Top 5 Albums of November
November is the floodgate of the holiday season, ushering in the buzz of hometown get togethers, time off, excessive food and alcohol, and of course, economic surges. There were two trends in newly released music that reflected the latter of these bullet points, the obvious first being the holiday themed releases (Sia, Why Don’t We). The second trend are the conveniently timed high profile releases aimed at the consumer’s wallet (Taylor Swift’s Reputation, Blake Shelton’s Texoma Shore, and whatever Maroon 5 released). Outside the central pop realm, we saw high profile releases from music industry veterans Björk (the sprawling Utopia), Morrissey (the eye-rolling Low in High School) and Talib Kweli (the cooly righteous Radio Silence). At any rate, with November’s usual wet blanket of chart-toppers aside, there were plenty of new records that deserve recognition, if not heavy rotation.
Casper Skulls – Mercy Works
For fans of: Parquet Courts, Sonic Youth, Pavement
Toronto’s alt-rock quartet Casper Skulls released their first full length album Mercy Works earlier this month, perking ears throughout the central-Canadian music circuit. Mercy Works hooks the same way a good Pavement record does: it’s slacker-ambience attracts you closer, but the band’s introspective disposition puts you an arm’s length away. Reminiscent of the sturdy Rather Ripped era Sonic Youth, Casper Skulls rock out when they feel like it, but seem totally fine speak-singing over some fuzz and jangling away to a beer-drunk crowd in a dank basement.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Soul of a Woman
For fans of: James Brown, Mavis Staples, Lee Fields & The Expressions
Sharon Jones’ unfortunate and untimely death last November was a severe loss to the soul music community. Her work with the superlative Dap-Kings sparked the mid-2000s funk/soul revival that became closely associated with superstar acts Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson, marking her a modern day soul icon. The posthumous Soul of a Woman couldn’t be a better testament of Jones’ sheer talent and star quality, effortlessly bouncing between melting ballads and uptempo dance numbers the way an old soul crooner could. Though Jones is undoubtedly missed, Soul of a Woman is warm reminder of the awesome legacy she left behind.
Quicksand – Interiors
For fans of: Failure, Deftones, Bush
It’s been twenty-two years since the last Quicksand record, 1995’s Manic Compression. After a tumultuous recording period in the late 90s, NYC’s post-hardcore quartet decided to throw in the towel and embark on separate ventures. Nearly two decades later, the band secretly entered the studio to begin recording their powerful third LP Interiors. Channeling the “space rock” sound of the late 90s, Interiors creates its own space to destroy. The album is brash and noisy while vocally ethereal, a much needed rehash of a sound that was once commonplace on the college radio charts twenty years ago.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland
For fans of: Ty Segall, Wand, 13th Floor Elevators
Aside from their notoriously wild live performances, Melbourne’s seven piece psych collective King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are famous for their incredibly high output of music. They’ve released four albums this year alone, a feat many bands won’t accomplish in their lifetimes. Polygondwanaland, their latest release, has all the trademarks of a Giz record: longform jams, lightning speed, odd meters, fantasy landscapes, and so on. However, this albums stands out most for its stellar musicianship and dizzying creativity coming off four records this year, marking the Wizards as one of the most reliably good indie bands of our time.
EERA – Reflections of Youth
For fans of: PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Cat Power
London based Norwegian artist Anna Lena released her delicately sparse debut EP EERA in 2016, immediately drawing comparisons to indie rock powerhouse PJ Harvey. On her pulpy full length follow up Reflections of Youth, Lena capitalizes on that comparison, stacking thick, textural layers of sound on top of a collection of solidly crafted songs. Youth wields production chops reminiscent of Radiohead puppet master Nigel Godrich; the LP’s ten tracks bubble and churn with synth sounds and guitar work like a simmering, murky hot spring. The album’s attitudes are fleeting, where sifting anger yields release, and introversion shifts outward. This movement in emotion is stirring and strings you along, much like following a lustrous, radiant butterfly with a net gripped loosely in hand.