JB knows. As an avid music collector, a bodacious drummer (currently behind the kit for the Excons) and our store buyer for the indie labels, he's a true connoisseur of sonic wonderment trends in modern rock and related music.
How do you describe an album out of time, concerned with the disappearance of culture, of humanity, of nature, of logic and emotion? Why make this album in an era when attention spans have been reduced to next to nothing, and the tactile grains of making music have been further reduced to algorithms and projected playlist placement. Why wake up in the morning? Why hasn’t everything already disappeared? Deerhunter’s eighth LP forgets the questions and makes up unrelated answers. It gets up, walks around, it records itself in several strategic geographic points across north america. It comes home, restructures itself and goes back to bed to avoid the bad news. From the opening harpsichord and piano figures of Death in Midsummer, it is impossible to tell where the record came from. Is No One’s Sleeping an outtake of an aborted Kinks recording session in 1977 Berlin with Eno producing? No. That is nostalgia. If there is one thing Deerhunter are making clear it is that they have exhausted themselves with that toxic concept. What they spend their time doing instead is reinventing their approach to microphones, the drum kit, the harpsichord, the electromechanical and synthetic sounds of keyboards. Whatever guitars are left are pure chrome, plugged straight into the mixing desk with no amplifier or vintage warmth. The result is as thrilling, haunting, and unpredictable as anything in their roughly 15 year career. Deerhunter have made a science fiction album about the present. Is it needed right now? Is it relevant? Perhaps only to a small audience. DADA was a reaction to the horrors of war. Punk was a reaction to the slow and vacant 70’s. Hip Hop was a liberated musical culture that challenged the notions presented wholesale about the African-American experience. What is popular music today a reaction to?
i,i is Bon Iver's most expansive, joyful and generous album to date. If 'For Emma, Forever Ago was the crisp, heart-strung isolation of a northern Winter; Bon Iver the rise and whirr of burgeoning Spring; and '22, A Million', a blistering, crazy energy Summer record, i,i completes the cycle: a fall record; Autumn-colored, ruminative, steeped. The autumn of Bon Iver is a celebration of self acceptance and gratitude, bolstered by community and delivering the bounty of an infinite American music. The sales and accolades are well-known multiple Gold albums, multiple Grammys, chart-topping collaborations and festival headlines. But even more significantly, with each release Bon Iver quietly shifts the state of modern music. From the boundaries of folk, to the rules of autotune, to production work for others, Bon Iver s fingerprint finds its way across the mainstream every time. Vernon has always been a master collaborator, and on i,i that desire becomes maximal, with guests ranging from Moses Sumney and Bruce Hornsby to Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Here, the music and band, and themes, and creative space are bigger than ever.
Bonnie Prince Billy is the man who is destined to sing a darkness for the rest of time - but not now. Not today. For I Made a Place, his first album of new songs since 2011, he is bringing the lightness to new- and next-generations as well as his longtime friends and fans. It's a message we dearly need. With a hometown band supplying him the space to be as spare or as expansive as he needs to be, Bonny draws inspiration from a world-spanning set of musics, aiming to lift us up with songs meant to inspire, inform, lend confidence and bring warmth to assailed tribes everywhere. A depth of musical joy as only the Prince can deliver!
Jamila Woods has a voice and lyrical sensibility that transcends generations, and so it makes sense to have this lush and layered album that bounces seamlessly from one sonic aesthetic to another. This was the case on 2016's HEAVN, which found Woods hopeful and exploratory, looking along the edges resilience and exhaustion for some measures of joy. Her new album, Legacy! Legacy! Is the logical conclusion to that looking. From the airy boom-bap of "Giovanni" to the psychedelic flourishes of "Sonia," the instrument which ties the musical threads together is the ability of Woods to find her pockets in the waves of instrumentation, stretching syllables and vowels over the harmony of noise until each puzzle piece has a home. The whimsical and malleable nature of sonic delights also grants a path for collaborators to flourish: the sparkling flows of Nitty Scott on "Sonia" and Saba on "Basquiat," or the bloom of Nico Segal's horns on "Baldwin." More than just giving the song titles the names of historical black and brown icons of literature, art, and music, Jamila Woods builds a sonic and lyrical monument to the various modes of how these icons tried to push beyond the margins a country had assigned to them. On "Sun Ra," Woods sings "I just gotta get away from this earth, man / this marble was doomed from the start" and that type of dreaming and vision honors not only the legacy of Sun Ra, but the idea that there is a better future, and in it, there will still be black people. Soul music did not just appear in America, and soul does not just mean music. Rather, soul is what gold can be dug from the depths of ruin, and refashioned by those who have true vision. True soul lives in the pages of a worn novel that no one talks about anymore, or a painting that sits in a gallery for a while but then in an attic forever. Soul is all the things a country tries to force itself into forgetting. Soul is all of those things come back to claim what is theirs. Jamila Woods is a singular soul singer who, in voice, holds the rhetorical demand. The knowing that there is no compromise for someone with vision this endless. That the revolution must take many forms, and it sometimes starts with songs like these. Songs that feel like the sun on your face and the wind pushing flowers against your back while you kick your head to the heavens and laugh at how foolish the world seems.
