Everyone’s favorite Scottish post-rockers and Blur-haters are back with their 9th studio album! Produced by indie superhero David Fridmann, Every Country’s Sun is a record of loud, distorted drums, cool electronic textures, and frenzied guitar work. While much of the songs here follow the time-honored Mogwai template that the band has honed since 1997, the record also features a true rarity amongst their catalogue: a vocal track. In fact, “Party in the Dark” doesn’t just feature lead vocals from guitarist Stuart Braithwaite, but is an honest-to-god pop tune, complete with Slowdive-like synth strings yearning alongside New Order rhythms, all drenched in cavernous amounts of echo. For a band that has always marched to the beat of their own drum, this brief slice of shoegaze heaven illustrates the continued evolution of their unique sound, and dials back their somewhat thorny reputation. In a way, it’s songs like “Party,” alongside more traditional cuts such as “Battered at a Scramble,” that make Every Country’s Sun the perfect entry point into Mogwai’s storied career. The band condenses their past and predicts their future on a group of 11 tunes that could be played by absolutely no one else.
Along with Weezer, The Bronx has got to be one of the few bands to have released at least 3 self-titled albums. For their fifth, they follow in Led Zeppelin’s footsteps and go the classic Roman numeral route. Punk rock stalwarts for years, V proves The Bronx is just as aggressive as ever with tunes like “Sore Throat,” which earns its title on a two-and-a-half minute blast of hardcore fury. However, these boys still know how to write a hook, and following in the footsteps of their previous two self-titled releases (which found the group embracing more midtempo, melodic pastures), songs like “Two Birds” exemplify The Bronx’s proficiency in creating rowdy, inebriated, and catchy rock ‘n roll in the vein of KISS or New York Dolls. Matt Caughthran screams his way through these tunes, seemingly challenging any younger punk rock upstarts to try and outdo them. Sore throat, indeed.
New Orleans-based three piece Mutemath returns with their fifth album. Ostensibly a rock band at heart, Play Dead continues the band’s transition into electronic territory with more synthesizers, programmed drums, and even EDM flourishes. “Stroll On” has a blue-eyed soul backdrop that goes interstellar with the sound effects, sounding like an artist’s impression of pop music in the future. “Hit Parade” is a sort of Muse-inspired number, alternating fuzzy riffs and heavy synths with dreamy vocal melodies and a stadium-sized chorus. “Break The Fever” is a dance floor pleaser in the vein of Maroon 5, with high falsetto vocals over a crisp disco beat and funky synth lines abound. Jumping from one sound to the next with ease, Play Dead shows the band most comfortable not being in any one place for too long.
Without the weight of a name like McCartney or Dylan, Steve Winwood, nevertheless, rules the baby boomers. From the '60s to the '80s the dude was everywhere, putting out hits with a litany of different ensembles. He had early, mod-era success with Spencer Davis Group's “Gimme Some Loving” and “I’m A Man”; worked with Clapton in the short lived supergroup Blind Faith, producing at least one bonafide classic in “Can’t Find My Way Home”; and purveyed his own pastoral proggy-ness in '70s favorites Traffic, best known for “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” before ditching pseudonyms altogether for a well-manicured solo career in the '80s. Greatest Hits Live compiles all these essential tunes onto one deluxe collection, pulling from Winwood’s personal archive of previously unreleased performances on a 23-song anthology of his most enduring tunes.
First, it has to be mentioned that Van Morrison is 72 and still cranking out albums with workhorse consistency. Roll With The Punches follows last year’s Keep Me Singing and is the 37th studio album in the legendary Irish troubadour’s career. On this love letter to the blues, Morrison blends original compositions with covers of blues classics by T-Bone Walker, Mose Allison, and Sam Cooke, among others. As can be ascertained by the choice of source material, the album is very much a homecoming, stylistically speaking. Minus the sleek production, “Transformation” would easily slot onto M oondance or Tupelo Honey . “Ordinary People” would also fit neatly within that same era…because that’s when it was written. A solid collection of tunes that fit Morrison’s voice like a glove, as well as a worthy album in an absolutely legendary career.
