New This Week: Cloud Nothings, Craig Finn and More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 01.24.12 in Spotlights

Cloud Nothings

The first HUGE new release day of 2012, so strap in and get ready for a pretty comprehensive rundown! Dave Sumner‘s got your jazz picks, and I’ve got the rest. Here we go!

Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory: ALBUM OF THE DAY. Dylan Baldi grows up in a nanosecond, making a snarling rock record that hurtles forward with the speed and fury of a meteor. The sonic touchstones here are ’90s emo greats like Jawbreaker, the Promise Ring and Sunny Day Real Estate, but there’s a punk nastiness to the songs that keep them feeling threatening. Recorded by Steve Albini, so you know what to expect sonically. This is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. eMusic’s Brian Raftery has more:

Memory veers so forcefully from its predecessors that, at first listen, it’s a bit jarring: The opening track, “No Future No Past,” is a slow-burn grind of spangled, in-utero guitars and tortured vocals, with Baldi intoning the words “give up/come to/no hope/we’re through” so harshly, it sounds as though his larynx is going to flip him off and jump out of his throat. Even more adventurous is “Wasted Days,” a nine-minute(!) peal with a lithe, lupine guitar break that sounds like Greg Sage conducting Hawkwind.

Craig Finn, Clear Eyes, Full Hearts: Hold Steady frontman turns down and calms down for this record of soft, stirring rock with religious undercurrents. eMusic’s Austin L. Ray has more:

For Full Eyes, Finn set up shop in Austin,Texas, recruiting members of Heartless Bastards, Phosphorescent, White Denim and Centro-matic to play with him. Despite the crack musicians, Finn reserves his highest praise for a more famous player, singing, “It’s hard to suck with Jesus in your band.” That’s a punchline, admittedly, but it’s also one of the most musically satisfying of the countless Christ references and allusions throughout. It comes from “New Friend Jesus,” a rollicking classic-country tune and album highlight.

First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar: Lovely, pastoral folk music from Scandinavian sisters. eMusic’s David Greenwald says:

The Lion’s Roar is a record of romantic pragmatism and bold orchestration. Producer Mike Mogis (notable mainly for his work with Bright Eyes, whose Conor Oberst appears briefly here on “King of the World”) helps clothe the naked twang of the band’s debut with light-handed percussion, pedal steel, strings and rippling pianos, keeping the spotlight brightly on the Söderberg’s familial harmonies. A Neko Case-like minor-key gloom rolls in on the title track and “I Found a Way,” among others, but most of the songs stick to the sunshine. Gram and Johnny can rest easy – First Aid Kit can take it from here.

Porcelain Raft, Strange Weekend: Cooing, gurgling, gently propulsive music that at times sounds like New Order recording while dosed with dramamine. Mauro Remiddi has a strong knack for melody, but he whispers rather than shouts, and there’s a dreamlike quality to the music he makes as Porcelain Raft that’s both serene and unsettling. eMusic’s Ryan Reed has more:

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the track titles on Strange Weekend, the full-length debut from laptop scientist Mauro Remiddi, are fairly apt descriptions of the music itself (see: “Drifting In And Out,” “Shapeless & Gone,” “Put Me To Sleep”). With their underwater acoustics, synths sparkling in oceans of reverb, and Remiddi’s high, ethereal chirp, these lovingly constructed, basement-recorded jams float by in a gorgeous haze – like a brilliant dream you barely remember.

Chairlift, Something: These guys! They’re back! Brisk indie pop that boasts squiggly keyboards and high-arcing female vocals – this is brisk, breathless music. eMusic’s Barry Walters says:

This is not exactly the same Chairlift that buzz-catching bloggers fell in love with on the back of a 2008 iPod Nano ad. Frontwoman Caroline Polachek has become a far more confident singer, not ashamed to let out her inner Sarah McLachlan, which in the context of the band’s brighter and bolder palate is not at all a bad thing: “Take It Out on Me” floats on a raft of serene but sticky synths while its lyrics suggest either S&M or an affair gone askew – an uncanny combination that recalls McLachlan’s seductive yet unsettling “Possession.” Sleek ballads like “Cool As a Fire” reveal a far more earnest and finessed beauty in Polachek’s delivery that transcends Does You‘s archness.

Rodrigo y Gabriela ft C.U.B.A., Area 52: Mexican guitarists team with a Cuban orchestra to give many of their early hits the full-band treatment. eMusic’s Chris Nickson says:

Opener “Santa Domingo” sets the tone for much of the album; beginning with a heart-pounding riff, the duo crank up the tension until there’s an explosion of brass, all of the elements powered by the punch of the wah-wah pedal – almost a trademark of the couple these days – before sprinting to a breathless finish. The album is deliberately brash, laced with incendiary guitar work (listen to the electric playing on “Hanuman,” for example), and Cuban rhythms making a loud, colourful wrapper around the songs.

