New This Week: Heartless Bastards, Islands & More

Jayson Greene

By Jayson Greene

on 02.14.12 in Spotlights

A Sleep & A Forgetting


A whole boatload of new arrivals this Valentine’s Week — there’s not a moment to spare!

Heartless Bastards, Arrow: More bluesy, road-trip-worthy rock from Heartless Bastards, fronted by the mighty Erika Wennerstrom. RECOMMENDED. From Austin L. Ray:

Fresh from touring on 2009′s coming-down-off-a-relationship record, The Mountain Heartless Bastards frontlady Erika Wennerstrom took some time off, road tripping all over the country to spend time with friends and family and music that wasn’t her own. As it turns out, that idyllic late 2010 trip gave Wennerstrom a chance to reassess what was going on around her. It’s no wonder, then, that her band, now a quartet after the addition of Matt Nathan on guitar, sounds positively rejuvenated on Arrow, and is making the best music of its nearly 10-year existence. Unsurprisingly, there’s talk of wide-open spaces, troubled minds, whiskey and change all over this record. But for as cohesive a collection as it is lyrically, the band switches up musical styles repeatedly.

Tennis, Young & Old: Sophomore album from Denver pop trio Tennis. (In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the band’s Alaina Moore dished on her and husband/bandmate Patrick Riley’s favorite tunes.) Arye Dworken says:

The Denver-based trio’s sophomore release is sunshiny, retro and, frankly, irresistible, just like the debut. Yet, while their timeless pop still references the Shangri-Las, the Carpenters and early Cardigans, it bears a beefier and more substantive bottom thanks in part to the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney’s production. With the bespectacled garage rocker’s steroid injection, tracks like the buoyant “High Road” and the jaunty “My Better Self” aren’t concerned with getting the once-impeccably preppy aesthetic a little dirty.

Shearwater, Animal Joy: Shearwater’s first LP on Sub Pop is an atmospheric slow-burner; says Nick Marino:

The Austin-based quintet Shearwater is not afraid to rock – Animal Joy opens with a buzzing electric guitar, and then charges into the propulsive standout “Immaculate” – but its new album overall is more interested in atmospherics than in heart-pounding anthems. Frontman and noted bird enthusiast Jonathan Meiburg has a smoky voice that hovers over hushed tracks like “Run The Banner Down” and a batch of others that run together. They’re there, if you want vibe music for long nights in big old houses after too much red wine.

Field Music, Plumb: 15 songs frantically packed into just 30 minutes. David Greenwald says:

The U.K. band’s short attention span has returned on Plumb, a 15-track collection that races by in just over a half-hour. With no room to stretch out, the band instead raises its sound upward, embracing dramatic guitar flourishes and rhythmic peaks that nod toward the Who or the late-period Beatles. But Field Music’s take on pop remains a cerebral, staccato one, filtered as much through the stop-start dexterity of Fugazi as McCartney’s single-pour melodies.

Islands, A Sleep & A Forgetting: The always-busy Nick Thorburn releases his third LP as Islands. Ryan Reed says:

With his indie-rock side project Mister Heavenly, Nick Thorburn crafted a quirky new genre called “doom-wop” – a tasty mish-mash of classic pop and demented art-rock. On A Sleep & A Forgetting, his first album in three years as Islands, Thorburn delivers dreamy songs stuffed with “ooh-ahh” harmonies, lovelorn lyrics and oceanic guitars that wash over like waves on sand. It’s less doom-wop, more doo-wop.

Young Magic, Melt: The debut from the Brooklyn-based trio Young Magic. Says Lindsay Zoladz:

A self-described “sonic collage,” the band’s debut LP Melt fuses found sounds recorded all over the globe, from Melbourne to Berlin to Buenos Aires to – finally, where else? – Brooklyn, where the nomadic band of two Australians and one Indonesians now call home. As on “You With Air,” which is animated by the chants of vaguely eerie voices, its 11 tracks take on the transient hominess of electro campfire songs. Despite its nomadic origins, Melt never sounds restless; instead, it’s a testament to pitching your tent (and plugging in your sampler) wherever you happen to be laying your head.

Amoral, Beneath: From Phil Freeman:

This fifth album, and U.S. debut, by furious Finns Amoral finds them evolving from melodic death metal to a more classicist power-metal approach, filling their songs with anthemic swoops and epic choruses. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of Dream Theater, especially when the opening title track chugga-chuggas past the eight-minute mark.

