Listened album by Jónsi from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
I have slowly been growing into Shiver. Brian Howe does not believe that the combination of A.G. Cook works:

Frequent Charli XCX producer A. G. Cook’s hectic Max Martin style is far from a natural fit for the dramatic, drawn-out singing Jónsi prefers, and without the dynamic presence or indestructible hooks of a pop artist, most of the alchemy he discovers with Cook is spinning gossamer into lead.

However, I wonder if it is a case where the music is different to what one has come to expect, in a similar manner to Taylor Swift’s work with Aaron Dessner. As Andrew Trendell suggests:

The record certainly boasts enough quirks and textures to keep you coming back to make new discoveries with each listen.

Listened 2020 studio album by Taylor Swift from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Evermore has been described as the sister album to Folklore, with the majority of the album produced by Aaron Dessner.

On “evermore,” she sounds loose and unburdened—free, finally, from the debilitating squeeze of other people’s expectations. It’s a lush, tender, and beautiful album, steadier if less varied than “folklore,” and infused with backward-looking wisdom.

On evermore, she’s gone even smaller. It’s a soft, meditative, consciously quiet album. This time around, she’s not really writing pop songs and presenting them in the clothing of NPR-style indie. Instead, she’s just straight-up writing NPR-indie songs. It’s a small but crucial distinction.

The folkloreevermore era has been one marked by a spirit of artistic freedom. Unbound by pop convention, and perhaps with newfound commercial flexibility – with the success of folklore as proof of surprise-release viability – Swift is able to both explore abstract turns of phrase (“gold rush”) and unfurl narratives (“champagne problems”). On both albums, she’s been permitted to play with sound and texture in a way that feels uncharacteristic of contemporary radio pop.

Listened album by the Avalanches from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
This album has been on the periphery for a while, with various teasers, it was not until the album dropped that everything seemed to fall into place. There are some great tracks, with my favourite being Wherever You Go, however the strength is listening as a whole.

Place between Oneohtrix Point Never and FourTet


But if that album [Wildflower] felt like the world’s most jumbled playlist, We Will Always Love You has, as they say, a better algorithm. Now reduced to a duo of Robert Chater and Anthony Diblasi, the Avalanches are still dedicated crate-diggers, unearthing obscure oldies at every turn. But this time, they go lighter on the samples and heavier on post-trip hop soundscapes and contemporary singers, making for recombinant pop that feels joyfully seamless and organic.

The record begins with a farewell voicemail—a final communication, we are led to believe, from a young woman who has passed away—and it ends with the Morse code-like bleeping of the Arecibo Message, an interstellar transmission carrying information on the human species into the infinite beyond. In between those poles, the Australian group continues doing what it has always done: spinning the sounds of disco, soul, easy listening, and other nostalgic staples into luminous, ludic shapes, turning musical collage into a sparkling, four-dimensional fantasyland.

Like the other two Avalanches albums, We Will Always Love You is an odyssey. Each track feels like an encounter with some new character or a scenic passageway in between outposts.

A sense of interconnectedness flows through “We Will Always Love You,” and Chater said the process of working with live singers isn’t that different from selecting found sounds. “It’s almost like sampling,” he said, “in trying to find the right vocalist, to match the music with someone who seems like they’ve got a certain spirit.”

That so many disparate talents have been corralled into such a cohesive whole is testament to Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi’s vision, with samples meticulously stitched together from a mass of voices and an underlying concept of remembering those singers no longer with us.

As they’ve grown older, they crave transcendence over hedonism; it’s why the album is slower, warmer, more contemplative and mellow overall.

In many ways, We Will Always Love You is The Avalanches’ own Golden Record, tracking their sonic DNA through an epic list of collaborators who have influenced their sound in some shape or form over the years while exploring love, human connection and our place in the universe.

Listened I’m Your Empress Of, by Empress Of from Empress Of

12 track album

This was one of those albums that I overlooked earlier in the year. I dived in after it came up in my recommendations in Spotify. Listening to this album I was reminded of some of the textures from Banks’ III, only to realise that they were both produced by BJ Burton.

Place between BANKS and Sylvan Esso


Written in a two-month break between tours in her Los Angeles home studio, Rodriguez produced the record whilst also processing some serious heartbreak, making ‘I’m Your Empress Of’ deeply personal. It also sees her soaring avant-pop imbued with a new sense of urgency.

I’m Your Empress Of is exhilarating, filled with layers of emotion packed tightly into some of the most infectious, club-ready songs of the year.