Pop 1280, The Horror: Take it from a guy who just bought the Birthday Party reissues on vinyl – you want this. Filthy, scuzzy, confrontational, torture-basement rock and roll ready to rip out your throat and beat you with it. This is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED eMusic’s Austin L. Ray has more:

Subtle, Pop. 1280 is not. But you don’t really need a gentle hand when your band regularly and fiercely recalls the finer moments of Liars, the Birthday Party and Swans…The Horror is positively relentless, piling brutal rhythmic grinding on top of lyrical references to dead people, bodies, death, and, well, the kind of horror that’s often reserved for the cinema.

Laura Gibson, La Grande: By all rights, Laura Gibson’s hour is way overdue. Having graduated from the same school of folk mysticism as summa cum laude Kristen Hersh, Gibson weaves her weird voice through a beautiful latticework of acoustic guitars. She sings like she’s casting spells and keeping secrets. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Primitons, Collected Works: Collection from completely overlooked ’80s college rock band from Birmingham (BIRMINGHAM!) matches conversational vocals with limber guitars and jittery rhythms. Fans of people like the dB’s, early R.E.M. and Pylon, this is your time capsule for the day. RECOMMENDED

The Alchemist & Oh No, Vodka & Ayahuasca: New effort from The Alchemist and Oh No after their well-received Gangrene project finds them, yet again, at the top of their game. Dusty throwback beats, nimble rapping and a generally dark, murky atmosphere make for fierce, uncompromising hip-hop.

Steve Scott, Emotional Tourist: A Retrospective: Only a few people are going to know what this is, but those people, like me, are going to be pretty excited. This is a compilation of ’80s Sacramento poet/new waver Steve Scott who hung with folks like the 77s and turned out super hooky synthy new wave with hyper literate lyrics. Arena Rock, you crazy for this one. I love you. RECOMMENDED

Bhi Bhiman, Bhiman: Warm, earthy record that reminds me of the early Robbie Robertson solo records, in a good way. Bhiman has a nice, rich, earthy voice, and he sings like a man determined. The instrumentation is mostly acoustic, but there’s a desperate, searching quality to the songs that separates it from the singer/songwriter pack.

Matt Pryor, May Day: Solo record by Get Up Kids frontman sounds kind of like some unplugged Get Up Kids songs. Pryor writes hooky melodies, and those curious to hear his ear for tunes in a slightly more sedate setting are advised to tune into this.

Rhyton, Rhyton: Instrumental experimental on Thrill Jockey, Rhyton move effortlessly from scuzzy skronk to moody drones to alien jazz jamming. It’s like lunar avant garde. eMusic’s Evan Minsker says:

Rhyton’s self-titled debut, like any psychedelic jam record worth its salt, pushes its guitar solos to the front. The album hangs on the guitar proficiency of Dave Shuford, who spends the better part of 30 minutes meandering across the fret board. What that means, however, is that Jimy SeiTang’s (Psychic Ills) wandering bass lines and Spencer Herbst’s freeform drums usually take a backseat to Shuford’s loose, largely improvised riffs. Thankfully, the man is quite good.

Stew & the Negro Problem, Making It: The first record from Stew and crew post-Passing Strange documents a splintering relationship. eMusic’s Tad Hendrickson has more:

Singer/songwriter/playwright/actor Stew won a Tony for his play Passing Strange, which ran on Broadway in 2008 and was subsequently filmed by Spike Lee. But just as the play was becoming a success, the romantic relationship between Stew and longtime girlfriend and musical partner Heidi Rodewald was falling apart. Making It puts this story to music, often scripting it with he said/she said verses filled with witty punch lines – one of which being, “Therapy Only Works if You Tell the Truth.”

Various Artists, Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan: This one deserves a look just for sheer, overwhelming breadth. There have been no shortage of Dylan tributes over the years, but this one wins the prize for diversity. Patti Smith! Gaslight Anthem! Silversun Pickups! My Morning Jacket! Even Miley Cyrus sounds pretty good! Also, I am hoping Ke$ha’s fantastic version of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” on this means I don’t have to defend Ke$ha as much as I have been lately. RECOMMENDED

Joe Cocker, Hard Knocks: New Joe Cocker record. That cover kind of tells you everything you need to know. Cocker’s got a great voice, but it’s hard not to listen to this and wonder what he might do if, say, someone hooked him up with the folks from Daptone. This is what I like to call wedding core.

Dion, Tank Full of Blues: Dion made another blues record.

