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Berkeley World Music Festival Autumn Equinox

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The Apache Relay (CD)

The Apache Relay

Buoyant, energetic indie-folkers from Nashville return with album two, having tucked under their belts a 0-60 period of recording and touring, making a name for themselves with well received sets at Bonnaroo and opening for Mumford & Sons. Following the old naysaying and occasionally-personal-growth-inspiring (Groucho) Marxist adage of not wanting to belong to any club that might have them as members, the Relays appear to be distancing themselves from the folk-rock of their booster community and trying on the sort of reverb drenched nu-anthemic sixties-isms of more rock'n'soul oriented contemporary indie rock. The songs are hopeful, romantic, with a tinge of country-twang-mope, executed by a group that sounds like they like playing together. Produced by Kevin Auguna at Fairfax Recording, this record should certainly appeal to fans of Auguna's other clients, the Cold War Kids or E. Sharpe & those Magnetic Zeroes.

Be Impressive (CD)

The Griswolds

After extensive touring and the success of 2012’s four-track  Heart of A Lion  EP, Sydney’s indie-pop darlings The Griswolds have finally released their first full-length release,  Be Impressive . Fans of overproduced sonic candy will find this effort quite impressive. Formulaic in nature and bright as the sun, The Griswolds stick to the tropical, percussive, and happy pop hooks that have gained them popularity. Despite the upbeat nature of the record, there are some slightly more melancholy moments in tracks like “Beware The Dog”, “Thread The Needle” and Live This Nightmare.” If you enjoy sugary pop with a little darkness within, this debut is the sonic equivalent to getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

A Tribute To Michael Been (CD)

The Call

After 20 years, Santa Cruz rockers The Call reunited at The Troubador in Los Angeles to put on an incredible show while paying tribute to front-man, Michael Been, who died of a heart attack in 2010. Been’s son Robert Levon Been (bassist and singer of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) led this emotional performance by stepping into his father’s role and playing along with surviving members Tom Ferrier, Jim Goodwin and Scott Musick. With fourteen songs and an unforgettable performance by Robert and the band, highlights include “Let The Day Begin,” “The Walls Came Down” and “I Still Believe.”

Brill Bruisers (CD)

The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers are back in a big way with Brill Bruisers . While the band’s past couple of outings have struggled to match the energy of their roof-burning early work, Brill Bruisers comes roaring out of the gate right away with AC Newman’s School House Rock-style title track. Neko Case takes the lead on a few sublime tracks, like the scenic “Champions of Red Wine,” while Destroyer’s Dan Bejar’s songs carry just that right amount of oddity to make the whole album a bit more magical, as on the swirling new wave of “War on the East Coast.” Songs like “Family Fools” are some of their best Fleetwood Mac-style aural dreamscapes of layered vocals and lush synths, and gorgeous harmonies abound, as on the pretty “Backstairs.” Occasionally New Pornographers fall into the trap of their songs being more clever than emotional, but even still, those songs keep you interested by finding new ways to approach the same old power-pop, using vocal aerobics on “Hi-Rise” and giving a lovely sentiment some quizzical melodicism for added depth on “You Tell Me Where.” It’s perhaps their strongest work since high-water mark Twin Cinema , a return-to-form that longtime fans will no doubt find to be a perfect end-of-summer gift from the gods.

Adrian Thaws (CD)

Tricky

Trip-hop pioneer Tricky returns with his 11th studio release,  Adrian Thaws,  named after his given name. “Calling it Adrian Thaws is saying you don’t really know me,” says the artist. “So many times people have tried to put a finger on me and every album I go to a different place.” There is some real truth there. Where other artists often opt for the latest trends, Tricky has always managed to create something new without losing himself.  Adrian Thaws  is no exception. With contributions from Mykki Bianco, Bella Gotti, Tirzah, and Francesca Belmonte, the tracks here range from dark soul to experimental hip-hop to dreamy soundscapes, all combined with Tricky’s inventive production. The result is a darkly sexy and atmospheric sonic jewel.

Rituals (CD)

Fenech - Soler

It’s been a real roller coaster for UK electro-pop quartet Fenech-Soler. After the success of their 2010 self-titled debut and a tour in the works, lead singer Ben Duffy was diagnosed with the early stages of testicular cancer. Fortunately Duffy was successfully treated and Fenech-Soler has returned with their sophomore release,  Rituals . Still deeply entrenched in the indie dance scene,  Rituals  is not much of a departure in sound from their 2010 self-titled debut. While they have replaced the buzzing synth sounds with more refined electronics, all the catchy choruses, punchy beats, and infectious melodies remain. The result can sound a bit formulaic and repetitive at times but for fans wanting more of the same to dance to, this is a polished effort with some real pop gems.

Tied To A Star (CD)

J Mascis

Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis gives us a taste of his softer and more vulnerable side with his third solo release,  Tied To A Star . Stripped down of the fuzzed out guitars and wall of noise that envelops him in Dinosaur Jr., this album emphasizes Mascis’ skills as a songwriter and guitarist. Acoustically driven, the melodies manage to be both loose and intricate, giving the record a quiet beauty that brings out the fragility of Mascis’ falsetto vocals and the mastery of his fast paced finger picking skills. Features guest appearances by Chan Marshall, Pall Jenkins, Ken Maiuri, and Mark Mulcahy.

