The Best Music of May 2014

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Ought

We broke the rules this month for one big reason that cannot be denied: while we admired many fine records in the month of May, none of them managed to knock Ought's More Than Any Other Day out of heavy rotation. Had we covered More Than Any Other Day in April, the month of its release, we'd have still been in this position of questioning what is brightening our days more than this record?

Ought came to us in an old fashioned manner. There was no big industry push from crack teams with calculated campaigns of proven systems to turn an obscure Montreal band from a somewhat obscure label into our new favorite band. No one was suggesting the boys move to Brooklyn and claim residency so that they would be more marketable. It sprung onto Pitchfork as Best New Music and its presence after one listen felt as though merit was still a possibility. After an afternoon in Bushwick with the young, post-punk gents, Ought's charm has only clung to us with a tighter grip. Now, songs like “Today More Than Any Other Day” are turning drowsy mornings of obnoxious errands into opportunities of adventure and our connections to our loved ones are stronger each time eye contact is made while singing the chorus to “The Weather Song”. When a record changes your quality of life, rules must be broken.

The Best Album of May 2014

Ought, More Than Any Other Day (Constellation Records)

Ought has constructed much of Any Other Day from such reliable foundational blocks (you probably won’t read a review of this record that fails to mention David Byrne or Tom Verlaine), but they also possess an inclusive curiosity. They evaluate everyone from Wire to Wolf Parade with the same generous amount of inquisitiveness. Songs like “Clarity!” and “Gemini” even recall the extremely particular the punk gadgetry of ‘90s almost-heroes Brainiac. Yet throughout Any Other Day, there’s enough negative space and dexterity to allow listeners to intuit traces of just about any artist belonging to the post-punk lineage.

The Best Music of May 2014 (in no particular order):

Sharon Van Etten’s debut album, the spare, acoustic Because I Was In Love came out in 2009. Half a decade (almost to the day) later, Van Etten’s music sounds less like dipping a toe in the water than cannonballing into the deep end. Are We There is her most assured statement yet, a collection of skewed love songs that treat pain like a source of momentum.

The G-Side break up was a heavy blow to the Huntsville movement spearheaded by the generals of Slow Motion Sounds, but it was a short-lived departure. With St 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova reunited over Block Beattaz production, Gz II Godz erases history as G-Side fall back into their old ways without a hint of conflict.

Party Jail clocks in at thirteen songs and right about 26 minutes. In this short period of time, it courses through many dualities with ease, crafting little utopias and then directly following them with dystopian realizations—Schrader muses hypothetically on crucifiction in the piledriving "Radio Eyes", speaks towards intense disillusionment in "No Fascination". Perhaps it's a cruel irony that Party Jail was released roughly around the same time that the Party Monster Michael Alig was released from prison, but the record arguably depicts desire with the capacity to imprison instead of liberate.

On United, the full-length from Gold Robot Records that's been years in the making, Casey offers up some of those personal, intimate recording touches from his solo work along with some digital creations. And as alluded to with the wood shavings on the cover of United, there is a feeling that every track and sound was whittled from a natural, local resource.

Yalls also curated a mix for our Friday Night series.

We are in an era of rap in which Jay-Z’s “Sensitive thugs, ya’ll all need hugs” lyric from 2001’s “Heart of the City” sounds like it was written from a bygone era of hypermasculinity and trauma buried behind the guise of stoicism as the American way. Enter independent’s answer to the major label sadboys, Antwon with his recently released Heavy Hearted in Doldrums—a record that struggles with being one of the guys and being an individual equally.

Snoozer is just a name; their music isn’t the kind that’ll just lull you to sleep. Proof of that is heard in the trio’s new album Cottage Cheese, a six song ode to 90s guitar rock. Snoozer, like Built To Spill and Pavement, manage to approach songwriting and instrumentation with a certain angular laziness; it’s the sort of music written while lounging around on a couch, but once it’s played with a full band, energy emerges from the woodwork. The album’s ten-minute monster of a closing track, "Inside Out Boy", is a perfect example of this: cleanly picked guitar chords and shaky vocal harmonies devolve into a string-bent long form exploration of the loud-quiet-loud trope. It’s a long song, but it definitely won’t put you to sleep, despite the band’s name.

Damon McMahon, the creative force behind the mostly-solo Amen Dunes, defines love as devotion and, on his record Love, as something internal and reflective—it's a self-discovery, it's pure, it's stripped of context, like the lyrics that sometimes float to the top of his latest, most haunting-yet-relatable release. Listening to Love is an emotional, almost visceral yet transcendent experience that still maintains a mysterious, ethereal quality. Just like love, it charges forward, tearing toward the horizon.

Makthaverskan will have to write some phenomenal songs in their time if they want to ever overcome being the band with the song that goes, "fuck you for fucking me / when I was 17." "No Mercy" is the sound of catharsis obtained by shouting a theraputic discovery at the top of one's lungs. Lead singer Maja Milner sounds as though she had a breakthrough with her therapist and delivered to her bandmates. The lyrics have solved all the internal conflict that has burdened relationships since her youth and innocence was coaxed away. It's a song that will give women knowing empathy and perhaps peace of mind, while men are offered a rare glimpse into a psyche that exists because of our hubris.

From the first guitar note on "Gravy Dayz", Caroline brings you into the collision of time, dreams, notes on tomorrow, lunarian conversations, and a privy walk through meditations between the place shifting guitars, hushed (and at times barely audible), delivery. "There is no use in me dreaming… tomorrow is coming soon, talking to the moon…" Sallee's vocals dip and dive within a variety of subjects that project thoughts on absent figures, forgotten ones, missed ones, and mobius strips of thought ever-spinning in cycles of perpetual unrest.

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