Back to the Future the Ride, Tron Legacy: There was no way I could ignore this. The band is called Back to the Future the Ride, and the album is called Tron Legacy. So there’s that. Musically, this isn’t too far afield from the kind of stuff Not Not Fun has been putting out — bursts of static and drone are offset by unsettling ambient electronic passages, making this the sound of floating through a bizarro dystopic dreamworld.

Imbogodom, And They Turned Not Where They Went: Spacey, spooky music from Thrill Jockey. This is a fascinating record — doomy, monklike vocals, sawing violins and, more than anything, a heavy, grim atmosphere put this on the cultier side of experimental music.

Cardinal, Hymns: Longtime indie poppers Richard Davies and Eric Matthews return with the first Cardinal record in 18 years (!) Those who tuned into them in the past know what to expect here: sugary harmonies and sun-dappled ’60s pop, the perfect soundtrack for an Indian Winter.

Kendl Winter, The Mechanics of Hovering Flight: Winter’s second full-length on the estimable K Records puts her folky voice against some campfire strumming and melodies that tend toward traditional country. Parts of this remind me of those Freakwater records, if you guys remember those. RECOMMENDED

Spy Island, New Milesian Kings: A find! Portland power popppers deliver hooks galore — harmonies, scuzzy guitars, bleating organs. Like if Sloan got really drunk and turned their amps up past 10. FIND OF THE DAY

Mighty Sparrow, Sparromania!: If you ask me (and few people ever do), the time for a calypso revival is right about now. How have we all not dived back into this music fully and completely? When cumbia’s (justified) moment is over, I vote we all go here next. Sparrow is one of the genre’s two kings (Lord Kitchener is the other) and this comp collects some of his classics (if also somehow omitting some of his major works)

Madi Diaz, Plastic Moon: Sunny Adult Contemporary pop music from a graduate of the Paul Green School of Rock Music(!) At times, Diaz imagines Sheryl Crow with a slightly indier edge. Accomplished and polished songwriting throughout.

C.R.A.S.H., War on All Fronts: New batch of snarling hardcore from C.R.A.S.H. which, as near as I can tell, is a hardcore supergroup featuring folks like Brooks Headley, Michelle Suarez and other. At least, that’s who played on the 7″ Post Present Medium put out a while ago. Safe to assume it’s the same lineup, I’d think. Right? anyone know otherwise?

–> Jazz Picks by Dave Sumner
This week’s recommendations mostly consist of a bunch of albums that ain’t ever gonna get confused with straight-ahead jazz, but which are steeped in the distinct tradition of old blues-jazz roots. Those of you who like out-playing on in-compositions, you win this week. Or, to say it differently, fans of Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch and Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day are in for a treat.

Viktor Toth, Popping Bopping: A quartet comprised of alto sax, trumpet, bass, drums and some random electronic effects. Album starts with Toth blowing away on his alto on a modern hard bop tune. Trumpet gets in some action of its own, a playful bit of muting and sound skewing. The album begins very much like the dissonance cum old time blues found on the Clean Feed label these days. There are moments when the album threatens to turn into a Nils Petter Molvaer composition with the airy atmospherics of electronic effects (especially on the final track), but the album never loses its grasp on the blues, much to the benefit of anyone who grabs this nifty recording. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Partikel, Cohesion: A sax trio of tenor & soprano, drums, and bass. Some flavoring of world jazz (latin & african specifically) mixed with what’s going for modern straight-ahead jazz these days. First listen doesn’t blow me away or anything, but the dynamic percussion makes me want to return for repeat listening. Promising, and worthy of a bit of the spotlight.

Neil Cowley Trio, The Face of Mount Molehill: This is probably what it would sound like if Badly Drawn Boy composed a soundtrack for piano trio. Infectious grooves, some strings to tug at the edges of the heart, simple melodies that are anything but superficial, and enough stylistic wrinkles to keep the head engaged. A likable album; the kind of cheerful that’s always good to have sitting on a nearby barstool when drinking alone just ain’t gonna cut it.

L.A. Jenkins, The Clarity of the Peculiar: Something for the experimental and avant-garde jazz fans. Frenzied guitar busts, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, a variety of percussion instruments, a little flute, and a holiday basket of electronic effects, this album has moments of symphonic ecstasy interspersed with interludes of ambient bliss. Honestly, this album is probably gonna have more interest from listeners for whom jazz is a part time occupation, but it certainly doesn’t fall out of line with other albums that are widely considered avant-garde jazz. This is some nifty stuff.