Tim Berne, Snakeoil: The latest from alt-jazz saxophonist Tim Berne. Says Dan Oullette:

While there are the requisite quiet moments of rumination that ECM is best known for, Berne gracefully and frequently abandons the sentiment. He finds the space to blitz and dash through the hour-plus collection that features six lengthy, large-canvas compositions, each fused with equal parts written structure and free improvisation that ranges from lyrical to dissonant. This is pure journey music with passages of serenity dissolving and exploding into muscular sax and urgent clarinet voicings.

Speech Debelle, Freedom of SpeechCalled this out yesterday for UKers, but here it is again – Mercury Prize-winner Speech Debelle returns with a wounded, wise sophomore LP.

Ital, Hive MindPulsing, sample-heavy, blissful and even a little Krautrock-y debut from Ital on Planet Mu. Plays like an album, the kind of thing you can lose time in, but also breaks off into amazing highlight-reel chunks of dance. Absolutely absolutely RECOMMENDED by us.

Bonobo, Black Sands Remixed – Called it out in yesterday’sUK arrivals post, but here it is again: the remix to the hailed 2010 trip-hop album.

Audra Mae & The Almighty Sound, S/T – Raucous, soulful honky-tonk.This sounds like an immediate hit.

Anne Akiko Meyers, Air: The Bach Album – A lovely assortment of Bach standards from Anne Akiko Meyers.

Cotton Mather, The Big Picture – Stop us if you’ve heard this one before – undersung power-pop band, shoulda/coulda/woulda been stars, in a JUST UNIVERSE, wrote tons of ALTERNATE UNIVERSE POP HITS? No? Yes? It’s the Power-Pop Tale of Woe, and Cotton Mather are just another band who get to plausibly tell it. They can count Liam Gallagher among their fans. This is their 2001 album.

Redelivery brings all of garage-rock experts Sympathy For the Record Industry back up to the top of the Freshly Ripped pile. A good enough reason as any to check them out. They’ve got classics: Spacemen 3, Compulsive Gamblers, Detroit Cobras Holly Golightly, The Gun Club, and tons more.


Easily the jazz drop of the year, maybe the best I’ve seen since I began contributing to the weekly New Arrivals article. Let’s begin…

Tim Berne, Snakeoil: Snakeoil is alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s first release on ECM under his own name, but it’s his third appearance on the label. Contributing as a sideman on David Torn’s Prezens and Michael Formanek’s The Rub and the Spare Change, two excellent albums in their own right, Berne is more than familiar with the ECM aesthetic and its leaning toward sparseness and tranquility. It’s nice to hear that ECM clearly let Berne follow his own sound and vision. Plenty of ferocity and wild improvisational aeronautics, this is the kind of album that compels to sit up and listen.

Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric, 20th Century Folk Selections: Up-and-coming guitarist Todd Clouser takes eight modern tunes that he calls “folkloric in nature” and funnels them through a jazz ensemble. Includes songs like Neil Young’s “Damage and the Needle Done”, the Beastie Boys’ “Gratitude”, and Nirvana’s “All Apologies”. Some magnificent interpretations. Whereas some jazz covers of modern rock and pop tunes seem to come down to inspiration filed under “Wouldn’t-It-Be-Cool-If?”, Clouser thankfully takes ownership of the tunes and gives them his own voice and vision while still paying his respects to the melodies of the original versions. Case in point… he transmutes Pearl Jam’s insipid “Release” into a sonic diamond. One of the most exciting musicians on the scene. Pick of the Week.

Matt Wilson, An Attitude For Gratitude: Even as he grows increasingly experimental with his sound, drummer Matt Wilson never loses that essential swing. On his current release, joined by Terell Stafford on trumpet & flugelhorn, Gary Versace on piano, organ & accordion, and Martin Wind on bass, Wilson doesn’t do anything to restrain his inventive nature, yet it’s difficult to find a tune here that doesn’t force the foot to tap along with it. Wilson is like a clockmaker who can’t help but perpetually deconstruct his timepieces, clean them, tweak them, and improve them, except that he does this with Jazz. And since I (inadvertently) set myself up for this, I should add that, like the clockmaker, Wilson’s time on drums is flawless. Just great stuff here. Highly Recommended.

San Francisco Latin Jazz Society, This: New album from this little known jazz outfit that put out one of the best albums of 2011 that nobody heard. A follow-up to 2011 release Now What. Unlike anybody else I’ve heard on the scene, the SFLJS channel the latin-jazz-fusion of Gato Barbieri and the rock-jazz fusion of Mahavishu Orchestra. This music is both compelling and fun, current and nostalgic, and Highly Recommended.

