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Toro y Moi – What For

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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

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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”

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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


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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

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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

With the recent popularity of Ishmael Butler’s group Shabazz Palaces, album club thought it would be a good idea to go back in time about 21 years to see where the legendary jazz rapper’s career began. Released in 1994, Blowout Comb is the second and final studio album of the jazz rap trio Digable Planets. The three members of the trio are Mecca (aka Ladybug), C-Know (aka Doodlebug), and Ish (aka Butterfly/Ishmael Butler/Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces).
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Blowout Comb, which followed Reachin‘ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), opens with a blast from some dissonant horns the immediately inform the audience that they are listening a jazz-rap album. “Black Ego” then moves into anti-establishment brag raps, but it’s important to note how loud the beat is in comparison to vocals. The beat doesn’t act as just a backdrop to flow against; it acts as its own entity, as it seems that there was a 4th member of Digable Planets. The 4th member is Dave Darlington, who was the engineer of the album and was largely responsible for unifying the various live instruments and samples into a singular sound.

“Dog It” serves as an example as to how to perfectly execute a horn sample while bringing in 5 percenter imagery and more abstract lyrics. “Jettin'” is a major highlight of the album, with the music rhythmically panning to bounce off the left and right channels. This effect makes an already great track a surreal and memorable listen. Identity continues to play a big role in the lyrics of this track, with a memorable lines from Ish and Mecca: “Before I pop I’d rather die in baggy Guess and Timbs” and “No blue eyes to emulate”.

The album continues to impress as “Borough Check” references live freestyle competitions and “Agent 7 Creamy Spy Theme” sounds like a Brooklyn spy film. “For Corners” brings Blowout Comb to a natural close, giving the listener a wonderfully smooth 7-minute cooldown. An interesting aspect of this album is how cool the trio sounds throughout the whole thing without sacrificing the message they were putting out. The album art itself seems innocuous, but a closer look reveals that it is stylized after the official Black Panther newspaper. I feel that the artwork for Blowout Comb perfectly encapsulates the legacy of Digable Planets: stylish and uncompromising.
- Trevor Adams