Arctic Monkeys – AM
We have watched Arctic Monkeys grow-up and evolve right in
front of our very eyes, from their brilliant barnstorming debut, Whatever
People Say I Am Is What I Am Not to their very latest, AM. They have been
around for less than a decade and manage to maintain their rock and roll
identity but explore different paths within it. On their latest, AM, the bands
fifth, they mature as songwriters and musicians. They haven’t played their
instruments at 100 mph since their first two LP’s but they have learned to make
the same impact by doing less. AM is a record that does just that. It is not
the stoner-rock joyride that Humbug was, nor is it the lyrical masterpiece that
Suck It And See was, it is, older and wiser, in fact in many ways it is better
than all of those things. AM holds the key to the Monkeys future and proves
that Alex Turner’s clever songwriting is not someone trying to do all of these
things, but just is. AM could be viewed as a lazy title, but in fact, it is the
symbolic outlook of the bands music, doing so much with less, AM could be
looked at as “am,” and the Monkeys could be telling us this is who they are. If
that is the case, we are glad they are making music in this day and age. Plus,
any band referencing Scorsese’s Mean Streets deserves high recognition.
FINAL GRADE: A
Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
If Prince is playing on your album, you know you are doing
something right. Def Jam’s best signing since Biggie Smalls returns with a
ferocious and fantastic album that takes us through a dance apocalypse and
makes us realize we can’t live without her love of music. Combining jazz, funk,
rock, soul, doo-wop, neo-soul, R&B, indie rock, pop and elements of
hip-hop, The Electric Lady is a fantastic musical voyage and has a great supporting
cast from Solange, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding, Miguel and more.
FINAL GRADE: A-
The Weeknd – Kissland
After his “Trilogy,” Abel Tesfaye comes back much more
focused, straight forward and interesting than every before. Kissland is a
romantic concept record about the world The Weeknd has created in his head and
the world that frightens him. The album tells that the world around us and
within us in frightening but is something we must overcome and embrace,
basically, it is ok to make mistakes along the way like falling in love with
the wrong person, it builds us as people and our character. A very smart,
clever, and very well produced latest effort.
FINAL GRADE: A –
Haim – Days Are Gone
The long awaited debut album from California’s favorite sisters
is finally here and does not disappoint. After emerging as one of the most
talked about new bands of 2013, Haim’s Days Are Gone is a slithering pop – rock
record that combines fun-in-the-sun emotion, killer riffs, heavy beats, and
catchy hooks that it will just make you want to play it over and over again.
Much like The 1975’s debut, this is one of the best debuts of the year.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
electro-pop buzz band Chvrches debut is a mysterious, erotic, and dark release
that combines the sinister energy from Crystal Castles and mixes it with fellow
Scot’s Glasvegas’ neo-cold-wave sound and flexes heavy emotion doing so.
FINAL GRADE: B+
The Naked and Famous – In Rolling Waves
Three years after their awesome debut, New Zealand’s The
Naked and Famous return with In Rolling Waves which is a much heavier sounding
and heavier feeling album. In Rolling Waves hears The Naked and Famous flexing
serious muscle and proving that they are not just a one-trick pony and are
willing to take chances to not fall into the dreaded sophomore slump.
FINAL GRADE: B+
A$AP Ferg – Trap Lord
One of the A$AP Crew
’s members goes solo for debut. The self
proclaimed “Trap Lord,” Ferg shows why he is taking the sub-genre of trap style
hip-hop by storm and one of the best to do it. With appearances from A$AP
Rocky, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, French Montana, Trinidad James, Schoolboy Q, Waka
Flocka Flame, B-Real and Onyx
, he bridges the gap between old and new schools.
– If You Wait
The buzz around London Grammar has been large since the band
hit the UK festival circuit this summer and now, their debut, If You Wait
finally out, they answer the call and prove they are the band people want to
talk about. While the music of London Grammar is catchy, it is the voice of
singer Hannah Reid that is the star of the show. She is a vocal powerhouse that
take pop / rock singing to a whole new level.
