New Music: Janelle Monae, Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire

Tuned In Brewed In is back with more can’t-miss albums.

By Brian Kaufenberg


 Two Albums You May Have Missed

Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady

Janelle Monae - The Electric LadyWhile the title “artist” is ubiquitous in the music world describing everyone from Prince to Justin Bieber, there is no doubt that it applies wholly and unequivocally to Janelle Monáe. An artist is a person who molds reality into the shape of their artistic vision and Monáe’s music, personal fashion style, and her android alter-ego Cindi Mayweather are all carefully wrought parts of the whole artistic vision that is Janelle Monáe.

Seeing her perform is to watch an elaborate, carefully executed plan. Every dance move is tight and controlled—the back-up dancers, horn section, bassist, and guitarist all keeping the beat. Their black and white outfits are band uniforms forming a cohesive unit of energy and soul. The visual aspects of the band mirror the music itself, which exhibits the same tight, controlled attitude.

The Electric Lady, Monáe’s new album, is comprised of Suites IV and V of a seven part series set in the fictional Metropolis where androids, a marginalized sect that stands for all the marginalized groups in our own society, attempt to find their place alongside human culture. Monáe soars on the ultra-pop dance number, “Dance Apocalyptica,” and woos on the soulful R&B song “Primetime” featuring Miguel.

On the breakout single “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erika Badu, Monáe encourages anyone who feels like an outsider to embrace their weirdness rather than assimilate into the majority. It’s a philosophy that she not only preaches, but also practices on the album, which with its radio interludes feels like a Sci-Fi version of The Warriors (Can you dig it?). She’s on a mission to bring musicianship back to R&B and to “give [the people] what they love.” With The Electric Lady she does just that.

Related Post: Tuned In Brewed In with David Bowie, Cloud Cult and More

Arctic Monkeys, AM

Arctic Monkeys - AMThe Arctic Monkey’s debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not was a night at a dirty pub, drinking and sharking girls before stumbling into the back alley with your mates, chased by police. The band’s fifth album AM is a humid after-party, spent shaking off sleep and wishing for something more than a one-night-stand while in the midst of a exhausting cross-country tour.

The restless young men defiantly living in the present from the debut have a slower, blues-soaked view of the world on AM—the morning has arrived and it’s heavy with a hangover and regrets. Though it’s a natural progression for a band that has been performing for over a decade, AM delivers a rewarding blend of blues-rock and swaying pop-infused ballads.

The band recorded AM in California and there is an undeniable American influence. The guitar, drums, and vocals on “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” recall The Black Keys, while “One For the Road” is undoubtedly influenced by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, who collaborated on both AM and 2009’s Humbug. However, Arctic Monkeys never lose the cleverness and swagger that defined the band from the beginning.

AM leaves us with the troubled, transient existence of a touring rock band. Lead singer Alex Turner declares his desperate need for a lasting love on “I Wanna Be Your,” a poem by John Cooper Clarke, but acknowledges on “Mad Sounds” that “love buckles under the strain of those wild nights.” And with countless wild nights ahead of them on their next tour, it’s a conflict that will remain unresolved for a while longer.

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About Brian Kaufenberg

Brian Kaufenberg is the editor-in-chief of The Growler Magazine.

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