New This Week: Lana Del Rey, Leonard Cohen & More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 01.31.12 in Spotlights

Old Ideas

Leonard Cohen

Hey, have you guys heard anything about this Lana Del Rey person? I feel like no one’s talking about her. What I wouldn’t give to find out any information on her. Seems real mysterious. Well, whoever she is, we have her record and a whole lot of others today. Let’s go!

Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas: Seriously, I think we all just need to take a pause and revel in the fact that there is a new Leonard Cohen record out today. Don’t take this for granted! As bleak or cynical as you might feel about some aspects of pop music, we still live in an age where we get treated to 10 new Leonard Cohen songs! That is a very good thing! It’s also RECOMMENDED. eMusic’s Amanda Petrusich agrees:

Cohen is still an unmatchable lyrical wit, pithily articulating things (“I had to go crazy to love you”) we’ve all thought at one time or another, and his insights are well-matched by frugal instrumentation (he’s finally eschewing the goofy synthesizers that muddled his most recent records). While his delivery can be deadpan or even purposefully a-melodic, it’s impossible to get through Old Ideas without a few moments of catharsis.

Lana Del Rey, Born To Die: AT LAST. One-woman internet lightning rod finally releases her massively buzzed-about solo debut. We’ll let you decide for yourself. We’ve got a Six Degrees as penned by Michaelangelo Matos that we’ll be rolling out over the next few days. In the meantime, here’s Dan Hyman with a review:

Thanks to producer Emile Haynie (Kid Cudi), everything here has a trip-hop wooziness – orchestral elegance pinned down by hip-hop grit. But it’s when Del Rey speaks up (“Diet Mountain Dew”) over constructed static that a pristine vocal snarl emerges. Going for forthright pop (“Dark Paradise”) suits her well. And while the storyline rarely wavers – “Off to the Races” and “National Anthem” feel like peppy, campier anecdotes to the lusty, confused female personas of standouts “Blue Jeans” and “Born To Die” – audible nuance generally takes precedent over developed narrative.

Lilacs & Champagne, Lilacs & Champagne: THIS IS FANTASTIC. Eerie, ghostlike instrumentals that are creepy and unsettling; like some of the stuff that was happening near the end of trip-hop, when Tricky finally went off the deep end into borderline horrorcore. Play this at night, then try to get to sleep. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED eMusic’s Ian Cohen says:

Alex Hall and Emil Amos are the personalities behind Grails, a Portland instrumental rock collective that’s happily traversed so much sonic terrain over the past decade and a half that they’d seemingly make side projects unnecessary. But where Grails absorbs and perverts genres, Hall and Amos’s self-titled debut as Lilacs & Champagne is an act of deconstruction and rebuilding: The duo were inspired by Madlib’s dank crate-digging and sample-stitching technique, and they also share a love for similar source material. Unquestionably stoned in demeanor, L&C leans heavy on underground hip-hop, Krautrock, ’70s psych and even an occasion Jayne Mansfield recording to create ambient music for the kind of people who find the idea of ambient music boring.

Howlin’ Wolf, Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951 – 1959: OH HELL YES. Wow. Wow. First things first, this one is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This is basically every major Howlin’ Wolf track recorded for Chess Records ever. This is serious. Wolf’s groggy tar-in-the-throat delivery has echoed over decades in people like Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart, and his rough-and-tumble approach to the blues is still without equal. Wanna stare down the devil? Start here. Have I mentioned how great this is?

Buxton, Nothing Here Seems Strange: Rugged little country album not totally unlike the Band — Sergio Trevino has an oaky voice, and they occasionally work up to some nice, dissonant swells of sound. eMusic’s Ashley Melzer says:

Nothing Here is swelling with boy/girl harmonies, sweeping strings and a shortwave radio texture that swaths lead singer Sergio Trevino’s voice to moody effect. Flare for ambience isn’t the band’s only trick, though. For every finger-picked guitar or lilting melody, there’s a counter balance: a wailing lead riff (“Down in the Valley”), a shuffling beat (“Lynchburg Ferry”), a breakout jam session (“Broke from Bread”).

Simone Dinnerstein, Something Almost Being Said: Music of Bach and Schubert: Latest from breakout superstar piano player Dinnerstein that I know well enough I shouldn’t attempt to write about. I leave it in the hands of the pros, like Seth Colter Walls, who says:

If you thought she’d be looking to hedge or hide some of her interpretive tendencies in Romantic repertoire, you’d be wrong. From the opening of No. 1 in C Minor, she instantly features her instinctual, radical recourse to rubato. It’s a doubling down. At nearly 12 minutes, her take is well over a minute longer than standard-bearer recordings by Schiff and Perahia (not to mention last year’s entry from Paul Lewis). It’s a daring approach, and persuasive in no small measure due to the engineering on this recording: By catching the piano’s low end, it gives the enterprise a grounded sense even when Dinnerstein engages in her wait-for-it style of teasing.