Gold Past Life marks both an end and a beginning for Fruit Bats. It's the end of an unintentional thematic trilogy of records that began with 2014's EDJ (a solo record by name, but a Fruit Bats release in spirit) and hit an emotional peak with 2016's Absolute Loser. They encompassed years of loss, displacement, and the persistent, low-level anxiety of the current political climate. They were written in the wake of friends who left these earthly confines and families that could have been. But these salves, these songs on Gold Past Life, also represent new beginnings-the journeys that await after making it through troubled times. Gold Past Life is about rejecting notions of idealized nostalgia ("Gold Past Life") and the process of grounding oneself in the present, both geographically ("A Lingering Love," "Ocean") and spiritually ("Drawn Away"). With Gold Past Life, Eric Johnson of Fruit B hopes to bring more immediacy to the music and share positivity, hope, and motivation to keep on keepin' on with a wider audience.
My Finest Work Yet finds Bird grappling with themes of current day dichotomies and how to identify a moral compass amidst such divisive times. “I’m interested in the idea that our enemies are what make us whole—there’s an intimacy one shares with their opponent when locked in such a struggle. If we were to just walk away would our enemies miss us? How did we get to this point and how can we, through awareness of it, maybe pull ourselves out of this death spiral,” says Bird.
Following the ever-emotive Boo Boo, Toro Y Moi’s new album Outer Peace is a time capsule that captures our relationship to contemporary culture into one comprehensive, sonic package. As both a producer and designer, Bear utilizes abstract sound pairings with recognizable samples for his most pop influenced record to date, including features from ABRA, WET, and Instupendo. This is no departure from his funk and disco roots, which can be heard on “Ordinary Pleasure”, later fusing into variations of house with tracks like “Freelance” and “Laws of the Universe.” Smooth interludes melt into fast paced beats, paralleling the feeling of driving through the Bay Area, where Bear spent most of his time writing the album. Outer Peace is duality. It embodies whatever form you choose to inhabit in the moment. Listen and let your imagination become the universe.
As you listen to Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest, a feeling of totality, of completeness, steals over you, like a thief in broad daylight. Of course it does – you’re listening to a new Bill Callahan record! The first one in almost six years! What more do you need to complete you?
Or perhaps, after all the time, the obvious needs to be made just a little more explicit?
First, it’s a different kind of record. Bill’s now writing from somewhere beyond his Eagle-Apocalypse-River headspace, and Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest is very much its own beast. The songs are, by and large, shorter, and there are more of them. It took almost all of the previous three albums to add up to that many. Plus, twenty’s a lot of songs! But again, it goes a lot deeper than that.
The Mystery Lights's sophomore album on Daptone's rock subsidiary, Wick Records, finds the group digging deeper into their well of eclectic influences, enriching their sound without echoing the past. It mixes the eerie, insistent synth sounds of groups like The Normal and Suicide, the energy and swagger of punks golden age, the pop sensibility of The Kinks, and the stark, deliberate execution of Television. The Mystery Lights are taking their idiosyncratic brand of rock and roll to dizzying new heights.
Over the past decade, Cass McCombs has established himself as one of our premier songwriters. It’s a ca- reer that’s twisted and turned, from style to subject, both between records and within them. McCombs has never made two albums that sound the same. His new one, Tip of the Sphere, is particularly unique. Tip of the Sphere is McCombs’ 9th studio album and while many of his records have been comprised of songs recorded in different studios and pieced togeth- er over time, this one was recorded quickly in one lo- cation with a strong sense of purpose, resulting in his most consistent record to date. This approach brings a raw immediacy to his songs, which are some of his best yet as he finds the perfect balance of compassion and experimentation. The rock songs rock harder, the ballads are more beautiful, the experiments more confident; with the sounds of jazz and latin music creeping in through the back window. This is an artist trying to make sense of it all through a relentless, ever searching creative process.
On House of Sugar, his third full-length for Domino and ninth overall, (Sandy) Alex G inhabits a diverse range of musical and emotional points-of-view (often simultaneously), in turn illuminating the tension that hides in the shadow of desire. Giannascoli began writing these songs in the fall of 2017, having just finished a tour for House of Sugar’s acclaimed predecessor, Rocket, and moved into a new apartment in Philadelphia. Whereas with earlier efforts, such as 2011’s self-released Winner or the landmark 2014 release DSU, he’d write numerous songs fairly quickly, with House of Sugar Giannascoli worked at a steadier pace, concentrating on fewer songs and laboring over each one more than before. Throughout the process Giannascoli worked closely with Jacob Portrait, who mixed both Rocket and its predecessor, 2015’s Beach Music, and here helped to balance each of House of Sugar’s dense, multi-faceted tracks. As the product of extended focus and planning, House of Sugar emerges as Giannascoli’s most meticulous, cohesive album yet: a statement of artistic purpose, showing off his ear for both persistent earworms and shifting textures.
