When the four members of Preoccupations wrote and recorded their new record, they were in a state of near total instability. Years-long relationships ended; they left homes behind. Frontman Matt Flegel, guitarist Danny Christiansen, multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro and drummer Mike Wallace all moved to different cities and they resolved to change their band name, but hadn't settled on a new one.
And so where their previous album 'Viet Cong' was built in some ways on the abstract cycles of creation and destruction, 'Preoccupations' explores how that sometimes-suffocating, sometimes-revelatory trap affects our lives.
Opener "Anxiety" articulates that tension: clattering sounds drift into focus, "Monotony" moves at a narcoleptic pace by Preoccupations' standards, "Degraded" surprises, with something like a traditional structure and an almost pop-leaning melody to its chorus, and the 11-minute-long "Memory" is the album's keystone, with an intimate narrative and a truly timeless post-punk center.
All this adds up to Preoccupations: a singular, bracing collection that proves what's punishing can also be soothing, everything can change without disrupting your compass. Your best year can be your worst year at the same time. Whatever sends you flying can also help you land.
Anyone reckless enough to have typecast Angel Olsen according to 2013's Burn Your Fire For No Witness is in for a rethink with her third album, MY WOMAN. The crunchier, blown-out production of the former is gone, but that fire is now burning wilder. Her disarming, timeless voice is even more front-and-center. Yet, the strange, raw power and slowly unspooling incantations of her previous efforts remain.
Over two previous albums, she gave us reverb-shrouded poetic swoons, shadowy folk, grunge-pop band workouts and haunting, finger-picked epics. MY WOMAN is an exhilarating complement to her past work, and one for which Olsen recalibrated her writing/recording approach and methods to enter a new music-making phase.
As the record evolves, one gets the sense that the "MY WOMAN" of the title is Olsen herself, absolutely in command but also willing to bend with the influence of collaborators and circumstances. An intuitively smart, warmly communicative and fearlessly generous record, MY WOMAN speaks to everyone. That it might confound expectation is just another of its strengths.
Let's face facts - in 2016 it is remarkable that there's a new Dinosuar Jr album to go ape over. After all, the original line-up of the band (J Mascis, Lou Barlow & Murph) only recorded three full albums during their initial run in the 1980s. Everyone was gob-smacked when they reunited in 2005. Even more so when they opted to stay together, as they have for 11 years now (on and off). And with the release of Give a Glimpse Of What Yer Not, this trio redivisus has released more albums in the 21st Century than they did in the 20th. It's enough to make a man take a long, thoughtful slug of maple-flavored bourbon and count some lucky stars.
From the first moments of Trevor Sensor's debut EP for Jagjaguwar, Texas Girls and Jesus Christ, the Illinois-born 22-year-old singer/songwriter's distinctive burr of a voice sounds aged decades beyond his years. The rest of the young talent's music follows suit, too, with timeless-sounding melodies and a sense of songwriting that exudes maturity while still feeling fresh.
Sensor wrote the music featured on Texas Girls and Jesus Christ on a borrowed acoustic guitar that he has yet to return, composing songs that sound deeply felt and from a place of truth and honesty. "If I'm trying to do anything, it's to be sincere," he says about his songwriting approach. "A lot of singer/songwriters today are oriented in irony. It's cooler to be lackadaisical rather than to try to be compelling."
And Sensor's music, above all else, is compelling: the proclamatory howls that close out the piano-led "Pacing the Cage," the dark desolation of "Satan's Man", and the dynamic blowout of the EP's title track grab your attention and refuse to let go. With Texas Girls and Jesus Christ, Sensor's presented his own little worlds for listeners to explore - with many more to follow.
Where is this generation's "In Your Eyes"? Our "Come Talk To Me"? You know, that song to blast as we passionately raise the boombox high over our heads outside our beloved's window. It's been a while since we had one of those songs - something expansive and elegant; big-pop that feels personal and tender. Let us humbly offer the music of Sydney's Gordi - 22-year-old Sophie Payten. Her debut EP, Clever Disguise, gets at it both ways - massive and personal music that doesn't concede an inch of artistic vision.
First single, "Can We Work It Out" has the big, worldly drums of those aforementioned Peter Gabriel classics and a towering, multi-layered vocal chorus that will instantaneously sear itself into your memory. The soft gallop and airy melody of opener "Nothing's As It Seems" feels like bittersweet sunset of a four-day weekend on the water. Clever Disguise was created with producers Alex Somers (Sigur Ros) and Francois Tetaz (Gotye). And if it's merely an aperitif for what Gordi has coming up, we're in for a magnificent show.