Jealous Sound, A Gentle Reminder: EMO. Emo is BACK. Trust me. This is gonna be the year emo returns. Just listen to that Cloud Nothings record! EMO. And don’t be mad about it! It’s good music! And some of its pioneers, as it turned out, never left! The Jealous Sound is Blair from Knapsack and Padro from Sunday’s Best, and the music they write is earnest, tuneful guitar rock that, at times, recalls the last few David Bazan solo records.

Union, Analogotronics: This is pretty great. Lots of analog-synthy production and blip-beats with rhymes by Talib Kweli, MF DOOM, Roc Marciano and more. I’m into it! It’s the kind of thing that would be playing in some chill-out lounge on a club in Venus. eMusic’s Nate Patrin agrees. He says:

Parisian producers OJ and Gold are driven by a shared aesthetic, one in which the more bohemian and blunted corners of North American independent hip-hop have been steeped for more than a decade. It’s an intersection of ’70s/’80s vintage synths and clipped, sawed-off drum breaks, an approach that’s spanned 21st-century music from the Soulquarians to Dam-Funk. Analogtronics does its best to prove its creators’ love for that sound with a roster of indie-rap MCs that work well over it. The reliable juxtaposition of fat, squelching basslines and airy, glimmering melodies over digital-organic Dilla-style snares provides a comfortable backdrop for [the crew of MCs]

Liechtenstein, Fast Forward: I really liked the record this band made for Slumberland last year (or so) but it kind of came and went. Their spirit is not crushed, though! This is more jouyous female-fronted post-punky type stuff, maybe like if the Raincoats were better rehearsed or Huggy Bear were quieter.

Ringo Starr, Ringo 2012: I love that this is called Ringo 2012. I don’t have a ton to say here. This is the latest Ringo record that features collaborators like the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, Joe Walsh and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. I can say with full confidence that there are songs on this record.

Errors, Have Some Faith in Magic: I really love this album title. The album doesn’t sound bad, either: nice, blippy 8-bit-ish electronic music, slow and meditative. Like the soundtrack for an ’80s video game. eMusic’s Andrew Mueller says pretty much the same thing! He and I both think this one’s RECOMMENDED:

Errors’ third album, is an almost exclusively instrumental affair; when human vocals appear, as on “Earthscore” and “Holus-Bolus,” they’re spectral and translucent, ghosts in the machine. For the most part, Errors deal in vast, ornate sculptures of electronic sound. “The Knock” builds into something which, in its climactic movement, is reminiscent of Slovenian situationists Laibach, which is to say it suggests a totalitarian anthem constructed from the bleeps and pops of ’80s video games.

Pepe Deluxe, Queen of the Wave: Pepe Deluxe have been making records forever, man! This is the latest, bringing their cut-n-paste hyperactive sugar-spiked lounge core to the next level.

The Doozer, Keep it Together: This is some glassy-eyed psychy-type UK-inspired folk music. The obvious jumping off point is Syd Barrett, but I can even hear a tiny bit of Nikki Sudden or some of the more pastoral Kinks songs here. Pretty good! eMusic’s Evan Minsker agrees. He says:

On Keep It Together, [The Doozer's] first album on Woodsist, he sets up shop in his local village hall with 11 other musicians. The result is a much warmer album than his previous work, with the first acoustic major chord strums of “Burning Bright” leading into some rococo string arrangements. His lyrics only perpetuate the pastoral feel of the album – “There’s a beautiful girl in a fold-up chair/ Sitting around without a care.” And every song on Keep It Together has that same carefree attitude. It helps that his vocals are flanked by a handful of other lovely things – beautiful flourishes of strings, a choogling acoustic guitar, a second vocalist singing harmony, and a lilting piano.

The Blue Rhythm Combo, BRC’s Groove: WOO-HOO! Crackling, funky beats from Barbadian band in the ’70s. This is great — hazy horn charts, rubbery bass, lots of tight grooves and soulful vocals. Guess what? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Araabmuzik, Instrumental University: This guy! Beatmaster returns with another batch of chilling instrumentals. The thing that stands out to me about Araab’s stuff is how threatening it sounds — there are always these icicle synth stabs or freaked-out orchestral hits — it’s like you’re caught in the second of a horror film where the killer leaps out of the bushes, knife drawn.

