This Month's Picks

Boxed In (CD)

Boxed In
British producer Oli Bayston crafts compositions that'll tickle your brainstem and get your booty shaking at the same time. Bayston borrows the best bits from alternative disco, house, and post-punk for catchy tunes like "Mystery," its off-time piano hits and disco beat creating infectious positive energy. "All Your Love is Gone" rides a simple groove into five minutes of krautrock-pop bliss, its chorus-effected guitars and driving beat building and building ecstatically. Any fan of bands like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip or Tanlines should be in heaven here. Despite his moniker of choice, Boxed In makes you want to jump out of your seat and get moving—so do it! More
Genre: Rock

Peter And The Wolf In Hollywood (CD)

Alice Cooper, Sergei Prokofiev
The story and orchestral piece  Peter and the Wolf  is reimagined, placing the boy Peter with a cool, hippie grandfather in Hollywood. Narrated by the one and only Alice Cooper, it's a fresh take on a familiar children's classic, appropriately (and expertly) played by Germany's National Youth Orchestra and conducted by young Alexander Shelley. With Cooper's dramatic retelling and the orchestra's beautifully recorded rendition, you'll become rapt in this funny, surreal retelling. Will Peter make friends at school? What will Peter do with a giant robot? Will he ever catch the wolf who's escaped from a local zoo? Listen and find out! More
Genre: Classical

Shadow Of A Doubt (CD)

Freddie Gibbs
We’ve been waiting for Freddie Gibbs’ new album since his gritty vocals graced last year’s  Pinata , his dynamite collaboration with Madlib. And he doesn’t disappoint—Gibbs’ latest is a contender for underground rap album of the year. Over a digital bounce, Gibbs establishes his powerful presence early on with “Fuckin’ Up the Count” (“Gangsta shit in my DNA, I just can’t explain that/Even if I die tell my enemies I remain that”). His collaboration with Black Thought proves inspired on “Extradite,” as Mikhail’s beat blends ’70s soul with “Twilight Zone” organs while Gibbs and Black Thought’s words spill out like rolling dice. Like similarly great albums released this year by Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples,  Shadow of a Doubt  is grim but enlivening—seek the hard-hitting “Packages” as proof. Gibbs is the quintessential thirtysomething rapper who’s toiled in the underground only to see younger guys get the glory—if there’s any justice,  Shadow of a Doubt  should make that a thing of the past. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Half Free (CD)

U.S. Girls
Meg Remy sings with a Sioux​sie sneer over Middle Eastern-flavored beats on her latest release, her best yet. She embodies various female perspectives in often bleak circumstances — the otherwise festive first single “Damn That Valley” sees Remy take on the role of a war widow, singing, “He promised me he’d come back alive/Where is my man?” in mock-girl group despair. Meanwhile, “Telephone Play No. 1” sees Remy talking to a friend on the phone about a disturbing dream and paternity, ending with the admission of being “just another woman with no self esteem” to creepy canned laughter. It may sound like difficult listening, but  Half Free  pairs its feminist critiques with snaking lo-fi beats by producer Onakabazien and Remy’s engaging, snarling delivery. Strangely addictive and affecting. More
Genre: Rock

The Light Princess [OST] (CD)

Samuel Adamson, Tori Amos
A major hit for the National Theater since it opened in 2013, Tori Amos'  The Light Princess  finally releases a cast recording. Based on the Scottish fairytale of the same name, the music elevates the fantasy to painfully human levels of grief and beauty. Sublime! More
Genre: Soundtracks

Cranekiss (CD)

Tamaryn’s addictive new album finds the Bay Area shoegazers going new wave, but in their own insular way. The title track’s syncopated drum machine pulse and layers of floating vocals by frontwoman Tamaryn Brown call to mind turn-of-the-’90s fantasy pop from the likes of Cocteau Twins, Shakespear’s Sister and even a bit of Tori Amos. The band replicates its groaning My Bloody Valentine-style chords as synth blasts on the glittering “Hands All Over Me, while Brown’s vocals go from maximum ethereal on “Collection” to high and engaging on standout “Last,” which sounds pulled from the closing credits to an unmade  Top Gun  sequel. Lest you think Tamaryn have gone fully soft though, a track like “Softcore” introduces some menace, albeit in the chewed up industrial bubblegum style of Garbage or Curve. Though they lose a bit of the depressive allure that made their last few albums so appealing,  Cranekiss ’ playful hookiness is a welcome development from the band. Dream pop afficionados, rejoice — you won’t be able to stop spinning  Cranekiss . More
Genre: Rock

Art Angels (CD)

