Updated: Mar 25
What does it mean to be human, and to love? That is the question posed by the Nashville based alternative trio COIN in this 2022 album Uncanny Valley. Full of boastful anthems on the A-side and the solemn ballads of the B-side, this kind of introspection isn’t the norm for the Tennessee outfit however, with their biggest hits being sunny summertime pop such as “Talk Too Much” and “Malibu 1992” (both off their sophomore album How Will You Know If You Never Try) that are much more suited for the dancefloor than a scholarly discussion. This maturity in subject and execution however shows that COIN isn’t satisfied with being a one trick pony, and their diligence in creating a thematic showpiece is exactly what they needed to set themselves apart.
COIN didn’t make an album with Uncanny Valley, they made a symphony. Every song, every beat, every instrument choice, every lyric, every sound-bite and each track’s placement has meaning tied to it’s overall theme. It is very hard to find this kind of cohesion in albums today, and it is absolutely a breath of fresh air. Whether the trio answers their guiding question well or not is up to the listener to decide, and that is what makes the experience so wonderful. We as humans tend to not like to be told what to think, but in the uncanny valley, we must decide what is real, and what isn’t…. -KTXT FM by nathan Taylor
The Linda Lindas were destined for greatness, one way or another. The Los Angeles quartet—whose members range between 11 and 17 years of age and are Asian American, Latin American, or both—began as part of a kid cover band organized by Dum Dum Girls’ Kristin Kontrol. The musicians, a mixture of sisters, cousins, and chosen family, then formed their own band. Within a year, they were opening up for Bikini Kill, who they later covered in Amy Poehler’s riot grrrl film Moxie. Shortly after the release of “Racist, Sexist Boy,” the Linda Lindas signed with the long-running punk powerhouse Epitaph. Their debut album, Growing Up, is potentially the most heartwarming record of the year.
The songs on Growing Up center on anxieties heightened by adolescence, like self-doubt, loneliness, and a lack of control. All four members—Wong de la Garza alongside Lucia de la Garza (guitar) and Bela Salazar (guitar) —split songwriting duties, and each expresses her innermost thoughts with candor and precision.
Sophie Allison sings from the exhaustion at the end of a big feeling. Across her work as Soccer Mommy, she has excavated that point after despair or elation where your nerves reel back from overdrive, when the intensity wanes and you’re left with the blankness of yourself. Since releasing her debut studio album, Clean, in 2018, she’s worked to heighten the contrasts of her guitar-based songs. The 2020 LP color theory drew vintage synthesizers and layered sampling into the mix, expanding the space in which her wry, acerbic, and poignant lyrics could play. On her latest album, Sometimes, Forever, Allison teams with Daniel Lopatin of the retrofuturist electronic project Oneohtrix Point Never, whose production deepens the shadows in her songwriting. Soccer Mommy’s music has often folded in the bitter and the melancholy, but this is the first time Allison has faced down danger so squarely.
At the heart of Sometimes, Forever lurks the axiom that nothing lasts. The most vivid triumphs and hollowing depressions each evaporate in turn. Though repeated to the point of cliché, “this too shall pass” butts up against another persistent cultural narrative: That it’s possible to make it, that if your output or your essence is good enough, you’ll ascend, be rewarded, never work a day in your life. By now, Allison has shored away enough cultural capital that she can see into the lie on the other side of success. You can win, but you still have to live with yourself..
From the beginning, Arcade Fire were built for moments when raw feeling overtakes us. They recorded their debut album, 2004’s Funeral, in their early 20s, a time when our perspective on death and aging, our parents and our hometown, becomes more fragile and complex, when the divide between childhood and messier, serious adulthood feels dramatic and irreversible. Some of the band’s coping mechanisms now seem like youthful affectations—the period costumes, the whimsical on-stage antics—while others proved enduring. The core of the band remains the duo of Butler and Régine Chassagne, who co-write the songs and share lead vocals in addition to being married parents of a 9-year-old son, and their best songs still seem designed to be sung as loud as possible, eyes closed, from the heart of a massive crowd.
These principles define WE, an album that reclaims the band’s trademarks after a decade spent fighting against them. Butler and Chassagne wrote the whole record on guitar and piano at their home in New Orleans, ensuring the bones were established before presenting it to their bandmates. The same way that vivid flashes from childhood haunted their earliest songwriting, the couple now let their history as collaborators flicker through the music: They’ve claimed that pieces of the multi-part lead single “The Lightning” date back to Funeral, while aspects of the also multi-part “End of the Empire” first materialized when they were in college. And yet, this is still Arcade Fire, and you were unlikely to hear a more ambitious major label rock album in 2022.
Arcade Fire seem to have learned their imperfections are easier to gloss over when the music sweeps you up and away with it. -Pitchfork by Sam Sodomsky
Nearly 15 years on since Klara and Johanna’s cover of a Fleet Foxes song piqued interest in the folk pair, the sisters have returned with their most rounded-out album yet. Unlike 2018’s break-up album ‘Ruins’, ‘Palomino’ is wisened to ups and downs of love and not so bogged down by it sonically; there’s more of a full-band feel thanks to the Söderbergs co-writing with others for the first time. Strings and brass appear more frequently than on previous records, and there are welcome escapades into glam rock. It’s a freshness needed to enliven the Americana lulls of their more recent releases.
‘Palomino’ is an apt title for the duo’s freer, more mature album. Horses of the palomino breed aren’t usually born with their famed golden coats, rather the hue develops with age.
‘Palomino’ flits between the certainties and uncertainties of love with ease, strengthened by deeper musical experimentation that won’t alienate longtime fans. Another gem in First Aid Kit’s consistently good arsenal of timeless, harmony-rich roots music.
