The Flaming Lips, The Flaming Lips & the Heady Fwends: Let’s get two things out of the way right away. First, this is Highly Recommended. Second, the cover of the vinyl version is about a million times better than the (terrible) cover of the digital version, so I’d do a cut, paste & switch in your music player if I were you. Now, on to the important stuff: all of the special guests made this seem like it was going to be some weird Flipsy hodge-podge when, in fact, it is a great record and a worthy successor to the band’s 2009 return-to-form Embryonic. Barry Walters says:
They put [their fans'] good will to daredevil use on a collaborative album that combines tracks from vinyl EPs recorded and released last year with other co-op cuts. The opening track, “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded),” pulls off an unlikely trick, uniting Ke$ha’s bad-girl drunk-pop with the Lips’ psychedelic noise in a one-chord dance jam that takes an unexpected turn into Strawberry Fields territory before circling back to where it spastically started. “Ashes in the Air,” meanwhile, spoofs Bon Iver but with Bon Iver’s actual participation on falsetto vocals. Like many of the duets on the album, its phantasmical balladry is violently interrupted by gusts of distortion, feedback and other baloney.
Large Professor, Professor @ Large: Legendary rapper returns with a tough, nimble album that finds his mic skills fully intact. Nate Patrin says:
It’s the kind of album you’d expect from a legend who refuses to coast. “Key to the City” stakes a hip-hop royalty claim backed up by the fast-paced beat that sounds like his Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em work with a couple decades’ polish. And while he still holds his own on the mic, he parcels out some of his best beats to guests. Busta Rhymes runs rampant all over “Straight from the Golden,” and the seething yet elegiac “M.A.R.S.” features a Murderer’s Row of Cormega, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano and Saigon that guarantees one of the best East Coast hardcore hip-hop posse cuts in recent memory.
Jesca Hoop, The House That Jack Built: Burbling, adventurous pop music from Tom Waits’ former nanny (true, apparently!) that reminds me a bit of Sam Phillips in spots. Strange production choices leaven Hoop’s grand, chalky voice. Ryan Reed says:
On the psychedelic throb of “Ode to Banksy,” dreamy acoustic ambience gives way to downright raunchy, Stones-ish distortion — and it sounds like a perfectly logical shift. But it’s a sign of Hoop’s prowess that her songs still resonate when stripped of quirkiness. On the minimal titular ballad, she bravely chronicles the anguished aftermath of her father’s death: “Five years of waiting for his life to end suddenly,” she sings over calming waves of electric tremolo, “tearing its way through me.” On an album defined by so many bold gestures, it’s a moment of stirring understatement.
DIIV, Oshin: Ex-Beach Fossils member turns in a bring, clanging, jangly guitar pop record with hooks for miles and miles and miles. The perfect early-summer soundtrack. Recommended
Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse: Rip-roaring new record from Ty & his band — this one is bluesy and grimy like the best Black Sabbath. It’s also Highly Recommended. Austin L. Ray says:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that this is a group that’s been traveling the road together, Slaughterhouse is a loose, scrappy set. Some songs are given ample jamming room (“I Bought My Eyes”), while others are haunted-house screamers (“Slaughterhouse”). There are inspired covers with humorous studio banter (“All right, here we go, extra fast,” Segall says by way of introducing “Diddy Wah Diddy.”), and staring-contest noise parties (the 10-plus-minute “Fuzz War”). It’s a glorious grab bag, uncouth and unkempt in its exuberance, but with a worn-in feeling derived from the players’ comfort with each other.
Lorn, Ask the Dust: Squelching, spooky electronic music from Lorn picks up more or less where the excellent last record left off. There’s an air of menace to the music here — synths whizz by like spaceships in a black sky and percussion grinds and groans like futuristic killing machines. Spooky! Recommended!
Chain & the Gang, In Cool Blood: Ian Svenonious returns with another loose bruiser of a rock record that doffs its cap toward blues and garage, but is a lot looser and scrappier than those genres usually deliver. Recommended
Milk Maid, Mostly No: Stern, stomping album from onetime member of Nine Black Alps drowns barbed guitars in gallons of feedback, making for a snarling, confrontational slab of psych rock. This one has a bonus track you can only get here! Recommended
R. Kelly, Write Me Back: R. Kelly’s last record, Love Letter was essentially an album-long ode to classic R&B. As its title implies, Write Me Back is essentially a sequel, with Kells expanding into ’70s soul. As you’d expect from one of the world’s greatest living singers, the results are excellent. Album-opener “Love Is” finds R. doing his best Barry White and “Fool For You” is a dead-on Smokey Robinson singalong. Recommended
Maroon 5, Overexposed: New one from onetime soul-pop band finds them going further down the electro path lit up by ‘comeback’ single “Moves Like Jagger.” If you liked that, this is for you.
Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons, Old Believers: Curled-smoke country music that volleys from rustic Appalachia to noodling, cruising-pickup-truck rock.
Beachwood Sparks, The Tarnished Gold: Beachwood Sparks return after a very long hiatus with more sun-dappled field-roaming country. David Greenwald says:
After the rousing opening of “Forget the Song” and “Sparks Fly Again,” the 13-track set turns as mellow and luxurious as a nap in the park. The soft-focus balladry of “Nature’s Light” evokes Gordon Lightfoot, while tracks such as “Alone Together” and “Talk About Lonesome” draw again from the ever-nourishing well of Neil Young and Gram Parsons. “Mollusk” has a murder ballad’s chill, while the title track turns its lonely eyes and pedal steel to new love.
A Place to Bury Strangers, Worship: Synth-dotted new outing from the lowlight rock band finds them adding new elements to their sound without sacrificing their trademark claustrophobia. Annie Zaleski says:
Worship< , the band's third album, solves this problem by creating breathing room. The sparse “Fear” takes nearly four minutes to get to its clamorous denouement; tension-filled guitar quivers, Oliver Ackermann's depths-of-hell murmurs and stinging sound effects introduce a sense of dread before then. “You Are The One” has a chipper synthpop foundation, while keening metallic clouds hover through the dream-like “Dissolved” until it too morphs into a brisk post-punk jog reminiscent of the Cure circa Faith.
Echo Lake, Wild Peace: Spacey, spooky, chilly music from Echo Lake, whose drummer, sadly, passed away last week. What you get here are layers of misty synthesizers and lovely, breathy vocals.
MMG Presents: Self Made, Vol. 2: New album from Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Crew features appearances from Rozay himself, along with crew members like Wale, Meek Mill, Omarion (!), and more.
Gojira, L’Enfant Sauvage: I keep wanting to call this L’Enfant Sausage, or, “The Sausage Baby.” But I digress. More skull spinning classics from these metal adventurists. Jon Wiederhorn says:
On L’Enfant Sauvage, each track offers a little of everything: polyrhythmic hammering, churning death metal guitars, staccato riffs, melody-tinged hooks, quasi-tuneful screams and atmospheric interludes. But even when Gojira employ multiple rhythm and tempo shifts within a song, they come at logical moments, reducing the jarring effect on the listener. Halfway through the aptly-titled “Explosia,” a calm-before-the-storm is broken by three undistorted guitar notes yielding to a wall of feedback. The rest of the song is colored with variations on the three-note lick, the tone of which is reminiscent of an Ennio Morricone spaghetti-Western soundtrack.
Old Man Gloom, NO: Furious, bug-eyed grinding cacophonous, obliterating metal with just the right amount of scuzz and static, formed by Aaron Turner of Isis. This is some brutal, hammering stuff, and it is absolutely Recommended
New Beard, New Beard City: Jittery little record from Brooklyn group sounds like maybe a more restrained Dr. Dog — some cockeyed arrangements and pinched vocals round out this kitchen-sink approach to indie rock.
Justice, New Lands EP: Extended single of the Justice song of the same name with a buncha remixes.
Mindy Smith, s/t: Countryish new outing from Long Island singer/songwriter that sounds like some of the quieter moments of folks like Kathleen Edwards.
Cassandra Wilson, Another Country: Newest from rightly-celebrated jazz vocalist feels smokier and more emotive than usual. Steve Holtje says:
On Another Country, Wilson’s first album since parting ways with Blue Note (her label from 1993-2010), she further expands her reach into gentle smooth jazz, bossa nova and samba, complete with genre-appropriate accordion. Much credit goes to producer/co-composer Fabrizio Sotti, an excellent guitarist equally capable of Metheny-esque jazz soloing or acoustic folk strumming.
Jazz Picks, by Dave Sumner
A nice set of new arrivals today in Jazz, and a nice mix of subgenres. Some strong modern jazz recordings out of the New York scene, a few recordings from the Nordic scene that range from 70s hip to modern day avant-garde, a couple from the ECM label which are good for the quiet moments of the night, a few that are straight-ahead, and a couple that find their inspiration in the music of other genres. Let’s begin…
Brooklyn Jazz Underground, A Portrait of Brooklyn: An ensemble recording comprised of artists involved with the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records label, an artist-run organization. Adam Kolker, David Smith, Dan Pratt, Anne Mette Iversen, and Rob Garcia present a nice pastiche of modern jazz compositions. Melodies misshapen and warped, yet retain their beauty. Rhythms shimmer like on the surface of displaced water. Emotional shifts that enhance the album’s cohesiveness, rather than detract from it. Just a very strong effort, and Pick of the Week.
