Pistol Annies, Annie Up: The trio of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley goes from side project from supergroup on their second LP. Stephen Deusner says:
Despite the success of their debut, it’s still a hard-knock life for these Annies, who smartly chronicle the joys and trials of being a woman in the 2010s. On “Being Pretty Ain’t Pretty,” they spend a lot of time and money applying make-up and even more time and money taking it off, but they never play it off as a joke. Instead, they sympathize with the woman in the mirror and their close harmonies invest the song with a deep melancholy. Songs like “Trading One Heartbreak for Another” and “Dear Sobriety” are quietly devastating, but the Annies’ sass and smarts remain.
Talib Kweli, Prisoner of Conscious: On his latest, Talib Kweli sounds liberated and awake. Says Christina Lee:
While 2011′s Gutter Rainbows updated the neo-soul sound of Kweli’s onetime label Rawkus, Prisoner of Conscious reaches back to even older genres. Samba revivalist Seu Jorge adds wistfulness to “Favela Love,” a song about wandering abroad. On “Come Here,” R&B singer Miguel does his best Marvin Gaye while Kweli composes a valentine made of hip-hop references: “We can do it like Common and Mary and ‘Come Closer’/ We can do it like Barack and Michelle, give me a fist bump.”
Patty Griffin, American Kid: The Americana songwriter’s first collection of new songs in six years. Stephen Deusner says:
American Kid is a meditation on wanderlust of all kinds — emotional, physical and musical — and it may be Griffin’s most adventurous and diverse effort yet. Rather than record again in Austin or Nashville, Griffin decamped to Memphis, where she absorbed the Bluff City’s deep, rich history and recruited Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars as her backing band. Fortunately, this is no kneejerk approximation of local blues or soul. No musical tourist, Griffin is not interested in re-creating that Sun or Stax sound; instead, she hits the crossroads and goes in all directions at once.
Still Corners, Strange Pleasures: Still Corners try to rid themselves of the “ethereal” and “dreamy” sound they’re associated with. Alex Naidus says:
Greg Hughes smartly juxtaposes the more traditionally “dreamy” elements of Still Corners’ sound with some crisper textures and more insistent rhythms. His songwriting and production style still skews sweeping and epic: On single “Fireflies,” the synths stack — pillowy pads, twinkling upper-octave melody lines and punchy synth-bass — and are buoyed by Tessa Murray’s vampish vocals. With Strange Pleasures, Hughes has carefully crafted a set with songs that inspire grandeur while remaining taut and gripping — an impressive feat.
Natalie Maines, Mother: Dixie Chick Natalie Maines returns scarred, but smarter, on her first real rock ‘n’ roll record. Stephen Deusner says:
Mother is not merely a shift in musical direction or a crossover attempt; instead, it’s the sound of a woman fighting defiantly to redefine herself with a harder, steelier sound. Fortunately, Maines’s commanding voice remains intact. She nimbly navigates the slow build from soft melody to full gospel finale on “Free Life,” while “Trained” binds a torrid sex metaphor to a rowdy blues-rock groove courtesy of co-producer Ben Harper.
Little Boots, Nocturnes: The long-awaited second LP from synth-pop chanteuse Little Boots. Barry Walters says:
Nocturnes isn’t a total break from her buzzy beginnings. For “Broken Record,” Hesketh writes with veteran songsmith Rick Nowels, spinning the same obsessive love angle as her attention-grabbing first single, “Stuck on Repeat.” But here and elsewhere, she downplays the ’80s vibe in favor of more eclectic synth sounds largely overseen by former Mo’ Wax/DFA honcho Tim Goldsworthy.
Joshua Redman, Walking Shadows: A diverse mix of American songbook standards, pop hits and originals. Says Britt Robson:
Redman plays with gorgeous aplomb on Kern and Hammerstein’s “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” (the latter also features Mehldau’s best solo). He teases out the familiar melodies of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” and “Stop That Train” by John Mayer before taking transformative liberties with them via deft improvisations. The most arresting of the originals is Redman’s atmospheric “Final Hour,” in which his tenor has the low-toned plangency of a bass clarinet.
