Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob -The glossy seventh set from Canadian twins Tegan and Sara. Says Ryan Reed:
With their seventh studio album, Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara are no longer underdogs. Working with a top-tier trio of hip producers (Greg Kurstin, Mike Elizondo, Justin Meldal-Johnsen), they’ve plunged head-first into slick, air-tight ’80s synth-pop, each melody and riff buffed and waxed with studio sheen. Turns out, commercial grab-ass is their true calling: Heartthrob is nuclear-catchy from start to finish.
Local Natives, Hummingbird -The sophomore effort from the buzzworthy L.A. band. Says Eric Harvey:
On Hummingbird, which improves on its predecessor in every way, the band’s hootenanny harmonies are dialed down and the production values increased, all to heighten an uneasy emotional core. Though Taylor Long’s mile-wide tenor earns comparisons to Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell, and there’s a resemblance to the National’s button-down production sheen, what sets Local Natives apart is a sui generis approach to eerie scene-setting.
Ducktails, The Flower Lane - Ducktails moves away from the loopy instrumentals of his 2009 debut. Alex Naidus says:
The Flower Lane, from the start, is pristine and sweet. The ultra-clean, strummy stroll of album opener “Ivy Covered House” is followed by the title track, a slightly syrupy, swinging ballad with some gooey keyboards and hushed, lilting vocals. The album isn’t rote indie-pop, though — Mondanile has a keen sense for slyly unexpected chord changes and fractured arrangements. Flower Lane is an unapologetically melodic album, but also successfully mines the off-kilter sensibilities of sophisticated pop mavens like Cleaners from Venus’s Martin Newell and Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame.
Buke and Gase, General Dome -The DIY Brooklyn duo make a lasting impression on their latest. Says Andy Battaglia:
Buke and Gase certainly don’t lack novelty, but they also don’t sit back and let that novelty do their work for them. The New York duo’s instruments are self-styled and handmade — the “buke,” a modified and electrified baritone ukulele, and the “gase,” a hybrid of guitar and bass — but their shared approach to sound and song are unusual enough to make a lasting impression on its own. “Houdini Crush” introduces a lurching, leering attack informed by punk agitation and math-rock complexity, with the searching voice of Arone Dyer careening strangely, yet always melodically, over top.
Tomahawk, Oddfellows -The latest from Mike Patton is the closest he’s come to releasing a new Faith No More record. Andrew Parks says:
Of all the side projects and solo pursuits Mike Patton has indulged in over the past decade, Tomahawk’s fourth album is the closest he’s ever come to releasing another Faith No More record. Not espresso-huffing covers of Italian pop songs (Mondo Cane), or a sparring session with world-renowned turntablists (General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners), or a faithful nod to Native American music (Tomahawk’s last album, Anonymous) — a Faith No More record. Meaning: 13 songs that are experimental and enjoyable. Or as guitarist Duane Denison recently told SPIN, “This is not [a] sausage party in the church basement…No, this is meant to be played in huge clubs with alcohol and drugs and dancing girls and all those good things.” Amen.
The Ruby Suns, Christopher - The latest Ruby Suns albums is essentially a psychedelic DIY impression of a Robyn album. Says eMusic’s Barry Walters:
Christopher starts appropriately with “Desert of Pop,” which details Ryan McPhun’s autobiographical adventures in discovering the Swedish singer’s chart-topping dance music, drunkenly meeting her backstage, and then seeing her show. Its mixture of elation with sadness — particularly the way the chorus emphases the line “makes me want to cry,” as if tears are the inevitable outcome of all desire — is, of course, so very Robyn, a singer who revels in conflicting yet extreme emotions.
Frontier Ruckus, Eternity of Dimming - Fourth album from the Michigan-based Americana group. Jim Farber says:
On their fourth album, Frontier Ruckus flesh out some of the loveliest melodies Matthew Milia has written yet. They’re mirrors of his unsure and wary vocals. Milia has the lost-boy quivering of a young Conor Oberst, and a similar verbal derring-do. He rhymes as densely as a rapper, throwing out more images than he can always inform with sense. Even so, the essential landscape he details — set in the band’s homeplace of suburban Detroit — comes into sharp focus, the chiropractors’ offices, bowling alleys and Volvo dealerships stretch on forever, creating something both familiar and disorienting.
