THE BEST FOLK OF 2019 (Episode 1)

Since the beginning of 2019, we could enjoy a good number of valid and interesting folk music albums and we are already able to point out which are the best records of the year (up to now). The first episode of this chart refers to the first quarter of 2019 and it features five different albums spanning from indie to traditional Scottish folk. Enjoy this article and stay tuned for future updates!



#5) “Tomb”, by Angelo De Augustine

Indie Folk

Sometimes you meet with artists, or records, that manage to transmit you strong emotions independently from the specific music they play. Tomb, which is the latest LP released by American singer-songwriter Angelo De Augustine, represents one of these cases. The LP is third of a discography which includes his self-released debut album, 2011’s Spirals of Silence, and his previous 2017’s LP named Swim Inside the Moon.

Tomb develops over a profound and universal statement: we grow up following some dreams that, at same point in our life, may be erased because of external factors. There are two ways to cope whit that: we give up or we try to emerge from the darkness of our disillusions, elaborating the loss and trying to come out stronger than before.

Listening to the music of Angelo De Augustine is like enjoying the recitation of a poem, and in this sense his work is actually in between these two different forms of art.

The album is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with additional details on the record and also a few videos to see.



#4) “Those Who Roam”, by Claire Hastings

Traditional Scottish Folk

The biography of young Scottish folksinger and songwriter Claire Hastings says that despite already at primary school her teachers noticed how good was her voice, she didn’t pursue music until she arrived at the University. In a few years, however, she managed to compensate for all the time lost and, impressively, she was named “BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year” even before releasing her debut album (Between River and Railway). This year Hastings has released her second LP, named Those Who Roam, and we may enjoy once again the talent of one of the most promising figures of contemporary folk.

The element that stands out the most in this record is for sure the beautiful voice of the singer, while the musical part is not always at the same level. Those Who Roam is like a nice walk in a flowery park, under the sun. A sun that, however, still can’t make you feel warm, it’s only a slight sensation that you have on the skin.

Those Who Roam is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with more information and a couple of songs to enjoy.



#3) “Ode to a Friend” by Old Sea Brigade

INDIE FOLK


After releasing a number of intriguing and appreciated short publications, American singer-songwriter Ben Cramer, who plays under the moniker of Old Sea Brigade, eventually released his debut full-length record, named Ode to a Friend. Despite arriving after four previous EPs, the songs of the new album are all unpublished and the new material shows the capacity that has been developed by Cramer – in just a few years – in defining a style that is quite unique and personal, moving with ease among folk, Americana and ambient soundscapes.

Ode to a Friend is an album that’s absolutely poetic and fascinating, something which has the capacity to take us away from the chaos, but which also requires extremely quiet environments in order to be fully appreciated. And if most of the tracks of the LP are still built on Cramer’s finger-picked guitar and echo effects, for the first time we enjoy in his songs also a wider palette of sounds which includes notes from a distant piano or gentle layers of synths.

Ode to a Friend is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with videos and other information.



#2) “Le Ceneri di Heliodoro”, by Rome

DARK FOLK

Le Ceneri di Heliodoro is the latest release from Luxembourg’s folk master Jérôme Reuter, who operates under the name of Rome. This is the most recent entry in a very large discography which features more than 10 LPs and many other EPs, all of them devoted to telling fascinating stories which interconnect ancient wars with the struggles of modern times.

Le Ceneri di Heliodoro is an album that manages to be at the same time profound, conceptual but still absolutely enjoyable to listen to. From a musical point of view, the album doesn’t deviate substantially from the dark folk that has been offered in all the previous releases from Reuter, with the exception of an increased presence – in the new album – of “martial” elements. The LP starts with a sequence of impressive and absolutely brilliant songs, gifted by some of the most beautiful melodies we heard in recent times.

Le Ceneri di Heliodoro is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. Here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with videos and other details.



Best Folk Album of 2019 (so far)

“Crushing”, by Julia Jacklin

INDIE FOLK / INDIE POP

Julia Jacklin is an Australian singer and songwriter based in Sydney, and she has released in late February 2019 her second LP, Crushing, which follows her 2016’s impressive debut studio album, Don’t Let the Kids Win. Similarly to what happened on the occasion of her first record, the first thing which impresses of Crushing is the remarkable emotional intensity of the songs. These are reflections and flashes made by the artist on her life and her past experiences, translated into music with a naturalness and a sense of urgency and immediacy that cannot leave us indifferent.

From a musical point of view, the songs of Crushing stay right on the border that separates indie pop from folk. The instrumentation, in particular, is that typical of folk music: the tracks develop mainly on Julia’s voice and guitar, with a simple rhythmic session made by repeated notes of bass and slow beats on the drums. Rarely we hear a piano. The simplicity of the arrangement, however, is compensated by warm and beautiful sounds of all the instruments, which in the end enhance the sense of intimacy of the tracks.

Crushing is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify. The album was included in this blog’s Best New Music category and here you can read the review of the LP that I wrote for the blog, with more information and also a couple of singles to enjoy.



All the best indie folk songs that were released since the beginning of the year are collected in the Playlist called The INDIE FOLK Radar, which features all the artists included in this chart bat also other remarkable songs from artists like Sun Kil Moon, Meat Puppets, Mandoline Orange, and many others. Listen to it and follow it: the playlist is periodically updated with new tracks.


Best New Music: “Crushing” by Julia Jacklin

Sometimes I find myself thinking about how many groups or artists try to reach the hearts of their fans with compulsively conceptual songs, or stylistic choices that want to be innovative, but that ultimately do nothing else than putting an unnecessary distance between the music and the listener. Then, all of a sudden, a young musician arrives, with just her voice and a guitar, and she sweeps away all these overcomplicated artefacts with the simplicity of beautiful songs that speaks directly to the heart.

Julia Jacklin is an Australian singer and songwriter based in Sydney, and she has released in late February 2019 her second LP, Crushing, which follows her 2016’s impressive debut studio album, Don’t Let the Kids Win. Similarly to what happened on the occasion of her first record, the first thing which impresses of Crushing is the remarkable emotional intensity of the songs. These are reflections and flashes made by the artist on her life and her past experiences, translated into music with a naturalness and a sense of urgency and immediacy that cannot leave us indifferent.

“Crushing” is the second LP by the Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin. The album was released on February 22nd, 2019, by Liberation Records.

When you listen Julia Jacklin’s new record, it really seems to be alongside an old friend of ours who decided, on a rainy day, to tell us about some of the strongest emotions she has experienced in the last few years, and she does it with passion, transport, and using a musical language that’s simple, as it is effective and confidential.

This album came from spending two years touring and being in a relationship, and feeling like I never had any space of my own. For a long time I felt like my head was full of fear and my body was just this functional thing that carried me from point A to B, and writing these songs was like rejoining the two.

Julia Jacklin, from her Facebook page
Julia Jacklin

From a musical point of view, the songs of Crushing stay right on the border that separates indie pop from folk. The instrumentation, in particular, is that typical of folk music: the tracks develop mainly on Julia’s voice and guitar, with a simple rhythmic session made by repeated notes of bass and slow beats on the drums. Rarely we hear a piano. The simplicity of the arrangement, however, is compensated by warm and beautiful sounds of all the instruments, which in the end enhance the sense of intimacy of the tracks.

As far as the style of the songs is concerned, Crushing alternates between poetical moments with meditative and confidential tones, and others where the rhythms rise (relatively) and the songs embrace a rock and roll feeling. The first category of songs is that one that impressed me the most, and which in my opinion makes this LP so beautiful and gorgeous. The opening song of the LP, Body, is perhaps one of the most expressive and engaging tracks I’ve heard in recent times. The song tells of the end of a relationhsip, and of how the destiny can have an impact on our lifes in the most unpredictable ways.

