New This Week: Hurray for the Riff Raff, Sun Kil Moon, Eric Church & More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 02.11.14 in Spotlights

A huge new release day today, with records by old friends and favorites as well as a whole bunch of new faces for curious types. We’ll run through our picks starting now:

Hurray for the Riff Raff, Small Town Heroes: We first introduced you to Hurray for the Riff Raff way back in 2009, when we released their second record, Young Blood Blues, through our eMusic Selects program. They’ve come a long way since then, signing to ATO for this, their HIGHLY RECOMMENDED fifth record. I wrote a profile of the band, which you can read here. Of the record, Amanda Petrusich says:

Small Town Heroes is the band’s sixth long-player, and Segarra’s first for a major indie label. Here, she makes the machinations of heartbreak sound easy, or at least beautiful, her soft, doleful voice never rising to a wail. “All these people, and all these things/ Now what’s the point in a wedding ring?” she sings on the title track. Only it’s clear Segarra knows exactly what the point of it is, and she feels its absence every single day. “I don’t want no one else but you,” she admits in “No One Else,” over a bass line cribbed from “Stand By Me” and a big, barrelhouse piano riff. “I think it’s time you come on back home.”

Eric Church, The Outsiders: I have been a longtime Eric Church fan, ever since his outstanding first record, Sinners Like Me. His profile has risen steadily since then, and his newest record — which is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED — is poised to be his breakthrough. Keith Harris says:

On The Outsiders, Church’s fourth album, you’ll hear all sorts of noises you don’t expect from a mainstream country album: marching-band trombones, down-home funk, a campy goth recitation on “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Prince of Darkness)” that ranks with Vincent Price’s “Thriller” coda. But it’s the guitars you’ll remember — monstrously distorted, fantastically disproportionate to their surroundings, pounding like riotous inmates against the constraints the songwriting imposes. Heavy as it is, the arena crunch of title track can’t satisfy those guitars, which dig their heels in for a “Blam-blam-blam shreeee!” breakdown before reeling off into a full-on prog-rock fantasia.

Tinariwen, Emmaar: Currently displaced from their Northern Mali home, Tinariwen decamped to Joshua Tree, California for their latest LP. Richard Gehr says:

Tinariwen’s music sounds more organic and single-minded than ever here, although you may miss their earlier albums’ female contributions. Country traditionalist Fats Kaplin occasionally adds subtle steel guitar, making Ag Alhabib’s way-downtempo “Sendad Eghlalan” (This Constant Lethargy) sound particularly languid. Lyrically, however, it’s a call to action. Emmaar means “the heat on the breeze” in Tamashek; that might also suggest a prairie fire.

Sun Kil Moon, Benji: Mark Kozelek’s most devastating and personal release yet; Stephen Deusner says:

These are songs about dead relatives and old friends, full of tragedy, affection, generosity, despair, and more than a few bizarre coincidences (two family members killed by exploding aerosol cans?). There are loving odes to both of his parents as well as moving eulogies to his uncle and second cousin, yet rather than wax nostalgic, Kozelek lays everything out with brutal candor.

Cibo Matto, Hotel Valentine: Cibo Matto return with a record that’s jazzier and more sophisticated, while maintaining the whimsy of their early jams. Barry Walters says:

Sharing supernatural themes with Hayao Miyazaki’s classic anime Spirited Away, Hotel Valentine presents itself as an inn tightly packed with mischievous maids, phantom girls, and generous helpings of booze, weed, and — their favorite topic — food. “Check In” introduces the album’s musical polygamy as it switches from psychedelic dub to keyboard-driven rock to a “Push It”-like club banger. “Déjà Vu” funks along on a big fat bassline, joined for the chorus by slippery horns. The most danceable of the lot, “10th Floor Ghost Girl” brings off-kilter Afrobeat disco, but cuts it up like a DJ with a heavy fader finger. The plot of this hallucinatory concept album may come and go, but its churning and ever-changing rhythms never give up the ghost.

✝✝✝, ✝✝✝: This is Chino from Deftones, but just because the name of the band is a bunch of symbols does not mean it’s witch house, so let’s put a stop to that rumor right now. This is spooky, moody electronic pop music. It’s vaguely gothy, but also way more melodic than Deftones — a band I love — have sounded in a while. Moreno’s voice sounds really good against the clicking, wheezing electronics, and there are moments here that approach — dare I say it? — pop? A successful stylistic detour for sure.

The Casket Girls, True Love Kills the Fairy Tale: Sisters Phaedra and Elsa Greene, with Ryan Graveface, often sound like a gothic girl-group gang plotting revenge. Annie Zaleski says:

True Love blends sugary, sing-song vocals full of sinister intentions (think Nancy Sinatra circa “Some Velvet Morning” or the Raveonettes’ Sharin Foo) with creepy droning organ, swathes of grinding keyboard noise and electronic drums. The results are unnerving, a mixture of sweetness and unease: haunted-house synthpop (“Ashes and Embers”), frothy digital chill-outs (the M83-esque “Holding You Back”) and antique-sounding goth-pop (“Secular Love”).

Cheatahs, Cheatahs: Irresistible, MBV-indebted noise. Sharon O’Connell says:

While the debut album from London-based quartet Cheatahs can’t avoid comparisons to Loveless, it’s the (mainly) US punk, hardcore and slacker-rock markers on its road to a similarly fulsome oblivion that indicate its difference. The woozy, fathoms-deep swirl of “Mission Creep” and “Fall” may be deeply indebted to MBV, but it’s Hüsker Dü’s New Day Rising, Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me, and Swervedriver’s Raise that supply this record’s thrust, a fact heavily underscored by the routine physicality and volume of Cheatahs’ live shows.