The History of Apple Pie, Out of View - London indiepop quintet’s debut. Beverly Bryan says:
The History of Apple Pie blend the most precious of indie-pop impulses with the messiest squalling noise-rock has to offer. Vocalist Stephanie Min’s feathery vocals float high in the mix, leaving her teen-romance lyrics (“We’re having so much fun in the light of the sun/ You’re so cool”) faintly discernible above the thick clouds of My Bloody Valentine-style glide guitar that threaten to overwhelm them. It’s that constant give-and-take between pop and art-rock chaos that keeps Out of View interesting
Mice Parade, Candela - Mice Parade’s flamenco-inspired seventh album. Says Eric Harvey:
Adam Pierce is an assimilator, not an impressionist, however, and there is only a whiff of Andalusian influence on Candela. Instead, Pierce’s attention is drawn to flamenco’s odd time signatures and dense polyrhythms, which he filters through off-kilter, atmospheric indie rock. Fans of Sonic Youth, Gastr del Sol and Slint will find much to admire on Candela‘s dramatic-yet-economical “Pretending,” and “This River Has a Tide,” a stormy, dreamlike mini-suite.
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours Deluxe Reissue – The seminal, immortal document of 1970s California; an album with so much staying power that it’s had multiple commercial and artistic lives since its release. This reissue sheds new, welcome light, says Karen Schoemer:
Rumours and Fleetwood Mac have been revived plenty of times before — they’ve toured on and off for the past decade, after reuniting for Bill Clinton’s 1992 inauguration and the 1997 album called The Dance — but this new package is hard to beat. While the 2004 outtakes hewed closely to the final cuts, the new batch captures the band much earlier in the recording process, and shows how lyrics, playing and production evolved in the studio. In “I Don’t Want to Know (Early Take),” Buckingham’s vocal and guitar playing are positively garage-y; it’s FMac as secret cousin to Big Star and godparents to R.E.M. McVie mumbles during the chorus of an early take of “Oh Daddy” — Nicks hadn’t yet contributed the line, “And I can’t walk away from you baby, if I tried.” “Never Going Back Again (Acoustic Duet)” tries out three-part harmony on the verses, showing how deeply and thoroughly the band approached every vocal line on the album.
Miles Davis, Miles Davis Quintet: Live In Europe 1969 The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 - This 1969 set sees its first official release. Steve Holtje says:
The leader was at his peak of health and technical virtuosity, unleashing vicious runs, and with bassist Dave Holland and the aggressively polyrhythmic Jack DeJohnette jacking the tempos, Wayne Shorter’s at his most driving even as his solos retain his trademark ellipticality. This is a must-own set of great musicality and historicity.
John Hollenbeck, Songs I Like A Lot – The itinerant composer , accordion player , and member of the Claudia Quintet offers his warped take on pop songs, as the title says, that he likes a lot. Brian Howe writes this:
Commissioned and finely performed by the Frankfurt Radio Bigband, Songs I Like a Lot is unconcerned with a consistent definition pop, as is tipped in the title. The lone straight acoustic transcription, Imogen Heap’s electro-pop sculpture “Canvas,” is wedged between two extended Jimmy Webb standards. “Wichita Lineman” spins out into dreamily weaving stripes, while “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is undressed down to Gary Versace’s piano before trying on exotic clothes for fourteen minutes. An explosively zany “Bicycle Race” abuts Nobukazu Takemura’s “Falls Lake,” its smooth electronic tones replaced by a quivering jelly of winds and brass. Hollenbeck’s focus is microcosmic, magnifying the harmonic and rhythmic possibilities of his compact sources.
Jeremy Pelt, Water and Earth - Jeremy Pelt is still in his 30s, and a high-powered future in jazz awaits. Says Britt Robson:
Trumpeter-composer Jeremy Pelt has been trying for years now to add some 21st-century shine to the godhead funky-fusion jazz formula minted by Miles Davis on Bitches Brew. Portions of Water and Earth demonstrate brilliant progress in that quest.
Harvie S with Kenny Barron, Witchcraft -Harvie S and Kenny Barron convene 26 after a long-lost recording. Britt Robson says:
Whether he is providing the lone accompaniment to idiosyncratic vocalist Sheila Jordan or engaging the urbane artistry of a consummate pro like pianist Kenny Barron, acoustic bassist Harvie S demonstrates the talent and temperament of a sublime duo partner. Witchcraft is a sequel to a duet session between Harvie and Barron recorded back in 1986 but literally lost among tapes in the basement and only released in 2008 under the ironic title Now Was The Time. It was like buried treasure, and such a seemingly effortless and erudite musical conversation that the pair convened again, 26 years after that original date. These 10 tracks show them to be just as compatible but all the wiser for the time elapsed time.
Chris Potter, The Sirens – The saxophonist’s 19th release, and, to hear Britt Robson tell it, his magnum opus:
The Sirens was conceived in a burst of creativity that mirrors the fluid complexity of Potter’s solos. He had just re-read Homer’s ancient classic, The Odyssey, and erupted with eight songs, all related to his impressions of the epic poem, within a two-week period. He assembled an enormously talented quintet who could exercise rugged discipline and free-wheeling spontaneity. Suffice to say, his bandmates give the compositions full justice.
