New This Week: The Tallest Man on Earth, Charli XCX and More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 06.12.12 in Spotlights

The Tallest Man on Earth, There’s No Leaving Now: New outing from everyone’s favorite Swedish folkie. Dan Hyman says:

Those taken with the first two offerings from Kristian Matsson, the Swedish folk troubadour who performs as the Tallest Man On Earth, may be put off by the cleaner, more expertly-produced selections on There’s No Leaving Now, his third album. But it’s hardly surprising: Matsson has said this was the first album he recorded primarily in one setting, with proper studio trappings to match. Otherwise, it’s a refreshing, familiar affair: As with 2008′s Shallow Grave and its follow-up, 2010′s The Wild Hunt, intricate finger-picking matches Matsson’s ragged Dylan-esque croon.

Charli XCX, You’re the One: Pretty excellent electropoppy EP from this young breakout star. Let’s call it somewhere between Robyn and Katy B and split the difference. Charlie’s got a great, sobbing voice, and it sounds fantastic against the clanging sheets of synths. Highly Recommended

Metric, Synthetica: New one from Emily Haines & co. is bigger, brighter and synthier than ever. Bill Murphy says:

On previous albums, the four members of Toronto’s Metric have only hinted at the full-bodied, buffed-chrome sound they achieve on Synthetica — a sleek amalgam of electro, punk rock and pop that orbits lead singer Emily Haines, who shimmers at its cool blue center like a diva hologram from the future.

Guided By Voices, Class Clown Spots a UFO: The title of this record is outstanding. Oh, GBV. It’s like you never left. A new GBV record arriving what feels like 8 seconds after the last one, Class Clown is typically all over the place, balancing some of Bob Pollard’s ornier impulses with some 20-karat pop gems (See: The title track). You already know whether or not this is your bag.

Waka Flocka Flame, Triple F: Friends, Fans, Family: Wocka! Flocka! Wocka! Flocka! Loud, giddy, brash and engaging, Wocka has changed not one iota of his all-guns-blazing, all-eyes-bulged, all-vocal-chords-shredded approach. Who in the world would want him to? Dan Hyman says:

Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family ups the aggressive ante: bigger boasts, quicker rhymes (although that’s not really the point here) and expectedly seismic production courtesy of Flockaveli‘s widely-praised hero, Lex Luger, and Waka’s friend/producer, Southside. Drake (“Round of Applause”) and Trey Songz (“I Don’t Really Care”) try and keep things classy. But why interrupt a carefully-curated, classless affair?

Azealia Banks, 1991: First major-label offering from this year’s big blog breakout. Banks is a total wiseass with a gum-cracking flow and a fondness for the kind of spaceage beats typically found on minimal electronic records. This is Recommended, and Nate Patrin is here to tell you why:

The three tracks that accompany “212″ expand on the sharp-tongued Banks’s breakthrough single with production that owes even more explicit debts to the sounds that pulsed through clubs in her titular birth year: the Machinedrum-produced “1991″ and “Van Vogue” wring a minimal-gone-maximal dynamic out of classic house from Cologne to Chicago, while the Lone-sourced “Liquorice” sews shredded-up rave tracks back together and parades them down the catwalk.

Hot Chip, In Our Heads: More bubbly electropop from these loveable hooligans. Michaelangelo Matos says:

Hot Chip have always made electronic music, but it hasn’t always sounded quite this electronic before — for that you usually had to wait for the remixes. “Night and Day”’s fluttering synths and disco groove nod toward Michael Jackson (as does the title, an inversion of “Working Day & Night,” from Off the Wall), and the tongue-in-cheek cheer of “Don’t Deny Your Heart” resembles something that might have once been cooked up for Rick Astley.

Oddisee, People Hear What They See: Another typically strong offering from the Mello Music label, this one from producer and rapper extraordinaire Oddisee. Punchy rhythms, humid, orchestral backdrops, and Oddisee’s endearing, conversational flow up front. Recommended

The dB’s, Falling Off the Sky: The first new music from these reunited janglepoppers in 30 years!! And it doesn’t sound like the time has cost them anything — earnest melodies, suncatcher guitars and, overall, a sense of grace and ease. Peter Gerstenzang says:

The songs remain exquisite; whether it’s Peter Holsapple’s psych-blues “That Time Is Gone,” or Chris Stamey’s delicate “Far Away And Long Ago,” these re-formed rockers can do anything, from Byrds-y to Baroque. Maybe the masses won’t scream for this stuff anymore than they did in the college-rock days. But somewhere, Alex Chilton is grinning his approval, and man, you could do worse.

Drivin’ & Cryin’, Songs from the Laundromat: Looks like someone was jealous of all the ink the dB’s reunion was getting! Atlanta band is brawnier and more classic rock than the dB’s — less jangle, more bark — but tune into track three for what is the most impressive, note-perfect R.E.M. impersonation I’ve ever heard.

Kool Keith, Love & Danger: The interstellar weirdo is back! Keith returns with more space-age productions and surrealist, stream-of-consciousness rhymes delivered in his typically playful tone. Some of the stuff here seems more engineered for club play than Keith has before (“Cowboy Howdy”), but there are enough strange moments to balance it out.

