thermostat check – dimestore saints

therm check fog lakewelcome back to thermostat check, the recurring feature that’s helped us take the temperature of the year in music so far; if you haven’t read our guests’ contributions yet, please take the time to do so.  after polling a handful of our most-trusted peers, we decided to offer up our picks as well.  the same structure applies: links to album streams are embedded in their titles, and a brief sample is provided at the end of each paragraph.  dig in.

the caliber and quantity of music released in the first half of 2016 has been staggering.  major artists have largely eschewed the traditional album-release protocol, instead opting to use platforms like hbo specials, fashion shows, and streaming services other than spotify to launch their music.  beyoncé, kanye west, chance the rapper, rihanna, kendrick lamar, radiohead, and james blake are all such obvious year-end contenders that it feels beyond redundant to dedicate this space to them, especially after some have already been covered in this series.

album-length projects have long been my preferred barometer to truly test an artist’s potency, so all five slots are dedicated to the format.  and to be completely honest, this list is not binding in any sort of way; it’s just what i feel most passionately about at the time of writing.  before beginning, i’d like to rattle off another laundry list of artists: explosions in the sky, alexei shishkin, kaytranada, william tyler, maria usbeck, weaves, told slant, pity sex, chairlift, mitski, daughter, yg, florist, mutual benefit, whitney, lucy dacus, margaret glaspy, pillar point.  all have released stellar efforts that deserve to be lived in.  now, without further ado, here are five others that have resonated particularly deeply with me in 2016.

beaconbeacon – escapements

ghostly international is a quintessential purveyor of mood music, but sometimes that mood is ambiguous.  tycho feels synonymous with sunrises, but also lends itself well to summer drives through the mountains.  com truise recalls a metropolis at night, yet his prolific remixing also renders him thrillingly volatile.  beacon, on the other hand, harbors an exclusively nocturnal mood.  escapements has spent many a night on my turntable, regardless of season, and the result is always the same: soothing, aqueous textures that percolate through every fiber of my being.

singing saw album coverkevin morby – singing saw

kevin morby’s rustic sensibilities are right at home with the rest of his dead oceans/secretly canadian/jagjaguwar cohorts.  his third solo album still finds morby sonically indebted to bob dylan (singing saw also happened to arrive pretty damn near the fiftieth anniversary of blonde on blonde), but his brand of listlessness and wanderlust is firmly rooted in the twenty-first century.

morby runs the gamut, from searing commentary on eric garner’s death at the hands of a new york city police officer (“i have been to the mountain”) to an earnest ode to his beloved guitar on “dorothy.”  the titular saw also creeps up in passing on many songs, often maintaining some sort of mythical status, while its sonic presence was prominent enough for my dad to e-mail me and propose we try to make one of our own saws sing sometime.  this album gets extra points for spurring father-son bonding time.

if the new steve gunn and william tyler albums resonated with you this year, singing saw will as well.  it’s purposeful alt-country, with impeccable guitar work intertwined through rich full-band arrangements that lend themselves particularly well to breezy summer afternoons.

mothers album covermothers – when you walk a long distance you are tired

i try not to reduce art to ranking, but the debut album from mothers is probably my favorite of the year so far.  when you walk a long distance you are tired is a complex weave of emotions, be it from kristine leschper’s sparse confessionals or from the band’s seemingly endless layers of complex, multi-metered arrangements that unfurl over the album’s eight tracks.  most songs can trace their origins back to leschper’s use of the moniker as a solo outlet, but the final products feel less like beefed-up, straight-ahead full-band renditions and more like each member’s heartfelt interpretation of the song’s thesis superimposed on top of one another.  this album appropriately soundtracks the long walks i take down back country roads, and its ability to repeatedly help me recognize and come to terms with my imperfections and shortcomings is nothing but cathartic.

pinegrove cardinal coverpinegrove – cardinal 

cardinal has been floating around in the ether for as long or longer than any other album on this list, but i didn’t become smitten with it until relatively recently.  pinegrove’s earnestness initially captivated me upon the album’s release, though it was quickly swept under the rug by a succession of equally-earnest albums.  i didn’t revisit cardinal until i caught steven hyden’s interview with frontman evan stephens hall on hyden’s celebration rock podcast a couple of months later, and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since.

i don’t think cardinal is a revelatory album.  there’s a sense of urgency underneath its exterior that can certainly be discerned after spending a considerable amount of time with it, but pinegrove takes more cues from the unassuming demeanor of 1990s indie rock than they do from whatever wave of emo they are often lumped into as a point of reference.  cardinal‘s potency isn’t realized by the fifth, sixth, or even tenth listen; it could be two years until i fully feel its weight.  that’s the beauty of hall’s songwriting: he can eschew the trends of instant gratification and universal acclaim that feel so prevalent this year in favor of a slow-growing album with the potential to become timeless.

