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Category: Album Reviews

What’s new on WUOG? An ambient angel, slacker storyteller and a buncha folk-punk fellas…

Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness


Listening to Julia Holter’s fourth album, Have You In My Wilderness, was one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever known. From the very first song I was captured by the beauty of Julia Holter’s voice and the symphony that accompanied her singing.  Have You In My Wilderness can be defined by how intimate it makes you feel. Holter is telling a story through her music, and there is something that feels extremely personal and touching as a result. This is an album that you play at the end of the night when you’re reflecting on how great the party was and how glad you were that all your friends came. Julia Holter has created a chamber orchestra pop album that is slightly more accessible then her splendid past works. The production on the album is extraordinary, and the intricacies of the music, due to great production, continue to complement Holter’s voice. Some tracks that really stood out to me are “Feel You”, “Sea Calls Me Home”, and “Everytime Boots”. 

–Will Jurgens

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…


Kurt Vile opens b’lieve i’m goin down with a ballad of desolation, and how his self-awareness from past albums crumbles when he merely looks at his own reflection. Vile’s bleak thoughts are delivered through humorous lyrics, meant to be listened to at night after everyone else has gone to bed. His deadpan vocals and guitar picking allow the listener to drift along to his conversational musings. Vile’s growth comes in the instrumentation as he incorporates more piano and banjo into his songs. Recorded at Joshua Tree and even in Athens, Vile uses less reverb, making it a lot lighter, but his emotional intensity is still as strong as ever. Vile claims “Wheelhouse” is the best song he has ever written, but “Lost My Head There” and “Pretty Pimpin’” are close rivals.

-Camilla Grayson

Front Bottoms – Back on Top


Back on Top is the fifth album from the indie-punk band, The Front Bottoms. Although the Front Bottoms are no strangers to the music business, this album is their first after signing to Fueled By Ramen after years with the small, independent label, Bar/None Records. With this label change, has come a change in sound. While staying true to their history of raw and revealing lyrics on most tracks, The Front Bottom’s newest album has a cleaner, and at times, more generic sound than that of the past. The newest album features slower tempos and more electric guitar than on previous releases. While The Front Bottoms have definitely not been lost, the album at times shows a side of The Front Bottoms that is a little too saccharine. One of these saccharine instances is “HELP,” which turned out sounding too common and not personal enough to be a quality Front Bottoms track. “Laugh Till I Cry” and “West Virginia” are the golden connections that link Back On Top to the group’s past, saving the band from losing their distinct sound in the void of the competitive indie-rock world. They both feature instrumental diversity and The Front Bottoms’ signature chaotically eccentric sound. Furthering the transitions from one album to another, “Ginger” almost sounds like a B-side off of Talon of the Hawk, with extremely quirky lyrics and even some trumpet on the track. “Cough It Out” is slower and sweeter than most that the band releases. It features a snare beat and a little keyboard to push it forward, but lead singer Brian Sella’s profound lyrics are really what drives the song to a new, yet somewhat nostalgic mark of success. “Historic Cemetery,” buried deep in the middle of the track list, is another standout. “Historic Cemetery” is more somber than the rest of the tracks, with haunting lyrics, acoustic, guitar, and even some recorded conversation. These songs add complexity to The Front Bottoms, proving they are more than one-trick pony. While there are some glaring faults on Back On Top, that’s what The Front Bottoms are all about; making music for the sake of making music, not with the goal of perfection in mind. While The Front Bottoms may not be recording out of warehouses or friend’s basements at 2A.M. anymore, the passion and creativity from those days are still apparent.

–Tori Benes

Toro y Moi – What For


Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi trades in his electronic dance-pop for indie-rock  guitar and softer lyrics on his newest album What For?. More closely resembling June 2009 than his recent releases, the album is full of indecisiveness and quiet probing. Hazy electronic guitars, bass, and soft drums create psych melodies that compliment the ambiguity of his lyricism. He asks repeatedly,  “Does anyone know where we go from here?” on the track “What You Want” and “Do you understand what must be done?” on “Spell It Out”. “Buffalo,” said by Bundick to have set the precedent for the entire album, is full of 70s funk and gauzy melodies. Whether it’s lack of direction or a purposeful push towards a more laid back sound, What For?  shows Bundick’s range and thirst for musical growth.