On the album-opening lead single “Body,” Jacklin proves the power of that approach, turning out a mesmerizing vocal performance even as she slips into the slightest murmur. A starkly composed portrait of a breakup, the song bears an often-bracing intimacy, a sense that you’re right in the room with Jacklin as she lays her heart out. And as Body wanders and drifts, Jacklin establishes Crushing as an album that exists entirely on its own time, a work that’s willfully unhurried.

Excerpt from Julia Jacklin’s Facebook page

Crushing is an album filled with emotions and played with passion and elegance. Julia Jacklin is improving her style and storytelling skills year after year. We can really expect the best from her future career.

I’m giving the LP an overall rating of 8/10. As I said, I was particularly impressed by the most intimate and delicate songs of the LP, which include the already mentioned Body, Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You, Convention, Turn Me Down, and Comfort.


Crushing is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.



Songs from Crushing are now featured in a number of different playlists among those I curate on Spotify, namely: CRESTS OF WAVES (the softer side of music), THE INDIE FOLK RADAR (the best of Indie Folk since the beginning of 2019), THE INDIE POP RADAR (the best of Indie Pop since the beginning of 2019), and MODERN SONGWRITERS. Check these out and follow the playlists, these are updated frequently with new songs.



The INDIE POP Radar (Episode #1/2019)

It is now a couple of years since I have started to explore more regularly and with greater attention the world of Indie Pop, and I have to say that typically the frequency with which I find interesting records is not high as what I measure for other musical genres. This probably happens because the “popular” aspect of this genre of music often leads the artists to trade off the profundity and the originality of their songs with immediacy and accessibility. However, there are still some albums that periodically stand out from the others, and these are the records that I’m going to select and mention in this new series of columns dedicated to Indie Pop.

This first edition of the Indie Pop radar features the most relevant albums that were relesed in the first two months of 2019. I’ve selected four LPs and one EP, which cover different interpretation of this style of music.

As far as geography is concerned, we have that four of the five albums are coming from the United States of America (from Juliana Hatfield, Mree, Buke & Gase and Adia Victoria). The last one is from Germany (Wooden Peak).

Let’s see the which were the best Indie Pop albums in January and February of 2019, and stay tuned for updates of the radar!



“Weird”, by Juliana Hatfield

One of the most important events in indie pop which occurred in the first part of the year has been the release of the new LP by American singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield. Weird is the seventeenth studio album of her intense career (only counting her solo works), which means that we’re talking of an artist that has gained extreme confidence in writing and playing music.

The songs of Weird are mostly built upon the basic combination of a clean electric guitar and Hatfield’s voice, with the rhythmic section that has the only role of keeping the pace of the song. The result is a sequence of melodic, cheerful and absolutely engaging ballads, which still maintain however an “indie” feeling.

You can read here my review of the album.



“The Middle”, by Mree

American singer-songwriter Marie Hsiao, who’s best known with her stage name of Mree, has been gifted with one of the most beautiful and angelic voices in the indie music panorama. Fortunately for us, however, she has demonstrated through the last years to have achieved also a remarkable musical sensibility together with appreciable songwriting skills, so that in the end her beautiful voice is always supported by enjoyable and intriguing pieces of music. This is for sure the case of Mree’s new EP, called The Middle, which features a collection of four delicate and intimate pieces and one instrumental song.

The Middle arrives two years after her previous EP (Silver Gold), and four years after her last LP (Empty Nest). Surely this is a sign of the artist’s will to pursue only the highest musical quality, and it increases the expectations for her next full-length release.

From a musical point of view, the EP signs also a clear shift towards indie pop and dreamy atmospheres with respect to her previous records, which were definitely more oriented to indie folk. As a matter of fact, The Middle features a couple of very impressive songs (including the title track) and this should motivate her to keep exploring this style of music, where she effectively manages to infuse passion and poetry with her fantastic voice.



“Silences”, by Adia Victoria

It was not easy to choose whether to mention the new album by Adia Victoria album in this section, dedicated to indie pop or if I had to include it in the indie folk category. The American artist is, in fact, a singer-songwriter who likes to insert in her music interesting notes of gothic and blues, but, at the same time, all of her songs have a clear “popular” and catchy feeling, at least from a purely musical point of view. As far as the lyrics are concerned, the situation is different, as her songs tell of the difficulties she had to face before growing-up, and becoming an established artist.

Silences is the second LP from Adia Victoria, and it arrives three years after her impressive debut, Beyond the Bloodhounds. In such a timespan the artist from Nashville has evidently experimented with increasing the palette of sounds and instruments. The new album, in fact, is chromatically much richer than its debut LP, and it benefits from a truly exceptional production.

Silences is a record full of many things together: engaging music, but written with a pop sensibility, deep and thoughtful lyrics, and fantastic sounds.



“Scholars”, by Buke & Gase

Among the most interesting indie pop records of the first part of the year, there is for sure the new LP by Buke & Gase, named Scholars. This is actually more an experimental record than an indie pop one, and it’s in fact included in that category of records. Nevertheless, the musical material that is processed and manipulated by the American band is, in its essence, pop music, and so the LP may find its place also here on this page. Buke & Gase is the duo formed approximately ten years ago by Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, two musicians with a declared passion for improvisation and sonic experimentation. As might be expected, their music cannot be defined as “easy listening”, nevertheless the output of their experiments in the studio remains quite catchy and accessible.

Buke & Gase’s new work oscillates between sections that are fairly conceptual (and not very communicative, to be honest) and other moments in which their bizarre combinations of sounds generate intriguing rhythms and melodies. However, I remain of the idea that the value of this music should not be sought in the ingenuity of the solutions that the two have developed for the album, but rather on the way they managed to restructure the building blocks of modern pop music. What other artists put together to create a song, they separate it. This process produces sometimes exquisite pieces of music, other times we have musical material that’s interesting to study, but relatively difficult to enjoy.



“Yellow Walls”, by Wooden Peak

The month of February gave us an interesting and intriguing album to enjoy, although very particular. It’s Yellow Walls, the new and fourth LP by German folktronic duo Wooden Peak.

Their music has always been reduced to the essential: a simple, almost fragile, electronic rhythmic baseline on which the artists record delicate melodies of guitar, gentle layers of synths and interesting lyrics. Everything is quiet, moderate, almost minimal. And for this reason, it may be challenging at first to feel involved by their songs, which could easily seem initial drafts of songs rather than complete and finished pieces. Many times, however, the most beautiful things are hidden in the details, and that’s what happens with the new intriguing collection of low-fi and delicate songs that the duo has prepared for us.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the album, you can read it from here.



I started collecting the best Indie Pop songs of 2019 in the Playlist called THE INDIE POP RADAR. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.



Quick Review: “Yellow Walls” by Wooden Peak

Many times the most beautiful things are hidden in the details, and you must also be ready to go beyond the first impression to appreciate what’s out of the sight of the distracted observer. As far as music is concerned, there are records that initially leave you cold and neutral because of the essentiality of the arrangements and the apparent lack of passion but then, after you listen again and again, they reveal an enjoyability and a richness of charming details that can really be out of the ordinary.

Wooden Peak is a German band consisting of Jonas Wolter (guitar, organ and voice) and Sebastian Bode (drums and synths), and the duo arrived with their newest release, named Yellow Walls, to the fourth LP of their career. Their music has always been reduced to the essential: a simple, almost fragile, electronic rhythmic baseline on which the artists record delicate melodies of guitar, gentle layers of synths and interesting lyrics. Everything is quiet, moderate, almost minimal. And for this reason it may be challenging at first to feel involved by their songs, which could easily seem initial drafts of songs rather than complete and finished pieces. The style of their songs can be described as a stripped down version of folktronica, or even as an acoustic and slow-moving intepretation of post rock. The main similarities that come to my mind are the early works from Mogwai and the beautiful The Notwist‘s Neon Golden.


Wooden Peak are active since more than ten years and over this time they have gained the ability to understand what’s really essential for a song, and what can be removed in order to make everything lighter, and softer. Clearly their style of music is not for large audiences, still their songs can give transmit strong emotions to all those who are willing to go beyond the initial impression of extreme simplicity.


