We’ve got a whole huge batch of new arrivals today just waiting for you to dive in.
Japandroids, Celebration Rock: I am sorry that this is such a cliche thing to say, but man, this has been a great year for rock records. Cloud Nothings, The Men, and now Japandroids have all unleashed big, brawny records that boasted a sort of mule-kicking defiance. This one is Highly Recommended. I’ll let Jayson Greene take care of the rest:
Japandroids’ Celebration Rock begins and ends with fireworks — not the county-fair variety, but the cheap, barely legal kind you set off in the woods with friends and then run away, giggling uncontrollably. The sound sets the tone for a sizzling, incandescent burst of a record, one that conjoins punk-rock fist-aloft solidarity and weepy heartland-rock sentimentality in one 35-minute-long bro-hug.
Liars, WIXIW: Today is just a great day for new records! Liars are back with this Highly Recommended new record and, if there’s one thing we’ve come to expect from Liars, it’s that only a fool ‘expects’ anything from Liars. See what I did there? I’m gonna turn the rest of this over to Brandon Soderberg, who says:
With every release, invigorated both by self-imposed limits and half-baked experiments, Liars discover new aesthetic worlds. On WIXIW, the goal is retrofitting the past’s electronic pop and dance presets into rhythmic, art-damaged dirges. Save for acid-squelch rave-up “Brats,” WIXIW‘s songs are all nervous tension and no cathartic release. Imagine the brutal minimalism of Iggy Pop’s The Idiot sharing a slow dance with the transcendent cheapness of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92.
Kelly Hogan, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain: Longitme sidearm to Neko Case — and an estimable country singer in her own right — Hogan steps out on her own with a little help from some notable collaborators. Ashley Melzer say:
I Like to Keep Myself in Pain represents two years of work, asking friends and collaborators to write songs she could infuse with her own country-soul spin. Pain has tracks by M. Ward, Stephin Merritt, Robyn Hitchcock and the late Vic Chesnutt, among others. It’s masterfully curated, letting Hogan show off incomparable vocals over the melodic groove of a crack band.
Oh No, Ohnomite: Awesome! The return of Oh No after the spectacular Dr. No’s Ethiopium, this one is a tribute to the great cult film Dolomite. And it’s Highly Recommended. Here’s Nate Patrin with more:
Ohnomite hangs together with Oh No’s usual approach, his no-frills punchline lyrics and lo-fi indie-g-funk production palette seamlessly incorporating Moore’s raw spirit. Some of the cast-of-dozens guest spots jump out in particular: a gravelly MF DOOM cracking wise on “3 Dollars,” Phife Dawg dropping elder advice on the blunted noir-soul of “Dues N Don’ts,” and the omnipresent Roc Marciano sneering iced razors on “The Hitmen.” But one voice dominates — the Human Tornado his MFin’ self.
Melvins, Freak Puke: this is technically credited to ‘Melvins Lite,’ since the lineup is a bit smaller than traditional Melvins, but the essential formula hasn’t changed: stomping, sludgy rock, this time mixed with odd, avant symphonic elements. Jon Wiederhorn says:
Freak Puke is more heavy-lidded than it is heavy, a warped mix of stoner rock, acid-jazz, experimental classical and whacked-out prog. Crover’s drums are often understated and low in the mix, leaving Dunn to provide much of the character with a blend of meandering string plucks and rapid, skittering avant-garde bowing redolent of an orchestra warming up before a symphony, and frontman Buzz Osborne compliments the songs with an array of layered, synapse-frazzling solos and sedated vocals.
Patti Smith, Banga: I rep pretty hard for late-period Patti Smith, where I feel like the blunt force of her early records has stretched out into some truly elegant rock songwriting. Annie Zaleski agrees:
Musically, Banga largely shies away from raw aggression, save for the searing snarl of the title track and the thundering drums and droning riffs of the ominous “Constantine’s Dream.” “April Fool,” which features lovely bubbling guitar warbles by Television’s Tom Verlaine, is incredibly poppy; the folky strum “Mosaic” boasts elegant mandolin; and “Amerigo” floats on keening strings and Smith’s breathy, at times almost frail, vocals.
