This Month's Picks

Tookah (CD)

Emiliana Torrini

Earnest, excited, romantic, intricate, Icelandic. Album four for Torrini, who wooed many a fan with her single "Jungle Drums" and as the singer for "Gollum's Song," a standout track from Howard Shore's LOTR score pieces. People like to compare Torrini to Bjork, which is easy, lazy, and not altogether incorrect. There's a lot that separates the two artists, and some things that bind them, too: heritage, accent, vocal range. At the end of the day, though, Torrini does something more accessible, a little bit more classic in its pop roots, offering up acoustic demos of her songs on her website, baring the trad-pop bones of her occasionally otherworldly music. Initial single "Speed of Dark" swirls with warm Blade Runner synths until it opens up into a track Peter Gabriel would have killed for in 1986, albeit with a vocal melody that recalls The Purple One more than it does the Moonlit Knight. Synths aside, poke around YouTube for footage of Torrini performing these tracks live and see the material's old fashioned electro-acoustic structures that allow these songs to blossom. Interesting stuff.

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Genre: Rock

Eagulls (CD)

Eagulls
The U.K.’s Eagulls have been kicking around for some time, building sizable hype for years before releasing their debut record. Now that it’s here, Eagulls proves worth the wait. Tying together influence by American post-hardcore and British post-punk, the band is a shrieking, thorny beast. “Nerve Endings,” an early single and now their album opener, hits with immediate ferocity, as singer George Mitchell generally howls like someone’s life depends on it, and his band builds sizable tension and release, constructing Interpol-style guitar edifices and unleashing big power chords when necessary on songs like “Hallow Visions.” Eagulls fill a similar niche to European compatriots Savages and Iceage—bands that are able to reference some of the best bands of the post-punk era (Joy Division and The Cure, namely) without sounding bookish, preferring to stay loud and raw, even as songs like heavy new-waver “Amber Veins” provide melodic surprises. If only every band the British press fawned over was this awesome. More
Genre: Rock

Too True (CD)

Dum Dum Girls
The time is right for Dum Dum Girls to make their big breakthrough record, and they don’t squander the opportunity with Too Pure. Singer Dee Dee Penny is like the shoegazing version of Chrissie Hynde, turning around a cliché about an irresistible bad boy on “Too True to Be Good” and owning her own leather-and-lace sensitive bad girl image in the delicate “Trouble is My Name.” Richard Gottehrer (the producer behind “My Boyfriend’s Back”) brings the magic he brought to Blondie and The Go-Gos to gleaming new wavers like “Rimbaud Eyes,” while co-producer Sune Rose Wagner’s (of The Raveonettes) effect can be felt on songs like sinister stomper “Cult of Love.” The band’s shimmering guitarwork, Penny’s terrific, breathy vocals and her producers’ ethereal touch come together masterfully on “Lost Boys and Girls Club,” which is like a lost song from a John Hughes movie soundtrack, were it made with the noise pop knowledge gleaned from growing up on Nirvana and Slowdive. Too Pure has bite and sheen in equal doses, leaving lipstick smeared on your heart. You’ll be begging for more. More
Genre: Rock

Drowners (CD)

Drowners

New York's signature up-all-night energy courses through this album of angular, compressed rock and roll, but there's a sweet melancholy that toes the line between music that sweeps the listener up, and lyrics that beg for their deep sensitivity and understanding.

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Genre: Rock

Croz (CD)

David Crosby

At 72, Crosby has made his Court And Spark. A singular expression of a mature artist, full of great songs, strong empathetic playing, pitch perfect production, and the Laurel Canyon vibe he helped define.

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Genre: Rock

Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (CD)

Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk epitomized the "folksinger's folksinger" apprenticing through immersion in the folk music revival's epicenter of Washington Square, mentoring musicians such as Bob Dylan, Suzanne Vega, and many more. Drawing from unreleased recordings as well as from the Smithsonian Folkways vault, Down on Washington Square paints a musical mosaic of Van Ronk's artistry.

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Genre: Folk

Psychic (CD)

Darkside
Darkside is the latest project from Nicolaas Jaar, avant-massive of the chill-but-experimental sector of contemporary EDM, and Dave Harrington, who had initially joined Jaar as multi-instrumental live support during the touring for Space Is Only Noise, his 2011 debut. Along the way, Harrington and Jaar began writing music together, and this is the result, three years down the pipe since Jaar put out his one and only long player of original compositions (he's filled the time with remixes both single-ready and album length). Darkside is basically Jaar + guitar at its most reductive. Slow elegant rhythms dance like illuminated silk handkerchiefs in slow motion, twisting organically, even swinging, at an ancient cyclopean speed. The guitar is both atmospheric and leading, occasionally even getting blues-riffy over the chilly electronic atmospherics. The vocals, mostly abstract without the aid of a lyric sheet, are sometimes like tiny fearful operas, rich quivering falsetto hovering in the space the music leaves open, darting from cavern to cavern until they sneak up behind you becoming a vocoder deepened croon, a demon doing a Chris Isaak impression. There are definitely elements of Isaak's Lynch-ian blues as well as the stylized kitsch of a band like the Lounge Lizards, turning the nightmare tropical, sad entropic decadence. Smooth AND weird, which is an achievement. More

Bryan Ferry: Live in Lyon (DVD)

One of the most iconic and innovative musicians and songwriters to emerge in popular music is filmed during his Olympia tour in 2011, with tracks from across his 40 year career including classic Roxy Music songs. More
Genre: Music

Lift Your Spirit (CD)

Aloe Blacc
Following the transcendental monster success of "I Need A Dollar," the O.C. native follows up with an even better record of real life contemporary soul music, anthemically imbued with the slice-of-life spirits of Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers & Pharrell in equal parts. This album also contains "Wake Me Up" in its original acoustic countrified form, pre-Avicii euro-tech-bombast. The entire album is peppered with these country and bluegrass elements, separating it from the contemporary R&B pack and making it something endearingly unique. More
Genre: Soul

Like Clockwork (LP)

Queens of the Stone Age

The latest album from Queens of the Stone Age has longtime fans excited for a number of reasons: it’s their first album in six years; it features high-profile guest appearances (Elton John, Trent Reznor); and it’s the first time since their classic Songs for the Deaf that Dave Grohl’s back on drums for the majority of the album, with former bassist Nick Oliveri singing backup on a couple of tracks. Of course none of that would matter if the songs weren’t as good as they are. Like Clockwork finds Homme and co. in gothic mode, wrapping dark riffs around moody arrangements. "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" struts slowly like an old engine starting, firing off in quick bursts of robot riffery. "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" sees the band engaging in Queen-style rock cabaret, with Homme likely reflecting on months of medical struggles with typically dark humor ("I survive, I speak I breathe, I’m alive, hurray"). Grohl’s metallic disco beat sends "If I Had a Tail" sailing smoothly through its troubled waters. The band brings back the desert-rock magic for "My God is the Sun" and "I Appear Missing," which will have fans kneeling before them once again after years of quietude from the band. And "Fairweather Friends" is a must-hear, with Homme unleashing some of his finest singing and guitarwork to date as Elton John billows the whole thing with his ever-commanding voice. By fearlessly taking on new territory while throwing fans a few bones, Like Clockwork ends up a welcome return. All hail the Queens!

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Genre: Rock