1) White Lung - Paradise
Canadian Punk band White Lung dropped their enticing and provocative album Paradise this year, and it's still in my regular rotation. I'm still working through all the thoughtful and poignant lyrics, and I suppose when I've sussed all that out, I'll be able to start appreciating the music fully too. This album marks a change in White Lung, as it's their first bold step from Punk to Indie Rock - and I believe that after a decade of living and breathing Punk Rock you learn a few things. And whatever White Lung has learned they've applied to their new sound and the results are electric. GET THIS ALBUM >
One song in particular still sends shivers down my spine, "Hungry", a song about a girl on the edge. This single really hallmarks the band's new sound while still honoring its history. Months ago I defined it as "all-inclusive Punk" and I stand by that.
White Lung fans seemed split down the middle as far as reviews went. Some were upset that the band could step away from their familiar genre, while others welcomed the band's refined sound. For me, whenever a band evolves in a positive way it speaks volumes to the hard work and dedication they've put into their craft. The only way a band can survive is to grow, and White Lung is going down that path.
2) Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
I fell in love with Radiohead at the tender age of 13 because luckily for me, the boy I had a crush on LOVED them and I figured I had to as well. That infatuation never developed into a relationship, but it left me with an even better one - a lifetime of love for Radiohead. They say things happen for a reason.
Kid A dropped when I was in high school, and like so many of us I was awed and inspired by the mystical sound of that truly unique album. Not to mention the cold melancholy flavors that so nourished my teenage angst (can we talk about How to Disappear Completely?) After Kid A, Radiohead and I slowly drifted apart as they seemed to be traveling further and further from my grasp of comprehension. I love music, I'm chronically intrigued by it, but Radiohead was ascending to a place I couldn't follow. At length in desperation I joined forums and Facebook pages dedicated to the band and found myself surrounded by enlightened Radiohead fans who went wherever the band lead and I felt left out. I suppose every relationship in life has lulls.
When A Moon Shaped Pool dropped this year I was apprehensive as usual, but since it came with the news that Thom Yorke's 23 year relationship had ended I felt I owed it to Radiohead now more than ever to be there, and to try again to understand. Burn the Witch was the first single and it reminded me of the Radiohead I used to know and I was elated. I devoured the album as soon as I could get my hands on it and my excitement was immediately quelled by that classic Radiohead dreamy haze. In the fog, I heard the pain behind Thom's voice and I heard the subtle nods to the past. Not so subtly, the re-vamp of True Love Waits, a decades old Radiohead song now brought forward to represent what it seems it was always meant to.
I'm not going to tell you that this album won't bring you down, because it probably will. But it's not ALL melancholy - only mostly melancholy - which is Radiohead tried and true.
3) 4Minute - Act 7
I feel like I came so late to the party on this one that I very nearly missed the entire thing.
4Minute was a five-member South Korean pop group comprised of five extremely talented women with singing chops, dance moves, and massive attitude. I'm admittedly completely in the dark when it comes to modern Pop music but you have to admit, when Pop is done correctly, uniquely, and the production value is mint - you cannot help yourself. 4Minute represented exactly what K-Pop is currently doing in the music world today: re-defining the Pop genre by pulling elements of classic 80's and 90's jams and enhancing them with unbridled talent on all fronts (vocals, music, production, image, dance, etc.)
4Minute came crashing into my life one night while I was browsing Youtube. I came across the video for their colossal hit, "Crazy" released in 2015. I had probably just come from watching something like MTV's Unplugged: Pearl Jam edition and was probably feeling pretty music elitist and happy with myself, until 4Minute hit me in the face with the musical equivalent of a cold bucket of water. I had never heard or seen anything so sassy and powerful and I watched the video on repeat. Shortly thereafter I discovered their latest EP Act. 7 - a mini album released this year and quickly established it in my frequent listening repertoire.
A few months after that, 4Minute disbanded.
Putting the possibility that I may have cursed them in the back of my mind, I mourned deeply for what could have been. Focusing on what they left us with, Act. 7 begins with a track just as significant as "Crazy" but with more beauty and attitude called "Hate." A song I struggle to describe as it's exactly one part sad and sorrowful and one part obliterating and ballsy. Skrillex was taken aboard to collaborate on this track and it's probably one of the most cohesive collaborations I've ever heard. I literally dare you not to smile when you hear this song.
Another track that stands out to me is "Blind," an angry and remorseful song that transcends the language barrier with raw emotion. The feeling on this track is distinctively old school Hip-Hop and R&B - the magical kind that only a female group could conjure. Like when every voice in the group is singing the same line and the same note, but each person is feeling the meaning behind the lyric in their own way, and so each voice can be heard apart from the others.