-Camilla Grayson

The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ


Beat The Champ is the newest album from the Mountain Goats. The album is all about lead singer John Darnielles’ experiences with Lucha Libre wrestling growing up. With this fact in mind you might think that the album will be fun and lighthearted unlike many previous Mountain Goats’ album, but you would be wrong. The album encompasses the same confessional and heartbreaking lyrics that fans have grown to love. Darnielle escapes his horrible childhood through wrestling, and this album conveys that escapism. While the lyrics are sad, dark, and beautiful, the music itself is catchy and prompts you to sing along making Darnielle’s message easier to swallow. The album is quintessential Mountain Goats with a quirky topic.

-Will Jurgens

Shlohmo “Dark Red”


Darker than his previous work, Dark Red is an abysmal and distorted melody. After a long period of personal loss, electronic producer Shlohmo’s second full length album ventures into a mournful place with its detachment from pop and admission into a realm of sluggish, monotonous expression of unhappiness. This sense comes out most in the middle of the album, the first five tracks being more dynamic and the last two more reminiscent of his earlier, more energetic work. The album reflects the discomfort he felt when he wrote it and with that energy in mind, the succession of variation and repetition throughout the album is telling of his attitude. In this iteration of his work, Shlohmo has stripped his sound of any collaboration or vocals, which creates an even more eerie, ominous, and almost tragic tone. Without a doubt this album explores the many dimensions of loss and the equally complex systems for coping with that.

Kira Hynes​

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Think


Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit glorifies the day-to-day mundane through deadpan, yet charming vocals. Barnett’s long rambling lyrics reflect intelligence and wit that compliment her slacker-rock aesthetic. “Elevator Operator” sings of a made-up man named Oliver, and “Depreston” tells of Barnett’s adventures apartment hunting. “Small Poppies”, set to the bluesy guitar, is about the harrowing task of mowing the lawn. Barnett’s clean strummed chords and her conversational lyrics give her music a laid back and relaxed feel, but her upbeat songs like “Pedestrian At Best” have the electric guitar and self-deprecating lyrics of 90s garage rock. With sharp melodies and storyteller lyrics, Courtney Barnett’s album has a unique sound that launches the listener into her complex mind.

-Camilla Grayson

Alex G – Trick


Alex G is the sentimental songwriter best known for his minimally produced, bedroom recorded Bandcamp projects, where he has released numerous hard-to-get recordings. Trick was released via Bandcamp before his most recent album “DSU”; now it’s being re-released through Lucky Number. Trick is Alex G to a point: mundane stories looped into bedroom-pop lo-fi melodies, comfortably shrouded in an unobtrusive relatability. His songs range from everyday thoughts about his favorite animal (“Whale”) to an uneasy melody about infatuation/murder  (“Kute”). Placed in among the mix of simple acoustic songs is the instrumental namesake of the album, “Trick”. The rerelease comes with three bonus tracks that stay true to the atmosphere of Alex G’s previous recordings.

-Cassidy Reeser

Laura Marling – Short Movie


Laura Marling’s 5th studio album, Short Movie has taken a turn towards a rock/alternative folk as opposed to the traditional folk, but she still retains her folk roots throughout the album.  Short Movie starts off stern and serious, but transitions to a more upbeat and lighthearted tone with the electric guitar. Most of Short Movie deals with Laura’s conflicting feelings about love and independence.  She jumps back and forth from needing to love someone to leaving for her freedom.  Laura’s new sound isn’t too far off from her previous works, but has a distinctness that makes it stand out from the crowd.

-Albert Moon

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear


I Love You, Honeybear, the sophomore release by Father John Misty, weaves conflicting emotions of disillusionment and passion into a conceptual folk rock mix of airy vocals, guitars, horns, and strings. While Fear Fun consists of lighthearted skepticism, I Love You, Honeybear deals with heavier issues like his relationship with his wife and his own self-faults. “C Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” features horns that compliment his somber and wispy voice, and “True Affection” is a synth pop commentary on closeness. “Bored in The USA” confronts the alienation of consumer society to a piano and a purposely out-of-place laugh track. Featuring strings and horns on many songs, the album contrasts the large sound of an orchestra with the intimacy of Tillman’s lyrics. I Love You, Honeybear is full of musical and lyrical contradictions that perfectly describe the perplexity of love itself.