My overall rating is 7/10. Yellow Walls is a beautiful collection of low-fi and delicate music for all those moments when you need tranquility but you still want to enjoy delicate sounds. This LP is the ideal companion for long sessions on the computer: it will never completely distract your attention from what you are doing, but it will be on the background, keeping you company and making the atmosphere extremely sensual and soft.

My favourite tracks of the LP are Stitch, Lamp, Swarm and Wednesday.


Yellow Walls is available on Bancamp and it can be also streamed from Spotify.



Wooden Peak are now featured in CRESTS OF WAVES, the playlist with the best and softer songs that have been released in the last couple of years. Listen to it and follow it, it’s frequently updated with new songs.



Quick Review: “Weird” by Juliana Hatfield

American singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield has accumulated a huge number of different musical experiences throughout her intense career, and she has achieved a relevant reputation in many different genres of music: from the alt rock she used to play with the Blake Babies to the power pop of The Lemonheads, passing through the indie rock she did with Some Girls. Therefore, every new release from Hatfield brings with it a moderate curiosity about the style and the influences that we will find in the record. Last year I had some perplexity in front of her solo album “Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John (contrarily to the average reviews of the official critics): it seemed to me that the LP was lacking the capacity to communicate genuine emotions to those who were not familiar with the discography of the Aussie singer. This year Hatfield is back with a new LP called Weird, and I feel that the new album is definitely stronger and more effective than the previous one.

From a musical point of view, Weird oscillates between a sparkling and catchy rock and roll and a mainstream-oriented indie pop. It’s thus difficult to classify Hatfield’s new album into one single category: the style of her music today is truly the expression of an artist that has matured her own way to write and play, and she does it with extreme confidence. At the same time, it’s worth to remember that with her new LP Juliana Hatfield has now arrived at the seventeenth studio album of her career, and this number includes only her solo works. At every new release, she has the opportunity to take the best from all that she learned during such a valuable journey into music.


Sonically speaking, most of the tracks of Weird are built upon the basic combination of a clean electric guitar and Hatfield’s voice, with the rhytmic section that has the only role of keeping the pace of the song. The result is a sequence of melodic, cheerful and absolutely engaging ballads which still maintain an “indie” feeling.

One thing that I liked very much about the LP is that sense of freshness and immediacy of the songs. Weird seems to have been composed through a spontaneous and natural process, and we get the feeling that Hatfield experienced a moment of significant creative impulse when conceiving the record, as if the songs came out from her mind with relative ease. Despite the intimate and sometime pessimistic lyrics, the overall mood of the LP is substantially cheerful and positive, and you can enjoy its songs in many different moments of your day.


If I should give a rating to the album, I would go for a 7/10.

The album can be streamed on Spotify.

My favorite songs of the record are: Staying In (which is the opening track and maybe the strongest song of the LP), It’s so Weird, and Paid to Lie.



Juliana Hatfield’s song Staying In is now featured in CREST OF WAVES, “the Softer Side of Music”. Check it out and follow it, the playlist is continuously updated.



TURN OFF THE NOISE: THE BEST INDIE POP OF 2018 (updated)

We like the energy of rock, the adrenaline of electronic music, the abrasive and heavy sounds of metal and the elegance of Jazz. But there are moments when we just need to turn off the noise, remove all worries, free our mind from every thought, and enjoy some happy and cheerful music. In these moments, nothing is better than a good indie pop record.

I’m collecting in this article a list with the best indie pop albums that were released in 2018, so far. This ranked chart is un update of the one that was presented on last March (it’s still available here) and it provides, evidently, a more complete representation of the status of indie pop in the year 2018. With respect to the previous edition we have now a larger number of albums with a few new entries (Wild Pink, Say Sue Me and Metric).

Discover the best indie pop albums of 2018 and don’t forget to visit periodically the pop section of the blog in order to check for updates of the chart and new reviews.


 

#1) Postcards, “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”

 

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Postcards is a Lebanese indie pop band formed in late 2012. After tthree EPs, their first full-length record, “I’ll be here in the morning“, was released on January 2018.

Many months have passed since the first time I introduced in this blog the debut album by Postcards, and it’s still firmly on top of the chart, and this obviously further increases the value of the album. And as I was writing at that time, it’s really exciting when you come across an album from a new band that leaves you leaves you so impressed. 

I’ll be here in the morning is the first album released by Postcards, a dreamy-pop & indie rock band formed in Beirut, Lebanon, on late 2012. Postcards describe their music as “hushed, introspective vocals floating over expansive sonic spaces that shift between harsh noise and dreamy soundscapes“. Such definition may be a little too complex and sophisticated, but there is no doubt that the music offered in this debut LP is of absolute value and it contains many elements of innovation, in particular when taking into account the current status of the indie pop scene.

One of the most exciting aspects of I’ll be here in the morning is that the songs seem as they are not completely defined and they moves between areas of lightness and sections more dark and meditative, with melodies that initially appear serene and peaceful but, during the development of the songs, start to show also ambiguous and subtly disturbing elements. The album is also characterized by a nice alternation of intimate songs and more angry and polemical moments. Finally, it’s worth to say that despite being at the beginning of a promising career, these four musicians show excellent songwriting skills and also an impressive musical sensibility. If Poscards will confirm these qualities in their future works, they are destined to do great things in music. And I will be there to remind you that I was one of those who discovered their value since the beginning.

Highlights: Waves and Bright Lights.


 

#2) Wild Pink, “Yolk in the Fur”

 

Wild Pink 1300
Wild Pink is an American band from the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City. They have released so far two LP: 2017’s “Wild Pink” and this year’s “Yolk in the Fur”

Wild Pink, from New York City, is one of those emerging bands which try to find their own space in the music scene cultivating elegance and style rather than using commercial and marketing stratagems to get noticed and gain popularity. Wild Pink define themselves as an indie rock band, and their formation is in effect the typical trio with guitar/vocals, bass and drums. The music composed by these guys, however, tends to travel through the softer and quieter regions of the rock universe, on that blurred border that exists between rock and indie pop.

Wild Pink’s last full-lenght record, Yolk in the Fur, presents a fairly significant evolution of their style compared to their self-titled debut, especially for the adoption of a more classic and conventional structure of the songs. Compared to their first record, the sound of Wild Pink is slowly drifting towards more placid and quiet musical landscapes, rarely perturbed by guitar distortions and dissonances.

Musically speaking, Yolk in the Fur is characterized by placid rhythms and simple but intriguing melodies. Most of the songs are built on top of clean guitars, warm lines of bass and delicate layers of acoustic synthetizers. And there is of course the charming voice of John Ross, the leader and songwriter of the band, a singer who never needs to scream to tell his stories.

Highlights: Yolk in The Fur and Love is Better.


 

#3) David Duchovny, “Every Third Thought”

 

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David Duchovny is a famous American actor, writer, producer, director, novelist, and singer-songwriter. “Every Third Though” is Duchovny’s second effort as musician.

Every Third Thought is the second studio album of American actor and singer David Duchovny, one of those artists who likes to challenge himself with different forms of expression. In addtion to looking for aliens and other mysteries, Duchovny has distinguished himself as a novelist, producer, and musician. It should be said, in this regard, that he writes and arranges his songs, thus showing qualities that go well beyond a nice presence on the stage and an interesting voice.

Although I had initially some skepticism about the album, I recognized in the end that Every Third Thought is definitely an interesting and appreciable collection of indie pop songs, with some of them that have been rotating frequently in different playlists.

Compared with Duchovny’s previous release (2015’s Hell or Highwater) the new album has gained in intensity and also energy: his sound today is definitely more “rock” the overall enjoyability of the album has benefited from such evolution.