Mt. Joy—the Los Angeles (by way of Philadelphia) indie folk-rock band—offer up a measured defense of a certain joie de vivre with the release of their third studio album, Orange Blood. Written during the pandemic’s cessation of regular touring for most bands and venues, this latest installment by Mt. Joy expands the range of their psychedelic-tinged folk. The record moves from reflective acoustic pieces to stadium anthem pieces, all the while cross-pollinating laid-back LA sounds with Philly soul and a dash of Haight-Ashbury for good measure.
Despite the album’s interspersed references to acid and weed, Orange Blood is more about survival and the flourishing that comes from being in the moment than a call to escapism. Mt. Joy demonstrate their remarkable recent success was no anomaly, and they make their pitch to be taken seriously as a stellar musical group with something important to say.
Orange Blood is a compelling statement for Mt. Joy’s continued growth and a ten-song invitation to, as the group stated in an online lyrics page comment on the title track, “to tap into our subconscious and just sit still on this beautiful planet and be present”.
On the cover of her third album, Pre Pleasure, Julia Jacklin paws a blown-up portrait of her own face. Back to the camera, the Australian songwriter’s outstretched hands press against a photograph that captures her in a moment of ecstasy, her blue eyes wide and red lips parted. The concept was inspired by one of Jacklin’s new songs, “I Was Neon,” in which she wonders if a version of herself has been lost to time. “I quite like the person that I am/Am I gonna lose myself again?” she repeats, voice roiling with equal parts anxiety and excitement. If she could reach through the photograph and make contact with that incarnation of herself, what would she say?
Change is a constant in Jacklin’s music. On her 2019 breakthrough Crushing, she fought for stability amid breakups and upheavals, finding strength in a renewed relationship with herself. Her third record, Pre Pleasure, again seeks a balance between thinking about life and actually living it. Co-produced alongside Marcus Paquin (the Weather Station, Arcade Fire), Pre Pleasure is an easygoing album from a mind that rarely stops racing.
Pre Pleasure is a testament to Jacklin’s empathetic approach that her examinations of other people are equally nuanced. The album takes its time unwinding and occasionally leaves too much unsaid. Some songs drift away, setting a mood rather than communicating an idea. But when Jacklin allows the two to work in tandem, she excels. -Pitchfork by Quinn Moreland
No other debut album from 2022 would arrive on such a wave of anticipation as Wet Leg’s self-titled LP. Since the Isle Of Wight duo – singers and guitarists Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – had a viral breakthrough with the brilliant absurdity of ‘Chaise Longue’ last summer, they’ve been whipped away on a dizzying ascent that, so far, has yet to slow down. Each day seems to only add to its momentum – be that through new singles, TV performances, or rafts of gigs sold out and upgraded venues – like a turbo-speed rollercoaster powered by rocket fuel.
Their first album isn’t about to put the brakes on that trajectory. A thrilling record, it adds new attractions to the Wet Leg carnival while revisiting those that made everyone fall so immediately in love with them in the first place. Written and recorded in April 2021 – before anyone except their friends and label Domino Records [Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand] knew the band existed – it’s unburdened by the sudden success of ‘Chaise Longue’; a pure representation of two musicians writing songs for the fun of it and accidentally coming up with indie’s newest instant classic album.. - NME by Rhian Daly
Wind Britt Daniel any tighter and he still won’t burst. For 20 years, Spoon have recorded wary, taut, almost-rock songs whose minimalist trappings contain maximalist urges. Paranoia is Daniel’s muse, a paranoia unmoored from referents—recognizable ones at any rate.
If music were clothes, Spoon’s would be a fitted shirt; they named a 2001 song after one. Their preppy sternness and the intermittent submission to supervised anarchy—so much depends on the erotic allure of Daniel’s six-string squalls, manipulated with the ease of a casanova who has calculated the impact of a messy kiss. His chalky bray, an amalgam of Texas country dudes and English pubsters like Nick Lowe, is a match. Assisted by recruit Gerardo Larios and multi-instrumentalist Alex Fischel, the loudest songs reek of sex.
Determined to give fans a jolly time after a five-year absence, Lucifer on the Sofa doesn’t let up and won’t let anybody down. Range, like relationships, means shit with enthusiasm this committed and with consistency this compelling. -Pitchfork by Alfred Soto
The problem with listening to albums by Big Thief is that at some point between the first and last tracks, there always comes a song so arresting that it forces you to stop. Much as you might want to follow instructions and dutifully stay seated with your ears inside the vehicle for the duration of the ride, there’s no choice but to back up, put the culprit on repeat, study the lyrics, marvel at a live version, and hopefully figure out how a song can simultaneously sound as if you were born knowing it and as if you’ve never heard anything like it before.
You can imagine, then, the trouble with listening to the latest release by Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, a double album so expansive that even its title sounds overstuffed. The first hurdle is that more than one of its 20 tracks fall into mandatory-repeat territory.
Dragon is an elastic sprawl loosely sorted into four sections that highlight Lenker’s credentials as a compositional polyglot. The restless, shape-shifting music mirrors the purposely peripatetic recording process, which saw the band work with four engineers in four studios spanning three time zones, starting in upstate New York and shifting to Topanga, Telluride, and Tucson. The band’s itinerant, constantly questing spirit has become a core component of its origin story, mythos, and mission statement, along with Lenker’s similarly nomadic upbringing, her fated meeting with Meek on her first day in New York, and the group’s devotion to honest communication and emotional and musical authenticity. All of those elements are distilled into Dragon, whose stylistic twists and turns follow Lenker’s life