Marduk, Serpent Sermon: Twenty-two years is a long time for any band, but it’s an especially long time for a black metal band. Marduk, though, just keep getting better and more interesting, roaming ever closer to the genre’s border and bringing in elements of psych and thrash. This one is Recommended. Dan Epstein thinks so, too:
Despite nine lineup shifts, the band has retained its old-school black-metal values, sepulchral vocals, pulse-racing blastbeasts and just enough melody to differentiate one song from another. Marduk’s 12th album Serpent Sermon, the fourth to feature vocalist Mortuus, is a natural evolution from 2009â€²s Wormwood, with a touch less experimentation and a little more energy. Speed is the main ingredient here and nearly all the songs rely heavily on tornado volleys of velocity.
Rhett Miller, The Dreamer: More great, hooky, slightly-country pop music from the Old 97′s frontman. I like where Miller has been going lately, skewing more power pop than ever, and retaining just a little bit of his country twang. The songwriting is solid as ever. Recommended.
Paul Simon, Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition: Paul Simon’s ’80s masterpiece returns in an expanded edition that is – guess what – Highly Recommended. To quote my favorite Allo Darlin’ song: “It’s like loving Graceland/ It’s not allowed to be, but we know it’s everybody’s favorite/ deep down in the place where music makes you happiest.”
Crocodiles, Endless Flowers: Crocodiles scrape away some of the fuzz and deliver a batch a songs that sound like what might happen if Echo & the Bunnymen were a little less pristine. The choruses on these are huge, and there’s a bit of fey ’80s Britpop in the overall approach. The second song, both structurally and sonically, kind of reminds me of the Dinosaur Jr. cover of “Just Like Heaven,” if that helps.
Pujol, United States of Being: Brawny rock songs with equal amounts snot and hooks — this is the perfect summer record; like Wavves fronting a bar rock band.
Curren$y, Stoned Immaculate: Curren$y puts out so many records! It is really impressive! Bob Pollard is like, “Slow down, dude!” Nick Murray says:
Curren$y has established a cultish following with an auteur-driven string of albums remarkable in terms of both quality and quantity. And while his latest, The Stoned Immaculate, aims (you might say) even higher, it does so without much compromise, reliably strong production from usual suspects like Monsta Beatz and Big K.R.I.T. and cameos by 2 Chainz, Estelle and Daz Dillinger.
Momus, Bibliotek: Momus! Still making records! Little squiggly synths, Momus’s whispery voice and clever lyrics are all intact, though Bibliotek sounds a little quieter and more restrained than past outings.
Brandi Carlile, Bear Creek: I have an avowed soft spot for contemporary country, and while this is not that, it does land somewhere closer to the mainstream than, say, a Laura Marling record. If First Aid Kit cleaned up a bit and tried to make the last Dixie Chicks record, this is what it might come out like. Carlile has a ragged, gravelly voice, and the production here is crisp, but mostly avoids unnecessary flourishes. This is a lot of hemming and hawing for what actually sounds like a really solid roots-pop record. I will compensate by saying it’s Recommended
Emeli Sande, Our Version of Events: This is really good! Scottish R&B singer delivers power and elegance on this full-length debut. Barry Walters says:
SandÃ© sings with preternatural urgency, as if she were a superhero and her every note was intended to stop a calamity. Accordingly, nearly every track here, slow or fast, is fitted out with suspense-raising orchestration. The effect works like a charm on the strongest compositions — “Heaven,” “My Kind of Love,” “Daddy,” and “Next to Me.”
Big K.R.I.T., Live from the Underground: Big K.R.I.T. was responsible for one of my favorite hip-hop records of last year, so I’m excited to spend more time with this one. K.R.I.T.’s flor is super-nimble, super-fast, and he bounds along the beats with a giddiness that’s hard to resist. Recommended
The Mynabirds, Generals: The focal point here is Laura Burhenn’s booming alto, with which she pouts and pleads over towering sonic backdrops.
Mystery Jets, Radlands: Another great album title! You might expect garage rock, but this is actually kind of small, spare and glistening music that’s vaguely reminiscent of the high-tension indie proffered by The National.
