The Niche Nine: Our Favourite Albums of May 2017

So this is only the second instalment of The Niche Nine, because it’s been a weird couple of months and I couldn’t get my act together in March or April. That’s a real shame, too, because April saw Kendrick drop what’s probably going to be my AOTY, along with superb EPs from Young M.A and Animal Collective.

Luckily, though, I was on the goddamn ball this month, and I’ve got nine great new releases to rec. Here we go:

9. Day Wave – The Days We Had

A sublime little treasure of a pop soundscape. The tone here is dreamy and hazy, guitars drenched in reverb and wrapped in starry-eyed synth production. The songs leap forward with a propulsive, irresistible verve. Think M83 on a smaller scale, or the sounds that would play in a teen romance movie during the montage where the kids explore the city and dance in the streets and have their first kiss on a street soaked in neon.

8. Land of Talk – Life After Youth

This would make a killer soundtrack for your next beach party if it weren’t for those little threads of longing sadness lurking just below the surface of every song. No, this is music for the hours after the sun goes down and you’re walking back home with your sandals dangling in your hand and you’re all alone with your thoughts. Good for sunny moods and stoic ones.

7. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket

I’ve rarely encountered an album less preoccupied with cleaving to genre conventions. “Bobby” lands not unlike one of those Conor Oberst/Emmylou Harris collabs on I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. “Brick” sounds like a bootleg of a Nirvana show in Aberdeen, years and years and years before they hit it big. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like “Sportstar,” a blend of those gloomy, percussive Sound of Silver piano lines and Kanye West’s airy 808s and Heartbreak production. The music itself isn’t assured, but the kid throwing all this shit at the wall and being confident enough to serve the results up on a platter definitely is.

6. Sarah P. – Who Am I

A brilliant student of Bjork and Grimes carving out space for herself in avant garde pop, twisting her vocal into haunting whispers and broad, echoing harmonies. Just hypnotizing.

5. Adult Mom – Soft Spots

Just as its name suggests, this is a lovely, brief meditation on the total necessity of vulnerability, searching for the strength to sit down in one’s own insecurity and fear and anxiety and to be at peace with it all. This is an album that wants to help in any way it can, from clattering teen indie anthems to lowkey acoustic reassurances.

4. Tigers Jaw – spin

In the world of Tigers Jaw, it is always 2003, and Death Cab reigns supreme (along with Saves the Day, the Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, et al.). Every single track on this album sounds like a standout from a soundtrack for The OC. I mean all of this as a compliment of the highest order.

3. The Mountain Goats – Goths

So, full disclosure: the extent of my Mountain Goats knowledge is more or less what I’ve been able to glean from repeated, cathartic listens of “No Children” and “This Year.” Am I a fake fan? Yes. Am I making an active effort to get into them because a staggering number of cute girls have namedropped them in conversation with me? Yes, and I refuse to be ashamed. Anyway, in my quest to get the Mountain Goats, this seems as good a place to start as any. More subdued and delicate than what I’ve come to expect from Darnielle & Co., but all the more lush and gorgeous and moving for it.

2. Tricot – 3

My (correct) opinion is that Sleater-Kinney and Titus Andronicus are the greatest live bands currently doing it. But if anyone can give them a run for their money, it’s these girls – relentlessly energetic, shockingly and preternaturally skilled, a finely tuned and well-oiled math rock machine. The album is fucking amazing, because of course it is, but please, for the love of God, catch them on tour if you get a chance. When I went to see them, the lead singer literally walked out into the crowd while singing. Like, just strolled out and stood on people’s fucking hands while performing. Unreal.

1. Daddy Issues – Deep Dream

If there was any fucking justice in this world, this album would be a runaway smash. What a staggering achievement. The songs are imbued with an unmistakably 2010s feminist sensibility, but all the key mechanics have been lifted – and transformed – from the 90s grunge pop playbook. It’s a solid effort throughout – “High Street” and “Boring Girls” are especially charming, and I’m a total sucker for the late-game cover of “Boys of Summer” – but the crown jewel here, the emotional centrepiece, is the fifth track, “Dog Years.” With the exception of Kendrick’s “HUMBLE.,” I sincerely have not heard a better new track all year. The last time a rock song reached out and grabbed me by the throat like this was when I heard the opening chords of Teens of Denial for the first time last year. The slow-burn bassline (a totally shameless crib from In Utero), the seething vocal, the fucking batshit post-chorus guitar solo – a complete and utter triumph. Long live Daddy Issues.

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