No, you read that right. This is my roundup for March. It would have gone up earlier, but things got pushed back in The Great JesusWired Website Redesign of 2015 (and there’s still more redesigning to come!). The good news is that soon after this roundup, I’ll be posting the roundup for April. I don’t know how you’ll handle getting two mindblowingly awesome blogs in such a short time, but I will certainly be in prayer that your brain doesn’t explode.
This was an interesting month for music. The first couple Tuesdays were pretty heavy on hip hop and worship, which are styles I tend to be a little more picky with. At first, I was worried March would be a light month in terms of genres I typically enjoy (and let’s face it – that’s really the only music that matters) but then the rest of the month more than made up for it. I’ve got some great stuff to share, so I’m going to get right down to it. Enjoy:
Ravenhill – Soul
The next time someone tells you “they just don’t make music like they used to,” play them Ravenhill’s new album. It should completely change their mind. Even if you’re dealing with one of those weirdos whose entire opinion of the recording industry won’t be changed by ten songs, they may still find comfort in the uncompressed, unprocessed music these guys released. This is a good, old-fashioned blues rock album (or, as their Facebook page puts it, “rock and soul”). I’m a big fan of albums that allow some gritty humanity to shine through, but that’s a hard sound to do right. Ravenhill nails it here, with just the right amount of post-production cleanup to retain the raw emotion of their performance without letting the imperfections become a distraction. With lyrics that occasionally hearken back to classic southern gospel music, Soul is the best kind of time capsule.
Jonathan Thulin had his breakout hit in late 2013 with the number one single Dead Come To Life. He had the sound then of an artist on the rise, and I always felt like he was poised to make something really incredible. Those feelings were proven true (if only to me) with Science Fiction. What’s most impressive about Thulin’s latest album is how much he lets his arrangements breathe. Lately, the pop landscape has been dominated by songs with layer upon layer of synth and sound. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those sounds when done well, but there’s something refreshing about the space Thulin gives his instruments. This album reminds me in places of Justin Timberlake’s stuff – tasteful, understated arrangements, stellar production, and a fantastic vocal performance. Granted, I’m not as familiar with pop as I am with other genres, so I may have just done the equivalent of an electronic music newbie saying everything he hears with a little wub-wub bass sounds exactly like Skrillex. Whomever this project sounds like, it’s definitely worth your time.
Also, the album title is not misleading. There’s a good deal of sci-fi metaphors for the Christian life in here, and that earns some bonus points in my book.
If you held me at gunpoint and forced me to pick an all-time favorite band, my first response would be to ask why you thought it would take a threat on my life to get me to come up with an answer. My second response would be to pick Future of Forestry. Fronted by the incredibly talented Eric Owyoung, Future of Forestry has been making atmospheric rock music since 2007, and before that, Eric had been doing similar work with Something Like Silas since 2000. Future of Forestry’s new album Pages was dropped with almost no warning. A few photos of the band in the studio popped up on their Facebook page a few weeks back, and then, all of a sudden, this album popped up.
It’s a much more intimate sound than most Future of Forestry stuff, opting for acoustic guitar and piano arrangements, rather than the usual full-band approach. While I would have loved a return to the sound of Travel II, Future of Forestry has always included a song or two in this more intimate style on every album, and those songs have always been fantastic. Now we get a full album of them, and it’s gorgeous.
Some of the best albums are the ones that take a few listens before you truly appreciate them, and that was certainly my experience with Violent. I almost didn’t include it in this list, since it’s a re-release, but it’s stuck with me. At first listen, it’s noisy and chaotic, with syncopated drums, dissonant synths, and wandering falsetto vocals. I almost filed these guys away as a band that wasn’t quite there yet, but every time I came back to Violent, I caught more and more of the subtlety and the skill that went into each arrangement. This definitely isn’t an album for everyone, but if you’re looking for something that skews toward the experimental without sacrificing listenability, you could do much worse.
The Western Den is a bit of an enigma. I know they’re a Boston-based duo with an ever-changing lineup of supporting musicians, but that’s about it. Granted, my research consisted of checking their Facebook page and Googling “the western den interview,” but I think it’s safe to say these guys want their music to shine through without personal details overshadowing their art. All the Birds is a gorgeous ambient folk project that is far too short at four songs. Lush orchestration and acoustic guitars underscore a fantastic vocal performance with rich, storytelling-focused lyrics.