New This Week: Jack White, Death Grips, Omer Avital & More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 04.24.12 in Spotlights


Jack White

IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES GUILLOTIIIIINE. Or so went a song on Death Grips grab-you-by-the-throat breakout mixtape Exmilitary. I was obsessed with that after my first listen, and was therefore stunned when the unapologetically abraisive group not only a) got signed to a major (!) but b) had a new record pretty much ready-to-go. That (excellent) record is available today, along with a host of others. Let’s hit the stacks.

Death Grips, They Money Store: Protect ya neck. And ya skull. And ya spine. And ya ribcage. This record does not mess around — Exmilitary had the visceral thunk of hardcore, but this one sounds like a man screaming at the top of his lungs from inside some huge EENIAC-style computer that’s angrily short-circuiting. Lots of crackling electronics and sinister synthy wooshes encircling MC Ride’s absolutely apeshit delivery. Hey, guess what? Highly Recommended. Nate Patrin has more:

MC Ride’s raspy bellow has the kind of harsh tone East Coast heads will appreciate — think Bobby Digital-era RZA shouting himself hoarse, cranked up to Waka Flocka Flame levels of intensity, turning cryptic threats and manic free association into shout-along lines. Meanwhile, the clamor throbbing beneath his voice pulls more from the brain trust of contemporary West Coast bass music — a la the popular L.A. club night Low End Theory — than anything else. Southern bounce, electro and boogie funk all with the gloss beaten off are full-Nelsoned into raw-hamburger renditions of grime and dubstep.

Jack White, Blunderbuss: Well, we probably don’t need to tell you much about this one. JW forges on with his first solo record; it reads like Jack White’s Book of Rock History, with stop-offs in blues, country, folk and more. Matthew Fritch fills you in:

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune do surface often on Blunderbuss, which begins with “Missing Pieces,” a stylistic feint (it’s built on an off-kilter jazz-rock keyboard riff) and an obvious angry scribble about one or both of his ex-wives: “They’ll take pieces of you and they’ll stand above you and walk away.” Be rightfully wary of solo albums that begin this way, but rest assured that Jack White is too populist to fill two vinyl sides with ponderous gloom and pointed fingers. Blunderbuss turns out to be a head trip in every key. The fully charged “Sixteen Saltines” parties harder than Sleigh Bells and contains more juvenile delinquency than a Harmony Korine film, but its manic thrill is fleeting. White more often lands on country blues, whether it’s acoustic and backed by a female vocalist (“Love Interruption”) or electric and written by Little Willie John (“I’m Shakin’”).

Diamond Rugs, Diamond Rugs: A supergroup featuring members of Deer Tick, Black Lips, Dead Confederate, Six Finger Satellite and Los Lobos. Just let that sentence soak in. This sounds pretty good! Boozy, loosey, drunky, bar-ry, rocky, rootsy, etc. Austin L. Ray has a much smarter take:

Chalk it up to chemistry, or perhaps the quick-and-dirty spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, but Diamond Rugs is a damn good time, the kind of album that’s not above silly song titles like “Gimme a Beer,” “Call Girl Blues” and “Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant,” but also pulls them off with plucky, unwashed aplomb.

Toro y Moi, June 2009: As the title implies, this is an early TyM album that’s a little more lo-fi and a little less dancey and a little more on the kind of chintzy indie synth tip, which is fine by me.

Suckers, Candy Salad: Bright, clanging indie pop with lots of keyboards and rigid guitars and bright-sky melodies.

Carole King, The Legendary Demos: The title doesn’t lie. Rough sketches of songs that would become classics — for King and for others. We are way overdue on a Carole King Icon, man. Way overdue. Recommended

Lissy Trullie, s/t: Rugged, kinda punky, kinda rocky, with echoes of the Pretenders (or I might be crazy) and some real rough-and-tumble riffy stuff, powered by Trullie’s sometimes pouty, sometimes searing voice.

Electric Guest, Mondo: New, Danger Mouse-produced album from California duo has that kind of hazy dusky pop record — soulful vocals and some bouncing beats, vague “soul”-type influence on a few songs, laconic Broken Bellsy atmosphere on others.

Yuna, s/t: Pretty, pensive electro songs that are a bit of a departure from the folky EP, but what remains is Yuna’s knack for a nice, delicate melody.

Human Don’t Be Angry, s/t: Malcolm from Arab Strap delivers an oddly-titled record that’s got a lot of coolly-cruising backing tracks beneath his odd, robotic, disembodied voice.

