Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away: First, the real big news. To celebrate their 15th studio album Push The Sky Away, we invited Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds to take control of eMusic’s editorial for a week. And they agreed! Which is awesome. To access the full suite of features surrounding Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds eMusic Takeover, go here and have a blast poking around; you’ll find Andrew Perry’s exclusive interview with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis; a list of Warren Ellis’s handpicked eMusic favorites; an interview with Ed Kuepper, and Sam Adams’ glowing review of the record, which goes a little something like this:
The past, or more specifically its absence, comes up a lot on Push the Sky Away. Warren Ellis’s skittering loops, which recall the atmospheric spread of the soundtrack albums he and Cave have made in recent years, have no beginning and no end, like the woman on “Jubilee Street” who “had a history but she had no past.” Myth and reality jumble in an eternal present, with Robert Johnson on one end and Miley Cyrus on the other … It’s certainly not as self-consciously weighty as Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, or as primal as Cave’s Grinderman albums, but Push the Sky Away‘s free-associative trawl exerts a strange fascination, like a dream you’re not quite sure you had.
Matmos, The Marriage of True Minds: The fearlessly experimental electronic duo tend to follow their own inquisitive minds wherever they lead, and on their ninth record, they have lead Matmos into the exploration of telepathy. Andy Battaglia has more:
For those who thought the endearingly eggheaded conceptualists in Matmos could not get more cerebral — this is a duo, after all, whose music has been sourced from the sounds of surgery, digitally deconstructed 19th-century battlefield hymns and readings of the serpentine philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein — consider The Marriage of True Minds. The concept intriguing: Willing test subjects submitted to sensory-deprivation techniques, then “listened” as Matmos member Drew Daniel tried to telepathically communicate the concept for the new Matmos album to them. Recordings of the resulting interactions (the spoken ones, of course, but who knows if that’s all?) figure into each of the songs on The Marriage of True Minds, which covers all kinds of strange ground.
Beach Fossils, Clash the Truth: Brooklyn’s premiere indie-pop janglers return with their follow-up to their 2009 self-titled breakthrough. Matt Fritch writes:
Beach Fossils singer/songwriter Dustin Payseur is talking about his generation; he just sounds like a relic from 1980s post-punk England doing it. His friends are doing it, too, to the point where you can argue that a mostly Brooklyn-centric cadre of bands — including Wild Nothing, Frankie Rose and DIIV, among others — has come to own the busy-yet-bare aesthetic borne on heavily reverbed guitars, brittle drums and washed-out vocals. Beneath the surface, however, Payseur doesn’t seem very interested in the past. The disaffection or apathy we associate with vocalists like Payseur — Ride’s Mark Gardener comes to mind — does not apply here. Beach Fossils’ shimmering guitars can seem similarly cool to the touch, but the album is more inclined toward dense, three-minute blasts of melody and rhythm than dreamy splendor.
The Relatives, The Electric Word: Long-disbanded gospel-funk group from the 1970s reunites, rains down undimmed righteous funk on the populace fury forty years later, on Yep Roc Records. Mike McGonigal spoke with the Rev. Gean West of the group, and Richard Gehr wrote the review:
Gospel singer Rev. Gean West and his brother Rev. Tommie formed The Relatives in the early ’70s and disbanded by 1980, but their electrifying, innovative gospel-soul hybrid finally saw the light of day when their early singles and unreleased sessions were compiled on 2009′s Don’t Let Me Fall. The lo-fi glory of those recordings is now utterly fulfilled on this very long-time-coming full-on debut, The Electric Word, which augments the Relatives’ familial voices with members of Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. The added members powerfully facilitate the Relatives’ remarkable ability to blend the Temptations’, Four Tops’ and Isley Brothers’ gnarliest acid-soul experiments with traditional gospel.
Jamie Lidell, Jamie Lidell: Warp’s crown prince of blue-eyed glitch-soul returns with a record that merges the two halves of his recording persona. Andy Battaglia writes:
Jamie Lidell has made a career-long habit of swerving, with periods devoted to out-there electronic futurism and then, by surprise, vintage throwback soul. His self-titled album makes good on the prospects of both, with an expansive, prismatic sound and a heartrending voice that proves decidedly human. More digital than recent Lidell albums, which paid explicit tribute to ’60s soul, it sounds more in line with the ’80s, when the influence of New Wave brought swelling psychodrama into R&B.”
Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, Ripely Pine: Lovely, arresting, left-field folk-rock, with the gnarled edges left exposed. Rachael Maddux gives us more:
On Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s first record cut in a proper studio, nothing is quite as it seems … songs tend start in one place, end in another, and cycle through sometimes a dozen imaginings of themselves on the way — like “You Are The Apple” which, over seven minutes, slides from a nervous acoustic twitch to a swampy low-slung romp to a billowing, spiking orchestral swoon. The album’s lyrical turf is both elemental and surreal, like a funhouse mirror turned on a dream of an anatomy lab; hearts are eaten like strawberry cake, blood is canned like jam, love is handled like a newborn’s skull.