Amanda Mair, s/t: Light, fizzy electropop on Labrador records of all places. This strays a bit from their usual fuzzed-out take on indie rock toward shimmery, keyboardy, poppy stuff.
Animal Kingdom, The Looking Away: Animal Kingdom are a band from London that deliver a hushed, restrained take on indie — they’re what Stars might sound like, maybe, if they slowed down to catch their breath. Some of the tracks remind me of the deep album cuts on that Gotye record everyone seems to love.
Langhorne Slim, The Way We Move: More stomping, shouty folk songs from this Pennsylvania songwriter straddles that dusty country line we all love so much, but evens it out with plenty of grit and heart.
Candlemass, Psalms for the Dead: The final Candlemass record is upon us! What a drag! Longtime fans know what their getting here — a mix of longer, doomy numbers back-to-back with some rip-roaring NWOBHM-style fist-pumpers.
Anna Ternheim, The Night Visitor: This is kinda folky, kinda poppy; the songs are built around Ternheim’s tiny voice and the simple spiral of her acoustic guitar.
Carach Angren, Where the Corpses Sink Forever: That is just a great album title, no two ways about it. The rest of this is a lot of pretty imposing symphonic black metal — though the synth-strings are mixed louder than the drums, which just strikes me as a weird choice.
Friends, Manifest!: Sulky, pouty indiepop that kind of sounds like the slower songs on the first Santigold record. A lot of people seem to like this.
Deon, LP: A new one on Hippos in Tanks, the songs here sound like the love themes from some cheesy ’80s computer movie, like Electric Dreams. That’s not really a dis, since that’s exactly the kind of thing I go to Hippos in Tanks for! When I was a kid in the late ’80s, I really wanted this one Korg synthesizer. This sounds like the kind of music I might have made with it.
Dave Sumner’s Jazz Picks:
Wow, okay, that was a serious drop over the last week. No real pattern to the recs below; some stuff that innovative and ahead of the curve, others stuff that channels music of the past, and other music that is pretty much unclassifiable. But this was a strong week, and there were several albums that I just didn’t have time to get to on this list that I might include next week. Let’s begin…
Vijay Iyer Trio, Accelerando: Lovely piano trio album that has Iyer embracing compositions that are accessible in the all the right ways. Compositions that have room for introspection but can also compel the body to move. With each successive album, Iyer has been developing a fullness to his sound, an axis of complexity and accessibility, which means regardless of whether you engage music with your head or your heart, this music will reach you. Damn, this is good. co-Pick of the Week.
Bela Fleck, Across the Imaginary Divide: In light of the recent trend of unfortunate jazz/non-jazz crossovers, this recording is surprisingly tuneful. Fleck continues to display new facets to his talent on banjo by meshing with the excellent Marcus Roberts Trio (w/Jason Marsalis on drums and Rodney Jordan on bass). Fleck keeps his folkish voice on banjo, the Trio is pure jazz, and yet nobody steps on anybody’s toes, they’re all playing on the same page, and in addition to creating a wonderful album, they show how musicians from different genres are able to find the soft places in between, those interstices where the genres touch and connections are made.
Adam Fairhall, The Imaginary Delta: Originally commissioned for the Manchester Jazz Festival, pianist/composer Fairhall bought together a mix of early jazz forms and current technology and music approaches. So what you have are piano, drums, trumpet, trombone and clarinets joined by didley bow, jug, electronics, turntables, and samples of vintage jazz. It has that same synthesis of haunting and nostalgic warmth as anything that Charles Mingus recorded during his most creative moments, and switches from futuristic avant-garde to Olde Tyme swing with alarming seamlessness. An album of outstanding scope and vision. co-Pick of the Week.
Piet Verbist, Zygomatik: An album that has all types of swagger and sway. Bassist Verbist creates a groove that is all about Serious Cool, yet undeniably thoughtful and even cerebral at times. Bram Weijters on the keys, which is a big bonus from a sideman standpoint. One of those albums that can appeal to modern jazz enthusiasts and old school jazz fans alike. Non-jazz reference: Fans of Morphine should take a listen to this. Highly Recommended.
