April 22: Animal Collective – “Meeting of the Waters”
There’s nothing better than beginning a list of albums with an EP. Set to be a Record Store Day 2017 release, Animal Collective’s “Meeting of the Waters” is sure to be an interesting project. From what we know so far, it’s a live EP recorded entirely in the Amazon rainforest. An episode of Viceland’s “Earthworks” is also slated to released on June 2 that will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of the EP. The release is sure to be significant in that it may mark a sort of return to style for Animal Collective. Those that were unsatisfied with “Painting With” and its companion “The Painters EP” may yet have their itches scratched by “Meeting of the Waters,” with hopeful callbacks in sound to “Campfire Songs” or “Hollinndaggain,” with their acoustic and ambient styles of live recording. From the videos and images provided (no music has yet been released), the EP is being recorded only by guitarist/vocalist Avey Tare and manipulator/sampler Geologist, perhaps alluding to a sound found much earlier in Animal Collective’s discography. Regardless of its reception, the concept is fresh and it’s bound to be interesting no matter what.
April 28: Gorillaz – “Humanz”
Love them or hate them, Gorillaz are one of the most novel acts of music in the last decade. While they’re mainly known for their beat-based electronic and trip-hop styles of music, they’re no strangers to folk, gospel, hip hop and even straight rock. The five songs we’ve been shown from “Humanz” have been varied and amazing in their own ways, from the rap delicacies in “Ascension” to “We Got the Power,” a pep track that channels the 80s and the later years of Brit-rock’s golden age. The Gorillaz we knew from “Plastic Beach” are no more; this is an entirely different monster, and it’s proving to provide a sonically entertaining experience.
May 5: Jesu & Sun Kil Moon – “Moon 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth”
The last release we saw from Jesu & Sun Kil Moon (aptly titled “Jesu/Sun Kil Moon”) was a mouthful of an album and was quite shocking for someone like me who was unfamiliar with Mark Kozelek and his poetic style. It was an hour and twenty minutes of what was essentially Kozelek mumbling incoherently over the beautiful soundscapes created by Jesu. And yet, it was still surprisingly coherent in its own way. I wouldn’t exactly call that cooperative debut a banger, but it was aesthetically pleasing. Jesu’s background noises helped the listener sink into a slump while we listened to Kozelek rant about whatever was on his mind in his humorous, satirical style. I revisit the album occasionally; with a length like that it’s difficult to completely digest. Whether the next album will be more of this musical prose or if they’ll flip their previous style remains to be seen, but I look forward to it nonetheless.
June 2: alt-J – “Relaxer”
Alt-J is a band that’s undergone a transformation with each album. After the poppy “An Awesome Wave,” they slowed things down a bit with “This is All Yours” and now, it seems, “Relaxer” is set to be their slowest and most brooding release to date. If the rest of the album sounds anything like the first single, “3WW,” I’ll be beyond happy. It’s a transformation of sound like all their others, but alt-J is reaching experimental depths with the ballads they’re cranking out for “Relaxer,” and that couldn’t be more welcome in my opinion.
June 16: Lorde – “Melodrama”
I may be the only person who didn’t completely enjoy the two singles that have been released from this album, but I haven’t lost faith in Lorde. Despite the snoozefest that “Green Light” and “Liability” have been thus far, they both carry impressive weights as ballads and bear tinges of potential for the rest of the album. I’m holding hope that the final cut of the record has a few more upbeat tracks, though I can’t fault her for attempting another musical style. “Pure Heroine” was enjoyable, and while it seems as though Lorde’s next project won’t quite be in the same musical tennis court, I expect her talent as a producer and songwriter to shine through in the end.
June 16: Fleet Foxes – “Crack-Up”
It’s been five long years since we last heard from Fleet Foxes, and the sudden release of their single “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” was absolutely worth the wait. Fleet Foxes have been a household name in indie folk since their self-titled debut and 2011’s “Helplessness Blues,” but “Crack-Up,” at least from the one song we’ve heard, is looking to be a folk opera unlike any we’ve heard from them. The music has matured and strengthened in the hiatus. The acoustic guitars are still there but they ride along the heavier tones of music that are present and the emotion that Robin Pecknold swings in his voice is unbelievably dense. Unfortunately only one single has been released as of yet, but it has not failed in its endeavor to excite us, the audience. It’s been far too long from the last Fleet Foxes album, and, with the way things are going, “Crack-Up” may very well be one of the best albums of the year, I’m calling it.