-Camilla Grayson

Purity Ring – Another Eternity


Purity Ring opens their second album with all the pulsing synth present on their debut.  Megan James’s gentle vocals yield a happy contrast to the powerful beats, mixing dance anthems with spacey ballads throughout “Another Eternity”.  “Stillness in woe” and “repetition” are slower tracks that demonstrate Roddick’s ability to blend instrumentals perfectly to the tones of James’s voice.  In conclusion, this sophomore release receives all the right attention with its varied electro-pop songs, but it fails to provide anything new from their first album.

-Ben Phillips

Will Butler – Policy


Recorded in one week in Jimi Hendrix’s old Living Room, Policy marks Will Butler’s (probably most known as Win Butler’s younger brother) first solo album to date. Though this is his premier album, the Arcade Fire musician did compose the original score to 2014’s award-winning motion picture “Her.” Since then, he’s employed his menagerie of musical skills to compose a sonically diverse debut. Because he’s a part of Arcade Fire, the urge to expect a style and fluency throughout the album close to that of AF is natural, but that’s not what Butler delivered. The album as one single entity doesn’t have the most natural transitions, but with that in mind, each song has a distinct feel much like each Arcade Fire album has a distinct feel, and each song is reminiscent of a different AF phase. Granted, it still isn’t Arcade Fire. Butler adds a flair of punk in “Take My Side (1), “What I Want” (6), an 80’s background vibe in “Anna” (2), some thick experimental funk and accidentals in “Something’s Coming” (5), and altogether more experimental takes on melody in each track. We hear the familiar rhythm and piano of Neon Bible in tracks “Finish What I started” (3) and “Sing to Me” (7), with a splash of that choral background ohhing and ahhing that’s so Funeral and so loveable in tracks “Finish What I started” (3) and “Witness” (8). The most accessible and most consistent tracks are “Witness” (8) and “What I Want” (6), bringing in the most energy and the most danceability. His lyrics are zany (“I’ll give you a pony/ if you cook it for dinner I know a great recipe/ for pony macaroni” – ‘What I Want’), he’s got a little extra angst, and he’s proving his musical worth as an individual. All he’s missing is the cohesion throughout the album, but I wouldn’t write him off so soon.

-Kira Hynes

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – After


Lady Lamb’s sophomore album, After, starts off with typical pop-rock sound with “Vena Cava” and “Billions of Eyes”,  with a hint of 60’s beach music in the mix.  But in the next track, “Violet Clementine”, she adds in some eerie, Modest Mouse-y, banjo, as well as a chorus of singers and horns.  Shifts like this happen often through the album; “Sunday Shoes” is a stripped down acoustic track, “Milk Duds”, “Ten”, and “Atlas” are all sort of alt-country.  But she never changes so much as to lose her unique sound.

-Justin Johnson

The American Spirit – Season of Violence or Mourning, Protest, And the Birth of Bishop Killborne


American Spirit plays an assortment of ambient folk on their newest album that combines the woozy vocals of Father John Misty with the southern twang of My Morning Jacket. Their debut album features hazy songs led by acoustic guitars. Some songs are supplemented with light drums on songs like “All Night”, while others feature harmonicas and banjos like in “Going on My Own Way”. There is a musical depth through the background vocals but also a lyrical depth in their lyrics about  longing and discovering something more. Season Of Violence or Mourning, Protest, And The Birth of Bishop Killborne is a creative album full of talent.

-Camilla Grayson

Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Three


Based out of New York, Matana RobertsCoin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee is the third album of a slated 12 that will compile her Coin Coin project. Having grown up in Chicago in the late 70s and early 80s, her childhood was filled with musical influences, specifically of jazz and its component instruments. Roberts is known as a sound experimentalist. This album is full mechanical, repetitive hums, crackles and reverberations, masked by eerie oohs and experimental saxophone melodies, Roberts’ main instrument. Fading in and out of the noise is Robert’s voice, sometimes melodic, but often it is just raspy and chant-like, or just plain talking, being that Roberts also works with spoken word poetry. Her album is full of the sounds of life, not its melodies, which weave together in sincere incongruity and culminate into a whole of transfixing uncertainty.

-Kyra Hines