BY JOSEPH MALTESE, COLUMNIST
Frank Turner – “Tape Deck Heart”
Frank Turner, a veteran of modern folk-rock, turns to music as not only his escape from the tribulations and fallout of heartbreak, but as a therapy session.
On his fifth album, Turner deepens the blunt poetry he’d adopted from punk rock, turning to a style that is candid, exposed and somber.
This well-worn ground is new territory for Turner, and though he handles it with the charm we have heard for years, it’s stepping away from the enthusiastic, invigorating and inspiring niche he’s become well acquainted with.
Earl Sweatshirt – “Doris”
If Tyler, The Creator is the heart of Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt would certainly be the balls. Earl is a genius. His poetry is layered with truth, empathy, sympathy, grief, greed and lies.
At 19 years old, Earl presents maturity from the superficial rap fairytale life of most other Odd Future members, as he recites woes of career pressures and legal oppression.
Despite the praise of the lyrical intellect Sweatshirt implores, a full departure from Odd Future hijinks has not been made; there is plenty of “let’s get stoned and go to the mall and play Battleship and hit on soccer moms.”
Volcano Choir – “Repave”
Justin Vernon may never not be branded as the guy in Bon Iver, but that doesn’t mean he can’t stop his side projects.
Volcano Choir, composed of Vernon and members of All Tiny Creatures and Collections of Colonies of Bees.
Unlike the band’s first album, “Unmap,” the sophomore effort abandons much of the formless, saturated experimentalism indicative of the debut and instead combines the themes of folk-indie-rock with the retro-trance that Vernon has tried so hard to perfect. Repave is the most refreshing album of the year.
Pusha T – “My Name is My Name”
Pusha T is rap’s most passionate emcee. Each lyric is laden with deliberateness and fervor. “King Push,” the album’s first and most memorable track, serves as the preamble, declaring his emergence as a solo artist who is free of Clipse.
“This is my time, this is my hour, this is my pain, this is my name; this is my power.”
Filled with crucial wordplay and surreal depictions of his drug-dealing past, Pusha T dominates on his debut LP as a master wordsmith, simply trying to share his story in the wake of his contemporaries.
Haim – “Days Are Gone”
Haim’s major label debut, “Days Are Gone,” is pop music at its best. The sister-group appears to be as bubble gum and Urban Outfitters-y as you can get and thus have received much flack for the authenticity of their overly harmonized and mechanized almost-indie music.
“The Wire” is the obvious, undeniable hit with its Gary Glitter-esque drumbeat and Danielle Haim’s staccato vocals that mimic Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City,” but opener “Falling” and “Forever” help carry the album as well.
“Don’t Save Me” serves as an emotional centerpiece, as Haim plead, “Take me back to the way that I was before, hungry for what was to come.”
It’s a fitting lyric, considering the undeserved backlash directed at these talented women. Haim have made their mark and will play a major role in 2014.