Be Impressive (CD)

After extensive touring and the success of 2012’s four-track Heart of A Lion EP, Sydney’s indie-pop darlings The Griswolds have finally released their first full-length release, Be Impressive. Fans of overproduced sonic candy will find this effort quite impressive. Formulaic in nature and bright as the sun, The Griswolds stick to the tropical, percussive, and happy pop hooks that have gained them popularity. Despite the upbeat nature of the record, there are some slightly more melancholy moments in tracks like “Beware The Dog”, “Thread The Needle” and Live This Nightmare.” If you enjoy sugary pop with a little darkness within, this debut is the sonic equivalent to getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

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Tied To A Star (CD)

Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis gives us a taste of his softer and more vulnerable side with his third solo release, Tied To A Star. Stripped down of the fuzzed out guitars and wall of noise that envelops him in Dinosaur Jr., this album emphasizes Mascis’ skills as a songwriter and guitarist. Acoustically driven, the melodies manage to be both loose and intricate, giving the record a quiet beauty that brings out the fragility of Mascis’ falsetto vocals and the mastery of his fast paced finger picking skills. Features guest appearances by Chan Marshall, Pall Jenkins, Ken Maiuri, and Mark Mulcahy.

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V (CD)

Drawing from multiple genres ranging from saccharine soft rock to popular hip-hop, Swedish narco-pop duo JJ (all caps now) has always managed to appropriate conflicting sounds to create a unique whole that’s all their own. With their third release, V, they have taken this formula and added bigger production, more drama, romance, strings, and a grandiose sound that shows their growth as musicians and collaborators. While experimental in nature and often shape shifting from tropical house to shoegaze to folk to hip hop, V can feel a bit unfocused at times but when it settles down to relax, it contains some of JJ’s most intoxicatingly dark and ethereal dream pop to date.

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Lights Out (LP)

After a five-year hiatus, Brooklyn based indie rockers Bishop Allen return with their third full length, Lights Out. Not straying from the mid-noughties formula of previous releases, Lights Out is melodically rich and full of the same breezy rainbow rock fans have come to expect. The lyrical content may be a little bleaker, with lines like “Nothing and nowhere and no one is not a pretender,” the music continues to be sprightly and enhanced by nostalgic boy/girl harmonies that channel the likes of Camera Obscura or Belle & Sebastian. Despite the years it took to put this out, Bishop Allen are not experimenting with anything new, rather, they are becoming more masterful at polishing the sunny pop nuggets of yore.

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Benjamin Booker (LP)

22 year-old New Orleans based guitarist and singer Benjamin Booker’s S/T debut is a bourbon spiked sonic cocktail that mixes swampy New Orleans blues with fuzzy garage rock hooks. The result sounds like a more polished version of the Gories paying homage to Hasil Adkins. Heavily influenced by the Gun Club, T-Rex, and Blind Willie Johnson, Booker sings with a vocal range and intensity beyond his years; enhanced only by his fevered guitar playing and the thunderously caveman drum styling of Max Norton. Together these two have created an electrifying take on blues-haunted punk that blows more seasoned acts out of the miry waters. 

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Get Hurt (CD)
Before the release of the Gaslight Anthem’s fifth full-length, Get Hurt, singer/guitarist Brian Fallon warned fans not to expect the same Springsteen influenced blue-collar punk that made them one of New Jersey’s most popular rock acts. Instead, Get Hurt is a darker and more restrained effort. With a new record label and new producer, this has a more nuanced feel than previous albums. While the anthemic choruses and overwrought rock sensibilities can be found in tracks like “1,000 Years” and “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” this is very much a cathartic breakup record drenched in experimentation and emotional profundity. Read more
When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day (CD)

Finnish folk singer Mirel Wagner creates the kind of dark lullabies that would make Michael Gira of Swans feel right at ease. Using minimalistic guitar pickings and her haunting voice, Wagners’ music is stripped to the bone while lyrically embracing the macabre. Her sophomore release, When The Children See The Light Of Day, continues on the grim and haunting themes present in 2011’s self-titled album. Produced by Finnish electronic musician Vladislav Delay, there are a bit more layers here but Delay is also a master at knowing what to leave out. The result sounds completely timeless. The album’s opener “What’s Underneath The Floor” (spoiler alert: the devil’s tongue) sets the tone for a moody and sexy album that is the sonic equivalent of romantic horror stories being whispered in the moonlight.

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Angus & Julia Stone (CD)
It’s been over three years since folk darlings (and siblings) Angus and Julia Stone joined forces to put out a record. The two of them have been enjoying successful careers independent of one another and had no intention of working musically together again. That was until legendary producer Rick Rubin (Metallica, Adele, Red Hot Chili Peppers) contacted Julia out of the blue about wanting to work with the duo. The result is their most compelling release to date. Working collaboratively on songwriting for the first time, this new self–titled album is a departure from the siblings' folksy MOR pop of the past. It’s more dynamic and blues influenced. Leading track “Heart Beats Slow” sets the tone for the entire album with sweet harmonies and rich instrumentation while “Death Defying Acts” showcases the powerful fragility of Julia’s voice channeling Billy Holiday. Read more
Time Is Over One Day Old (CD)
Delicately balancing melancholy dreaminess with upbeat tempos, Brooklyn based post-rockers Bear In Heaven follow 2012’s I Love You, It’s Cool with the more scaled down Time Is Over One Day Old. Like previous efforts, all the drama of their synth heavy, spaced out sound collages is present here but there is also a certain urgency and exciting dark energy brought on by the galvanizing percussion of new drummer, Jason Nazary. Much like the title suggests, Bear In Heaven are playing with ideas of time and space, each track interweaving with the next one, creating a sort of brooding, timeless celestial soundscape before fading away. Read more
Sand + Silence (CD)

It has been over two years since the release of The Rosebuds' very personal and autobiographical break-up album, Loud Planes Fly Low. Since then, duo Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp have spent two years apart on opposite coasts working on other creative endeavors. They came together again last spring to work on their sixth full-length album, Sand + Silence. Produced by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon (who also plays guitar and synth) and featuring Matt McCauglan on drums and Nick Sangborn on bass, most of the tracks were recorded live in Vernon's April Base Studio. This newer approach gives the record a feeling of elasticity that is evident in numbers like "Blue Eyes" (a breezy sonic lollipop) and the darker and more melancholic, "In My Teeth." While each song exudes the same catchy intensity The Rosebuds are noted for, it also showcases the growth of Howard and Crisp's songwriting skills while celebrating that celebratory feeling of new beginnings with old friends.

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