Phoenix, Bankrupt!: Of this week’s biggest release, Barry Walters argues that Phoenix are still “the epitome of rock-disco dialectic.”
Their new one picks up where 2009′s mainstream breakthrough Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix left off, maintaining that album’s crowd-pleasing formula while accentuating the group’s gentle waywardness. Mostly, there’s pleasure on top of pleasure, sweat mixed with digital mathematics, both equally generous.
Laura Stevenson, Wheel: One of our editors’ favorite records of the year, Laura Stevenson’s Wheel is the New York singer-songwriter’s most focused and self-assured release. Rachael Maddux says:
Rather than make the choice between draping the record in heartstring-plucking orchestral folk or loading it with unstoppered rock ‘n’ roll sass, Stevenson and producer Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, Swans) went with all of the above, and it’s for the best; the songs plot themselves out one by one, each as connected and disconnected from what comes before and what comes next as the endless numbered days they taunt and lament. They bloom unexpectedly, then wither away; they blindside, linger and end before you’re ready.
Craig Taborn Trio, Chants : Craig Taborn, Gerald Cleaver and Thomas Morgan are not your grandfather’s piano trio. Of Taborn and co.’s latest, Britt Robson says:
Craig Taborn set a daunting standard with his two previous outings as a leader: 2004′s Junk Magic is a jazz-electronica masterwork that updated Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew for the 21st century; while 2011′s Avenging Angel has been hailed for expanding the language of solo piano improvisation. Chants doesn’t detract from the luster of that legacy. It scrolls out like a seamless series of surprises, with interplay that is earthy and organic, yet whirring with intimate, nuanced colors, like a pastel kaleidoscope.
Junip, Junip: On Junip’s latest, Jose Gonzalez and co. withdraw further into their comfortable cocoon of airy melancholy and spacey synths. Marc Hogan says:
Throughout, Junip is unassumingly elegant, particularly on bleary-eyed dancefloor pick-me-up “Your Life Your Call,” jagged psych excursion “Villain” and tranquil epiphany “After All Is Said and Done.” Over African-style rhythms, “Baton” finds a way to make even whistling sound subtle. As suggested in the lyrics of patiently propulsive first single “Line of Fire,” sometimes it’s best to beat a graceful retreat. There’s more than one way to deconstruct the mechanisms of consumer culture.
Luke Winslow-King, The Coming Tide: a long-ago eMusic Selects artist maters the art of revival folk on his latest. Hilary Saunders says:
The 29-year-old singer/songwriter, slide guitarist Luke Winslow-King is from Michigan, but he has called The Big Easy home since 2001. On his third full-length, you can hear that the city has made its way into his bones. On The Coming Tide, Winslow-King masters the art of revivalist folk, seamlessly blending New Orleans jazz, Delta blues and ragtime into an album as sweet and satisfying as devouring plate of beignets and sipping a café au lait on the banks of the Mississippi.
Slava, Raw Solutions: The debut from this Moscow-born, Chicago-raised, Brooklyn-based DJ/producer. Andy Battaglia says:
Many of the tracks on Raw Solutions take a snippet of a vocal sample and circle around it until it’s been spied from every conceivable angle. Apart from his love for spin-cycle sampling, Slava showcases a nimble production style that favors house music-derived rhythmic syncopation and infusions of pan-electronic elements like rave sirens (“Heartbroken”) and quasi-jungle “rinse-outs” (“Girls on Dick”). It’s all clenched and economical and tight, and it never lets up.
Lilacs & Champagne, Danish & Blue – Grails members continue their dusky, loop-soul side project with another album of album of pastiche-sampling you can smell the used-record bin on. Nate Patrin writes:
Grails members Alex Hall and Emil Amos struck beat-geek paydirt in 2012 with their self-titled debut as Lilacs & Champagne, a musty, scraped-up soak in sample-based psychedelia that played like the lost score to a 1972 Italo-American giallo set in a desert. To continue that cinematic analogy, Danish & Blue is the soundtrack to the best stoner-rap neo-noir never made. It’s the kind of album where RZA-eerie piano loops pair up with heatstruck AOR guitar riffs and decaying fragments of Gary Wright’s synthesizer, before everything is soaked in whiskey, and set on fire at 4 in the morning.
Amy Dickson, Dusk & Dawn - I know, I know – another classical saxophonist performing Faure. How crowded can one niche get? Jokes, obviously. This is a tastefully and beautifully played selection of light classics that steer well clear of Muzak; Dickson has a wonderfully pure, even tone, and she interprets “I Only Have Eyes For You” as elegantly as she does Faure’s Pavane. An unusual treat.
Bill Ryder-Jones, A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart – The former Coral guitarist continues his solo career with a wonderful collection of sad-eyed, gently warped ballads, in the vein of XO-era Elliott Smith.
Black Milk, Synth or Soul – Black Milk is a phenomenally talented hip-hop producer from Detroit, and this beat tape reaffirms that. I want him to make more music with Danny Brown soon.
No Joy, Wait For Pleasure - No Joy’s second record sends them diving further into Lush/Swervedriver territory, and they turn up with sharper songwriter and bigger hooks this time around.
Frank Turner, Tape Deck Heart – Hmm, a “tape deck heart.” Does that mean…it eats whatever goes into it? Curious. Frank Turner’s punky folk rock is pretty meat-and-potatoes, and it sounds like Frank Turner fans are getting what they want here.
Har Mar Superstar, Bye Bye 17 – The swarthy soul man’s latest is a sort of tribute to Sam Cooke, apparently. Lead singer “Lady You Shot Me” (the last words Sam Cooke is ever said to have spoken), however, has a distinctly ’70s Rod Stewart meets the Daptones vibe. Makes sense, as Rod was initially a white guy trying to sound like Sam Cooke.
Snoop Lion, Reincarnated – Snoop Dogg went to Jamaica for the first time. Snoop Dogg is now Snoop Lion. He has made a reggae album. Careful, folks: visiting Jamaica can be very dangerous. Featuring Drake, Mavado, Mr. Vegas, Akon, and others.
The Thermals, Desperate Ground Demos – Some demo versions of Thermals balled-fists triumphal new one.
Tom Jones, Spirit in the Room – Tom Jones attempts his geezer-stares-down-mortality, Johnny-Cash-on-The-Man-Comes-Around moment, covering Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Odetta, Bob Dylan, and more.
Lana Del Rey, Young and Beautiful – LDR sings another version of her exact same song. This time for the up-and-coming Thing Baz Lurhmann Is About To Do To The Great Gatsby.