Highlights: Every Third Thought and Mo’


 

#4) Say Sue Me, “Where we were together”

 

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Say Sue Me are a surf-inspired indie rock quartet from Busan, South Korea. Say Sue Me’s sophomore album “Where We were Together” was released in April 2018.

It was pretty amazing for me to find out that Say Sue Me is a band coming from South Korea. When I first listened to their songs, they appeared to me as one of the many  North American or European bands try to find their way into the music scene. I must admit that the particular origin of the band stimulated me to listen with more attention to their LP, Where We Were Together, which is the second disc of their discography (I missed their debut, my apologies). After listening to the whole record for a handful of times I started to get more attracted to their music and, in the end, I’m really happy that I gave them a second chance after the first (inattentive) try.

Where We Were Together features an ejoyable collection of small and luminous musical sketches, all of them cheerful and nice to hear. One of the strongest elements of their song is surely the delicate and angelic voice of the singer, who gives grace and atmosphere to all the record.

Where We Were Together seems to me the perfect music to be heard on my return home on Friday afternoons, when the tension of a week of meetings and commitments slowly dissolves into the promise of a weekend of serenity.

Highlights: But I Like You and Funny and Cute


 

#5) The Wombats, “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life”

 

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The Wombats are an English pop & rock band formed in Liverpool in 2003. The group met while they were in university and released several EPs before their debut LP in 2006. “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life” is the fourth studio album.

The Wombats, from Liverpool, have published in 2018 the fourth album of their career, named Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Since their initial formation in 2003, the band has experienced many changes in their style: from electronic/psychedelic music to post-punk revival, arriving to the current stage of their evolution in which their sound can be described as a nice blend of pop-oriented melodies with elements from indie rock and alternative dance. The mixtures of different influences and inspirations that they have practiced in all of their releases have always guaranteed freshness and innovation to their albums, something which is definitely confirmed in their last record.

Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life features quite a good number of extremely interesting and enjoyable pieces, although it’s not possible to hide the fact that alongside these tracks there are also a bunch of less convincing songs. Because of this gap it’s still possible to pick up the best tracks and enjoy them in playlists or compilations, but the experience of listening to the whole album results, in the end, much less enjoyable than it could have been if a little more focus was put on each single track of the LP.

Highlights: Turn and Lemon to a Knife Fight


 

#6) Calexico, “The Thread That Keeps Us”

 

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Calexico is an Arizona-based pop & rock band. Their musical style is influenced by traditional Latin sounds of mariachi, conjunto, cumbia and tejano mixed with country, jazz and post-rock. “The Thread That Keeps Us” is their tenth album.

It’s always a special moment when a band reaches the milestone of the tenth album of their discography and Calexico, the “desert noir” group founded more than twenty years ago by Joey Burns and John Convertino, has achieved this result in 2018 with their new album The Thread That Keeps Us.

The name of the group is that of the city of Calexico, on the border between the United States and Mexico, and this choice has always represented the stylistic choise adopted by these musicians in mixing genres and influences. Their latest album is no exception and we can in fact appreciate an enjoyable mix of Americana, folk and the usual references to the Latin musical tradition.

The songs which Calexico composed for The Thread That Keeps Us are always interesting and intriguing and this time, together with many “conventional” tracks, we may appreciate also a couple of attempts to experiment something different with respect to their usual style. Perhaps the LP lacks a particularly memorable song, but as a whole The Thread That Keeps Us is an enjoyable and very elegant, and it fully confirms the qualities that the band has shown in all of their discography.

Highlights: Voices in The Field and End of The World With You.


 

#7)  Metric, “Arts of Doubt”

 

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Metric is a Canadian rock band founded in 1998 in Toronto, Canada. They have published so far seven studio LPs and “Arts of Doubt” is their latest release.

Over the past fifteen years the sound of Metric has traveled several times, and in both directions, along the path which runs between synthpop and indie rock. And the new album by the Canadian band, Arts of Doubt, seems to represent in one single episode all the main stages of this travel. In certain songs we have a clear “rock and roll” feeling with guitars, bass and drums in the foreground, but there are many other parts of the album where the atmospheres and the sound are definitely “pop”, with triumphs of synthetizers and also hints to that mellow & downtempo style which characterized the early works of the band.

As always, the burden of keeping everything consistent is in the hands of Emily Haines and James Shaw, who have always been the driving forces of the band. Haines, in particular, delivers in some of the songs of the LP one of her best vocal performances. And Shaw’s guitar, glossy and sticky, always manages to gives cues and elements of great interest.

Arts of Doubt won’t be the absolute masterpiece of Metric’s career but it’s still an absolutely valid and interesting record, with a few songs that that remain deeply impressed in the memory and that will surely populate many of our playlists.

Highlights: Die Happy and Holding Out.


 

#8) Anna Burch, “Quit The Curse”

 

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Anna Burch is a singer / songwriter from Detroit, in the U.S. and “Quit the Curse” is her debut solo LP after many years spent as a supporting player.

Quit the Curse is the debut LP from Detroit singer/songwriter Anna Burch, and this record tells the story of a demo-tape arrived to the desk of Polyvinil during the summer of 2017, which caught the ears of the label and other artists of the caliber of Angel Olsen and The Black Keys, who eventually helped to develop the album.

The songs on Quite the Curse offer a low-fi version of indie pop with basic arrangments and simple melodies. Taken individually, most of the tracks look catchy and intriguing, and they also transmit nice sensations of positivity and lightness. The album as a whole, however, tends to be a little flat and monochord and perhaps this is the aspect that the American artist should focus on in view of the future releases.

Highlights: 2Cool 2 Care and Tea-Soaked Letter


 

Many of the songs presented in this article are part of CRESTS OF WAVES, the playlist I manage of Spotify with the best and latest indie pop songs.

 


Quick Review: “Yolk in the Fur” by Wild Pink

Wild Pink, from New York City, is one of those emerging bands which try to find their own space in the music scene cultivating elegance and style rather than using commercial and marketing stratagems to get noticed and gain popularity. Wild Pink define themselves as an indie rock band, and their formation is in effect the typical trio with guitar/vocals, bass and drums. The music composed by these guys, however, loves to travel through the softer and quieter regions of the rock universe, on that blurred border that exists between rock and indie pop;  this the kind of music which has as major exponents authors such as War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and, to some extent, Death Cab for Cutie (if you consider their early works).

Formed in 2017, Wild Pink have published so far two EPs and two LPs. Their last full-lenght record, Yolk in the Fur, presents a fairly significant evolution of their style compared to their self-titled debut, especially for the adoption of a more classic and conventional structure of the songs. Compared to their first record, the sound of Wild Pink is slowly drifting towards more placid and quiet musical landscapes, rarely perturbed by guitar distortions and dissonances. It’s like being on a beach at the end of the summer: the climate still carries the scent and the lightness of the sunny days that we enjoyed until a few weeks ago, but there are occasionally breezes of cold winds and also  black clouds that can obscure the light for a few minutes.

Musically speaking, Yolk in the Fur is characterized by placid rhythms and simple but intriguing melodies. Most of the songs are built on top of clean guitars, warm lines of bass and delicate layers of acoustic synthetizers. And there is of course the charming voice of John Ross, the leader and songwriter of the band, a singer who never needs to scream to tell his stories, like an old friend who sits beside you and calmly talks about the things he has observed during his absence.

Yolk in the Fur is available on Bandcamp and Spotify.

My favorite songs are Lake Erie, Love is Better and the opening track Burger Hill.


 

BEST OF INDIE POP in 2018 / The Best Albums so far (March 2018)

The year 2017 was definitely an excellent one for Indie Pop and many good records were released across the many sub-genres of this style of music. We had also the possibility to appreciate how alongside established artists there were lots of interesting debuts.

This trend is fully confirmed in the first months of 2018. We had the pleasure to listen to a bunch of excellent works, including a few really interesting debut works, such as those by Postcards and Anna Burch.