Usher, Looking For Myself: I thought Usher’s Confessions was a contemporary R&B masterpiece, so I’m looking forward to spending time with this. Michaelangelo Matos says:

some of the most willful stuff here is also the most striking. “I Care 4 U” is a dubstep ballad that works, “Sins of My Father” a rock-like epic (with a melody that sounds almost exactly like Neil Young’s “Crime in the City,” from Freedom) with his most resonant personal lyric yet, and the Diplo-produced “Climax” simply a masterpiece. “Climax” may be the most daring piece of music Usher’s ever made, and it’s one of the very best.

Jimmy Fallon, Blow Your Pants Off: Over the last few years, Jimmy Fallon has transformed from the guy who ruined SNL skits by breaking character into an alarmingly lovable talk show host. This is a record full of parody songs featuring some pretty high profile special guests. The most notable thing about it? He enlists Sir Paul McCartney to restore “Yesterday”‘s original lyrics. Beatle fans have been waiting decades for this.

James Brown, A Whole Bunch of Reissues: So, basically, just go to James Brown’s artist page, sort by “Newest Additions,” and go to town. You’ve got a whole ton of ’60s and early ’70s JB records here that are just as mindblowing as you might imagine. Get Up Offa That Thing and It’s a Mother are musts, but just about everything here is pretty essential. Highly Recommended

Dent May, Do Things: I am so into this record. Dent May’s synth instrumentation may owe a debt to the early ’80s, but the harmonies and melodies are pure ’60s psych pop. Jason D posted a Dent May song here a while ago, so listen to that and then come back to grab the whole thing because, guess what, it’s Recommended

Piano Magic, Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet: Man, do I love Piano Magic. This is more moody, unsettling stuff from a guy who excels in that very thing. This is late night, teeth-chattering music — some weird synthy stuff that reminds me of Dead Can Dance a little, some creepy-crawly bass-driven stuff that is ghostly and spare.

Wymond Miles, Under the Pale Moon: Fresh & Onlys guitarist branches out with a hypnotic, Highly Recommended record that imagines The Cure as a psych-folk outfit. Andy Beta says:

Miles’s full-length debut is darker and more somber than the Fresh & Only’s; Miles indulges his inner goth, singing of torn desires and fragile flesh on opener “Strange Desire” and sounding at times like Robert Smith fronting the Bad Seeds. Though his words tend towards the lugubrious, it’s Miles’s hooks, expert six-string playing and tactful placement of sounds that make the album a luminous whole.

Magic Trick, Ruler of the Night: Another Fresh & Onlys side project! This one is vocalist Tim Cohen, and the result is some drowsy, reverby throwback pop music — ambling. ’60s-style melodies and harmonies, but with a little more psych impulses. Let’s call it John Denver dosed with LSD and reinforce that we mean it as a compliment. Recommended

Jukebox the Ghost, Safe Travels: Bright, uptempo pop-rock, with clean, straight-line vocals and the kind of winking hooks that ought to find themselves on FM radio this summer. Think a more scaled-down .fun and you’re getting close.

Eternal Tapestry, Dawn in 2 Dimensions: Alright! Droney, druggy, psyched-out stuff from Thrill Jockey. Some acid-washed noodling, echo-drenched sax, some creepy violin and the kind of measured, thudding tempos you’d expect from a band that uses the Electric Wizard font for their album cover. I’m really liking this.

Mice Parade, England vs. France: Live album from the group’s 2010 tour showcases spiraling acoustic guitars and hushed, restrained vocals.

Mike Scheidt, Stay Awake: Mike Scheidt is the guitarist from YOB, but there’s nothing metallic about this offering at all. This is some moody, slightly ominous psych-folk, with crystal-clear acoustic guitar and Scheidt’s high, trembling voice taking center stage. There’s something kind of unsettling about this — like eavesdropping on a man playing alone in a cabin deep in the woods, late at night.

Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till & Wino, Songs of Townes Van Zandt: More metal guys playing folk music! Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till from Neurosis and “Wino” Weinrich is from St. Vitus. They’ve joined forces here to cover a bunch of Townes Van Zandt songs, and the results are really sweet and moving. Wino’s voice is perfectly suited to this — he sounds kind of like Mark Lanegan — slow, gravelly and weary. The music is super minimal — it’s mostly just acoustic guitars with the occasional tasteful flourish — but it works. Lovely.

Jaill, Traps: Indie slackers come back for a second attack. Jill Mapes says:

With its tight-yet-jangly pop hooks, bursts of carefree surf-rock and the fact that half the songs are under three minutes, Traps makes a perfect on-the-go record for summer. But a closer listen to the lyrics reveals a level of neuroses not often associated with breezy, upbeat indie rock.

Evening Lights, The Disappointment: Shelflife records is the home for all things bright and twee, and this is another entry into that great canon. Pretty, soaring female vocals, relentlessly melodic guitar lines and just enough fuzz and buzz to keep things from getting too saccharine.