Samantha Crain, Kid Face: A beautiful folk album from an in-house eMusic fave. Annie Zaleski writes:
Singer-songwriter Samantha Crain has always sounded like an old soul, her dusty alto worn down by restless thoughts and free-floating anxiety. On the autobiographical Kid Face, the Oklahoma native sounds even more wizened as she explores loneliness, wanderlust and emotional disruption. Produced by John Vanderslice, Kid Face is a sparse record, laced with stark folk and Americana signifiers: acoustic guitar, wobbly piano, curled pedal steel and keening violin.
Campfires, Tomorrow, Tomorrow: Shambling, lo-fi taped-together indie pop is generally my favorite kind of music, so it’s no surprise that this Portland band has caught my attention. Lots of fuzz and creaky vocals, pretty primitive instrumentation — recalls the early days of indie rock before people cared about boring details like staying in tune or hiring professional stylists.
Concrete Knives, Be Your Own King: Tense guitar-based indie rock with the right amount of reach and flourish. eMusic’s Andrew Mueller says:
Concrete Knives rigorously observe one of the cardinal rules of the post-punk genre: terseness. The 10 tracks on Be Your Own King are rattled out in a squeak over 34 minutes. Concrete Knives are not, however, humorless minimalists; at heart, they’re a commendably unabashed pop group. Witness the giddy shout-along chorus of “Brand New Start,” which recalls The B-52s, the surging Joy Division bassline that carries “Happy Mondays,” and the raggedly triumphant opening track “Bornholmer,” which boldly posits that Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” is territory worth mining.
Eat Skull, III: Grotty lo-fi stalwarts get a little less lo-fi. Marc Hogan has the review:
III is still garage pop, and no one will mistake Eat Skull for Phoenix anytime soon, but the album’s synth-wielding, psychedelic turn succeeds at moving beyond shoddy recording quality as end in itself. Taking on space-rock anthems and ramshackle dance-punk with equal aplomb, Eat Skull are still perverse enough to punctuate the grotesque “taxidermy eyes” imagery of “Dead Horses” with a swooning “Crimson and Clover”-style breakdown. A pair of campfire-psych tracks mid-album also pays unexpected dividends. It all coheres in the fuzzy drone of the closing track, which offers a choice — between burning bridges and buying “brand new ones” — that’s really no choice at all.
Black Twig Pickers, Rough Carpenters: I really do not have a ton of positive things for the “old-timey” music that’s been making sudden inroads into mainstream culture lately. Suspenders and off-mic shouting do not a hootenanny make, my friends. Would that any fraction of the people who have been going gaga over [REDACTED] would instead discover The Black Twig Pickers. Sawing violins, bristling banjos and loose, swinging tempos, this is the good-time wheat-chewin’ music you’ve been looking for. Recommended
Maxmillion Dunbar, House of Woo: Cerebral dance music, tugging at your brain at your hips at the same time. Andy Battaglia writes:
Maxmillion Dunbar, a DJ/producer from Washington, D.C., makes sleek, spacious electronic music pitched between the current vogues for the rhythmic action of vintage Chicago house and the heady contemplation of cosmic synthesizer jams. About half of House of Woo plays as certifiable dance music, with upright rhythms that assert themselves with force, while the other half has nary a beat to speak for.
Mark Kozelek, Like Rats and Live at Phoenix Public House: Pair of new albums from the erstwhile Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon frontman. The former takes a pretty dicey concept — acoustic versions of classic metal and punk songs — and manages to execute it without a trace of irony. The latter is simply a Kozelek live performance that’s graceful and tender.
Baptists, Bushcraft: YES. Thoroughly hammering speed metal album from this Vancouver group is full-bore panic attack music, nail-gun guitars and hardcore howling. Almost wolflike in its ferocity. Recommended
Puscifer, Donkey Punch The Night: The goofy side project of Maynard James Keenan gets a little less goofy, but not so serious that they can’t name their album Donkey Punch the Night. Here’s Jon Wiederhorn with more:
Unlike Puscifer’s sillier output, Donkey Punch seems like a concerted effort to demonstrate that the group is as gifted, sincere and intoxicating as Tool, A Perfect Circle or Keenan’s Caduceus brand wine. The only tongue-in-cheek moment on Donkey Punch is a cover of metal band Accept’s 1983 anthem “Balls to the Wall,” which converts the forceful, testosterone-pumped original into a vulnerable, ethereal number that replaces manly chants of “God bless you!” and “Hey!” into wispy tendrils of female vocals … With Donkey Punch the Night, Keenan continues to push boundaries of what Puscifer are capable of — which at this point includes just about anything.
