David Lynch, The Big Dream: David Lynch’s latest album can be described as unsettling (surprise?), and the film director provides all the lead vocals this time. Winston Cook-Wilson says:
The album’s highlights include “Cold Wind Blowin” and “The Line That Fits,” ballads that imagine Lynch singing at the Twin Peaks roadhouse instead of Julee Cruise, and “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” a grunge-y take on Dylan’s 1964 murder ballad. On “Sun Can’t Be Seen No More,” Lynch poses as the singer of a Southern bar band; his pseudo-C&W recitations are suffocated by flange effects which transform them into otherworldly howls. Though The Big Dream sometimes wanders into maudlin, adult-contemporary sound-worlds, it is generally an enjoyable listen, and will please Lynch fans that enjoy hearing his cinematic ethos translated into musical terms.
Mayer Hawthorne, Where Does This Door Go: The cheeky guy gets a little more serious on his third record. Barry Walters says:
Teaming with Pharrell Williams, Anthony Hamilton/Cee-Lo Green producer Jack Splash, Mika/Katy Perry collaborator Greg Wells and other hit-makers, he broadens his palate beyond the blueprints of the past, mixing, matching and updating styles rather than the straightforward Motown and Philly soul mimicry of his initial records. Now he alludes to Steely Dan, Frank Ocean, Hall & Oates and Pharrell himself, particularly on the Williams-produced cuts “Wine Glass Woman” “Reach Out Richard,” and “The Stars Are Ours.”
Pet Shop Boys, Electric: One of the world’s most self-aware acts puts out a record that is very quintessentially them. Says Barry Walters:
The sounds similarly reference the duo’s various stylistic stages: “Thursday” evokes the pair’s earliest bells and electro-funk beats; “Shouting in the Evening” suggests their more aggressive, Chris Lowe-lead techno B-sides. The most remarkable cut, “The Last to Die,” continues their tradition of borrowing material from unlikely sources. Here they tackle a Bruce Springsteen anthem most likely written about the Vietnam War. Packed with references to blood, folly and heartbreak all retrofitted here with dark disco drama, it now feels like the latest in the duo’s tradition of elegies mourning those lost to AIDS. Of all the very PSB-sy songs here, this is the PSB-sy-est.
Houndstooth, Ride Out the Dark: A rootsy debut from this Portland group. Mike Wolf says:
Houndstooth have the kind of vibrant group-mind that could take them far; every twanged guitar lead, heart-prodding chord change and Wurlitzer part feels effortlessly orchestrated into a gentle sweep of twilit melody and lasting affect. Still, it’s no slight to the band (lead guitarist John Gnorski deserves special mention) to focus on vocalist Katie Bernstein, who mostly sounds compassionate but mixes a little graceful danger into her emotional well.
Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Lickety Split: Robert Randolph steals every scene on his band’s latest. Ryan Reed says:
On 2010′s We Walk this Road, Randolph worked with T-Bone Burnett and an army of veteran studio aces, tracing the evolution of African American music — from slave chants to Hendrix to Prince, from Pentecostal gospel to hip-hop. Lickety Split is less academic and more visceral, reuniting the full Family Band (drummer Marcus Randolph, bassist Danyel Morgan, vocalist Lenesha Randolph, multi-instrumentalist Bret Haas) for 40 free-spirited minutes.
Soft Metals, Lenses: This couple’s record is best suited for midnight drives and 4 a.m. foreplay, says eMusic’s Andrew Parks. More on that:
If Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks ever split up, the inevitable debate over who gets what isn’t going to involve custody battles or cheap-but-functional IKEA furniture. It’ll clearly be over the couple’s synth collection, which is as crucial to their chemistry as whatever made the Soft Metals members fall for each other in the first place. That bond is so strong, in fact, that two of the eight tracks on their second album are strictly instrumental, beaming their very own vision of melancholic body music and crystalline Klaus Schulze chords. Everything else is just as evocative in the Roland, Korg and Moog department, too, alluding to acid techno (the title track), woozy coldwave and prismatic electro-pop with Hall’s vaporized vocal melodies weaving through every last loop.