I’m presenting in this post the best Indie Pop albums of the first months of 2018. If you arrived here through a search engine please check if thisis the most recent entry in this kind of chart; there will be for sure new updates in the next months of the year and you can access them via the pop section of the blog. Enjoy!

 


 

#1) I’LL BE HERE IN THE MORNING by Postcards

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Postcards, from Beirut (Lebanon)

One of the best moments in the life a music lover is when you come across a debut album that manages to leave you speechless. In the recent times I had this experience with I’ll be here in the morning, which is the first album released by Postcards, a dreamy-pop & indie rock band formed in Beirut, Lebanon, on late 2012. Postcards describe their music as “hushed, introspective vocals floating over expansive sonic spaces that shift between harsh noise and dreamy soundscapes“. Such definition may be a little too complex and sophisticated, but there is no doubt that the music offered in this debut LP is of absolute value and it contains many elements of innovation when taking into account the current indie pop scene. One of the most exciting aspects of the music of Postcards is that the songs are never completely defined but thery rather oscillate between moments of clarity and dark areas, with melodies that initially appear serene and peaceful but in the end contain always ambiguous (and subtly disturbing) elements. The disc is also characterized by an enjoyable alternation of intimate songs and more angry and polemical moments; everything is further enriched by excellent songwriting skills and a special musical sensibility wich gives the songs a special emotional intensity. If the band will confirm these qualities also in their future works, Postcards are destined to do great things in music.


 

#2) EVERY THIRD THOUGHT by David Duchovny

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David Duchovny, the American actor, writer, producer, director, novelist, and singer-songwriter

Every Third Thought is the second studio album of American actor and singer David Duchovny, one of those artists who challenged himself with different forms of expression and generally collecting positive results in every one of them. In addtion to looking for aliens and other mysteries, Duchovny has distinguished himself as a novelist, producer, and musician. It should be said, in this regard, that he writes and arranges his songs, thus showing qualities that go well beyond a nice presence on the stage and an interesting voice. Although I had initially some skepticism about this album, I shall say that Every Third Thought is definitely interesting and appreciable, with a few songs that are now rotating frequently in my music playlists. Compared with Duchovny’s previous release, his sound has now become more intense and definitely more “rock”, with positive effects on the quality of the album which gained variety and energy.


 

#3) BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE by The Wombats

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The Wombats, from Liverpool (England)

The Wombats, from Liverpool, have published the fourth album of their career, named Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Since their initial formation in 2003, the band has experienced many changes in their style: from electronic/psychedelic music to post-punk revival, arriving the current sound which blends pop-oriented melodies with elements from indie rock and alternative dance. In short, a mixture of influences and inspirations that has always guaranteed freshness and innovation to their albums, something which is somehow confirmed in their last record.  The album features a good number of extremely interesting and enjoyable pieces even if there is a certain gap in quality between the best tracks and the remaining songs of the album. This may be fine for picking up songs and composing mixes and compilations, but it makes the experience of listening to the whole album less enjoyable than it could have been with a little more focus and dedication on all single tracks.


 

#4) QUITE THE CURSE by Anna Burch

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Anna Burch, from Detroit, Michigan (USA)

Quit the Curse is the debut LP from Detroit singer/songwriter Anna Burch, and this record tells the story of a demo-tape arrived to the desk of Polyvinil during the summer of 2017, which caught the ears of the label and other artists of the caliber of Angel Olsen and The Black Keys, who eventually helped to develop the album. The songs on Quite the Curse offer a low-fi version of indie pop with basic arrangments and simple melodies. Taken individually, most of the tracks look catchy and intriguing, and they also transmit nice sensations of positivity and lightness. The album as a whole, however, tends to be a little flat and monochord and perhaps this is the aspect that the American artist should focus on in view of the future releases.


 

#5) THE THREAD THAT KEEPS US by Calexico

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Calexico, from Tucson, Arizona (USA)

It is always an important event in music when a band reaches the milestone of the tenth album of their discography and Calexico, the “desert noir” group founded more than twenty years ago by Joey Burns and John Convertino, has achieved this result in 2018 with their new album The Thread That Keeps Us. The name of the group is that of the city of Calexico, on the border between the United States and Mexico, and this choice has always represented the will of these musicians to mix genres and influences. And even in this latest album we can appreciate an enjoyable mix of Americana, folk and elements of latin music. The songs from Calexico are always interesting and intriguing and as usual,  together with many standard and traditional songs, we find in the album small sparks of experimentation. Perhaps there is a lack of a single memorable and epic song, but as a whole The Thread That Keeps Us is an enjoyable and elegant album which fully confirms the qualities of this band.


 

#6) INTROVERT’S PLIGHT by When We Land

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When We Land, from Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA)

When We Land is a four-piece indie rock band from Minneapolis, in the U.S., and Introvert’s plight is their debut LP. The band plays an accessible and soft kind of music that it’s mostly consisting of basic melodies and layers of effects. Their debut album is nice and smooth and there are a couple of catchy songs that are particularly enjoyable and that leave good hopes for the future.


 

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in the following material that was published in the blog in the recent past:

  • The ranked list of the BEST INDIE POP ALBUMS OF 2017. The article includes a mixtape featuring all the best indie pop music released in 2017, it’s two hours of incredible music that you can’t absolutely miss.
  • There is a series of mixtapes fully dedicate to Indie Pop. It’s named CRESTS OF WAVES and it is one of the most appreciated of the S.B.G. blog. Check this out!

 

Last, but not least, I recommend you to access the beautiful CRESTS OF WAVES playlist that I manage on Spotify. It is updated frequently with only the best and latest songs.


 

 

THE SPARK: Best of ELECTRO POP in 2018, Edition 1 (February 2018): SKYGGE, Pola Rise, tUnE-YaRdS, BØRNS.

Let’s review in this entry of the blog the most interesting Electro Pop albums that we had the pleasure to listen in the first days of 2018. This short list consists of very heterogeneous artists: from the conceptual work of SKYGGE to the indie approach of Pola Rise and tUnE-YaRdS, up to the innovative and elegant sounds of BØRNS. Different styles but with the same result: very enjoyable and catchy songs that were born to accompany the best moments of our days.

Note to the readers: an updated edition of the chart has been already published in the blog, check it out!

 


 

Number 1

HELLO WORLD by SKYGGE

 

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Hello World, the experimental work by SKYGGE, was fully reviewed in a dedicated post when the album entered the Best New Music section of the blog. The album is the result of a research project in which scientists were looking for algorithms to capture and reproduce the concept of musical “style”. After a number of initial prototypes, a first group of electronic music artists joined the research team and at some point they took control of the process, and the scientific project became a music project. These artists were invited and coordinated by Benoit Carré (aka SKYGGE) and their work became the beautiful Hello World. The album is based on the idea to feed computer machines with sounds and melodies selected by every artist as input. Deep learning algorithms are then applied in order to allow the artificial intelligence module to elaborate and refine musical elements that are stylistically similar to the initial ones, but “new”.  From a musical point of view, the album is strongly influenced by European electronic music and in the end it results in an excellent collection of modern and forward thinking electronic tracks.


 

Number 2

ANYWHERE BUT HERE by Pola Rise

 

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Anywhere But Here is the debut album from a new electro pop artist from Poland, Paulina Miłosz, who operates under the stage name of Pola Rise. She published a number of singles from 2014 and eventually got a record deal with Warner Music Poland, which supported the publication of her full lenght work. Her style of electronic music oscillates between pieces of clear experimental nature with notes of avant-garde, and more delicate and catchy songs, which in my opnion are also the ones that better highlight the qualities of this young artist. This album is particularly interesting because of the way in which it is able to give that “indie” feeling to songs that, in their essence, result quite linear and without any particular dynamic development. These are musical sketches, interesting and somehowe engaging, and composed with a light touch that manage to make them very easy to enjoy but, at the same time, destined to leave impercettible traces after the listening.


