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Album Picks: Sebadoh, Crystal Stilts, Blouse, SISU

Posted by Billy Gil, September 17, 2013 09:16am | Post a Comment
Sebadoh - Defend Yourself (CD, LP or download)

sebadoh defend yourself lpAmid the countless recent reunions of '90s bands, the timing seems perfect for the return of Sebadoh. While he's been toiling beneath the din of J Mascis' guitar heroics in the reunited Dinosaur Jr. for years, Lou Barlow's second-fiddle position in that band hasn't given enough of an outlet for Barlow's own songwriting. Thus Barlow sounds hungry on Defend Yourself, the first Sebadoh album since 1999. "Can you tell that I'm about to lose control?" he asks on the outset of the album on "I Will," over a serviceable melodic jangle. That statement proves true, as things get more interesting as Defend Yourself progresses. The stuttering "Beat" provides ample room for Barlow to shred both his guitars and vocals. It sounds as though Barlow's world is coming apart in the rumbling "Defend Yr Self"—an understandable position, given the end of his marriage, which provides bitter fuel for Barlow's fire on this album. Songs like "Oxygen," an upbeat indie pop-rocker, and "Once," a tentative instrumental, provide respite (though "Oxygen's" typically caustic lyrics remind us that even the shiniest apples from Barlow are laced with arsenic). But Barlow's at his manic best in songs like "Inquiries," which heaves into a nauseating (in a thrilling way) final portion, or "Final Days," which pairs headlong, full-band rush with world-doubting lyrics ("it's all made up and a waste of time" Barlow sings under his breath). With a mouthful of bile, Barlow spits out the songs of Defend Yourself. The resulting record feels as crucial and relevant as anything he's been a part of.

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Album Picks: Janelle Monae, The Weeknd, Jacuzzi Boys, Joanna Gruesome

Posted by Billy Gil, September 10, 2013 09:01am | Post a Comment

Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

janelle monaeCD $12.98

Janelle Monae's The Archandroid was a landmark R&B album, released in 2010 when Monae was only 24 years old and poising her to accept the baton from her predecessors. With The Electric Lady, she accepts entry into that pantheon of great soul artists, and even collaborates with several of them. Her duet with Prince, "Givin Em What They Love," is a raunchy bit of slow rolling rock 'n' roll that does the Purple One proud, with Monae giving a snarling, Karen O-like performance. She enlists Erykah Badu to collaborate on "Q.U.E.E.N.," for a jam that's both glitzy and soulful, unafraid of seeming both current and strange ("Is it peculiar that she twerk in the mirror? And am I weird to dance alone late at night?" Monae asks). But her duets fellow new guard members are equally thrilling, on the sassy title track with Solange, jazzy "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes" with Esperanza Spalding and showstopper "Primetime" with Miguel. The music is remarkable and unpredictable throughout, from the loungey outro to "We Were Rock N Roll" to the Flaming Lips synths and Brazilian jazz chords of "Ghetto Woman." And impressively, with all these big names, Monae remains the star, singing and rapping like the second coming of Lauryn Hill. On her own, her songs are no less striking, singing an uplifting hymn with "Victorious" and closing things out beautifully on the reggae-tinged "What An Experience." What an experience The Electric Lady is, indeed!

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10 Records You Need to Own in Fall

Posted by Billy Gil, September 3, 2013 04:08pm | Post a Comment

The WeekndKiss Land (preorder on CD or LP)

the weeknd kiss land lp

Out Sept. 10

Canadian indie R&B artist The Weeknd returns with a new album following his three mixtapes and their eventual compilation (Trilogy). Expect Kiss Land to live up to its name, judging by the sexy, Portishead-sampling “Belong to the World” heard below.

 

Sebadoh Defend Yourself (preorder on CD or LP)

sebadoh defend yourselfOut Sept. 17

The first album in 14 years from Sebadoh, the great indie rock band featuring Lou Barlow (also of Dinosaur Jr.), should be a hoot! Even if you’re new to the band, Barlow’s gritted-teeth delivery and brittle guitarwork are a thing to behold.

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Album Picks: Neko Case, Chelsea Wolfe, Holograms, The Julie Ruin, Jonathan Rado

Posted by Billy Gil, September 3, 2013 09:36am | Post a Comment

Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

neko case the worse things get lpCD $13.98

Deluxe CD $19.98

LP $20.98

Deluxe LP $26.98

It’s been four years since the last Neko Case album, but one listen to her verbosely titled new album and you’ll know it was worth the wait. As on her previous albums, Case borrows from folk, country and indie rock, opening with stunning guitar atmosphere on “Wild Creatures.” On “Night Still Comes” (download or listen free), she weaves beautifully strange melodies, both highly catchy and melodic and slightly discordant. Both lyrically and vocally, Case continues to be one of the strongest of her generation, articulating the intersect of man and nature with gorgeously twisted language. “I’m gonna go where my urge leads no more … a boreal feast, let it finish me please, as I revenge myself, all over myself,” she sings on “Night Still Comes.” Over jaunty electric guitar, she forcefully sings “I’m a man … that’s what kind of animal I am” on “Man,” continuing the gender play on acoustic ditty “I’m From Nowhere” (“I was surprised when you called me lady, ‘cause I’m still not so sure that’s what I want to be,” later qualifying that statement with “’cause I remember the ’80s, and I remember its puffy sleeves”). Though her lyrics are often clever, they’re more revealing here than ever—the most striking moment here is “Near Midnight, Honolulu,” a paralyzing portrayal of casually witnessed emotional child abuse that she then turns inward. Whether she’s describing the strange, corporeal world in which we live or her own inner workings, Case is always invigorating to listen to, perhaps never more so than on The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight...

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Album Picks: AlunaGeorge, Belle & Sebastian, The Dodos, Franz Ferdinand

Posted by Billy Gil, August 27, 2013 09:15am | Post a Comment

AlunaGeorgeBody Music

alunageorgeAlunaGeorge’s combination of The xx’s nighttime vibes with the coolness and precise beatwork of Aaliyah’s collaborations with Missy Elliott and Timbaland might seem like a mess on paper, but Body Music plays out more enjoyably than a thousand breathless, hypey articles could’ve predicted. Early singles “You Know You Like It” and “Your Drums, Your Love” appear here and are as silky smooth as ever, but the rest of Body Music impresses as well — I’m partial to the skittering R&B bounce of “Lost & Found.” Aluna Francis’ vocals are unassuming enough to pull of lines like “your body is like music, baby,” and George Reid’s production is plugged into modern trends — some vocal manipulation here and there, washed out ’80s synths aplenty — but he skillfully calls to mind late ’80s/early ’90s new jack swing in cadence and feel, without ever really appropriating those sounds, something easier said than done. And what’s more, Body Music comes off as pretty effortless and sexy, not cold and calculated. It’s is a rousing success, innovative and intriguing while remaining thoroughly pleasurable.

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