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 .
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.
Phantogram have been making great indie-pop releases for some time now, but they’ve never made anything quite as appealing as Voices . They’re one of the few groups to successfully marry indie and hip-hop mentalities, as the Rihanna-esque ey-ey-eys that open “Black Out Days” attest. The beats of “Fall in Love” hit hard as its digitally cut up soul vocals and strings create a dizzying, ecstatic backdrop for Sarah Barthel’s heartfelt vocals, and her delivery verges on rap on the galloping “Howling at the Moon.” Though Voices is remarkably cohesive, the band still can pull some surprises, as bandmate Josh Carter takes the helm for the croony “Never Going Home,” and the awesomely titled “Bill Murray” is as swooning and romantic as the last scene of Lost in Translation . Voices hits that sweet spot where fans of most pop music, from Beyonce to The xx, are going to find themselves swept up in it.
It’s fitting that Neon Trees got their big break opening for The Killers. Everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure band is now a greatest-hits act that resembles the bands that initially inspired them, leaving a vacancy in our hearts for radio-ready, sugarcoated, synth-flavored neo-new wave. Neon Trees succeed in producing just that on their third album, Pop Psychology . The glittering synthesizers, driving bassline and confetti guitars of first single “Sleeping With a Friend” are entirely irresistible as the band comes across like the next Human League. However, Pop Psychology is no nostalgia fest, as its songs deal specifically with love in the Tinder age—indeed, the crackling “Love in the 21 st Century” opens the album with cynical lyrics “I don’t believe a word that you say is true/I guess it’s love in the 21st century.” “Text Me in the Morning” is kind of a sad sentiment, delivered as a peppy singalong even as its funny lyrics hide a song that’s really about disconnected love (“All the other boys just want your sex/I just want your texts” is pretty good, even if you’re too young to remember George Michael). Neon Trees aims young, but they’re also smart enough to throw a bone to older listeners that grew up either on The Strokes or New Order, with songs like the punk-inspired “Teenager in Love.” And even while Pop Psychology directly aims for radio play with its blown-up choruses, it’s also one that refuses to be anonymous, with songs like “I love You (But I Hate Your Friends)” that stick in your mind as much for their wit as their hooks. It’s tough to do what Neon Trees do so well, but that’s no reason to begrudge the band for producing guilty-pleasure pop rock that isn’t so guilty after all on Pop Psychology .
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.
Lady Gaga affiliates and nu-glam prophets acquire a slick contempo-pop sheen with the aid of all star hitmaking producer Tricky Stewart, whose resume basically looks like a snapshot of a Billboard chart (Beyonce, Rihanna, Britney, etc.). The guitars are still present, with wailing complex solos that make good use of the band's multiple Berklee music school grads, but so are skittering digital hihats and trappy drops outs. The sass and angst are back in full effect, the mood of the music hasn't changed, but the sonic shift is fairly dramatic. While this sort of thing could potentially appear a crass commercial move, I fully believe SPW are a better band for sounding like this, it fits their attitude and their message more accurately, more glamorously. While they did a convincing proto-punk/hair metal/glam boogie, the new record does not need to convince, it just is, and it is forcefully and elegantly.
Bring on this chalice, this heavy 666-sided die of dungeon-underground wizard rock so dank you’d think it’d been sarcophagus-sealed since ’77. In fact, one of the song titles included in this collection is “Sealed in a Grave” — too muuuch!
Recorded at his home studio in 1986, No End illuminates hitherto undocumented aspects of Keith Jarrett's music. He is heard here on electric guitars, electric bass, drums and percussion, overdubbing tribal dances of his own devising.
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.
Darkside is the latest project from Nicolaas Jaar, avant-massive of the chill-but-experimental sector of contemporary EDM, and Dave Harrington, who had initially joined Jaar as multi-instrumental live support during the touring for Space Is Only Noise , his 2011 debut. Along the way, Harrington and Jaar began writing music together, and this is the result, three years down the pipe since Jaar put out his one and only long player of original compositions (he's filled the time with remixes both single-ready and album length). Darkside is basically Jaar + guitar at its most reductive. Slow elegant rhythms dance like illuminated silk handkerchiefs in slow motion, twisting organically, even swinging, at an ancient cyclopean speed. The guitar is both atmospheric and leading, occasionally even getting blues-riffy over the chilly electronic atmospherics. The vocals, mostly abstract without the aid of a lyric sheet, are sometimes like tiny fearful operas, rich quivering falsetto hovering in the space the music leaves open, darting from cavern to cavern until they sneak up behind you becoming a vocoder deepened croon, a demon doing a Chris Isaak impression. There are definitely elements of Isaak's Lynch-ian blues as well as the stylized kitsch of a band like the Lounge Lizards, turning the nightmare tropical, sad entropic decadence. Smooth AND weird, which is an achievement.
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.
Debut full-length from UK fog-machine-in-the-garage ladies. Sneering, tubthumping, art-blues in a very distinctively British style, replete with nihilist no-wave chantings and hoots. I have read press about this band situating them firmly in a post-Savages musical landscape. This is wrong-minded, plain and simple. Simply because both bands contain more X-chromosomes than most contemporary independent rock outfits and they both happen to be British, we, the Public, are expected to compare the two. I'd rather not bite, but I will, if only to explain to you how these two acts are different. While Savages might coil until bursting, dangerously angular and on fire before the snake even pops out of the novelty can of nuts, Pins don't remember being on fire. Pins are smoldering coals and are dragging sacks of more smoldering coals. Pins leave a wake, Pins are a knuckle-dragging nightmare from downtown. They don't care to shout from rooftops, they're planting bombs in the basement. Can't wait to see more.