There are those in our ranks who are touting this new triumphant collection from Montreal's art-rock heroes SUUNS as the most outright grooved record they've made. But hold it right there. Not so fast. SUUNS have always had that deep groove on fucking lock, albeit oft-slithering within an austere and/or sneering veneer. Consider, if you will, how Kraftwerk had far more funk flowing through their wires and cables than most of we flesh bodies. Same goes for the necromancers of SUUNS. And their world class drummer Liam O'Neill has heroically accepted the challenge of playing in and around programmed beats like a diabolical, sentient metronome. O'Neill's kit is a bit more out front than it’s been in a hot minute and he’s as patient and ferocious as ever. Meanwhile, Singer/guitarist Ben Shemie's sourmilk deliver is as frightening and enchanting as ever, but now coming from some deep area that feels like a human heart. And as alluded to by its title and neon-warm album art, SUUNS' Felt is gonna make you feel things. You’re gonna learn something about your body listening to cuts like on DJ Shadow-leaning, head-bobber "Look No Further" or "Make It Real," which could be a radio signal of a lost Silver Apples cut - that is, before it becomes a doomsday siren breakup song. These four gentlemen could be making beats for 21 Savage or Migos. But for now, lucky for you, they’re ruthlessly set on being one of the planet's finest, bravest bands.
Joey Dosik didn't set out to make a conceptual EP about basketball. It was his first love before music, and some of his earliest memories are of attending Lakers games, but he'd never thought to look to the sport for inspiration. But when Joey blew out his knee during his regular pick-up game and had to undergo reconstructive ACL surgery, he found himself confined to the couch, watching a lot of television and waiting to resume his normal life. He gravitated toward basketball, and when he started recording again, he found it seeping into his writing. The result is Game Winner, a brisk, emotive collection of songs loosely inspired by the language and lore of the game. Joey is an inveterate collaborator who has worked extensively with the likes of Vulfpeck, Nikka Costa and Miguel Atwood Ferguson, and who is a vital part of an LA scene that updates vintage sounds into a more contemporary context. But Game Winner was a different project with a different process; the lion's share of the EP was recorded solo in Joey's home studio. The common thread in the EP's six songs - as well as the four bonus tracks - is musicality and song craft: the two pillars of Joey's sound. "The most important thing is the song," explains Joey. "Songwriting won't go out of style." It's that approach, one that thinks beyond style, that gives the EP's title track its magic. Minimal and almost languid, "Game Winner" has a confidence that’s hard to place in time, an ease that meets a buzzer-beater just as well as it meets a Sunday morning. Basketball may have been Joey's first love, but the sport is also the perfect metaphor for where he's ended up musically, always striving to stay timely and timeless, to bring deep, foundational elements in sync with innovation and imagination.
Light Upon The Lake, the debut from Whitney, was born from early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the most brutal winters in Chicago's history. Vocalist/drummer Julien Ehrlich and guitarist Max Kakacek began writing unflinching, honest songs about everything from breakups to the passing of Ehrlich's grandfather. The pair leaned on one another for both honest critique and a sounding board for working through their newly-discovered truths. The brief, intense period of creativity for the band yielded Light Upon The Lake's exceptional, unfussy combination of soul, breezy Sixties/Seventies rock, and somber heartbreak woven together by hopeful, golden threads. After critical acclaim and nearly nonstop touring since thealbum's 2016 release, Ehrlich and Kakacek are going back to their roots - for the first time, the full demos from Light Upon The Lake will be made available. After a whirlwind year following the debut, the demos offer a way for listeners to get a glimpse into the very beginning ofWhitney's sound. "After almost two years of non-stop touring, we decided we wanted to close the chapter on Light Upon The Lake by releasing the songs in their earliest incarnations alongside a cover of a band favorite by Alan Toussaint, and an unreleased track called 'You and Me.' We're looking towards LP2 as we finish out the year on the road." - Love, Max and Julien
Native Memphian William Eggleston, 77, is widely regarded to be the most important photographer of the late 20th Century, but there is another side to him that took root in his Sumner, Mississippi childhood, where he discovered the piano in the parlor that ignited in him a lifelong passion for music.