John Surman, Saltash Bells: A solo recording from multi-instrumentalist Surman, his first in seventeen years. Using a variety of loops and effects, he weaves together soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, alto, bass and contrabass clarinets, harmonica, synthesizer. This ain’t a typical sleepy ECM album, nor is it overbearing artistic noodling. The album is surprisingly tuneful, both when he’s experimenting with composition or letting himself drift into a deep drone. I found this album surprisingly enjoyable, and it’s earning repeat listens. Definitely one of the best things ECM has put out this year. Highly Recommended.
Arthur Kell, Jester: Strong release by bassist Krell, who is part of an enviable quartet that includes the unique Brad Shepik on guitar, Loren Stillman in yet another strong performance on alto sax, and Mark Ferber on drums. A nice mix of modern jazz tunes that possess a rapid bounce when Shepik drives the tune, and a winding twisting arc when Stillman takes the lead. Tracks like “Song for the Journey” and “Arts et Metiers” glisten with beauty. Recommended.
Benjamin Herman, Deal: This Dutch saxophonist has been remarkably consistent over the years. His sound is very reminiscent of the early 70s when jazz was getting strong infusions of soul, funk, and trip rock. Herman has a cool jazz sound, amped way up, and his music would be just as comfortable as a soundtrack to a Motown themed movie as it would a hippie freak out flick. On this album, his quintet is joined by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra for a set of high voltage, swinging tunes, carried along with lush strings and an army of woodwinds. Recommended.
Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day Octet: Large ensemble recording by the seriously innovative drummer Eisenstadt. The first four (of five) tracks were intended to, as Eisenstadt states on his site, “mediate between two constituencies; those for creative music and those mystified by it.” Drums, bass, vibes, tuba, trumpet, tenor sax, alto sax, and trombone are the ingredients for another session of Eisenstadt’s signature compositions of cut-and-run melodies, rhythmic tempests, and peek-a-boo hits of serenity out of dissonance. Collaborators Nate Wooley, Matt Bauder, and Chris Dingman should be familiar names in the Jazz Picks column at this point. Highly Recommended.
Adrian Frey & Martin Schlumpf, Timegrid_01: This is actually a 2008 release, unsure if it was on eMusic previously or even if it was previously available in the States. What I’m sure of is that this duo performance of the Classical and Jazz pianist and bass clarinetist is a stupendous album, displaying that avant-garde stylings can also be beautiful and sublime. Just outstanding.
L’ame des Poetes, Ceci n’est pas une Chanson Belge: A trio whose career has been based on the re-interpretation of French chanson decides to delve in Belgian chanson. Sax, double bass, and guitar. Pretty lullabies that sometimes hitch a ride with the melody, sometimes hover about it and mirror its patterns. Hypnotic, like a bedtime story.
Lokomotiv Konkret, A Voice Still Heard: A trio out of Sweden, deep into the improvisational music scene. Saxophones, percussions, guitar, cello, and harmonium. Music is inspired by Jewish prayers. Switches between swerving avant-garde and lilting ballads. Released a year ago, but seeing it pop up in new arrivals, I just couldn’t let it pass without a mention. Find of the Week.
Miho Wada, Wanderland: Flautist Miho Wada just does her own thing. Not sounding like anyone else on the scene, she’s developing a very likable approach to jazz flute. After immersing herself on her previous recording in Cuban music, she returns with a new release that has more of an Indie pop flavor. Catchy as hell, rapid tempos even when the melody is taking its time, and shifts between swinging and brooding. Song “Bears and Bamboos,” with its bittersweet violin and rock tempo should appeal to lots and lots of you Indie fans. Too pretty.
The Jazz Convention, Sound Briefing: Nice straight-ahead recording session from the Italian quintet who initially formed to play the music of Art Blakey. Over the years, the group has changed personnel and themes, but it’s still the sound of classic Hard Bop, both covers and a shift to doing some of their own tunes. Nice.
Aaron Bahr Dectet, Prologue: Nice sounding large ensemble recording. Trumpet man Bahr’s debut recording has some impressive moments, especially via the use of orchestration. Worth giving a listen.
And for the top re-issue of the week…
Don Cherry, Organic Music Society: This 1972 release was a precursor for the sublime mix of Middle-Eastern and jazz that was to come when Cherry later created the Codona trio with Collin Walcott and Nana Vasconcelos. A much larger ensemble, there are all types of regional music influences and instrumentation. A kaleidoscope of percussive instruments, strings that add texture to both melody and tempo, some drone, some chanting, world jazz that sometimes goes in free jazz directions and sometimes psychedelic. This is glorious music that needs to be heard and celebrated. Highly Recommended.