This Month's Picks

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

Tomorrow's Hits (CD)

The Men

On last year’s New Moon The Men made some moves away from their punky roots and toward classic country and singer/songwriter territory, but they’ve got a serious honky-tonk vibe going on on Tomorrow’s Hits. “Dark Waltz” sounds like a loud-ass bar band covering Bob Dylan, lovably ragged and rollicking with saloon piano, shout-along choruses and tasty blues licks creating sizable noise. Songs like “Get What You Give” are more delicate, embracing more intricate guitar parts amid big rock riffs, while the drums hit hard and the delivery is still defiantly punk. Fans of the band’s early work shouldn’t worry, though—there’s plenty of rush and energy to songs like “Different Days,” even as the band throws pianos and organ into the mix, and “Pearly Gates” is the kind of hardcore-meets-blues raveup that only a band like The Men can pull off. So while they’re more Neil Young than Husker Du these days, they’ve by no means become boring. Far from it— Tomorrow’s Hits sounds like the band The Men were destined to be.

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Genre: Rock

Salad Days (CD)

Mac DeMarco
Mac DeMarco wrongly gets called “slacker rock.” At only 23 he’s releasing his third album, and it’s one of the best things we’ve heard all year. The title track is a swaying, gleefully glum blues track, its charming, singalong quality masking some quarterlife crisis (“Always feeling tired, smiling when required/write another year off and kindly resign,” suggesting some darkness behind DeMarco’s goofy grin). “Brother” features DeMarco sumptuously singing while milky guitars dance beneath the surface. It’s one of the loveliest tunes he’s ever produced. Songs like “Goodbye Weekend,” with its woozy, intoxicating guitar line and lovely jazz tones, speak to what a strong songwriter DeMarco has always been beneath it all. And while he’s all the better for ditching some of the affectations he sported on the still-great Rock and Roll Night Club in favor of a streamlined sound he’s dubbed “jizz jazz,” DeMarco can still pull some conceptually striking songs, like “Passing Out the Pieces,” which uses heavily effected harpsichord and booming synth-bass to create miraculous millennial psychedelia, pulling in some of the good ol’ Beatles/Kinks/Beach Boys influence he’s seemed to (probably smartly) avoid showing thus far in his career. Salad Days shows DeMarco to be a classical songwriter with the ability to turn an amiable, if not immediately memorable, voice and intricate yet mangled guitarwork into tunes that pull at you in unexpected, emotional ways. So he can’t be bothered to shower or cut his hair—we wouldn’t have it any other way. More
Genre: Rock

39 Steps (CD)

John Abercrombie Quartet
At home on ECM, as usual, the master of bold jazz guitar lyricism returns with a less fusion but still adventurous take on melodic chamber bop. Of the ten tracks, 9 are written by at least a portion or combination of Abercrombie's band, which, on this occasion, consists of Drew Gress (bass), Joey Baron (drums), and Marc Copland (piano). Most tracks are named after, if not explicitly inspired by, Hitchcock, following the record's title. The mood, however, is not particularly tense or somber, but rather lilting and mysterious, especially on the excellent "Bacharach," Abercrombie's ode to the composer. "Shadow of A Doubt," a group improvisation, is particularly excellent, showcasing each band member's reason for being selected by this modern master. Abercrombie doesn't often play with a pianist, so when he does, and especially one as gifted as Copland, it's an occasion for celebration. More
Genre: Jazz