New This Week: Damon Albarn, OFF!, Royal Headache, & More

Jayson Greene

By Jayson Greene

on 05.08.12 in Spotlights

Damon Albarn, Dr. Dee - The man behind Blur and Gorillaz and too many other projects to keep track of releases his first work under his own name, the score to a folk opera. Dan Hyman says:

Dr. Dee, the score to a folk-opera inspired by Dr. John Dee, a 16th-century philosopher, astrologer and once-believed-to-be madman, is a sprawling collection of orchestral movements, elegiac choral accompaniment, and manic asides woven together by Albarn’s alternately soothing and chilling vocals. Fewer than half the 18 tracks feature Albarn, and several are strictly instrumental. Yet, there are surefire nuggets here: “Apple Carts”, a tempestuous lullaby, and “The Marvelous Dream,” a typically droll, Albarn-ian dirge on the fog that eclipses our wildest ambitions, both fit snugly into the singer’s ever-expanding choose-as-you-go musical repertoire. The only question is: What’s next?

OFF!, OFF! -eMusic’s Evan Minsker calls this “1980 hardcore done 30 years later.” More from him:

One of the most common praises and complaints lodged at OFF! is that they’re just an extension of frontman Keith Morris’s last band, the Circle Jerks. To a certain degree, it’s true — in tone, volume, lyrical themes, delivery, speed, song length (less than one minute) and aggression, this doesn’t stray at all from Morris’s roots. Clocking in at 16 songs and 16 minutes, the album totally rips, and it never wastes a moment on an unnecessary bridge, riff, word, or thought.

Mary Halvorson Quintet, Bending BridgesThe prolific jazz guitarist and composer is back with one of her bazillion projects. Seth Colter Walls says:

Bending Bridges is, mostly, her quintet at work once again, with a couple of moments for trio sprinkled in for effect. The composer has shown a penchant for starting albums off with a pensive gait — the better to dramatize the inevitable rise to a steaming boil — but “Sinks When She Rounds The Bend (No. 22)” is her most rueful kickoff tune yet. Halvorson, who solos throughout this album with less frequent recourse to her pitch-shifting pedals than normal — thereby showing off a more lustrous, natural tone than listeners may be accustomed — refrains from kicking off the full ensemble rock grind of the composition until the five-minute mark. And it’s a seven-minute tune.

Fela Kuti, Live in Detroit 1986 A recording of Fela’s 1986 performance inDetroit, which had showgoers shouting, “Too western! Too western!” Michaelangelo Matos says:

There’s a moment at nearly 15 minutes into the 40-minute performance of “Confusion Break Bones” on this live slab that stops the entire thing cold. Recorded in Detroitin 1986, “Confusion Break Bones” wasn’t released for four more years (on 1990′s O.D.O.O.; it’s now a bonus track on Underground System), and it’s not a funk bomb, but turgid near-cocktail jazz. At about 14:50, a voice erupts from the crowd: “Too western! Too western!Africa! Too western!” Much later, at 32:40, a two-minute percussion solo begins, but the tempo never leaves its poky 4/4. African, western, whatever — Fela Kuti did what he wanted.

Sara Watkins, Sun Midnight Sun Second solo effort from former Nickel Creek vocalist/fiddle player Sara Watkins. It’s a pretty country-pop record; at first listen the standout tracks are “When It Pleases You,” “I’m a Memory” and, of course, Watkins’s Everly Brothers cover “You’re the One I Love,” which has a guest spot from Fiona Apple (which they released as a 7-inch on Record Store Day).

S. Carey, Hoyas - A new EP from Bon Iver percussionist Sean Carey. It’s as dark and moody as his debut LP, last year’s All We Grow, but this time with horns, electronics, and AutoTune.

Here We Go Magic, A Different Ship – Luke Temple’s quirky psych-pop shambles on, agreeably. Nothing as standout memorable as “Pigeons” here, but it’s lovely nonetheless.

VA, Personal Space – Fascinating compilation of homemade hip-hop soul from the late 1970s and early 80s. Remember this tinny, dusty little instrumental miniatures on Shuggie Otis’s Inspiration Information. This is an entire album’s worth of them. Fantastic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

P.S. I Love You, Death Dreams – Hearty, hooky, brawny power pop with a squawking-mongoose lead singer. Fun stuff. A heretofore-undiscovered midpoint between Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah and Bachmann-Turner Overdrive.

Slugabed, Time Team – Rippling, patchwork-quilt sample-funk from Ninja Tune.

Royal Headache, S/T – Frantic, frenzied, yelping punk-pop from What’s Your Rupture. A slumber party in a tin can.

Turing Machine, What Is The Meaning of What –Sweaty, tumultuous, barbed dance-rock from the NYC outfit.

Wax Idols, Schadenfreude – New Wax Idols single, which is an excellent excuse to repoint you all to Joe’s Wax Idols interview!

The Flats, Better Living – Crushing, Melvins-style stoner sludge-rock from … One Little Indian? Awesome! This continues the sly little early-Sub Pop revival that’s on its way in still: paging Mudhoney, you guys just might have a cultural moment in the sun again.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Hummingbird EP – This guy never stops. Giddy, randy, cock-eyed psychedelic roots music from his corner of the universe.

Girl Unit, Club Rez EP – Latest offering from UK producer Girl Unit, who is responsible for the swinging-wrecking-anthem “Wut,” returns with a slightly more muted, but not less fascinating, collection of tracks.

Otis Redding, In Person at the Whisky A Go Go – Because even if I’m not sure why this showed up today, there’s no excuse for not highlighting it wherever and whenever it pops up.

Passion Pit, Take A Walk (single) – Big, winsome single from the 2009 kings of sunny feelings. This record is going to be enormous, obviously: what surprised me, who had no time or ear for the first one, is how powerful and resonant it is. A first taste.

Fiona Apple, Every Single Night – Gorgeous, controlled, slow-burn ferocity, and the most stunning song of the batch Fiona’s allowed to slip into our desperately petitioning fingers since she reappeared. I have…a feeling about this record, guys. A very, very good one.