Father John Misty – ‘Pure Comedy’ (Sub Pop)
What it is: Whatever apocalypse may hit planet earth in one form or another, Josh Tillman aka FATHER JOHN MISTY would be a suitable candidate to help us to emerge from the misery around us. Or at least soothe the pain when life with all its absurdities smacks us with great force. How? Simply by capturing the complex mechanisms of it all and putting things into perspective like he does on his latest album Pure Comedy. After having explored romantic love on I Love You, Honeybear – Josh Tillman clearly addresses much bigger issues this time like mankind, religion, politics and a belief system that is so deeply broken, it even made him write a whole essay about humanity before the album got released. It is a pure tragedy to say the least. Humanity, not Tillman’s writing.
Why to listen to it: Pure Comedy is FATHER JOHN MISTY’s epic evaluation of life that almost requires footnotes. It’s a hell of a grand subject to capture for any songwriter, but Tillman returns with a 75-minute-observation that is both lyrically sharp as one could expect from the eloquent and outspoken musician as well as sonically beautiful and rich. Co-produced with his friend Jonathan Wilson and with additional help from Nico Muhly, Tillman embarks on a musical journey that is far from the ordinary song form. The arrangements are exceptional with horns and strings as well as a choir adding just enough intensity to MISTY’s sardonic views and mockery of life. Leaving L.A., the 13-minute centre piece of the album, is a lengthy discourse full of irony, but also a very personal attempt to find sense in this world. What makes Pure Comedy such an extraordinary achievement is the fact that Josh Tillman not only grabs hold of the vast amount of stupidity that surrounds us, but he conveys his views with so much truth and humor that the bigger picture he creates here is not only contemporary, but timeless for sure. All while appealing to our dignity, ability to question what is going on and never preaching what he considers to be right. Pure Comedy is food for thought wrapped in a harsh reality that is accompanied by equally daring and touching songs. (Annett Bonkowski)
Future Island – ‘The Far Field’ (4AD)
What it is: The long awaited new FUTURE ISLANDS full-length, following the big international breakthrough of 2014’s Singles LP, the Letterman performance and a significantly increased audience over the course of the past years. The pressure was high and the Baltimore-based synthpop heroes made the best out of it: by delivering another standout piece of powerful wave pop, remembering their own strength and celebrating their musical companionship. The Far Field continues the game-changing direction of its predecessor without any pretentious detours towards mainstream territory.
Why to listen to it: The ingredients haven’t changed that much. Gerrit Welmers’ floating synthesizer melodies team up with the pumping 80s basslines of William Cashion while the distinctive vocal performance of Samuel T Herring still remains the powerful anchor of each song. FUTURE ISLANDS have always written good pop songs and highly emotional lyrics but with their change to major indie label 4AD on Singles their production skills also improved, including the decision to use real drums. The Far Field continues that direction although the band takes a step back and provides more laidback and softened material. The old-fashioned urgency is still sensible in Ran and Cave and a track like Time On Her Side proves why this album could have also been named Singles after all. Still, there’s a certain soulful note that runs through this record, especially in tracks like Through The Roses and the paced down Candles which showcases a more melancholic and thoughtful Herring. These moments are well placed next to uplifting pop pieces like the instant-hits North Star and Shadows with the ladder one providing a surprising feature guest in the form of BLONDIE’s Debbie Harry. The Far Field is a testament of gained skills, personal strength and a certain stubbornness the band has always been famous for. There’s less doubt than ever that FUTURE ISLANDS will continue to walk this path, designed by their own rules. Thank god! (Norman Fleischer)
Arca – ‘Arca’ (4AD)
What it is: An apocalyptic distorted and twisted opera that combines the very darkness with glimpses of light and sensuality. Despite his young age, ARCA already has an incredible pedigree. He produced BJORK‘s last album, some tracks for KANYE WEST or FKA TWIGS, and his DJ-sets and live shows are amongst the most disturbing in the electronic scene. Prepare yourself for psychedelic gore montages from his long-time collaborator and friend JESSE KANDA, with an astonishing variety of genres wrapping up in uncontrolled chaos. The kind of chaos involving European-type opera alongside cumbia in less than ten minutes. Some call it ‘post-punk’ and it might be too much of a conceptual story-telling and spilling guts for most of the casual listeners.
Why to listen to it: If you fall into into it you will experience something like no other – a melodic yet disconcerting trance that takes you in strange places. You might even not really wanting it, but if you do, there’s definetely beauty in this deprived world. Angels in transgender aesthetics playing with your inner soul, violence in all its glory, and questions you might have hard time empathizing. Other bits are universal, and spontaneity is the key element of his creative process – from processes like ‘why not playing with whips in whip‘ to simpler songs like the haunting ballad ‘coraje‘. Alejandro Ghersi is mourning himself, dismembering ideas that feel opressing for him like the very simplistic word of ‘identity’. It’s done in a magnificent manner, despite being sometimes hard to apprehend or simply being too much for some people out there. Quite certainly one of the most singular albums of the year. (Bastien Perroy)
Timber Timbre – ‘Sincerely, Future Pollution’ (City Slang)
What it is: The sixth longplayer of Canadian folk creepers TIMBER TIMBRE. The band around vocalist Taylor Kirk is best known for an echoing, haunting, hot and sticky southern-like sound. Their newest one is titled Sincerely, Future Pollution and marks an interesting and unexpected development of their signature sound and comes with a political message as well.
Why to listen to it: Finally winter is over and the nights become warmer, wilder and longer. The band made the perfect soundtrack for these hours right before sunrise. Nothing to party to but surely the sound to range through the nights. Sincerely, Future Pollution manages an exciting balance act, it’s as heavy as a NICK CAVE record but funky as a STEVIE WONDER jam. Somebody pitched the drums und plugged that organ into high voltage. It’s all there: Synthies, catchy melodies and even a lost little BOWIE reference, when the Song Western Questions breaks into a guitar riff that reminds of 1983’s China Girl. Sounds from the 70s and 80s melting into a strong and vibrating album that surprises more and more with every listen. (Stefan Kutschera)
Alexandra Savior – ‘Belladonna Of Sadness’ (Columbia Records)
What it is: If you listened to THE LAST SHADOW PUPPETS album last year, it might interest you to know that Miles Kane wasn’t Alex Turner’s only songwriting buddy on that LP. Miracle Aligner, one of the standout tracks, was written with Alexandra McDermott, aka ALEXANDRA SAVIOR, pulled from the writing sessions for what would later eventually turn out to be her debut album Belladonna of Sadness.
Why to listen to it: Produced by Turner and his longtime ally James Ford, this album is rock-solid musically, a late-dusk world of murky guitars and stylish groove. It was Savior’s voice that first got her signed, and it’s a hell of a thing, pure honey that brings delicate poise to songs like Mystery Girl and Mirage while also capable of taking things rawer on M.T.M.E. There’s not really a bad song here, but if forced to pick out some standouts you have to go for Girlie and Cupid, two slowly unwinding burners that radiate beautifully. Savoir has a talent for stunning lines, (be it ‘Dress me like the front of a casino, push me down another rabbit hole, touch me like I’m gonna turn to gold’ from Mirage or ‘she gets in corners, where water can’t from Girlie), and has the delivery to pull them off, which makes this a record full of knockout moments you’ll listen to obsessively. It’s been a long time coming, but Belladonna Of Sadness has been worth the wait. (Austin Maloney)