All kinds of great music came out over the last month, perhaps more than any similar span this year, and why not start my list with the biggest of them all. Anthony Gonzalez's musical project's newest release is hands-down the most ambitious offering I have heard this year, 22 songs expanded over Two discs and over 73 minutes... and these aren't small songs that we're talking about here. The album opens with what is likely the most grandiose song ever to be simply titled Intro, Gonzales and Zola Jesus' Nika Roza Danilova trading belted lyrics before transitioning into Hurry Up's first single, the impossibly catchy Midnight City. But there are riches to be found through-out the thing, from the cathartic release of Wait, to the smile-inducing story of Raconte-Moi Une Histoire, to other great pseudo-shoegaze, stadium rockers like New Map and Steve McQueen. Accusations of cheesiness are not unfounded; Gonzales clearly set out to make the biggest-sounding LP that he could, and some level of over-earnestness is always attached to such efforts. Some artists would perhaps have avoided such potholes, but just about none of them could have made something so expansive, beautiful, and emotionally involving. The trade-off is a no-brainer, and Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is too epic to resist.
Real Estate: Days
From the most towering record of the year to One of its most subtly enjoyable, Real Estate never once aims for true grandeur, but their ability to craft a catchy pop song more than makes up for it. Like The Strokes without even the smallest drop of vinegar, Real Estate traffics in small, uncomplicated ditties built out of simple drum patterns and perfect guitar hooks. Just about every song on Days is a wild success, opener Easy coming off just as its name would imply; With a pronounced sense of effortlessness. Green Aisles and Kinder Blumen are even more chilled out, drifting along through the air as if hardly there at all. These songs serve as perfect counterparts to Days' more-caffinated entries, such as Out of Tune, Municipality, and lead-single/album highlight It's Real. It's a shame that this disc came out now, because the LP was clearly designed to fit the lazy days of Summer, laying around and having a beer with friends in the sunshine. Days is a small gem, filled with simple songs that go straight into your brain and never leave. It's ok though, because you won't want them to.
Surfer Blood: Tarot Classics EP
A delicious little power-pop treat nestled in right the middle of the Fall, Surfer Blood's Four-song EP represents their first official release since 2010's totally-and-completely-awesome debut Astrocoast. Little here has changed, and thank god for that: Surfer Blood writes some of the best, 'college rock,' songs on the planet, bouncy, fun, and filled to the brim with ear-catching melodies. Opener I'm Not Ready sees lead singer John Paul Pitts' voice bobbing up and down on a simmering bass line, exploding into guitars and percussion crashes near the tune's end. The simple, repeated chorus chant of Miranda might be One of the most impossible-to-get-out-of-your-head moments in the band's discography so far, and, trust me, that's saying something. Voyager Reprise even slips in a bit of harmonica, perfectly utilized in the song's laid-back sway. Clocking in at just under 15 minutes, Tarot Classics is an undeniably modest entry into the musical landscape, but it's more than worth seeking out.
Youth Lagoon: The Year of Hibernation
You've heard Youth Lagoon before, more or less. The solo-project of 22-year-old Boise, Idaho, musician Trevor Powers will prove familiar to anyone with a background in, 'Chill-Wave,' or indie rock produced at in-home studios. As those comparisons would suggest, The Year of Hibernation is a disc full of nostalgia, echoing, washed-out vocals, and escalating song structures. Lead-off Posters opens small and swirling, prompting One to wonder if the volume is too low before blooming into life at the Two-minute mark. What Powers lacks in individuality, he makes up for in some of the most heartening, gorgeous songs of the whole year. Posters is a perfect indicator of what is to come, nearly each and every tune starting off small before evolving into something gargantuan in size, the final moments of Cannons and Montana absolutely bringing down the house. If you've simply had your fill of this kind of music, I don't think Youth Lagoon will win you over, but if you're interested in One of the most melodiously gifted talents working in bedroom-pop today, The Year of Hibernation ought not be missed.