Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now

Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now

Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Liz Colville, founder of the music blog Lizzyville and editor at Spinner.

Fresh off SXSW, we all have far more than five albums to sort through. But these five stand out amidst an exciting bounty of spring releases. One woman or several helms each act, in part or in whole, and each album takes something old — an instrument, a genre, a theme — and says something new about it.


Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

There's something for everyone on the captivating harpist's long-awaited third album, technically a triple release of six tracks each. The Newsom of Ys cloaked her subject matter so heavily in the natural world that the lyrics, packed into songs long enough to be concerto movements, were sometimes too obscure. Her songs remain lengthy and dense with symbols, but from the locomotive, Joni Mitchell-flavored piano-pop song "Good Intentions Paving Company" to the spooky, Hindu-inspired dreamscape "Go Long," there are glimmers of something familiar, old, and dear, despite the compositions' baffling sophistication. It may simply be that the melodies are memorable when they're not addictive, echoing the album's theme: home.


White Hinterland - Kairos

White Hinterland - Kairos

Casey Dienel had the impetus to record the piano-pop songs she started writing a few years ago, but it was a friend who sent the recordings to a label. Miles away from those early songs is Kairos, Dienel's more studied and intricate second release as White Hinterland. Though it's full of watery atmospherics, breezy harmonies, and slow-brewing climaxes, Kairos doesn't feel showy or calculated. "Cataract" is an ethereal love song; "Begin Again" is a ruminative, slow-brewing Aaliyah send-up; and "Magnolias" is a haunting showcase of Dienel's honey-sweet voice, which meanders adventurously around the scale, always choosing dexterity over force.


Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

The British songwriter and guitarist proved she had chops on her debut, but this album oozes the wisdom and confidence of a matured, well traveled musician. Marling's language evokes a simpler past, but her perspective can be witty, unapologetic — even bitter. The accompaniments here are more sprawling than in her past work, but they never overpower the woman at the center. Her songs become far more than the sum of their metaphors and allusions.


Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be

Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be

The dizzy, frothy summer sounds of bands like Girls and The Drums are here to stay, but Dum Dum Girls' music adds a few important elements to the formula: punk inflections, beautiful harmonies, infectious pop structures, and surprising, sometimes dark melodies. This debut album has familiar '60s pop rhythms in spades, but like The Magnetic Fields, Dum Dum Girls add clever lyrics and instrumentation to songs that might otherwise sound like pastiches. The sound is full of reverb, but it doesn't sound like a murky mess; every guitar strum and backing vocal has its pretty (or dirgey) place in the mix.


Slow Club - Yeah, So

Slow Club - Yeah, So

Coming off a string of gigs at SXSW, this British female-male folk-rock duo has a nice buzz going. Their debut has been floating around since it was released in the U.K. last summer, and it finally came out in the States yesterday. The pair shares vocal duties, giving us two perspectives and two unique tones: Rebecca Taylor sounds undeniably like a folk singer, with a feathery but strong, vibrato-filled voice that reaches up in the scale for emphasis, while Charles Watson is a pop-punk singer willing to let her lead. The collisions can be cute and surprisingly harmonious, but the band really shines when it cuts loose, giving up the sweet acoustics in favor of vocal layering, bold electric guitars, a thumping kick-drum, and a tambourine, as in "I Was Unconscious, It Was a Dream" and the delicious "It Doesn't Have to Be Beautiful."


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Commentarium (25 Comments)

Mar 31 10 - 12:29am

Great choices in here. But all female vocalists? Liz, a little gender bias here?

Mar 31 10 - 7:32am

Nothing wrong with that.

Mar 31 10 - 12:24pm

No, definitely not! My contemporary collection is chock-full of (dominated by?) dudes. These just happen to be the records I'm really keen on lately.

Mar 31 10 - 12:38pm

I must be in the minority for thinking Dienel's Hush Records solo album was far more likable than her work to date with White Hinterland. And Slow Club's "Christmas TV" in the season 2 finale of Chuck was the best music integration since they used Spoon's "Don't Make Me A Target" at the beginning of season 1.