Anders Hagberg Quartet, Stores of Now: Really intriguing release by Anders Haberg, who in addition to soprano saxophone, also plays a variety of flutes (C flute, bass and contrabass flutes, matusi and harmonic flutes). The quartet is rounded out with piano, bass, and drums. It’s an alluring set of jazz compositions that sound influenced by the folk music of his native Sweden. Quite pretty, introspective without getting sleepy. ECM fans should probably check this album out.

Carmen Lundy, Changes: Can’t let this week of Jazz Picks go and not mention that jazz diamond Carmen Lundy has a new release out. A set of originals (and one cover). Backing Lundy’s vocals include mainstays Anthony Wonsey (piano), Kenny Davis (bass), and Jamison Ross (drums). If you like jazz vocals, just hit the download button and don’t look back. If jazz vocals aren’t typically your thing, you owe it to yourself to give Lundy a listen; Lundy has plenty of talent and jazz cred and shouldn’t be dismissed. Addition of guests on trombone, flugel, and trumpet are a nice touch.

Charles Gayle, Streets: Charles Gayle is back, and he hasn’t lost any bit of ferocity with age. On tenor sax, and joined by Larry Roland (double bass) and Michael TA Thompson (drums), it’s a great set of free jazz playing, sounding both new and New Thing. If you like your jazz free and fiery, just hit the download button. Gayle is a vet of the scene, having played with the seminal artists of the avant-garde scene, and it’s great to see him out with a new recording. Released on the Northern Spy label, staffed by former members of the ESP label, and musician run; a promising release from these guys. Recommended.

October Trio, New Dream: Interesting album. A cyclical twist and crunch and twist again… washing machine jazz; hypnotic in repetition and broken by unexpected jolts of motion. Opening track “1983″ is the kind of tune that draws a listener right in. Evan Arntzen (tenor & soprano sax, clarinet), Dan Gaucher (drums), and Josh Cole (bass). Released on the Songlines label, who probably couldn’t put out a boring album if they tried.

Gary Bartz, Coltrane Rules: Tao of a Music Warrior: Oh hell yes. Jazz vet and innovator Gary Bartz has a new album out. With Gary Bartz on soprano and alto saxophones, bass clarinet, vocals, Barney McAll on piano, James King on bass, Greg Bandy on drums, and guest appearance by Rene Mclean on flute and Andy Bey on vocals. It’s straight ahead jazz with some gospel influences. It swings and it has soul. It has Bartz playing Jazz on alto and it has Bartz giving voice to that eerie meditative sound he elicits so wonderfully from bass clarinet. Andy Bey, who I go back and forth on, is just wonderful on his guest vocal on “Dear Lord”, recalling echoes of Leon Thomas on some of Pharoah Sanders’ releases on the Enja label. Speaking of labels, this album is released on OYO Recordings, Bartz’s start-up label. Oh yes, definitely Recommended.

Josh Ginsburg, Zembla Variations: Debut album for the well-respected bassist and composer, which actually surprised me just because I’m so used to seeing his name appear on favorite albums. Features Eli Degibri on tenor & soprano sax, George Colligan on piano & Fender Rhodes, and Rudy Royston manning the drums. An intriguing release. There’s a math-like angularity to many of the compositions, yet they still swing when they need to. I love Ginsburg’s arco on the song “Koan”. On the Brooklyn Underground label, who seem addicted to releasing music slightly skewed from Jazz Center. Very nice and Recommended.

John Raymond, Strength & Song: Raymond gets a seriously warm tone out of both trumpet and flugel, and it’s a magnificent balancing weight with the groove of Gilad Hekselman’s guitar and Javier Santiago’s Rhodes. Quintet date is rounded out with bass and drums, and some guest appearances, including Gerald Clayton. Raymond can swing plenty fine, but it’s the ballads and slow-tempo pieces that really see his talent shine. A very likable album, and a great choice for jazz after a hard day at the job.

Myra Melford & Trio M, The Guest House Trio M is Myra Melford on piano, Mark Dresser on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums; all three are virtuosos in their own right. This is the follow-up to their excellent release The Big Picture. A high watermark for jazz improvisation. The compositions here are hardly conventional, but they’re also not quite avant-garde… more an impressionistic take on avant-garde. The trio shows an enviable comfort playing with one another, they give each other plenty of room to solo and display no difficulty keeping step when one wants to stretch out a bit. Plenty of dissonance, but also some seriously beautiful moments of tranquility like on “Hope (for a cause).” Highly Recommended.