I’m Your Empress Of vibrates with the contradictions that one person can contain: how mourning the loss of a partner is bound up with anger, the fatigue of resilience, and the pleasures to be found in escaping it all, if only for one lusty night. With unexpected production and left-field samples, Rodriguez’s album is powered by a heady rawness that bucks the trend for theatrical concepts in today’s electronic pop nonconformists, producing epiphanies like hot stones spat from a fire.

Listened Free Love, by Sylvan Esso from Sylvan Esso

10 track album

Ferris Wheel seriously got stuck in my head, but I was late to the album.

The major single from the record, ‘Ferris Wheel’ is almost the opener’s complete counterpoint. It provides a series of summery vignettes providing hopes of sexual gratification and a beat that is unstoppably infectious. It’s a piece of music that can transport you to a whole new place, time and narrative. It’s a real joy. This duality is what sets Sylvan Esso apart from the rest.

This is the sort of album to just listen to. After a few listens, you manage to know all the twists and turns. There is nothing that wrong with this. Like like how Lucy Shanker captured this:

Free Love is an inherently soothing album, but placed in the context of the year in which it’s being released, its predictability is practically a gift. Each of the 10 songs continues to build on the foundation Sylvan Esso have laid over the past seven years. It’s not boring or repetitive despite it being expected; it’s just the exact album you want them to put out. After all, hasn’t there been enough shock this year?

They also released a follow-up live reworking of some of the tracks as With Love.

The six-track EP was recorded on Tuesday night — mere hours ago as of publication — as part of the final installment of their virtual concert series “From the Satellite”.

Place between Lykke Li and Matthew Herbert


Detractors will rightfully point out that Free Love utilizes the same sonic architecture as its predecessors, but it’s a fairly idiosyncratic template and one that Meath and Sanborn have shown great skill with over three albums now. Besides, the world always needs more dance music for introverts.

There is a word that’s been rattling in the back of my brain this year: phantasmagoric. It’s basically an illusion that has the appearance of truth but isn’t the truth. An interpretation that is created in your own mind that may not exist. The phantasmagoric appear in everyday of our lives, in our politics, in our tweets. It’s how we interact with media of all forms from allowing the suspension of disbelief for a town overrun with monster on Netflix or feeling like a beloved musician wrote a song that speaks just to us. Music is its own deception, a 3-minute escape for whatever ails you. Sylvan Esso seems to be contemplating that imaginary space as well. Ideas about authenticity, celebrity, love, music, and self shift and filter over the course of their new album, Free Love.

Listened 2020 film by Nick Cave from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Although I did not watch the live stream, I listened to the performance. I really enjoyed the cut-back nature of the performance.

The result is a performance that exists in a strange hinterland, an album that’s unnervingly intimate yet flickers with the strange unreality of a dream. Idiot Prayer is as up-close and personal an encounter with Cave as there’s ever been. But a little mystery remains, always.

Listened Taylor Swift Releases Surprise folklore Live Album – Stereogum,Taylor Swift Releases Surprise folklore Live Album from Stereogum

Yesterday, Taylor Swift pulled another surprise attack. This past summer, Swift released her quarantine album folklore with only a day of advance notice. Yesterday — the same day that folklore was nominated for a buttload of Grammys — Swift announced the impending release of Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, a new live-concert movie that Swift made with her folklore collaborators Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, and Justin Vernon. That film is up on Disney+ today, and Swift also went ahead and made a whole live album out of it.

Continuing the reimagining of live music, Taylor Swift released an intimate ‘live’ performance which strips back folklore even more, while at the same time presenting to the world. Rather than ‘three ingredients’, each of the songs was limited to Swift, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner.

Given that folklore was already basically an acoustic album, it’s still striking to hear Swift and her collaborators stripping those songs down even further, giving them a different level of intimacy.

The conversations between Swift, Antonoff and Dessner were insightful and worth the watch.

Listened album by Kate Miller-Heidke from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Child in Reverse is the fifth studio album by Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke. The album was announced on 6 August 2020 and released on 30 October 2020.

Child in Reverse is Miller-Heidke’s first studio album in six years, following on from 2014’s O Vertigo!.[3] It has been described by her team as “her most pop album yet”.

Both the sense of authenticity and honesty of this album, as well as the measured production of this album reminds me of Lorde’s Melodrama. Whereas, Lorde’s album recounts her transition into the adult world, Miller-Heidke looks back on life with a sense of acceptance of who she is and forgiveness for any misgivings.

