New This Week: Angel Olsen, St. Paul & the Broken Bones and More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 02.18.14 in Spotlights

Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire for No Witness: THIS ALBUM IS OUTSTANDING. This tough, sinewy batch of songs scraps any of the softness found on Olsen’s last record in favor of plenty of snarl and spit. It’s HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Stephen M. Deusner talked to Olsen for us here. Of the record, Grayson Haver Currin says:

Since her debut, Olsen’s language has grown more exact, her pen more certain. “I feel so much at once that I could scream,” she sings on “Stars,” from the edge of a storm. “I wish I had the voice of everything.” Olsen’s new band helps her get closer than ever to her goal: After the minimal Strange Cacti, 2012′s Half Way Home featured pedal steel trots and R&B shuffles. Burn Your Fire, produced by John Congleton, pinballs from long gothic ruminations to proper rock ‘n’ roll outbursts, from private solo strums to radiant full band orchestration. It is a proper, wonderful arrival.

Matthew Barlow, Sun Shower: I am really happy releases from the Preservation label have started showing up here! Briefly: Preservation is an Australian label specializing in beautiful, slow-moving, haunting ambient music. This Matthew Barlow album is just devastating in its beauty, expanding bands of sound that are soothing and hypnotic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Talk West, Black Coral Spring: Also on Preservation comes this stunner, an album of beautiful, slowly-unspooling guitar-based songs that have an almost palpable sense of sadness and stillness at their center. If you can’t tell from the absolutely heartbreaking song linked above, this is truly beautiful, lovingly-constructed music, as tender and crushing as a final goodbye. I cannot say enough good things about this beautiful record. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Junius, Days of the Fallen Sun: Junius’s latest rolls all the melodrama and dynamics into about 25 minutes. Fans of Deftones, take note! This band is way overdue for worldwide domination. Grayson Haver Currin says:

Subdivided into four arching anthems and four under-a-minute interludes that establish an apocalyptic mood with efficiency, this abbreviated epic swivels between electric breakdowns and romantic comedowns. Think Muse experimenting with restraint, or the Deftones preparing a fatalist Broadway musical. The EP feels like the consummation of a doomed love affair, the moment just before a hypothetical interplanetary collision presses the world’s reset button.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Half the City: One of our 14 to Watch delivers on its promise. Hilary Saunders says:

Led by howling tenor Paul Janeway, the Birmingham, Alabama-based sextet is boosted by its snare-tight rhythm section and malleable two-man brass band. Much of their retro-soul influence stems from Janeway’s childhood growing up in a non-denominational, Pentecostal-leaning church. But Half the City expands on these influences, swaying from John Coltrane-esque jazz on “Don’t Mean a Thing” to the James Brown funk of “Call Me.” Its highpoints, the back-to-back swinging “Sugar Dyed” and blues guitar-driven “Half the City,” capture the band’s incandescent energy at their most soulful and cohesive.

Guided by Voices, Motivational Jumpsuit: It’s getting really hard to get excited about a new Guided by Voices record, I’ve got to be honest. Anyway, here it is, the 90th new album from the re-formed GBV. There was a time when I loved this band. Like, really, really loved this band. But now I’m all, “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?”

Solids, Blame Confusion: Rip-roaring new album from this Montreal guitar duo who sound kind of like if Japandroids tried to make a Ride record. It’s good! Gallons of goopy guitar poured over hollered-out vocals, the whole thing feels pretty frenetic and pretty formidable. RECOMMENDED

Stefan Jaworzyn, Drained of Color: New solo album from longtime underground upstart Jaworzyn (Whitehouse, Skullflower), Drained of Connotation — a compilation of synth improvisations recorded in 1982 — is impressively, mercilessly abrasive. Lots of piercing static, fiendishly monotonous rhythms, ear-splitting, theremin-freakout electronic sounds and a few compositions that sound like someone pouring a bucket of water over an old portable video game, this one is sure to delight the avant-garde. It’s pretty brutal. RECOMMENDED

Lost in the Trees, Past Life: Lost in the Trees lose the strings and it fits them well on their latest LP. Ryan Reed says:

Lyrically, Picker weaves together a loose concept about two eternally separated souls, though it mostly reads like pointillist poetry — blending precious imagery of bleeding hearts and shadowy ghosts and night-swimming angels. Sonically, he’s pared back his mini-orchestra lineup to a stark electro-rock quartet; minimal pianos and synths chime over a palette of drum loops and loping basslines, with Picker’s yearning voice at the core of each track.

