This Month's Picks

Human Voice (CD)

Dntel

Dntel, solo producer by the name of Jimmy Tamborello has long been creating soundscapes for others to put their human voice over. With Human Voice Tamborello has refused listeners the rights to their own language. Instead, he has created a world where connection is fleeting, melody is deconstructed, and all “voices” mechanized. An interesting proposition when the bulk of your listeners associate your music with Death Cab For Cutie’s emotive crooner Ben Gibbard. Nevertheless, the gambit pays off. Amidst the bits and grids of Human Voice, the mechanized voices morph through layered synths and staccato beats from the unintelligible to a distinct melodic pattern and back again. After 8 tracks It gives the listener the feeling of having communicated with a being not unlike a robot Ben Gibbard.

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Mahler 7 (CD)

Gustav Mahler, Gustavo Dudamel, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

The five movements of Mahler’s 7th traverses all levels of emotions. This is quite the journey to experience… There is a kaleidoscope of colors throughout this symphony which might leave some listeners in a state of confusion or can magically transform one’s passion for life.

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Genre: Classical

I Love You, Honeybear (CD)

Father John Misty

Father John Misty’s fearless second record builds on his folk-rock sound with orchestral touches, genre diversions and direct, conversational lyrics that cut through singer/songwriter clichés. The title track introduces Beatlesesque melodies and weeping steel guitar to prepare you for the scope of the record. J. Tillman starts going into crooner mode with the spectacular “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” his crushed-velvet vocals singing over a sweeping, country-symphonic arrangement, but his lyrics nicely keep the romanticism from getting too gooey (“I wanna take you in the kitchen/Lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in”). “True Affection” takes a sharp turn into MIDI-electro-dream-pop, with some Fleet Foxes-style harmonies keeping things grounded in Tillman’s wheelhouse. “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment” takes another turn, this time into Velvets-third-album twinkling indie pop, while Tillman calls out an airheaded groupie (“She says like, literally, music is the air she breathes,” he sings hilariously). Tillman’s lyrics work so well because of their specificity—you feel like you’re watching him break hearts at a local bar when he sings “Why the long face? Blondie, I’m already taken,” over a sultry Southern sway on “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow.” Such subject matter could read as self-serving, if not for the album’s more self-effacing tracks, like “The Ideal Husband,” in which Tillman admits various wrongdoings, petty or otherwise, over nervy rock ‘n’ roll; or “Bored in the USA,” a piano ballad that seems to mock Tillman’s own first-world problems of alienation and dullness (“Save me, white Jesus!” is an awesomely cutting exclamation). Tillman’s refusal to do anything in a typical way while still keeping the music highly polished helps I Love You, Honeybear to never feel indulgent. Rather, it’s an extraordinarily giving album, as Tillman’s honesty and strength as a songwriter and performer has grown immeasurably. It’s easily one of the best albums of the year thus far.

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Genre: Rock

The Ecology (CD)

Fashawn

Despite having a reputation for not being the most desirable place in California to live in, Fresno has a history of bringing the world some great artists - with Fashawn being a prime example. Fashawn, an artist who transcends labels and seems to fit in with and be respected by all schools of current hip-hop/rap, has just unleashed his second official solo album, The Ecology, which is the long-awaited follow up to 2009's Boy Meets World. He has been far from idle in the meantime, working closely with other artists such as The Alchemist and Murs, with whom he recorded the collaborative albums The Antidote and FASHionably Late and This Generation on Duck Down respectively. LA super producer Exile, who produced Boy Meets World, returns behind the boards for most of the album with additional producers including Beewirks who produced the track "Guess Who's Back." The Ecology is released via Nas’ new label Mass Appeal Records and Nas is among the guests, with others including BJ The Chicago Kid, Dom Kennedy, and Aloe Blacc, who also appeared on the first Fashawn album.