King Khan and the Shrines
– Idle No More
Eight albums in with his career with The Shrines and King
Khan shows no sign of stopping. While Idle No More
displays nothing really new
musically or anything unexpected, it is still a total blast to listen to.
The debut EP from former As Tall As Lions
bassist Julio Tavarez
is filled with
trippy loops, hypnotic hooks, ambient vibes and heart. Futures is an EP where
you can hear that Tavarez has poured his soul into this project and is a nice
launching pad as to what is to come.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
– Fly By Wire
For their sixth record, Missouri’s Someone Still Loves Your
Boris Yeltsin, do it as a trio and rather a quartet thanks to the departure of
singer / guitarist John Robert Cardwell
earlier this year. Most bands would
have imploded but SSLYBY soldier on and do it triumphantly where long time fans
of the band will not be disappointed.
After a summer of the infections and brilliant girl power pop
anthem, “I Love It,” the Swedish duo of Icona Pop prove that the land they hail
from is still the breeding ground of the best pop music on the globe. This Is..
is the second album from Icona Pop but it is also the biggest, in terms of
production, popularity, and fun. This is an instant party starter.
Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull
Hi Kings of Leon! How are you? Welcome back, we missed you!
While the above note is not intended for a chuckle, though,
it is ok if you laugh at our corniness, the note is a meaningful gesture that
we are glad to see Kings of Leon return to form. After the unlistenable Come
Around Sundown, a few internal problems, battles with addiction, and a dreadful
documentary, Kings of Leon cut the bullshit and return back to basics and
return to form as a solid Southern rock and blues band and return to the roots
of being the band that we treasured and missed for so long.
For his first album of brand new material in a decade, Sting
fires back in a big way with The Last Ship
, which is really the companion piece
to the Broadway play of the same name that the record is based on that he is
crafting. The Last Ship
is a concept record about coming of age in a seaside
town and wanting something more out of life, while this may sound like the plot
of Fellini’s I Vitelloni
, it is actually the first part of Sting’s life. The
Last Ship is a semi-autobiographical journey of one man, Sting, telling the
story of his youth but as an older man looking back on the life he left behind
and why he did.
The sophomore album from Big Sean is just as strong as his
debut but also does not feature the gift and the curse aka that verse from
Kendrick Lamar on “Control” which did not make the album’s final cut because of
a sampling issue. However, Big Sean enlisted Nas, Common, 2 Chainz, Kid Cudi,
Lil Wayne, Juicy J, Meek Mill, Nicki Minaj, Miguel and Young Jeezy to support
his style and sound.
FINAL GRADE: B-
Goodie Mob – Age Against The Machine
Cee-Lo Green hooks up with his first group and crafts their
first album in nine years. While Cee-Lo’s voice is still the star of the show,
nothing new is crafted or made and after nine years and nine explosive years
for Cee-Lo’s career, one would have hoped the rest of the group would have come
out swinging to upstage the pop icon, yet, they all fail to do so and the album
is left at a sub-par level.
FINAL GRADE: C
At one point in the last decade bands emerged that wrote a
few catchy and clever tunes and were poised to be the next coming of music.
Yet, some of those bands failed to capitalize on anything beyond that and make
anything listenable, however, still get attention as if they are going to do
something great and grand and fail to. MGMT is one of those bands whose talent
was like a firework in the sky, it bursted bright and shined but then faded
into oblivion, however, some critics are still holding out for that firework to
burst again because they know the band has potential. It would normally be
encouraging to other artists, but MGMT realized they can release shit, and we
mean it, shit, and know they will still make music headlines and have people
foam at the mouth for what they are going to do. After the tragically terrible
and unlistenable, Congratulations
, MGMT return with a self-titled album that is
not a bit more comforting to listen to but still misses the mark by a long