I called this thing My Best Human Face not only because that's one of my favorite lines on the album, but because I sometimes don't know who I am, or if I'm as kind and generous and happy as other people. The title speaks to the vague theme of identity-confusion that is loosely woven into the songs - a reoccurring theme I recognized only after the writing was done. It’s a confusion which I think exists for most of us, sure, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the campfire in the middle of our circle; we don’t have to stare into the flames. It’s simply not that important. At end of it all, these are good-time songs, meant to inspire good times in the listener. They were made joyously, with a stubborn love of music at their centre. And while some of the content might be dark or sad, the memories of making these songs brings only gladness and gratitude, and it's their construction, not deconstruction, that I want to celebrate now.
- Spencer Krug
For the last decade, Tim Heidecker (along with his comedy partner Eric Wareheim) has proven to be one of our cult-comedy greats with his Adult Swim series "Tim & Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job!" and "Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories." He's starred in indie films and played sold out stand-up sets around the world.
But who is Tim Heidecker? Is he a real man with all the regular feels? Well, yes, of course he is. He resides on a hill in Glendale, CA, up to his armpits in diapers, bills, his mortgage, in the workaday life of a writer. It's this pedestrian side of his life from which Heidecker pulls the fodder for the aptly titled In Glendale, his first earnest collection of songwriting under his full name.
In Glendale shows Heidecker shifting deftly from the mundane to the idiosyncratic; from the sentimental to the caustic; from the earnest to the humorous. His knack for crafting catchy tunes amid curious subject matter pops up in spades across In Glendale. "Ghost In My Bed" is a lovely little number about cutting off someone's head, sticking it in a plastic bag and burying it beneath the Hollywood sign.
After an album's worth of songs about Hollywood murder fantasies, diaper changes and even a cameo from director David Gordon Green, you're left desperately trying to wipe the smile off your face.
Banshee brings The Cave Singers back to their original 3 piece lineup and also their approach to songwriting: an exchange of Derek sending Pete a riff and Pete responding with vocal ideas. From there, the songs come together. The album was recorded live in July 2015 over 6 days with producer Randall Dunn. The record is warmly anchored in the members' creative familiarity with one another. Yet there is a new thirst to Banshee, one that can be attributed to the combination of the band taking a year off to work on other projects - Pete Quirk's solo album and the Kodiak Deathbeds debut record - and their return to songwriting from a distanced correspondence.
The rock canon has many anti-heroes, Black Mountain being the latest. In the past, Can's Tago Mago established that the only rule in rock and roll is that there are no rules. Pink Floyd's prodigious output in the 70s showed us that architecture can be cool, while delinquent proto-metallers Black Sabbath demonstrated that you can make a lot from not that much. Now Black Mountain teach us that you don't have to be afraid of the past to move bravely into the future, defining what it is to be a classic rock band in the new millennium. Today, they announce IV, an unapologetically ambitious record made by a group of musicians who are at the peak of their powers.
Brothers Ruban and Kody Nielson have been playing, recording and collaborating on music for decades. From the influences of their jazz musician father and dancer mother, Ruban and Kody have gone on to play in New Zealand's The Mint Chicks, and at its end in 2010, moved on to separate projects. Ruban formed Unknown Mortal Orchestra out of Portland, while Kody collaborated with various artists and musicians before his own solo project, SILICON, took shape. At the end of 2015, as UMO's Multi-Love and SILICON's Personal Computer made the rounds, garnering critical acclaim, Ruban and Kody (who played keyboards and drums on UMO's Multi-Love) took some time to rework tracks from each of their records. The theme of phones led to Kody working on UMO's "Can't Keep Checking My Phone," changing it from a bouncy, sprite disco track to a sparser song filled with space, treated vocals and isolated drum breaks. Ruban's rework of SILICON's "Cellphone" is turned moody and dark, with a skittering beat and additional vocals. The limited edition Phone 7" is available on April 1, 2016.
The threads of our past never unravel, they hover like invisible webs, occasionally glistening due to a sly angle of the sun. On Multi-Love, Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson reflects on relationships: airy, humid longing, loss, the geometry of desire that occurs when three people align. Where Nielson addressed the pain of being alone on II, Multi-Love takes on the complications of being together.
Multi-Love adds dimensions to the band's already kaleidoscopic approach, with Nielson exploring a newfound appreciation for synthesizers. The new songs channel the spirit of psych innovators without ignoring the last 40 years of music, forming a flowing, cohesive whole that reflects restless creativity. Cosmic escapes and disco rhythms speak to developing new vocabulary, while Nielson's vocals reach powerful new heights. "It felt good to be rebelling against the typical view of what an artist is today, a curator," he says. "It's more about being someone who makes things happen in concrete ways. Building old synthesizers and bringing them back to life, creating sounds that aren't quite like anyone else's. I think that's much more subversive."
