Deluxe CD $16.98
Deluxe LP $24.98
The second album by Local Natives is such a lush expansion of their sound, it could as well by the work by another band. This is not to say they’ve ignored their strengths — the active percussion work is still there, on the drums of “Heavy Feet,” which rumble like old train tracks — but they’ve pulled back a bit energy-wise, allowing for a more mature and world-weary sound, especially lyrically and vocally, and they’ve filled out some of the empty space with keyboard warmth and renewed dedication to gorgeous vocal harmony. Opener “You & I” follows in Fleet Foxes’ recent tradition of glowing openers, the kind of music you want to wake up to. The time the band has taken to put Hummingbird together is apparent, in the way “Black Spot” unfolds unhurriedly or how “Breakers’” alternating surge and respite gives a sense of its oceanic setting without putting too fine a point on it. For fans who are willing to grow up with them, or for those just coming into the fold, Local Natives’ Hummingbird is simply stunning. Catch them at Amoeba Hollywood Jan. 29 at 6 p.m.!
Australian Jarrod Quarrell has produced one of the most wonderfully strange and beguiling debuts of the young year with Ex Tropical. With the panache and attitude of The Streets and the weirdo storytelling cues of Tom Waits, Quarrell seems to fit in perfectly with a lot of his contemporaries without really sounding like anyone else. Chintzy keyboard effects move songs like David Lynch-esque ballad "Old Lovers" along and give his hip-hop-style crooning a grimey taste in "Say No to Thugs." Quarrell's lyrics and odd delivery keep Ex Tropical compelling throughout — "get off the roof ... you'll go splat in the meadow" he sings on "Don't Litter" while alien keyboard sounds surround him. Truthfully, Ex Tropical is better experienced first before I spoil everything special about it. Trust me; it'll knock your socks off.
Matt Mondanile of Real Estate releases his most refined statement of soft-focus guitar grandeur on Ducktails’ The Flower Lane. Any Real Estate fan will feel right at home in the autumnal shading of opener “Ivy Covered House,” which seems to conjure novels out of its ornate sounds. Supertramp-style organ helps create substantial atmosphere in title track but Mondanile’s evocative lyrics (“a million pretty faces and no one to care for,” he sings in one Morrisseyan couplet) show newfound focus. Even as a song like “Under Cover” carries on for a languid six minutes with half as many chords, each movement reveals a new jazz-inflected guitar hue, rhythmic trick or surprising instrumental choice, like tastefully used horns and acoustic guitars. The Flower Lane rivals the work of Mondanile’s full band, and it’s one of the nicest surprises of the new year.
The Clientele’s Alasdair MacLean’s and Pipas’ Lupe Núñez-Fernández unite for their second album of bossa-nova-inspired, acoustic dream pop on The House at Sea. After its first couple of tracks drift by uneventfully, MacLean and Núñez-Fernández come together for the title track, which is absolutely enchanting in its faded warmth and scenic detail. Similarly, “Jean’s Waving” makes the most of its two vocalists for a charming three-chord, Clientele-style ditty that’ll have you singing along on first listen. Occasionally Núñez-Fernández’s songs are too airy, but her Spanish-sung “Viento del Mar” hits all the right notes. Similarly, when MacLean tries not to worry about sounding too much like the Clientele, he comes up with winners like the beatific “Hampshire Lullaby.” The House at Sea is far from perfect, but give it a few spins and it will carry you away.
Adam Green & Binki Shapiro - Adam Green & Binki Shapiro
I’ll not beat around the bush and say the collaboration by former Moldy Peaches man Adam Shapiro and Little Joy singer Binki Shapiro doesn’t remind me a whole lot of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s famed ’60s psych-folk duets. And if that doesn’t do it for you, we are just different people. Green plays the perfect deep-voiced counterpart to Shapiro’s high and breathy alto on the kaleidoscope folk of “Here I Am.” Other sounds buzz from the duo as well, as on the “Heroes”-esque opening of “Just to Make Me Feel Good,” which layers on interesting keyboard sounds to keep it from being cloying. Shapiro gets to play Dusty Springfield in “Casanova,” while Green gleefully sings “everybody’s cheating on each other” with his trademark wit on “Pity Love.” Some of the album’s closing tracks aim for greater grandiosity, but Green and Shapiro sound best when they go light, making you feel like you could float away.
The Bronx have been busy as of late, releasing a couple albums as their Mariachi alter ego Mariachi El Bronx, including its second album as MEB in 2011. Now they’re back under their original moniker, releasing a fourth album of fast-paced hook-laden hardcore punk.
Mike Patton of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle is back with a new album from his alt-metal supergroup, Tomahawk. Featuring Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), John Stanier (Battles, Helmet) and new bassist Trevor Dunn, who is also in Fantomas with Patton, Oddfellows picks up six years after Tomahawk’s last record, Anonymous. Comparatively, Oddfellows is a less frantic and experimental affair, and that’s a good thing. It focuses the band’s collective strengths, pulling Stenier’s robotic drumming, Denison’s acidic riffs and Patton’s mercurial growl into ferocious and strangely alluring songs like “White Hats/Black Hats.”
Ruby Suns’ sparkling indie pop, which in the past has built its base on tribal beats and washy synths, makes a remarkable jump to out-and-out pop on Christopher.
Tegan & Sara go full synth-pop on Heartthrob. Buy the album in-store Jan. 29 at Amoeba Hollywood and get a free ticket to see the band on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" Jan. 31 (while supplies last). Read more here.
Filled to the brim with gorgeous melodies awash in atmospheric synthesizers, Indians’ Somewhere Else is the work of Danish singer/multi-instrumentalist Soren Lokke Juul. Imagine a combination of The Tallest Man on Earth’s earnest singer-songwriter material and Neon Indian’s synthesizer daydreams, and you’re getting close.
The spirited growl that took The Animals through songs like “It’s My Life” is back on T'Il Your River Runs Dry. With age Burdon’s throaty voice has gained the gravitas to take on big themes like water issues (“Water”), praising the peacekeepers (“Memorial Day”) and issuing warning to those who would take “hope I die before I get old” to heart (“27 Forever”). Gospel-tinged blues suits Burdon’s voice well, pouring blues licks like thick syrup over Burdon’s sudden falsetto in “Devil and Jesus.” Buron details both internal and external struggles brilliantly on Till Your River Runs Dry. Catch him in a live webcast and in-store signing of the album at Amoeba Hollywood Feb. 13 at 6 p.m.!