Cloud Nothings, Here and Nowhere Else: The latest salvo from Dylan Baldi & Co. is just as scalding as its predecessor, but puts more of an emphasis on melody and massive hooks. No surprise: this one is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Matthew Fritch says:
On Here and Nowhere Else Dylan Baldi’s vocals are more even-keeled but the guitars are pure id, an aggressive rush of growling, mid-level distortion double-tracked in all the sweet spots and ducking under rapid-fire drums. The results toe the line between Fat Wreck Chords pop-punk circa 1994 and something darker; minutes into “Pattern Walks,” the shredding begins to resemble Sonic Youth. Lyrics are, to be kind, less considered (somehow, every song seems to contain a variation on the line “I don’t know what you’re tryin’ to say”), and paired with the band’s headlong bashing, the only constant here is angst. With regard to the album title, it might be asked: Are we there yet? Considering the speed with which Cloud Nothings have evolved so far, it’s not likely.
Mac DeMarco, Salad Days: The polarizing guitar-pop songwriter uses humor and bemused detachment in his oft-beautiful, always slippery songs. Steven Hyden says of this RECOMMENDED release:
Detractors tend to regard him as some kind of bullshit artist, a quintessential hipster doofus slumming it under the ironic guise of a hippie dirtbag who gleefully covers Limp Bizkit songs in concert. (That Alfred E. Neuman smirk of his doesn’t help matters.) But what those people miss is what many people missed about two of DeMarco’s favorite artists and aesthetic antecedents, Jonathan Richman and Harry Nilsson. Like those iconic, pranksterish singer-songwriters, DeMarco does not recognize “serious” and “trivial” as binary opposites. Rather, he uses humor and bemused detachment to hint at a deeper pathos he can’t (or won’t) articulate in his oft-beautiful, always slippery songs.
Nickel Creek, A Dotted Line: After a seven-year hiatus, the bluegrass/folk trio is back with a new record. Hilary Saunders says:
Each of the three members of Nickel Creek have kept busy with other endeavors — Chris Thile has maintained an immensely successful career as a composer and performer, while the siblings Sara and Sean Watkins have pursued solo and collaborative projects of their own. It’s remarkable that even after abandoning the progressive-bluegrass revolution it pioneered, Nickel Creek returns and still holds its own.
Horace Andy, Get Wise: Phenomenal. The short story is that the fantastic Pressure Sounds label discovered a record that the amazing Horace Andy cut with legendary reggae producer Phil Pratt that hadn’t been released outside Jamaica — and had barely been released there. And, here it is. What more could you ask for? Incredible, limber musicianship plus Andy’s intoxicating voice. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Pilgrim, II: Void Worship: Conjuring multiple shades of despair and doom on their HIGHLY RECOMMENDED second full-length. Jon Wiederhorn says:
For Pilgrim, vocals are just elements to paint stormy scenes, not the main ingredients. II: Void Worship is primarily about “the power of the riff,” and by combining rhythms as solid as gothic cathedrals with celestial atmospheres, Pilgrim create soundtracks that keep imaginations flowing. As enjoyable as the shorter songs are, it’s the epic numbers that best showcase Pilgrim as traveling minstrels in a land of danger and deceit.
Band of Skulls, Himalayan: The first song on this has a central riff that’s eerily similar to the one from Uncle Acid & the Deadbeat’s “Poison Apple.” That should give you a good idea what to expect here. Big, riff-driven rock ‘n’ roll is the order of the day on the third record from this UK group. There’s a bit of a strut and swagger to them — like if the White Stripes were more of a middle America bar band?
Cyndi Lauper, She’s So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration: I mean, this one’s a no-brainer. Reissue of straight-up classic breakthrough album from Cyndi Lauper that redefined New Wave and gave us a boatload of new classics to boot — chief among which is “Time After Time,” which is as gorgeous today as it was when it was released. Believe me when I say you’ll be surprised at how well this one has held up. Also the demo version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” that leads Disc 2 is kind of incredible. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Mobb Deep, The Infamous Mobb Deep: This one’s pretty confusing. First, the backstory: Hampered by a feud that briefly separated the Queens duo, The Infamous — as its title implies — is a conscious effort to reclaim both the sound and the tone of the album that established Mobb Deep in the mid ’90s (after a disastrous outing on 50 Cent’s G-Unit record, about which the less said, the better). It’s a double album, containing one disc of new material and one disc of outtakes from the recording sessions for the original Infamous in 1995. So, how does it work out? Pretty Mixed! The inclusion of monumental tracks like “Eye for an Eye” and “Get it in Blood,” with their grainy, menacing old-school production only serve to show up the chintzier production on the first disc of new tracls. On the plus side, Havoc and Prodigy sound more engaged than ever, and their commitment to the material is almost enough to raise it above its sonic shortcomings. So, you know, your results may vary.
Architecture in Helsinki, Now + 4eva: Brand-new batch of micro-synth-pop from longtime practitioners of the same. Bright and buoyant, with a few disco-derived rhythms and a candy-gloss over everything.
Ausmuteants, Amusements: Excellent record from Aussie cut-ups dishes out synth-powered post-punk — think Devo meets Gang of Four and you’re getting close. There’s a ferocity and velocity to these songs that you don’t often find in synth-based rock bands — the music here cuts and swipes and slices, and is punk rock to its rotten core. It’s also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
White Hinterland, Baby: The latest outing from Casey Dienel is her moodiest and most evocative to date. Dienel’s vocals betray the influence of R&B, but the songs’ arrangements are odd and obtuse — “Dry Mind” chops her voice to ribbons and scatters it over a stuttering rhythm track. “David” is slow-moving and ethereal. Baby is a brave, strange record, one worth investigating.
Manchester Orchestra, Cope: Roiling, black-cloud rock ‘n’ roll that is impressively uncompromising — the guitars are knife-edged and nasty, and the whole thing packs a mighty visceral impact. It’s heavy lyrically, too, dealing with loss and belief in turbulent times.
Cauldron Black Ram, Stalagmire: A groovy, doomy head-trip, this album manages to combine elements of death, doom and, riff-wise, NWOBHM, making for a record that’s impressively diverse and engaging. RECOMMENDED
Smoke DZA, Dream Zone Achieve: Latest from Harlem rapper boasts production that ranges from uber-modern minor-key, synths to dusky sample-based tracks; it’s the latter that works best, serving as a perfect foil to DZA’s tough, on-the-beat rhyme style. The album mostly snubs commercial impulses, creating something dark claustrophobic, firmly entrenched in its own low-light universe.
Arc Iris, Arc Iris: New project from Joice Adams of the Low Anthem is delicate and intricately-arranged; there’s a clear debt to folk and country, but to classify this merely in those terms is to sell it short. Songs like “Singing So Sweetly” boast a kaleidoscope of sound, from Adams’ multi-layered voice to psyched-out horns and strings. Faint nods toward jazz and chamber music make this one an intriguing puzzle all around.
The Wild Ones, Keep it Safe: Delicate synthpop that pulses and blinks. The secret weapon is the childlike vocals of Danielle Sullivan — her delivery makes each song feel tender and angelic.
Kaiser Chiefs, Education, Education, Education & War: Did this band always sound like Styx, and I just missed it? This band is not my jam, but maybe it’s yours. The pomp of ’80s FM rock, repackaged for today. Good album title, though.