New This Week: The Men, Jenny Scheinman & More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 03.06.12 in Spotlights

New ones from The Men, Jenny Scheinman and more this week. Let’s get to it.

The Men, Open Your Heart: Here it is. People, if you only download one record today, make sure this is it. Big, loud, roaring rock & roll that ricochets between scuzzy garage, roughed-up punk and lovely, laid-back country with equal aplomb. Needless to say, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Here’s eMusic’s Austin L. Ray with more:

The album is divided roughly into three categories: rockers (the abovementioned “Turn it Around,” the Buzzcockian power pop of the title track, and the straight-up hardcore “Cube”), chill-outs (the aptly titled instrumental “Country Song,” the halcyon-era-Meat-Puppets-doing-Poison drinking song, “Candy”) and Leave Home sister songs (building, stretch-outs “Oscillation” and “Presence”). These categories aren’t compartmentalized. Instead, they mix and mingle like you do at any great party, screamers butting elbows with blue-collar laments, rave-ups doing shots with the burnouts.

Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself: New one from Andrew Bird is lazy and lovely. David Greenwald has more:

Recorded with minimal overdubs in Bird’s Illinois barn, it’s full of occasionally jam-driven acoustic songs played with all the urgency of a back-porch nap in mid July. Not that the songs came easy: The album arrives after months of woodshedding, including a handful of hasty performances in the artist-friendly confines of L.A.’s Largo. The result is a set that feels warm and lived-in.

Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball: BRUUUUCE. I’m apparently the only person who doesn’t hate the lead single from this record, so there’s that. There’s been an awful lot written about it in various places. Here’s what our Nick Marino has to say:

Here is the Boss, with his 17th album, still a working-class hero with populist melodies to burn. Wrecking Ball is among his angriest records, a convincing musical coda to Occupy Wall Street, an empathetic millionaire’s meditation on the struggles and prejudice that mock the American Dream. “The hands that built the country we’re always trying to keep out,” he snarls on the Pogues-channeling immigrant’s tale “American Land,” and as long as that’s the case, Springsteen will never run out of material.

Bowerbirds, The Clearing: Here’s more twinkling, delicate, folk-inspired indie pop from Bowerbirds. Fluttery, light, sweet.

Yellow Ostrich, Strange Land: Our little Ostrich is all grown up! Former Selects act spreads his wings and takes to the wild. Bigger songs, bigger sound, bigger everything. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. eMusic’s Mikael Wood says:

Yellow Ostrich mastermind Alex Schaaf has said that the title of his new album refers to his move in 2010 from Wisconsin to New York City. Yet after making last year’s The Mistress under humble bedroom-recording conditions, Schaaf upgraded to a professional studio for Strange Land, and it’s that unknown habitat he seems most intent on exploring here. Opener “Elephant King” shows his hand straightaway, riding in on a sparkling guitar figure that slowly accumulates all kinds of indie-pop filigree: harmonized singing, sustained horn tones, and an escalating parade-drum beat.

Nite Jewel, One Second of Love: Nite Jewel sheds the lo-fi awkwardness of her first few outings for something like fully-realized art pop. eMusic’s Arye Dworken has more:

Nite Jewel’s sophomore album shows Gonzalez maturing to a place of sophisticated brilliance. Second of Love’s diverse amalgamation of funk, folk, Italo disco and pop, as well as its crystalline production, indicates ambitions far beyond a simple fringe fan base. Perhaps she’s become motivated to be the soundtrack for spas, handbag boutiques or late night lounges. Or maybe her lo-fi back catalog was only the result of financial limitations.

Alex Winston, King Con: I was all about AW’s song “Sister Wife.” The songs here sound like more of the same, which is hardly a bad thing. And what do I mean by “more of the same”? Twirling, kaleidoscopic synth-poppers with Winston’s little-girl voice front and center.

Dinowalrus, Best Behaviour: Psych band from NY featuring a former member of Titus Andronicus goes long on the wigged-out jams. Lots of synth squiggles and far-out noodling.

Denison Witmer, The Ones Who Wait: Latest from singer/songwriter Witmer finds him settling into a Jackson Browne-style moody, temperate soft rock. That sounds like a dis, but it absolutely is not.

Xiu Xiu, Always: OK! A new Xiu Xiu record! He of the wobbly voice and stacks of synths returns for another trip through the dark side. This sounds like his most cohesive, fully-realized batch of songs to date, though I am hardly an expert on his catalog., Secret Stories Heard From A Girl In An Opium Den: Ignore the somewhat goofy artist name — this record is genius. A collection of tiny, tender synth songs with a few feints toward lo-fi indie pop. Cool, burbling, mysterious and lovely. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Every Time I Die, Ex Lives: More crazy-bananas post-hardcore/thrash with race car guitars and roaring, cataclysmic drumming. GRRRR.

Cool Runnings, Dracula is Only the Beginning: Filthy, nasty, cockeyed indie rock with loads of greasy guitars and buckets upon buckets of reverb.

Good Old War, Come Back as Rain: Rambling country/folk songs with rolling banjo, crackling percussion and sunny back-porch harmonies.

