It’s February. The most useless month of the year.
January’s in the rearview mirror, but close enough still that I can see it. I certainly can hear it.
If you love listening to new music, and I do, there’s never a boring time of the year for audiophiles. But January certainly pushes it. Aside from December, it’s the quietest month of the year for new releases.
This January, however, started with a roar. Quickly. Jeff Rosenstock, fresh off one of 2016’s best releases, “Worry,” surprised fans with a record, “POST-,” on Jan. 2. It sounds a lot like “Worry,” but it’s nearly as good, bookended by the fantastic longer-form “USA” and “Let Them Win.”
“POST-” will be in the mix for the best records of the year on my list. It’s that good. Don’t trust my judgment? Well, here’s Lucas Pauley’s fine, fine review to back me up.
After that, January alternative, rock and indie releases were, well, kind of January.
There were four other highlights:
• The goofy, raucous self-titled debut full-length from British punk rockers Dream Wife. (Grade: A-minus)
• The quirky-yet-more-refined third record from Scotland’s indie pop band The Spook School, “Could It Be Different?” (Grade: B-plus)
• The beautiful, moody, sometimes rocky “The Spiritual Dark Age” from one of my favorite unsung bands, To Kill A King. (Grade: B-plus) For the record, the lyric in the song “My God & Your God,” – “Raise up your glass to the Saint of Lost Causes. He’s had his eye on me since I started walking.” – is my favorite of the month.
• The brash, confident, snarky post-punk debut from British youngsters Shame, “Songs of Praise.” Prediction: This band will pop in 2018. (Grade: B-plus)
After that, the month offered a mixed bag of releases, to be generous. Of the 55 records I listened to and graded in January, 35 received a C grade or worse. Yikes!
One of those was the new release (why?!) from Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, “Sweetzerland Manifesto” (Grade: D-minus).
Another was the predictably subpar release from the once-alternative-now-very-pop Fall Out Boy, “MANIA” (Grade: C).
There were some pleasant discoveries in January: Anderson East, Long Neck, Junior Empire, Sea Girls, The Academic, Tiny Little House, Van Williams, and First Aid Kit were among them.
Songs from each can be found on a playlist of January music I put together for you. Check it out.
Particularly, tell me what you think of “Girlfriend,” by Anderson East, a bluesy, extraordinary Nathaniel Rateliff-meets-Stevie Wonder tune.
If you like “woah-woahs” in your song, and I do, you might like “Permanent Vacation” by The Academic.
If you’ve ever heard of Wheatus, and you liked them, you might enjoy “Short Hair” by Tiny Little Houses.
“Revolution,” a pleasantly pretty tune from Van Williams – who is the lead singer of alt rock band WATERS – also features First Aid Kit. So, there’s your two-for-one.
And there are some singles on the playlist from Car Seat Headrest and The Decemberists that preview what should be good releases from each in the coming months.
The Car Seat Headrest tune, “Cute Thing,” is a bit more crunchy than the sound of his fantastic 2015 release, “Teens of Denial.”
And “Severed” is The Decemberists at their electronic dance-y best. You read that correctly. Electronic, dance-y and The Decemberists were included in the same sentence.
It could be an interesting year.