Deerhoof is something really special. As they become more well known, it makes sense that their albums would become slicker and poppier. But Deerhoof has never dropped their avant-garde roots and on Mountain Moves the combination of brief glimpses of noise, non-traditional pop structure, and lyrics results in a real brain melter of an album. Psychedelic is usually used to describe heavy guitar reverb and fuzzy sounds, but there's something in the unexpected directions Deerhoof takes that's legitimately psychedelic. Dance songs dissolve so they don't get too dancey and pop songs break apart before they can dig in and become earworms. Although Mountain Moves might be their most commercial album to date, there's plenty of collaborations from like-minded musical experimenters, including Juana Molina, Stereolab's Laetitia Sadler, and Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner, that mix up the album just enough. "I Will Spite Survive" starts off almost unassumingly with heavy bass, distorted guitars, melodic synth riffs, and Satomi Matsuzaki's girlish voice. The song is absolutely bright and happy in a way we rarely hear, but with enough blooping weirdness in the background to add the right amount of "what the?" to what otherwise might be one of their most easily digestible tracks. "Come Down Here & Say That" starts off with what sounds like Deerhoof's take on David Byrne's legendary version of "Psycho Killer" from Stop Making Sense by mixing acoustic guitar with mechanical music elements. But before the song can get too stuck in a beautiful riff, it flows along with bizarre dream logic of segments that feel like separate songs themselves. Every Deerhoof album is an exciting new trip of catchy songs that are full of life and playfulness where just one listen isn't enough. You'll drop the needle on this over and over again, discovering new things to love on each listen.
Self-released and funded through Kickstarter, this is the singer-songwriter’s 13th studio album, but technically the first under his name. Also features drums by Chris Wilson of the Pharmacists and Aimee Mann (with whom Leo plays on The Both ).
Shilpa Ray's Door Girl is a New York punk record in the grand tradition of New York punk records. Ray's latest raucous, lively collection of songs traffics in the grit and glamour of the Velvet Underground, the raw energy of the New York Dolls, and the infectious melodies of Blondie. It's a no-holds barred, take-no-prisoners account of living in the city as a woman in these strange days. When so much punk has been toned down into melodic sing-alongs and radio-friendly teen hits, it's a blessing to have Shilpa Ray still at it, making rough-and-tumble rock 'n' roll music with fire in her heart.
Former Sonic Youth guitarist (and the hip, underrated choice for your favorite songwriter of that particular ensemble) releases a new solo album on his old label, Mute Records, the home of Sonic Youth pre-Geffen era. Electric Trim is pure, unfiltered Lee Ranaldo: his noisy affectations cloaking a genuine adulation of '60s psychedelia and his Joni Mitchell-influenced lyrical style, full of imagery and yearning emotion. Featuring shared vocal duties with Sharon Von Etten, and with author Jonathan Lethem helping pen these distinctively literate songs.
The imposingly-named Luciferian Towers is the latest from post-rock stalwarts Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The name is fitting; there’s a sense of gravity, a cinematic, sweeping quality to the band’s latest collection of soundscapes. At times triumphant, at times devastated, the album’s occasional dissonance gives the moments of melody an even more tangible impact. This latest LP has the look and sound of a future classic.
Is that emotional prog you’ve got there? Proggy-emo? On Circa Survive’s 6th studio LP, the strangled angst and boisterous volume that has been the hallmark of their sound for the past decade is mostly intact. Delayed, distorted guitars along with impassioned, wailing vocals are still at the heart of The Amulet ’s 10 tracks. However, this time around the mood is a bit more contemplative and conceptual, with softer instrumental passages and far more singing than outright screaming. The progressive rock element is heavily felt with shifting tempos, flashy guitar heroics, and songs with titles like “Premonition of the Hex,” “Rites of Investiture” or, hell, the title track. Long a staple of the post-hardcore/emo scene along with contemporaries Thrice and Saosin, Circa Survive prove they don’t lack for ambition on a release that nudges them away from their aforementioned peers and is closer in approach to that of technical prog wizards such as Mew or Coheed and Cambria. An adventurous exercise in space age rock.
Okovi , the sixth full-length from the classically-trained goth diva Zola Jesus, is a fully-realized gem of an album. Operatic, moving, and cathartic, the collection of songs nods back to her earlier, grittier post-punk work while further evolving the grand, sweeping sound she has developed over the past decade. The effect is transcendent, a compelling juxtaposition between the depths of tragedy and the relentless desire for life. On previous albums, Zola had flirted with the structures and buoyant chords of pop; here she mostly eschews those tactics in favor of a darker, more symphonic sound. A cohesive, haunting album from one of the most distinctive, powerful voices in underground music.
L.A. tropicalia soul band Chicano Batman, which draws influences from many different styles of music, picks up an equally diverse selection of Brazilian music, hip hop, psych rock, metal, South African disco & lots more.