In the 1980's, Eggleston, who disdained digital cameras and modernity in general, became surprisingly fascinated with a synthesizer, the Korg O1/W FD, which had 88 piano-like keys, and in addition to being able to emulate the sound of any instrument, also contained a four-track sequencer that allowed him to expand the palette of his music, letting him create improvised symphonic pieces, stored on 49 floppy discs, encompassing some 60 hours of music from which this 13 track recording was assembled.
The music, which he refers to as "Musik", adopting the German spelling of his hero, JS Bach, is highly emotional, whether he's improvising a Bach-like organ fanfare out of whole cloth, using a Korg patch titled "guitar feedback" to create a dirge, or playing Lerner and Lowe's "On The Street Where You Live" as a dramatic overture.
Mr. Eggleston often says that he feels that music is his first calling, as much a part of him, at least, as his photography.
Up until 2014 I was an investigator's assistant in a public law office. I can't tell you exactly what my job was on account of I signed a shut your mouth agreement around the time I quit for stress related reasons. But what I can say is that I dealt with corruption and badness perpetrated at the highest levels of authority, daily. I clocked all these leads and I made a file. Because these aren't things you keep in the dark. You shine a light on the badness and you strive to understand it.
From a dossier on all things delicate and beautiful and sadly human. crimes of passion and victims of love. All contained in 10 hot songs. Who's the culprit? I've got my inklings and you can get your own. But first you need to listen to the thing, take it all in, stick photos to your walls and connect them with string, measure footprints in the yard, wear a suit made of reeds, track the migration patterns of birds, intercept whispered transmissions, learn to eat spiders with a hunting knife, sleep in air ducts, make the case.
Here it is, my album: Forced Witness.
'Spear in the City' is the fourth album from Los Angeles' Bodies of Water, and their first release since 2011. Since then, they've played with different friends in different guises (Music Go Music, Physical Jerks, The Confessions, The Coast), and recorded a trove of mostly unreleased music. "Before we dove into putting out another record," says singer David Metcalf, "we wanted to make sure we had a set of songs that felt like they needed an audience, which took a while to happen."
'Spear in the City' is an album of expansive and apocalyptic gospel music, pulsing baritone-led chansons Ã¡ la Jacques Brel and Scott Walker, but with the rhythmic groove and vocal polyphony that's been the group's signature since its beginnings. Metcalf elaborates: "When I tell people that it's a gospel record, what I mean is that the songs are about the world and work of the Spirit. It's not worship music. Since I've never felt the need to connect with religious culture or institutions, songs are a way to keep my eyes trained on the world inside the world, and the movement of the supernatural dimension into ours.
The songs on 'Spear in the City' are a continuation of a narrative that Bodies of Water began writing long ago. Songs of experience informed by lives entwined with faith. Songs that revel in the unknown, and the mysteries at the heart of that faith. 'Spear in the City' is not dogma, it is a reckoning.
What you hear on Fly is Yoko Ono's disarming combination of opacity and visceral, personal transparency in full bloom. It's one of the most unbridled, most captivating soul albums ever made.
And that's right where she wants you: vulnerable, wide open to any-and-everything, ready to have your world tipped onto its head. She's a master of spinning your head around. First, you get the Bar Band from Hell of "Midsummer New York" to kick things off. It's about the last thing you'd expect from Ono coming off Plastic Ono Band. But here you are, listening to Ono channeling Elvis. Why am I all of a sudden bopping along to it?
At 16-minute-plus, the tranced-out, motorik-inspired boogie "Mind Train" is rough-and-ready for your next basement get down. Movement and perspiration required. Then, we have the absolutely gutting blues of “Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand in The Snow)." Full of ache and raw emotion, the song is a love note, a plea for forgiveness, to her estranged daughter Kyoko shot across the universe on a flaming arrow.
Ono follows this stampede of emotion with the self-referential torch song "Mrs. Lennon," a wounded song that gets right into the Universal Loneliness. And so here you are. You're devastated. You're exhausted. You're exhilarated. And you're only 1/4 of the way up the mountain that is Fly. Dig deep, traveler, it’s worth the climb.
