St. Vincent’s absolutely breathtaking new album begins, as Annie Clark’s previous albums have, like some unearthly musical. Clark seemingly touches down from another planet, asking “am I the only one in the world?” on opener “Rattlesnake” amid all manner of alien guitar and strange percussive squelches. “Birth in Reverse” similarly paints a vivid picture, starting with the lines “Oh what an ordinary day … take out the garbage, masturbate.” “Birth in Reverse” explodes into an extraordinary, paranoid chorus of restless glee. Clark’s way with words has never been more cutting, as on “Prince Johnny,” which manages to be strikingly specific while keeping its deeper existential meaning vague (“Remember that time we snorted/That piece of the Berlin Wall you extorted?” is her best rhyming couplet yet.) Even her ballads bite—“I prefer your love to Jesus” is a thoroughly loaded line repeated on “I Prefer Your Love,” giving depth and conflict to what’s on the surface a beautiful, Kate Bush-inspired love song. Musically, Clark employs everything from decaying choruses (“Prince Johnny”) to hip-hop synths (“Huey Newton”) to Prince-esque atonal funk (“Digital Witness”), but it’s a remarkably cohesive listen, as though each element has been thoroughly considered and sanded down to perfection. As implied by naming her fourth album simply St. Vincent, it’s an album that seems to be about truly knowing oneself—or the thrilling discoveries that come with a lifetime of seeking that knowledge.
A line stretched around the block Feb. 19 to see Sky Ferreira play at Amoeba Hollywood. Walking out looking like some starlet from a Gregg Araki movie in a leather jacket, plaid schoolgirl skirt, sunglasses and a goofy cap, Ferreira exuded oddball, outsider charm as she lauched into a handfull of tracks from her excellent debut album, Night Time, My Time. She started with the Janet Jackson-meets-Zola Jesus style "24 Hours," a highlight of the album that perfectly captures her melancholy, hedonistic youth aesthetic. Following was "Ain't Your Right," with its gender-bending lyrics and industrial beat. "You're Not the One" let Ferreira show off her smoky, soaring vocals. Ferreira looked like she was having a great time, giggling and throwing a water bottle into the crowd, and decided to stay for one more song, pulling out a surprise with early breakthrough single "Everything Is Embarrassing," from the Ghost EP. For those of us who didn't get to see her open for Miley Cyrus, the show felt like a special treat, a glimpse of an emerging talent on the verge of exploding.
“If you still have some light in you, then go before it’s gone,” Angel Olsen sings on the harrowing “White Fire,” the slow-burning centerpiece of her stunning new album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Olsen doles out hard-won truths and tragicomic observances in a voice that splits the difference between Emmylou Harris’ sweet coo and Cat Power’s smoky drawl, sometimes coming through just above a whisper, though she can wake the dead when she wishes, reserving her power for choice moments, belting at the core of the Velvetsy “High & Wild.” The former member of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s band seems to have poured every inch of herself into her breakthrough album, going for a full-tilt rock stomp on songs like “Forgiven/Forgotten,” referencing Hank Williams on gleeful ode to loneliness “Hi-Five” and virtually fading into the ether on beautiful songs like “Dance Slow Decades,” begging you to sit closely. Burn Your Fire For No Witness is one of the best albums of the year thus far, an emotional trip that leaves its mark.
Cheatahs – “Get Tight” video
Cheatahs are the latest announcement for the upcoming Red Bull Sound Select show we’ve curated at Amoeba, which takes place Feb. 27 at The Echoplex (RSVP here for $3 tickets) and also features FIDLAR, Cherry Glazerr and Isaac Rother & The Phantoms—click on those links for interviews with each band. We’re excited to have Cheatahs on board—“Get Tight” is a shoegazey little slice from their self-titled debut, out now, with a trippy ass video to boot.
Thee Oh Sees Are Back Together! Stream “Penetrating Eye”
Well that didn’t last too long, thankfully. With frontman John Dwyer moving to Los Angeles from S.F., Thee Oh Sees were going to hang their hats after releasing many excellent albums over their run. Now they’ve announced a new LP, Drop, releasing April 19 (Record Store Day!) on Castle Face. After all, why call it quits when the band continues to put out such skin-melting goodness?
FIDLAR headline the Red Bull Sound Select show at the Echoplex Feb. 27, curated by Amoeba. The L.A. garage-punk band had a hell of a 2013, releasing their acclaimed, self-titled debut record and touring around the world, including with a little band known as The Pixies. They even made the time to stop by two Amoeba stores and playing blistering sets at Amoeba Hollywood and S.F.
We caught up with the band before their big performance.