The Child of Lov, S/T – 25-year-old Netherlands musician, with the blessing of Damon Albarn (who guests here), turns out self-produced record that sounds like late-period Outkast in a bonfire, or a robot with a dying battery singing Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”
Astrid Engberg, Poetry is Gone – This seemed intriguing. Cool, Erykah Badu-ish vocals over smoky exhalations of Dilla-esque dusty loops. “Alright” is a jam.
Bajram Bili, Sequenced Fog – Minimal techno mazes built of tiny synthesizer parts. Rudimentary in an intriguing, mysterious way. Sounded interesting.
Shannon Wright, In Film Sound – Pretty brutal, gunky riffing plus Wright’s sneering voice. Basically sounds like the kind of record Steve Albini would have recorded for Touch & Go in the late ’90s. Take a sample, I think it’s pretty boss.
The Hussy, Pagan Hiss – Tinny garage-rock with some Judas Priest-chug guitars, vocals a thousand miles in the mix. One number also seems to be enhanced with a free-recorder solo. Pretty good, bratty-primitive stuff.
Sam Sanders, Mirror Mirror – Pretty sweet, SUPER rare R&B/Soul/Funk record (apparently, this new cover art had to be created from scratch, the original is that obscure). Kind of a nice, digging-in-the-crates type find.
The Uncluded, Hokey Fright – Not the world’s biggest fan of Kimya Dawson over here, but Aesop Rock is good, and this collaboration, while blood-draining on paper, yields a pleasantly quirky (as opposed to unbearably so), finely observed and pleasant listen. If you are even marginally a fan of either of these guys, I feel pretty comfortable recommending this to you.
James Cotton, Cotton Mouth Man – Latest offering of viscerally traditionalist harmonica blues from modern classic bluesman James Cotton.
Spirit of the Garden – Gorgeous chamber art-folk band led by the adventurous contemporary-classical cellist Jody Redhage. Shades of Dead Can Dance…
Lady Antebellum, Golden – Latest studio LP from the pop-country juggernaut.
Michael Hersch, The Vanishing Pavilions Suite – Shuddering, darkly portentous suite for solo piano by the American composer and pianist Michael Hersch. This was a landmark work in the contemporary classical community when it premiered in 2007, and while casually recommending a recording of this monumental work is a little bit like casually recommending that someone read Proust, I still heartily recommend it. (N.B.: I have never read Proust; I just use him as a handy-dandy reference point for “daunting commitment,” because that is essentially what that row of grey books on my shelf represents to me.)
Original Concept, Straight From the Basement of Kooley High! – I do not know what made this come around the New Arrivals turnpike this morning, but there’s no good reason for a self-respecting hip-hop fan not to have heard it. This is the loose, fun, funny and impressive debut LP from Dr. Dre—Andre Brown, that is, of “Ed Lover and,” not the Good Doctor out West. It came out in the earlier days of the major-labels and hip-hop (this was before Yo! MTV Raps) and didn’t sell much, but it’s stuck around because it’s witty and great.
Rod Stewart, Time – Hoo boy, look at that cover. And when there was only one set of footprints, that is when Rod carried you. Do you want to hear 2013-era Rod Stewart sing a song called “Sexual Religion?” Ask yourself that, preferably while looking into a well-lit mirror, and decide what the answer reveals to you about your soul. (NB: I love the first four Rod Stewart solo LPs almost as much as I love anything.)
Various Artists, Music From The Great Gatsby, OST – Here it is – the very expensive soundtrack to The Thing That Baz Luhrmann did to The Great Gatsby. Curated by Jay-Z; featuring Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey, and others.
Courtney Jaye, Love and Forgiveness – Latest from Nashville country singer/songwriter, whose bell-like voice will have sympathetic vibrations with Neko Case and Jenny Lewis Fans. Real Laurel Canyon, Mellow Gold vibes here. Produced by Mike Wrucke, who is known for his work with Miranda Lambert among others.