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JUNE 2014

Sylvan Esso was not meant to be a band. Rather, Amelia Meath had
written a song called “Play It Right” and sung it with her trio Mountain
Man. She’d met Nick Sanborn, an electronic producer working under
the name Made of Oak, in passing on a shared bill in a small club
somewhere. She asked him to scramble it, to render her work his way.
He did the obligatory remix, but he sensed that there was something
more important here than a one-time handoff: Of all the songs Sanborn
had ever recast, this was the first time he felt he’d added to the raw
material without subtracting from it, as though, across the unseen wires
of online file exchange, he’d found his new collaborator without even
looking. Sylvan Esso became a band. A year later, their self-titled debut
— a collection of vivid addictions concerning suffering and love, darkness and deliverance — arrives as a necessary pop balm: An album
stuffed with obliterating dubstep stutters and crisp electropop pulses,
hazy electrostatic breezes and epinephrine dancefloor turnarounds all
anchored by contagious melodies. Motion comes with melody. Words
come with ideas. And above all, pop comes back with candor.
It has been 10 years since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah started, and
they’re about to release their fourth record, Only Run. Like the previous
three, CYHSY will market and distribute the album independently. From
the get go, this ethos struck a chord with fans, but it was merely an extension of lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth’s core belief of approaching fans directly. Like the band’s fateful first album, Only Run is an artist’s
singular vision – and, this time, is a loose document of a decade spent as
a professional musician. Once again, Ounsworth crafted the songs himself before bringing them to the studio for completion and the album is
further proof that CYHSY thrives because of a strong sense of identity.
Fostered from his love of uncompromising songwriters (e.g. John Cale,
Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Tom Waits), Ounsworth believes in an artist’s creative control. “Some people seem surprised when you shift gears aesthetically between records, but to me that’s the point,” he says. “We have a
responsibility as musicians to take chances.” Ounsworth continues,
“There is a reason I have all of Tom Waits’ albums, for example. I believe
in him.” Matt Berninger of The National and Kid Koala guest.
Amy LaVere’s music has been called many things: dark and sexy,
witty, feisty, breezy, mysterious… And she’s all of these things and
more on her new album, Runaway’s Diary. On opener “Rabbit,”
the stage and scenery is set as Amy recounts a tale of running
away from home as an adolescent. Using friend and frequent collaborator Seasick Steve as the inspiration for the title character,
Amy plots the course for the rest of the album. Evocative themes
naturally emerge: home, belonging, those who wander, those who
are lost and the details of the journey that connects all of it. In
addition to the eight tracks LaVere penned, she chose songs written
by Townes Van Zandt (“Where I Lead Me”), John Lennon (“How?”),
Ned Miller (“Dark Moon”), and local Memphis songwriter Mike
McCarthy (“Lousy Pretender”) to fit the narrative of Runaway’s
Diary, which was produced by Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi
Allstars) – her friend, musical collaborator, and the son of her late
mentor (and 2007’s Anchors & Anvils producer) Jim Dickinson.
Ask Hamilton Leithauser to describe the records that inspired his
first solo album, Black Hours, and he’ll end up, as many musicians
will, reaching for a guitar: “It’s like someone singing directly at
you,” says Leithauser. “It’s personal and I find it in the details. It’s
not complicated…but it’s just so hard to verbalize.” Leithauser,
known to date as the frontman of New York band The Walkmen
(who are currently on “extreme hiatus”), has one of the greatest
singing voices of just about any genre – a gravelly thing that conjures Rod Stewart by way of D.C. hardcore. When he began work
on Black Hours, Leithauser had begun to wonder whether he’d
ever be able to achieve that directness of personal expression himself, at least in the context of rock n’ roll — yet the end results are
proof positive. In its orchestrated rhythms, dynamic vocals, and
generous production, Black Hours travels from midwinter pianoand-vocal sessions, to a loud, live Rock n Roll group and back
again. It’s an album as passionate and personal and free as the
canonical recordings that inspired it, and inaugurates a new chapter in an already remarkable career.
By the start of last year, Mike Rosenberg knew his life was about to
change. Still, had someone told the Brighton-born singer/songwriter,
familiar to millions as Passenger, that he would top the charts in 20
countries during 2013, he might have gone out of his mind. That his
bewitching break-up ballad “Let Her Go” took its time to win over the
world — it became a hit in mainland Europe in the autumn of 2012 and
reached the Top 5 of the Billboard chart in February 2014 — allowed
Passenger to process his success, get used to the size of crowds coming to see him and, crucially, continue to write and record heartbreakingly beautiful music. Whispers is Passenger’s sixth studio album. Its
oldest songs date back to before the mayhem began. Although he didn’t know it when he wrote it, the title track captures the chaos in his
head when “Let Her Go” started to snowball. What you won’t hear on
Whispers is how fame has changed Passenger — because it hasn’t.