yumi zouma yoncalla coveryumi zouma – yoncalla

i’ve shamelessly used dimestore saints to gush about yumi zouma for so long that i feel like their debut full-length needs little context or justification for earning a spot on this list.  the new zealand quartet makes some of the finest pop music in recent years, and yoncalla is further proof that they can accomplish this feat for an extended period of time.  if you need any more convincing, feel free to revisit our review, but it’s probably best to just click the streaming link above and dive right in.

this all but concludes our mid-year assessment of music, though any outstanding drafts will certainly be published, should they come in.  i hope this has been beneficial, that you’ve either found a new album to cherish or have circled back to give another one a second chance.  our regularly-scheduled content will resume, along with a few new features, and we’ll of course reassess 2016 in music come mid-december.  thank you, as always, for stopping by.

thermostat check – vacant magic

therm check vacant magic“thermostat check” is a feature we’re running throughout the rest of the month to both take the temperature of music in 2016 so far and to broaden the spectrum of the dimestore’s coverage.  we rounded up proprietors of other music sites and asked them to sound off on their five favorite bodies of work that dropped during the first half of the year; today’s installment comes from jon allmond, who runs the blog and tape label vacant magic, and who used to oversee the now-defunct but forever-excellent cassette rewind jon sounds off about a handful of impressionable albums, a certain mixtape, and an especially powerful track for his five picks of the year so far. dig in.

the fall of troy album coverthe fall of troy – ok

when i first heard that the fall of troy was not only reuniting but also putting together a new album, both high school me and current me were ecstatic.  unsurprisingly, that excitement was not misplaced.  although the fall of troy hasn’t been on the scene for close to a decade now, ok is the result of a band that has grown and matured with time while still steadily holding on to their roots.  erratic and aggressive, ok is a post-hardcore powerhouse that stands as a testament for “reunion” albums; after spinning it almost endlessly, it’s just as if the fall of troy never left.

chance coloring book cover.jpgchance the rapper – coloring book

honestly, i’m fairly late to the game when it comes to chance the rapper, but his latest mixtape, coloring book, was so hyped up that i couldn’t miss out.  though i went into it not knowing what to expect, i ended chance’s latest effort in tears, and i’m not writing that just to be dramatic.  not only was coloring book more than i expected, but the exuberance shining throughout was absolutely infectious and hard to shake.  that, combined with an eclectic feature list and chance’s charming wordplay, makes coloring book redefine what many think a mixtape can accomplish in comparison to an actual album.  considering that coloring book may – and rightfully should – be the first mixtape to bring about a new category to the grammy’s, there’s really no reason why everyone shouldn’t at least give it a chance (no bad pun intended).

weaves s:t cover.jpgweaves – weaves

when i first heard of toronto’s weaves a few years back, they gave me the raw spirit of yeah yeah yeahs with a eccentric, psychedelic dash torn from of montreal.  now that their debut self-titled album has hit my ears, those comparisons still stand, but they no longer solely define the peculiar brand of noise pop that the band has done so well to craft out in the time since their ep.  weaves’ self-titled lp is a blistering whirlwind that’s fun from the first time you hit play; even though the offbeat quartet can seem to be scatterbrained at times, there’s a method to their madness that makes it hard to look away and even harder to not move along to.  listening to weaves is as close to an aural sugar rush as one can get, and in their short time as a band, they’re already expanding what pop can be with a new noise and attitude confidently in tow.

jorja smith blue lightsjorja smith – “blue lights”

if there was any one song that struck a chord with me unlike any other this year so far, it’d be jorja smith’s “blue lights” all day long.  back in february, i called it “unsettling and haunting” and even now, thanks to smith’s powerful vocals and her equally strong message, it still has the ability to stop and grab my full attention.  since then, smith has added another new track to her belt, “where do i go,” and gained about twelve thousand fans on soundcloud.  if that’s any indication of where this newcomer is headed from here, then i’m sure this won’t be the last best-of list that we’ll see her on.

gallant ology cover art.pnggallant – ology

i’ve read that maryland-based r&b wonder gallant was once seen as an underdog that wouldn’t ever be where he is now, yet after listening to his debut album, ology, almost religiously i can’t see how anyone could ever come to that conclusion.  even though it’s only been out for three months, ology has quickly become my most listened-to album in 2016 so far; with christopher gallant’s silky falsetto at the forefront, it could easily be regarded as one of the best r&b releases to hit this year.  i first caught wind of the singer not long after i first started cassette rewind and ever since, i’ve been hoping that more people would catch on.  now that gallant is making television appearances and filling starbucks with his smoky over-the-counter pain-killer-titled hit “percogesic,” it won’t be long before everyone else starts to feel the same.  i heard usher on the new yuna album and thought it was gallant, so that should tell you that this dude is something special.

