Every Friday at noon, Austin360 music writers Deborah Sengupta Stith and Eric Webb hijack the Austin360 Periscope account to talk about the week’s new album and single releases. These aren’t full reviews, but first impressions. Here’s our take on a selection of albums that take you to the booty club, the back porch barbecue and (maybe?) a galaxy far, far away. Listen to music from this week’s show in our 360 First Spins: July 2015 Spotify playlist.
DSS: Not a Pitbull fan, but I’m swayed by the fact that “El Taxi” samples one of my (and everyone else’s) favorite dancehall jams, but this is Pitbull doing what he does best, make dance party hits best experienced while sweating through a Zumba class or in the early hours of the morning after one too many fruity cocktails. Also, this is Pitbull’s second primarily Spanish-language album and Pitbull en español > Pitbull in English.
EW: I’m not going to blame Pitbull for being Pitbull. Shine on, you worldwide diamond.
EW: Continuing the trend of country music with fewer pickup trucks and bright lights and more working-class grit and sparks of social consciousness, Isbell goes straight for the populist heart on this one. It sounds like dirt-caked hands and tackles everything from hard livin’ to pondering the existence of God. Isbell said before its release that “Something More Than Free” was going to be more of a celebratory record, but all I know is that songs like “24 Frames” and the title track are honest and folk-minded. (Good folk. Not bad folk.)
DSS: One of 2015’s strongest additions to the “new sincerity” country cannon.
DSS: The stumbly, mumbly, NSFW soundtrack for your next Percoset-laced trip to the strip club.
EW: Well, he’s certainly got a Southern flow.
EW: Sam Beam has been tending more country and less sparse-folk-in-an-echo-chamber for a little while now. With that in mind, this album of covers (recorded with Band of Horses dude Ben Bridwell) is sun-drenched pleasantry. Taking on tunes from Sade, Bonnie Raitt, Spiritualized and more, the standouts are a prettily languid, break-the-mold version of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place” on the opener and an album-closing Peter LaFarge cover that’s dreamy and hallucinatory.
DSS: The soundtrack for summertime bonding with your hippie skirted sisters and your bushy-bearded bros.
DSS: I like that the band’s branching out into a hazy, almost electropop sound at times. Not much on this album really jumps out as unforgettable, but I think they’re likely to play the sunset time slot at Austin City Limits Festival this year and these sounds in the golden light will be sublime.
EW: Dreamy, maybe snoozy, but I foresee many ACL Fest-ers inhaling various vapors quite contentedly to this album.
EW: This album, a Beyonce-style surprise digital drop, has taught me a very important lesson about myself: I do understand early-millennium white guy guitar rock. This album leaves me blank, with its wavy guitars and indistinct, uninteresting vocals. I would not have someone turn this off if it was on the radio, but I would also ask if they had an aux-cord so I could put on Iron & Wine instead.
DSS: Which galaxy far, far away is run by the fluffy rose cats? #tellmetweedy
DSS: In their mid-fifties, Chuck D and Flav are back to fight the power. Chuck D said sections of the album were inspired by ‘Ye, Run the Jewels and Kendrick Lamar, but most of the record sounds like straight up classic PE, timely and important as ever. But there are a few big misses, including “Honky Tonk Rules,” the PE country song no one ever asked for.
EW: That country song is … jarring. Aside from that, sounds sharp.
EW: These Brooklyn bros always bring the rock into their electro-instrumentals, and I’ve been a fan in the past. (“Loud Pipes” was my ringtone in high school.) I was curious to hear how their newest material sounded in a post-Calvin Harris, post-Hudson Mohawke, post-Pretty Lights world of electronic popularity and diversity, and while it sounds like they’re trying to change it up a bit, it’s still distinctly Ratatat. Aside from the shreddy guitars chunks and metallic drones, there’s a lighter touch on songs like “Primetime,” which sounded a little like a Phoenix montage in a Sofia Coppola movie. (Sans lyrics, obvi.) Perhaps not as exciting as they meant it to be, but points for trying.
DSS: An interesting mix of sounds, worth a longer listen.
Quick spins: Singles and EPs
Carly Rae Jepsen “Run Away With Me” – Listen
EW: I love this song with my bones, and I am going to listen to it all summer. I’m a sucker for an “oooh-oooh-oooh” vocal flourish.
DSS: As my homie Eric Webb said during the broadcast, C-Jeps is no Jill Scott, but better than Demi Lovato.
Cee-Lo “Robin Williams” – Listen
DSS: In theory I’m pro-message music about mental health awareness, but this feels awkward, uncomfortable and off.
EW: Too soon, not his story to tell, feels cheap and exploitative. No sir.
Chvrches “Leave a Trace” – Listen
EW: Lauren Mayberry’s voice is at a (relative) full-on growl! Hot dang! This song has fire in its gut, and it’s very reflective of the band’s growth from the neon light show of “The Bones of What You Believe” and subsequent standalone tracks like “Dead Air” and “Get Away.” There’s a glint of darkness in those synths that match the lyrics now. Go get ’em, Chvrches. See ya at Fun Fun Fun.
DSS: While this definitely maintains the distinctive Chvrches sound, it feels like the band is pushing in new directions.
Icona Pop “Emergency” – Listen
DSS: I was all about the single”I Love It” then disappointed by the Swedish duo’s debut full-length which struck me as one-note and, frankly, boring. I’m cautiously excited again.
EW: I have heard this on a commercial. It was not a good commercial, because I did not purchase or remember that product. But if these ladies want to move away from a more traditional Swedish pop sound, I say bully for them. It ain’t bad.