Sam Amidon, Bright Sunny South: On his Nonesuch debut, Sam Amidon blends anonymous traditional folk with strategic pop tunes. Brian Howe says:
Compared to 2010′s lushly arranged I Saw the Sign, the arrangements on Bright Sunny South are highly stripped down, blowing over the cores of the songs like spindrift. But the themes are familiar: On the title track, a shimmering Hammond organ and rolling acoustic arpeggios set a Civil War-era lament for lost innocence; “He’s Taken My Feet” is a murmuring religious dirge in the manner of I Saw the Sign‘s “Kedron;” “Short Life” is a becalmed mountain fiddle tune about an unfulfilled promise of marriage, like a downcast counterpart to the jubilant “Pretty Fair Damsel.”
Dungeonesse, Dungeonesse: Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner makes a synthpop album. Says Barry Walters:
In Jenn Wasner’s other duo, Wye Oak, she creates diaphanous indie-rock that draws from shoegaze, the 4AD catalog and other similarly echoing sonic caverns. Despite their subterranean name, Dungeonesse isn’t like that. Instead, Wasner and fellow multi-instrumentalist Jon Ehrens craft synthpop that’s neon-lit and glaring in the places where Wye Oak is sepia-toned and shadowy. This is effervescent fantasy music that’s escapist in the best way, but still grounded in the realities that inspire the pair’s liberating flights of fancy.
Small Black, Limits of Desire: Members of the chillwave class of ’09-10 finally graduate. Laura Studarus says:
Limits of Desire is a meditation on technology and the elements of modern society that foster emotional separation: Reveling in a newfound crispness in both production and vocals, frontman Josh Kolenik wears his heart on his sleeve across ten tracks of Instagrammed lyrics about love, escaping the big city, and being “reckless as rain.” As a result, the album shimmers with the kind of anthemic wonder usually found in the end credits of coming-of-age films.
The Fall, Re-Mit: Mark E. Smith and co. release their 30th (!) album. Andrew Harrison says:
Long-time Fall watchers will know that the band’s work now oscillates between basic, bloody-minded rockabilly-punk (see 1979′s Dragnet or Fall Heads Roll from 2005) and eccentric electronics (1990′s Extricate). This 30th full album since 1976 — does Smith get some kind of medal? — is chiefly of the first kind, a stabby, back-to-basics thrash with enough bile for a band a quarter their age and few adornments.
Bibio, Silver Wilkinson: English trailblazer Bibio rediscovers his footing on his latest LP. Brian Howe says:
Bibio’s career began with three introverted electro-acoustic albums for Mush Records that sounded like Boards of Canada gone Brit-folk, and his artistic breakthrough came when he moved to Warp for 2009′s Ambivalence Avenue, an unexpectedly bold album of jubilant glitch-soul, clever indie-pop and moody folk that triangulated an undreamt-of sweet spot between J Dilla, Yo La Tengo and Nick Drake. While Silver Wilkinson doesn’t scale the effortless heights of Ambivalence Avenue, it’s a path out of the wilderness that leads back to more generous, agreeable clearings.
MS MR, Secondhand Rapture: Buzzy New York duo offer a mesmerizing debut. Annie Zaleski says:
The theatrical “Salty Sweet” — with its tribal drums and overlapping harmonies — and the seductive, string-plucked murmur “BTSK” stand out, and the glassy piano-pop of “Twenty Seven” isn’t far behind. Max Hershenow’s warm, nuanced production is wistful without becoming consumed by nostalgia, familiar without feeling tired; his inventive appropriation of soul, electro, orchestral and hip-hop feels timeless.
The Dillinger Escape Plan, One of Us is the Killer: The fifth LP from one of the last genuinely dangerous experimental bands going. Jon Wiederhorn says:
The Dillinger Escape Plan’s fifth record, One of Us is the Killer, is a frazzling showcase of technical speed-prog, unrelenting post-hardcore barreling, near-industrial electrocution, swinging rock ‘n’ roll excursions and soulful pop forays. The basic techniques should be familiar to the band’s fans, but the group pushes the limits of its expansive sound further than ever.
Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, Black Pudding: Former Screaming Trees frontman and a London-based avant-bluesman combine American blues with more experimental sounds. Luke Turner says:
Black Pudding is an album that’s sparse in structure but immense in presence. “Pentecostal” conjures rich atmosphere with just guitar twangs, a shaker rhythm and Langean’s pitch-dark vocals painting vivid images: an albatross, a train, the eternal struggle between good and evil. “Mescalito,” with its arid drum-machine roll and bar-room backing vocal, would give a Nick Cave and Warren Ellis soundtrack a run for its jukebox dollars and cents. “Last Rung” is full of knackered, jazzy piano, and the eerie “Sphinx” sees Lanegan’s heavily-treated voice wobble as if through a heat haze.