The album was recorded in the same small Sydney studio as its platinum-selling predecessor, All The Little Lights, with the same co-producer (Chris Vallejo) and many of the same musicians. Despite its sumptuous, symphonic sound, no big budgets were blown… But minds will
The members of Current Swell no longer live together under a single
roof — as they did years ago, when the group first came together as a
unit — but the bond between the four friends is stronger than ever.
Touring the world for the better part of five years, from Brazil to
Australia, often has that effect. Perhaps that’s why the Victoria, British
Columbia band decided to call their album Ulysses – after the famed
mythological warrior of The Odyssey who encounters a few speedbumps on his way back home after spending 10 years at war. Ulysses
was produced by Nathan Sabatino (Dr. Dog, Neko Case, Giant Stand)
at Vancouver’s iconic Greenhouse Studios. The album captures every bit
of warmth the studio’s massive Neve console could provide, as heard on
“Rollin’” (a showcase for vocalist/guitarist Scott Stanton’s exemplary
slide work), the title track “Ulysses,” rocker “Keys to the Kingdom” and
the readymade sing-along “One Day I’ll Be Rich.” Hopefully, Current
Swell won’t face the same adversities as the mythic hero the album is
named for (though I’m sure they’ve had to deal with their fair share of
sirens) but, from the sound of things, victory seems certain.
From the first time Walter Trout as a tormented teenager heard the haunting guitar playing of Mike Bloomfield, he instinctually knew the blues was
his calling. 2014 marks the year Walter Trout looks back at an almost
50-year commitment to playing and singing the blues. The Blues Came
Callin’ was recorded throughout 2013 and its songs reveal Walter’s
thoughts about mortality and his renewed appreciation for being alive in
light of his contracting a life-threatening liver disease (Walter is currently awaiting a liver transplant at UCLA Medical Center). As he became
physically weaker, he fought to continue touring, and found that playing
for people was powerful medicine. Like the title of the new studio album,
the blues definitely came callin’ for Walter. It kept him fighting, and in the
process, it made him more determined than ever. “To play my music for
people has become even more important to me,” says Walter. “When I
think about looking out into the crowds of people and connecting with
everyone on a soul level, and sharing the experience of music with them,
this is what keeps me fighting to get back: My family and my music is my
lifeline. These days, it means more to me than ever before.”
Well into his third decade of churning out smooth jazz mega-hits,
Paul Hardcastle adds another branch to his musical tree — one
that is again bearing delicious fruit. While it carries all of the hallmarks that have come to define his unique style and sound, The
Jazzmasters VII takes a decidedly different approach than the
volumes that preceded it by placing an emphasis on compelling
instrumental soundscapes and smooth grooves rather than vocals.
This is Hardcastle’s wheelhouse and nobody does it better. For
those who use music as an escape from the day to day, these songs
are the perfect transporting device: Urban substructures layered
with sexy yet subtle grooves, punctuated with perfectly placed
notes and vibrations create the perfect flow of ambience as you
depart on this soothing musical journey — a one way ticket to pure
pleasure. This is pure ear candy that will provide that rush of
sweetness yet is high in nutritional content, satisfying and full flavored.
The Orwells are five guys from Chicago, IL, playing rock’ n’ roll
music with an unmatched ragged intensity. Cousins Mario Cuomo
(vocals) and Dominic Corso (guitar), twins Grant (bass) and Henry
Brinner (drums), and Matt O’Keefe (guitar) have been playing
together since late 2009, when they were in 9th grade. Although
one might try to simply sum up their sound as garage or punk, it
isn’t that simple. The Orwells sound comes from a deeper, different place that is both long forgotten and yet timeless. Their live
show is frenetic, charged and feels like it could go off the rails at
any moment-with the audience in full participation. NPR called
them a “thrilling, charismatic teen garage-rock band with infectious energy.” The Orwells’ latest long-player, Disgraceland, was
produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek who gives the band a 3D pop sheen that will no doubt inspire fans of Arctic Monkeys, The
Strokes, The Men, and The Misfits into dancing around in a beerspewing daze of glory. Great lyrics, too.
“What’s so bad about happy?” John Fullbright sings on the opening track
of his new album, Songs. It’s a play on the writer’s curse, the notion that
new material can only come through heartbreak or depression, that great
art is only born from suffering. “A normal person, if they find themselves
in a position of turmoil or grief, they’ll say, �I need to get out of this as fast
as I can,’“ says Fullbright. “A writer will say, �How long can I stay in this
until I get something good?’ And that’s a bullshit way to look at life,” he
laughs. If there’s a recurring motif that jumps out upon first listen to Songs,
it’s the act of writing, which is one Fullbright treats with the utmost respect.