After three years and a false start, Grimes aka Claire Boucher has returned with the follow-up to her breakthrough,  Visions , and it’s a brightly colored collection of artpop magical realism. The drumline beats and sunny guitars and melodies of “California” and the title track could almost pass for something on mainstream radio, if not for Boucher’s clarion voice cutting through. Similarly, the nimble “Flesh Without Blood” might not be the most original song Grimes has put to tape, but it’s the catchiest and is damn near irresistible. Yet in between those songs we get “Scream,” which has none of the safety of her more accessible tunes, between Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes’ twisting flow and Boucher’s curdled screech. The previously released “REALiTi” throws fans of her more straightforward electro-pop a bone, though it continues with the posi vibes and influences of K-pop and early ’90s house that flow through the rest of the album. Meanwhile, “Venus Fly,” her spacey hip hop duet with Janelle Monae, is a pure delight, coming off like a futuristic art-school spin on the Spice Girls, and “Kill vs. Maim” has the feel of the drama kids taking over a pep rally with Boucher’s yelp simultaneously spirited and demented. Boucher has no use for genre boundaries and is seemingly allergic to negativity, all of which gives  Art Angels  an unbeatable all-embracing energy. The biggest change from  Visions  is that Boucher’s personality is more front-and-center; whereas that album could be more cold and cerebral in its in-between tracks,  Art Angels  is entirely engaging, and even its most digitized moments are stained with blood.  More
Genre: Rock

Elaenia (CD)

Floating Points
Though Sam Shepherd has been publicly making music since 2009, his debut under the Floating Points moniker announces a new force within the U.K. electronic music scene. Floating Points as a term perfectly describes a track like “Nespole,” whose climbing bass notes, blinking distorted digital noise and synth sheets seem to exist in empty space but slowly come into focus as a dynamic unit. The three-part “Silhouettes” moves from a mellow jazz beat and contemplative bass tones to a loungey middle portion, an explosive climax and finally a string-laden denouement with an angelic choir of voices. Throughout,  Elaenia  is closer to jazz than it is to traditional dubstep, seeming to rely on mood and improvisation rather than repetition or dancefloor accessibility. It’s also too varied for one particular genre label, as the slightly unsettling ambient title track moves into the analog sci-fi arpeggios of “Argente,” light throbbing shuffle of “Thin Air” and the soulful mood-piece “For Marmish.” Though  Elaenia  is light on easy entry points, its final track, “Peroration Six,” fuses a Radiohead-ish sense of close-noted dread with a syncopated beat Flying Lotus followers should go nuts over.  Elaenia  makes for heady listening, but let it in and you’ll soon become enraptured. More

Return To The Moon (CD)

Matt Berninger of The National and Brent Knopf of Menomena team for an album of light, freewheeling indie pop-rock that allows both artists to show new shades to their talents. Berninger is the famously dour voice behind The National’s sardonic tales and Knopf formerly played keyboards and ran loops for Menomena’s spindly indie-rock and now plays in Ramona Falls. The two at first might seem strange bedfellows, but Berninger in particular sounds liberated—while The National are excellent, there’s an ease here not found in his work with that band (witness his rap-like delivery and lines like “I’ll be the one in the lobby in the colored ‘Fuck Me’ shirt—the green one,” on “I’m the Man to Be”). Knopf employs found sounds, quick keyboard loops, chintzy drum machine beats and skronky guitars beneath Berninger’s baritone on strange, spacious digital orchestrations like “Paul Is Alive.” It takes a moment to acclimate yourself to what exactly is going on in a track like “Need a Friend,” but once you do, the tunes reveal themselves to be slinky post-pop numbers that keep you guessing. Though we doubt either Berninger or Knopf will quit their day jobs just yet, EL VY is at least as interesting and entertaining as either artist’s other bands. And for anyone new to either artist’s work,  Return to the Moon  is the catchiest thing either has put to tape.  More
Genre: Rock

Fading Frontier (CD)

Deerhunter’s seventh album continues to refine the band’s once murky and psychedelic sound into taut guitar pop. There’s a warmth to the sound here that rounds out their more brittle tones and dark subject matter. Check out the jaunty opener “All the Same” or gently grooving “Breaker,” with co-vocals by Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt—Deerhunter have never sounded this comfortable in their own skin. Cox is more engaged than ever, seeking direct emotional connection with his lyrics (“What is it you’re after? Don’t just stand there,” he cajoles in “Take Care”). Like one of his influences, Johnny Marr, guitarist Pundtt comes up with a variety of guitar tones while delivering a consistent style of garage rock chords looping, clean guitar lines. Synthesizers and drum machines play a more active role, laying the floating foundation for a tune like the dreamy “Take Care,” while the scuzz-funk of a tune like “Snakeskin” shows Deerhunter willing to take chances without futzing with their sound too much. However much Deerhunter whittle their sound, eschewing the noise of previous album  Monomania  and the more ambient aspects of some of their work, save for maybe the gentle synth waves of “Ad Astra,” Deerhunter are still malcontents at heart—over an uplifting organ and acoustic guitar on “Carrion,” Cox sings “What’s wrong with me?” in a slightly off-kilter croon. They’ve just made their exorcisms more listenable than ever. More
Genre: Rock