Glenn Jones, My Garden State: The butter-smooth fingerpicker pens a sweet tribute to his family. Richard Gehr says:
New-school American Primitive guitarist Glenn Jones’s fifth solo album is an elegiac jewel. You may even discern the arc of a son’s bittersweet ruminations on his ailing mother and New Jersey motherland from the music alone, before taking in song titles or back-story, which sketch the contours of a sweetly autobiographical journey.
Standish/Carlyon, Deleted Scenes: Former members of Aussie band The Devastations explore new directions. Andy Beta says:
First single “Nono/Yoyo” finds Tom Carlyon’s guitar in Durutti Column mode, fragmenting and echoing around an 80 bpm snare as Conrad Standish mewls about the vagaries of love in his best Nu-Romantic falsetto. His voice is at its fragile best on “Gucci Mountain,” which mixes a drugged pace with a shimmering synth melody. And while “Industrial Resort” suggests smokestacks and rust belts, it chugs along like a lost Balearic classic. For the album’s sunny moments though, buzzing closer “2 5 1 1″ suggests not a summer jam but the dog days, made lethargic with humidity.
Brother JT, The Svelteness of Boogietude: John Terlesky’s craftiest album since breaking up the Original Sins in the early ’90s. Richard Gehr says:
Funky drum machine, squiggly synth lines, distorted vocals and sustained fuzzy guitars provide the bedrock for some pretty witty wordplay. Things begin to get weird with “Muffintop,” a slow-groove paean to fleshy surplus; JT returns to this topic a few tracks later in “Sweatpants,” a Zappa-esque slice of TMI-electrofunk that declares, “Life is hard enough, you need some wiggle room.”
R.E.M., Green (25h Anniversary Reissue) – R.E.M.’s big leap to Warner Bros., 25 years on. The record that brought us the goofy pop hit “Stand” and also the “Losing My Religion”-presaging mandolin lament “You Are The Everything.” Supplemented here with a bonus disc of the band in their live, constantly-touring prime, right before they all decided the road was too grueling and beat a retreat.
Cleaners From Venus, Cleaners From Venus Vol. 2 – Venerated little jangle-pop band, highly influential among current-day indie-pop bands, get their entire catalogue reissued via the ever-essential Captured Tracks.
Classixx, Hanging Gardens – Fun, sunshine-y, disco-pop stuff from hotly tipped L.A. duo. Nancy Whang of The Juan MacLean shows up for a vocal turn.
ADULT., The Way Things Fall – The long-running Detroit duo have perfected their sound a sour, gritty punk recasting of synth pop, complete with blankly pistoning techno drums and empty, arid space. This is a slightly more stream-lined version of this potent sound, which remains as intriguing as ever.
Snowden,No One In Control – The first Snowden record since 2006 (label troubles, not creative ones) finds Jordan Jeffares channeling his frustration into drifting, lovely synth-edged pop tunes, graced with his grey sigh of a singing voice atop it.
Pharmakon, Abandon – Brutal noise music delivered with performance-art lunatic flair by the 22-year-old NY native Margaret Chardiet. RIYL: Prurient, Throbbing Gristle, early Swans, ice picks, raw meat. Dark, dark, dark shit.
Public Service Broadcasting, Inform-Educate-Entertain – Fantastic concept behind this one – this London duo trawl through old film archives to set audio clips from time-forgotten pieces of footage – instructional videos, PSAs, propaganda films – and setting them to lightly propulsive electronic rock. Sad and oddly uplifting all at once.
The Handsome Family, Wilderness – The long-running duo return with a concept album about animals, overlaying each song with the distinct glum fatalism that they’ve made into a patent by now.
Pure X, Crawling Up The Stairs - These Austin guys have cultivated a certain syrup-slow beach music vibe – drawn-out, hallucinatory, slightly sick-sounding. The album title is well-chosen.
Kisses, Kids In L.A. – Coolly bumping little synth-pop nugget.
Pierre Boulez with the Cleveland Orchestra, Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring – In time to celebrate the piece’s 100th birthday, here is a rendition of this incandescent work, led by arguably the smartest and most sensitive conductor to ever shape the work: Pierre Boulez. Performed by the mighty Cleveland Orchestra.
Sage Francis, Personal Journals – The first official album by Sage Francis.
Ben Lee, Ayahuasca: Welcome To The Work – This is hilarious. Ben Lee is all into ayahuasca now, because of course he is, and he recorded an entire album celebrating its effects on his mind. The song titles are pretty indicative here.
The Blank Tapes, Vacation – Nicely chugging, low-stakes garage-pop from some guys who have been at it for awhile and never really gotten much shine.
The Boxcar Lilies, Sugar Shack – Dark and lovely traditional country.
Brian Eno x Nicolas Jaar x Grizzly Bear – Three names to make pretty much any living indie fan go “SQUEEE!” Not a full-length; actually a remix a piece by Jaar of one Eno tune and one Grizzly Bear tune.