Fullbright inhabits his songs’ narrators completely, his old-soul voice
fleshing out complex characters and subtle narratives with a gifted sense
of understatement. Musically, the album also makes a deliberate point of
stripping Fullbright’s songs down to their cores – most of which were
recorded live. To be sure, Songs has its moments of darkness, tracks born
from pain and heartbreak, but for a craftsman like Fullbright, there are
few greater joys than carving emotion into music, taking a stab at that
lofty goal of immortality through song. It makes him — and his fans —
happy, and there’s nothing bad about that.
A kludge is “A clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem.” In February
of 2013 Daniel Pujol set out to write and record the follow-up to his
debut album, 2012’s United States Of Being. Pujol and producer Doni
Shroader set up shop in Mt. Juliet, TN at The Place: a suicide-prevention
center for teens located in a strip mall. They used largely borrowed and
donated gear, recording every day from 5pm until 6am, all the while
breaking down and setting up the temporary studio every day between
office hours. Mixing took place during the building of Battletapes – a
two-car garage that was in the midst of being converted into an acoustically treated, professional grade tracking room. In short: Pujol kludged
KLUDGE. KLUDGE idiosyncratically captures life as it exists in our weird
almost future world of flying robots, cancer from food, cell phone wire
taps, metadata, $7.25ish minimum wage and $15.50 an hour endless
choice buffets. Yet, the album possesses that inherent sense of timelessness that exists in all great music. Thanks to its combination of addictively fetching rock �n’ roll and Daniel Pujol’s lyrical brilliance. The end result
is more Malkmus than MacGyver, and proves yet again that Daniel Pujol
is, first and foremost, a songwriter.
Guitarist Marty Friedman is best known for his work with thrash
giants Cacophony and Megadeath. Around the turn of the century,
Friedman was looking for something new – so he packed up and
moved to Japan. After releasing four solo albums in his adopted
home he found himself ready for yet another new challenge: “I wanted to create a new landmark to which my future music will be compared,” he says. “That idea of just going completely balls-out –
knowing what the full potential of my music and my playing could
possibly be.” The result is Inferno — Friedman’s first album of original material in four years. Inferno features several collaborations
with players influenced by Friedman, including Alexi Laiho (Children
of Bodom), Revocation guitar whiz David Davidson, the
flamenco/metal acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, and acclaimed
rocker Danko Jones. Inferno also features Friedman’s first songwriting collaboration with Jason Becker since the pair played together in
Cacophony. Inferno is a maniacal masterpiece.
No reunions! No rehab! No breaks! They Might Be Giants have pulled
off the inconceivable — they have continued to work, create and evolve
musically and artistically uninterrupted for 30 years. They Might Be
Giants have recorded 16 vital studio albums and remained an active
live act, touring across America, Europe, and Australia just last year.
Along they way TMBG released a few classics (Flood and Lincoln
immediately come to mind), made a couple of amazing albums for kids
(also classics), and pioneered pre-internet song sharing with its Dial-ASong hotline (R.I.P.). In celebration of their most recent 10 years of the
band’s remarkable run, TMBG are releasing Idlewild, a 17-song compilation that is neither a “best of: nor a rarities set. Rather, it is an ultravivid illustration of the band’s prodigious output and singular musical
vision from The Two Johns. From the spare, folkie chug of “Words Are
Like,” which originally appeared as part of They Might Be Giants’ internet-only collaboration with eMusic back in the pre-bust boom
days of 2001, to the propulsive, four-on-the-floor dance groove of
“You’re On Fire” from last year’s Manobo’s, the scope of Idlewild is
as wide as it is beguiling.
Well into his fourth decade as a singer-songwriter, Bob Mould –
the visionary songwriter / guitarist whose rage and melody fueled
the bands Husker Du and Sugar — is as relevant, ferocious, and
poignant as he has ever been on the compact epic that is Beauty
& Ruin. Instead of sitting idle and going quiet, Bob chooses to confront head-on and plow through the psychic turbulence that comes
with this stage of life. Much of Beauty & Ruin deals with the passing of Mould’s father in 2012, Bob’s struggle to come to terms with
it, himself, and his own identity and legacy, and repercussions of
all of the above on his ongoing relationships in the land of the living. “It’s a song cycle. A narrative. It’s nobody’s story but my own,”
says Mould. “I ran so fast from my past that I caught up with
myself. This album is acknowledging that and dealing with every
year getting a little tougher.” Beauty & Ruin is a twelve-track journey of loss, reflection, conciliation, and coming through the other
side. Beauty & Ruin is a challenging work of raw beauty—and
may well be Bob Mould’s finest work since his 1989 solo debut,
In little more than twelve months Chvrches have come out of nowhere
to be everywhere. There’s a lot to catch up on since they posted their
first song, “Lies”, online last May – a place in the top five of the BBC
Sound of 2013, sell out headline tours in the UK and US, and a triumphant, award-winning appearance at SXSW and a string of stadium dates with Depeche Mode, to name but a few. Lauren Mayberry,
Iain Cook and Martin Doherty have captured a sound that, in the tradition of all great musical alchemies, even surprised the band that made
it. “To me this is an indie rock band,” says Doherty. “Guitars are just
replaced with keyboards – we want it rough.” The band’s peculiar
magic lies in their juxtaposition of joy and doubt – these are robust, colorful pop songs whose lyrics reveal doubt and humanity, enhanced by
the purity of Mayberry’s voice. The Bones Of What You Believe is
characterized by a combination of passion and restraint, Cook and
Doherty often withholding their wizardry to let the melodies speak for
themselves. That subtle balance is the sound of experience – three musicians who are endlessly excited by the sound they have discovered, but
clearly in it for the long haul.