Ava Luna, Ice Level: Weirdo oblong outing from art/funk/punk group is all sharp edges, weird angles and angry blurts.

Locrian & Mammifer, Bless Them That Curse You: Dark, droney, hypnotic and mesmerizing music, the product of a collaboration between husband & wife duo Mammifer and Chicago trio Locrian. Lots of chilly piano, stark minor keys and an overall atmosphere of dread. RECOMMENDED

Miniature Tigers, Mia Pharoah: Clever album title! This is light-up synthpop with breathy vocals and steady bobbing rhythms. Maybe like a synthier Phoenix? Can we say that?

Jonwayne, Oodles of Doodles: I mostly know Jonwayne as a rapper, but what we seem to have here is two discs of uber-minimal synth-type stuff that he never rapped over.

Chaudnon, The Jammington: New York rapper returns with another batch of hip-hop that bridges the divide between old school head-bobbers and space-age futuristic jams. “BBW” samples “It Takes Two” and cribs lyrics from “The Humpty Dance.” So there’s that.

–> Jazz Picks by Dave Sumner
Aaron Goldberg, Yes!: Pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Omer Avital, and drummer Ali Jackson Jr. have been performing together for decades, but this is their first collaboration on a studio recording. A wonderful mix of covers and originals that both swing and sway. Cover of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Maraba Blue” and the Avital original “Homeland” are highlights on an album filled with them. Three musicians with modern voices developed from jazz traditions. Outstanding.

Jeff Parker Trio, Bright Light In Winter: An astoundingly tuneful album from Jeff Parker, who continues to be one of the more thought-provoking guitarists of his generation. With Chris Lopes on bass and Chad Taylor on drums, they create an enchanting series of tunes that create the atmosphere of many interconnected anecdotes that reveal themselves, ultimately, to be a part of a much larger conversation. Just plain beautiful at times. Highly Recommended.

Hans Glawischnig, Jahira: Fascinating trio date with bassist Glawischnig, drummer Eric Doob, and Samir Zarif on soprano/tenor sax. Glawischnig sticks to acoustic bass and gets a wonderful tone on it. Zarif’s tone has a celebratory swing to it. Doob takes an ebb and flow approach to the rhythm, providing some dynamic moments, especially on cymbals. While Glawischnig’s background in Latin jazz (via work for Paquito D’Rivera, Miguel Zenon, and Ray Barretto) informs some of the compositions, much of the album’s sound seems to spring more from the African influenced jazz a la Pharoah Sanders earlier Impulse date or Abdullah Ibrahim’s post-millenial recordings. Recommended.

Floratone, Floratone II: Follow-up album for this quartet featuring Bill Frisell, Tucker Martine, Matt Chamberlain, and Lee Townsend. Pretty much more of the good stuff found on their first album. A mix of spooky Americana, electronic rusticism, and drowsy melodies even under pressure of frenetic rhythms. Music as beautiful and dynamic as it comes. Pick of the Week.

Ben Wendel, Frame: With his group Kneebody, Wendel fused the modern Indie rock sound with jazz into a perpetual ignition of music fuel. The result was a series of Fringes of Jazz albums that moved its feet too quick to determine which side of the Jazz Dividing Line they rested upon. Ultimately, it was great music, which tends to make music territory discussions a bit irrelevant. On his new release, he brings in Kneebody bandmates, but adds a larger ensemble that includes jazz great pianist Gerald Cleaver for a series of a tunes that fall squarely in the (modern) jazz family. Wendel brings a battery of instruments to the table: saxophones, bassoon, and melodica, and none of that is gimmicky sound effects- they all add lovely ingredients to the whole. An engaging album. Cover of “Con Alma” is inspired. Recommended.

Anders Koppel, Everything Is Subject to Change: Danish pianist’s first Hammond organ release. He rounds out a quartet with multi-reedist Benjamin Koppel, pianist Kenny Werner, and percussionist Jacob Anderson. A recording with soaring melodies interspersed with dissonant rhythms. The pairing of Koppel’s organ and Werner piano is absolutely sublime, especially on the song “Lost City Arts.” Fans of the ECM catalog should definitely be checking this out, as should anybody that likes chill-out jazz with some kick. Highly Recommended.

Jenny Scheinman, Mischief & Mayhem: Violinist Scheinman continues to develop her sound, simultaneously making it increasingly unclassifiable. Unequal parts jazz, folk, rock, Americana, avant-garde, and Other Stuff, this is an intoxicating mix of tunes that shouldn’t be passed by. Rounding out her quartet are Jim Black on drums, Nels Cline on guitars, and Todd Sickafoose on bass.

Dialogues Trio w/Julian Siegel, Twinkle Twinkle: Intriguing quartet recording with piano, drums, bass, and reeds. Best tunes on the album favor the reeds in the lower registers, getting that deep sound that ranges from throaty to velvet-smooth. Sort of an avant-swing sound. Plenty of moments that, if examined under a microscope, would render a judgment of avant-garde, but in the context of the entire composition, well, the foot is probably tapping along the entire time. Song “Venus” is tragically beautiful.

