Pearl Jam - Gigaton
It’s always a noteworthy album release day when Pearl Jam drop a new record. Gigaton, their first record since 2013’s Lightning Bolt, adds another set of 12 fiery alternative rock tracks to the band’s ever-growing discography. The high-energy, riff-driven tracks are led by Eddie Vedder’s politically-charged lyrics and intense vocal delivery. Outside of an occasional electronic drum beat, Pearl Jam don’t seem to reach for new ideas or reinvention here, opting to simply do what they do best. Fortunately, that’s more than enough.
Childish Gambino - 3.15.2020
Donald Glover returned with a new Childish Gambino this week, first offering it on a streaming site before sharing it on all platforms. Packed with guest artists, genre switches and a loose conceptual framework, it’s a record that values creativity over aiming for perfection. The record jumps between rap songs that could fit on an Outkast album to Prince-like funk jams, with experimental interludes holding it all together. Too much to pack into a capsule review, this is one you’ll simply have to hear.
Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams - Aporia
Lowell Brams, stepfather of esteemed indie songwriter Sufjan Stevens and co-founder of his longtime record label, Asthmatic Kitty Records, was first pushed into the spotlight as the subject of Stevens’ somber folk record Carrie & Lowell. Now, Brams worked with Stevens for a full record of instrumental, ambient music, and it’s surprisingly incredible. Unlike most ambient records, which begin to get overdone or sound homogeneous and boring, Stevens clearly has an ear for details and subtitles, which bring life to these songs. Each twists and turns through different textures and rhythms constantly, never allowing the listener to lose interest. Yet another genre tackled successfully by Stevens, Aporia is simply a gorgeous piece of music.
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real - Naked Garden
Described as a companion piece to 2019’s Turn Off The News (Build A Garden), the newest release from Lukas Nelson features unreleased songs and alternative takes from the same sessions. The strength of these tracks speaks for the prolific nature and general talent of the band, as the 15 songs sound far from b-sides. Jumping between twangy folk-rock and country to full-on psychedelic electric jams, the songs are as engaging as they are unpredictable. Overall, Naked Garden stands as a testament to Promise of the Real’s capabilities.
Nap Eyes - Snapshot of a Beginner
Nova Scotian indie trio Nap Eyes have been pumping out jangly indie-pop songs at a consistent pace for the last five years, and only seem to be getting better as they go. Their newest release, Snapshot of a Beginner, is their most introspective yet, with songwriter Nigel Chapman’s lyrics seeming to dissect his own thoughts right in front of you, ranging from small details to massive revelations. The band also switches from their usual instrumental strategy of recording live, straight to tape, instead opting for a more layered, lush approach. The combination works, and makes for what may be the band’s best record yet.
Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud
After a decidedly hard-rocking fourth record, songwriter Katie Crutchfield pumped the brakes for Waxahatchee’s fifth release, Saint Cloud. Though the songwriting is spectacular as always, the songs have a more delicate, reflective tone, utilizing warm acoustics and jangly electrics for a country-rock feel. The tracks remain short and digestible, but show a definite maturity in songwriting. Though the strength of the songs will certainly appease longtime fans, Saint Cloud feels like a great starting point for newcomers as well.