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Music We Like

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Iteration (CD)

Com Truise

After a six year wait, Com Truise is back with Iteration , a lush, funk-inflected odyssey into electro. Cinematic in scope, the album draws inspiration from the synth-filled soundtracks of the 1980s; listening is a transportive experience to a world of city nights, black leather, and neon lights. Make no mistake — Iteration is a toe-tapper, a definite dancefloor-filler, but this smart, emotive album is also pretty moving. Atmosphere is all here, and there’s a real sense of feeling beneath the hypnotic rhythms, technicolor melodies, and pulsating synths. If you dig evocative, dark dance music, this moody LP sets the scene.

TLC (CD)

TLC

The ‘90s might not seem so far away, but the ladies of TLC are definitely R&B icons in their own right. That’s why the tracks on their latest LP are so interesting; with only one guest appearance (from the mighty Snoop) and melodies that draw heavily from classic funk and soul, the focus here is squarely on the women, their legacy, and how they defined R&B. (There’s even a well-placed Earth, Wind & Fire sample on standout track “It’s Sunny,” just in case you need a reminder of how their work fits in with some of the biggest names in urban music.) Other memorable tracks include “Way Back;” nostalgic, infectious, and just straight up fun, it’s the perfect summer song while “Haters” is cool, confident, and laidback. Their new album is T-Boz and Chilli’s final release as a group, but TLC will leave you wanting more.

The Nashville Sound (CD)

Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit

Since the election last November there have been plenty of songs written about the turmoil, fear, and dissatisfaction that seems to envelope the nation, but alt-country/rocker Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit's song "White Man's World," off their new record The Nashville Sound , is perhaps one of the most direct and potent. While writing lyrics like "Mama wants to change that Nashville sound, but they're never gonna let her," Isbell paints vivid portraits of a culture complicit in old-fashioned routines of sexism and racism, but instead of coming from the point of view of the underdog, Isbell's song is a call to arms for the dominant forces to change themselves. "There's no such thing as someone else's war, your creature comforts aren't the only thing worth fighting for," he sings during the chorus. "Hope the High Road" is another politically charged anthem that uses a down-home, "git 'er done" attitude to inspire cultural change within the dominant culture, which, to a certain extent, preaches, but never feels condescending. This is not to say that Isbell has abandoned his cultural roots. With songs like album opener "Last of My Kind" he points to a changing environment that seems to ignore the values he grew up with, leaving him feeling like an old soul lost in a strange land. "Cumberland Gap" is the real rocker of the album with almost Brit-pop like guitars that pierce and bite throughout, and "Tupelo" is a contemporary take on familiar country ballads that at times brings to mind the pairing of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

The Singles (CD)

Can

Can — The Singles is an excellent overview for those new to the pioneering Krautrockers’ oeuvre as well as a killer collection of favorites for longtime fans. This is the first time the band’s singles have been compiled and released together; listening to the band’s evolution is a fascinating journey from more straightforward rock/funk/soul numbers to some of their deepest, weirdest cuts. You’ll find classic tracks “Vitamin C,” “Halleluwah,” and “I Want More” here, along with more obscure gems like “Turtles Have Short Legs,” a 1971 7” that never appeared on a studio LP, despite being a pretty rad little tune. Can — The Singles is a well-curated document of what made Can such an influential, enduring band.

Two Mics & The Truth: Unplugged & Unhinged In America (CD)

Violent Femmes

The Violent Femmes have been around long enough to get played on oldies radio, but their punk rhythms, sardonic lyrics, and new wave attitude makes them harder to pin down than most other bands from the '80s. Their latest album further adds to the band's mystique. Though they just co-headlined a tour with Echo and the Bunnymen,  2 Mics & The Truth is the opposite of a crowded venue with guitars amplified to ear popping levels. Instead, the album is an acoustic take on their catalog featuring live radio performances they did across the nation while promoting their tour. The acoustic versions of songs like "Blister in the Sun" and "Gone Daddy Gone" are more akin to a deconstruction than a cover. They play around with the song structure, using it as a guideline instead of holy musical scripture, and the result is playful and often silly, altering our expectations of the original songs and highlighting frontman Gordon Gano's skill as a writer. Even the instrumentation is playful, including guitars, bass, banjos, and a barbecue grill used as a drum set!  2 Mics & The Truth feels less like a nostalgia trip and more like a visit from an old friend who's gotten shaggier... and weirder.

City Music (CD)

Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby’s easygoing, dreamy new LP, City Music , is the perfect soundtrack for lonely urban nights. The songs are contemplative, wistful, and gentle in their exploration of the griefs and delights of city living. There’s a sense of solitude behind the tracks here, with Morby’s Dylan-esque vocals rising above his gentle melodies like a friend recounting a familiar tale. The former Woods bassist also puts his distinctive spin on a couple excellent covers: the Germs’ “Caught in My Eye” and Leonard Cohen’s “Downtown’s Lights.” An introspective, moody rainy day (or night) album.