Theophilus London, Timez Are Weird These Nights: This appears to be a series of remixes from the last Theophilus London record sponsored by the search engine Bing which, hey, OK. Lineup of producers is really solid, so I’d expect the record to be more than your usual half-assed affair.

Brad, United We Stand: Brad is a side project of Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam. Sounds kinda jammy, with lithe, soulful vocals. A lot more expansive than PJ, a lot looser and prettier.

The Memories, s/t: I’m liking this. If Youth Lagoon had an even smaller budget and fewer keyboards, it might sound something like this. Lots of fret buzz & distortion and some genuinely shy, tiny songs with fuzzed-out guitar and wry, slacker-kid vocals. I’m totally charmed by this. Recommended

Huoratron, Cryptocracy: Pretty great, glitchy-sounding electronic record from a dude who, on his last outing, made music from old Game Boys. This is a lot more sophisticated — thumping electronic music with lots of pinprick synths and stuttering, machinelike noises. Recommended. eMusic’s Christina Lee says:

Huoratron seems to be spinning a yarn of once-dead, now resurrected technology that’s come back to seek revenge. Sounds of malfunctioning equipment — sparks, emergency sirens, even flaccid rubber thumping on pavement — eat at Huoratron’s muscular beats like maggots on a meaty carcass. The title track’s aggressive laser warfare synths stifle what sounds like faint cries, and the flickering “A699F” is peppered with fighting grunts fit for Street Fighter.

Mares of Thrace, The Pilgrimage: I know metal is a hard sell around here, but I’ve really been enjoying this one. Mean, thrashy, doomy metal from these two ladies that packs an infernal punch. Lots of bug-eyed, throat-destroying screams and nasty, scabrous guitar licks. Recommended

Sarah Jaffee, The Body Wins: Sonically-adventurous outing from one-time singer/songwriter boasts stomping, kind of coldly mechanical (in a good way) arrangements that grind and churn under Jaffee’s wry voice. Here’s Mikael Wood with more:

Sarah Jaffe grew up in what Texans rather grandly refer to as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which is presumably how both women came to know and work with producer John Congleton, formerly of the Dallas noise-rock outfit the Paper Chase. It’s Congleton we can thank to some degree for the bottom-heavy groove with which The Body Wins skirts namby-pamby indie-rock convention; the album, rest assured, comes by its title honestly. But if tunes like “The Way Sound Leaves a Room” and the horn-enriched title track seem to showcase Congleton’s delicately brutal production, they also reveal how much Jaffe has grown as a singer since her 2010 debut.

Peter Gabriel, Live Blood: Hey, so, where does the indie world stand on Peter Gabriel? Because someone told me they thought he was kind of considered in the same way Phil Collins was – and not just because they were both in Genesis – and that’s just crazy to me. I kind of like Peter Gabriel? Is that weird? Self-consciously arty, sure, but also smart and somewhat adventurous. This was recorded in London with a symphony orchestra. So take that for what it’s worth.

The Dandy Warhols, This Machine: I really loved this band circa Urban Bohemia. That one was full of wham-glam anthems that were brash and cocky; this one has a touch more electronic influence (just a touch) and is on the whole a little more mannered and controlled. “Rest Your Head” is a bona fide radio ballad.

Magic Wands, Aloha Moon: Cool, burbling, kind of synthpoppy, big beats, sinuous bass and breathy female vocals.

Peasant, Bound for Glory: I really liked the last Peasant record, which was mellow and kinda folky. This one is a bit more electric and veers a little more toward ’70s FM AC, but with the same tenderness as its predecessor.

Dave Sumner’s Jazz Picks

A nice set of releases today, the best of them heavy on the dramatic tension. Jazz powerhouse Omer Avital appears on two of them, which is always a welcome sight. Also, a couple neat regional folk-jazz albums. Let’s begin…

Omer Avital, Suite of the East: Arguably the most talented bass player on the scene and at or near the top of modern day jazz composers, Omer Avital has put out a string of brilliant albums under his own name, not to mention his participation on a slew of excellent albums appearing as a sideman (see next entry). On Suite of the East, he rounds out a quintet that includes Joel Frahm on tenor, Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Jason Lindner on piano, and Daniel Freedman on drums… all names that you can follow like trails of breadcrumbs to excellent jazz releases. This album collected a series of compositions recorded back in 2006 in New York, following on the heels of Avital’s three year stay in Israel and a month long residency at Smalls in New York. Includes the composition “Free Forever,” which is about as thrilling as it gets, and was recorded on Avital’s live performance release of the same name, arguably 2011′s album of the year. Pick of the Week.