While legions of artists show fidelity to the roots of psychedelia, Unknown Mortal Orchestra shares the rare quality that makes the genre's touchstones so vital: constant exploration.
Unique among their furrowed brow peers, The Besnard Lakes are unafraid to marry textured, questing headphone sonics to the honeyed pleasure of radio hits past: the rapture of My Bloody Valentine entwined with the romance of Fleetwood Mac. Imagine dreamy Beach House riding Led Zeppelin dynamics, with unabashedly androgynous vocal harmonies.
Channelling their obsessions with the paranormal as well as the dark arts, A Coliseum Complex Museum is populated by cryptozoological creatures (The Bray Road Beast, Golden Lion) while also luxuriating in natural phenomena and beauty (The Plain Moon, Nightingale). These themes are sincere yet good-humoured. The LP's title jokily refers to a landmark-heavy road sign spotted on tour in Texas, the varied emotional impulses within reflected by its environmentally warped artwork.
In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of this iconic album, Jagjaguwar is proud to present the Black Sheep Boy 10th Anniversary Edition, a three-LP set combining the classic Black Sheep Boy album and its counterpart the Black Sheep Boy Appendix with an all new unreleased album entitled There Swims a Swan: full-band recordings made six months prior to the release of Black Sheep Boy which illuminate the album's roots in the traditional American songbook. Featuring beautiful, emotional readings of songs popularized by such artists as Washington Phillips, Lead Belly, the Louvin Brothers, and Roscoe Holcomb, There Swims a Swan takes the listener on a trip through the songs that inspired Sheff while composing Black Sheep Boy and reads like a run-through of that album's themes. Black Sheep Boy is celebrated for its album artwork as well as its music, and the Anniversary Edition collects that artwork in a meticulously reworked package, combining every previous element of William Schaff's imagery with a large new piece by Schaff depicting an updated Black Sheep Boy. The release also includes lengthy liner notes by Will Sheff walking the listener through the circumstances surrounding the album.
For Okkervil River fans (the most high-profile of whom was recently revealed to be President Barack Obama, who included "Down Down the Deep River" on his 2015 summer playlist), the Anniversary Edition is a loving, comprehensive, richly expanded presentation of a record many consider to be one of the band's best. For those new to the band, this might be the best place to start, the first step on a long road, the opening to a forest you can get lost in.
Gracing the cover of Brooklyn band Small Black’s new record, a mysterious woman walks alone on the dunes at dusk, amid pockmarked sand. She's the subject of a found photo, one of many rescued with the warmth of a blow dryer and a fireplace, by singer Josh Hayden Kolenik after Hurricane Sandy flooded his family’s Long Island home. The faded image offers clues and invites viewers to construct their own narrative, one that escapes even the picture’s taker, Kolenik’s father. To put it simply, Best Blues is an album about loss, the specific loss of precious people in our lives, but also the loss of memories and the difficult fight to preserve them. “I spent months trying to scan all these images & letters, most covered with ocean dirt, and in doing so discovered what people often find in their family’s past: that they are a hell of a lot like those who’d come before,” says Kolenik. The chorus of standout “Boys Life” echoes this sentiment with the refrain “pictures of youth/picturing you,” over a track that itself was an old demo re-discovered by accident by the band, during a late night jam session at a cabin in Upstate NY. The compassion of the record collects itself in the soft repeating mantra-esque hook in "No One Wants It To Happen To You".
The group’s third full length release, written & recorded at their Brooklyn home studio, nicknamed 222, showcases a band still evolving, and embracing the unpredictable. Kolenik (keys, vocals), Ryan Heyner (guitar, keys, vocals), Juan Pieczanski (bass, guitar) and Jeff Curtin (drums) have been recording, writing, and often living together, throughout the life of the band, establishing a closeness that has allowed them to achieve easy creativity and unspoken chemistry. After a year of recording, that band enlisted mixer Nicholas Vernhes (War on Drugs, Deerhunter) of Rare Book Room Studio to help complete the record.
Best Blues finds the band in their sweet spot: the smoky intersection of considered & vulnerable songwriting and loose, almost nonchalant ambience. The addition of piano flourishes, trumpet (Darby Cicci of The Antlers), hidden acoustic guitars and Kaede Ford’s ethereal vocals provide new dimensions to the band’s already expansive sonic palette. Cut-to-the-chase rippers “Back at Belle’s” & “Checkpoints” embody & build on the group’s signature gritty yet focused electronic sound. While the more pastoral tracks, such as “Between Leos,” & “XX Century,” skeletally based on recorded improvisations, find the band painting a more nuanced, assured aural portrait. The repeating of the line “twentieth century” on closer, “XX Century”, serves as a coda for the album, offering a simple summation of what Best Blues’ intent has been from the opening Casio stab: an attempt to re-examine the past, but also one to let it go.