If you've listened to Feeling the Space, Yoko Ono's personal-is-political 1973 album, it should come as no surprise that the once-reviled artist is inspiring a new generation of activists in 2017. On such songs as the righteous chant "Woman Power," the empathetic ballad "Angry Young Woman," the hilarious proto-grrrl "Potbelly Rocker," and the satirical "Men Men Men," Yoko sings in surprisingly straightforward fashion about the burdens carried by women and the mandate for feminism. Supported by such skilled studio vets as guitarist David Spinozza, sax player Michael Brecker, and drummer Jim Keltner, this is perhaps Yoko's most accessible album, and her most intimate. Feeling the Space was recorded during the time when the avant-garde visionary artist became estranged from her rock-star husband John Lennon. He plays only briefly on the album (billed as Johnny O'cean); she produced and wrote all the songs.
The result is a definitive soundtrack/document of the era of consciousness raising and of radical critique of the family structure. Yoko and company deliver this hard message soft rock style, or as soft as Yoko could get. Yoko was on the front lines of the women's liberation movement. Dedicated "to the sisters who died in pain and sorrow and those who are now in prisons and in mental hospitals for being unable to survive in the male society," it's an emotional exploration of the psychological toll of oppression.
Ever since they wrote Light Upon The Lake as Chicago froze around them during winter 2014, Whitney have tried to make the kind of songs they'd be jealous of if someone else got there first. "You've Got A Woman," released on the B- side of Dutch duo Lion's 1975 psych-pop 7" But I Do, is precisely one of those songs. "As soon as I heard it, I wished I'd written the vocal melody; it's so catchy and powerful," says singing drummer Julien Ehrlich. Whitney's version is rich, instantaneous, and deep in groove. Much like Whitney's singles "No Woman" and "Golden Days" off last year's debut, "You’ve Got A Woman" is brushed with longing, nostalgia and serves to slow down time. Unlike Lion, Whitney made it their A-side. Flip the 12" and you'll find Dolly Parton's "Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can)," a short, tearful love song hewn from piano, brass, guitar and Julien's falsetto. Things have exploded for Whitney in a year, and time on the road meant that even Chicago feels different now—relationships have changed, friendships have drifted. But they can still retreat into their songs, snapshots of changing seasons that will always be comforting.
If She-Devils is an art project, then Audrey Ann Boucher and Kyle Jukka's hauntingly brilliant self-titled debut is a bright, impressionist painting. Swapping oils and brushes for primitive gear and heart-swelling vocals, the album constructs a bleary-eyed world of beautiful chaos, one driven by Dee-Lite-meets-Suicide sonics, and the romantic longing of '60s girl groups.
The revelry of 2016's Hopelessness helped reinvent Anohni (f/k/a Antony and The Johnsons) in the mold of staunch political agitator. Self-aware and self-flagellating, Anohni speaks of deep concern for our very livelihood, as a species and as a civil society. With critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, FADER and many more, Hopelessness came to represent a new and necessary musical language.
Anohni's Paradise EP is the extension, into 2017, of a language of protest and distress. The songs on here - already featured in her arresting live performances - were made during the same sessions as Hopelessness, but rather than trimmings or bonus material, they are, instead, unique touch points for old problems and newly minted geo-political crises writ macabre.
Society would deem a prodigious girl can't be in a progressive rock band while also being in complete control of its creative vision, business plan and social messaging. Society is wrong. Clementine Creevy, a 19 year old teen Queen, dreamed up Cherry Glazerr in her LA bedroom alone and is perhaps more capable of figuring a music career out than anyone who attempts this treacherous life path.
Back in 2014, much-loved Cali imprint Burger Records released Cherry Glazerr's intoxicating debut Haxel Princess. The New York Times called "Grilled Cheese" one of their Top Songs of 2014 alongside heavy hitters such as BeyonceÌ, Taylor Swift and Future. The band toured across the country and abroad, between Clementine's acting responsibilities on the award-winning show Transparent, and gained fans everywhere with their wild lives shows. On their upcoming sophomore album, Apocalipstick, the band worked with "rock'n'roll wizard" Joe Chicarelli (White Stripes, The Shins, The Strokes) and Carlos de la Garza (Bleached, M83, Tegan and Sara). With their help and the band's newfound self-discipline and motivation, Cherry Glazerr has evolved into a wildly complex, hugely guitar heavy, and unapologetically loud machine.
