Padang Food Tigers – Wake Up, Mr. Pancake
On Wake Up, Mr Pancake, Padang Food Tigers deliver an enjoyable album of ambient folk music. Lulling guitars and banjos connote images of the American Midwest and south, images of the dust bowl. This is like country music if it was made by William Faulkner. It’s dense and complex, but also can function as wistful background music. The litmus test with ambient music for me is always, “can I engage and disengage at will?” The answer with Wake Up, Mr Pancake is a resounding yes.
It’s hard to classify the genre of Wake Up, Mr Pancake. Ambient instrumental folk music is just too many words. The self-description on Padang Food Tigers’ Bandcamp as “American primitive” I think is a more apt title and a genre I need to investigate more. I would recommend this album to fans of acoustic or ambient music, as I think it has some nice crossover appeal to different audiences. Very nice record.
Aldous Harding – Designer
My personal choice for album of the year that I can’t see being usurped by anything else, Designer is a game changing record for one of the most singular talents to emerge in music recently. Discovering the music of Aldous Harding is like going down an intense rabbit hole where the melodies are sometimes sweet, sometimes haunting, and often times both. As huge a fan I am of her last album, Party, this is the one where Harding really breaks fully out of the confines of folk classification into something entirely different and new. Designer unlike Party is largely an upbeat and happy record. The gravity is still there, but with Designer Harding takes her incredibly unique sense of melody into a more pop direction and the results are astounding.
“The Barrel” was the first song that drew me to Aldous Harding, and honestly I don’t know if there’s been a better single released this decade. The video is also essential to get the full introductory experience I think one needs to Aldous Harding’s music. Every successive video I watched of Harding further enchanted me, but “The Barrel” is one of those rare moments when the visual component of a song matches perfectly with the song itself.
“Zoo Eyes” is another personal favorite from Designer. How can you not love an opening that asks, “What am I doing in Dubai, in the prime of my life? Do you love me?” Harding’s lyrics are beautifully poetic and also seem intensely personal. Just as important is her immense talent at changing her voice. She has an incredible voice that can soar high, but also sink lower than you’re use to hearing female vocals. Did I mention she’s also a masterful guitar player? Every time I listen to Aldous Harding I’m in awe of her talent.
The production on Designer by John Parrish shines. It makes total sense that Parrish would work with Harding after his prolific work with PJ Harvey. When discussing this record with a friend, I made the connection to Harvey’s Let England Shake without realizing it was produced by the same person. I think with some time Aldous Harding will have a legacy as vast as PJ’s. The fact that she’s released such an instant classic like Designer this early in her career makes me really excited to see where she goes from here.
Aldous Harding’s second release on 4AD, Designer is a record that should be on everyone’s shelf no matter what kind of music is your usual flavor. This is an album that transcends genre is the truest sense. Album of the year? Easily. Maybe even album of the decade.
His Name Is Alive – All The Mirrors In The House (Early Recordings 1979-1986)
On All The Mirrors In The House by His Name Is Alive, the listener is offered a glimpse at the early years the artist aka Warren Defever. Built around ethereal loops of guitar that don’t sound like guitar at all really, All The Mirrors is enjoyable on its own merits as an ambient album. The way the tracks flow into each other, one would never know this is a compilation of recordings.
This sounds nothing like the later material I’ve heard by His Name Is Alive, but I like it nonetheless. This may as well be considered post-modern classical music. The absence of vocals situates the album as tripped out background music, but made with care by an excellent musician. None of the tracks stand out particularly, but I guess that’s the point. Recommended for all fans of ambient music.
German Army – Year of Solitude
Year of Solitude is a cavernous and angular electronic drone and noise album. Germany Army succeeds in creating interesting sonic textures that could function as background music or an engaging listen. The title track was a particular highlight for me. The production on Year of Solitude is also stellar. Definitely the product of someone with a singular vision.
Germany Army made a very intriguing record here worth your time if you’re into experimental drone music. Year of Solitude asserts itself as decidedly experimental but never alienates the listener. Highly recommended.