As 2013 came to a close and with his 80th birthday mere weeks
away, the godfather of British blues, John Mayall, quietly entered
a North Hollywood Studio with his band and walked out with one
of the finest and most personal records of his career, A Special
Life. This new album serves as further testament to John’s boundless talent, vitality and ever-dynamic personality. Along with his
accomplished band, he goes back to his roots with an eclectic
album centered in the blues but with diversions into rock and
Americana. There are three new songs penned by John and one
from band members Greg Rzab and Rocky Athas, as well as blues
favorites from some of the greats, including Albert King and Jimmy
Rogers. C.J. Chenier came to join the party on a couple of tracks
(including one written by his father, Zydeco legend Clifton Chenier),
adding an exciting extra dimension with his vocals and accordion.
Infused with good-natured, world-weary humor and a simmering
intensity, A Special Life is an aptly-titled treat from a musician
who’s certainly “been there” and “done that.”
Say Anything has been making odd, unclassifiable indie rock music
since they were 14 or 15 years old, playing strangely literate and
loud rock, characterized by what one might imagine if Larry David
fronted a Fugazi cover band with the members of Queen. Not that
that’s a stretch or anything. Hebrews is, by far, the most unique
record Say Anything has made. First off, the album features 16
guest vocalists, including Chris Conley (Saves The Day), Matt Pryor
(The Get Up Kids), Chauntelle DuPree-D’Agostino (Eisley), Keith
Buckley (Every Time I Die), Brian Sella (The Front Bottoms), Aaron
Weiss (meWithoutYou), Stacy King (Eisley), Bob Nanna (Braid),
Gareth and Kim Campesinos (Los Campesinos), Christie DuPree
(Merriment), Jeremy Bolm (TouchГ© AmorГ©), Tom DeLonge (blink182), Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra), Jon Simmons (Balance &
Composure) and Sherri DuPree-Bemis (Eisley). Furthermore,
Hebrews was made without guitars and puts string arrangements
where guitar riffs would normally reign. How punk is that?
Baton Rouge’s Lady Cam both writes and produces her own tracks.
In addition to her creative talents, she ghost writes for others and
has also played a part in directing the realty television show,
“Through the Eyes of a Promoter.” She has also been featured in
both online and print magazines such as On Wax, Street Report,
Barrio Magazine, Hood Critic Magazine and has opened for
acts such as Juvenile, Webbie, Cupid, Lil Flip, Lil Cali, Foxx and
Shawnna to name a few. Lady Cam won the “Best Female Rapper”
award at the On the Grind Magazine awards held in Florida,
2008. Get It Got It originally the album started off as an EP, but
was later upgraded to a full album due to the successful reception
of the title-track – a slow and sexy call to arms that brushes off
haters (she ain’t think and you drunk she is) and compels you to the
dancefloor. Girl Power straight from the Dirty South!
Tom The Lion’s music roars with a quiet mystery that gets more intense
and irresistible with every listen. His full-length album debut Sleep is
already shaping up as one of the most enticing and atmospheric
records of 2014. Early adopters have known the intangible allure of this
London-based singer-songwriter for two years, back to the 2011 emergence of two limited, highly collectible double vinyl 10-inch EPs, The
Adventures Of Tom The Lion. They were released exclusively via the
ever-influential support of Rough Trade, then compiled into an album
package, stunningly mounted in a wooden box set with the addition of
a live acoustic disc. Sleep takes Tom The Lion’s gauzy goodness even
further. Sure, his voice (a lovely blend of Bon Iver and Antony) and
sumptuous melodies are fantastic – in fact, one might argue that Sleep
is the best Coldplay album of 2014 – but what really sets Tom The Lion
apart from the pride is his sense of rhythm: Originally a drummer who
fell in love with laptop production, Tom’s layering of real and programmed percussion, not to mention his spare-yet-chunky rhythm guitars, make for delicately rickety structures that allow the choruses to
EXPLODE on impact. Sleep is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Singer/songwriter Nate Lacy spent the years since his teens exploring
his inner world and his connection with the universe at large. The result
of his efforts was a small collection of songs that, when finally recorded and released as Mimicking Birds in 2010, received glowing accolades from Pitchfork and the like. These days, Lacy is focusing his gaze
further outward, exploring what he calls “the infinite and the infinitesimal,” while also keeping lyrical watch on the crossroads where our digital future and our pastoral past bump up against each other. The rest
of the band, Aaron Hanson and Adam Trachsel, works to remain connected to the Birds’ of yore – emphasizing fingerpicked acoustic guitars, the sturdy tones of a stand-up bass, and restrained drums – while
pushing into the future as well. Eons feels as expansive as its title thanks
to the help of producer Jeremy Sherrer (The Gossip, 1776). He helped
weave some gorgeous electronic textures into the songs – listen for the
skittering programmed beat that helps carry “Owl Hoots” forward, or
the swells of keyboards that pull closing track “Movin’ On” towards an
�80s pop sunrise. Eons will transport, delight, and surprise you, even
through multiple listens.
