Some sort of smog blackened bastard child of stoned classic rock, '90s hole-in-amp filth-pop, and classic punk, the Females follow up 2012's Steve Albini-produced Ugly and a smattering of splits and singles released in 2013 with a full-length recorded live over the course of two performances at Chicago's Hideout bar/club. Recorded live by Steve Albini, Live At The Hideout showcases the band's live pummel and playfulness while never failing to spotlight Marissa Paternoster's remarkable post-Mascis guitar firepower.
Mac DeMarco wrongly gets called “slacker rock.” At only 23 he’s releasing his third album, and it’s one of the best things we’ve heard all year. The title track is a swaying, gleefully glum blues track, its charming, singalong quality masking some quarterlife crisis (“Always feeling tired, smiling when required/write another year off and kindly resign,” suggesting some darkness behind DeMarco’s goofy grin). “Brother” features DeMarco sumptuously singing while milky guitars dance beneath the surface. It’s one of the loveliest tunes he’s ever produced. Songs like “Goodbye Weekend,” with its woozy, intoxicating guitar line and lovely jazz tones, speak to what a strong songwriter DeMarco has always been beneath it all. And while he’s all the better for ditching some of the affectations he sported on the still-great Rock and Roll Night Club in favor of a streamlined sound he’s dubbed “jizz jazz,” DeMarco can still pull some conceptually striking songs, like “Passing Out the Pieces,” which uses heavily effected harpsichord and booming synth-bass to create miraculous millennial psychedelia, pulling in some of the good ol’ Beatles/Kinks/Beach Boys influence he’s seemed to (probably smartly) avoid showing thus far in his career. Salad Days shows DeMarco to be a classical songwriter with the ability to turn an amiable, if not immediately memorable, voice and intricate yet mangled guitarwork into tunes that pull at you in unexpected, emotional ways. So he can’t be bothered to shower or cut his hair—we wouldn’t have it any other way.
These four brothers grew up in London and South Africa, and are now based in Phoenix, Arizona. The sound and feel of this album reflects their well-traveled background, giving them their own special brand of adventure rock.
Dave Van Ronk epitomized the "folksinger's folksinger" apprenticing through immersion in the folk music revival's epicenter of Washington Square, mentoring musicians such as Bob Dylan, Suzanne Vega, and many more. Drawing from unreleased recordings as well as from the Smithsonian Folkways vault, Down on Washington Square paints a musical mosaic of Van Ronk's artistry.
I knew an older girl in high school who was a great painter and very mean in the casual unprovoked way that disaffected high schoolers often are. We had some art classes together and at some point, for some reason, she made me a mix of music that mostly scared me but also turned me on to the Faint. I wasn't a goth but that didn't stop me from being miserable and Todd Fink's sneering skater-brogue painting portraits of a world where everyone was bleeding and dying and had spinal injuries sprawled out in suburban pools and on kitchen tiles really resonated with me. On Doom Abuse , the snottiness has been toned down, replaced with a self-awareness that, if they had before, they didn't let on to. Overall, the songs are poppier, less bleak, but, oddly, peppered with harsher electronic glitch and noise than the band has ever used. The techno-interfaced image of suburban and urban teenage misery is relatively unchanged, tracking likes on Facebook and Instagram resulting in serotonin failures, disappointment, dejection, alienation; these emotions aren't going anywhere and though the technology has changed, they still need a voice.
Todd Terje is already one of the most well-respected DJs around, having released dancefloor anthems like “Snooze 4 Love” and “Inspector Norse.” But what happens when “it’s album time”? The answer is the party album of the year. With his goofy moustache, leisure-suit persona and cool jazz tones, Terje’s aesthetic is perfect, and It’s Album Time is packed with jammers. “Leisue Suit Preben” moves on a stocky beat, like the world’s worst detective sleuthing around, until cinematic strings and an ’80s car-chase synthesizer pick up the intrigue. Next for the album’s Preben character is Mexico, as “Preben Goes to Acapulco” features wonderous synth explosions worthy of a Disneyland light show. “Svensk Sas” makes us tango in the night, and “Strandbar” is the killer pool-party song we’ve been looking for all of our lives. While It’s Album Time could be the suddenly cool soundtrack for some forgotten ’80s B-movie, it also feels incredibly relevant and current, pulling a similar feat to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories . It makes us want to put on our shades, hop in a Delorean and never look back.