K-OS, Black on Blonde – Pretty good-sounding new hip-hop from Canadian producer/rapper K-OS, who is pretty unapologetically throwback/purist in his attitude, but sweetens his conservatism with candy sheets of Prince-styled synth-rock/pop.
Oh No, Disrupted – Oh No’s latest full-length continues to shine light on his unique ear and skill as a producer, so that one day he might not have to see his name with the tag “Madlib’s younger brother” on it. Bent, distressed, sickly samples that have been backed over and stepped on multiple times. Takes the J Dilla obsession with a musty lived-in feel to near-avant garde heights.
Lisa Loeb, No Fairy Tale – She’d probably say I only hear what I want to, but this sounds like pretty generic, slickly engineered corporate AnyRock to me. I know, I know: I’m only here in negative.
Percy Thrillington, Thrillington – NOTHING TO SEE HERE, JUST A LONG-LOST SOLO MCCARTNEY RARITY. It was released under the pseudonym “Percy Thrillington,” a fictitious socialite persona Paul invented as a goof. The album itself is a string arrangement version of McCartney’s pastoral-pop masterpiece Ram, recast as a lounge-music-meets-Montovani piece of Muzak. An example of just how far his whimsical urge could take him. Something about the supremere cheesed-out, supermarket-music saxophone tootling through “Ram On” feels as secretly radical as any of John Lennon’s primal-scream-therapy experiments. Paul was, and is, weird, man.
Cult of Luna, Vertikal – Moody, churning hardcore/metal hybrid – lots of echoing, downtuned guitars and screaming, but also weird, taser-planetarium music interludes.
Bleeding Rainbow, Yeah Right – The band who lost a lawsuit to LeVar Burton returns as Bleeding Rainbow. They still sound like an punkish indie-pop band, but Don’t Take My Word For It! #doodooDOOT
Adam Green and Binki Shapiro, S/T – Adam and Binki do their best Lee and Nancy.
Rudresh Mahanthappa, Gamak – The fearless improviser, alto saxophonist, and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa bears down hard on jazz fusion influences. We have a Six Degrees of this multicolored, fascinating record on tap for later in the week; download and start soaking it in!
Roy Ayers Ubiquity, Live At the Montreux Jazz Festival – One of the catchiest and most enduring of all-time jazz live performances, dismissed by purists but embraced and redeemed by hip-hop producers who knew funky breaks when they heard them.
Adam Orvad, Christensen: Pipes and Reeds – Haunted, luminous, George Crumb-like works for organ and woodwind, and electronics.
Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up! – Renowned harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite teams up with Ben Harper to play plaintive, muted, simple roots blues music.
Glenn Gould, The Acoustic Orchestrations – Works by Scriabin and Sibelius – This is a 1972 recording made during the height of Gould’s hermetic studio experimentation; these pearly, glimmering works by Scriabin and Sibelius were recorded on eight tracks, through four sets of microphones: Gould then manipulated the tracks, panning in and zooming out to create an audio environment he felt thoroughly captured the music’s ambience. The project has a whiff of “mad scientist” in its methodology, but his playing is still revelatory.
Charlie Wilson, Love Charlie – Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band, after a long time spent in the drug-and-rehab wilderness, emerged to become an “Uncle Charlie” figure to rappers, who have given him second life as a hook singer and spirit guide. This is his fifth solo studio album.
Happy Jawbone Family Band, Tastes The Broom – Infectious, Siltbreeze-style tinker-toys punk primitivism.
Autre Neu Veut, “Play By Play” – YES. This record is going to be incredible. Gorgeous, full-throated R&B jam that goes for the Prince brass ring and nabs it.
The Knife, “Full of Fire” - Another YES, from the Knife’s fearlessly bizarre monstro of a new record, which melds Silent Shout’s eerie insectile propulsion with the contemporary-classical experimentation of Tomorrow, In A Year.
Sally Shapiro, “Starman” – Yup, another big fist-pump YES. A reminder that there’s lots of good records coming soon.
The Flaming Lips, “Sun Blows Up Today” – The Flaming Lips! New single from what, in my opinion, could be one of the best bands ever. They are in the middle of a gloriously improbably sixth or seventh reinvention, reverting to the nasty-grin bad-drugs psychedelic nerve-scrape of their earliest days.
Matthew Dear, Fighting Is Futile Remixes - Matthew Dear offers remixes to “Fighting is Futile,” the third single off of last year’s Beams.
Embassy, “International” – Gorgeous, promising new single from long-silent Gothenburg indie-pop band.