Lighght is new second album from violinist, singer and composer
Kishi Bashi. Taking its title from the one-word poem by minimalist
poet Aram Saroyan, Lighght (pronounced “Light”) continues and
expands the sound of his critically acclaimed debut, 151a, which
earned Kishi Bashi the title of “Best New Artist” for 2012 by NPR.
151a was crafted over a four-year period while Kishi Bashi, the
pseudonym for artist K. Ishibashi, was touring and recording with
Regina Spektor, Sondre Lerche, and of Montreal (where he was a
full-time member and co-producer). In late 2012, Kishi Bashi
decided to focus solely on his own music and began composing the
new material, which led to Lighght. Though violin remains his primary instrument and songwriting muse, Kishi Bashi has expanded
his palette to include more diverse and nuanced instrumentation.
Bright and soaring avant-pop songs are prevalent on Lighght, as
are Eastern-tinged arrangements, gentle ballads, Philip Glassinspired improvisations, and more than a few moments that flirt
with �70s prog (in the tradition of ELO or Yes). If this sounds jarringly kaleidoscopic, that’s because it is. But it works.
Hailing Stockholm, Sweden sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg –
A.K.A. First Aid Kit – began composing songs as teenagers in 2007.
Success soon followed: “Emmylou,“ off The Lion’s Roar was chosen by
Rolling Stone as the “Single of the Year” in 2012 and found the duo taking multiple treks across the globe, making the late night rounds with spots
on Late Show with David Letterman, Conan, and sharing the stage with
artists including Jack White, Lykee Li, and Bright Eyes. With Stay Gold,
First Aid Kit have further honed their lush arrangements and blossomed
as vivid storytellers. Recorded at ARC studios in Omaha and produced by
Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk), First Aid Kit also enlisted The
Omaha Symphony Orchestra to play on the record, with arrangements by
Nate Walcott (Bright Eyes, Broken Bells, Rilo Kiley). They say of the recording process, “We took new directions and turns with the arrangements,
building them up and creating more dynamics, yet always following
where the songs wanted to go.” Judging by the spaghetti western strings
of “My Silver Lining” to the high-lonesome sound of “Cedar Lane” where
these songs need to go is with you – on the road – towards some beautiful unknown. You need this.
Hazel and Gus are two extraordinary teenagers who share an
acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps
them — and us – on an unforgettable journey. Their relationship is
all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a
cancer support group. The Fault In Our Stars, based upon the
number-one bestselling novel by John Green, explores the funny,
thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love. The film is
directed by Josh Boone, written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H.
Weber, and stars Laura Dern, Sam Tramell, Nat Wolff and Willem
Dafoe. The soundtrack for The Fault In Our Stars aims to become
unforgettable as well, thanks to it’s mix of under the radar cuts from
Jake Bugg, The Radio Dept., and Kodaline, as well as original
music from heavy hitters like Birdy, Charlie XCX and Grouplove.
As La Sera, Katy Goodman turned an aching heart into two marvelous,
alluring yet bittersweet break-up albums (2011’s self-titled debut and
2012’s Sees the Light). On her latest, though, the former Vivian Girl is
through crying. Hour of the Dawn sees Goodman waking up, throwing open the bedroom windows and welcoming the day. “I wanted the
new La Sera record to sound like Lesley Gore [the singer of the 1963
chart-topper, “It’s My Party”] fronting Black Flag,” Goodman says. “I
didn’t want it to be another record of me sad, alone in my room. I wanted to have fun playing music and writing songs with a band.” To back
her nimble bass lines and enchanting vocals, Goodman assembled a
new band helmed by guitarist Todd Wise baker. “We started playing
faster, louder and more aggressively,” Goodman says. “I wanted to get
that energy onto the album. The album was inspired by a lot of bands:
The Pretenders, Minor Threat, X, The Smiths, The Cars and more.“ Hour
of the Dawn, as its title suggests, heralds the beginning of a radiant
and energetic new chapter in La Sera’s evolution—the summit of
Goodman’s steady ascent to rock and roll queendom.
