Shangri La (CD)

Jake Bugg may be a wee 19 years of age, but he seems to be plugging along at twice the clip of his contemporaries without a care of what other artists are doing around him. On his second album of the year, the Rick Rubin-produced Shangri La, the handsome young Brit digs hard into Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and a bunch of other not-particularly-hip-right-now influences to come up with a poppin’ folk-rock sound that is both contemporary and blows a lot of other radio sludge out of the water. “Slumville Sunrise” is positively twangy, with Bugg delivering a nasally load of words over a country chug before it explodes into a gloriously ragged rockabilly solo. “What Doesn’t Kill You” dispenses with quick punk riffs, while “Me and You” is an acoustic jangler that traces the steps of his heroes, but Bugg comes up with a masterful tune of his own (it’s here that he’s most reminiscent of another, once young and prolific troubador, Ryan Adams). He’s still got a ways to go before he’s as distinctive as his forebears, but for now, Bugg has mastered a balance of grit and grace that makes Shangri La an incredibly appealing listen.

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Veronica Mars [OST] (CD)

Starts off with a matured version of the theme song done impeccably by Alejandro Escovedo and complements the movie and the beloved characters’ return to Neptune, CA. It’s a sun-drenched, eclectic mix with ominous undertones – just like the fans like it.

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Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles (CD)

Bring on this chalice, this heavy 666-sided die of dungeon-underground wizard rock so dank you’d think it’d been sarcophagus-sealed since ’77. In fact, one of the song titles included in this collection is “Sealed in a Grave” — too muuuch!

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Joyland (CD)

When you first put on Joyland, you might be afraid. Grandiose, beautiful synths and mournful vocals begin it like some damn Sigur Ros album. Where are the dirty, dark disco jams? Well wait just a second pardner, cause that New Agey opening is a red herring for Trust’s nastiest set of jammers yet. “Geryon” sounds like a zombie singing over ’90s Eurodisco. The title track warps those vocals into a higher register for diva-ish freestyle pop. While it’s a lot of fun, some tracks onJoyland fuse that desire to be taken a little more seriously hinted at by the title track with Trust’s poppier ambitions, like the OMD-style, subtly catchy “Are We Arc?,” the dynamic, multilayered disco of “Capitol,” and “Icabod,” which lets Robert Alfons’ throaty vocals move a bit in their low register and rise for a rousing chorus. So while Trust are more fun than your average modern synth-pop band, using a variety of influences in the service of crafting great dance songs, they also shouldn’t be dismissed as just a party band. Joyland proves Trust is a band to hold onto.

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Join The Dots (CD)

This great London psych-pop band further develops their heavenly skyward drone on an excellent sophomore album. Equal parts Church / Rain Parade melodicism and Loop-esque dark kraut churn, this will send you on a spiral trip to outer realms.

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The Colourist (LP)
Orange County’s The Colourist provide pop-fueled indie rock on their self-titled full-length debut. Read more
Warpaint (CD)

Warpaint’s The Fool was a great slow burner of a record, one that grew on you with each successive listen such that it continues to sound great years on. Now, four years later, the ladies of Warpaint return with their long-awaited second record. As is their way, Warpaint unfolds at an unhurried pace, relishing in subtleties with songs whose meanings or melodies you might be able to place right away, but whose impressions lasts much longer than instant gratification-style pop songs. They’re sort of the spiritual successor to the band Slowdive, the shoegaze greats who encountered as much acclaim as derision during their time, due to their milky, washy music, but who have since been ensconced as one of the most beloved bands of the ’90s. The effect of Warpaint’s music is similar, washing over you in spurts and leaving streaks. With a band like this, it’s generally tough to name singles or easy entry points, but Warpaint has some moments that stick out, namely “Biggy,” a great, trip hoppy pop song along the lines of Radiohead’s Kid A/Amnesiac period, while “Disco // Very” sees Emily Kokal’s vocals getting distorted and nasty over, yes, a disco beat, recalling some of the disco-rock of the ’00’s, only with a dirtier, dubbier tone. In these songs, Warpaint sees the band stretching their wings a bit, while fans of the first album will find much to love in the album’s dark, atmospheric corners. It’s altogether a fantastic, well-considered second album that proves the rewards of patience.

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Present Tense (CD)

Wild Beasts began as an indie rock band exceedingly true to its name, with Hayden Thorpe’s wooly falsetto careening through cabaretesque arrangements. Since then, they’ve whittled away until the band has come closer to the post-rock stylings of Talk Talk, with propulsive grooves to keep things grounded. The latter half of that equation gets expanded on Present Tense, their most widely appealing album to date. They’ve never done anything quite as boldly pop as “Wanderlust,” which pivots on a four-note synth groove that they keep layering on until they’ve got an awesome tower of sound. Thorpe’s feminized vocals make “Mecca” sound like a lost Kate Bush song, floating on cloudy synths, crystalline guitars and rumbling momentum from Wild Beasts’ excellent drummer, Chris Talbot. “A Simple Beautiful Truth” works similar grounds, using catchy, ’80s tropes like new-wave beats and Asian-inspired synth melodies to explore tough-to-reach emotional territory. Through those poppier concessions, the band earns its way into songs like “Pregnant Pause,” a spare, almost mystical heartbreaker—“sometimes you seem like a lost cause,” Thorpe sings sadly, pleading “speak to me in our tongue.” Though likely still strange as ever to new ears, Wild Beasts have their best chance yet at worldwide recognition while maintaining their singular identity on Present Tense.

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Lanterns (CD)

Meditative but heaving with energy, Son Lux's third full-length weaves disparate elements, including alt hip-hop and electro-pop, into songs both strange and welcoming for an unusual and totally engrossing record. Named NPR's "Best New Artist of the Year.”

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Atlas (CD)
It should be no surprise that Real Estate’s third album is another impeccably crafted piece of beautiful guitar music. The New Jersey band has only made the necessary updates to their sound over the past few years, like polishing a statue into perfection. The album’s first few tracks offer everything we’ve come to love about this band, with sunny jangle-pop songs (opener “Had to Hear” and single “Talking Backwards”) butting next to nostalgic, minor-key songs about suburban splendor and decay—like being depressed about seeing a high school friend that never moved on, Matt Mondanile sings “I walk past these houses where we once stood/I see past lives, but somehow you’re still here,” with perfect precision on “Past Lives.” Real Estate’s lyrics have often taken a back seat to their shimmering guitarwork, but here they’re a bit more prominent, shining a light on Mondanile’s minimalist approach—despite how lovely the music is, songs like “Crime” are pretty depressing when you get down to it, with lyrics like “I wanna die/lonely and uptight.” Musically things have expanded a bit, as the band throws in more overt nudges toward easy listening and ’70s singer-songwriters in “The Bend” and country tinges in the gauzy, pretty “How I Might Live.” Instrumentally, these guys are just top notch, as they make instrumental “April’s Song” an album highlight, even without Mondanile’s soothing vocals, allowing his tremoloed, romantic guitar lines to do the singing for him. Atlas is simply a stunningly beautiful piece of guitar pop. Read more