo moments. There are proggy moments. But I still think it all fits in the folk punk umbrella and the lyrical cohesion and just like trademark sound of this band really bring it all together. The songs all feel big and the album puts the songs all together in an even bigger way. Songs will transition into each other, or just juxtapose in interesting ways, and musical motifs will come back in other songs.

Tl;dr Very well conceived album. Lyrical themes that are both consistent and layered in a way that keeps you coming back, and makes you want to listen to it all. Musical sound is unique to Rent Strike, but also stands up as some quality folk-punk, while also exploring screamo, bluegrass, and prog elements. Really good listen start to back. Every song is good.
Fav songs: II: The Road Giveth..., VI: Don't Let Love Bog You Down
  
Album of the Week: BALLADS 1 by Joji

This is another one that I discovered through TwoCans, actually. I think one or two people had answered one of my music related questions with Joji, either as an artist they liked or a favorite song. This is another one that's not really underrated, but I guess I wanted to celebrate. To be honest, not all the songs land for me, but the ones that do really land. That's not to say the ones that don't land are bad. At its worst, songs just don't grip me, but none of the songs I actively dislike either. That being said, I have liked more and more of this album as I've listened to it, and I've by now recognized the majority of this album as pretty Jam packed.
So, let's start out with the biggest bangers here. YEAH RIGHT was the first song to catch my ear, and like the rest of the album, it's both very clean and very expressive at the same time. Its upbeat, but it has a smoothness to it, in the delivery and in the lyrics themselves. The song seems to be sort of about doubt, both self-doubt but also very centrally doubt in another person caring. This comes back through the album as well. ATTENTION starts the album out, and is asking for, well some attention. Songs on this album are pretty simple, and themes seem pretty centralized to problems in relationships and self-doubt. Again, there's a smoothness there. It's not too hard to get behind these themes.
But I think more than the lyrics, what really stands out in this album is the production. Joji here uses a lot of contrast and maximization. The chorus in both ATTENTION and SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK are big, overblown. There is this interplay throughout the album of hi-fi and lo-fi, in that obviously the production is top notch, but lo-fi sounds are used purposefully. ATTENTION has these overblown bass notes thrown in. The main keys in YEAH RIGHT are lo-fi as well. But at the same time, everything is clean, in that there is a lot of electronic and pop production here inspired by a lot of the electronic sort of beats that have been in pop and hip hop over the past decade or so, to the point that it feels again like smooth and relaxing, and again very clean. Everything is precisely on beat in a way that's sort of dancy and safe, I suppose. I think TEST DRIVE and CAN'T GET OVER YOU sort of highlight this sort of production I'm talking about.
I should probably touch on the lows I had mentioned before. Like I said, nothing is offensive or unappealing here. At its worst, some songs just don't grip me as much. However, in a way, despite this album being very expressive and frontal, it has been more of a slow burn for me in that I've become very attached to different songs in the album as they go. At first, YEAH RIGHT caught my attention, then ATTENTION caught my attention, and so on until I do really jam with a majority of songs on this album. So I guess I'd just say to keep listening and more songs may gain some traction with you as you get more acquainted, or at least that's how it was for me.

tl;dr This album is packed with bangers. Lyrics are simple but relatable. However, more than the lyrics, the production is absolutely top notch, at least if you're looking for something clean but still big and danceable.
Fav songs: YEAH RIGHT, ATTENTION, SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK
  
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