It’s hard to separate Miller-Heidke’s musical theatre dalliances from songs like ‘Twelve Year Old Me’. Her storytelling is so precise and the imagery so vivid that you could transplant it into a theatrical setting with ease.

Her balance of poignance and playfulness has always set her apart, and there are countless moments on this record that highlight how emotionally commanding she can be, without coming across overbearing.

Some of the tracks came out of an APRA SongHub songwriting weekend. She signed up after going through a phase of writer’s block. Miller-Heidke reflects upon the experience of working with Evan Klar and Hailey Collier and the benefit of letting the songs live through the ‘ears and hearts of others’:

It actually needs to live and breathe through the ears and hearts of others, and sometimes that can paradoxically make it sound more personal and more intimate. Sometimes other people can just help you distill what you’re saying down to an essence.

The album was produced by Klar. In an interview with The Music, Miller-Heidke explains what she felt he brought to the table.

[Klar’s] arrangements are a little bit strange and surprising, but they’ve got this sparkly, airy sweetness and I think that style compliments my voice beautifully.

His aesthetic as a producer is what really drew me to his work, and made me want to work with him across the whole record. These are all sounds that come out of his computer, but there’s such a warmth and analog humanity there. They are imperfect sounds, but there is so much sparkle and air to them. What he does sounds so beautifully fresh and real to me.

In a conversation with Tim Shiel on Double J, Miller Heidke talks about being told to write her own ‘Bad Guy’. This was the seed for People Pleaser, which was her frustrated response. This reminds me of Missy Higgins’ story about how she wrote scar.

Place between Washington and Lorde

Listened Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, by Oneohtrix Point Never from Oneohtrix Point Never

Daniel Lopatin has created another uncanny album. One moment you are dragged into the lush sounds that he brought to his production of The Weeknd’s album, then he moves the dial and disrupts things.

Magic Oneohtrix Point Never sounds like it’s constantly stuck between the dials. It’s fractured by design, but never anything less than compelling. Snippets of songs and samples filter in through an exceedingly pretty backdrop. It’s his most all-over-the-place album, but it’s also his smoothest. Lopatin has spent a decade refining his skills as a producer, and he’s able to rein in his music in a disorganized manner that feels relatively ordered. The aforementioned day-to-night cycle also helps with that, providing Lopatin some framework with which to delineate his ideas.

Listened Review: The National’s Matt Berninger Goes Solo On ‘Serpentine Prison’ from Stereogum

If Serpentine Prison emphasizes Berninger’s weaknesses, it also resoundingly reminds us of his strengths. Because I was obsessed with Radiohead long before I was obsessed with the National, I’m compelled to compare this album with Thom Yorke’s solo discography, which also nudged a frontman’s uncut essence into darker, less accessible corners. Those heavily invested in the dude’s main band will find a lot to like but will also come to value his bandmates all the more. Casual fans of the National may be bored by Berninger leaning into the band’s slow, downcast side without providing the usual catharsis to balance it out, and skeptics will surely dismiss the album as par for the course. I’m not about to harangue those people about giving Serpentine Prison a chance; I’d rather exhort them to revisit Trouble Will Find Me and see if they aren’t blown away. But if recent history is any indication, new layers of beauty may emerge over the years, and somewhere down the line I might end up evangelizing for Serpentine Prison too.

It is interesting to consider this album alongside The National’s work. I liked Berninger’s point about ‘splinters’ in his interview with Andrew Ford that come back together.
Listened SIGN, by Autechre from Autechre

11 track album

I have always struggled to find the words to describe Autechre. The usual discussion of form and structure never seems to apply. In Tom Breihan’s review of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, he talks about ‘submitting’ to the music. I think of Autechre in the same way. What stands out about this album are subtleties.


Phil Freeman in Stereogum:

SIGN sounds like they’ve reached the end of this particular journey — they’ve traveled as far out as they can and are now coming back, to rejoin humanity

Philip Sherburne in Pitchfork:

SIGN is surprisingly direct: lean, intermittently sedate, frequently quite pretty.

Andy Beta on Bandcamp:

Paring back the beats to let their melting ice cap melodic sensibilities take center stage, the effect feels desolate and elegiac at once.

Sasha Frere-Jones in S/FJ:

Sign is trim and rich and has something like a face. It wants to be an album. It reacts well to being played over and over. The difference isn’t obscure—it’s the presence of melody and harmony, variables the duo hasn’t paid attention to in ages. Almost every track on Sign works around some relationship between pitches and an audible line of progression. It feels as if they are pulling us back into their orbit just as they are pulled back into it. Sign flirts with disintegration but only lightly, throwing its weight into a smooth ravine lined with translucent panels and reflective tape, a river of light running below the wind of turbines. 