Third World Love, Songs and Portraits: A quartet of trumpeter Avishai Cohen, bassist Omer Avital, pianist Yonatan Avishai, and drummer Daniel Freedman. Consistently fuse together different strains of jazz, particularly Middle-Eastern, American, and African, but no matter what prevailing sound may be strongest at a particular time, the soul of the blues often shines right through. This ain’t their first release as an ensemble, nor is it the only one that is all goodness from beginning to end. Opening track “Im Ninalu” swings on a sea of tranquility, so light it almost floats. Highly Recommended.

Carla Marciano Quartet, Stream of Consciousness: This Italian saxophonist put out an album dedicated to John Coltrane several years back, and now listening to this new release, the evidence of Coltrane’s influence on Marciano’s sound is crystal clear. Displaying the ferocity and quick turn of warmth that her inspiration did, Marciano has released a thrilling album, rounding out the quartet, like Coltrane, with piano, bass, and drums. Fans of Nat Birchall and Matthew Halsall’s work should be paying close attention here, as well as anyone who pines for the spiritual jazz of the sixties. Find of the Week.

Joe Chambers, Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra: One of the great drummers to come out of the sixties, Joe Chambers is still moving right along. Recorded live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Chambers leads a big band featuring (among others), Craig Handy, David Weiss, and Conrad Herwig in a lively set of tunes that smokes as often as it soars.

Indigo Kid, Indigo Kid: Intriguing quartet date. Guitar, sax, drums, and bass. Actually, the sax man on the album is none other than Iain Bellamy, of Loose Tubes fame, though currently better known as a member of Food, an ambient jazz group that out-ECM’d ECM before Manfred Smartly signed them up. On this recording, it’s rainy day jazz. Plenty of music to kick back and just drift off to, but also plenty of life to it in case the rainy day kicks up some thunder and lightning. It’s guitar that takes the lead mostly, very much from the Kurt Rosenwinkel school of jazz guitar, though guitarist Dan Messore is more than just some sort of clone. Album drifts a bit thematically, seems to lack an identity, though I haven’t yet made up my mind whether this is symbolic of an album weakness or strength. Likely one of those albums that rewards repeat listening.

Romain Collin, The Calling: Fascinating album, two feet in the territory of New Piano Trio. Pianist Collin on piano and effects, Kendrick Scott on drums, and Luques Curtis on bass, with guests on guitar and cello for some tracks. Plenty of dynamic tension, dramatic melodies, and electronic flourishes to satisfy fans of E.S.T. and Jacob Karlzon. Moments of astonishing beauty. Highly Recommended.

Kenny Wheeler Big Band, The Long Waiting: Modern jazz giant Kenny Wheeler has been influencing jazz for decades. His talent on trumpet is matched only by his skill at arrangements. This recording reinforces that reputation, deservedly. A beautiful album that will give any big band fan their necessary fix. Among the performers is tenor sax man Julian Siegal, who has been involved in several quality albums over the last handful of months, and whose name has made repeated appearances in the Jazz Picks. This is great stuff. Recommended.

Philippe le Baraillec, Involved: Something satisfyingly off-center on this quartet album. Led by pianist Baraillec, and including sax player Chris Cheek, it’s a set of modern straight-ahead jazz, though the rhythmic cross-currents give a slippery sense of motion to the melodies played over it, giving a sense of a skewed reflection of the composition. The kind of music that’s just engaging enough to induce daydreams while listening.

Ferner/Juliusson, Undertowed: Here’s one for those who like that sparse Nordic ECM sound. A duo of piano and guitar. Plenty of minimalism, use of silence, and occasional clashes of dissonance to break the quiet ambiance. Promising album from this young duo.

Let’s briefly talk about two albums that fall under Jazz Inspired by Regional Folk Music, before we wrap things up…

Massot-Florizoone-Horbaczewski, Cinema Novo: A trio of cello, tuba/euphonium/trombone, and chromatic accordion. Very similar in sound to the above Tricycle, which makes sense considering accordionist Tuur Florizoone is a member of both. However, while their regional folk sound may be similar in both albums, the addition of tuba, trombone, and cello to this album definitely gives it its own identity. Recommended.M

I’m leaning toward Cinema Novo as my favorite of the two due to my love of cello and trombone and any inclusion of tuba in a jazz setting, but they’re definitely both worth a listen.