Andy Sheppard, Trio Libero: Andy Sheppard’s second recording date for ECM. Along with Sheppard’s tenor & soprano sax, he rounds out a trio with bassist Michel Benita and drummer Sebastian Rochford. It’s an interesting grouping. Sheppard’s sound is totally in with the austere vibe of ECM musicians, whereas Benita is a jazz vet whose sound has ranged from the avant-garde to an almost Frisellian folk. Meanwhile, drummer Rochford comes from the Acoustic Ladyland/Polar Bear new school of jazz. If this was a fight, it appears that Sheppard wins the day. It’s a laid-back recording that one would expect from a modern ECM issue.

Abbey Rader, Live at PAX: Free Jazz vet drummer Abbey Rader returns to the scene with a live recording of the fiery improv that one would come to expect. Rader has performed with a veritable wing in the Jazz Hall of Fame, including with John Handy, Mal Waldron, Dave Liebman. Joined on this date with piano, sax, horns, bass, and percussion, it’s nice live set of classic free jazz.

Bill Harris Quintet, Inside Out: A straight-ahead blowing session of sax, horns, drums, bass, and piano. This is some swing and bop by veteran musicians. Spiffy stuff and easy to like.

Faerabella, Madame Racio: Okay, this is pretty neat. A trio of vocals, contrabass, and brass. A moody cabaret sound that, in my opinion, is simply irresistible. Dana McCarty on vocals has a sense of the dramatic, but doesn’t push it into retro-kitsch territory. Contrabass and brass instruments aren’t there for the novelty of it; it all works seamlessly. This one caught me off guard with its likability.

Gabriel Vicens, Point in Time: Interesting session date from up-and-coming guitarist Vicens. A quintet with alto sax, piano, bass, and drums, and with guests David Sanchez and jazz legend Eddie Gomez. Vicens’s sound seems to be in the school of Kurt Rosenwinkel and the overall album has the modern nu-jazz sound with the meandering melodies, rock influenced rhythms, and moody yet fiery posture a la Brian Blade Fellowship. A nice recording with some very appealing tension and strength.

Matthieu Marthouret Organ Quartet, Upbeats: A very fun recording, featuring a quartet of organ, guitar, drums, and bass. Plenty of groove, some swing, a ballad or two, and some straight-ahead tunes that veer off into exhilarating directions. An album easy to bounce along to. The vocal harmonization on “Kairo” is just thrilling. This album is a very neat surprise. Find of the Week.

Gerry Mulligan Sextet, Legends Live: Liederhalle Stuttgart, November 22, 1977: Naxos of America and ArtHaus Musik have launched the Jazzhaus label, and taking old analog tapes of unpublished live recordings and remastering them. This is fantastic news, and this Mulligan recording is great proof of it. Personnel on this recording are Mulligan on bari sax, Dave Samuels on vibes, Thomas Fay on piano, Mike Santiago on guitar, George Duvivier on bass and Bobby Rosengarden on drums. I’ll be sharing more news about this series on 17 Dots in the coming weeks.

And let’s end with the weekly Thanks-For-The-Miscat rec (Well, actually, there’s two)…

Jib Kidder, Dreams Inside Of Dreams: Good grief, I don’t know what to make of this or how it even made it anywhere close to the Jazz Department, but it is ridiculously good. It’s psychedelia alt-country. A little Graham Parsons, a little Brian Wilson, a little Ween. Cripes, I dunno, I heard the samples, got a huge smile from what I heard, and hit the download button. Moments like this is why I love music.

Kite, Self Titled: Really should’ve been filed under Instrumental Post-Rock. A trio of guitar, bass, and drums. Hazy guitar effects, the Power of Repetition, a little bit of hop and a little bit of moody melody. Likely all members play in jazz ensembles that are heavily influenced by rock and play in rock ensembles that use jazz influences. Anyways, cool music found here.

–> Singles & EPs
Allo Darlin’, “Capricornia”: Sneak preview of one of 2012′s best records, “Capricornia” captures the mood and feeling of the best Go-Betweens songs effortlessly.

Pearl & the Beard, Prodigal Daughter: Delicate, pretty folk music with a bit of Karen Dalton-style weirdness thrown in for good measure. This is more freakfolk than back porch pickin’ and grinnin’, which is fine by me. RECOMMENDED

Daughter, The Wild Youth and His Young Heart: Really lovely, tiny songs that fall somewhere between folk and slowcore. Fans of later Mark Kozelek who wish he’d turn some of his songs over to a female singer, these will hit your sweet spot. RECOMMENDED

Javelin, EP 1: So the first song here is called “Lindsay Brohan,” and that just seems worth mentioning. This is more tweaked-out, synthed-up stuff from Javelin with feints toward funk and electro and even chiptune. Go figure!

Doug Burr, Trembling Lips & Pale Fingertips: Man. Everyone’s sad. That’s crazy. Doug Burr sounds sad, too, but he puts that sadness in service of some really lovely acoustic guitar and piano-based songs. Very tender, very sweet. RECOMMENDED

Ladyhawke, “Black, White & Blue”: New single from Ladyhawke from long-awaited second record sounds scaled way, way, way up. Less ’80s-referencing than its predecessor, more built for contemporary dance floors.