Various Artists, The Crying Princess: 78 Records from Burma and Scattered Melodies: Korean Kayagum Sanjo: GREAT new pair of comps from the fine folks at Sublime Frequencies. Both of these gather up ancient, obscure music from far-flung parts of the world. The music on The Crying Princess dates back as far as 1909, and much of the music is fascinating and melodically unpredictable — almost avant-garde in its reach and approach. The latter is a compilation of “Kayagum Sanjo” music from Korea. “Kayagum Sanjo” translates to mean “Scattered Melodies,” and the music here backs that up. Lots of wobbly, faltering guitar-like melodies and erratic, thumping rhythms. Totally absorbing. Both are Recommended
Country Mice, Hour of the Wolf: Brooklyn band play moderate, moody indie rock. Despite what they name says, there’s not much “country” about this — think an airier Buffalo Tom and you’re on the right track.
EULA, “I Collapse”: New single from eMusic Selects alum EULA is their strongest work yet, a wild tiger of a song that starts rangy and dissonant and explodes during the chorus. Recommended
Botanist, IV: The award for world’s craziest concept album this week doesn’t even go to Matmos. No, that honor is reserved for the black metal weirdo The Botanist; here’s our metal expert Jon Wiederhorn, breaking it down:
IV Mandragora is a concept album about a scientist (the Botanist) who cultivates an army of mandrakes to wage war against mankind. Throughout, The Botanist seems several seeds short of a full garden: A textbook misanthrope, he dwells in his private sanctuary, The Verdant Realm, in the land of Veltheimia and talks to his plants about the day when greenery will again conquer the earth. In keeping with the dark green theme, five of the songs are named after actual flowers, giving The Botanist extra credibility for those who thrall to the work of Carl Linnaeus and Norman Borlaugh. For open-minded black metal fans, IV Mandragora isn’t just different, it’s just about essentially, expressing old themes in an entirely new way.
My Gold Mask, Leave Me Midnight: I really, really, really love this record. Sleek, spooky, pouty, gothy music from this Chicago duo is full of chilly songs and roaring tempos — this is some great, blue-back nightmare pop, alluring and addictive. Recommended
Atlas Genius, When It Was Now: Australian band blends a U2-like flair for grandeur with twitchy guitars and the steady thump of dance music for an album that feels spit-shined and easy to absorb.
Lusine, The Waiting Room: Tranquil synth songs that pair deliberately minimal instrumentation — surges of synth, blipping rhythms — with mannered, laconic vocals.
Godflesh, Hymns Special Edition: Sixth and final Godflesh album gets the reissue treatment. Less industrial than earlier outings, more clawing and feral and nasty.
Endless Boogie, Long Island: They’re back! The latest greasy groover from Endless Boogie is full of everything you’ve come to expect from these dudes: whiskey bar riffs, motorcycle vocals and a general spirit of anarchy. They’re like a lo-fi Steppenwolf, these guys.
LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel, Mahler 9: America’s most closely watched conductor and the charismatic new music director of the LA Phil, Gustavo Dudamel, continues to prove himself even in the face of astronomic, unreasonable expectations. Here, a sorrowfully expressive and emotionally immediate reading of Mahler’s unearthly, drawn-out goodbye of a final symphony:
Been wondering whether the hotshot young Venezuelan conductor lives up to the hype? Wonder no more, for to be this distinctive in warhorse repertoire, mostly without resorting to willful exaggerations, is impressive. There’s a languorous fervor in this caught-in-concert reading that recalls Bernstein. This reading is so compelling that it’s easy to hear why the 32-year-old is the newest superstar conductor.
Pyschic Ills, One Track Mind: Latest from spooky psych folkers continues their pattern of drowsy vocals and free-spirited, open-ended jamming. The results usually end up some place dark and foreboding.
Disperse, Living Mirrors: Typically arty and expansive metal on the Season of Mist label. This Polish group pulls off an unlikely marriage of insistently melodic vocals with truly chaotic, intricate arrangements. Lots of fleet-fingered fretwork and percussive heart attacks while the vocals maintain a steady, keening melodicism.
Useless Eaters, Hypertension: Brash, bratty music from these apostles of Jay Reatard. The Eaters are weirder and less high octane than Jay was, and their songs have the same snarl and bark as vintage Oh Sees. Recommended
Devourment, Conceived in Sewage: Latest flesh-scarrer from these death metal stalwarts, this one is the sound of being buried in a coffin only three feet underground and then having the devil’s horses stampede above you for all eternity. It’s pretty good.