A Walk With Love & Death (CD)

Melvins

The Melvins don't take it easy. And I'm not talking musically, though they definitely don't take it easy on that front. But they're not known for taking much time off. Between albums, side projects, EPs and other odds and ends, the Melvins are among the most prolific bands of the last 50 years. So it's almost a shock that their newest release is their first double-album - it's both an original studio album and a soundtrack for a new film. Split beautifully between love and death, their latest is pure psychedelic frenzy made for fans of the freaked out Japanese psych scene of the '90s and the angry noise rock of the '80s. If "What's Wrong With You?" was recorded with old mics and into quarter-inch magnetic tape, the song could've come right out of the bad vibes of 1969. It has the energy of MC5, but a post-modernist, ironic streak that's classic Melvins. The lyrics are bitter, but surprisingly funny and always far from mean-spirited. The heavy "Christ Hammer" thuds along in a way that's closer to their metal and grunge roots. The vocals chant with layers of distorted audio that sound like the voices are fortresses made of stone. It's heavy and poetically impenetrable, but the riff is catchy enough to cross over to normies unaccustomed to Melvins' level of experimentation. The show stopping solo toward the end might be the best part as the song catches on fire with distortion and feedback that would make Japanese rockers High Rise blush. A Walk With Love & Death sees Melvins at their most ambitious, and it works. It never feels like they stumble. Instead the deliver a real rock album in a sea of mediocre, soulless, and half-hearted efforts.

Binary (CD)

Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco's Binary marks her 20th studio release, and while the aesthetics and lyrical content point to a more self-assured and less angst-fueled artist, the album illustrates that DiFranco is just as thoughtful, passionate, and prolific as ever. With songs like "Alrighty" and "Play of God," DiFranco further explores patterns of patriarchy and systematic control in society, singing, "I feel I've earned my right to choose" and "You don't get to play God, I do." Songs like "Even More" evoke a more personal and playful side with its seemingly improvised melody and grinning lyrics of maturing love. DiFranco's current home of New Orleans certainly finds its way into the mixture of folk, Americana, and R&B, and features a small but very potent group of instrumental accompaniment. Take, for example, "Zizzing," which features eerie, distant screeching and plucked fiddle, ethereal vibraphone, and layered backing vocals, or "Sasquatch" where barroom piano, fuzzy bass, loose rhythm guitar, and some funkily sparse drums all seem to be playing a different song on top of each other while still locking into a cohesive statement. Title track, "Binary," features a funky, Wailers-esque, wah-wah-ed harpsichord groove and "Spider" is an unexpected, playfully dark rocker that features a satisfyingly chilling fiddle solo.

On The Echoing Green (CD)

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

On the Echoing Green finds Jefre Cantu-Ledesma exploring the realms of shoegaze, dream pop, and ambient music with the help of guest vocalists Honey Owens, Maxwell August Croy, and Sobrenadar. Slowdive and Cocteau Twins are readily apparent influences here, but the compositions are all very much the work of Cantu-Ledesma.The result is a shimmering, gorgeous, haunting LP that lingers in the mind long after the last note has sounded. Vivid, engaging, and lovely, this latest release comes highly recommended.

Plump: Chapters 1 & 2 (CD)

Twiddle

Vermont collective Twiddle are no strangers to the college jam band circuit, constantly touring campuses around the country since forming in 2004. However, in that time they have only put out a handful of official releases. Plump is their latest and most ambitious to date: a two part album, collecting 2015’s Chapter 1 and pairing it with Chapter 2 , released earlier this year. This is 21st century jam band music, where Phish riffs and the Grateful Dead songbook are no longer the simple algorithm that drives the endless boogie. Sure, there is the ever-present bluegrass and folk overtones to Twiddle’s sound, but there is also a very prominent reggae-funk aspect, along with some serious Dave Matthews and John Mayer influenced songwriting. Party on, bros.

Every Valley (CD)

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting’s Every Valley is a finely-polished collage album featuring clips from old newsreels and archival interviews layered atop atmospheric electronica, prog, and indie rock melodies. On this album, the band tells the story of the decline of the Welsh coal-mining industry, with the sampled voices of the miners describing the loss of their way of life, their work, and their community. The impact of the album is bolstered even further by a pair of excellent guest appearances; the Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield gives a bold, angry performance while Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell taps into a haunting sense of grief over a displaced lifestyle and all its memories and hopes. As the voices reach out from across distances of time and space, the effect is poignant, stirring, and timely.

Tomorrow Forever (CD)

Matthew Sweet

Sharing the name with a particularly unsettling Margaret Keane painting, Matthew Sweet’s distinctive brand of power pop is still just as wide eyed and potent as the stares of the doe-like waifs from those kitschy canvases. Culled from 38 songs recorded over the span of 3 years and whittled down to a final 17, Tomorrow Forever is Sweet’s first album since 2011, and originates with a 2014 Kickstarter campaign promising to bring songs with “strong clear delivery, energetic and heartfelt from rock to melancholy and back again.” What reads as a cover letter to join the songwriters guild translates into a record of sonic lushness; featuring a blend of muscular guitar work, wistful melodies, and pop savvy that hits all the sweet spots (sorry) with some strong ensemble playing courtesy of the cameo-laden backing band, which includes none other than Rod Argent of the Zombies providing keyboards. Guided By Voices, Big Star, and R.E.M. may be unaccounted for on that supporting cast list, but echoes of their sound can be felt here, distilled into a pure, Merseybeat worshipping brand of rock n roll and delivered with Sweet’s distinctive, yearning voice. The guy behind one of the best songs of the '90s proves that two decades later he is still full of life on a crowdfunded album of crowd pleasers.

Collectible 12" Vinyl


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Amoeblog


Amoeba San Francisco just acquired a collection of 100+ reel-to-reel tapes in good condition, a few of which are still sealed.