Hamilton Leithauser, Black Hours:
The Walkmen frontman makes his Sinatra record. Winston Cook-Wilson says:
Black Hours, Leithauser’s debut solo album, makes it clear that the singer and guitarist is more responsible than one might expect for the bent of his former band’s songwriting (the second half of the album delivers largely superb non-Walkmen Walkmen songs — particularly “I Don’t Need Anyone” and “The Smallest Splinter”). But it also indulges playful, more decadent tendencies which might have been out of place on one of the band’s LPs. The detailed arrangements lend grandiosity to the songs on Black Hours. Even the most conventional rock numbers are bolstered by meandering mallet lines, intricately-detailed backing vocal arrangements or kitschy handclap choruses.
Miranda Lambert, Platinum:
Another solid entry in Lambert’s increasingly strong and deep catalog. She’s been skewing slightly more pop with each new record, but her lyrics remain as strong as ever, and her indomitable spirit comes through every song. RECOMMENDED
Fucked Up, Glass Boys:
On their fourth LP, Damian Abraham and co. take a break from pushing boundaries. Steven Hyden says:
Fucked Up’s fourth album Glass Boys could be described as a back-to-basics move. But honestly, in lieu of making another rock opera, how could Glass Boys be anything but “basic” in relation to 2011′s landmark David Comes to Life? Weighing in at just 10 songs and 42 minutes, without a unifying concept connecting the tracks, Glass Boys is the work of a band taking a break from pushing boundaries in order to reaffirm a familiar identity. This identity is centralized in the push-pull tension between lead singer Damian Abraham and guitarist Mike Haliechuk. On David, Abraham grounded the grandiosity of Haliechuk’s six-string symphonies with his hoarse but empathetic bark, creating a unique arena rock/basement show equilibrium. On Boys, Haliechuk has scaled back his “wall of sound” ambitions, and with Abraham’s throat sounding more charred than ever, the final result is surprisingly stunted for a Fucked Up record.
Alice Boman, EP II:
A stunning, lovely, intimate record from this Swedish singer. Katy Henriksen says:
Alice Boman, a singer-songwriter based in Malmö, Sweden, stirs elemental sensations with her homemade recordings: cool hardwood floors against bare feet, a window letting in springtime breeze. Fragile yet forthright, she sings in a delicate voice of longing, loneliness and wandering, framed by masterly layered keys, slowly-resonating guitar and only the slightest hint of scratchy, far-away percussion. It is a well-worn and personal comfort she offers, rare in an age of overstimulation. “I want you more than I need you/ I need you so bad/ Are you coming back?/ Are you coming back?/ I’m waiting,” she sings on “Waiting,” and it’s as though you’re right there, lying on her unmade bed. The intimacy lingers throughout, never succumbing to monotony or formula.
Morrissey, Vauxhall & I (20th Anniversary Definitive Master):
Morrissey’s follow-up to the glammy Your Arsenal was this lush, lovely record, which gets a 20th Anniversary reissue today. Barry Walters says:
Although Vauxhall gets a sensitive sonic upgrade, the main attraction is a previously unreleased ’95 set recorded at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane that’s far more aggressive. It’s generally faster too, and not just on tracks like “Billy Budd” and “Spring-Heeled Jim.” Moz and band rip through the “London,” a B-side of the Smiths, whose catalog their leader had studiously avoided. This intensity spills into the audience: During “You’re the One for Me, Fatty,” the performer omits most lyrics, likely from being fan-handled: Hear him conclude, “That was very enjoyable” between gasps for air.
Inga Copeland, Because I’m Worth It:
I’m a huge, huge fan of Inga Copeland. Formerly one half of Hype Williams, her work has become stranger and more interesting since she’s gone solo. Because I’m Worth It is full of fascinating, oddly-constructed electronic music that showcases Copeland’s singular sensibilities. RECOMMENDED
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Only Run:
Clap Your Hands’ debut, whether they like it or not, became synonymous with the early ’00s blog gold rush, and it’s overshadowed each of their subsequent releases. They soldier forward on this, their fourth record, and get an assist from The National’s Matt Berninger on “Coming Down.”