 

Number 3

I CAN FEEL YOU CREEP INTO MY PRIVATE LIFE by tUnE-YaRdS

 

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Merrill Garbus, the US singer and songwriter who operates under the moniker of tUnE-YaRdS, never showed so far any lack of creativity and inventiveness. Indeed, from the beginning of her career she has maintained a minimalist approach to the choice of instruments and music styles almost as if she had the fear of covering, with an excess of effects and instruments, the essence of the motives and the ideas she was transforming into music. And even if this approach maybe precluded the largest audiences, i.e. those that are typically less corageous and less prepared to go beyond those well-established and conventional musical styles, she has still managed however to leave her mark within the indie scene of the last decade. tUnE-YaRdS’ last album, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, sees longtime collaborator Nate Brenner become an official member of the project, with the duo confirming more or less the same approach of Garbus’ previous releases. Electronic hypnotic beats remain in fact the baseline over which we enjoy Garbus’ eclectic and thrilling vocal lines. The musical performance is not always up to the experimental ambitions of the duo, but where the desire to explore manages to find an adequate sonic vehicle, their songs can offer a very pleasant escape from the monotony of our routines.


 

Number 4

BLUE MADONNA by BØRNS

 

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BØRNS is the stage name for Garrett Clark Borns, an American singer and songwriter who aroused considerable interest a few years ago with his debut album, Dopamine, which presented an extremely innovative, creative and enjoyable version of electro pop. On 2018 he came back with his second LP, Blue Madonna, which showcase once again his very special voice (he’s an intense user of the falsetto technique) but also his capacity to move with ease between glam pop and more atmospheric and articulated songs. Compared to the debut album, the new LP seems to have lost a part of immediacy and accessibility, two elements that had contributed to the success of Dopamine. The songs of Blue Madonna are less immediate and direct than before and perhaps – at first –  the impression can be of a less enjoyable collection of tracks. On the long distance, however, the album will for sure gain in profundity and longevity.


 

Best New Music: DARK HORSE by Biggi Hilmars

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With a few weeks of delay with the respect to the official release date (end of October 2017) I came across to this incredible album by Icelandic composer Biggi Hilmars. But as soon as I started listening to the first tracks of Dark Horse, it became immediately clear to me that I was in front of one of the most interesting records of the year – and not only in pop music.

The name of Biggi Hilmars is probably not among the best known of today’s music scene, but this musician has however already achieved a certain consideration not only as a pop artist but rather as a composer of music for film scores and trailers for both television and commercials.

Icelandic by birth, but international by nature, Biggi has lived and worked in London, Reykjavik, Paris, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles. His film work includes the music score for ‘Beeba Boys’ the crime thriller written and directed by Academy Award Nominee Deepa Mehta, the official movie trailer for ‘I Smile Back’, starring Sarah Silverman and music for the trailer for Thomas Vinterberg’s 2015 movie ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ starring Carey Mulligan. Recent commissions include the original score to Thomson Holiday’s ‘Moments’ advertising campaign, recorded at Abbey Road Studios with the London Chamber Orchestra. Biggi has also recently composed for Apple, Skoda, IBM, Mercedes Benz and Chevrolet, to name but few. (from the artist’s webpage)

Dark Horse, Biggi Hilmars’ third release as a solo, seems to summarize in a single disc most of the artist’s production and styles, floating in an unstable balance between commercial, classical and meditative music. But beyond the many influences and mixes of styles that generated the album, what’s really important at the end is that the songs on this record are absolutely beautiful, poetic, delicate and elegant in a way that is really difficult to find today. From a musical point of view, the 10 tracks of this album flow on a main vein of timeless melodies, on top of which there are delicate musical arrangments and ejoyable vocals. Everything is graced by an excellent production that managed to enhance the individual elements of the pieces but without affecting consistency and pleasure of the album as a whole.

That’s really one of the most lovely releases of the last months, a precious gem that shines with elegance and simplicity in an increasingly chaotic music scene.

The album can be streamed and acquired on the artist’s bandcamp page.


 

Guerino presents: INDIE INSIDE, a Spotify playlist with the Best of New Indie Rock

Indie rock has always had a special place in my musical heart, probably for its magical mixture of melody, dissonances and the gently revolutionary spirit it embodies. With this new project named INDIE INSIDE – for the time being materialized in the form of a Spotify list – I’m celebrating the beauty and the energy of Indie Rock with a selection of the last and best songs released in the year.

Follow the playlist because it’s expected to be updated regularly!


 

CRESTS OF WAVES Anthology – The Best of Indie Pop in 2017 (a Spotify Playlist)

You can now find all the songs which were selected and mixed so far in the three volumes of Guerino’s CRESTS OF WAVES mixtapes in a single Spotify playlist.

You’ll listen to the best Indie and Pop artists of the year and you’ll enjoy the best tracks from their recent LPs. Check this out periodically since new songs will be included in the anthology as new volumes of the mixtape series will be shared.

Enjoy!


 

CRESTS OF WAVES (Volume 3) – The Best of Modern Pop, September / October 2017

As I had the chance to comment in a recent post, the last couple of months have been really great for indie pop and therefore I hadn’t any trouble in assembling a new mixtape for the CRESTS OF WAVES series. For the new readers of the blog, this is the series of periodical compilations which present the best songs released in the last few months. I’ve mixed here great successes within indie and electro pop but I also included some tracks from lesser known artists, who don’t look absolutely bad beside their most famous colleagues.

This issue of CRESTS OF WAVES features songs from the last albums released by Arcade Fire, Lana Del Ray, The Horrors, The National, The War On Drugs, Tori Amos, and Waxahatchee.

Enjoy this compilation, the third of the series, and as usual scroll down below the widget for some additional information on the songs and the artists.


 

The song which opens the mix is the nice and joyful Holding On by The War On Drugs, the American indie band which released on last August their fourth album, A Deeper Understanding. This is probably one of the most brilliant works from the band and shows an impressive care for the details on both lyrics and sounds – something that may be related to their passage to a major music label (Atlantic Records). Started as a rock band with a clear “Americana” style (“Springsteen plus reverb”, said many critics), the band has managed year after year to craft a unique blend of synth pop over rock constructions, and the result is great.

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Second song of the playlist comes from Out in The Storm, the second marvellous album produced by Waxahatchee, the indie music project formed in 2010 by the American singer and songwriter Katie Crutchfield. Hear You, the track selected for the mix, displays all the excellent songwrting skills achieved by the artist in her last work. This is definitely one of the most exciting album of the year for its genre, and it’s not by chance that this project was featured also on the previous issue of the mixtape.

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Next song in the playlist is Something To Remember Me By, which is one of the tracks included in the recent album released by The Horrors. “V”, the fifth from the English band, has been one of the most impressive releases of the last few weeks mostly because of the high number of good tracks that are collected in the LP. This band has an incredible capacity to sound “commercial” but keeping at the same time a style and creativity that are typical of the best groups. The album arrived a few days after I released the last update of the indie pop chart, but in the feature we’ll see that The Horrors will quickly scale positions and settle down onto the highest places of the rankings.

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Even if this shouldn’t ever happen, the consideration that I had initially of the last work from the Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire was inevitably affected – negatively – because of the strange and controversial marketing campaign which has accompanied the launch of their new and fifth album, Everything Now. Anyway, leaving aside strange communications tactics and fake news, I must admit that their new LP features a number of good songs and therefore, even if the album doesn’t match the best peaks they have reached in the past, there are still some songs that are worth to be included in the playlist.

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Sleep Well Beast, the seventh album by American indie art rock The National, was one of the highly anticipated and most awaited albums of the year, and after its release it’s possible to say that the expectations where confirmed. Born as college rockers and post-punk revivalists, the guys from Cincinnati developed a unique musical style where delicate melodies and intimate atmospheres dominate over every other element. This characteristic is fully represented by The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, the song selected for the playlist and which was also one of the singles used by the band for promoting the new album.

