Best Albums of August and September 2017

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1Secretly Canadian

Alex Cameron

Alex Cameron’s sophomore outing, “Forced Witness,” is a character portrait taken from the perspective some of the scummiest, low-grade members of society and it is also one of the finest albums released in 2017.  “Forced Witness” feels like a direct sequel to Cameron’s song “The Internet” from his debut album, “Jumping The Shark,” as many of the songs tackle his character’s obsession with the internet that ranges from disgusting to pitiful.  While this review of “Forced Witness” may make it seem very unappealing, the sharp satirical edge of the album adds brevity, and the authenticity of Cameron’s portrayal is so engrossing which makes it a standout amongst modern releases.

“Forced Witness” is easily the funniest album this year but unlike most other comedy music it does not lose its appeal after repeated listens.  The synth-pop melodies are rich, the songwriting is fully fleshed out, and the swath of collaborators ranging from Angel Olsen to Brandon Flowers from the Killers all add such depth that this has become my most listened to album in a while.  Alex Cameron drastically upped everything that made his debut worth while and crafted an album as catchy as it is sleazy and I am addicted. [Thomas Coogan]

Recommended if you like: Angel Olsen, Operators, Brandon Flowers

Listen to: “Stranger’s Kiss (Duet with Angel Olsen)”

2Polyvinyl

Alvvays

If the word cozy turned into an album, it would be “Antisocialites” by Alvvays.  The opening song “In Undertow” begins with quiet keys and then bursts into a wall of ethereal guitars with Molly Rankin’s voice, which is pure honey, confidently carrying the melody. Everything about “Antisocialites” is wonderfully bright that even breakup tracks like “Not My Baby” carry an infectious and optimistic sunny disposition.

“Dreams Tonite” and “Plimsoll Punks” is a one-two punch that knocked the wind out of me on my first listen.  The swaying reverie of “Dreams Tonite” washes away any stress the second it comes on, and the bouncing, jittery energy of “Plimsoll Punks” invigorates you with a newfound innocent vitality.  By the end of “Antisocialites,” you feel rejuvenated and are ready to put “In Undertow” right back on and start the trance over once again. [Thomas Coogan]

Recommended if you like: Courtney Barnett, Teenage Fanclub, The Magnetic Fields

Listen to: “Dreams Tonite”

3Roswell

Foo Fighers

The Foo Fighters never fail to show that they can create some good rock n’ roll and their ninth studio album “Concrete and Gold” is no exception. Formed by Nirvana drummer Dave

Grohl following the death of Kurt Cobain, The Foo Fighters have become one of the most successful rock bands today. As a fan of The Foo Fighters, I admire how they have managed to keep their 90s grunge sound yet remain relevant in modern music.

When I first listened to the album’s first single “The Sky is a Neighborhood,” I had mixed reviews. I was not the biggest fan of the single and was worried the album would lean in the direction of pop rather than traditional rock the band is known for. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to the album in its entirety. Compared to the band’s previous album, 2014’s “Sonic Highways,” “Concrete and Gold” showcases more of The Foo Fighters’ ability to evolve their classic edge. One of my favorite aspects of this album is the contrast and balance between hard and soft. “Concrete and Gold” contains all the typical characteristics of a Foo Fighters album: the distinctive, gritty vocals of lead singer Dave Grohl, the thunderous guitar riffs, and head-banging drums. The album even contains some metal influences, such as in the leading single “Run” where Grohl sing-shouts the chorus.

Unlike most of the band’s previous albums, Concrete and Gold reveal that the Seattle grunge scene-based band can have a softer side. The album’s sixth the track “Dirty Water” features shimmery, floaty melodies which is a complete contrast to the rougher and edgier sound of the previous track “La Dee Da.” Another standout track is “Sunday Rain,” a psychedelic, slow-funk track reminiscent of the Beatles (the track actually features Paul McCartney on the drums). One of my favorite tracks from the album is “Make it Right,” which contains catchy, bluesy guitar riffs reminiscent of the Rolling Stones.

While I may not consider “Concrete and Gold” to be the best or most risk-taking Foo Fighters record, the album packs lots of surprises that are sure to engage current Foo Fighters fans as well as attract new ones. [Rachel LeFrock]

Recommended if you like: Queens of the Stone Age, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains

Listen to: “The Line”

4Brushfire

Jack Johnson

After six studio albums and four years since his release of From Here To You To Now, Jack Johnson has finally come out with his seventh studio album All The Light Above It Too. Throughout the entirety of Jack Johnson’s career, he has consistently produced mellow and lyrically thought-provoking music with the purpose of sharing his perception of humanity, society, and what’s actually essential in life.

One of the highlights on this album for me was “Is One Moon Enough?” because it reminds me of The Little Prince after he leaves his rose. This track talks about how nothing was ever enough for him, but once he finally gets everything that he ever wanted, he missed what he once had. [Natalia Romero]

Recommended if you like: Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Damien Rice

Listen to: “Is One Moon Enough?”

5Island

Killers

Las Vegas rock band, The Killers, new album, “Wonderful Wonderful,” is complete with catchy vocals, expansive instrumentals, and choruses I would, pardon the pun, kill to see live. The album has been well received among fans and critics alike, with Metacritic and Pitchfork’s Jason Green both giving it the highest rating of any Killer’s album to date.

