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Mill Valley Film Festival October 5-15

Join us for two music documentaries, “On The Sly: In Search of the Family Stone” and “Third Mind Blues,” screening during the 40th annual Mill Valley... View

Litquake Literary Festival in San Francisco October 6-14

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Music We Like

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Music Complete (LP)

New Order

Against all odds, new-wave greats New Order have returned for a 10th studio album that lives up to the band’s formidable past. From the first notes of shimmering first single “Restless,” it’s clear we’re dealing with the classic New Order sound, as the band returns to the more electronic (and current, frankly) sound of their late-’80s and early-’90s work. The way “Singularity” builds from moody Joy Division-esque post-punk into danceable hi-NRG synths will have fans thanking the heavens for the return of original keyboardist Gillian Gilbert. “Plastic” introduces some retro house synths (but at this point, what is retro anyway, as this sound still gets floated around everywhere) and adds some gleefully silly lyrics (“It’s official, you’re fantastic” goes the refrain). “Tutti Frutti’s” glittering synths combine nicely with Bernard Sumner’s weary vocals in a style reminiscent of one of their greatest hits, “True Faith.” The track’s killer disco bassline more than proves Tom Chapman’s mettle (in the absence of original bassist Peter Hook), which continues into the housey “People on the High Line.” A few guest appearances add to the proceedings—Iggy Pop delivers a Tom Waits-ish spoken word over the coldwave beat of “Stray Dog,” and La Roux’s Elly Jackson adds vibrant backup vocals to several tracks. By focusing on consistency, the band doesn’t come off like it’s trying too hard on Music Complete . Instead, the album exists perfectly within the band’s legendary catalog.

Play Dead (CD)

Mutemath

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.

Every Country's Sun (CD)

Mogwai

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.

Greatest Hits Live (CD)

Steve Winwood

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.

Dedicated To Bobby Jameson (CD)

Ariel Pink

Ariel Pink has been recording music since the late '90s, finding cult success when his early, lo-fi homemade albums were issued on Animal Collective’s burgeoning Paw Tracks label. These early releases presented a warped sonic palette that became Ariel’s trademark, including beat-boxed drum sounds, primitive synths galore, and an undeniable pop genius that incorporated the chintziest aspects of '60s, '70s, and '80s throwaway music into a unique sound unlike any other. In 2010, he released his breakout record, Before Today , which featured an upgrade to a full band and proper recording budget, and subsequently became a critical darling as well as polarizing persona in the greater indie world. These past seven years have found Ariel having achieved some of the fame and validation he thought he always wanted, and he dedicates his latest record in title to someone who spent most of his life chasing after the same thing. Bobby Jameson was a little known '60s folky singer-songwriter dubbed “Mayor of the Sunset Strip” for his perpetual participation in the curfew riots, who briefly brushed with fame before falling victim to bad management, drug addiction, and homelessness.   Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is, in many ways, a throwback to Ariel’s earlier days: it's his first album to be largely self-recorded since the 2000s and carries with it many of the musical idiosyncrasies that had been (only somewhat) polished over on his past three records for 4AD. The title track, in particular, is classic Pink, featuring an overload of synth-strings and crammed with pop hooks that sound like they’ve been left out in the sun too long. Along with the dark bedroom funk of “Death Patrol,”it could easily fit onto early masterpieces such as House Arrest or The Doldrums . Elsewhere, “Feels Like Heaven” pays homage to Ariel’s self-professed favorite band The Cure, with a winking title and stargazing chorus. Other tributes come in the way of “Bubblegum Dreams,” which quotes the Vaselines on a song as buoyant and catchy as its name would suggest, or the ambient goth trash of “Time To Live,” which gloriously steals the melody from “Video Killed The Radio Song” on a song about living…or dying. It’s all the same, dude. “Santa’s In The Closet” affects a vocal style that lands somewhere between Paul Roland and Rozz Williams over lyrics that are more literal than you might think. At the album’s finale, Ariel tackles two of the few genres that have mostly eluded his omnivorous tendencies: folk-pop and quiet storm on “Do Yourself A Favor” and “Acting,” respectively, the latter featuring a collaboration with fellow Angeleno music wizard Dam Funk. These brilliant songs all loosely fit behind the legacy of a man who constantly sought the recognition he deserved, delivered from the vantage of another who reached it and thought “now what?” Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is the correct answer.

Electric Trim (CD)

Lee Ranaldo

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.

Silver Eye (LP)

Goldfrapp

Goldfrapp’s Silver Eye is a refreshing return to the icy cool, ‘80s inspired synth pop sound the duo perfected on Supernature and Black Cherry . The record is cinematic, glamorous, and darkly romantic — in short, it’s everything you want a Goldfrapp record to be. “Anymore” is a propulsive paean to love and lust, “Systemagic” fits right into the currently ultra cool industrial scene, and “Ocean” is a sweeping, introspective, and haunting closer. Listeners will want to get lost in this moody disco dream.

Okovi (CD)

Zola Jesus

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.

Jei Beibi (CD)

Café Tacuba

As Cafe Tacvba approaches their 30th year as one of Mexico's greatest rock bands, they've used the dower post-election mood to do some introspection and reevaluation. Though their early albums embody the liveliness and freedom of the rock en español craze that also gave us groups like Caifanes and Enanitos Verdes, they've gotten more introspective and more mature as time has gone by. Jei Beibi , a delicious pun that sounds like "Hey baby" with a Spanish accent, still contains a mixture of Mexican folk music, melodies influenced by The Beatles, and enough of a sense of humor that shows they haven't gone too far out, while still balancing it all with lyrics that feel a little more thought out than usual. The album opener, "1, 2, 3," is misleadingly joyous with a rad '80s synth riff and a melody right out of the new wave. Even the lyrical content is lighter than the rest of the album with classic (and borderline ironic) lyrics about unrequited love, sugarcoating the song into a jubilant pop ballad until you notice the oblique references to real mass murder and corruption in Mexico. "Futuro" embodies the vibe of the album with a beat that bludgeons you with wonky synths, heavy percussion, and cartoonish vocals packed into a song that treads somewhere between a funeral procession and dancing to cumbia after drinking a 12-pack. Unlike the opener, the lyrics here examine a laissez-faire attitude about the pointlessness of life and death that is completely disorienting when mixed with the psychedelic rhythm of the song. Three-decades in, Cafe Tacvba makes their American counterparts sound like milquetoast acts rehashing the same gimmick for decades. This is adventurous rock that plays with form and isn't afraid to take risks, but still manages to be completely listenable. Forget it being the best Latin album of the year, it might just be one of the best rock albums this year.

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.

Good Time [OST] (CD)

Oneohtrix Point Never

Oneohtrix Point Never (aka Daniel Lopatin) won the Best Soundtrack Award at Cannes for his work on the Safdie brothers film Good Time . The score is moody, minimalist, and meant to be savored. Its highlight is “The Pure and the Damned,” a surprisingly gentle, mournful piano track featuring Iggy Pop. Don’t just relegate this one to the “soundtrack” section; more than just background music, it’s a contemplative, sensitive slice of atmosphere that deserves your full attention.

Mountain Moves (CD)

Deerhoof

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.

Collectible Vinyl


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Amoeblog


Two long out-of-print albums by legendary industrial band Skinny Puppy​ are getting reissued on 150-gram vinyl October 13th.