Another month and a new list of albums to explore. Kanye West may have flooded the news, but that doesn’t mean the quieter releases don’t deserve a look in. Here’s our best of the rest for February.
Santigold // 99¢
Santigold returns in familiar style, weaving through indie rock, electro pop, and heavier, beats-led R&B—throwing in dancehall and hip-hop vibes throughout. As with a lot of Santigold’s previous work, many tracks draw a lot of similarities with acts like M.I.A., such as “Big Boss Big Time Business” and “Walking in a Circle”, but go in completely different directions elsewhere. Santigold explores a new, bright and colourful sound in opening track “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself” and “Banshee”, for example, making the album feel a lot more like a release for summer than spring. Between these extremes though, Santigold’s staple indie pop sound and experiments with instrumentation are still here and sound fresh enough to remain interesting.
The record isn’t without its missteps. Past collaborations and featured vocalists have worked well for Santigold, but centre track “Who Be Lovin Me” featuring ILOVEMAKONNEN misses the mark, with his vocal wavering so much that the track often sounds dissonant. All in all, 99¢ is another good entry in Santigold’s discography, and is worth a listen if you’ve enjoyed her previous work or are looking for something similar to M.I.A. or La Roux.
Junior Boys // Big Black Coat
The Junior Boys return with their fifth album, which will likely stand as one of the most satisfying dance releases of the year. The Canadian duo impressively balance a number of electronic sub-genres to form a sound that, despite wearing its influences on its sleeves, is unmistakably Junior Boys. Smooth house beats and peppery synths are accompanied by appropriately soft vocals that complete the ambiance, with enough stylistic diversity to keep the record engaging throughout.
The techno cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love” stands as a highlight, with a rousing arpeggiated synthesiser that carefully works its way to the front of the stage to drive the track to its satisfying comedown; an anticlimax in the best sense possible. Big Black Coat ends on its title track and leaves a long-lasting impression, serving as a fitting representation of a refreshing, impressively packaged electronic record.
Animal Collective // Painting With
Animal Collective hit double digits with their tenth release, Painting With. The genre-hopping, psych-pop band teased the album with opening track “FloriDada”, exciting fans with their now distinctive sound. The band continues their experimentation here, featuring more dance influenced drum lines, with tracks like “Natural Selection” providing a more electronic feel in comparison to what previous albums have provided.
Vocal and instrumental manipulation still remains and provides a suitably ‘trippy’ atmosphere for most tracks. For much of Painting With though, you’ll find more of the same from a band clearly extremely settled in their formula. If you’re already a fan of Animal Collective you’re unlikely to be surprised here. This needn’t be a negative, and certainly made for an enjoyable play through, but here’s hoping the band continues to experiment and iterate on their sound as they have done over the past decade and a half.
School Of Seven Bells // SVIIB
School of Seven Bells return for a final outing after the sad loss of the band’s guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Benjamin Curtis. SVIIB doesn’t falter from the dream pop and ’70s electro of their previous albums, mixing interesting beats, rich and evolving synths, and breathy vocals.
While many of the tracks on the album have a catchy indie pop style and riff, one of my highlights from the album was the percussion-free “Confusion”, which is bathed in warm, pensive synths and evolving ambient pads, while Alejandra Deheza provides tentative, emotive vocals. Although there is an understandable sombre air through the album, SVIIB still has fun. This final release is a lovingly produced parting gift to fans of the band, and certainly deserves a listen.
What We Missed
Notable releases that we just didn’t have time for this month:
- Wolfmother // Victorious
- Yuck // Stranger Things
- Wiz Khalifa // Khalifa
- Lissie // My Wild West
- Future // EVOL (Inanimate Carbon Rod did actually listen to this. Unfortunately, “boring as shit” was the only response it could muster)