Welcome back! If you’re anything like me, this past weekend you ate too much, stayed out too late and grappled with your conflicting feelings about the fourth season of Arrested Development. What better way to ease back into the work week than with a whole host of new records? And man, have we got a bunch for you. And so, without any further hesitation, here’s this week’s edition of New This Week. As always, feel free to use the comments to tell us what you’re liking, and what you think we missed.
Laura Marling, Once I Was an Eagle: The fourth LP from British singer/songwriting Laura Marling; every effort from her keeps getting better. This one is Highly Recommended. Ashley Melzer says:
On Marling’s expansive Once I Was An Eagle, a duality of blind trust and blind wrath mark out the twin poles of a journey that explores pure hope and pained confusion in equal measure. With Ethan Johns again along for production duties, Marling and her band venture deep into the brambles of love.
Kylesa, Ultraviolet: Brilliant Georgia metal group returns with another album that tests the borders of metal. I cannot recommend this record enough, so I’ll say Highly Recommended. I talked with Kylesa frontspeople Laura Pleasants and Philip Cope here. As for the album, Ian Cohen says:
Kylesa have always been something of a dark horse among their peers, and on their third album Ultraviolet, they convey maturity by simply being a more uncompromising version of themselves. Their once stereo-panned, double-drum assault has been streamlined to an efficient groove machine, while Laura Pleasant, the more distinctive of Kylesa’s two vocalists, has become the prominent frontperson.
John Fogerty, Wrote a Song For Everyone: This is John Fogerty re-recording a bunch of his old songs with newer artists — among them: Foo Fighters, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert and Kid Rock. The results, as you might guess, are mixed. The best songs — perhaps unsurprisingly — are the collaborations with country singers. “Almost Saturday Night” sounds natural in its new twangy digs, and the title track is earthy and searching and evocative. The rock pairings are clunkier. Foo Fighters stomp “Fortunate Son” into the ground — it’s furious, to be sure, but it sounds like everyone involved is trying too hard. As for Kid Rock’s take on “Born on the Bayou” — you can probably ballpark how that turns out.
Mount Kimbie, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth: On their Warp Records debut, the electronic duo arrive at their own sound. This one is Recommended, and Andy Battaglia says:
Displaying a remarkable range, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth wanders between atmospheric song forms and pumped-up club tracks, each one unique and ready to blur around its boundaries. “Break Well” plays a neat trick by switching from ambient drama to a funky fit of jangling-guitar instrumental pop about two-thirds of the way through, and other tracks toggle between smart dance-floor fodder (“Made to Stray”) and delicate forays into slower but still scintillating tempos (“So Many Times, So Many Ways,” “Sullen Ground”). All together, it’s a new kind of electronic mood music with signals of more moods to move through still.
The Pastels, Slow Summits: The indiepop pioneers pick up right where they left off on this RecommendedSlow Summits picks right up where the band’s earlier work left off. Sure, there’s a lot of guest help: a couple Teenage Fanclubbers (Gerard Love and Norman Blake) and a couple of To Rococo Rots (Stefan Schneider and Ronald Lippok), most notably. But you won’t mistake it for anyone but the Pastels: Hazy, glistening, and beguilingly filled out with subdued but rich winds and guitars. “Summer Rain,” the album’s centerpiece, is a perfect example, a murmured melody winding slowly in on itself, growing lovelier as the overdubs pile gently on.
Alex Bleeker & the Freaks, How Far Away: As the bassist for Real Estate, Alex Bleeker picked up the knack for infusing classic rock templates with lackadaisical indie attitude. On How Far Away, his album with his own band, the Freaks, he explores that territory even further, filtering Crosby Stills & Nash and mid-period Dylan through the lens of groups like Let’s Active and Sebadoh. The results are lovely and engaging and Recommended
Alice in Chains, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here: True confessions: this band never really clicked with me in their Layne Staley heyday. So it’s a bit of a surprise to me that I’m finding the songs here strangely alluring. Their trademarked stacked harmonies are here reminding me of folks like Ghost and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, and the riffs sound as grim and as greasy as ever. Old fans will be satisfied, skeptics may be turned.