Jens Lekman describes his new record, Life Will See You Now, playfully, but also honestly, as "a midlife-crisis disco album; it's an existentialist record, about seeing the consequences of your choices". It's a typical Lekman album in several ways: sly humour is key to its heartfelt nature; it inverts pop's writing norm by making songs with sad concerns sound happy and songs with a happy subject sound sad; and it plays with notions of identity and the self. But, as the title suggests, it also represents a significant move forward, as if across a threshold. It's the more expansive, upbeat sound of a revitalised Lekman, who is just one of many characters in his new stories about the magic and messiness of different kinds of relationships.
Society would deem a prodigious girl can't be in a progressive rock band while also being in complete control of its creative vision, business plan and social messaging. Society is wrong. Clem, a 19 year old teen Queen dreamed up Cherry Glazerr in her LA bedroom alone and is perhaps more capable of figuring a music career out than anyone who attempts this treacherous life path.
Back in 2014, much-loved Cali imprint Burger Records released their intoxicating debut Haxel Princess and Suicide Squeeze released the Had Ten Dollaz 7-inch. On Apocalipstick the band worked with "rock'n'roll wizard" Joe Chicarelli [White Stripes, The Shins, The Strokes] and Carlos de la Garza [Bleached, M83, Tegan and Sara]. With their help and the band's newfound self-discipline and motivation, Cherry Glazerr has evolved into a wildly complex, hugely guitar heavy, and unapologetically loud machine.
Over the weekend of August 21-22, 2010, not long after Damien Jurado and Richard Swift first collaborated to produce Damien's 2010 record, Saint Bartlett, the pair hunkered down with a 4-track recorder and one Coles 4038 ribbon microphone to record a collection of cover songs that run the gamut from John Denver to Chubby Checker to Kraftwerk.
The timing was perfect. On Other People's Songs Vol 1, we can see the scaffolding of what would become a creative turning point for the pair - later seen with the release of Damien Jurado's Maraqopa, the first record in his Maraqopa trilogy - less than 2 years later. The opening drum hits of "Be Not So Fearful", the falsetto vocals of "Sweetness", and the Spaghetti-Western swing of "Radioactivity" are, by now, hallmarks of the Jurado/Swift sound, but Other People's Songs Vol 1 is a transitional fossil, a marking of the pair's collaborative evolution.
Turns out the very sound of falling in love is just as abstract, subjective and loopy as the concept itself. Yoko Ono and John Lennon are two of history's greatest lovers, and Two Virgins is the document of the pair falling in love in real time. The album is a curious and amazing suite recorded over one weekend in Spring 1968 at Lennon's Kenwood home: Distant conversations; comedic role playing and footsteps; laughter, birdcalls and plunking piano lines; silly songs and space; tape delay stretching shrieks, bass rumbles and moans to the moon and back again.
The now-iconic cover (featuring Ono and Lennon standing nude together) notwithstanding, nothing about Two Virgins is safe. It would be a risky move today for artists in the larger, pop-culture conversation just as it was a risky move in 1969. But this is an uncomfortably private, two-person dialogue about - and celebration of - experimentation, inspiration and play. And these two souls bravely let us look through the keyhole.
Life with the Lions is the sound of Ono and Lennon validating their love as something impenetrable and timeless. It's when we, the listener, begin to fully understand that the scope of their recording efforts was much more than a recording collaboration, and something closer to a performative documentary, a declaration of "Our life and our love is our art - every nitty, gritty part of it."
A Hand Through the Cellar Door is, in many ways, Temple's most straightforward collection of song-storying tunes to date. There are tales of dysfunctional, broken homes and of dysfunctional, broken people. "Birds of Late December," with its fluttering, nimble fingerpicking, paints an exacting but impressionistic portrait of divorce through the eyes of an exceptionally wistful child. In both "Maryanne Was Quiet" and "The Case of Louis Warren" we follow two characters whose lives unravel in very different ways, though their central question is the same: After you shed all the things you think make you who you are, what is left? Temple is creating small, confident stories with a massive scope. Yes, while the tales Temple weaves are bleak, the aura of hope never quite fades from the picture. He turns the tragedies of human folly into a celebration of our eccentricities.