by Evan Welsh
1. Ought- Room Inside The World
There is no doubt that post-punk revival is in full swing. Artists like Ought, Preoccupations, Protomartyr, Iceage, and Have a Nice Life and many others have made the 2010s the decade of renaissance for the genre. Ought’s new album, Room Inside the World, their first album for Merge is a masterful, gorgeous addition to this era’s pantheon of fantastic post-punk.
While Ought has never been this decade’s most aggressive post-punk act, Room Inside the World is even calmer than the group’s previous output. That’s not to say that this album does not have any bite, there are moments that certainly bring up the tempo and heart rate, but for the most part, this album is soaked in the lovely pastoral shades of it’s cover art. “Desire,” which seamlessly features assistance from Choir! Choir! Choir!, might be one of the best songs from early 2018. It’ll be interesting to see if this album stays in rotation as the year goes on and some of the other heavy-hitters in the genre release new albums. As of now, I’m thinking I’ll be lingering on it for a while.
Fav Tracks: Disgraced in America, Disaffectation, Desire, Take Everything
2. Pleasance House- Orbiter
Pleasance House is the D.I.Y project of Connor Burnett I discovered a of couple of years ago during a bandcamp deep dive. At that point the three albums they’d released were ethereal folk albums through and through. This new album, however, decides to jump down the same rabbit hole that has lured many of folk’s most beloved artists in the recent years, synthesizers.
This is the most grandiose and ambitious album to have come Pleasance House to date, clocking in at just over an hour. Every intricacy on this album, entirely played, recorded, and produced by Burnett play out as wonderful, psychedelic, and airy.
It’s hard not to listen to this album in relation with his previous work and not think of Sufjan Stevens as a heavy influence, moving from elaborate folk songs to elaborate folktronica. All in all this is a great album for those looking for a folk album with strong doses of electronic and psychedelic music. One thing that has always impressed my about the Pleasance House project is how large all of his albums sound due to his layering techniques. This album is pretty enough to keep listeners drawn to it and just odd enough to not feel boring. I’ve been impressed by all his projects up until now and Orbiter is no different.
Fav Tracks: So New, Overcome, Olive Branch, Vertigineux
3. Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet- Landfall
I am not going to spend much time here talking about Anderson’s or Kronos Quartet’s long and illustrious histories because I assume you are already aware, if not, they are easy people to find out about.
Landfall is an album written about Anderson’s experience during and after Hurricane Sandy. It’s thirty tracks and hour and ten runtime swirls with neo-classical strings, pulsating electronics, and features spoken word pieces from Anderson, all culminating in a haunting experience ruminating on the ideas of loss. The compositions on this album do a remarkable job of creating a feeling of loss, but a loss too quick and sentimental to honestly comprehend; a loss that does not leave any time to think, just to witness. The moods and mixtures of the strings and electronics on Landfall had me completely invested in Anderson’s sparse and choppy narrative.
If there is one disappointment I have with this album are that Anderson’s poetics can feel underutilized. The albums best tracks, the central “Nothing Left but Their Names,” and the crushing “Everything is Floating,” feature incredible spoken word pieces. The former is a nine plus minute exploration on the album’s themes of loss in her famous pitch shifted vocal delivery. This album is very purposefully suited for a dark and rainy day.
Fav Tracks: The Water Rises, Dreams, Nothing Left but Their Names, Everything is Floating
4. A.A.L. (Against All Logic)- 2012-2017
Against All Logic is a moniker of Nicolas Jaar, a Chilean-American producer that has released some of my favorite electronic and experimental albums of the past ten years or so. Jaar has released some tracks as Against All Logic previously but this technically marks the projects full-length debut even though it really is more of a compilation.
A.A.L. serves as much more house and sample influenced than Jaar’s work as a solo act or with his collaborative project Darkside. 2012-2017 doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel in regards to its house music sound, but it does do a hell of a job of creating infectious dance tracks throughout the entire project.
Entrancing beats along with fantastic use of soul and funk samples make this compilation incredibly easy on the ears. For fans of Jaar’s more experimental work, I don’t think this will grab you as your new favorite project from him as this album really is quite a lot more straightforward than something like his 2016 album Sirens, for example. That said, this album does a good job of recapturing some of the more dance heavy moments I remember from seeing Jaar perform live. And, if house music is your thing, this album is really endlessly enjoyable.
Fav Tracks: Some Kind of Game, Know You, Now U Got Me Hooked, Rave on U
5. We Out Here- We Out Here
In recent years, there has been an explosion of jazz from the U.K.. One of the artists at the forefront of this London jazz boom is Shabaka Hutchings, a saxophonist who features in such projects as Shabaka & The Ancestors, Sons of Kemet, and Melt Yourself Down. Hutchings serves as We Out There’s musical director, putting together a compilation of newly recorded tracks from London’s rising jazz culture.
Stylistically, We Out There covers a wide array of jazz from Maisha’s opening “Inside the Acorn,” which takes heavy influence from the spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, to Moses Boyd’s track, “The Balance,” which utilizes heavy electronic and dance influences to create an exhilarating track that feels undoubtedly modern.
If you’re interested at all in the current state of jazz, particularly across the Atlantic, We Out Here works as a great introduction to some of the rising voices within the genre. Shabaka Hutchings’ seemed to quasi-explode into modern jazz stardom with 2016’s Wisdom of Elders but acts like Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia, and Ezra Collective seem like they are soon to be as prominent as any of the current names in jazz very soon.
Fav Tracks: Maisha- “Inside the Acorn,” Ezra Collective- “Pure Shade,” Moses Boyd- “The Balance,” Nubya Garcia- “Once,” Joe Armon-Jones- “Go See”
Other February releases I think are worth checking out: Hailu Mergia- Lala Belu; Screaming Females- All At Once; Preening- Greasetrap Frisbee EP; skirts- Almost Touching EP;