Gold-Bears’ sophomore album Dalliance brightens the band’s corners even as it grapples with bleaker themes lyrically, all without leaving behind Underwood’s time-honed noise-pop aesthetic. On opener “Yeah, Tonight” he duets with Emma Kupa of defunct London indie-poppers Standard Fare, and the lyrics turn on the bracing admission: “I guess I never loved you anyway.” A painful breakup again turns into a nervy burst of energy on piano-laced “For You.” And within Gold-Bears’ relatively narrow niche, there’s still a welcome stylistic breadth, as evidenced on the blurry, percussion-free “I Hope They’re Right.” If the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s new one was a little too polished for you, or Fear of Men’s a bit too languid, this could what you were looking for.
The Orwells, Disgraceland:
That band who raised a ruckus on Letterman deliver an album of banging, clanging rock & roll. Strains of Southern garage, paired with big, roaring choruses.
Soundgarden, Superunknown: Deluxe Edition: Everything old is new again! Breakthrough record from Seattle hard rock band returns in an expanded edition, coinciding with the band’s recent reactivation.
Cabaret Voltaire, #7885: Electropunk to Technopop:
All-encompassing compilation of groundbreaking electro-noise group Cabaret Voltaire follows them from their garrulous early days through to their mellower late period.
Curtis Harvey, The Wheel:
Lovely, gentle folk music that foreground’s Harvey’s rich, oaky voice and his delicate banjo playing.
Echo & the Bunnymen, Meteorites:
This is a new Echo & the Bunnymen record! Unlike the wiry post-punk that characterized their earliest releases, this one is bigger and more swell-chested and anthemic. Do with that information what you will.
Devon Williams, Gilding the Lily:
Spaced-out, delirious indie pop characterized by sparkling guitars and easy-rolling melodies situates this one squarely between indiepop and singer/songwriter.
Donny & Joe Emerson, Still Dreamin’ Wild: The Lost Recordings 76-81: The story of Donny and Joe Emerson’s rediscovery is a fascinating one: two brothers recorded an album at home on their farm, and it essentially fell through the cracks until Light in the Attic found and reissued it in 2012. Still Dreamin’ Wild collects the demos that didn’t make their debut, Dreamin’ Wild, for a more personal look at the brothers Emerson.
Ex-Pete & the Pirates serve up an album of beautiful, bright British art rock. Victoria Segal took a cable car ride with them recently, and they discussed the record, in between bouts of fearing for their lives.
Bob Mould, Beauty & Ruin:
Mould seems fully invigorated by plugging back in. Steven Hyden says:
Helped in no small part by a stellar backing band composed of Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster and longtime bassist Jason Narducy, Mould proves that he’s in a class by himself when it comes to pounding out acidic confessionals. In the case of Beauty & Ruin, Mould’s angst is derived from the loss of his father and a broader struggle with his own mortality. But where Mould’s previous work was often distinguished by irreconcilable despair, songs like “The War” are balanced on Beauty with relatively serene tracks like “Forgiveness” and the album-closing “Fix It.” The music, meanwhile, is cranked to the red, and just hearing the familiar hum of Mould’s axe on the glowering opening track “Low Season” will be enough to send loyalists into hysterics.
Lee Fields & the Expressions, Emma Jean:
On his latest LP, Lee Fields takes on more measured and contemplative Southern-style soul grooves. Dan Epstein says:
Emma Jean was mixed and partly recorded at Easy Eye Sound, the Nashville Studio owned by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (Auerbach also penned “Paralyzed” for the album), and the Southern-fried approach clearly fits the North Carolina-born Fields. Just check out his performance on the cover of J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia” — which stays true to the arrangement of the 1971 original while significantly bolstering its emotional impact — or on fine originals like the late-night lover’s plea “Eye to Eye” and the country-soul weeper “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”
Jon Hassell, City: Works of Fiction:
A three-disc reissue of Hassell’s 1990 work, which includes a 1989 performance mixed live by Brian Eno, and a collection of demos and remixes. Ned Raggett says:
Hassell has a quizzical intensity that never feels totally familiar or settled, and City: Works of Fiction revels in its liminal state between the acoustic and the electric. Sometimes, as on “Pagan,” it’s immediate, sketching out initial melodies as well as distressed shadings. His soloing, mixed with his rhythmic overdubs on “Ba-Ya D” is beautiful, while the song’s distant beats reach toward the idea of ‘fiction’ in the album title, somewhere familiar yet not quite real. On the wonderful “Tikal,” one of the shortest songs but one that almost begs to be extended, he shimmers around a percussion pattern with heavy echo, suggesting mystery with every note.