Brazos, Saltwater: Brazos’s second LP is a collection of indie-rock songs brushed with jazzy complexity. Says Andy Battaglia:
On Saltwater, Martin Crane orchestrates a mad indie-rock clatter that sounds effortless, easy, always on the brink of breaking but never really at risk of falling apart. “Always On” strikes a telling opening note with feverishly strummed acoustic guitar, a funky bass line, streaks of synths, and drums that tumble as if played inside a dryer. Over top is Crane’s expressive voice, oddly adenoidal but agile and expressive. The result is indie rock brushed with jazzy complexity and delivered with all the nonchalance of old Brazilian record spinning on a beach in the sun.
Rodion G.A., The Lost Tapes: Vintage sounds from late-’80s Romania, released for the first time on this Highly Recommended compilation. Andy Battaglia says:
During their heyday, Rodion G.A. conjured the vintage sounds of Romania in the 1980s, using reel-to-reel tape machines and gear that included guitar and a slew of synthesizers and sound-processors. The results, most of which haven’t been released before now, are out there and then some, as you might guess from an opening track that boasts the portentous title “Alpha Centauri.” That star, among the brightest in the universe and certainly the most mythologized, is rarely paid tribute in understated fashion and, indeed, there’s a lot of spaciness in Rodion G.A.’s ode: robotic rhythms, strange phasing, imitations of lasers, lots of eerie-toned synths.
Ariel Pink, Thrash & Burn: Like Beck, Ariel Pink’s catalog is crowded with one-offs and weird experimental side projects. Thrash & Burn is a collection of noisy experimental compositions that Pink recorded way back in 1996. Anyone expecting the skewed tunefulness of his later work should steer clear: this is gnarly, noisy stuff — walls of static giddily submerge simple melodies, some songs are nothing more than drone swells and Pink’s radically-slowed-down voice. It’s experimental stuff for fans of the same.
Bunny Lee & Friends, Good News: Good News indeed! These tracks were recorded between 1975 and 1978, but they sound like they hail from the mid ’60s. Featuring classic singers like Cornell Campbell, Johnny Clarke and Derrick Morgan, this is light, lithe, sunny reggae — the perfect start-of-summer record, and very much Recommended
CocoRosie, Tales of a Grass Widow: Spooky duo jettison the freakfolk stylee of their early work in favor of some jittery electronic music. What they’ve retained are their strangely-curling medeival style melodies. This group is pretty divisive, to be sure, but this outing sounds strange and spooky and, if nothing else, an interesting curiosity, and their childlike voices blend well with the synthetic textures.
Octo Octa, Between Two Selves: Truly lovely, spacey ambient-ish music from Not Not Fun’s 100% Silk offshoot. The music here is cool and relaxed and pulsing — minimal back beats and gentle synth washes abound, making this feel like 3am deep in a deserted city. There are odd snatches of vocals, but this is a mostly wordless affair. It’s lovely throughout, and is Recommended
Terror Bird, All This Time: Latest from this Vanvouver synth group doesn’t up the ante or the budget from their previous outing — and thank god for that. Their chintz is their charm, and this is another batch of winningly no-fi Casio goth.
TEEN, Carolina EP: We loved TEEN’s last full-length, the spooky In Limbo, and we’re even more impressed with this follow-up. They’re still mystic and spooky and still gets mileage from layers of reedy, spell-casting vocals.
Miguel Zenon & The Rhythm Collective, OYE!! Live in Puerto Rico: Miguel Zenon and his band bring greater jazz awareness to their native Puerto Rico. Ken Micallef says:
Zenon is no stranger to merging jazz and Latin music, as you can hear on recent Marsalis Music recordings such as Esta Plena and Alma Adentro. But OYE!! is first and foremost a live recording, and it’s infused with all the blood, sweat and glory of both a great performance and at times, a street fight. It communicates on a visceral level, each musician improvising and scorching the earth clean with Zenon’s often beautiful, always spirited alto saxophone leading the way.
King Tuff, Was Dead: Our buddies at Burger reissue Tuffy’s 2008 debut. This is a little less noisy and furious than his Sub Pop outing of last year, but all of the things that made that record great are here in abundance: slack-jawed melodies, scuzzbucket guitars and pickup-truck melodies. Do I even have to say it? Recommended
Sean Nicholas Savage, Other Life: If Antony or Carletta Sue Kay made a How To Dress Well record, this is what it would sound like. Deliberately chintzy synths swaddle Savage’s breathy voice. These are soothing, digital-age come-ons — ’80s R&B ballads on a budget.