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The final part of the playlist indulges in more melancholy and delicate tones, and this change of atmosphere is announced by the fantastic voice of Tori Amos,  the legendary and world acclaimed American singer-songwriter who published on last September the 15th studio album of her career, named Native Invader. The LP is impregnated – as usual – with Amos’ fantastic voice and enriched by the delicate and heartbreaking melodies she play on the piano. Cloud Riders, the song selected for this mixtape, was also the first single shared from the album.

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One could really say this time that the compilation closes “in beauty”. Summer Bummer, the last song of the mix, was selected from Lust for Life, which is the fifth studio LP by the american pop singer (and model) Lana Del Rey. The album is a collection of superb songs, simple but emotional little poetic pieces, with atmospheres that are somehow a little less melancholic than in her previous productions. Lana Del Ray’s songs have been always enlighted by superb melodies, and this is definitely confirmed in her last production.

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These are the two previous editions of the mixtape series.

 

CRESTS OF WAVES – Volume 2 (July 2017)

 

CRESTS OF WAVES – Volume 1 (June 2017)


 

The Top 10 Indie Pop Albums of 2017 (so far)

 

As we’re approaching the last quarter of the year, I’m updating all the main charts of the blog and in particular those referring to the main genres that are reviewed in these pages. One of the categories that has seen an important number of new releases is pop music, which here includes a wide range of sub-genres spanning from synth pop to indie, and which features often a relevant group of songwriters. In the last few weeks, in particular, there were a couple of major publications which have literally spoiled the previous charts and we can see the results by just looking to the top three positions. If this grouping of albums may appear at first as less homogeneous and coherent with respect to other genres (such as rock and metal, for example), it’s easy to recognize that there are distinctive features that accomunate all the entries of the list: these are the  search for beautiful melodic lines, the care for the arrangements, the desire to use music to draw poetic or melancholy paintings.

Let’s see then how the chart has been updated after the important releases of the last few weeks and – as usual – I hope it may be the opportunity for many of you to engagé with new artists and new types of music. Enjoy!


 

#1) Sleep Well Beast by The National

 

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Last In First Out. It’s just arrived on the shelves and it immediately captures the top of the list for its genre. Sleep Well Beast, the seventh album by American indie art rock The National, was one of the highly anticipated and most awaited albums of the year, and it  delivered what expected. It’s not by chance, then, that the LP topped in a few days some of the most important music charts in US, UK and Canada.

Born as college rockers and post-punk revivalists, these four guys from Cincinnati developed with the years a unique musical style where delicate melodies and intimate atmospheres dominate over every other element. One of the best characteristics of the album is how the band managed to introduce a bunch of new elements and innovation in their style but without reinventing their overall musical approach, which is still dominated by a profound melancholy but with some nice and appreciated relatively energic inserts (as it’s evident in the beautiful single Day I Die).

As it’s typical with every albums of The National, a few songs are a notch higher than the average level, which is however very high, making the experience of listening to the whole LP as a really enjoyable journey.


 

 #2) Silver Eye by Goldfrapp

 

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Silver Eye is the seventh studio album by legendary English electronic duo Goldfrapp and as it happened to many of their previous releases, it sees the band exploring new musical directions. After experimenting with with folktronica (Tales of Us) , 80’s pop (Head First), and downtempo (Seventh Tree), the duo has now moved towards an intriguing and enjoyable synth-pop.

The album offers to the listener an impressive number of very good songs, maybe a bit “basic” with respect to some of their previous productions, but with same level of elegance and delicacy, something that’s unfortunately become a rare thing nowadays in pop muisc.

Whether you’re just looking for a soft musical background during the working hours, or to “unplug” yourself for a moment of relaxation, this record can truly be your loyal companion and it will hardly disappoint your expectations. And it’s still among the best releaes of its genre even after many months from its publication.


 

#3) Native Invaders by Tori Amos

 

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Released on early September, Native Invader is the new beautiful album by American singer-songwriter Tori Amos. This is the 15th studio album by the poliedric artists and it is impregnated – as usual – with his fantastic voice and the delicate and heartbreaking melodies of the piano.

Tori Amos explained that most of the songs of the LP are inspired partly by a road trip she took on last winter through North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, and partly by a number of critical events which happened in the same period (two seismic events, the result of US Elections and a severe stroke which was suffered by her mother). These elements of inspiration are often blended together and give depth and passion to the songs of the album, which are executed with a class and elegance that have become a trademark of Tori Amos’ production.

From a musical point of view it is interesting to see how the artist constantly tries to innovate her own sound without ever abandoning that enjoyability and class that distinguishes her style. We find delicate elements of country music, recalls of pop rock, flashes of electronic, a lot of piano and symphonic elements, everything at the service of her wonderful voice.


 

#4) Dark Glow by Choir Vandals

 

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Often referred to as the modern reincarnation of The Smiths, Choir Vandals is a new wave and indie pop band from Missuouri, in the U.S.

After a relevant number of very good EPs and live recordings, the four-piece band eventually released their debut album, named Dark Glow, which contains a good number of great songs moving in a suprisingly natural way between pop and alternative.

As a debut album from a relatively new band, this work seems to anticipate great things for these musicians, which become now of one of the indie groups to track carefully in anticipation of their next steps.


 

#5) Little Fictions by Elbow

 

ELBOW - Little Fictions - 800x800For many months since the beginning of the year, most of the best indie pop songs that we could listen were coming from the last beautiful album released from The Elbow. This band of English alternative rock veterans published early in February the seventh studio LP of their long career, named Little Fictions. In absolute continuity with their latest works, the album contains a refreshing compilation of elegant and enjoyable pop & soft rock songs (“tastefully simple tracks”, as someone says). Simple but not trivial, because every song on the album shows an evident effort from the group to enrich the melodies with focused arrangements and – where necessary – some moderate experimentation.

The Elbow has always shown an undeniable talent for songwriting. This is fully confirmed here and even the abrupt departure of drummer Richard Jupp – who left the band after 25 years – didn’t affect too much the style and the sound of the band. When it comes to craft melodic and intimate pop rock songs,  these guys are still one of the best groups around.


 

#6) Capture by Thunder Dreamer

 

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Thunder Dreamer is a relatively new dreamy rock formation from Indiana, in the US,  and Capture is their second album, released two years after their debut LP.

The style of the band is located on the exact point where indie pop meets with post rock, and this album – considered as a whole – stands out as one of the best indie songbooks that have been released so far in 2017.

The songs of Capture reflect the main elements of the US midwestern heartland from where these guys come from. All the tracks of the album feature poignant melodies, moody arpeggios, and also some very good musical escalations typical of post-rock and shoegaze. This is for me one of the most nice surprise of the year in this genre, in particular because I missed their debut work and therefore I was totally unprepared to the skills and the expressive abilities of these guys.


 

#7) Cigarettes After Sex (S/T)

 

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At the seventh position in the chart we evenutally arrived to the first debut album of the list. Cigarettes After Sex is the beautiful self-titled work by this new ambient pop group (or project) led by Greg Gonzalez, an artist from Brooklyn, who has been supported for this LP by a number of different members and collaborators.

Cigarettes After Sex contains 10 delicate and elegant tracks, minimalistic as the front cover of the album and typically built on simple but beautiful melodies. The songs are based on very slow rhythms, dreamy electronics and reverbered guitars. We are in front of a special kind of pop which sometimes crosses the border with ambient and meditative music.

This album was for me a great surprise. I’ve read on the Internet that a few years ago their EP became a sort of online phenomenon – which I missed. Today, however, the experience of listening to the album without any previous reference probably provided me with an even bigger emotion than what I could have had by already knowning the particular style of this musical project. Listen to this disc without any preconception and it will give you really strong feelings.


 

#8) Out in the Storm by Waxahatchee

 

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Waxahatchee is the indie music project formed in 2010 by the American singer and songwriter Katie Crutchfield. Out in The Storm, her last release, is a marvellous album which sees the artist conveying an uninterrupted flow of emotions throughout all the 10 tracks of the album.

