This Month's Picks

Sand + Silence (CD)

The Rosebuds
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.More
Genre: Rock

The Liberator [OST] (CD)

Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor and violinist Gustavo Dudamel has completed work on his first score for the South American film The Libertador. Originally asked to just be a musical advisor, Dudamel kept picturing his own soundtrack to the film’s imagery. After composing some pieces on the piano with the script in mind, director Alberto Arvelo asked Dudamel to write the score. Heavily inspired by advice Dudamel received from award winning composer, conductor and pianist John Williams, the soundtrack has a Post-Mahlerian feel while contributions from the Simon Boliver Symphony Orchestra and important figures in the Venezuelen folk music scene add a distinctive Latin American flavor to the work. The result is hauntingly ethereal and full of tension. Fans of Dudamel can hear the suite from Libertador in its entirety at the Hollywood Bowl on July 31st.More
Genre: Soundtracks

Lese Majesty (CD)

Shabazz Palaces
Led by Ishmael Butler (formerly ‘Butterfly’ of Digable Planets) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire, Seattle duo Shabazz Palaces take hip-hop out of the streets and into the astral plane. Their 2011 debut Black Up was a critically acclaimed space age masterpiece with fragmented beats over dark, hallucinatory soundscapes. The follow up, Lese Majesty, continues where Black Up left off while sprawling into other dimensions of sound and space. Featuring 18 songs grouped into seven suites, the album expands rather than drags, showcasing Tendai’s dilated rhythmic mastery and Ishmael’s inimitable way with words. With a playing time of 45 minutes, Lese Majesty takes us back to an age when musicians embraced the long player format. Each song beautifully melts into the next one to create a mood instead of just another hit. Like a galactic sonic roller coaster, Shabazz Palaces are challenging and expanding the hip-hop landscape, taking it to the moon and beyond.More
Genre: Hip Hop

Gemini, Her Majesty (CD)

Rx Bandits
O.C.’s Rx Bandits haven’t released an album in five years, which is maybe why Gemini, Her Majesty is such a treat. The band’s high-tension alt-prog sounds like something that’s been bottled up for too long and waiting to explode, offering smoke before the fire on the choral “Intro” and then launching into the steadily building riffs of “Ruby Cumulous.” They sound like successors to The Police on the confident “Wide Open,” reining in their expert riffery to focus on melodicism. When they can dispense both catchy melodies and pummeling musicianship, as on single “Stargazer,” the band is damn near unstoppable, doling out chugging riffs and dynamic rhythms while tying ribbons of harmonic guitarwork around them and exploding into a singalong chorus. There are times when you want Rx Bandits to let the songs breathe a bit more so their melodies will stick, but the chilled-out vibe the band is going for gets top billing on “Meow! Meow! Space Tiger,” a sparkling, beachy ode to staring at the sky and “finding your truth.” The band walk a fine line—how is it possible to sound so laid back and yet so detailed and precise at the same time? Rx Bandits somehow make it work on this terrific comeback record.More
Genre: Rock

Clear Lake Forest (CD)

The Black Angels
For those that missed picking up a copy of The Black Angels’ Clear Lake Forest EP on Record Store Day, you are in luck. This seven-song psychedelic nugget has been re-released on 12” clear vinyl, CD and digital download. Floating in the bluesy, acid-laced waters of their 2013 release, Indigo Meadow, the Angels continue their mastery of sun-kissed sonic kaleidoscopes. Opening track “Sunday Evening” jangles and pops while lyrically posing the question, “What if I told you that everything you know isn’t even really true?” From there, “Third Eyes” and “Diamond Eyes” showcase the Angels perfection at layering fuzzy noise and sunshine pop while “The Flop” and “Occurrence at 4507 South Third Street” are organ driven, up-tempo numbers that channel a surf party on acid. Taking things down a notch, “The Executioner” is a blues inspired maelstrom of distortion and reverb with the rather hedonistic message, “If it feels good, do it again.” The final track, “Linda’s Gone,” manages to encapsulate everything great about the Velvet Underground while still sounding like the Black Angels. These Austin psyche revivalists may not be inventing the wheel but Clear Lake Forest proves they are always moving forward while taking the listener on a wild ride.More
Genre: Rock

Pe'ahi (CD)