Gauntlet Hair, Stills: Gauntlet Hair offer a more accessible sound on their second LP. Ian Cohen says:
On their earliest singles, Gauntlet Hair couldn’t decide if they were a noise band playing pop music or vice versa. The Denver duo attempted to find common ground between the platinum kick of INXS and early Animal Collective’s feral caterwaul. While the results weren’t always coherent, you could hear potential in the chaos. Having excised their most abrasive impulses on their 2011 self-titled debut, Stills continues toward a more accessible sound by emphasizing the grooves and dialing down the reverb.
Chance, In Search: A great collection from a Nashville musician with a fascinating history. Stephen Deusner says:
A Nashville jack-of-all-trades during the 1970s, Chance Martin was Johnny Cash’s right-hand man and stage manager for two world tours; a songwriter and musician; a would-be outlaw called the Stoned Ranger; a professional man-about-town; and is currently a co-host of a country show on Sirius XM. In the late 1970s, he and some ex-cop buddies recorded a crazy-ass solo album, which Martin released in a limited run on his own Macho Records. For 30 years, In Search has been a footnote to a footnote, one of approximately infinite albums lost to the dustbin of Music Row history. Thanks to the North Carolina-based label Paradise of Bachelors, however, Martin’s sole full-length is now getting a larger release. Thirty years have done nothing to dull this oddity.
Chris Morrissey, North Hero: A record that combines equal parts jazz adventurousness and pop assimilation. Ken Micallef says:
Bassist Chris Morrissey’s sophomore effort is approachably left-of-center jazz, the sort of thing you might play at a party where the guests enjoy Ornette Coleman’s Tomorrow Is the Question! as much as Fleet Foxes. The Minneapolis-to-New York transplant Morrissey enlists a crack crew, including drummer Mark Guiliana, pianist Aaron Parks and Bon Iver tenor saxophonist Michael Lewis; The Bad Plus and Happy Apple tub-thumper Dave King is producer.
Steve Swallow Quintet, Into The Woodwork: The latest from this “joyously puckish” electric bassist. Britt Robson says:
Swallow rarely solos, coming closest on an extended duet with Cardenas on “Suitable For Framing” — another inspired title, since nary a note seems out of place. These evocative, winsome songs are his chief contribution. The best one, in which all five members graze against each other’s unpretentious goodwill in a seemingly effortless flow, is called “Still There.” After more than 50 years of strumming and plucking, the same can be said for Steve Swallow.
Merry Clayton, The Best of Merry Clayton – The long under-appreciated singer (That’s her on “Gimme Shelter”) receives her due. Barry Walters writes:
Known primarily as background singer for everyone from Ray Charles to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Clayton released four solo albums in the ’70s, but the closest she ever got to a hit was “Yes,” a 1988 Pointer Sisters-styled single from the phenomenally popular Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Nearly every cut on this collection is a cover, but Clayton possesses virtuoso interpretive skills that nearly rewrite the melodies of familiar songs while deepening their lyrical impact.
The Icarus Line, Slave Vows – The post-hardcore band The Icarus Line has been around forever, and their latest is a streamlined blast of everything they’ve ever offered. If more “modern rock” bands were this strong, modern rock radio would be a better place.
Darren Hayman and the Short Parliament, Bugbears – The ex-Hefner leader offers an album full of updated takes on 17th-century drinking songs.
Justin Timberlake, Take Back The Night – New JT single. This one’s got a dubious title, just on a cliché level alone, and it has the added distinction of sharing the name with a venerated and long-running organization that works to end violence against women. The organization, perhaps understandably, has registered that they’re less than thrilled by the namecheck, which JT says was unintentional. It’s a pretty stock pop-song phrase, so I’m sure that’s true. The song itself is supper-club MJ.
Eraas, Reworks – Spare, menacing, moody post-punk Brooklyn group, remixed.
Army Navy, Crushed Like A Car – New one from eMusic Selects alums! A great, midtempo tune from this always-spot-on power pop outfit.
I Am Legion, Make Those Move – Skull-hammering single off of Skrillex’s label.