Owen Pallett was recently nominated for an Academy Award for
Best Original Score, alongside Arcade Fire, for their work on Spike
Jonze’s Her. While Pallett has served as a versatile collaborator
to many projects in both pop and art establishments — the list is
far too long to recite here, but you can count Arcade Fire and Final
Fantasy chief among them — he is equally beloved for his accessibility, for the way his art reflects & resonates with Mainstream Pop
Culture (such as it is), and the emotionally cathartic outlet his music
provides. Pallett’s new album, In Conflict, is full of love songs more specifically, songs about liminal states and our loved ones
locked in battle with them. “The record is meant to approach
�insanity’ in a positive way,” Owen says - emphasis on the ironizing scare quotes around singular notions of insanity. “Depression,
addiction, gender trouble, and the creative state are presented as
positive, loveable, empathetic ways of being. Not preferable, per
se, but all as equal, valid positions that we experience, which
make us human.” Brain Eno guests.
Grit, elemental rhythm, tight-as-a-drumhead playing, and a profound depth of feeling: these are the promises of a great soul band.
And St. Paul and the Broken Bones deliver on those promises. Half
the City is the compelling full-length debut from this Birmingham,
Alabama-based sextet, which has already created a maelstrom of
interest with their roof-raising live shows and self-released, foursong 2012 EP. Produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes, and
recorded and mixed in the storied R&B mecca of Muscle Shoals,
Alabama, Half the City harkens back to the region’s classic soul
roots while extending the form with electrifying potency. Half the
City presents the same vital, direct, emotionally affecting, and inthe-pocket sound that St. Paul and the Broken Bones deliver live,
where singer Paul Janeway’s unique and extroverted performing
style leaves the audience in thrall. Half the City was recorded liveto-tape and features all the grit, scrapes, and soul of a band playing right in front of you… As if their lives depended on it. Because
it does. Dig it.
because the internet is the highly-anticipated second studio album
by Childish Gambino. Also known for his acting, writing and
comedic work (including Girls, Community, and his own stand up
special on Comedy Central), Childish Gambino AKA Donald Glover
has admitted that because the internet is his “most honest work to
date”. because the internet is the follow-up to Gambino’s 2011
breakthrough debut album, CAMP, an album that cemented
Glover’s decision to pursue a serious career as a musician.
Gambino’s sophomore offering is no meager one. Packed with 19
tracks, the album features guest artists Azealia Banks, Chance The
Rapper and Jhene Aiko. because the internet is the answer to the
age old question, “Why are we here?” The Internet is the universal
language breaking down boundaries and connecting us all. On
because the internet Gambino grapples with modern day issues
while narrating a story. Childish Gambino might be funny (well, he
is), but his skills are no joke. The beats are huge, the delivery is
impeccable, and because the internet is his best joint yet. #youcanhazrealhiphop
The Burning of Rome began modestly as Adam Traub’s recording project in a laundry room in Oceanside, CA. It rapidly outgrew the fourtrack tape recorder on which it was born and demanded his complete
devotion. The quintet has conjured a sonic palate replete with everything from death pop bliss, galactic rock, gypsy punk cabaret, to indie
spaghetti western, and are now poised to harken the masses with Year
of The Ox. Famed Butthole Surfer and producer Paul Leary (U2,
Melvins, Sublime and Meat Puppets) fell in love with the band, leading
him to captain the production duties for Year Of The Ox, as well as
bring some wicked drummers into the mix, including Josh Freese (A
Perfect Circle / NIN), Dale Crover (Melvins / Nirvana) and Matt
Chamberlain (Pearl Jam / Of Montreal). Year of the Ox weaves the
three concepts of art, rebellion and life into a cascading aural braid.
Each song, disguised by infectious pop hooks and provocative allusions
to historical lore, elicits an intensely moving account of Traub’s interpretation of the human experience. That said, the San Diego Reader sums
up the band pretty well: “…if the Misfits took psychedelics and performed an ABBA tribute.” What are you waiting for?
Kan Wakan arrive with a striking breadth of vision that immediately
places them among modern pop’s most beguiling and inventive new
artists. Moving On, The Los Angeles-based group’s debut long-player,
is an enveloping amalgam of psychedelic soul, post rock, electronica,
noir jazz, 60s soundtrack stylings, and orchestral pop — all reshaped
and rearranged to create something both startlingly original and utterly
contemporary. The musical brainchild of composer/producer/multiinstrumentalist Gueorgui I. Linev, the Bulgarian-born musician originally
set out to create solely instrumental music inspired by his lifelong passion
for classical minimalism — but the involvement of chanteuse Kristianne
Bautista and producer/guitarist Peter Potyondy rapidly saw the project
grow in both scope and purpose. After a year spent experimenting, the
core group built upon a truly variegated palette of influences. Common
musical themes began to manifest, including a epic but cinematic deep
soul approach inspired by such icons as Bill Withers and Nina Simone.