Alice Cohen, Pink Keys: First things first – the Olde English Spelling Bee label is great, great, great, and a go-to for those of you who, like me, prefer your music to be a bit primitive and a bit unpolished. Alice Cohen falls squarely into that description, which is a good thing. What you’ve got here are a bunch of blinking Casios and Cohen’s cool, detached voice — it’s like a 4-track Kate Bush. And it’s also Recommended

Diplo, Express Yourself: New Diplo EP that, near as I can tell, does not contain a Madonna cover. DRAG. It does contain his usual hyperactive mashup of samples from multiple sources making for a dizzying sound collage designed for the dancefloor.

Jazz Picks, by Dave Sumner

Gavin Barras, Day of Reckoning: Bass player who has appeared on recordings by Nat Birchall, Matthew Halsall, European Union Quartet, and Steve Plews records one under his own name. Solid modern jazz quintet date (sax, vibes, piano, drums, bass) that’s a nice mix of burning tunes and meditative ones. Solid post-bop that should appeal to fans of Kenny Garrett. Pick of the Week.

The Cookers, Believe: An all-star line-up performs a set of blissfully straight-ahead jazz. Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, David Weiss, Craig Handy, George Cables, Cecil McBee, and Billy Hart. Tunes smoke far more often than they simmer. Their third album together, the septet plays compositions culled from their collective recording history. Just beautiful. Highly Recommended.

Fly Trio, Year of the Snake: Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, and Jeff Ballard are back with another sax trio album on ECM. Doesn’t diverge much from past recordings, utilizing the same formula of brooding melodies and staggering rhythms, though initial listens seem to indicate that time together is allowing each musician to get inside the head of their fellow trio members, which really brings the music together.

Passarim & Caito Marcondes, Festanca: Fascinating mix of percussion, trombone, and string quartet. Latin, gypsy swing, world avant-garde and more. It’s difficulty to classify, however, is belied by its listenability and all around joyfulness. Great example of the ensemble whimsical experimentalism and accessibility is its rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” Beautiful recording. Recommended.

Troyka, Moxxy: Rock-jazz fusion album from a trio of solid UK jazz musicians: Chris Montague (guitars and loops), Kit Downes (organ) and Joshua Blackmore (drums). Rocks more than it grooves, plenty of tinkering with melodies. Could’ve just as easily been filed under post-rock. Plenty of music hear to keep the ear interested throughout.

Raynald Colom, Rise: Intriguing release by trumpet player Colom. A quintet date, and a hell of a line-up at that: Aruan Ortiz on piano, Jure Pukl on sax, Rudy Royston on drums, and Rahsaan Carter on bass, as well as guest appearance that include bass clarinet, vocals, and string ensemble. Modern jazz compositions, but with a pleasantly light touch.

Brazilian Trio, Constelacao: Piano trio album that focuses on the songs of Brazilian composers, but also reaches out to Cedar Walton for inspiration. Nislon Matta on bass, Duduka Da Fonseca on drums, and Helio Alves on piano. More straight-ahead than the title might make one assume, and quite an enjoyable listen.

Benjamin Schaefer Trio, Leaves Like Snow: Nice little piano trio session. No fireworks, just sure and steady. Two feet in modern jazz piano trio sound, minus the electronics and effects. Melodies that lead to introspection, rhythms a gentle patter and shuffle.

Pink Monkey, Ink: Fiery sax trio whose music, if it were a child, was probably often sent to the time-out box. Energetic like crazy, but also capable of some blissed out moments, like the thrilling “It Was Yours (Stomped)” which should grab the ears of anyone who’s into the Colin Stetson sound. This is music to start off a weekend of Too Much Fun. Find of the Week.

Tom Rainey Trio, Camino Cielo Echo: This is one for you free jazz improv fans. Sax, guitar, and drums from three of the better musicians on the scene. Released on the Intakt Records label, which should give you some indication of the warbles and howls and unrestrained deconstruction that occurs on the recording.

Mike Mahoney, Wallingford: Debut album for drummer Mahoney. Sextet recording, with bari & alto saxes, piano, guitar, and bass to go along with Mahoney’s drums. Modern jazz, with melodies that drift off and don’t look back, elegant piano work, and a guitar that finds nice ways to fit in. Bari and alto contrast nicely. Moody and reflective in the best of ways. Impressive for a debut album.

Dave Douglas, Magic Triangle & Leap of Faith: Via his Greenleaf label, trumpeter Dave Douglas is reissuing two earlier albums in a remastered double cd. Featuring Chris Potter, James Genus, and Ben Perowsky, this is music that still sounds relevant and fresh, though it dates back fifteen years.

And, finally, I would be remiss not to mention that the new Pat Metheny album is here…

Pat Metheny, Unity Band: Likely to make current Metheny fans quite happy and unlikely to convert anyone over from the other side. Quartet recording where he’s joined by Chris Potter on sax, Ben Williams on bass, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. Metheny employs both acoustic and electric guitars. Sounds range from his typical fusion to various tracks that could be considered world jazz (in a general sense). Potter has some very strong moments, especially those tracks where memories of old-school world jazz band Oregon get conjured up.