I hesitate to recommend the last album a band will ever release, especially knowing how much you will love 4Minute, but who knows? Maybe they'll come back.
4) Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression
If you know me you know that I am the biggest fan of Josh Homme on the planet. Contrarily, I have always been on the shelf in regard to Iggy Pop, which always seemed wrong to me considering my great love for 70's music but hey - you can't be in love with every band that ever had a hit in an entire decade, right?
Josh Homme is most notably the frontman of Queens of the Stone Age but is also famous for his amazing collaborations. One of the greatest experiences of my young life was spent in the front row of a Them Crooked Vultures concert, a one-time, one album band made up of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones. Josh dedicated the last song to me and it took a few years for the shock to wear off. That's part Led Zeppelin, part Foo Fighters, part QOTSA dedicating something to tiny, undeserving, insignificant me - I digress.
Josh struck a chord (literally and figuratively) yet again by collaborating with Iggy Pop ( who actually texted Josh to ask if he'd be interested in writing music together) and with him he brought QOTSA member Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders. The result was Post Pop Depression, Iggy's 17th studio album. I guess it took a familiar route for me to finally find Iggy Pop and appreciate him properly and I'm so glad I've finally done so. Post Pop Depression is Iggy Pop as exposed as his chest usually is (sorry, couldn't resist that analogy) backed up by Josh's devil may care attitude and desert rock swagger. Iggy's vocals are frank and unfettered and give someone like me, previously unaware of what it means to be Iggy Pop, a crystal clear view into absolutely everything.
I had the good fortune to be able to see Post Pop Depression live, and I was schooled. Iggy very sincerely does not care what anyone says about him or his music anymore (if he ever did) and his lust for life is still very real. Post Pop Depression as an album is a solid venture into uninhibited rock and roll and I love it.
5) Tupperware Remix Party - Guardians of the Zone
Tupperware Remix Party or, TWRP, is an 80s-inspired Synth Rock/Electro Funk band from the 1980's but also from the future and more accurately, from Toronto. Their influences, according to their Facebook page are as follows: Music from the past, music from the future, science, kung fu, (and) video games.
Each member is heavily geared in space age attire which suggests that they spend most of their time in orbit. Doctor Sung, TWRP frontman, uses a talk box for all vocals, shreds (if you can shred...?) on the keytar, and appears to be wearing a futuristic orange pylon on his head. Lord Phobos on guitar is like a golden, spandex-clad Boba Fett with a deep, meaningful connection to his axe. Have Hogan is the drummer and you can't miss him as he peers over the kit with glowing red eyes behind a mask of giant metal teeth. Finally on bass, Commander Meouch is the killer cornerstone of the band and also some kind of half-man half-lion hybrid. Clearly I needed to describe TWRP because I didn't want you to think they were simply an amazing sounding band with no personality.
TWRP could be described as "comedy rock" but just barely. Comedy rock would have to have a way better reputation and much bigger chops to consider TWRP at all, really. Let's just say that the subject matter in most songs have a certain whimsy, although I can't tell if the things they're singing about aren't completely true. Who knows at this point?
There are a lot of things to notice all at once with TWRP, including the talkbox vocals and finger-licking tasty riffs, but you WILL notice the BASS most of all. Give the first track on EP Guardians of the Zone "Time to Shine" a few seconds to warm up and then settle into the stone cold groove. As a bassist, opening an album with a bass solo is preferable (and rare!) but I'm telling you, Commander Meouch is the most talented lion/man bass player I've ever heard. Geddy Lee was born in Toronto, maybe there's something in the water?
Guardians of the Zone features a variety of content including songs about platonic friendship, hooking up, dancing without trousers, and the theme song from the Saturday morning cartoon they used to star in (allegedly). I've heard TWRP described as Daft Punk with a sense of humor but I've never been particularly floored by Daft Punk's musical prowess - TWRP however is continually jaw dropping. And best of all, they're even better LIVE.
Tupperware Remix Party is a good band and the music makes you feel happy. Guardians of the Zone is quite simply, a good time. It was the anthem of my entire summer and it never failed to plant a smile on my face and put a spring in my step. That's why I deem it the very best album of the year; it shouldn't be so rare that massively talented musicians get together to make you smile and laugh exclusively, but it is and we should appreciate it when we find it. Luckily for everyone on planet Earth, TWRP is coming out with a new album in January and I can't think of a better way to face the new year.