As fun as it is to complain about “music these days,” and how it’s all been downhill since The Chronic or something came out, it’s even MORE fun to listen to — wait for it — good music. Every Tuesday, a.k.a. Music Release Day, we’ll highlight five albums worth (legally) downloading or driving to the local Best Buy (lolz) for.
Today, we've got Fiona Apple, Smoke DZA, Fiona Apple, Glen Hansard, and did I mention Fiona Apple?
The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do by Fiona Apple
Here are but a few words that have been used to describe Fiona Apple’s first album in seven years: focused, refined, perfectly sequenced, exquisitely rendered, thrilling, emotionally ravaged glory, wonderfully jarring, and essential 2012 listening. I lied: those are all from a single review, from the Los Angeles Times. Idler Wheel has reduced critics to blubbering piles of adjectives and high praises, and with good reason: it’s a nearly perfect album. It’s riveting, raw, self-loathingly honest, daring, claustrophobic yet allows room for interpretation, violent…see, there I go. Today might as well be called Fiona Apple Day.
Oceania by the Smashing Pumpkins
After pooping on Billy Corgan's dumb, shiny head last week, I was all ready to write off the Smashing Pumpkins new album, Oceania, before even listening to it – and then I listened to it. It’s the band’s best album since 1998’s Adore, precisely because it sounds the most like old-school Pumpkins (think: towering inferno built up of guitar layers).
The non-Corgan bandmembers sound excited to be playing under the moniker that once released Siamese Dream, which makes sense considering some of them are in their 20s, and although Corgan’s voice isn’t able to hit the same peaks as it used to, he can still effectively maneuver his way around a quiet/loud/quiet ballad. No one on this record sounds jaded or bored or expects it to be good just because it’s a New Smashing Pumpkins Album; everyone’s trying to earn back the respect the band had in the 1990s, and they do a damn good job of it. Oceania is epic without bordering on the ridiculous, which is more than can be said about Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music.
Rugby Thompson by Smoke DZA
Read all about this smoke-draped album at the Smoking Section.
Rhythm and Repose by Glen Hansard
Glen Hansard may have won an Oscar, for Once: The Movie, and been nominated for a Drama Desk Award, for Once: The Broadway Musical, but on his first solo album Rhythm and Repose, he sounds quietly miserable. Not miserable like he’s made a crappy record, but like life’s been a son of a bitch to him. But instead of wallowing in his pain, the Irish folk-rocker lets it sink into his raw voice, not unlike what Springsteen did with Nebraska, and what comes out is downtrodden, sure, but also majestic. Just imagine if he HADN’T won the Oscar...
Believe by Justin Bieber
This isn’t a recommendation -- it’s a warning. You’re going to be really, really, really mad when you see how many copies Believe sold during its first week of release. (For curiosity’s sake, I listened to the album last night; it’s not awful as much as it is boring. You get the feeling that Bieber wants to sing more explicitly about sex, like Justin Timberlake did on FutureSex/LoveSounds, but his management team won’t let him, so instead he has to half-rap cheeseball lines like, "They say we're too young for love/ But I'm catching feelings, catching feelings.”)
All the more reason we wish Big Daddy Drew would have been granted the chance to kick his ass.