Spoon, They Want My Soul: Britt Daniel and co.’s latest is a postmodern refinement of all that came before. Marc Hogan says:
They Want My Soul, Spoon’s most generous album so far, has plenty of definitively “Spoon” moments. The title track — remarkably, the first in Spoon’s catalog — bristles with their trademark recalcitrance (the lyrics even reference the brutish title character from “Jonathan Fisk,” off of 2002′s Kill the Moonlight). Crisp drums, crunchy guitars, raspily melodic vocal hooks that go “on and on and on”: The Spoon sound is all here. But the effects-pedal squalls, the painterly whistles, acoustic strums and orchestral Psycho-drama of “Knock Knock Knock,” are reminders of producer Dave Fridmann’s involvement. And the synth-pop romantic grandeur of finale “New York Kiss” drives home that Alex Fischel, of Daniel’s non-Spoon band Divine Fits, has joined on keys. The Spoon sound is an unstable proposition.
Beck, Song Reader: A few years back, Beck released an album as sheet music, with the general gist being that there was no “definitive” version of any of these songs; you buy the book and make your own version. Well, now there are definitive versions — sort of. Jack White, Norah Jones, Jarvis Cocker, Laura Marling and Beck himself turn up here to flesh out the compositions.
Christopher Denny, If the Roses Don’t Kill Us: Rarely does a recovery album sound so hopeful or quite so celebratory. Stephen M. Deusner says:
Denny’s songs are less about the past and more about the future, as he rights himself and imagines the happy moments that await him. Rarely does a recovery album sound so hopeful or quite so celebratory. It’s a tone that suits his unique voice, a barrelhouse falsetto that combines the dignity of Roy Orbison with the high-flying range of Slim Whitman. Despite the years of abuse and wear, it still sounds robust and expressive, especially on the tall tale “God’s Height” and the aggressively hopeful “Watch Me Shine.”
Naomi Punk, Television Man: The newest from Pacific Northwest punks Naomi Punk is musically disjointed, skittish and askew, but also beautiful. The gave Jamie Peck the lowdown on their grim worldview in this interview. Of the album, Sam Lefebvre says:
The conventional wisdom of songcraft extols the virtues of natural chord progressions and seamless rhythmic arrangements — truisms that Naomi Punk flippantly rebuffs. Television Man, the Pacific Northwest act’s follow-up to 2012′s The Feeling 12-inch, is musically disjointed, skittish and askew. The effect isn’t to dazzle with technicality or to confound with deliberate idiosyncrasies, but to take listeners on a circuitous ride to the song’s exalted musical peaks. It’s a ceaselessly forceful record, full of low-end blows that are felt more intensely due to the fact that the arrival schedule is so fickle. It’s also occasionally beautiful, namely when sustained vocal lines cascade across the syncopated bludgeoning of every crescendo.
The Operators, EP 1: New project from Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Divine Fits takes his eerie knack for pop hooks and applies it to synth-driven new wave. Surprise! This is pretty good.
Adult Jazz, Gist Is: Debut from UK quartet is full of strange, acute-angled songs and swooping vocals. There are traces of Dirty Projectors, but this feels more meditative and subtle.
Bear in Heaven, Time is Over One Day Old: The Brooklyn band cuts away from their previously expansive and bombastic sound. Ryan Reed says:
Overall, Time is the band’s quietest, most meditative album, and also the most subtle: “The Sun and the Moon and the Stars” is transfixing and mantra-like; on the sparse crawl of “Memory Heart,” new drummer Jason Nazary avoids his snare, his booming toms snaking around Adam Wills’s bass and a funhouse synth that springs like a mouth-harp. Philpot’s vocal hook on “Way Off” isn’t so much the song’s two-note melody, but the way he articulates it, accentuating the sensual darkness in the interval. These songs have a newfound ebb and flow, a sense of tension and release.
Billy Joe Shaver, Long in the Tooth: Latest from legendary country singer proves he’s not mellowing in his old age. His voice is still sandpaper-rough, and the music is righetous, ragged classic country.
Wovenwar, Wovenwar: The remaining members of As I Lay Dying successfully reinvent themselves. Jon Wiederhorn says:
As I Lay Dying’s old fans will likely still bond with the chugging, rapid-fire pace and shouty passages of songs like “Profane” and “Archers,” but even these are given a more commercial facelift that’s more All That Remains and less Black Dahlia Murder. Elsewhere, Blay temper Wovenwar’s turbulence and encourages them to craft more delicate and intricate passages on tracks like the fist-in-the sky “All Rise” and the evocative, acoustic-driven “Father/Son.” Most significantly, instead of striving to craft a straightforward hard-rock record in the vein of Altar Bridge or Five Finger Death Punch, the members take advantage of their newfound freedom to explore various textures and timbres — often mid song — even if it means complicating simple, direct melodies with abrupt tempo changes, dual guitar harmonies and unexpected stylistic shifts. Instead of going for the quick payoff, it seems Wovenwar is aiming for the more artistic rewarding approach. Even if it wasn’t preconceived it’s a good move.
Nachtmystium, The World We Left Behind: If this is the real post-Black Meddle Nachtmystium, it might be safe to start ignoring them. Says Brad Sanders:
It’s difficult to tell if Blake Judd is no longer interested in black metal or if he has simply forgotten how to write it. The guitar tone here is unmistakably Nachtmystium’s, but it’s too often forced into clumsy pop-metal structures, as on the limp “Fireheart” and the nü-metal-tinged “Tear You Down.” The electronic flourishes that many found inviting on the Black Meddle records return as apparently random bleeps and bloops, useless window dressing to already lean compositions. The female vocals on “Epitaph for a Dying Star” sound like Judd’s attempt to recreate his beloved Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky,” but his own distorted monotone disrupts the flow.
Amanda X, Amnesia: Guitar pop with plenty of gristle, topped with the roaring vocals of Kat Bean. Rough edges abound — that’s a good thing — but Bean’s laser-beam voice cuts a path right down the middle.
Twin Peaks, Wild Onion: Their second LP follows in Smith Westerns’ feel-good garage-rock footsteps. Zach Kelly says:
Wild Onion is a frontloaded affair, its first half brimming with plenty of bite-sized, comfort-foody guitar-rock touchstones, like the Cali-fried Thin Lizzy of opener “Found a New Way” followed by the glammy, high-energy highlight “Strawberry Smoothie.” Paisley-patterned British Invasion (“Mirror of Time”), a punchy Ty Segall-styled ripper (“Fade Away”) and even a blacklit make-out interlude (“Strange World”) all follow along nicely. And while Twin Peaks aren’t rewriting any rules here, they have style to spare. But Wild Onion‘s back half feels less varied and more generic, a cheerful blur of tracks that, despite being fun (“Telephone,” “Good Lovin’”), are mostly forgettable. Chalk it up to the fact that, at 40 minutes, Wild Onion slightly outstays its welcome, and yields only a handful of keepers.
Belphegor, Conjuring the Dead: The Austrian extreme metal band gets a makeover. Jon Wiederhorn says:
Unlike the sprawling Blood Magick Necromance, Conjuring the Dead is challenging, but direct, each song lasting an average of just under four minutes — which is part of the reason the album impacts with such vital force. Through years of trial and error, Belphegor have learned how to use diversity and dynamics to bend your ear and keep you hooked through a wild ride.