“Forever Found” – the band’s first fully fleshed track – proved the aural
template from which Kan Wakan lit out on their exploration… Of what
Linev refers to as “the juxtaposition of song and symphony.”
Famous Graves, the title of the Cheap Girls’ highly anticipated fourth
album has two meanings. First: It’s a literal reference to the Michigan
band’s favorite tour activity (they’ve seen everyone’s from Bon Scott in
Perth to Ian Curtis near Manchester). The second meaning is a bit deeper: “The phrase started taking on the idea of common error,” explains
bassist/vocalist Ian Graham. “It refers to obvious ways to make mistakes” Fortunately, the Michigan trio hasn’t done much of that. Their last
album, 2012’s Giant Orange was the first album ever produced by
Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace, who agreed to work on it after playing a few dates with the band. Also, the band tours constantly – hitting
festivals and going out with road with bands you likely already love.
The band has drawn comparisons to 90s alterna-rock heavyweights
but, if ya wanna get really nerdy, imagine The Long Winters’ John
Roderick fronting Lotion. But whatever: Cheap Girls have found fans in
both the punk kids at Fest, and indie rock snobs for one simple reason:
They write incredible guitar rock that’s instantly hummable and endearing. And if “Slow Nod” doesn’t grab you right out the gate then, well,
you might be dead inside. You need this.
Trash Talk formed in Sacramento, CA formed in 2005 No Peace
is a promise and a threat. It’s the name of 32 minutes of recorded
concussions delivered by Trash Talk on Odd Future Records. It is
hardcore punk, it is hardcore hip-hop, it’s a way of telling you to
shut the fuck up if you’re try to pigeonhole it. Lee Spielman incites
the crowd like a Hun. The guitars and drums blister. The crowd
becomes a melee. There will probably be blood. It’s like if Black
Flag got pulled under the Timbo’s of M.O.P. If you got sent to the
firing squad, middle fingers up, I would recommend that you play
this. No Peace is music for the sake of aggression. Recorded in
New York City, this is the closest Trash Talk has come to capturing
the chaos on wax. Legendary hip-hop producer Alchemist contributes two filthy beats that Trash Talk drag through the gutter,
knuckles up. Drums like brass knuckles. A bonus track features King
Krule and Wiki from Rat King spitting rain on soft skulls.
In 2010, Rodney Crowell took a notion. He called up most of the band that
had played with him on his 1988 commercial breakthrough album
Diamonds & Dirt and got them together in a recording studio. Here it was,
two decades later. Bass player Michael Rhodes, drummer Eddie Bayers and
guitarist Steuart Smith had become Nashville session royalty. Crowell had
become one of the most admired songwriter/artists in America. But even
they don’t often take the opportunity to record like this. In a circle, facing
one another and truly hearing one another, with no headphones or glass
walls to separate them, they cut live as a band, with the honesty and nofixes spontaneity of the records that first inspired all of them as teenagers.
Before a full album’s worth of material was finished, other projects intervened, including Old Yellow Moon – his Grammy-winning collaboration
with Emmylou Harris – but once he got the band together again for one
more go Crowell knew he had something special. Tarpaper Sky begins
with “Long Journey Home,” whose archetypal folk title speaks to its ageless
theme of wanderlust and its uncomplicated melody. Then as “Fever On The
Bayou” segues into “Frankie Please,” we realize we’re listening to a pastoral masterpiece.
Rich Robinson, best known as the guitarist, songwriter, and driving force
behind The Black Crowes, stands ready to complete the solo artist evolution that he began ten years earlier. The Ceaseless Sight is an album
that represents the full maturation of Rich as a songwriter, a vocalist, and
a solo artist. A worldwide Black Crowes tour kept Robinson busy in
2013, but he found the time to return to Woodstock to record The
Ceaseless Sight. The album finds Robinson stepping solidly into his own
as a solo artist as he adds confident vocalist and lyricist to his accomplished musical resume. Like the two solo albums that preceded The
Ceasless Sight, Paper and A Crooked Sun, Robinson has been making a journey from a Southern RnB rocker to a craftsman of transcendent
Americana that’s both rooted in traditionalism yet wildly inventive. The
Ceasless Sight is brilliantly arranged and produced with Robinson’s
deft instrumentalism – a blend of electric and acoustic guitars – weaving
dense tapestries that eventually make way for his soaring voice. The
momentum of a song like “One Road Hill” is so compelling that you’ll be
stomping your feet in no time. The Ceasless Sight is startlingly good —
a true psychedelic roots rock masterpiece.