Mar 31 10 - 6:31pm

I was listening to the song by Slow Club and thinking "Finally, something from this article series I could sink my teeth into..." because they had a good thing going with the 12 bar blues progression and the interwoven vocals. Until they hit 1:03 and completely put the brakes on the whole nice country-rock groove they had going with that weird-ass galloping instrumental break. Sounded like it belonged to a different song and got thrown in by mistake.

Mar 31 10 - 7:19pm

if this list were all guys, no one would say there was a bias!

Mar 31 10 - 8:33pm

beautiful selection. i approve.

Apr 01 10 - 1:55am

Try on Oceanship --

Apr 01 10 - 2:50am

so we should be listening to pretentious hipster gynopseudo music, huh? The kind of tracks that in 5 years not even you will be listening to anymore?

Apr 01 10 - 2:51am

definately not my taste

Apr 01 10 - 11:07am

after sampling these five, could we have "five albums we should not be listening to right now"?

Apr 01 10 - 12:39pm

The sexism is oozing out of some of these comments. Joanna Newsom will be listened to decades from now, let alone five years.

Apr 01 10 - 12:45pm

These are great albums. They don't seem all that "hipster gynopseudo" (?) to me.

Apr 01 10 - 1:33pm

After listening to the Joanna Newsom recommendation I decided to go back to Listening to Kate Bush, the obvious (and vastly superior) inspiration for this track.

Apr 01 10 - 2:58pm

Female singers = insta-fail.

Apr 01 10 - 10:36pm

Girls can't make music.

Apr 02 10 - 6:08am

laura marling, joanna newsom and dum dum girls? yr my new bestfriend of music.

Apr 04 10 - 1:28pm

Yeh, plus it's just five, so there's not much room for diversity anyway. I mean, if it was a list of fifty or so and they were all women, then it would be a bit of a bias.

Apr 04 10 - 7:11pm

Considering that the majority of all professional musicians are male (roughly 70%) the chance that 80% of the artists on the list are entirely female is rather slim (about 0.01%), I feel inclined to say that this is already more than a bit biased.

If it where 50 albums and 49 of them were female, the chances of that would be so unbelievably low that it would surpass sexism and enter the realm of an anti-male Hitler type of person. Considering the chances of that are less than one in five septillion (1/5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

Apr 05 10 - 3:46pm

why do so many douchebags come out of the woodwork to comment on this series? also, "hipster gynopseudo"? really?

Apr 06 10 - 2:50pm

You're wrong because you set your rubric against current "professional musicians," which, let's face it, is an industry already dominated by sexism. That's like trying to prove that black people aren't as professional as whites, based purely on numbers, when we know how much racism influences current hiring practices. And I seriously doubt you would have raised a fuss about gender bias if you saw a list with all males anyway, considering how staunchly you defend the unjustifiably heteronormative idea of males equating with the standard gender.
You're clearly a sexist. I feel sorry for the women (if there are any) in your life.

Apr 17 10 - 6:32pm

I feel sorry for the women, in the world. For their lack of a penis.

No, I kid. I would like to raise a question about what point you're trying to make here. Because it seems you thought I was trying to prove that men are better artists than women because more men are in the music industry than women. This is wrong. I was trying to illustrate as to why it is nearly impossible to claim that a list like this is set up without bias, when the vast majority of the artists are female. Not because men are better at making music, but because it is statistically nearly impossible, and highly improbable.

And no, I probably would not have raised a fuss about gender bias if the genders were switched around in this list. But that is because the 70-30 division of men and is a slightly conservative one in favor of the females. And even now, the chance of such a list existing is more than seven times as high. Not to mention that female artists are concentrated within a few genres of music. Far less widespread than men in music.

I'm not a sexist. Now to take a page from your book. If this list was made by a man and it featured only men, and a woman was to claim that the list maker was biased towards men. You would not be in here telling her she's sexist.

May 01 10 - 9:01pm

These were boring.

May 02 10 - 4:36pm
Thos Weatherby

1. Roxy and Elsewhere
2. Hot Rats
3. Joe's Garage
4. Weasels Rip My Flesh
5. Tinseltown Rebellion

Jun 11 11 - 6:50pm

Stands back from the keyboard in amzamneet! Thanks!