Musically speaking, the LP shows a remarkable level of maturity and excellent songwrting skills and it’s not difficult to say that this is the best result she has reached so far. The songs of Out of The Storm contain many references to other great pop artists (Silver could easily be confused with a song by The Cranberries), but the final result is definitely unique and exciting


 

#9) Lust For Life by Lana Del Rey

 

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Lana Del Rey has a voice that you can’t never forget after you hear it, and when the music is as sublime and elegant as her singing, the result can only be a great album. Lust for Life, the fifth studio LP by the american pop singer, is indeed another collection of superb songs, simple but emotional little poetic pieces.

The album sees a number of brilliant collaborations with other artists including  Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd, Sean Lennon, and American singer – songwriter Stevie Nicks. This is an absolute novelty in her musical production and introduces a further element of interest for the disc.

Musically speaking, the album features the artist’s characteristic cinematic and dreamy pop music, with atmospheres that are maybe a little less melancholic than in her previous productions – in particular in the first part of the LP. Lana Del Ray’s songs have been always enlighted by superb melodies, and this is definitely confirmed in her last production.


 

#10) In Between by The Feelies

 

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The musical production of The Feelies has been marked by a long period of silence. Formed in 1976, this band from New Jersey disbanded after sixteen years and four albums. Reunited about ten years ago, they have publised two more full-lenght studio albums, i.e. Here Before in 2011 and In Between in the early 2017.

The new album holds all the distinctive and characteristics elements of the band, and in particular the omnipresent guitars of Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, the two remaining members from the first original 1976 lineup. These guitars operate as the engine of the songs and manage to build enjoyable layers of music.

There is clearly a great cohesion among the musicians of this group, something that you achieve only after many years playing together. And it’s quite surprising how they managed to keep their style and sound throughout the years, despite all the musical revolutions and the infinite new trends that have taken place since the beginning of their career.


 

Other relevant releases of 2017 in pop / indie pop / pop rock:

  • Colliding by Design by Acceptance
  • A Deeper Understanding by The War On Drugs
  • Relaxer by Alt-J
  • Hot Thoughts by Spoon
  • Something Else by The Cranberries
  • Goths by The Mountain Goats
  • Different Days by The Charlatans
  • Spirit by Depeche Mode
  • Venn by Clock Opera
  • I See You by The XX

 


 

Best Music of the Summer: the top 5 albums

Last couple of months have been definitely positive for the music world and there are indeed some very good albums that emerged from the mass and which are going to get important positions in the music charts for their respective genres. Let’s review the best albums that were released in the last couple of months. These LPs belong to the must have category and this means that you have to find your way to listen and get them!


 

A Black Mile To The Surface by Manchester Orchestra

 

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The award of the best album of the summer goes without any doubt to Manchester Orchestra, the American indie rock band from Georgia which released on late July their 5th full-length album, A Black Mile to the Surface. The LP is a fantastic collection of art rock songs and this is actually one of those albums that will stay among the masterpieces of the band’s career.

From a musical point of view, the album meshes togheter the disparate stylistical elements that the guys from Atlanta manifested in their last few productions: gorgeous rock melodies, ambitious and elegant arrangements, layered harmonies and evocative lyrics. And whether you pick up single songs or you deal with the entire album, this work does not disappoint. Definitely.


 

The Knife by Goldfinger

 

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What can one expect from a rock group which spent the last nine years without any new music and in the meantime 3 of the original 4 members were kicked out from the band?

These were the premises for The Knife, the new and long-awaited studio album by Goldfinger, the punk band from Los Angeles which gained quite a good reputation across the two centuries for their relevant contribution to the ska-punk sub-genre. But once I started listening to the disc, I found myself literally embarrassed for how good this album was and I ended-up literally seduced by the energy and the freshness emanating from the album. The Knife, released on last July, is the seventh LP from Goldfinger and it managed to cancel in a matter of seconds all the skeptikism one could have on the album.

After the last internal revolution, Goldfinger is today a sort of “supergroup” with a new line-up consisting of band leader John Feldman, who’s the only remaining member of the original group, supported by Blink-182’s Travis Barker (who’s maybe the best punk drummer of the current days), talented bassist Mike Herrera and Story of the Year’s rhythm guitarist Philip Sneed.

The songs in The Knife offer the listener a wonderful mix of melodic punk, alternative rock and ska. The music crafted by Feldman and his new bandmates manages to combine funny and catchy choruses with interesting musical structures. The ska elements are very well balanced and as a matter of fact you can listen the album over and over again without too much saturation. This is an instant classic, one of the best rock albums of the year.


 

Wolves by Rise Against

 

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Another very good surprise of this summer came from Rise Against, the American melodic hardcore band which published on last June their eighteth studio album, named Wolves.

The record is full to the brink of the band’s signature and explosive formula where aggressive punk rock and hardcore are combined with fiery vocals and furious choruses. However, with the exception of a couple of catchy songs (including the beautiful single Violence, which is proposed below) the album needs some repeated listening to be appreciated in its entirety. Or at least this was my personal experience…. I had to go through the album a few times before getting involved at the right level by the record’s eleven tracks. Today the album is effectively one of the most appreciated companions for my running workouts.

I inlcude this LP among the best records of the summer because – apart from the absolute beauty of its best tracks – the album in its entirety is characterized by a very high quality of music and lyrics. Rise Against is truly a very good band and the value of their production goes well beyond the politic message they convey with the single songs.


 

Dead Cross (S/T)

 

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Formed on late 2015 by three Retox and ex-Retox members and legendary drummer Dave Lombardo, and with subsequent addition of Mike Patton at the vocals, Dead Cross are a new supergroup that in a relatively short time has been able to impress a deep mark in the metal music scene. Their homonym debut album was dropped on early August and in just a few weeks it soon became one of the most shocking and interesting albums of the year, not only for the evident excellence of the musicians involved in the project, but also for the incredible and noteworthy style which characterizes the music composed by the group. This record seems really to presents that level of innovation that was missing for some time in metal music but it’s at the same time a damn pleasant disk to listen to.

Musically speaking, Dead Cross combines elements of hardcore and thrash metal. The 10 songs of the album are all short and intese pieces of extreme metal and the musical tension remains high along the whole disc, without any indecision and also without any gap-filling piece placed there just to complete the work.

A special note is necessary for Mike Patton, the eclectic and ingenious metal vocalist that has been part of a number of infuential and innovative bands of the last decades  such as Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, and many others. This album demostrates that he remains one of the most brilliant metal artists we have and that his vocal ability and range is basicly limitless.

My hope at this point is that Dead Cross is not just a successful supergroup experiment but it can turn into something stable and prolific, a new reality in today metal scene.


 

To The Bone by Steven Wilson

 

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We anticipated it, and then it delivered. Legendary prog rocker Steven Wilson had already left his mark among the most appreciated musical releases of 2017 with his side-project Blackfield, where he plays togeterh with Israeli songwriter and musician Aviv Geffen. The last work from the duo, Blackfield V, it’s stably at the top positions of most of the charts published on this blog and it’s definitely among the most beautiful progressive rock albums of the last few years.

On August 2017 Steven Wilson released the new album of his solo-career, named To The Bone, which is the fifth released after the brilliance experience as leader of the Porcupine Tree. As we highlighted in the early tracks we were listening before the full releases, the album confirms that Wilson is a modern artist who keeps pushing further the boundaries of his personal musical exploration, this time showing a remarkable pop sensibility together with the curiosity of manipualting the typical elements of electronics music.

The judgment that emerges from listening to the entire album substantially confirms all the positive impressions I had before the release, and I also feel that the LP has still a lot to give in the future listening. As a matter of fact, it’s not just a collection of simple musical pieces but an articulated collection of brilliant compositions where the elegance of the arrangement is matched with a new musical concept that needs to be carefully explored.