El Pintor (CD)

Interpol

It’s great to be able to say with confidence that  El Pintor  is Interpol’s return to form. One of the early aughts’ brightest bands, Interpol’s past couple of releases found the band slipping a bit. Not so with the stirring  El Pintor , which roars out of the gates with “All the Rage Back Home,” which at first sounds like  Antics ’ stately opener, “Next Exit,” cool and atmospheric before going for it with one of their best galloping post-punk jams in ages. Similarly, standout “Ancient Ways” lets Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler spraypaint surging shoegaze guitars all over the place while Sam Fogarino keeps the swaying song afloat. The trio gets sultry for “My Desire,” masterfully layering guitars and weary vocals over Fogarino’s pulsating backbeat. “Same Town New Story” wraps a  Mad Men  episode’s worth of ennui and despair around its buoyant, jazzy riffs. That all may sound like familiar territory, and it largely is, but the quality of the songs here more than makes up for a lack of expansion in Interpol’s sound. And when they do go beyond the dour, fitful post-punk they’re known for, the results can be equally stunning, as when singer Paul Banks rises above his dark croon into a surprisingly effective falsetto on the goth Beach Boys-style “My Blue Supreme” and cathartic pop-rock of “Everything Is Wrong.” Interpol, how we’ve missed you.

Anchor (CD)

Zammuto

Former member of art-music duo the Books, Nick Zummuto returns with a follow up to 2012’s DIY self-titled debut. Much like  Zammuto ,  Anchor  is an eclectic mixture of sounds and experimental techniques that balances airy pop sensibilities with intricate percussion. Each track manages to flow together effortlessly while spanning various moods and genres ranging from prog rock to electronic to new wave. The result is a rich auricular landscape that focuses on Zummuto’s artistic ambitions and mastery of texture, sound and space. Be sure to check out Zummuto when they embark on their North American tour at the end of August.

Green Language (CD)

Rustie

Influenced by “nature, birds, and sunrise,” the title of Rustie’s sophomore release  Green Language  can be translated as the  language of birds ; a mystical, divine and magical language used by birds to communicate to the initiated. According to Rustie’s press release,  Green Language  refers to “a language that’s non-dualistic, that speaks to you directly to your emotions without the mind interfering with the message.” It’s a fitting title considering the dizzying and often times disjointed feeling of the record. Expanding on the Day-Glo electronic maximalism of his 2011 debut  Glass Swords , there are elements of trap, bounce, R&B, hard house and synthetic prog-rock mixed in as well as contributions from Danny Brown, Gorgeous Children, and D Double E. The result can feel a bit unfocused at times but Rustie’s electronic experimentation and mastery at ambience makes this a solid contribution to glitch hop.

At Best Cuckold (CD)

Avi Buffalo

Long Beach’s Avi Buffalo graduates to the big leagues with  At Best Cuckold . Opening track “So What” reveals gleaming guitars and casual brattiness that shows Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg and his band cleaning up some of the psych clutter from their great debut record in favor of a streamlined sound, but they’re still weirdos at heart. Serpentine lullaby “Memories of You” softly jangles with country-rock guitars, proggy touches and funny lyrics like “bitch I’m on fire…I’m a cheeseball on fire.” It speaks to the band’s ability to reference classic bands while putting out their own vibe. It’s hard to pull off a “Here Comes a Regular”-style vulnerable acoustic-guitar song like “Two Cherished Understand,” and Avi Buffalo does it by keeping it short, sweet and ultimately unique. Part of that uniqueness comes from Zahner-Isenberg’s way with a non sequitur—“I ran over two dogs, then I ate them after,” he admits amid a fizzy Western backdrop on “Think It’s Gonna Happen Again.” And he gives the best breakup line of the year on “Oxygen Tank,” singing, “A man carrying an oxygen tank is gonna come kill me and my family too if I don’t stop seeing you.” The Flaming Lips comparison still haunts them a bit, yet these songs have personality for days, so who cares, ultimately. “These birds seem so fucking free/they're nothing compared to me” Zahner-Isenberg sings faux-sweetly on “Overwhelmed With Pride,” and it’s tough not to believe him.

Secret Evil (CD)

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

Originally intended for distribution by Capitol Records’ jazz subsidiary Blue Note Records, Detroit’s Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas’ long awaited debut  Secret Evil  was dropped after the label merged with Universal but thanks to Richard Gottehrer at Instant Records,  Secret Evil  has now been released. Mixing elements of blues, rock, jazz and rockabilly, this is an impressively dynamic debut that showcases the Deltas' range of styles as well as Hernandez’s rich and soulful voice. Despite the various influences and genre hopping, all ten tracks manage to have a consistent feel due in part to Hernandez’s powerful presence as a performer and vocalist.

New Interpol


Interpol just released a new album, El Pintor, out now on CD, LP, Deluxe LP or download!

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The Mr. Blackwell Show

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