Nubim, Between Silence and Light; Okay, this is one where I’m not sure if I can trust my first impressions; maybe like a little time to let this album sink in. But here I go anyways. This is really really pretty. Jazz with serious classical and folk influences. Piano with oboe, accordion, cello, various percussion instruments and occasional Korean vocals. When it leans on the classical and folk elements, the music is dripping with mystery and moodiness; when it leans on the jazz, the music gets a little light and mainstream. First impressions aside, this is an album that’ll get repeat listenings and, also, one that non-jazz fans might want to let their ears linger on for awhile.

Ahmad Jamal, Blue Moon: Truly a jazz legend, Ahmad Jamal has been blazing a trail in music, well, it seems like forever. This is a guy that Miles Davis admitted to being influenced by, and allegedly, wanted his pianist, the equally legendary Red Garland, to play more like. A quartet date with Reginald Veal (double bass), Herlin Riley (drums), and Manolo Badrena (percussion). This ain’t a musician simply going through the motions; whereas Jamal has achieved a level of virtuosity that, perhaps, can’t be expanded upon, he shows here that the shine on this gem is nowhere close to fading. Just so happy to see this recording hit the eMusic Freshly Ripped.

Jim Black Trio, Somatic: I’ve read in some places where Somatic is considered a huge departure for Jim Black and his longtime project AlasNoAxis, but I’m not so sure of that. If AlaxNoAxis songs were reduced down to their most elemental form, whether it’s the scratchy noise-rock or the surging Cuong Vu-like serene-dissonance, the seeds of those songs can be heard in the tranquility that comprises Somatic. This is a Winter & Winter release, which elicits imagery of peaceful ambience and Paul Motian, who put out some amazing albums on the label, and which were typified by long sonorous notes and almost slurred tones distilled from hazy days. This album sounds informed from both sources… the Jim Black AlasNoAxis compositions and the Paul Motian sonority. But make no mistake, this is quiet morning music. Jim Black on drums, Elias Stemeseder on piano, and upright bassist Thomas Morgan. Recommended.

Yuriy Galkin Nonet, Nine of a Kind: A nice large ensemble recording by the Russian bassists and composer, Yuriy Galkin. His background in jazz, classical, and Latin music is evident throughout. All the energy and fullness one would hope for. Released by the F-IRE Collective, which has proven to be a label to keep an eye on.


Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Mariee Sioux, Bonnie & Mariee – A lovely collaborative double seven-inch from good old Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who teams up with skewed-folkie-in-arms Mariee Sioux for a gently warped batch of Americana lullabies.

The Wave Pictures, Eskimo Kiss – A/B single from expert, winsome Orange Juice revivalist jangle-poppers Wave Pictures.

Light Asylum, Shallow Tears – Nice new single fromBrooklyn dark-wave act. This woman’s voice is Shakespearean: Ian Curtis meets Grace Jones.

Callum Read & The Books, Don’t Be Gone For Long – I don’t know what the Books have to do with this lovely little indie-pop tune, but it’s excellent. #ignorance

Jah Wobble & Keith Levene, EPJah Wobble reunites briefly with ex-PiL member Keith Levene.

R. Kelly, Share My Love – Smoothly bumping, adults-night-out retro-disco single from R. Kelly. Very, very VERY Barry White. Interesting to see if his new record tries on these ’70s symphonic-soul duds for album’s-length.

Killer Mike ft. Bun B, T.I., and Trouble, Big Beast (produced by El-P) — Take a step back to truly absorb that heroically unlikely roster. T.I. Over El-P production! If anyone could make this happen, it’s Killer Mike, theAtlanta underground-rap hero whose unlimited lines of credibility means he can get away with just about anything. This song is incredible, a pipe-bomb in rap-song form.

First Aid Kit, Emmylou — New single from the indie-folk duo First Aid Kit, whose creek-clear vocal harmonies are something to behold. Their voices sound better than ever on this song. I think this record is going to be something special.

Gabrielle Aplin, Home EPSteve Lamacq called out Gabrielle Aplin in his Five to Watch 2012 for us when he took over theeMusic UK site, and here is a good example of what he sees in her: lovely, feather-light folk songs, built entirely from her high, breathy voice and acoustic guitar, but the songs are several notches stronger and more distinctive than most folk singer-songwriters around these days.