One Model Nation, Totalwerks Vol. 1 [1969 - 1977]: Don’t be fooled by the name. This is Courtney Taylor-Taylor from the Dandy Warhols making primitive industrial music to accompany a comic book of the same name.

Farmer Sea, A Safe Place: Earnest, touching jangle-pop that could have been on college radio in the ’80s. Probably in the south. Return of the Paisley Underground?

Barry Adamson, I Will Set You Free: New solo outing from long-running Brit alt dude with an excellent resume (Magazine, the Bad Seeds, etc) is pretty dashing supper club rock not too far off from solo Bryan Ferry. Pretty good and elegant, good for sipping cocktails in an expensive suit at home.

–>Jazz Picks, by Dave Sumner
Well, the new release season is definitely underway for Jazz. So much great music this week, I pretty much could’ve written “Highly Recommended” after everything I included and the handful I didn’t have time for. Let’s begin…

Alexandra Lehmler, No Blah Blah: Wow, nice start to my day. Quintet of sax, piano, bass, drums, and percussion. Lehmler handles the business on sax, definitely with two feet in the straight-ahead European jazz scene. Lehmler has got a lively sound on sax, gives each song a palpable vibrancy, plenty of soaring, but not to where it begins sounding like an ECM album or a lite-jazz recording. Mixes up the tempos; extra person on percussion adds some welcome texture to the rhythm section. Just beautiful. Pick of the Week

Simone Guiducci Gramelot Ensemble, That’s All Folks: Simone Guiducci fuses jazz with the music of Italian folklore, and that might be as close as I come to classifying this wonderful music. Featuring Ralph Alessi on trumpet and Guiducci on guitar, other instruments include clarinet, bass clarinet, accordion, double bass, drums, various percussion, and piano. Rhythms with plenty of depth whether they’re sprinting or ambling, trumpet and clarinet intertwine while darting up and down, the sound of the rustic countryside brought into a boisterous jazz club… you get all of that here. Outstanding. Find of the Week.

Benjamin Koppel, Quartre Trois Deux Un: Always exciting to see a new release from the Danish saxophonist and composer, this time with a quartet date with Jacob Anderskov on piano, Thommy Andersson on bass, and Daniel Humair on drums, it’s a set of compositions that features Koppel’s unique voice, bringing classical elements to the European jazz sound. The result is a series of introspective tunes that are as likely to clamor as meditate. Koppel is one of the true under-the-radar treasures. To my ears, no one synthesizes the comfort and mystery of dreams quite like him. Definitely Recommended, as is his album Adventures of a Polar Expedition, which was my top choice for 2010 album of the year. Recommended.

Fabrice Sotton, L’envol: Pianist Fabrice Sotton kinda does his own thing, switching effortlessly between piano and electric keyboard (sometimes within the same tune), moving from a standard jazz composition to a classical one to a world jazz fusion in the span of three songs, and adding whatever electronic effect or field recordings will get him the desired sound for whatever song is right in front of him at that very moment… album cohesion be damned. If you like to wake slowly to the day, his music will fit right in, though some of his compositions do have a caffeinated punch. I like L’envol well enough, glad he recorded it, and recommend buying it; that said, I’d recommend the excellent Terre Inconnue first, followed by L’attente next. If you’re into modern quiet piano recordings, check this guy out.

Frank Hewitt, Salience: It looks like Smalls Records has released another posthumous Frank Hewitt recording. For those who don’t know, Hewitt was one of the criminally under-recognized boppers back in the day, played with many of the greats, and never really had anything released under his own name (at least, not representative of his contribution to jazz). Hewitt passed away about 10 years ago, and it’s great that Smalls has been putting Hewitt’s music out. This recording has Hewitt on piano, Jimmy Lovelace on drums, and Ari Roland on bass. I’ve been looking around, and it’s possible that several of these tracks may have been released previously on the Hewitt album We Loved You; for most of you, this duplication won’t be an issue, and for those of you who already have that recording, the duplication isn’t likely going to be an obstacle to purchasing this one.

Martin Hoper, The Bride: Another nice selection from the European scene. Bassist Martin Hoper rounds out the quartet with sax, piano, and drums for an understated straight-ahead affair. Plenty of spritely tunes to bounce the head along with. Hoper has a very nice moments bowing, and just generally shows a professional touch leading his quartet. On the Hoob label, who have displayed a knack at finding under-the-radar talent and released an extremely diverse set of recordings. Beautiful stuff here.