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Genre: Hip Hop

The Powers That B (CD)

Death Grips

Never ones to do anything traditionally (like actually break up?), Death Grips released disc one of The Powers That B as a free download last year, featuring chopped vocal samples by Bjork. Disc two is titled Jenny Death, for which they’ve unveiled the track “Inanimate Sensation,” which just proves the most intense band/not-band on the planet can keep cranking it up whenever they damn well please. Don’t try to box them in; just gear up for the ride.

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Genre: Rock

Flesh & Machine (CD)

Daniel Lanois

Dubby inflections down there as Dan scorches over the top with tech tricks and studio gizmodry. Some grooves and some not needed. Pedal steel flying around the room calling to our consciousness. Here is Danny’s future, and I want to be a passenger.

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Genre: Rock

St Petersburg [Deluxe Edition] (CD)

Cecilia Bartoli, Diego Fasolis, I Barocchisti

Cecilia Bartoli St. Peterburg Italian opera works from mid- to late-18th century, written by lesser-known Italian composers and with one Russian composer for a performance in the Russian capital, St. Petersburg.

 

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Genre: Classical

Just Enough Hip To Be Woman (CD)

Broncho

Whoa this is fun stuff! These guys have a sunny spontaneity and cheap pop rock fizz that reminds me of the Strokes or the Modern Lovers or the Clean. Oklahoma power pop dudes play bouncy, classic-sounding '80s trash that would sound pretty good on a John Hughes movie soundtrack. "Class Historian" has the deceptively simple hooks and harmonies of any Cars or Roxy Music bubbleglam, but it's just trashy enough to be made by millenials on the go. Broncho gives you the roller rink riffs, and stints not on the ooh oohs and the sha-la-las. Like Pavement, they are great pop craftsmen, but they keep it sounding delightfully cruddy.

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Genre: Rock

pom pom (CD)

Ariel Pink

Forget everything you’ve read about Ariel Pink. His public persona has nothing to do with his music, which has never been more remarkable than it is on pom pom. “Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade” begins the album by approximating decades of children’s music, family VHS tapes and video game music into a multicolored parade of half-remembered sounds. On tracks like “White Freckles,” Pink taps into similar territory of outdated interstitial music and lyrics and sounds inspired by advertising, pouring his exaggerated lothario presence all over them and ending up with sticky-sweet concoctions that leave you feeling titillated and slightly nauseated. Nothing that could possibly be interesting gets thrown away in Pink’s world—“Lipstick” could be based on an adult contemporary jam you never learned the name of; “Nude Beat A Go-Go” is like a perved-up version of a Frankie & Annette movie theme song. This means there are a few tracks you’ll skip past, but it’s better to have the full Pink treatment, making pom pom feel more crucial than 2012’s somewhat cleaned-up Mature Themes. And the singles are killer. “Put Your Number in My Phone” is a new cheese classic in silk pajamas. “Black Ballerina,” like its precursor, Before Today’s “Round and Round,” is a sick roller rink jam, with a disjointed narrative flowing through. And “Picture Me Gone” takes Pink’s simmering Beach Boys influence into a gossamer synth ballad. So he’s kind of a creep. But pom pom is proof that for all his off-putting proclivities, Ariel Pink still makes some of the most fascinating and entertaining pop music around.

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Genre: Rock

Sleeping Operator (CD)

The Barr Brothers

Making a second album can be daunting for a group. Having to live up to expectations of their previous release without repeating themselves, the pressure can be severe. For the Barr Brothers, Sleeping Operator takes risks that wouldn't have been expected from the neo-classical folk music quartet whose previous album of gentle harmonies, harps and bouncing guitars was more 1961 than 2011. But now they sound 2014 with a vibrant production stepping them out of merely folk and throwing them into a blend of folk-pop ballads with luminous horns, avant-rock percussion, thick string parts and mellow guitar jam-outs. The first track, "Static Orphans," is the ambient cold-opening to a surprisingly indie-rock jam, "Love Ain't Enough," followed by "Wolves" which sounds right out of a '70s country-rock album your parents might have listened to. But they haven't let go of their folk roots. Culminating in "Please Let Me Let It Go," you're left with a sublime sadness that few artists can achieve. This is interesting folk music at heights that few artists can touch.

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Genre: Rock