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Thu, 02 Mar 2017 13:04:42
2017 is starting to ramp up into a year of solid releases. As industry types compose themselves for their annual assault on Austin, TX, where South by SouthWest music festival will bring together some of the best bands from all walks of life and every step of career development, labels begin to share some of their proudest work from some of their best artists.
This week we have global-sensation Ed Sheeran doing what he does and breaking records as he does it. Grandaddy return with an album release that they’ve kept us waiting for, but we forgive them. Sleaford Mods bring caustic English wit and street beats to the foreground, as Methyl Ethel deliver their weird and wonderful indie tunes. And Minus the Bear bring their answer to VOIDS. It’s a week for the weird, wonderful and for the juggernauts too big to stop.
So, without further ado, here is ARTISTdirect’s round-up of the most notable albums released this week:
Ed Sheeran — “÷” — Atlantic Records
Ed Sheeran’s a name that conjures a signature sound and approach to songwriting craft that somehow takes and elevates the everyman to an everyman with guitar who has insinuated himself, via incredible record sales, into the realm of the global superstar. He also has a habit of dropping albums with stylized titles that dumbfounds the internet search. Following X, and +, we have ÷, more easily searched online as ‘Divide’. The album has already broken all kinds of records — biggest number of streams for two consecutive singles (“Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill”) to name just one. Not many 25-year olds can boast the level of success that Sheeran can, fewer would be able to boast such a level headed approach to humility — all of this is captured, somehow on an album that articulate the usual stuff of being a young man on a confusing planet.
Grandaddy — “Last Place” — 30th Century Records
Jason Lytle and friends return with an album that has been too-long in the waiting. Fans of the band will revel in the slightly-less-weird-than-usual approach to delivering the otherwise familiar sounding album. Here, slowly chugging guitars build beds for Lytle’s heartbreaking falsetto as he sings of healing wounds, making good on hope, and, in places, reaching for the stars. A smart little album that’s as warm as it is welcome.
Methyl Ethel — “Everything Is Forgotten” — 4AD
Methyl Ethel’s “Everything Is Forgotten” feels like a sample of what indie can achieve with its highest ideals in the year 2017. This album encapsulates the best of genre in a series of punchy tracks populated with sharp lyrics, nuanced meanings and some downright danceable beats. This is indie pop, so oftentimes the focus is on the personal perspective, but at times, universal and political issues are approached and delivered in a manner which is competent and cohesive in the whole. A grand album, driven with the very best intentions.
Sleaford Mods — “English Tapas” — Rough Trade Records
The duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn have secured a niche for themselves. As Sleaford Mods these two anti-politics, optimistically punchy nihilists have produced some of the most memorable beats in British counter culture for at least a decade. They’re uneasy listening, they’re confrontational, and whilst U.S. audiences may not be able to fathom all the hyper-localized references, the underpinning of pride, protest and creativity in the face of opposing forces is a universal subject. And the need to dance, or pogo, is strong throughout this album.
Minus the Bear — “VOIDS” — Suicide Squeeze Records
On previous releases, if Minus the Bear have been guilty of anything it’s the well-meaning error of over-producing a raw emotion for the sake of art. However, on VOIDS, things are kept refreshingly simple, almost perfectly so. Beats are clean, subjects matters are held into the light and sounds are delivered with the focus on inclusion and ‘dance’. The blending of traditional instruments with the bleeps and buttons of electronica is something that Minus the Bear have now perfected, and this album feels as if a newer, more confident target has been set. It’s good stuff, and an essential album for lovers of the band, or lovers of dancing.
—The ARTISTdirect Staff