Sean Carey tours and records with Bon Iver and his music should appeal to BI fans with some ease. The music is sparse but improbably thoughtful, with every sound in its just-right place without being stiff or over-ordered. I recall reading somewhere that Carey is primarily a percussionist and it comes out in every aspect of the music. Melodies and textures following different rhythms shuffle in and out, bouncing off of each other in a sort of Sufjan Stevens small folkorchestra take on Steve Reichian polyrhythms. Though the album is mostly acoustic instruments (albeit with almost constant buzzing electronics), many of the hushed, soulful vocal inflections and the aforementioned skittering density of the rhythmic components give the record a sort of IDM feeling, a Postal Service unplugged with vocals. Less twee, more sad, more smokey, more sleepy (not fully Rhye, but around there). A remarkable achievement.
When you first put on Joyland , you might be afraid. Grandiose, beautiful synths and mournful vocals begin it like some damn Sigur Ros album. Where are the dirty, dark disco jams? Well wait just a second pardner, cause that New Agey opening is a red herring for Trust’s nastiest set of jammers yet. “Geryon” sounds like a zombie singing over ’90s Eurodisco. The title track warps those vocals into a higher register for diva-ish freestyle pop. While it’s a lot of fun, some tracks on Joyland fuse that desire to be taken a little more seriously hinted at by the title track with Trust’s poppier ambitions, like the OMD-style, subtly catchy “Are We Arc?,” the dynamic, multilayered disco of “Capitol,” and “Icabod,” which lets Robert Alfons’ throaty vocals move a bit in their low register and rise for a rousing chorus. So while Trust are more fun than your average modern synth-pop band, using a variety of influences in the service of crafting great dance songs, they also shouldn’t be dismissed as just a party band. Joyland proves Trust is a band to hold onto.
While Animal Collective takes a little break, its members are busy. Panda Bear will have a new release later this year, but first up is Avey Tare, who has previously released a solo album, a joint album with Kria Brekkan and now debuts this new group with former Dirty Projector Angela Deradoorian and former Ponytail member Jeremy Hyman. Far from a vanity project, Slasher Flicks is a full-blown band with a kickass debut album. Anyone familiar with the band’s pedigree will be right at home here, amid the tribal, Paul Simon-vibing “Blind Babe,” the dancey indie rock of “Little Fang” and the Animal Collective-ish and yes, infectious song “Catchy (Was Contagious).” But it’s not just the Avey Tare show, as Deradoorian’s ever-aerobic vocals bounce around the edges and give lovely shading to songs like “The Outlaw,” and anyone who got to witness Ponytail’s livewire act knows Hyman’s power as a drummer, which he displays on songs like the dynamic “That It Won’t Grow.” While we’ll always love Animal Collective, it’s obvious Avey Tare can create amazing work apart from that band, as he’s shown on the magical Enter the Slasher House .
Exceptional tenth release from Berliner composer Nils Frahm. Combining the tactility of Reichian percussive minimalism with the dreamy early-digital arpeggiated chord structures of someone like Steve Roach, Spaces asserts its uniqueness even more by the sheer fact of its being a compilation of live recordings (check out footage of the guy on YouTube for a truly jaw-dropping experience). Lest the one-man-band circus novelty take hold, let's move on. Nils Frahm is primarily a pianist and composer, and the prominence of IRL acoustic piano butting up against a timeline of increasing electronic capability situates him in line with the doors opened by multi-tiered organs or having extra fingers like the pianist in GATTACA. This is stunningly beautiful and complex-but-immersive music, made even the more shocking when Frahm takes a break from his swirling string-theory symphonies to give us a lilting, emotional, three minute composition for solo piano, a la someone like Keith Jarrett at his coolest and most miserable. Unreal! Buy this!
Earnest, excited, romantic, intricate, Icelandic. Album four for Torrini, who wooed many a fan with her single "Jungle Drums" and as the singer for "Gollum's Song," a standout track from Howard Shore's LOTR score pieces. People like to compare Torrini to Bjork, which is easy, lazy, and not altogether incorrect. There's a lot that separates the two artists, and some things that bind them, too: heritage, accent, vocal range. At the end of the day, though, Torrini does something more accessible, a little bit more classic in its pop roots, offering up acoustic demos of her songs on her website, baring the trad-pop bones of her occasionally otherworldly music. Initial single "Speed of Dark" swirls with warm Blade Runner synths until it opens up into a track Peter Gabriel would have killed for in 1986, albeit with a vocal melody that recalls The Purple One more than it does the Moonlit Knight. Synths aside, poke around YouTube for footage of Torrini performing these tracks live and see the material's old fashioned electro-acoustic structures that allow these songs to blossom. Interesting stuff.
Hailed as updating the classic Laurel Canyon sound, Jonathan Wilson is a far more complex, idiosyncratic entity. Sure, there are shades of that pastoral early '70s sound, but Wilson plays between influence and identity, tradition and possibility.