By Sean Titone
December 1, 2015
Martin Courtney – Many Moons
Martin Courtney is the main singer, songwriter, and guitarist in New Jersey band Real Estate. Many Moons is Courtney’s first solo record, but you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking it’s a new Real Estate album upon first listen. Many of that band’s touchstones are here: crisp, warm electric guitar tones; artfully crafted strings and keyboard beds; rich vocal harmonies; a penchant for early “Talk About the Passion” era-R.E.M; and lyrics that look to the past for wisdom on how to age with grace and purpose. For Many Moons, Courtney enlisted members of the psych-folk group Woods to serve as his backing band, and multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere from Woods produced Many Moons as well. This is one of those albums that you can throw on for almost any occasion and it will go down smooth like a cold beer in the backyard on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Highlights are the upbeat and jangly “Northern Highway” which sounds like a lost Kinks classic, “Vestiges,” and the standout closer “Airport Bar” whose repeated refrain “Don’t go forgetting about me” has been stuck in my head for weeks.
Pell – Limbo
Twenty-two-year-old New Orleans rapper Pell makes his studio debut with Limbo, an album produced by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio, and it comes on the heels of his wildly successful mixtape, 2014’s Floating While Dreaming, which already has several million streams on Spotify. Any preconceived notions you might have about the NOLA hip-hop scene will be thrown out the window with this collection of drowsily delivered bangers that fall more in line with Chance the Rapper and Drake than Lil Wayne and other New Orleans vets from the Cash Money crew. Pell’s songs of struggle, rapped and sung with optimism and unique production, are a welcome reprieve from some of the hip-hop that currently dominates the radio airwaves. “Almighty Dollar” is an anti-boast about trying to stay afloat financially, but it flows with upbeat hooks and a chorus that is catchy as hell. “Café du Monde” and “Vanilla Sky 2.0” could sonically fit on either of the last two TV on the Radio albums, and the single, “Queso,” sounds like the hip-hop cousin of War’s classic song “Low Rider,” but that might just be cowbell messing with my brain.
Car Seat Headrest– Teens of Style
Car Seat Headrest is the brainchild of Will Toledo, a 23-year-old Seattle transplant via Leesburg, Virginia who signed to Matador Records this year. A prolific songwriter to say the least (before his major label debut, he recorded 11 albums(!) available on Bandcamp), Teens of Style is a triumphant, low-fi indie rock explosion of Beach Boys-inspired melodies layered under a blanket of fuzz. Fans of Guided by Voices and many of Toledo’s other Matador label mates will find lots to love here. There are earworms galore that stay with you. “Something Soon,” the first single, blasts out of your speakers with such hook-filled fury that you will long for the days of summer to return, just so you can roll down the windows and sing along. The Brian Wilsonesque vocal harmonies that seep in around the two-minute mark only further the feel-good vibes. Loads of praise in the New Yorker, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone (Will Hermes says “It’s the best classic-rock record anyone under 50 is likely to make this year”) all point to the arrival of a young talent who has the potential to be the next voice of a generation, a far cry from just a couple years ago when he was recording teen anthems in the backseat of his car..
Shovels & Rope – Busted Jukebox, Vol. 1
Charleston, South Carolina’s finest, Shovels & Rope, have pulled a Beach House and graced us with a surprise album of carefully selected re-interpretations of other artist’s songs. Busted Jukebox, Vol. 1 comes out of nowhere and it’s an early Christmas present for fans, while also serving as a nice introduction for the uninitiated to the feisty husband and wife duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. This isn’t your standard covers album though. Shovels & Rope joined forces with a different friend/musician on each song, and the guest list is a who’s who of the some of the most exciting members of the ever-changing Americana scene. Shakey Graves kicks it off with a fairly faithful rendition of Neil Young’s late period classic “Unknown Legend.” Lucius brings their otherworldly harmonies to a slow-burning version of Nick Lowe’s “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding,” a song that continues to be timely in a scary and uncertain world, and was previously made famous by Elvis Costello as well as Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. The Milk Carton Kids, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Butch Walker, J. Roddy Walston & the Business and more all make appearances in what is ultimately a celebration of good friends, great songs, and the unbridled joy in creative collaboration. We can only hope that the title “Vol. 1” means many more volumes to come in the future.
Adele – 25
We can all agree that Adele’s voice is a force of nature. It’s a soul hurricane, an expressive powerhouse, a flawless representation of beauty, strength, and vulnerability. Adele can even bring your bickering, dysfunctional family together over the holidays, according to a recent SNL skit. And now, in its first week, her new album, 25, has sold 3.38 million copies and counting, shattering the previous record held by *NSYNC. First single, “Hello,” has already received the tiny classroom instruments treatment with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots and has been viewed 15 million times on YouTube in its first week. But Adele hasn’t forgotten her indie roots, as one of the stronger songs on 25 is a collaboration with newcomer Tobias Jesso Jr. on the ‘70s piano-driven “When We Were Young.” The album is a moving, soulful document of her emotional growth over the last four years, and it’s a fine showcase of her exceptional, once-in-a-generation voice as well as her gift for poignant, affecting songwriting.
GoldLink – And After That, We Didn’t Talk
Like Pell, Washington D.C.-based GoldLink is another 22-year-old fresh face on the hip-hop scene. His debut album, And After That, We Didn’t Talk, comes on the heels of last year’s mixtape, The God Complex. A skilled purveyor of ‘90s R&B and rap, GoldLink wears his influences on his sleeve and his goal is to get you dancing while elevating your mind and the rap game at the same time. The leadoff track, “After You Left,” is a great example of his captivating flow and it has that feeling of being back on a bizarre ride to the Pharcyde. From there, the album takes you on a journey with a young narrator that has a lot on his mind when it comes to self-reflection and looking for love. The production is clean and eclectic, yet it remains cohesive across a series of dancefloor-ready beats and slow jams in what is a confident debut from an undeniable talent.
Also check out our October album release picks.