Wrapping Up a Stacked Release Week with Sharon Van Etten, Kikagaku Moyo, and TOPS
Also, Mike and Nate Kinsella return with their new project, LIES.
After a quiet month-ish of worthy releases, I hinted in my glowing review for Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever that this week was packed with delicious new records for everyone’s taste. So, let’s not waste any more of your Friday and jump in with the best of the rest.
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Sharon Van Etten - We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
As a long-time fan of Sharon Van Etten, it’s great to have her back after a few quiet years. If I was one to pick a song of the year, “Like I Used To,” her one-off with Angel Olsen could have filled that spot in 2021, as would “Seventeen” from Remind Me Tomorrow a few years ago. Besides that single and a re-issue of her first record, Epic (read my review here), the silence led to curiosity about what would come next for Ms. Etten.
We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong documents here previous few years of moving coasts, becoming a mother, and navigating relationships during the pandemic. Van Etten didn’t release any singles for the record, instead asking listeners to listen to its 39 minutes as a whole. I know that seems wild for many of you in the social media age, but it’s also the only way to make this album work by strolling through a list of human emotions. For single-worthy material, there’s the classic Sharon Van Etten acoustic brood on “Anything” and the crunchy yet glistening pep talk of “I’ll Try.” But it’s the stuttering acceptance of the penultimate “Mistake” when Van Etten opens the curtains and lets the record breathe.
It may not be as immediate as Remind Me Tomorrow or Are We There. Still, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is a new mission statement and probably the most complete album for Van Etten, who recorded most of the album herself. Even after spinning it a handful of times, there’s plenty more to explore upon further relistens.
Kikagaku Moyo - Kumoyo Island
“The fifth studio album & last euphoric mind-trip to Kikagaku Moyo's imagined island.
Best-suited for counting stars, looking at the ocean, and dancing in one’s daydream.”
The last time that Check This Out! checked in with Kikagaku Moyo, the Japanese psych band co-released Deep Fried Grandeur with Ryley Walker. Two “songs” spread out over two sides of a record, the live set captured the improv magic of the band’s free-flowing live show. Now they’re back with a surprise release in Kumoyo Island, which marks the band’s last record after a farewell tour, and the group could not sound any tighter. Famous for their unhurried soundscapes, Kikaguku Moyo has instead elected to go out on a focused note, as the album’s eleven songs flow like a greatest hits mix.
Like We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, Kumoyo Island is an album that begs to be taken in all at once. If this is indeed it for the group (never believe a band’s finality!), then it’s the perfect capstone for an act that is unmatched in their uniqueness. Suppose this is your first time with Kikagaku Moyo. There’s nothing like getting thrown into mid-jam on “Cardboard Pile” or the cover of Erasmo Carlos’s “Meu Mar,” in which the group converted the lyrics from Spanish to English before landing in its final Japanese form.
TOPS - Empty Seats EP
It’s a fact that I can’t resist Canadian dream pop and there’s no one better at than TOPS, who keep getting better with each release. In addition to their flawless four album discography, TOPS is always a great singles and EP band, and Empty Seats is no exception with some of their finest work yet. Collecting their latest singles, “Perfected Steps” and “Janet Planet”, along with last year’s “Waiting” and “Party Again” makes for one of the standout shortplayers of the year. Also, kudos to the Tuesday release which makes me nostalgic for the old days when you had the workweek to listen to a new album.
Now here’s hoping for a new album from Alvvays this year.
LIES - “Echoes” and “Blemishes”
Thanks to Karl Blakesley at New Music Weekly for the heads up on this new project from Mike and cousin Nate Kinsella of American Football/Joan of Arc/Cap’n Jazz/Owen or about a quarter of every midwest emo band to exist. I’m not quite sure what to think of these double singles but it’s nice to continually be surprised by their work after listening to them for a few decades. The cryptic Instagram suggests there’s more to come and I'm curious to hear what an EP/LP would sound like for this new chapter from the Kinsellas.
American Football nerds, what do you think of these new tracks? Let me know!
Hear songs from these albums and more on the Good Ass Songs 2022 playlist!