William Basinski, A Red Score in Tile: Speaking of experimental — composed and recorded in 1979, this beautiful, 45-minute piece takes a single loop and varies it ever-so-slightly over the course of the runtime, finding new crevices and wrinkles each time. As with much of Basinski’s work, it rewards close, repeated listens. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Jezabels, The Brink: I was pretty into this band’s first record, which it felt like sunk without much notice. this one sounds brighter and poppier, a little more streamlined and spit-shined, which is not as much my thing, but might be other people’s. High-arcing female vocals and thumping middle-of-the-road pop-rock backing make this one pretty radio ready.

The Dopplegangaz, Peace Kehd: Despite the fact that they hail from New York, the latest album from The Dopplegangaz has a decidedly West Coast feel — specifically, the West Coast in the mid ’90s. There are plenty of relaxed grooves, whistling synths and rubbery funk samples, and overall this is a sturdy entry into the group’s catalog. RECOMMENDED

Shocking Pinks, Guilt Mirrors: Nick Harte shoulders the burdens of pain and mundanity in equal measure. Abby Garnett says:

Guilt Mirrors comes after six years of lead time and plops three albums’ worth of material in a single release. There are still examples of his trademark lo-fi, New Order-style pop (“Not Gambling,” “Ten Years”), but just as much of the album is cloaked in formless noise — “Glass Slippers,” a compact fuzz study, leads into the billowing “Beyond Dreams,” and by the album’s third disc, any narrative is lost in the clouds.

William Fitzsimmons, Lions: The singer/songwriter’s latest is beautifully soothing, if a bit predictable. Hilary Saunders says:

Lions is said to trace troubles Fitzsimmons has faced in the years since 2010′s Gold in the Shadow, but that abstraction isn’t fully clarified throughout the new record. For the most part, Lions sounds melodically stagnant and one-dimensional. “Took” sounds recorded in his bedroom, with multiple guitar tracks layered on top of one another, a delay-pedaled electric guitar line ricocheting between clean quarter note strums and acoustic fingerpicking. The lyrics tell of someone saving Fitzsimmons from some ambiguous punishment, and the complicated emotional responses it elicited, but he never gets more specific.

Dawn Landes, Bluebird: Produced by Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), the latest from this New York songwriter is a soft, gentle rumination on her breakup with Josh Ritter. The music has a kind of peaceful-stream burble to it, murmuring guitars supporting Landes’s rich alto.

Cynic, Kindly Bent to Free Us: Finally! The first new Cynic full-length in six years focuses on melody. Banished is the death metal menace that characterized previous releases — no more whiplash riffing or pit-of-hell vocals. In its place is music that is just as technical, but coolly controlled and almost peaceful in spots, with an emphasis on singing over screaming. This one is sure to be polarizing (the title track sounds like a Christopher Cross song to me), but the band are clearly following their own muse.

Lost Tapes, War in the Netherlands: Cool, gliding, shoegazy pop not entirely unlike a softer-centered JAMC. Thick layers of guitar surround cotton-candy vocals, making for a kind of shoegaze daze centered on strong pop melody.

Ida Maria, Accidental Happiness EP: Ida Maria tornadoed on to the scene a few years ago with the chest-womping freakout “Oh My God!” and randy trampoline-bounder “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.” Then, her excellent follow-up Katla was fumbled by the usual major-label lunacy; when it was finally released in the US in 2011, almost a year after it was released overseas, it was saddled with Photoshop-nightmare cover art and got almost no promotion. This brief EP isn’t super encouraging: third song “I’m Bad News” is the kind of Ida Maria nastiness we’ve come to expect, but the rest of it feels a little misshapen and directionless. I’m holding out hope for a return-to-form soon.

Artificial Brain, Labyrinth Constellation: New on the pretty much always-excellent Profound Lore, Long Islanders (!) Artificial Brain deliver death metal that both nods at the genre’s roots while hinting toward its future. The guitars are grimy, but the riffs are lightning-fast, and the vocals swing from demonic growl to hoarse hiss. It all makes for a fascinating final product, all of the death metal terror with a decidedly arty bent.

Converge, Live at the BBC: This is, as advertised, a recording of a BBC session Converge did back in August of 2010. If you’ve never seen this band live, this brief set gives you a good indication of their incredible fury and power.

The Presidents of the United States of America, Kudos to You!: I’m just letting you know this is available in case you want it. For whatever reason.