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Beau, Oska, & Gang of Youths: Three favorite February Albums

A lot of great albums dropped the last couple of days of February, so I had to scramble get make sure I gave everyone a fair shake. Funny thing is that these were not the albums I was expecting to make this list. If I was handicapping prior to the month, I probably would have guessed good things from Gang of Youths. I wasn’t even thinking about Oska’s upcoming album. As for Beau. They were a February discovery for me. The great thing about the flurry of albums at the end of the month is that it signals things are starting to pick up and the upcoming months should be fun.

Forever – Beau

If you search Beau on Spotify or other streaming platforms don’t give up if they don’t pop up right away. The extra time to search will be worth it. Forever is a four-track EP from Heather Goldin and Emma Jenney, the Greenwich Village duo that comprises Beau. The EP is dreamy and there is a sweetness to the vocals. The EP opens with two tracks, “Captivated” and “Dreamer” that echo Nineties dreamy rock songs like the Cranberries’ “Dreams” and Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me.” “Captivated” is a brilliant tune of which I can’t get enough. I also, like the fact that the EP’s last track, “Loverman,” is a little edgy. It’s a great way to inverse the usual EP formula.

I first became aware of Oska through the stripped-down version of “Wide Awake & Dreaming,” a lovely duet with Stu Larsen. Maria Burger, the Austrian singer/songwriter, who performs as Oska has crafted a songwriter’s album. 12 tracks of Burger’s careful wordsmithing accompanied by exquisite minimal instrumentation. The open song, “Too Nobody” lets you know right away that you should listen carefully. The lyrics to the chorus shows just how tricky this can be:

Boarded up the record store

Who cares about songs anymore?

And it makes me feel too nobody

And there's nobody to disagree

There is a sadness to this album. “Misunderstood” and “Hallucinating” deal with depression and mental health. But there are also clever relationship songs like Starbuck,” “ABC,” and “Lousy T-Shirt.” The later song looks back fondly on a past relationship and realizes all she got out of it was a lousy t-shirt. Take time with this album. Try to give special attention to the songs that don’t have high stream counts. You’ll be glad you did.

angel in realtime – Gang of Youths

I could listen to Gang of Youth’s lead singer Dave Le’aupepe talk or sing anything. That’s important. So much of this album is Le’aupepe narration. Gang of Youths, the Australian band now based in London, has created a terrific album. The album is beautifully produced. There are layers of sounds and richness

To this album.

The opening song, “you in everything,” is best listened to with your eyes closed. Just listen to all the wonderful details in the music. The song has moments that remind me of Neil Young’s narration in “I am…I said.” It can be a bit uncanny. The album builds with the song “in the wake of your leave” and hits its stride with “the angel of 8th avenue.” This song builds a great wave of sound. This is one of my favorite trends from bands playing out of London. It allows you to find new things in a song even after you’ve heard it a few times. This is a common theme throughout the album: Synths in “the angel of 8Th avenue,” the strings in “returned,” and Donnie Borzestowski’s drumming on “the kingdom is within you.” Ultimately, this is an album about the loss of a father. “spirit boy” was a very emotional song for me. There are so many ways to enjoy this album. This was my favorite album of February.

Other albums you should check out from February: Amos Lee’s Dreamland, Wild Rivers’ Sidelines, and Bronze Radio Return’s Back Burners.


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