Blood Ceremony, The Eldritch Dark: The latest from this occult metal band finds them treading further away from metal and even more into weird, dark, pagan hard rock. This is some straight-up medeival shit — replace the electric guitars with lutes, and you’d have a classic of early British psych-folk. Alia O’Brien’s voice sounds even more assured against the minimal musical backdrops. Pour yourself a glass of mead, roast up some turkey legs, gather your loved ones around the fire and crank it.
Burzum, Sol Austan, Mani Vestan: Since being released from prison for killing someone, white supremacist church burner and accidental black metal pioneer Varg Vikernes has released about an album a year. The last few were full-on re-embracings of the infernal black metal he helped invent before he abandoned it in 1997 for a string of electronic compositions, beginning with that year’s Dauði Baldrs. Well, history repeats itself: Varg has abandoned his guitars and is back behind the keys once again, for another batch of brooding, synth-driven dark ambient. As is ever the case with Varg, you have to decide whether or not you can reconcile his beautiful and compelling music with his truly idiotic and embarrassing views on race and culture. My preferred option is to enjoy the music sparingly, and mercilessly mock the cement-headed imbecile responsible for making it every chance I get.
Dark Tranquility, Construct: The 10th album from this melodic, sorta-symphonic Swedish group is grand and sweeping, displaying a heavier emphasis on synths and ‘orchestration’ than their earlier efforts. There’s a keener sense of melody on display, too — the results are riveting and absorbing.
Sonia Khaleel, Shark: Chicago singer Sonia Khaleel takes a whimsical look at capsizing relationships and the difficulty of falling in love on her debut outing. The songs jump from whirligig carinval pop to earthy guitar-pop to pulsing, gutsy indie rock.
Diamond Terrifier, The Subtle Body Wears a Shadow: I’m a pretty big fan of this experimental outfit. Weird, staticky backdrops swaddle robotic vocal samples; drones swell and subside, sound streaks and quivers. This is the sound of haunted deep space — the music that’s surely playing on the abandoned Discovery One as it twists silently in the blackness.
Julia Holter, Maria: Trying to figure out what this is has proven flummoxing. It appears to be an expanded version of a 7″ Holter put out on Human Ear not long ago. It’s a lot sparer and less-ornate than her bewitching Ekstasis, which leads me to believe it predates that material. But don’t quote me on that. Can anyone assist?
Various Artists, R&B Humdingers Vol. 14: Oh, hey, guess what: this is great. Twenty-two house rocking R&B songs designed to get the floor moving and hips shaking. Highly Recommended
Verma, Coltan: A bit of a departure from our friends at Trouble in Mind, this one abandons the rollicking garage and power-pop on which they’ve built their name for spooky, atmospheric guitar jams that sound like they’re designed to score a neo-noir film. As all things Trouble in Mind, the results are completely absorbing.
Young Girls, Young Girls: Houston group delivers jangly garage-pop with a heavy emphasis on clear-eyed melody. Funnel Paisley Undeground groups through a grungier, grittier aesthetic and you’ve got the idea. Recommended
Ex Wife, New Colors: The New Brunswick group Ex Wife is proudly all over the stylistic map. One minute they’re conjuring the dour, doomy approach of the earliest R.E.M., the next they’re indulging in blown-throat scuzz-guitar rave-ups. The music here is mostly speedy and sewn up by ambling vocal melodies.
Keith Jarrett Standards Trio, Somewhere: A 2009 Swiss concert from a ubiquitous 30-year-old trio. Steve Holtje says:
The swinging uptempo tracks (“Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” “Tonight”), are highly classy lounge jazz, mostly functioning as change-of-pace, though Jarrett’s solo piano intro to the former is imaginative and witty. It’s the more ruminative tracks that offer the rewards here, and dominate the album. Most obviously, there are the two medleys: Jarrett’s solo improvisation “Deep Space” leads into a playful “Solar” (Miles Davis) and the epic (group improv?) “Everywhere” follows “Somewhere” (Bernstein/Sondheim). Jarrett’s luscious lines on “Stars Fell on Alabama” and “I Thought About You” are ballad playing at its soulful best.
ASG, Blood Drive: Our pals at Relapse records venture further into melodic metal territory with the latest from this North Carolina crew. Vocal melodies that feel ripped from ’70s FM rock records do battle with nasty, clawing riffs.