that self-titled weaves album is just one of many stellar albums released last friday that should be digested as soon as possible.  it’s also refreshing to see the fall of troy back making invigorating music more than a decade after their heyday, and chance and gallant speak for themselves; there’s more than enough material here to fill a long weekend.  be sure to check in on vacant magic on twitter and facebook, and stop back here early next week for the final installments of this feature.

thermostat check – hi54lofi

therm check flowers“thermostat check” is a feature we’re running throughout the rest of the month to both take the temperature of music in 2016 so far and to broaden the spectrum of the dimestore’s coverage.  we rounded up proprietors of other music sites and asked them to sound off on their five favorite bodies of work that dropped during the first half of the year; next up to bat is jeremy sroka, head honcho over at hi54lofi, who has so kindly dropped off words on five of his favorite albums.  links to stream are inserted in the caption below their respective cover art.  dig in.

big thief masterpiece coverbig thief – masterpiece

if you are like me, then you probably also fell madly in love with both sides of the perfect adrianne lenker and buck meek collaboration from 2014.  and, if like me, you wander around through life with your headphones on, blissfully ignorant of what the back story is to most albums you’re listening to, it may have also taken you longer than it should have to realize that big thief is another adrianne lenker and buck meek collaboration.  i don’t think i clued in until “lorraine,” where the obvious detective in me was awoken with the thought of “woah, this sounds lovingly familiar; best head to google straight away for further investigation.”  so i guess we can both call off our two-year wishing campaign for adrianne and buck to make some more music together, because they have, and the result is once again excellent.  much like big star, masterpiece an aptly-titled debut album.

pony bradshaw bad teeth coverpony bradshaw – bad teeth

it’s not that i hated the new sturgill simpson or hayes carll albums, it’s just that i didn’t like them as much as i would have liked the albums i hoped they were making ever since i heard they were making new albums.  that previous sentence is one of the reasons i’ve been digging pony bradshaw’s highly anticipated (by me) debut so much.  not only did it meet the very high expectations that developed in my head last year after the first single, “josephine,” blew my socks off and knocked the beer out my hand, but their debut also filled that very-hard-to-fill void of a solid, rough-around-the-edges country album.  y’know, like the kind sturgill and hayes were putting out the previous years.

nap eyes thought rock fish scale covernap eyes – thought rock fish scale

i don’t know, but i think thought rock fish scale is my favourite album this year.  (at least so far; we are only half way through this year so don’t go holding me to this statement when end-of-year list season starts knocking in august.)  the opening track just really rubs my spirit animal in all the right places, and once that is done, you’ve kinda won me and my spirit animal over. especially when track number two is carrying treats in its pocket.  before i know it, “roll it” is reaching out of the stereo to roll down the window, and my spirit animal and i have our heads stuck out in the breeze, banging a drum beat out on the roof.  pretty sure my spirit animal is a dog.

lucy dacus no burden coverlucy dacus – no burden

listening to this album really reminded me of the first time i listened to courtney barnett’s a sea of split peas.  one track after another, the same thought: “wow, that was a really great track.”  eventually (about two-thirds of the way through the album) it becomes blindingly obvious that you’re not just listening to a bunch of great tracks, or even just a great album; you’re listening to a really special artist.  can’t wait for more (and i hope lucy’s star rises just as appropriately fast as courtney’s has.)

sonny smith sees all knows all coversonny smith – sees all knows all

the trouble with making lists the size of half the number of fingers you have (assuming you have all ten) is the inevitable hernia-causing worry about who doesn’t make the cut.  i know we are only halfway through the year, but there’s been a lot of outstanding releases so far.  so this final spot goes to sonny smith’s weird-but-somehow-totally-worked-for-me album sees all knows all, not because it is necessarily better than the ten other albums that could have also ended up as my number five, but because it inspired my most-inspired album description yet.  for a guy who has trouble writing about why he likes what he likes or what an album sounds like (as shown in the the previous four attempts) this really gave sonny the edge.  here is that description: imagine a sun kil moon record pressing pause on inherent vice to grab another sixer out of the fridge and roll a joint on the back cover of a bukowski novel.

five excellent full-length albums yield several hours of auditory bliss.  there will be plenty of time to catch up on all of the above, along with the content from yesterday’s inaugural post, because this segment won’t return until friday.  use your time wisely.  oh, and go follow hi54lofi on facebook and twitter.

