Moon Duo – Circles
Echoes of Suicide, Silver Apples and Spacemen 3 emulate from Moon Duo’s big bad amplifiers, but the San Francisco band develops that into their own brand of psychedelia on Circles, their latest and finest release. The band, which consists of SF psych-rockers Wooden Shjips’ Erik “Ripley” Johnson on guitar as well as Sanae Yamada on keyboards, sounded great on previous releases when they let things fly into extended jam territory (as do Wooden Shjips), but they sound just as engaging in more bite-sized pieces, as on the darkly melodic “I Can See” and jangly title track, which lets just enough light in to help illuminate the rest of the album as a result. They still do motorized rock with Kraut beats like no other, as on songs like “I Been Gone,” but songs like the actually kind of dancey “Dance pt. 3” prove to be the perfect augment to their sound. Badass and no-nonsense, for sure, Circles captures Moon Duo at their best but allows them loosen up stylistically and have a little more fun at the same time.
Taken By Trees – Other Worlds
After leaving Swedish indie pop group The Concretes, Victoria Bergsman has straddled the line between conventional pop wisdom (her duet with Peter Bjorn & John, “Young Folks,” and covers of Animal Collective and Guns ‘N’ Roses) and more worldly aspirations. Other Worlds continues that tradition for Bergsman. Inspired by her travels to Hawaii, Other Worlds similarly concerns itself with one place, or one feel, rather than taking a pan-global approach (similarly to her last album, the Pakistan-influenced East of Eden), though Other Worlds doesn’t sound terribly Hawaiian as it does have a swaying, oceanic feel, like a dive captured in slow motion. “Dreams” beautifully floats into the ether on the strength of Bergsman’s nocturnal voice and chorus-heavy guitars. “In Other Words’” most notable feature is actually its country-inspired steel guitar, but the song’s slow jaunt and vaguely singsongy quality makes it feel like a codeine-fueled cover of a sea shanty. Thankfully Bergsman doesn’t allow her muse to overly rule or define her songs, and Other Worlds is quite distinct and varied, despite its understated island vibe. You forgive some of the seemingly cheesy elements of its theme, like the cutesy vibraphone and steel drums on “Pacific Blue,” because Bergsman weaves them into something unique and seamlessly ties them together with unrelated sounds. The album’s opening songs, for instance, build airy ballads over airy bedroom electronics and found sounds, which come back to the fore with the clanging “Not Like Any Other” and dubby beatwork of “Large,” both of which sound a bit like a chilled out Grimes. Like most of Bergsman’s work, Other Worlds is a feat of subtlety, but is nonetheless memorable, tuneful and easy to submerge yourself in.
Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
Flying Lotus albums take multiple listens to reveal themselves because they’re such densely layered opuses of electronic and organic sounds, voiceless, beat-driven pieces and guest vocal work that usually draws Flying Lotus into more accessible territory. So after many spins, I can say Until the Quiet Comes is yet another excellent entry into Fly Lo’s canon of work, which has included the murky Los Angeles and its excellent follow-up, Cosmogramma. Until the Quiet Comes, appropriately enough, is a more chilled out affair. The first vocal track we hear, “Getting There” with Niki Randa, doesn’t break the more atmospheric bent of the album’s first half, though Randa’s gentle vocals tug you into the density of subsequent tracks like “Heave(n),” which starts lush and laid-back before layering beat over beat until your mind spills over trying to keep track of the thing. It’s difficult not to talk about Flying Lotus albums in terms of vocal and more pop-oriented tracks, as the rest swirls together in a delectable stew, so you’ll probably track back to songs like “Sultan’s Request,” with its fat oscillator and dubsteppy beat taking center stage; the sparkling “The Nightcaller,” with its digitized handclaps and fizzy, funky synths; or the Erykah Badu-starring “See Thru to U,” in which Badu’s warbly pipes guide listeners through a kind of grimy afrobeat-jazz fusion that defies easy categorization. Speaking of Badu, Thom Yorke’s vocals on “Electric Candyman” sound more like her than anything he’s done with Radiohead — listen to this dusty bit of electronic jazz to hear Yorke in completely new environs. While Until the Quiet Comes ain’t exactly party jam material, it’s a brave journey into new ways of producing sound and song that takes time to sink its teeth in but offers lasting rewards.
Beth Orton – Sugaring Season
Sugaring Season mostly stays within the confines of sweet acoustic rock, but Orton’s world-weary voice ensures even her most sugary songs carry the weight of their words.
Muse – The 2nd Law
The 2nd Law sees Muse add electronic layers to their modern prog rock sound.
The Vaccines – Come Of Age
The Vaccines second album is more of the same raucous British punk that served them so well on What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?
Tift Merritt – Traveling Alone
Tift Merritt’s first album of new material in four years is something to celebrate for fans of smart alternative country, channeling Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris, but she also possesses a warm, accessible voice that hearkens back to classic county artists like Tammy Wynette.
Tori Amos - Gold Dust
Tori Amos' 13th album reworks her earlier material in an orchestral pop setting.
Mark Eitzel - Don't Be a Stranger
The former American Music Club singer's latest album bears his trademark wit and ear for detail.
Holy Other - Held
The U.K. producer's debut album features stunning nocturnal soundscapes.
Matt & Kim - Lightning
Energetic indie pop duo Matt & Kim return with their fourth album.
Tilly & the Wall - Heavy Mood
Tap-dancin' indie rockers return with their latest.