Crystal Castles – III
Early interviews about Crystal Castles' stunning third album have seen frontwoman Alice Glass discussing oppression at length with Bono-ish fervor — not something typically associated with an image-conscious electronic duo known more for its antagonistic records and brawling live shows than its politics. But Glass and synth stud Ethan Kath can have it both ways, as III is another visceral attack of a record from Crystal Castles that ups the meaning behind their furor, both explicitly and implied, without losing any of their hedonistic attitude. In fact, III, while lacking some of the shock value of the first two records, is Crystal Castles’ most consistent statement to date. Tracks like “Plague” and “Wrath of God” still pack walloping beats, but they are more of mood pieces than, say, something like II’s “Baptism,” full of moody, heaving passages that draw you in and keep you rapt across the record. III is also smartly paced, keeping some of its more crowd-pleasing moments for later in the record, whereas previous albums were front-loaded. The fourth song in, “Affection,” shares a chord-scheme with MGMT’s “Kids,” though its warped vocals sound like they’re echoing from an abyss — not exactly radio-friendly material. Glass quits whispering and unleashes her trademark echoed yelps on the spare “Pale Flesh,” sure to be a live favorite, while “Sad Eyes” charges forth with unabashed club glee and hard-hitting beatwork. The album’s final quarter features some of its most remarkable moments, full of seedy club bangers, while its last song, “Child I Will Hurt You,” is a typically gorgeous closer from the band, layering Goblin-style keyboards over Glass’ haunting vocals, which often sing of pain inflicted upon the vulnerable, echoing the statement of that album cover, calling to mind suffering and comfort in equal doses. That concept isn’t as overt as it could have been, but when it does come through, as when Glass sings “I’ll protect you from all the things I’ve seen” on “Kerosene,” Crystal Castles create the aural equivalent of gunfire and a helping hand.
The Weeknd – Trilogy
What? You don’t have The Weeknd’s first three albums yet? That makes sense — they were all released over the Internet over the past couple of years, and now that all those Beach House and Siouxsie samples have been cleared, the Canadian indie R&B artist can release them all on a physical format. Here’s the catch — they’re packaged together as one release, and at a single-disc price. Hallelujah! Give yourself the chance to experience this exciting new artist, or if you’re familiar with his work, get the chance to own his three excellent albums very cheaply, along with a few bonus tracks that are new to this release, including morose first single “Twenty Eight.” Don’t you want to hear what D’Angelo and The XX’s baby would sound like? Of course you do.
Lust For Youth – Growing Seeds
This Swedish synth duo makes music that is equal parts futuristic dread and hedonistic dance pop. Not to be confused with Sacred Bones' Cult of Youth, who are also great.
Lana Del Rey – Paradise
You might expect Lana Del Rey to release a new EP of material so closely to her debut album, Born to Die, and package it neatly with that album for the holidays. You might not expect that material to surpass much of what appears on Born to Die, but in fact it does, taking the best bits — the lush, string-laden production and Del Rey’s actual “gangster Nancy Sinata” persona, rather than the roughed up Britney persona that dogged some of the album’s clunkers — and refining them. Paradise’s first song, “Ride,” is perhaps Del Rey’s best yet, a big ballad about “trying too hard” with a soaring chorus that makes you want to root for her after a year of critics tearing her down.
Brian Eno – Lux
LP $25.98 due 12/11
The godfather of ambient music returns with Lux, a four-part ambient journey in the vein of his classic ambient works like Discreet Music and Music for Films. Consisting of just a few moving parts which then come together to form something coherent, Lux feels elemental in the truest sense. Bit of it fade into the background while sometimes it startlingly comes to life despite having changed very little during the proceedings. The single, disjointed piano notes and droning synth lines come together for pleasing passages that seem to say something concrete before drifting apart again. The proceedings sound like the aural equivalent of tectonic plates softly crashing together, making for a replayable and deeply personal listening experience.
Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vol. 6-10
LP due later in 2012 or 2013
Some of us love Christmas music, and for some of us, the second November rolls around, shopping becomes a nightmare as we’re forced to endure Christina Aguilera singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” while shopping for dad’s tie or whatever. If only every mall in America were forced to buy Sufjan Stevens’ latest box set of Christmas material (that’s right, this is the second one, after Songs for Christmas Vol. 1 was released in 2006). The five-EP set includes contributions from members of The National and The Arcade Fire, among others.
The Rolling Stones – Grrr! Greatest Hits
Deluxe CD $25.98
Deluxe Book CD $44.98
Super Deluxe CD $159.98
This ain’t your grandma’s Rolling Stones Greatest Hits album. Grrr! Greatest Hits attempts to catalog one of the longest running, most beloved and varied bands of all time, so a flimsy one-disc collection just doesn’t cut it. The two-disc standard CD version has 40 tracks on two discs, the three-CD Deluxe version includes 50 tracks with a 24-page booklet in a digipack, while the deluxe edition has the same songs in a DVD-size box with a 36-page book and five postcards. The four-CD super-deluxe version includes 80 tracks plus a bonus CD, 7″ Vinyl, hardback book, a poster and five postcards in a box set.
Amy Winehouse - Amy Winehouse At the BBC
We may tend to grab for crumbs when it comes to our beloved deceased artists, but this collection of excellently recorded sessions at the BBC is a testament to Amy Winehouse’s talent and versatility. As with many BBC albums, this release gives fans a chance to hear their artist they love recorded live immaculately, and with an artist departed as prematurely as Winehouse, that’s a gift indeed.
Clinic – Free Reign
Clinic continue to make burrow deeper into their sound on their seventh album, Free Reign, retaining their enthusiasm for Suicide and Can that they transformed into bizarre millennial pop on their excellent early records while incorporating touches both modern — synth stabs and warped vocals — and vintage, like the dusty organs that underpin most of Free Reign’s tracks, psychedelic ambience and surf guitar licks that pop up like humanistic darts puncturing through the alien landscape.
Pop Levi – Medicine
The latest from glam enthusiast and Ladytron member Pop Levi.
The veteran underground rapper releases his second collaborative album of 2012 — his first was the excellent collaboration with up-and-comer Fashawn on This Generation; see photos from Murs and Fashawn’s performance at Amoeba here.
Deftones - Koi No Yokan
Deftones’ seventh studio album continues the fertile late period of the Deftones output after their excellent 2010 album, Diamond Eyes.
Guided by Voices - The Bears for Lunch
Guided By Voices’ reunion has seen the band do what they do best — release song after song of lo-fi pop mastery — yet they’ve been on a clip unheard of during the band’s initial tenure, releasing three albums in 2012 alone. The third of these, The Bears for Lunch, is the most consistent one so far.
The Beatles - Remastered Albums on Vinyl
These vinyl releases mark the first time that The Beatles’ first four albums will be available in stereo on vinyl in North America. Each record is available for $22.98, except for Past Masters, The White Album and the box set.
The Beatles [White Album] ($32.98)
Past Masters ($32.98)
Stereo Vinyl Box Set ($399.98)