New This Week: Animal Collective, Jens Lekman, Stars & More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 09.04.12 in Spotlights

A pretty hefty new release week! Here’s what we found — what did we miss?

Animal Collective, Centipede Hz: Surely you remember these guys? Animal Collective come back with more woozy, multi-colored psych-pop sure to bend brains and break hearts. Andrew Parks says:

[It's] initially a very bewildering listen, from Barrett-era Pink Floyd and latter day Portishead to slivers of psych, rarified garage rock and manic world music. None of which are immediately apparent on the first or 50th spin. Instead, Centipede Hz unfolds like a series of scrambled radio transmissions, right down to the tortured transitions between each track. It’s as if the band’s tapping into a broadcast from the great beyond, with little regard for the amphitheater-ready hooks that made Merriweather Post Pavillion such a joy.

Jens Lekman, I Know What Love Isn’t: We gave Jens the keys to eMusic’s editorial this week, and he pointed us in the direction of some of his favorite bands. As for his new record, Marc Hogan says:

Taking as influences such masterpieces of restraint as Pet Shop Boys’ subtly breathtaking Behaviour and Tindersticks’ soulfully stripped-down Simple Pleasure, Lekman retreats from the Avalanches-style excess of 2007′s brilliant Night Falls Over Kortedela and achieves something still richer, if also more emotionally bleak.

Stars, The North: Latest outing from long-running Canadian ensemble. Nick Marino says:

Beats range from pitter-pattering to hammering, while jangling guitars share space with synths. And the band’s two singers, Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, take turns singing lead when they’re not delivering lyrics in conversational rounds.
The album on the whole has a vaguely retro bent. Awash in reverb and shot through gently with Millan’s cooing vocals, the hazy “Through the Mines” sounds like vintage Mazzy Star. “Lights Changing Colour” could’ve been an old Cocteau Twins demo, while a rave-up called “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Get It” has the soaring, synthetic thrill of Cut Copy at its best.

Fresh & Onlys, Long Slow Dance: I love this band so much. Long Slow Dance is the umpteenth F&O’s record in a relatively short period of time, but its by far their most graceful, diverse and sublime. It’s also Recommended. Here’s Austin L. Ray with more:

The Fresh & Onlys are often grouped with shaggy-haired maniacs such as Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. In reality, their gorgeous, glassy-eyed pop is more in line with The Shins, or, to use an era-appropriate comparison for the Nuggets-inclined set, the Zombies. With each subsequent release, The Fresh & Onlys have refined their tunes, trading lo-fi riffs for jangling strums, garage rhythms for elegant, choral-enhanced accompaniment. What once could’ve served as the soundtrack for a Vice-funded documentary now sounds appropriate for starring placement in a Wes Anderson flick.

Two Door Cinema Club, Beacon: Brisk and sparkling commercial alt-pop — blinking synthesizers and earnest, conversational vocals. Jillian Mapes says:

The album’s opening line, “I don’t know where I’m going to rest my head tonight,” establishes a tone that doesn’t let up. The lonely, triumphant songs chronicle not only the havoc that months of travel wreak on a “normal” life but also the personal growth it facilitates. You can hear that growth in the band’s sound, which expands to include a blend of electro-pop beats and post-punk guitars, with equal attention paid to catchy riffs (“Someday”) and earworm-y synth lines (“Handshake”).

Blu & Exile, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them: I was a huge, huge fan of B&E’s first outing, Below the Heavens, and sort of despaired that we’d never hear from him again. Well, thankfully, he’s back, and Flowers is just a little more futuristic and a little more herky-jerk, but is still inarguably distinctive. Nate Patrin says:

It reignites the eloquent-everyman appeal of the pair’s much-loved debut. Exile’s golden-age sensibilities lean heavily on psychedelic soul, sinewy dub reggae, and off-kilter bebop, refined beats that gleam at low volumes and rumble authoritatively when cranked. And Blu’s low-key mic presence is introspective and extroverted all at once, unspooling lines that evoke vintage Pharcyde in style and ambitious adolescent hang-out sessions or family reunions in spirit. It’s the second chance this album – and this partnership – absolutely deserve.

Deerhoof, Breakup Song: Latest from Deerhoof pops and clatters defiantly, brutish squelches of sound an ideal counterpoint to sweet, wispy vocals. Mike Powell says:

What was once more or less garage rock in a food processor now features salsa horns (“There’s That Grin”), synthesizers (“Bad Kids to the Front”), and a newfound sense of what to do with processed drums (“Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III”). The changes don’t dilute their sound as much as expand its possibilities. “Accessibility” has always been a relative quality in Deerhoof’s music: If you eat sand every day, the occasional piece of paper might taste pretty good. Breakup Song is a clever title in part because it sounds like a description of what Deerhoof has always done: taken what might be otherwise accessible songs and broken them up into thousands of little parts.

Staff Benda Bilili, Bouger Le Monde: Bright and brash new album from this Congolese outfit. Richard Gehr says:

In “Souci” (“Worries”), a slow acoustic rumba in the tradition of West Africa legends like Franco and Tabu Ley Rochereau, three members sing individually about going on the road and leaving their families’ troubles behind. “They thought a band with disabled people would never work,” declares bandleader Ricky Likabu Makodu in the loping “Apandjokwetu” (“This Is Our Place”). And in “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (“Don’t Leave Me”), Roger Landu, the band’s dazzling soloist on a homemade one-stringed electric satonge, confesses that “many people…tell me that I should leave the band, but I will never quit!”

Cult of Youth, Love Will Prevail: I really love these guys. Doomy pagan folk music offsets broad acoustic strumming with glum, minor-key vocals and sinister melodies. These sound like hymns written to accompany some long-dead pagan ceremony. Recommended

California Wives, Art History: Even after the new Stars record, if you still can’t get your fill of brisk, vaguely synthy, summery pop music, this is where you should go next. You can hear traces of the same breezy, endearing hooks that informed old Stars records, rounded out with slightly more robust choruses.

Crypts, Crypts: Doomy, shadowy synth music from former members of These Arms Are Snakes, Crypts seem to exist in some weird netherworld between drone and wicth house, blending the most sinister elements of both.

Imagine Dragons, Night Visions: Mechanically engineered to appeal to my soft spot. Towering vocal harmonies on the chorus, twirling keyboards, and an unabashed flair for grandstanding and stadium-destroying hooks. This is commercial rock, make no mistake, but if you’ve got a secret love for, say Fun., this might appeal to you as well.

Pacewon & Mr Green, The Only Number That Matters is Won: In 2008, Pacewon & Mr. Green released >The Only Color That Matters is Green, a great record that not nearly enough people heard. This is the follow-up, and it sounds just as good, packing in swirling, emotive production and tough, punchy rapping. Recommended

Raymond Byron & the White Freighter, Little Death Shaker: Scuzzed-out, grimy, gutbucket rock on Asthmatic Kitty. Byron’s got a high, nasal voice, and his music is a kind of skewed, kicked-in take on Americana.

Arthur Russell, Keep the Lights On: Soundtrack to a new independent film features a cross-section of Arthur Russell songs, from his folk stuff to his more outre electronic stuff. A handy, if super brief, career overview.

Sondre Lerche, Bootlegs: I’m not sure what it means that there’s both a new Jens Lekman and a new Sondre Lerche record out on the same day. Lerche’s is a live album, featuring a number of his most beloved numbers.

Various Artists, FAC Dance 02: Pretty great compilation of electro/dance stuff on the timeless Factory label.

Jazz Picks, by Dave Sumner
Sort of a small drop this week, but it does give me the opportunity to highlight some very strange and beautiful music. Nothing here is pure straight-ahead jazz. Whether it’s the compositions, the instrumentation, or the concepts, most everything here should get filed under Something Different. Let’s begin…

Karin Hammar, Chris Jennings, Ingrid Jensen, and Patrick Goraguer, Land: Beautiful album. Hammar takes the lead, exploring the trombone’s melodious qualities. Jensen provides some wonderful harmony on trumpet. Jennings gets a good chatter going on bass, but doesn’t come off as insistent. Goraguer, on drums, matches trombone’s intensity to a tee. But it’s the clash between trombone and trumpet’s long sonorous notes and the up-tempo rhythm section that makes this such a seductive album. Pick of the Week.

Dom Minasi and Karl Berger, Synchronicity: Appealing duo recording from free jazz vets, guitarist Dom Minasi and vibraphonist/pianist Karl Berger. Minasi’s inquisitiveness seems to match very well with Berger’s free-floating lines, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a “pretty” album, there is a surreal beauty to this music that proves avant-garde and free jazz need not get all up in the listener’s face to get its point across. And yet another example of how guitar and vibes make the best jazz marriages… warm bright notes that often hang frozen in the air. Highly Recommended.

Dave Phillips & Freedance, Confluence: Nice modern jazz quartet album. Bassist Phillips brings together a group that includes guitarist Rez Abbasi, alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher and drummer Tony Moreno (with guests on piano and percussion). Album is a fine example of what fusion can aspire to… elements of rock, folk, and world all informing a thoroughly modern jazz recording. Hi-voltage at times, rustic at others. Recommended.

Various Artists, Spiritual Jazz 3: Europe: Compilation of European jazz artists who applied Miles Davis’s modal jazz approach to liturgical and folk music. Culled from private releases, underrepresented artists and visionary one-offs (and fully licensed), it’s a nifty mix of choral jazz of the past.

Jan Klare, Ahmet Bektas, and Fethi Ak, Klare Bektas Ak: World jazz trio of alto sax, oud, and percussion. While oud takes the lead, and to pleasant effect, it’s the grace of alto sax that keeps this in jazz territory. Beautiful languor at times, other times the tune deconstructs in freeform tumults. Good stuff.

Parallaxe, Der Zweite Raum: Quartet session, with trumpet, piano, bass, drums with the odd percussion mixed in for flavor. Very much from the mod Euro-Jazz scene, which means you’ll get some avant-garde-ish stuttering tempos and angular melodies, but somehow they’ll fit in some time to swing and bop, too. Very enjoyable album.

Tom Custodio da Luz, Fuga: Debut album from Brazilian guitarist/vocalist. Some Bossa, but also plenty of pop and rock music elements, too. Mostly vocals and guitar in the spotlight, occasionally backed by strings. Gotta say, this ain’t really my thing, but these are some seriously catchy tunes. I don’t know how I’ll feel about this album down the road, but right now, this album has got its hooks into me.

And four older albums that made an appearance in Freshly Ripped this week…

Kenny Werner, Beyond the Forest Of Mirkwood: One of those elusive albums that is finally getting out of the house and joining the public. The second album by Werner under his own name, recorded just before the turn of the century, and just now getting the digital treatment. Solo piano work. Werner creates his own special brand of electricity, and it crackles with life even when he’s feeling introspective on keys.

Zony Mash, Live in Seattle: Recorded about ten years ago, this avant-groove quartet, which features Wayne Horvitz of Hammond B3, this album showcases this quartet’s inventiveness at presenting catchy tunes, as well as its strong musicianship. Personally, I prefer the live recordings over the studio, however, a Zony Mash compilation also dropped today.

Dickie Landry, Fifteen Saxophones: Originally recorded back in ’74, this reissue features one of the founding members of the Philip Glass Ensemble. With the use of live delays and looping, multi-reedist Landry created an album that is equal parts avant-garde and new age space-y, and just as likely to appeal to ambient drone enthusiasts as experimental jazz fans.

Andreas Willers Octet, The Ground Music: A little over ten years old, this album was part of the recent drops from the Enja label. It’s an exciting recording that brings some modern approaches to third stream music. Heavier on the jazz than the classical elements. Terribly engaging album.