An insanely stacked February saw big releases from Big Thief, Beach House, Mitski & more.
February is getting itself quite the rep in recent years, with this time last year producing several of the best albums 2021 had to offer as the E/O Wrap Up covered a scintillating month that featured Cassandra Jenkins, Slowthai, Arlo Parks, Mogwai and Nana Yamato - all of whom went on to feature in year end lists in December in some shape or form. Needless to say Feb 2022 had a lot to live up to, but the signs were promising - some of the most hyped releases for the first half of the year were set to drop in recent weeks, and I've already gone into why Black Country's masterful sophomore record will be one to remember for a long time. There was so much more to unpack this February, so did major albums from Beach House, Big Thief and Mitski answer their expectations? Find out below...
Jettison - And So I Watch You From Afar
Northern Irish post-rock veterans And So I Watch You From Afar could never be faulted for a lack of ambition, but Jettison pushes the envelope even further as the instrumental quartet execute an outrageously epic symphony on their sweeping sixth album. Jettison subtly builds from ethereal piano and string laden beginnings on 'I Dive Pt 1' & 'II Dive Pt 2' into the dizzying, triumphant explosion of noise rock that dominates the entire back half of these 38 minutes and culminates in a thunderous penultimate title track.
Encompassing the most euphoric movements of the band’s entire discography to date, Jettison is a thrilling reminder of ASIWYFA's lasting power and underrated influence on instrumental Irish rock these past fifteen years.
8.0 / B+
Best Tracks: 'VI Submerge', 'VII Emerge', 'VIII Jettison'
Once Twice Melody - Beach House
Sub Pop's much maligned decision to release Beach House's eighth studio album in four parts over the past four months actually makes more sense in hindsight when listening in full to Once Twice Melody. With a daunting movie length runtime, the double album from the 21st century dream pop pioneers doesn't quite manage to pull off its massive 84 minute runtime as convincingly as its February feature length counterpart from Big Thief below.
A mesmerizing opening sequence to Once Twice Melody loses its luster somewhat as we go deeper into the vast surroundings of this 18 track opus, particularly during a middling third act. Scally and LeGrand's rich instrumental arrangements and daydream vocals are as ultra lush and blissful as ever in large parts of this record, but the Baltimore duo's niche for creating these exquisite psychedelic soundscapes is perhaps not best suited to the double album format.
Take the parts of this whole as they were released since November though and Once Twice Melody can't be majorly faulted, with plenty of enchanting individual highlights scattered throughout this hazy if slightly haywire collection.
7.0 / B-
Best Tracks: 'Once Twice Melody', 'Superstar', 'Pink Funeral', 'Hurts To Love'
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You - Big Thief
The curious thing about Big Thief's fifth album was just how much exposure we had to it in advance of its release this past month, with almost an entire LPs worth of singles dropped over the past half year as part of the rollout for the band’s first double record. If you've been following the dazzling array of career best tracks released all way from double drop ‘Little Things’ and ’Sparrow’ back in August to the fuzzy warmth of early 2022 highlight ‘Simulation Swarm’ this past January, then you'll already know it was a pretty safe bet to back Dragon New Warm Mountain being the most magical treasure of the Brooklyn quartet's career to this point, and the final 80 minute tracklist doesn't disappoint for even one second of its behemoth running time. Recorded across four locations in five months, the inspiring production process of Dragon was conceived by drummer James Krivchenia and saw the band travelling mountains, canyons, woods and deserts around the US while tapping into their most primal musical instincts and the raw craftmanship that has informed their bewitching indie folk since day one. As such, Dragon offers up the most pure and beautiful expression of Big Thief's songcraft to date, with Adrienne Lender, Buck Meek & co. laying down deep cuts ('Flower Of Blood', 'Red Moon', 'Dried Roses') throughout this herculean anthology that are as equally majestic and compelling as instant fan favourites from last year ('Certainty', 'Spud Infinity', ‘Change’). Sprawling and spectacular yet always as intimate and intricate as the very best of Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain is a career defining accomplishment and a supremely early yet no doubt worthy frontrunner for the indie rock record of 2022.
9.0 / A-
Best Tracks: 'Change', 'Spud Infinity', 'Certainty', 'Little Things', 'Simulation Swarm'
Laurel Hell - Mitski
The sixth album from Mitski sees the iconic Japanese-American songwriter diving deeper into the 80s inspired synthpop of 2018's Be The Cowboy, albeit with slightly diminishing returns as the mercurial 31 year old unthinkably fails to stand out from the crowd with this nevertheless alluring mix of disco, new wave and electropop.
Mitski is as lyrically captivating ever throughout Laurel Hell as she darkly ruminates on romance and relationships, but the polished production work of Patrick Hyland applies a little too much sheen to the transgressive genius responsible for Mitski's greatest work this past decade.
7.5 / B
Best Tracks: 'Working For The Knife', 'Heat Lightning', 'The Only Heartbreaker'
Either/Or's February 2022 Mix
The 20 best tracks of February, curated by yours truly for your aural pleasure.
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Black Summer
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - The Way It Shatters
Kurt Vile - Like Exploding Stones
Black Country, New Road - Good Will Hunting
Lucy Dacus - Kissing Lessons
Big Thief - Red Moon
Father John Misty - Q4
Fontaines D.C. - I Love You
Khruangbin, Leon Bridges - Mariella
Florence + The Machine - King
Mistki - Stay Soft
Luna Li, beabadoobee - Silver Into Rain
HAIM - Lost Track
Porridge Radio - Back To The Radio
ROSALÍA - SAOKO
Pusha T - Diet Coke
Beach House - Hurts To Love
Gang of Youths - spirit boy
Mock Deer - Human Code
Generous Gods - Samsaric Sacrifice
March's Most Anticipated Releases
The Weather Station - How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars
Franz Ferdinand - Hits To The Head
Charli XCX - CRASH
ROSALÍA - Motomami
THUMPER - Delusions Of Grandeur
Weezer - SZNS: Spring
Placebo - Never Let Me Go