Listened The Ascension, by Sufjan Stevens from Sufjan Stevens

All songs performed, recorded, engineered, arranged, mixed and produced by Sufjan Stevens, with additional contributions (*) recorded and engineered by James McAlister and Casey Foubert at their respective home studios. Contributions by Emil Nikolaisen were recorded at Malabar in Oslo, Norway, engineered by himself. Mastered by TW Walsh. All original album art, layout, design and typography by Sufjan Stevens. © 2020 AKR PO Box 1282, Lander, WY 82520 USA

Sufjan Stevens’ The Ascension feels like it takes a step back to drag the listener in. There are many pop elements within all the synths and beats, however the mix is always held back. Rather than sad bangers, this rage-bangers. In the hustle bustle of lockdown life and political upheaval, the album provides something of a meditation to stop and reconsider. As Grant Sharples suggests, although it may not be the optimistic answer we may be craving for at the moment, it certain captures the current air of contemplation.

Though it’s still an incredible album, The Ascension better suits the cynicism of 2020. It feels banal to say that, but The Ascension isn’t exactly the optimistic salve that people may be looking for in 2020. Fans can find solace in this colossal work, sharing Stevens’ valid sentiment that, simply put, everything sucks right now.

Sam Sodomsky touches on the meditative aspects of the album, comparing it to a big IMAX experience:

The whole thing works best when you approach it like a big-budget IMAX movie set in space with a great leading actor: Don’t get too hung up on the plot—just tilt back your head and watch him float.

Kitty Empire touches on the personal and collective pain at the heart of Stevens’ album:

The Ascension’s maximalist reckoning finds his horror at national affairs mirroring his own inner turbulence.

Hannah Mylrea talks about Stevens’ intent to address an America he could no longer ignore:

Recognising that he “could no longer dismiss ‘America’ as angry and glib”, he instead felt inspired to create a whole record that examined the world he was living in, questioning it when it felt wrong and “exterminating all bullshit“.

Jon Pareles explains that the album is more metaphysical than biographical.

“The Ascension” leaps to an opposite extreme: synthetic and outsized rather than intimately acoustic, metaphysical instead of biographical.

Zan Rowe also interviewed Stevens which touches on faith, social media, and caring less as he grows older.

Place in-between Pan American and Thom Yorke.

Listened Djesse Vol. 3 from Wikipedia

Jazz record part of the series Djesse by Jacob Collier

There are some albums that stick straight-away, while others take a bit more time. I have spent the last few months appreciating Jacob Collier’s sonic world. His tendency to mash-up so many different ideas can be something of an affront. (Is that what makes it a ‘jazz’ record?) However, I feel this is sometimes intentional, as was explained in his Switched on Pop interview. When it clicks though there is a certain joy and exuberance that cannot be escaped.

Place between Jamie Lidell and Peter Gabriel

Listened Batflowers from Wikipedia

Batflowers is the third studio album to be released by Australian singer-songwriter Megan Washington.

Washington’s new album feels like another example of what the current context makes possible. Where Charli XCX used what was available to capture the moment, Megan Washington uses the opportunity to release an album that she did not realise she could release. Like Thelma Plum, Washington scrapped a previous attempt unsatisfied.

Place between Bat for Lashes and DIANA.


Washington embraces fun and fear, and a world tour from an Adelaide studio

Andrew Ford talks with Megan Washington about her new album.

Listened Imploding the Mirage from Wikipedia

Imploding the Mirage is the sixth studio album by American rock band the Killers. It was released on August 21, 2020, by Island Records in the United States and internationally by EMI. Guitar parts are covered by Killers bassist Mark Stoermer, producer Jonathan Rado, and a variety of guest musicians including Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) and Adam Granduciel (The War on Drugs).

I think that Mark Beaumont captures the The Killers’ Imploding the Mirage best.

Even the songs about growing old and dying have the beatific optimism of a Covid rave … If ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ was an arm around a trembling shoulder, ‘Imploding The Mirage’ is a raised fist to the future.

I also liked Virginia Trioli’s point about blowing reality away, at least for a moment:

I’ve been hanging on to this one for a bit: the post-arena rock of The Killers is exactly what I reckon we need right now — anthems, synthesisers, gloriously bombastic vocals.

The Las Vegas act has decided to bestow their magic right in the middle of all this, and a week or so ago they released their new album Imploding the Mirage. It has the power and the passion to blow reality away, at least for a while.

Place between Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire