Charles Bradley is not the kind of guy to sing of love in fantastical terms; he’s much too real for that. Bearing a voice streaked with the ravages of inner torment, this nomadic 64-year-old soul shouter — now based in a Brooklyn very different to the one in which he grew up — instead captures the pains and pleasures of love in sobering but unrestrained tones: He screams, shouts, pleads and moans of desire and disappointment so extreme that words alone cannot suffice. Not merely singing, he testifies of love and social injustice: This former James Brown impersonator does not hold back.
Bleached, Ride Your Heart: Sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin left their old band Mika Miko behind, but now they’re back as Bleached. Alex Naidus says:
Bleached’s motto might be “Sisters just wanna have fun.” The L.A. four-piece orbits around Jennifer and Jessie Clavin, the two primary songwriters and sisters who specialize in exuberant garage-punk. After the dissolution of the Clavins’ previous band — the locally-beloved, yelpier Mika Miko — the pair took joyous refuge in writing sweet, revved-up three-chord songs together. Ride Your Heart comes down a bit from the wide-eyed, sugar rush-ed bubblegum punk of early singles, mixing in some slower tempos and minor-key melodies, but Bleached’s primary m.o. is still the simple, sunshine-y, chunky-chorded Ramones-esque jam.
Rilo Kiley, rkives: An odds-and-ends comp from Jenny Lewis & co. Says Patrick Rapa:
Mostly unreleased or barely released, these tracks span the band’s career to create a lovely and peculiar listening experience. The antsy, lo-fi demo of the Sennett-sung “Rest of My Life” from 2001′s Take Offs and Landings can’t be from the same planet as this clubby remix of the Lewis-sung “Dejalo” from 2007′s Under the Blacklight — and, hey, Too $hort just popped up for a verse about tapping asses, just in case you weren’t confused.
Milk Music, Cruise Your Illusion: The first proper LP from Olympia, Washington’s Milk Music. eMusic’s Ilya Zinger says:
On Cruise Your Illusion, the first proper full-length from Olympia, Washington’s Milk Music, the quartet wedges itself somewhere within the SST Records-Neil Young-Wipers universe, pitting sweat-stained, heavy hardcore punk against indelible melodies and endless sincerity. Since their early output, a 2009 demo cassette and a 12-inch in 2010, the band has turned their DIY determination into full-fledged ambition, and the songs on Cruise are as honest and spiritual as they are messy and loud.
Mudhoney, Vanishing Point: David Raposa argues that being eligible for AARP hasn’t done much to make Mudhoney soft. He says:
The so-over-it cynicism and exhaustion that’s been the group’s m.o. all these years is a much better look on them as distinguished gentlemen. Granted, it’s hard to imagine a younger Mark Arm taking the time to write a song about white wine. But the 96-second scorched-earth screed that is “Chardonnay” shows that no subject is safe from Mudhoney’s indomitable anger and ennui. There’s no rose-colored nostalgia trip happening here, though: As Mudhoney enters their 25th year, still wrestling with whatever crawled up their backside and died way back then, they’re arguably at the height of their powers.
The Besnard Lakes, Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO: On their third LP, The Besnard Lakes perfect their blend of dreamy indie rock. Arye Dworken says:
On their fourth album, Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO, they hit a new, blissful peak. Frontman Jace Lasek, bassist (and Lasek’s wife) Olga Goreas, along with drummer Kevin Laing and guitarist Richard White, once again ply their elongated, swooning harmonies, like The Beach Boys at half-speed, over majestic, glacially moving rock suites.
Tyler, The Creator, Wolf: The face of Odd Future takes a page from Eminem on his third LP. Says Nick Murray:
In the past, Tyler, the Creator has made it clear that his favorite album by Eminem, the man he once referred to as his atheist God, is Relapse, the dark, dense comeback record that preceded the chart-topping Recovery. Wolf, the producer/rapper/clothing designer/cockroach-munching troublemaker’s third full-length, inherits the Shady influence that marked its predecessors, but it also looks back past Relapse to earlier entries in the older rapper’s discography, The Marshall Mathers LP in particular.
A Hawk & A Hacksaw, You Have Already Gone To The Other World: A Hawk & A Hacksaw’s sixth release is loosely based on a score written to accompany Sergei Parajanov’s 1965 documentary film Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors, and Luke Turner says it’s their finest work yet:
Over the past decade, the New Mexican duo of Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, aka A Hawk & A Hacksaw, have taken a fascinating journey through the music of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and beyond. They also have a long-standing connection with cinema: Their first release was the soundtrack to a documentary about Slovenian thinker Slavoj Žižek. This album, their sixth, is loosely based on a score written to accompany Sergei Parajanov’s 1965 documentary film Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors, about the Slavic Hutsul people in the Carpathian mountains that run through Central and Easter Europe. Clearly, there’s magic in those hills, and it’s richly mined here, as the pair put some fierce twists on the music of the Ukraine, Hungary and Romania.
Generationals, Heza: Jangly indie-rockers expand their sonic palette with their third LP. Ryan Reed says:
The New Orleans duo have completely expanded their sonic palette, branching into some fascinating new directions: “Say When,” with its tongue-tied percussion and sputtering sequenced synths, sounds like New Order on a beach vacation; “Put a Light On” is adult-contemporary funk, bolstered by electronic loops and digital handclaps; “Kemal” is the biggest head-scratcher (and maybe their best song ever) — a barrage of stabbing reggae guitar, sweaty hand drums, and twinkling glockenspiel.
Cold War Kids, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Cold War Kids make a bold move that puts emphasis on frontman Nathan Willett’s blaring, soulful voice. Ryan Reed says:
Lead single “Miracle Mile” is the most hard-hitting track they’ve ever penned, Willett warbling over a surge of bar-room piano and Matt Aveiro’s primal pound. It’s the sole moment of familiarity on an album of colorful new twists: The creeping “Lost that Easy” buzzes with electronic hi-hats and new-wave synth-bass; “Bottled Affection” marries hip-hop programming to drizzled guitar noise and a monster chorus falsetto; the closing “Bitter Poem” is a slow-building ballad, laced with melancholy keys and grizzled sax.
Merchandise, Totale Night – The incendiary Tampa trio Merchandise continue to push outward on their sound. Here, they deliver five sprawling, anthemic, passionate rockers over thirty-four epic minutes. Watch these guys: They are building towards a Statement, and if they’re not yet all the way “there,” they’ve hit upon something.
The Black Angels, Indigo Meadow – Blown smoke rings of psych-rock revival from The Black Angels’ latest. Killer guitar tones on this.
Burger Records! Burger Records! Burger Records! – One of our favorite labels. Just go and play here for awhile! Burger Records is one of the best purveyors of lo-fi home-taped indie-rock and indie-pop around these days. Just clicking around on random titles will give you joy, I promise; I just bopped in my seat to Garbo’s Daughter’s recorded-in-a-trash-can surf-pop ditties, the warped campfire-rock of Burnt Ones, and the thrillingly cruddy home-piercing punk of The Cosmonauts. You can also find CLASSIC jangle-pop from groups like Cleaners From Venus. Trust us on this one, guys; there is something for you here!
The Gates of Slumber, The Wretch – Balefully lumbering down-tuned stoner metal, heavy on riffs. Satisfying.
Martin Hall, Phasewide Exit Signs – The Danish singer/songwriter/composer/multi-instrumentalist/author’s latest batch of heady, forbiddingly beautiful art songs, on his own Panoptikon label. RIYL: Solo Nico, Scott Walker.
Fairport Convention, Live in 87 – As the title says, a live set from the legendary folk-rockers.
Gun Outfit, Hard Coming Down – This band has been around for awhile, wallowing sexily around in bad vibes and barely-tuned guitars. This is their strongest-sounding release yet, their dual male/female vocals and dirty guitars hitting a new groove.
Mad Season, Above (Deluxe Edition) – The one-album side project featuring members of Pearl Jam (Mike McCready), Screaming Trees (Barrett Martin), and, of course, Layne Staley of Alice in Chains. These guys weren’t exactly the highest artistic peak of grunge, but this is still an interesting moment in music history, and this is a definitive reissue of their project.
Anne Sofie Van Otter/Thomas Quasthoff, Schubert: Lieder With Orchestra - Schuber lieder, sung with mellow late-afternoon-sun glory by Van Otter Quasthoff, two of the greatest lieder singers on the planet, backed by the Berlin Philharmonic. A-list stuff.
Olafur Arnalds, For Now I Am Winter – Lovely, subdued neoclassical miniatures.
Various Artists, The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver – An indie-world tribute to good old John Denver, whose music could use to be rescued from its thick layer of accumulated cultural cheese. Here, J Mascis, Lucinda Williams, Josh Ritter, Edward Sharpe, and others pitch in with covers of their favorites.
The Baptist Generals, “Dog That Bit You” – Ornery Crazy Horse homage going on here, right down to pinched, hollering Neil Young-style vocal.
Guided By Voices, “Xeno Pariah” – New single from band that just won’t stop releasing music. It sounds like classic GBV, which you know by now is something you want in your life or not.