Living Room in London; Living Room in London: Wow! Too cool! Manu Delago fuses his hang drum music with a string trio of musicians from the Solstice Quartet and the London Symphony Orchestra. Hang, bass clarinet, sax, violin, viola, guitar, cello are all ingredients in this jazz-classical ensemble of awesome. So pretty. Fans of Julia Kent, Kronos Quartet, and Portico Quartet should all be checking this out. FIND OF THE WEEK

Exil, Place Victor Hugo: Okay, this is pretty nice. Unfortunately, I’m not gonna have much to provide other than guesswork; not much to find on these guys online. But it sounds like a trio of trumpet, piano, and bass. Based on their sound, I’m guessing Swedish, maybe Danish… a guess derived from their ECM-like recording. Fans of Mathias Eick should definitely take note. This is introspective, peaceful, moments of rising emotions followed quickly by moments of despair and sorrow. It’s quite pretty, but I’ve been told many times that my idea of what comprises “pretty music” is what others find depressing and bleak. I wonder if Bonnie Prince Billy would like this kind of jazz. RECOMMENDED

Lewis Jordan, Local Time: Avant-garde musician Lewis Jordan joins his alto sax with the Grencso Open Colllective of trumpet, trombone, duduk, bass clarinet, tenor sax, drums, and a little bit of poetry for a very cool set of dissonant jazz that brimming with blues and steeped in the roots of jazz. Heartily layered jazz loudly announced and punctuated with odd meters and discordant melodies keeps both heart and mind occupied throughout. Like a person burdened with personal knowledge of all the heartbreak in the world finding a way to give voice to the most hopeful sound. Outstanding stuff. Harris Eisenstadt fans should be giving this a listen. PICK OF THE WEEK

Erland Dahlen, Rolling Bomber: Debut release from Nils Petter Molvaer’s drummer, though Dahlen’s name is associated with a who’s-who of the Norwegian jazz set. It’s a solo album. Dahlen uses a variety of percussive instruments: his special drum set (which the album is named after), as well as a series of items that he picked up at his local electronics and hardware stores. More accurate to file this album under Experimental than it is Jazz, but whatever; it’s all kinds of interesting, and the vision deserves some respect no matter which category this album gets filed under. Released on the Hubro label, which keeps on putting out music that doesn’t really sound like anybody else’s music.

Okay, a bunch of those new Verve/Impulse two-fers just dropped for the following artists: Alice Coltrane, Marion Brown, Charles Mingus, Sonny Criss, John Handy, Howard Roberts, Freddie Hubbard, Mel Brown, Sonny Stitt, Oliver Nelson, Clark Terry, Blue Mitchell, Michael White, Keith Jarrett, and Blue Mitchell. These combo albums comprise two not-quite-classic albums from each of these artists at a pretty good price. I can’t quite recall the details on subjects like remastering, but the sound is decent, the price is good, and there’s some solid selections from the period of jazz when it began fusing in the sounds of soul, R&B, and psychedelic world. My favorite has gotta be the Alice Coltrane; I’ve been enjoying those two for years when Verve originally began offering them separately as part of their Digital Vaults series (or whatever the hell they used to call it). Those Charles Mingus albums are pretty tasty, too, though, and I’ve always liked Michael White’s jazz violin action. Hell, there’s lots of good stuff in this series.

-> Singles & EPs
†††, EP: This is Chino from Deftones. Given the unpronounceable name of this project, people were originally saying this was a chillwave experiment. It’s not. What it is is some pretty spooky, pretty engaging, synth-based stuff — as dark and gothy as you might expect, given the source. My love of Deftones is well-documented, so it’s no surprise that I love this. Fans of that band, along with some of the moodier Nine Inch Nails stuff will love this. RECOMMENDED

Gonjasufi, MU.ZZ.LE: Weird, hypnotic EP from Gonjasufi is even bleaker and darker and odder than his full-length. This is the music that plays in a dark alleyway right before a killer jumps out and has at you. Creepy as hell.

Dana Falconberry, Though I Didn’t Call, It Came: Tiny, twinkling pop songs with delicate melodies and fluttering guitars. Fans of, let’s say, Kate Nash who wish she’d calm down and get serious will find much here to love.

–> Metal Box
Lamb of God, Resolution: Furious new record from metal heavyweights shows the years have not dulled their brutal assault. eMusic’s Phil Freeman has more:

They’ve tempered their post-Pantera sound with some acoustic guitar bits, a dash of the blues, Hatebreed-style gang vocals and other assorted surprises. Album closer “King Me” even features strings and operatic female vocals. Vocalist Randy Blythe is oddly reminiscent of Walton Goggins’s character, Boyd Crowder, on Justified: He might seem like just a crazy redneck at first, but hidden depths emerge quickly. Musically, the band is absolutely killing it this time out, particularly drummer Chris Adler, one of the most skilled players in modern metal.