White Lung, Deep Fantasy: Breakthrough album from long-simmering punk band is a white-hot blast of power and heat, and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Beverly Bryan says:
On their third album Deep Fantasy, Vancouver punks White Lung hit with elemental force. Combining the punch-through-drywall energy of ’80s hardcore with the looming shadows of death rock, they unlock a new intensity, giving greater heft to frontwoman Mish Way’s down-in-the-abyss lyrics. Way’s words convey animosity and self-destruction with unusual focus. Opener “Drown with the Monster” looks addiction in the eye, while “Snake Jaw” wrestles with the demon of body-image issues. Her bellowed lines shoot off like signal flares, arcing high above the roar of the guitar, and anthems such as “Lucky One,” have refrains that pound in your head like the aftermath of a malt liquor binge.
Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence: The singer everyone loves to hate is back with a whole new batch of torch songs. Nicole Sia says:
taken as a whole, Ultraviolence is her most feminist work to date. It presents, without judgment, the ecstasy and agony of one woman’s choices — a bird’s-eye view of a woman suffocating, then escaping from under the weight of her man. She treats her former self tenderly: “The Other Woman is perfect where her rival fails,” she sings. But that was then. Now she’s got a cool boyfriend in her band, “but he’s not as cool as me.” And she’s out for money, power and glory. Hallelujah.
Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour: The British soon-to-be superstar has a little too much space for indulgence on his debut LP. Rich Juzwiak says:
The guy has strong pipes that he uses in many ways (flutter, wail, thrust, swoop, bellow)…except to hold a consistent mood for a single bar most of the time. His interpretations of his own words sound aimless, and it makes for a jarring experience, given how polite and easy on the ears his backing tracks are. That discord is about as close to having an edge that Smith gets. “My debut album is just a diary from a lonely 21-year-old,” he recently told Digital Spy, and that’s exactly what it sounds like — mostly vague, lovelorn moping that varies only when Smith lapses into self-congratulation.
The Antlers, Familiars: The Brooklyn trio has come a long way since their 2009 debut. Brian Howe says:
The sound of the album is glittering and dreamy and full of studio flourishes — like the stereo-panned moans in “Hotel” or the insectile whirr chewing away at “Doppelganger.” But the details highlight rather than distract from the songwriting: On “Palace,” Michael Lerner’s characteristically simple, sound percussion anchors a lovely piano melody and a softly sweeping trumpet, while Peter Silberman’s voice alternately spikes high and plunges down into a naturalistic register.
Lone, Reality Testing: British musician Matt Cutler bridges the gap between the dance floor and the bedroom on his latest LP as Lone. Maura Johnston says:
Some of the tracks on Reality Testing serve as clearly-defined callbacks to other eras. The brooding “Jaded” brings to mind the kind of downtempo tracks that low-lit lounges favored in the early ’00s, although its twinkling arpeggios and come-down coda add a knowing edge to the proceedings; “Meeker Warm Energy” suggests a scorching, lazy day in pre-gentrification Bushwick. Cutler has talked about being particularly inspired by Detroit techno, Chicago house and ’90s hip-hop, and he’s a devoted follower of the much-beloved Detroit producer J Dilla. His work makes plain the many links between dance music and hip-hop’s building blocks; MC slash fashion plate Azealia Banks has borrowed his “Pineapple Crush” and “Aquamarine” for her own tracks, and the low-in-the-mix rhymes scattered throughout Reality Testing suggest more than a few jumping-off points for people who might follow suit.
Various Artists, Soul Jazz Records Present Calypso: Musical Poetry In The Caribbean 1955-69: Another perfect collection from Soul Jazz, this one focused on bright, bouncing calypso. The compilation spends the genre’s prime years, and contains the usual blend of topical subject matter and free-and-easy arrangements. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Various Artists, Horse Meat Disco, Vol. 4: Latest installment in the vaunted Horse Meat Disco series features tracks by Opal, L’amour, Joey Negro & More.
The Knife, Shaken-Up Versions: Remix album from our favorite record of last year reinvents songs from that record — as well as a few other classics from across the Knife’s catalog — for versions that are by turn dancier and more experimental.
Greys, If Anything: Roiling hardcore-informed rock & roll from a band that wears their influences on their sleeve (the first single from this record was called “Guy Picciotto.”)
The Felice Brothers, Favorite Waitress: New one from the Felice’s is full of the pastoral Americana and rollicking alt-country for which they’ve become known.
Venetian Snares, My Love is a Bulldozer: Latest from adventurous electronic music maven is a real shocker, venturing more into avant-garde classical music and weirdo, strangely-structured opera-like songs. Like if Scott Walker worked with Matmos.
Soft Pink Truth, Why Do the Heathen Rage?: Matmos’s Drew Daniel takes on black metal in a way that’s equal parts loving tribute and mindful rebuke. Andy Battaglia says:
After an opening invocation of a poem from a book titled Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, “Black Metal” unspools as a bouncy and intense electronic take on a song by Venom, with a beat that bashes like a ’90s warehouse rave. “Sadomatic Rites” gets lighter and bouncier, with a brisk club beat skipping beneath growled vocals of words originally by the Finnish black-metal band Beherit (“…fornicate on Christian altars, living in eternal lust, sodomites and blasphemers…”). “Ready to Fuck” turns a song about a “penetrator hammer” into a spangly disco track with sly, wry orgasmic moans by Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. The whole album plays these sorts of smart and crafty games with source material that Daniel clearly likes and understands but holds out as in deep need of critique. He makes that critique fun and musically flexible too, which makes it the lessons all the more lasting.
Black Pus/Oozing Wound, Split LP: I mean of course. Two bands who were basically meant to be together share this brief, clanging EP. Black Pus is a little more experimental, Oozing Wound is big and guitar-driven and booming.
Cerebral Ballzy, Jaded & Faded: I’m going to be honest and say that I’m really tripped up on the band name on this one. If you can get past that, you’ll find some spit-shined punk rock with Richard Hell-style sneering vocals and grinding guitars.
Doll Food, Marrow Deep: Another great, weird outing from the fantastic Not Not Fun label. This one is more atmosphere than song, with gauzy electronics that pool out slowly. Eerie, layered vocals make this one sound like a more obtuse Julianna Barwick in spots.
Willie Nelson, Band of Brothers: New batch of country songs from Willie, all of ‘em the kind of great, rustic, unadorned country music for which he’s become famous. His voice is as sturdy as ever, and the instrumentation is impressively restrained throughout.
Meridian Brothers, Salvadora Robot: The Colombian band’s music glows with effervescence and ease. Andy Battaglia says:
“Somos Los Residentas” tumbles through flurries of horns, acres of percussion and vocals that emerge in frantic blurts. It’s as if Talking Heads were sped up two or three times over. The music is laced with the out-there weirdness of Flying Lizards but steeped in the sounds of salsa, merengue, reggaeton, psychedelic Latin rock, Ethiopian jazz and more. Every song is a distinct jumble, but all share a sense of madcap imagination. “De Mi Caballo, Como Su Carne” slows down (relatively speaking) for a spell of salsa vertigo, while the instrumental “El Gran Pajaro de los Andes” flitters with guitars that are heavily flanged and effected. There’s enough creativity in those two songs for ten projects, and they are no more or less creative than the other eight.
Shark?, Summer Ale: Trio of rickety indie rock songs built around silver-thread guitar lines. Last one is a GBV cover.