Nina Persson, Animal Heart: Solo record from the frontwoman of The Cardigans, a band a lot of people liked in the ’90s. This is pretty mellow stuff — anyone looking for the breathy fizz of “Lovefool” will be sorely disappointed. Torch songs with drum machines, is what I’m saying.

Thug Entrancer, Death After Life: The latest on Daniel Lopatin’s Software label, Thug Entrancer repurposes Chicago juke. Abby Garnett says:

Thug Entrancer is Ryan McRyhew, a Denver native who moved to Chicago in 2011, and on Death After Life he regurgitates the style of his adoptive hometown with robotic efficiency. But while each of the eight tracks includes some emulation of juke’s layered, syncopated rhythms, they aren’t exactly party starters.

The People’s Temple, Musical Garden: And with this, we move into a little section I like to call, New Releases on Labels I Love. First up: the third record from the People’s Temple, on Chicago’s can’t miss HoZac Records. I’ve been surprised by the rate at which PT has been cranking out albums. It feels like it was just 20 minutes ago they put out their — I’m just gonna say it — slightly disappointing second record. This one sounds like it rights the ship: it’s more limber and spry where its predecessor felt sluggish and lazy. This is good-weed basement-style psych-rock, the kind of thing kids in the ’70s were bashing out on cheap amps after school.

Ruined Fortune, Ruined Fortune: Hoo baby! This HIGHLY RECOMMENDED new record also arrives courtesy of HoZac, and its pedigree is impossible to argue with. Featuring Nic Warnock, who runs the 100% excellent R.I.P. Society label and is also in Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys as well as Angie Garrick, who’s also in Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, as well as Circle Pit and Daniel Spencer from Blank Realm on drums, this record couldn’t help but be the best. Scuzz, filth, echo, sludge, lower-than-lo-fi and so up my alley. You know what to do.

New Coke, “Duct Tape Your Mouth”: New single from our good friends at the excellent Slovenly Records, New Coke are a band from Florida (of all places) who specialize in melodic rock full of knotted, gnarled guitars. Not unlike a more-polished Gories in spots.

PYPY, Pagan Day: Also from Slovenly, and officially concluding the New Releases on Labels I Love section comes this weirdo slab from Canadian group PYPY. This is a weird one — lots of reverb and echo, but the structures are loose and almost dubby in places. It kind of reminds me of, like, A Certain Ratio or the dancier/less menacing moments of the Pop Group. Awesomely weird.

Speedy Ortiz, Real Hair EP: New EP from one of my favorite new bands is just as gnarled and growling as its predecessor, but you can hear the band getting stronger, even more accomplished (Which, given how strong their debut was, is saying something). Barbed-wire tangles of guitar wrap around Sadie Dupuis’s cool, plainspoken vocals. RECOMMENDED

Total Slacker – Keep the Ships at Bay

Total Slacker, Slip Away: Tons of fuzz and clatter on this outing from New Yorkers Total Slacker. The name scans punk rock, but the reality is quite different: the record tends toward the weird end of ’90s rock, with wobbly, watery guitars and a kind of slacker melodicism. The result is weird and warped, off-balance, banana-peel-smoking rock.

Various Artists, There Is No Such Thing As Society. Get a Job, Get a Car, Get a Bed, Get Drunk! – Underground Punk and Post Punk in the UK, 1977-1981, Vol. 2.: A sequel to the Punk 45 compilation released last year, this second volume compiles just-as-rickety post-punk from known entities like the Television Personalities and Swell Maps as well as lesser-known ones like The Cravats. Fans of junk-shop post-punk, this is your dream come true. RECOMMENDED

Vehicle Flips, Friends Like Nations: 1994 – 1997: Someone out there has to be excited about this Vehicle Flips compilation. Short-lived wimp-rock band with rickety guitars and the kind of borderline-bummed-out vocals that prefigured emo without descending into that genre’s outright soft-belly whininess. Honestly, if you want a good idea of what indie rock used to sound like 20 years ago, this is probably a better place to start than any of the better-known contemporaries. It was bands like Vehicle Flips that were lurking just below the radar that were always a genuinely pleasant surprise to stumble upon — the kind of serendipitous discovery that doesn’t really happen anymore now than everybody knows everything about everyone. You know what? I love Vehicle Flips. This gets a RECOMMENDED.

Jonas Reinhardt, Ganymede: I really love Jonas Reinhardt. This is the soundtrack to an experimental film members of the group apparently had a hand in making. This is way more droney and ambient than they’ve sounded in a while — Mask of the Maker approached minimal techno at times — and it’s soothing and unnerving all at once, just like all the best Jonas Reinhardt songs are.

Temples, Sun Structures: The Noel Gallagher-approved LP from Temples reveals all its secrets the first time through. Says Ian Cohen:

You can’t doubt Temples’ commitment. The first notes you hear on Sun Structures are from a clean 12-string guitar, and during the breaks in the call-and-response vocals that follow, you’ll spend the rest of “Shelter Song” trying to figure out the Rubber Soul deep cut from which it’s on loan. The ensuing title track even has a chorus that revolves around the word “odyssey.” James Edward Bagshaw’s vocals are pure Lennon nasal spray and the dozens of ringing arpeggios cause Sun Structures to unintentionally double as a long-form ad for Rickenbacker.