thermostat check – all around sound

therm check all around sound“thermostat check” is a feature we’re running throughout the rest of the month to both take the temperature of music in 2016 so far and to broaden the spectrum of the dimestore’s coverage.  we rounded up proprietors of other music sites and asked them to sound off on their five favorite bodies of work that dropped during the first half of the year; kicking off the week’s festivities is a guest post from dante allington, the founder of all around sound.  links to stream entire eps or albums are inserted in the caption below their respective cover art, while standalone tracks will be embedded within the post.  dig in.

despite the fact that 2015 gave us one of the best years of music in recent memory, 2016 is proving no slouch in that department.  featuring much anticipating debuts from acts like aurora, big thief, and yumi zouma, as well as spirited returns from the likes of chairlift, marissa nadler, and mutual benefit, it’s certainly been the year that keeps on giving.  the year is only half over and there’s already been so many absolutely stellar albums released and announced that i can hardly wait to see what the rest of 2016 holds.  but while waiting over here with bated breath, here are some of all around sound’s favorite releases from the year so far.

adult jazz earrings off coveradult jazz – “earrings off!

leeds-based quartet adult jazz are one of those rare and wonderful bands that, due to patience and thoughtfulness, arrive with a fully-realized creative vision.  releasing their incredibly underrated debut full-length, gist is ,in 2014, the band’s been a bit home-bound but very recently came out of a hiatus of sorts with “eggshell,” the first single from their earrings off! ep.  the song introduces a much more lucid approach to harry burgess’ songwriting and the title track does a wonderful job linking the stream of thought that began on adult jazz’s debut.  

“earrings off!” is inspired by anecdotal story about burgess’ normally well-behaved brother’s violent reaction to critique of his masculinity as a boy, and largely turns it a critique of forced masculinity itself.  paired with adult jazz’s uniquely complex brand of experimental pop, it sinks right into that sweet spot of being enjoyable music with an important message; the video, directed by sam travis, further explores the theme with its flexing trophy figures.  

adult jazz have always made it a point to challenge themselves (and, by extension, the listener) and they certainly don’t let up here, pairing their complicated composition with food for thought.  

andy shauf the partyandy shauf – the party

saskatchewan singer/songwriter andy shauf proved a talent for melancholic narratives with his debut, last year’s the bearer of bad news.  for his next effort, shauf turned his gaze even more intimate, abandoning plans to record in germany in favor of at home alone in regina, saskatchewan, and drawing from a significantly smaller pool of songs than he did on the bearer of bad news.

the result is the party, a collection of songs bonded together by a pseudo-concept of the album’s namesake that continues shauf’s streak of engaging songwriting and craftsmanship.  the songs on the party are polished with arrangements reminiscent of a 1970’s singer/songwriter, and shauf’s narratives, which occasionally carry over and compound from song to song, are as effective as ever.

bayonne appeals single artbayonne – “appeals”

while live music videos are certainly no new thing, bayonne’s roger sellers attacks the medium with the sort of innovation that lifts his music above that of merely a loop artist.  the video, a collaboration between directing duo nofun and digital collective dawn of man, essentially brings the energy and majesty of bayonne’s live set to your home. 

one of his most complex compositions, “appeals,” features sellers’ high intensity multi-tasking presented in a way that’s absolutely mesmerizing, and establishes sellers as one of the new breed of electronic artists not content to just sit behind a computer screen but to actively engage with the music they’re creating.

show me love remix coverhundred waters – “show me love” (skrillex remix)

from their earliest days as the backing band to gainesville’s levek, hundred waters have always had a deep-seated reverence for the art of collaboration that’s informed not only their recording process but their live sets as well.  teaming up with owsla label head skrillex, hundred waters’ sparse opening number from sophomore effort, the moon rang like a bell, is turned into a full-blown jam without losing its poignant message.  the “show me love” remix is more rework than remix, featuring a number of new verses from singer/songwriter moses sumney and chance the rapper, arrangements from rhye’s robin hannibal, and production from skrillex.

mal devisa kiidmal devisa – kiid

perhaps one of this year’s best debut records came from northhampton-based singer/songwriter mal devisa.  a great deal of why the album works so well is its refusal to be easily defined.  taking inspiration from everything from soul to folk, mal devisa’s deja carr practically devours experiences and uses them to inform her emotionally-sincere songwriting.  kiid is an album of emotional extremes, but steadily paced and built over time.  for every “in my neighborhood,” there’s an opposing “sea of limbs”; for every “live again,” there’s a contrasting “dominatrix.” 

deja carr refuses to let her musical style be pinned down.  the sum of her musical influences, and kiid, is all the better for it: a solid album whose consistency lies in its raw, emotive force.

most of what dante selected did not even register on our radar, and for that we are ashamed.  if you want dante to publicly shame you while also providing impeccable running commentary about music both new and old, follow him on twitter; you can also find all around sound on facebook.  watch this space in the coming days for another installment.