This Month's Picks

Tuxedo (CD)

Tuxedo

The prolific and diverse hip-hop producer Jake One has teamed up with blue-eyed soul singer Mayer Hawthorne for a new collaboration entitled Tuxedo. Their alter egos - Aquarius (Mayer Hawthorne) and Taurus (Jake One) - are dressed up in tuxedos and presented by Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf (a man known to dress up himself) as descendants of the one-word moniker family of funk, where you will find groups such as Chic, Shalamar, Plush, and Zapp. It's a retro disco funk record that will have you busting out your own tuxedo and dusting off those dancing shoes.

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Genre: Soul

Aquilones (CD)

Trio Mediaeval

Great music for three female singers. Ducking and weaving in ancient style, harmonies vibrating against our hearts. Absolutely sumptuous timbre in these three together, luxurious material in this collection of cardinal cool. ECM supreme sound! 

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Genre: Classical

Mount The Air (CD)

The Unthanks

The Unthanks’ first album in four years shows them more musically ambitious than ever, taking on traditions from Spain, India, Blue Note and Trip-Hop. Mount The Air is the work of an act who still believes in the value of the album as an art form.

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Genre: Folk

Deeper (CD)

The Soft Moon

Deeper finds Oakland’s Luis Vasquez doing what he does best, creating thrillingly nihilistic darkwave tracks like “Black” but also expanding his sound a bit with more melody (“Wasting”), IDM-fueled electro-pop (“Wrong”) and even balladry (“Without” calls to mind vintage Depeche Mode songs like “A Question of Lust”). While Vasquez has always been adept at creating bleak soundscapes, his songs feel more fully formed than ever on Deeper. The best Soft Moon album yet.

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Genre: Rock

Mended With Gold (CD)

The Rural Alberta Advantage

With heartfelt lyrics, fetching melodies, and explosive percussion, Mended With Gold makes it clear that The RAA have reached the next level and composed the most fully-realized work of their career.

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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.

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Genre: Rock

A Tribute To Michael Been (CD)

The Call

After 20 years, Santa Cruz rockers The Call reunited at The Troubador in Los Angeles to put on an incredible show while paying tribute to front-man, Michael Been, who died of a heart attack in 2010. Been’s son Robert Levon Been (bassist and singer of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) led this emotional performance by stepping into his father’s role and playing along with surviving members Tom Ferrier, Jim Goodwin and Scott Musick. With fourteen songs and an unforgettable performance by Robert and the band, highlights include “Let The Day Begin,” “The Walls Came Down” and “I Still Believe.”

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Genre: Rock

Runners In The Nerved World (CD)

The Sidekicks

This band has a way of blending pop and punk without sounding like a pop-punk band. They have a knack for catchy music and a talent for writing a coherent record. It’s like The Beach Boys Plus! 

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Genre: Rock

Soused (CD)

Scott Walker, Sunn O)))

When black metal/experimental band Sunn O))) team up with ’60s-pop-pinup-turned-avant-garde-vampire Scott Walker, you know the results are going to something special. Indeed, Soused makes good on its promise as each artist is in top form on these five extended sound pieces. Walker's disturbing imagery and bellowing vocals are a perfect match for Sunn O)))’s metallic sound waves on “Brando,” as Walker sings “A beating would do me a world of good” amid whipsmacks and Blade Runner synths. Walker leads us through the bleakness of “Herod 2014” with a relatively sweet, ghostly melody as the band’s groaning guitars and insect-like beats make us feel like we’re heading deeper into a dark cavern of sound. The aggressive “Bull” makes for the clearest entry point into the album, with Walker doing his campiest Count-Dracula-leading-a-metal-band vocals and Sunn O))) going for classic hard rock chords on recognizable choruses (but even then, they leave us in the wilderness for extended periods of creeping silence and warm drone). “Fetish” finds all participants at their nastiest, while “Lullaby” ends the album by luring us in with a few minutes of relative quietude before Walker sings some of his most terrifying vocals over the band’s metal riffs—it’s a lullaby for anyone who falls asleep too easily. Soused doesn’t make for easy listening, but it’s never dull, either. Walker, in particular, sounds reinvigorated by his involvement with Sunn O))). Hopefully Soused is just the beginning of a sick and beautiful partnership.

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Genre: Rock

Run The Jewels 2 (CD)

Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels, the super talented hip-hop power duo of El-P and Killer Mike, outdid themselves in 2014 with their anticipated follow up to last year's excellent self-titled debut on Fool's Gold. For the all killer no filler sequel, released via Nas' newly launched Mass Appeal Records and simply entitled RTJ2 or Run The Jewels 2, they turn up the sonic and lyrical assault with an in your face album that is as much rock as it is hip-hop and, while only eleven songs deep, it satisfies on every level, leaving listeners longing for more. If only for the pitch-perfect second single and best song on the album "Oh My Darling Don’t Cry," this album would be worth buying but everything on here kicks ass. As E-Lit at Amoeba Berkeley noted, Run The Jewels is better than anything either El-P or Killer Mike have done individually up to this point in their respective careers - and they've each done some amazing work! RTJ2's select featured guests include Zack de la Rocha, Travis Barker, Diane Coffee, and BOOTS.

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Genre: Hip Hop