It was on a mountainside in Cumbria that the first whispers of Cate Le Bon’s fifth studio album poked their buds above the earth. “There’s a strange romanticism to going a little bit crazy and playing the piano to yourself and singing into the night,” she says, recounting the year living solitarily in the Lake District which gave way to Reward. By day, ever the polymath, Le Bon painstakingly learnt to make solid wood tables, stools and chairs from scratch; by night she looked to a second-hand Meers — the first piano she had ever owned — for company, “windows closed to absolutely everyone”, and accidentally poured her heart out. The result is an album every bit as stylistically varied, surrealistically-inclined and tactile as those in the enduring outsider’s back catalogue, but one that is also intensely introspective and profound; her most personal to date.
Fourth studio album by the Australian singer-songwriter Tame Impala (Kevin Parker). 'The Slow Rush' was recorded between Los Angeles and Parker's studio in his hometown of Fremantle, Australia. The album is Parker's deep dive into the oceans of time, conjuring the feeling of a lifetime in a lightning bolt, of major milestones whizzing by while you're looking at your phone, it's a paean to creation and destruction and the unending cycle of life.
After the breakout success of Jay Som’s 2017 debut album, Everybody Works, the band’s songwriter, producer, and creative force Melina Duterte spent the next few years taking advantage of all the opportunities her unexpected success suddenly offered her. She took Jay Som on the road, performing with the likes of Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, Paramore, Alvvays and more across multiple US and European tours. She made appearances at various high-profile festivals, including Primavera Sound, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch, and many more. She even found time to sneak in a collaborate EP, Nothing’s Changed, with like-minded solo artist Justus Proffit. When it was time to make Jay Som’s second album, Duterte relocated from her hometown roots in California’s Bay Area to Los Angeles and started writing. The result, Anak Ko, is some of Duterte’s strongest work to date. Translating to “my child” in English, Anak Ko, features sweeping, shoegazey guitars (“Superbike”), delicate string & pedal steel arrangements (“Nighttime Drive,” “Get Well”), and incredible production that showcases Duterte’s evolving skills in the studio (“Anak Ko”). Anak Ko presents an exciting glimpse into Duterte’s creative process and solidifies her undeniable progression as one of 2019's strongest and gifted songwriters.
Minneapolis-based experimental R&B vocalist and songwriter Velvet Negroni has announced his forthcoming 4AD debut album NEON BROWN out August 30th. Velvet Negroni is the alter-ego of creative polymath Jeremy Nutzman. Raised in an outer suburb of the Twin Cities, Jeremy - a black kid adopted into a white evangelical Christian family - split his formative years between classical piano lessons and late night jam sessions. A duality that permeates every corner of his music, with forthcoming album NEON BROWN thriving in the borderlands between indie rock and R&B. Since touring with close friend Bon Iver, Nutzman notched writing credits for Kanye West and Kid Cudi ahead of his debut single releases on NYC label b4 in 2018. Now, alongside prolific co-producers Psymun (Young Thug, Juice WLRD, The Weeknd) and Tickle Torture, Nutzman’s new releases transcend the borders between his often polarised influences, bringing R&B slow jams and nods to hometown hero Prince with guitar licks and full band energy. “Lush in its atmosphere but brutally cold in its delivery, “CONFETTI” is a warped invitation into the gorgeous contradictions of Velvet Negroni.” - FADER
U.F.O.F., F standing for ‘Friend’, is the name of the highly anticipated third record by Big Thief, set to be released by 4AD on May 3rd. The New York-based band, featuring Adrianne Lenker (guitar, vocals), Buck Meek (guitar), Max Oleartchik (bass), and James Krivchenia (drums), has spent the last 4 years on an incessant world tour, winning the devotion of an enthusiastic and rapidly expanding audience. Their songs represent an emotional bravery and realness that weaves intimate relationships with the listener, a phenomenon that has made them one of the most widely-respected bands of the current era. Their first two back-to-back releases, Masterpiece (2016) and Capacity (2017), have been analysed, wept to, danced to, critically applauded, imitated, hummed idly, and shouted out loud. They have soundtracked crowded restaurants, difficult conversations, cowboy bars, yoga classes, night drives, and lonely bedrooms. U.F.O.F. was recorded in rural western Washington at Bear Creek Studios. In a large cabin-like room, the band set up their gear to track live with engineer Dom Monks and producer Andrew Sarlo, who was also behind their previous albums. Having already lived these songs on tour, they were relaxed and ready to experiment. The raw material came quickly. Some songs were written only hours before recording and stretched out instantly, first take, vocals and all. Others were explored in search of perfected moments of dynamic feedback and spiritual, rhythmic togetherness. A careful New Age sprinkle of mystical textures and stabs was added and kept in the mix only when all agreed that each element had become absolutely crucial to the tune. The completed palette feels classic, upfront and honest, with an occasional, welcome glimpse into the magic box.