Recordings | September 2018

Three new albums we’re listening to this month

By Nikole Tower, September 2018 Issue.

Artist: Amy Shark
Album: Love Monster
Label: Wonderlick Internet

Following worldwide praise of her 2016 single, “Adore,” Australian singer-songwriter Amy Shark released her first full-length album, Love Monster, this summer. While “Adore” allowed her to break out beyond her home country and reach an audience that has no borders, there’s no doubt that Love Monster will have the same effect.

Despite penning these songs over a timespan of a few years, the 14 tracks that made the cut maintain a certain consistency that deliver a unified theme and sound. It’s a roller coaster ride of falling in love (“Psycho” featuring blink-182’s Mark Hoppus), heartbreaks (“The Idiot”) and Shark’s personal experience in the music industry (“I Said Hi”). If this project were a television show, it would be a dramatic teen series like “Degrassi” or “Pretty Little Liars.”

If you were a fan of “Adore,” which went triple-platinum in Australia, this album will hold up to the expectations you may have. It’s raw storytelling with a backdrop of pop melodies and simple sounds. And although it’s a debut album, it certainly doesn’t come across that way. It’s delivered with a professionalism expected of those who have been in the industry much longer – which says a lot about the work of producers Mark Landon (Eminem, Madonna, Alison Wonderland), Jack Antonoff (Bleachers, fun.), Joel Little (Lorde, Sam Smith, Imagine Dragons) and Mark Hoppus (Blink-182). And with a team like that, we’re sure Shark won’t be a one-hit wonder.

A word of advice: Don’t sleep on this artist. It’ll be worth checking her out before she starts collecting those breakthrough artist awards.

Artist: Years & Years
Album: Palo Santo
Label: Polydor Records

London’s synth-pop trio Years & Years released its second album, Palo Santo, (Spanish for “holy wood,” a reference to a South American incense known for its healing powers) which offers listeners a raw glimpse at sin and  sexuality. The two singles, “Sanctify” and “If You’re Over Me,” were met with high praise in the United Kingdom reached the No. 1 trending video spot on YouTube within 24 hours of its release.

According to vocalist and lyricist Olly Alexander, “Sanctify” represents his encounters with straight-identifying men who struggle to embrace their sexuality. Alexander is transparent throughout the album, showing a complete display of who he is and what he is here to talk about.

While the underlying themes are raw, real and impressive compared to the band’s first album, Communion, the messages can easily go over the heads of some listeners. The sci-fi and futuristic feel are evident, but stories of a dystopian world and emotionless robots are little harder to decipher. Palo Santo requires serious active listening to fully understand the point of this 14-track concept album.

The religious and spiritual themes are more prevalent in the energetic songs, the ones that will most likely be played on the dance floor. This is due to Alexander’s interest of the correlation between a church’s strong community and the sense of freedom when moving to pop music on the dance floor.

Alexander’s fearless expression of sexuality and vulnerability in placing himself at the front of the stage for all to see is deserving of praise in and of itself. While the upbeat songs will awake any crowd, it’s the feeling that the songwriter is holding nothing back that will end up attracting new fans and keeping the old ones.

Artist: The Internet 
Album: Hive Mind
Label: Columbia Records

After a three-year hiatus, contemporary funk band The Internet is back with their fourth album, Hive Mind. The band, which formed as a side project from Odd Future’s Sydney Bennett and Matt Martians, earned a 2016 Grammy nomination for their third album, Ego Death.

After the Grammys, most of the members went off to do their own solo projects – which is rarely a good sign for the stability of a group. Fans have likely groaned that this is the beginning of the end, but that’s not the case here. Instead, each member took what they learned from their solo projects and brought their new strengths to this project. The result is an inventive, cohesive and beautiful, collision of digitally produced sounds and traditional instruments.

Bennett, aka Syd tha Kyd, stands out in this newest compilation as her vocals weave their way through the sounds in a seemingly effortless way. Audibly, Hive Mind is focused on the sound of it all rather than telling a story or being clever with lyrics. The track that grabs my attention lyrically is the nearly six-minute, two-part, “Next Time/Humble Pie.” The sounds slip away into the background, just enough to have a presence without overpowering Bennett’s voice. Bennett begins singing about starting a conversation with a girl who caught her eye with a “should I/shouldn’t I” mentality. The second half is talking to someone who is missing love in their life but isn’t doing anything about it.

Rather than pushing out a message or agenda, the album is a raw musical work of art for easy listening. The general sound is relaxed, creating the sense that it’s time to light candles and settle down with your honey. Looking for alone time? I would also suggest playing this album at the end of the day, wine glass in hand while you prepare yourself a nice dinner, grooving slowly to the funky dance vibes.