The album’s opening track, the title track “Wonderful Wonderful,” opens with what sounds like a trumpet call in the distance. The whole song is a made-for-concert-opener with smooth guitar riffs and the repeated phrase of “motherless child,” and with that, the band calls their fans to dance.

Other standouts on the album include “The Man,” “Run For Cover,” “Tyson vs Douglas,” and “Have All The Songs Been Written?”. “The Man” is a confident track that feels more indie pop than most of The Killer’s other tracks. The harmonies on the line “You can’t bring me down” transition the pre-chorus to the chorus in a way that feels authentic, and the sampling of Kool & the Gang’s “Spirit Of The Boogie” gives the song an extra kick of synth. “Run For Cover” is a bit of a weird one as the song sounds very upbeat and energetic; however if you listen to the lyrics, you’ll hear Brandon Flowers, the band’s lead singer, telling a woman to get out of an abusive relationship while she can. Overall, the sound of the track is well rounded and very much a part of the classic “Killers sound.”

Perhaps the best part of “Tyson vs Douglas” is that it comes full circle. We lead in with a recording of the broadcast of the actual Tyson vs Douglas fight, and the ending of the song fades back out into the same broadcast. The song also seems to be about Flower’s experience watching the actual fight and the anticipation of seeing an underdog like Douglas knockout a champion. The album ends with the perfect closer, “Have All The Songs Been Written?”. It’s a slow and steady track almost reminiscent of U2, though funnily enough, the track’s title comes from an email session with Bono himself when Flowers was in a bout of writer’s block. The track seems to be Flowers way of checking in with the listeners at the end of the record, asking “Have all the songs been written?/Have all your needs been met?”

All in all, “Wonderful Wonderful” is a strong album. Polished, expansive, and well composed, The Killers have played their way back into our lives. As Flowers sings in the title track “Motherless child, be of good cheer/My arm is reached out, I am here.” [Erin Pattie]

Recommended if you like: The Strokes, The Wombats, The Kooks

Listen to: “The Man”

6Jagjaguwar

Moses Sumney

It is impossible to put a genre to Moses Sumney’s “Aromanticism.”  “Lonely World” and “Indulge Me” play like more thought out companions to Radiohead’s “The King of Limbs.”  “Quarrel” jumps between sounds freely in its second half.  Even “Doomed,” the lead single, features Sumney’s singing over a lone ambient instrumental.  “Make Out In My Car” is dreamy, surreal R&B.

For an album representing so many eclectic inspirations, “Aromanticism” has a remarkably strong structure.  Much of this is built on the otherworldly quality of Sumney’s voice itself.  Even though he jumps between styles on each track, the arrangements are consistently built to focus on his voice, and they do so spaciously.  No matter the genre they’re taking, the tracks tend to land on the dreamy side.  “Quarrel” is a perfect example of this, with its sparse and transient instrumental pulling you in and out of reality in time with his grainy tenor.  

The only notable weakness on the album comes through on the two interludes – they feel a little out of place.  That being said, they also show an artist searching for his unique sound.  Again, his sound is remarkably developed, but the promise of what is to come is tantalizing.  

“Aromanticism” is one of those albums that just can’t be missed.  There’s too much amazing work here to skip over, and the opportunity to see the future development of a voice as powerful as Sumney’s is truly exciting. [Patrick Larsen]

Recommended if you like: Radiohead, Perfume Genius, Solange

Listen to: “Quarrel”

7Atlantic

The War on Drugs

There is nothing better than a feel-good album: that one you can completely lose yourself in or listen to on a road trip and instantly feel better. “A Deeper Understanding,” the fifth album by Philadelphia indie rock band The War on Drugs, is one of those albums. Formed in 2008, the band has been a favorite in the alternative music world. Following up on the success of theirprevious album “Lost in the Dream” (2014), “A Deeper Understanding” puts the band on the map as the next big thing in music.

“A Deeper Understanding” contains the band’s signature blend of warm, hazy, synthesized rock with lead singer/songwriter Adam Granduciel’s Bob Dylan-esque vocals. As a whole, “A Deeper Understanding” uniquely balances edgy rock with dreamy, romantic melodies. Every song adds a unique texture to the album: the booming drums in “In Chains,” the guitar solo in “Knocked Down” and “Strangest Thing,” and the jittery keyboard in “Up All Night.” The album’s hit track “Holding On” is a beautiful combination of upbeat, synthesized guitar and sparkly percussion reminiscent of the Grateful Dead’s 1987 hit “Touch of Grey.” The band has never been shy of revealing their influences in their music, from Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty to folk and 80s pop-rock. Although these influences are present, the band has developed such a distinct, authentic, and modern sound which this album showcases perfectly.

Given the title of the album, it is not a surprise what Granduciel’s intention was. The song lyrics all revolve around his inner thoughts and emotions regarding love, life, individuality, and nature. A common feeling of some of the song lyrics is rather melancholy. Granduciel sings about feelings of loneliness, isolation, and losing someone he loves. However, there are certain lyrics which respond with optimism and encourage us to capture the rare moments when you can leave behind those negative feelings and just enjoy life for what it truly is. This melancholy yet optimistic meaning accompanied with dreamy melodies makes the album warm, comforting, and overall an incredible experience. [Rachel LeFrock]

Recommended if you like: Kurt Vile, Spoon, Future Islands

Listen to: “Holding On”

Be sure to check out our Best of August and September Playlist which features all of these artists and many more!

 

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