Manuel Valera, New Cuban Express: Cuban pianist continues to add a fresh voice to Afro-Cuban music. A sextet date that gets a wonderful swing, staying true to the traditions of the art form while gracefully giving it his modern voice with a mix of tempo and tone changes that really make for an exciting recording.
Pow Wow, Wop n’ Wow: Swedish outfit that plays moody avant-garde. More of a melodic focus than a rhythmic one. This is still pretty accessible, and if you like the introspective Nordic jazz sound, this album is just a ramped up and deconstructed version of it. The group has been around since 1975. Quality musicianship. Probably the kind of album that gets better with repeated listens.
Martin Leiton, Medium: Nice modern straight-ahead quartet date. Sax, piano, bass, and drums. Nice mix of upbeat and moody pieces. High points are when sax gets lyrical and piano counterbalances by focusing on the instrument’s rhythmic properties.
Jupiter, Atlantis: A quartet of guitar, Hammond B3, drums, and sax. From the Nordic jazz scene. Hopping tunes that sometimes have some fight in them, sometimes some groove. Neat stuff.
“Killer” Ray Appleton, Naptown Legacy: Part of trumpeter Brian Lynch’s “Unsung Heroes” series. This is simply a marvelous set of classic bop from jazz veteran drummer Appleton. An octet date that just swings from beginning to end. Do you like jazz of old and never really got into the modern jazz sound? Well, this is an album to download. Simply wondrous music. Highly Recommended.
Josh Maxey, Language of Sound and Spirit: A new release from the busy guitarist. On this excellent recording, Maxey’s storytale sound on guitar pairs up with Brian Charette’s arching organ grooves, the result being something not that far removed from the foot-tapping serenity of Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way. An album that’s equally intoxicating and head-bopping. Highly Recommended.
Sing Sing Penelope, This Is the Music Vol. 1: Avant-garde with some nice drone, post-rock, and world jazz flavors. A heavy infusion of woodwinds and brass instruments, buffered by electronics and tabla. Difficult to classify, easy to like. Yet more evidence of the thriving jazz scene coming out of Poland. Really a very cool album. Recommended.
Christophe Marguet, Pulsion: Quintet date, featuring saxophonist Sebastien Texier. Melodic, with a gentle yet rapid rhythmic flow to it. Terrifically pretty. Would probably make a great driving album. Find of the Week.
Barcode Quartet, You’re It: Avant-garde performance recorded live in Austria in 2011. Vocals & throat singing, violin, drums, electronics, and piano. Minimalism + haunted house sounds = oddly enchanting.
Jon McCaslin, Sunalta: Strong effort from the Canadian drummer. Solid contemporary jazz, quintet date with a few guests to up the texture a bit. Nice swing, quality soloing… this is jazz served out of a top-shelf bottle, taken straight. Recommended.
Swinging Fundus, Body and Soul: German ensemble that lives for the swing jazz of the 30′s & 40′s, especially that of Woody Herman. Pleasant and sincere, and a nice mix of jazz vets and newcomers.
Jacques Pirotton, Stringly 612: Veteran guitarist puts together an album of pretty tunes that lean more toward folk than jazz. Backed by bass and drums, with some guesting on sax and accordion. Pirotton brings the 12-string along with the 6-string. Album too beautiful not to get in a quick mention.
I don’t typically note older albums issued on eMusic, but I’ll make an exception for the next two albums:
John Clark, Song of Light: A French horn player who is in demand in both classical and jazz circles, John Clark made some intriguing jazz albums under his own name. This is an album from 1980 that includes Michael Cochrane, Ron McClure and Victor Lewis to round out the quartet. Despite the first blush impression that French horn would be an unwieldy instrument to lead a jazz ensemble, Clark finds a way to utilize his instrument’s unique voice and still swing. If you ever see his album I Will get re-issued, scoop it up. There’s a cover of Coltrane’s “India” on it that it simply outstanding.
Rudy Smith & the Modern Sound Quintet, Otinku: Recorded originally back in 1971, this recording featured an addictive fusion of Caribbean music and jazz. Pan drums, piano, bass, drums, and congas. A mix of jazz standards and originals, Caribbean sounds, and Afro-jazz focus, this is just a spectacular display of musicianship.