The Raveonettes
Danish noise pop darlings the Raveonettes have lightened things up a bit with their latest release, Pe’ahi. Appropriately titled after a town on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii, you can see that Wagner and Foo have been using surf culture as their latest muse, both sonically and lyrically. Combining surf-pop, warm fuzz, and tropicana with the bright melodies and girl group harmonies they are best known for; this is their most dynamic and baroque work since 2008’s Lust Lust Lust. Tracks like “Endless Sleeper” and “Sisters” drown you in warm fuzz while dreamy songs like “Killer In The Streets” let you float through glorious waves of melancholy. The mood of the album is breezier and more upbeat than previous efforts and is set to be the definitive summer soundtrack.More
Genre: Rock

Complete Surrender (CD)

Slow Club
From the twee indie-folk of their 2009 debut Oh Yeah to the darker and richly layered Paradise, Sheffield duo Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson (Slow Club) continue to sonically evolve with their third full-length album, Complete Surrender; their most self assured and streamlined effort to date. Heavily influenced by R&B and girl group sounds, Taylor and Watson stray from their panoptic song structure of the past to embrace a more stripped down approach. The delicate simplicity of these more basic song arrangements only further enhances what Slow Club is known best for, powerfully rich vocal harmonies earnestly expressing love and loss. With soulful numbers like “Suffering You, Suffering Me” and “Not Mine To Love,” Complete Surrender often feels like a tear stained pillow fight at Stax Records. With that in mind, it never comes of as gimmicky or retro. Instead, Slow Club manages to combine Northern soul with bedroom pop to create the breakup anthems of your dreams.More
Genre: Rock

Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics (CD)

The Delfonics

For the first Delfonics album in many years, the legendary soul band’s singer, William Hart, teams with producer Adrian Younge (Ghostface Killah, Venice Dawn), who writes dreamy compositions with era-appropriate production for the group, now in its 80s. Just as the group once performed iconic songs like “La-La (Means I Love You)” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” becoming sampled by the likes of The Fugees and Missy Elliott and being used notably in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Younge presents Hart with songs which could have been released in the ’70s, during the group’s prime. Amazingly, Hart’s unique, high-register drawl is intact. He warbles emotively through the darkly beautiful “Stop and Look (And You Have Found Love),” which I’ll stop short of calling a new classic for the band (but if it isn’t, it’s damn close). Younge and his band give the Hart a nasty, surf-soul ballad to croon over in “Lost Without You,” which starts like a 007 theme song before panning out into psychedelic soul, with stirring drum breaks, horns and subtle sitar. It’s touches like these that keep Adrian Young Presents the Delfonics from being merely a nostalgic trip or way for a producer to work with one of his heroes; Younge truly understands Hart’s voice, what works and what doesn’t, and he successfully adds new shades to the classic Delfonics sound while honoring their classic era. Hart croons like a man a quarter of his age in the touching “Silently”; he drops a register to sing out of falsetto on “To Be Your One,” the result equally alluring; and when he teams with a female vocalist on “Just Love,” they emerge with a gorgeous funk-soul ballad you could hear adding choice ambiance to Jackie Brown 2. To say it’s seductive listening would be an understatement.

Genre: Soul

The Jazz Age (CD)

Bryan Ferry

Bryan Ferry is always up there at the country house cooking up some new way of delivering you the lush life, and this time he literally blows the roof off! Here are thirteen songs from the breadth of his career, from Roxy Music to recent solo albums, arranged and interpreted by a hard-swingin' 1920s style jazz orchestra, and presented in gloriously crackly mono. At first hearing tunes like "Do the Strand" come at you as a vigorous Dixieland stomp practically makes you laugh out loud -- then you realize the guy is serious. From "Love Is the Drug" to "Avalon," these tunes get sent back in the way-back machine, only to return with plenty of trombone charts, clarinet solos, muted trumpets and even coconut percussion fills. Members of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra execute this vintage fantasia, with some arranging help from UK TV composer Colin Good. Each reinterpretation is imaginatively and slyly suited to the original, whether bringing out a latent samba shuffle or hinting at the original darkness of tone behind a zany rhythm. Of course, Bryan Ferry has always been besotted with the Jazz Age, going back to his first solo album, These Foolish Things, in which he crooned classic 1930s ballads in his proto-new wave style. Even then he had a true knack for classic sounds (a knack not shared by just anybody, as one notices whenever Rod Stewart barfs up "It Had to be You"). So jump on this magic carpet with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra and soar back in time to the Roaring Twenties!

Genre: Rock

Lonerism (LP)

Tame Impala

If Jeff Magnum (Neutral Milk Hotel) had been born 10 years later and became obsessed with tape loops, this is sort of what it would sound like. Stellar effort, even better than their first LP. Get on it, people.  

Genre: Rock