Dawn Golden, a solo electronic production and songwriting project helmed by Dexter Tortoriello of Houses, officially started in late
2010 when a series of Bandcamp demos caught Diplo’s attention
with their stark emotion and forward-thinking production. Quickly
signed to Mad Decent, Dawn Golden released its first EP, Blow, in
April 2011. The effort, which featured standouts like “Blacks” and
“White Sun,” garnered critical acclaim from NPR and Pitchfork.
Tortoriello then moved from Chicago to Los Angeles and started
recording what would become Still Life. Recorded over the last
three years at the Mad Decent studios in Los Angeles, Still Life
gains its stark emotional perspective through some of the most
unique production you’re likely to hear this year. There’s heavy
exploration of sonic texture, and Tortoriello uses frozen cut ups and
creative vocal editing to flip a traditionally futuristic sound into
something that oozes feeling. “I wanted the record to sound sterile
and futuristic, while at the same time pounding the entirety of suburban decay through a megaphone,” says Tortoiello. “Like if
American Beauty was set in the Tron world.” Right on.
Between the power pop melodies of early Saves the Day and the
hard driving folk rhythms of Fleetwood Mac lies Tigers Jaw, a
band who’s raw immediacy is infectious and intoxicating.
Shimmering organ textures, chunky guitar chords, and
male/female vocal harmonies show the Scranton, PA natives taking rural rock music from its legendary past to its vibrant future.
Tigers Jaw has a profound musical purity that is as equally stirring
in a basement of 40 people as it is in a club of 1,000. Charmer is
Tigers Jaw’s first LP in four years – and, for the band’s rabid cult of
fans, this has been much too long… But worth the wait. Unfamiliar?
The band’s first single, “Nervous Kids” is reminiscent of early
Superchunk and The Promise Ring – chunky poppy punk rock with
lyrics that are quite possibly more lacerating than the bands buzzsaw guitars.
As you may remember, Sage Francis declared a sudden retirement
from touring at the end of his “Li(f)e on the Road” world excursion
in 2010. In reality, Francis removed himself from the non-stop grind
of the tour circuit in hopes of developing a healthier domestic situation. He did not achieve this goal, as numerous songs on his first
album in four years, Copper Gone, clearly illustrate (some more
overtly than others). It features beats from long-time music affiliates
Buck 65, Alias, Cecil Otter, Reanimator, and more. “Vonnegut
Busy” is Copper Gone in a nutshell — transitioning seamlessly
from socio-economic issues to personal politics, all while being
punctuated by the project’s overall mission statement: “When it
seems like you’re going through hell…keep going.” The reference
to Kurt Vonnegut in the title is accompanied by a quote from the
satirical writer in one of the song’s 3 sub-choruses: “Of all the
words of mice and men, the saddest are, �it might have been.’”
Copper Gone finds Francis still bursting at the seams with rage
and bold poetry. It’s good to have him back.
As of lately, Toronto has been the breeding grounds for some of the
best punk rock bands around. The scene is both a blessing and a
curse. There seem to be 1,000+ loud rock bands in this city vying for
attention, but when you are able to cut through the static, everyone
seems to take notice. This is the case for Toronto four-piece, PUP.
What sets PUP apart in this booming scene is their ability to fuse raw
punk energy with catchy earworms, big hooks, and scream-along
choruses. Their songs are loud and fast, equal parts unchecked energy and calculated arrangements, with hair-pin turns, raging guitar
riffs, and an overload of gang vocals. Finally, PUP’s debut full-length
– recorded by legendary producer Dave Schiffman (Weezer, The
Bronx, Vampire Weekend, Rage Against The Machine) – is upon us
and it’s just as loud and raucous as the band itself: “We recorded
mostly live off the floor,” says frontman Stefan Babcock. “There are
a lot of mistakes on the album, but they’re real and awesome, and
it sounds like us, playing our songs. That’s all I’ve ever wanted out
of a punk rock record.” You’ll feel the same way.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, songwriter, and legendary
guitarist Dave Mason has been making music since the age of 18
when he teamed up with fellow England native Steve Winwood to
form the band Traffic. Since then he has penned dozens of hits,
and has been linked with numerous other members of rock and roll
elite, including Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson,
Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills,
Rita Coolidge, Leon Russell, Ron Wood and Mama Cass Elliot.
Mason has been performing to sold-out audiences for years and
has sold millions of recordings worldwide. You might say he’s a bit
of a legend… A legend in a reflective mood: Mason’s new album
Future’s Past is an examination and re-interpretation of his greatest hits, including “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” “World in Changes,” and
“Sad and Deep as You” as well a brand new song, “That’s
Freedom,” and an inspired cover of the Robert Johnson classic
“Come On In My Kitchen.”
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