Bill Dixon, Envoi: Trumpeter and composer Bill Dixon was one of the preeminent innovators on the free jazz scene. Recorded live in 2010 just before his passing, Envoi assembles an all-star cast of master improvisors (including Taylor Ho Bynum and Rob Mazurek) and unleashes emotional cross-currents of brass instruments, vibes, percussion, contrabass clarinet, and cello. Highly Recommended. A bit longer album review on eMusic here.

Jeremy Pelt, Soul: Virtuoso trumpet player Jeremy Pelt assembles an all-star line-up of J. D. Allen on tenor sax, Danny Grissett on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums, and gives a performance that really honors the quintet, sharing the spotlight with everybody. Pelt has been on an impressive roll, putting out an album a year for about the last six. No matter what ensemble he plays with, his sound is distinctively cerebral, even when he’s blowing flames out of his instrument. This is great straight-ahead jazz from some of the best musicians on the scene.

Amy Cervini, Digging Me Digging You: Excellent jazz vocal album by the talented singer backed by a ridiculously impressive cast that includes Bruce Barth (piano), Jesse Lewis (guitar), Matt Aronoff (bass), James Shipp (perc & vibes), Matt Wilson (drums), Anat Cohen (clarinet), Jeremy Udden (alto sax), Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Josh Sinton (bari sax), and Jennifer Wharton (bass trombone). Lots of swinging tunes that match well with Cervini’s bounce and ballads that match with Cervini’s warmth. The kind of jazz vocals album that will appeal to people who say, “I’m not really into jazz vocals albums”. Very fun. Released on the Anzic label, who couldn’t put out a bad album if they tried.

Arturo Sandoval, Mambo Nights: Oh man, this is nice. Trumpet legend Arturo Sandoval and the WDR Big Band for a series of bebop and Afro-Cuban compositions that just soar soar soar. Nothing but sonic happiness here; even the cover of “Oye Como Va” (which, on most albums, pretty much makes me cringe at this point) delivers plenty of life and good cheer. This album is aces. Highly Recommended

Enrico Rava Quintet, Tribe: Well, it appears that eMusic is getting caught up on its 2011 ECM releases. This one from trumpet player Enrico Rava. Honestly, I just don’t connect with his sound, which to me is like audio quicksand, but people definitely like his stuff; Rava is perpetually up there on Best Of lists from year to year. So I figured I’d mention this one. He’s got the nifty trombonist Gianluca Petrella on this recording, which is nice. Hey, give the samples a shot; maybe it’s your kind of thing.

Julie Lamontagne; Opus Jazz: Former classical pianist and composer, now jazz pianist and composer, gives us a solo recording that attempts to fuse both. Seems to lean a bit more to the classical side, but whatever, I’m liking this on my first pass of the album. The Trilogie Coloree is just beautiful. Released on the Justin Time label, which can always be counted on for making some tasteful choices in which albums they release.

Okay, this is neat. There are three albums listed under the Solos Series, which captures innovative jazz musicians in a solo setting while interviewing them and having them share their thoughts (occasionally) about their creative process. There’s one for piano genius Matthew Shipp, as well as for sax man Mark Taylor and guitarist Charlie Hunter. That Shipp album is totally floating my boat.

–>Metal Box
Liberteer, Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees: THIS IS EXCELLENT. EXCELLENT. Hyperactive symphonic grindcore (!!) somehow finds room for Sousa-like horns and Wagnerian strings in the middle of breakneck tempos and heart-attack guitars. This is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. eMusic’s Phil Freeman says:

It’s the music that separates Liberteer from the pack. Widener has made a symphonic grindcore album, with triumphant horn fanfares and majestic surges from an orchestra bolstering the savage, 90-second tracks. A few songs are also adorned with delicately plucked banjo, giving them a backwoods ominousness that’s more threatening than any blast beat could ever be.

Bleeding Through, The Great Fire: 12 years on and Bleeding Through sounds as angry as ever. This is serious: cycloning metal shot through with eerie synths and the occasional, doomy sung chorus. Splits the difference between melody and madness.

Azaghal, Nemesis: NINTH (!) studio album from Finnish black metallers Azaghal is as punishing as you might expect. The songs race forward at around 100,000 mph, clawing guitars and man-on-fire vocals. Not exactly reinventing the black metal wheel, as it were, but they certainly do give the ol’ pentagram a nice polish.

Enslaved, Yggdrasill: Whoah! 1992 demo from Enslaved (dig the Xerox cover art) is super primitive and, therefore, super creepy. This is some crazy shit, man — evil minor-key synths and buzz buzz buzz guitars plus the uber lo-fi production values make this sound like a missive from a murderer’s lair.