Album Picks: Cass McCombs, Tim Hecker, Crystal Antlers, Nobunny, Heavenly Beat

Posted by Billy Gil, October 15, 2013 10:37am | Post a Comment

Cass McCombs - Big Wheel and Others (CD; preorder the LP, due Nov. 5)

Cass McCombs' latest record is a confident double-length album that shows his growth over seven albums into one of the foremost singer/songwriters of our generation. Big Wheel takes its time to get going, moving gently from one track to another. As such, even with its hour-plus length, it's an easily approachable album with great variety within a pretty straightforward setup. "Big Wheel" is a bluesy rumination on manhood—"A man with a man, how more manly can you get? I may be five-foot-one, but you're all wet" he sings in a memorable couplet. He pairs lyrics of a sexual love affair in "Morning Star" ( "wring my neck under your thighs" he sings suggestively in the chorus) with gentle country-folk that sounds like the first thing you want to hear upon waking. Perhaps the biggest highlight is "Brighter!," a song included twice, the second time with the late Karen Black taking lead vocals for a sweet, sad farewell. Some of Big Wheel's tracks veer into dad-rock territory, but even then there's usually something more interesting than what meets the eye on deeper listens, like the insane horns that pop up in "Joe Murder" and "Satan Is My Toy" or how "Everything Has to Be Just-So" begins gently and breaks apart into avant-garde atmosphere. Big Wheel and Others needs a few spins to sink in, but once it does, the album reveals itself to be an indelible listen.

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Albums Out Today: Purity Ring, Jeremiah Jae, Heavenly Beat and More

Posted by Billy Gil, July 24, 2012 05:15pm | Post a Comment
Album Picks
Purity Ring ShrinesPurity Ring Shrines
To say Purity Ring’s debut record has been anticipated would be an understatement. Anything signed to the 4AD label generates drool from indie music fans, let alone bands who tease brilliantly formed singles with Cocteau Twins-ish poetic gibberish titles like “Belispeak” and a sound that calls to mind the skewed electro-pop of fellow recent 4AD signee Grimes and the menacing witch house sound of bands like Salem and Unison. Though a newish genre, witch house wants for personality, and it has gotten it in the form of Purity Ring, whose Megan James offers clear, girlishly breathy vocals over Corin Roddick’s paranormal beatwork. Even through murky sounds, the duo knows how to write songs that would sound great even out of context. James sings creepy, culty lyrics that like “Dust off my necklace, familiar…to the culminated piles of bones” in “Ungirthed” — their zombie apocalypse quality may seem over the top, but it gives the song its necessary character and are pretty fun, coolness be damned. Shrines reaches its peak on “Grandloves,” maybe the most convincing combination yet of house beats, hip-hop delivery, courtesy of Young Magic, and shoegaze sonics that help define the nebulous genre Purity Ring occupies. Every time Shrines seems to settle, its brilliant pacing picks it up, like the way “Belispeak’s” horror-movie pop beats cut through the din in the album’s final quarter. It’s a highly successful debut record that promises Purity Ring, and seemingly silly genres like witch house, are nothing to dismiss.
Jeremiah JaeJeremiah JaeRaw Money Raps
The latest protégé on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label unleashes an impressive debut of record of psychedelic lo-fi beats and rhymes. Jeremiah Jae’s spaced out delivery over a stuttering, skipping beat on “Guns Go Off” give lyrics like “all these things get lost in time” a scary acceptance more effective than any heavy-handedness would have. The more instrumental tracks call to mind the head-spinning brevity of Madvillain or Flying Lotus at his most hip-hop, while the catchier bits, like the irresistible posturing and druggy synths of “Money and Food,” are strong enough to appeal to fans of more mainstream (but likeminded) acts The-Dream, Drake and Frank Ocean. Raw Money Raps is indeed pretty raw, but it also holds together nicely over its 19 tracks, and points for big things to come from Jeremiah Jae. (Catch him LIVE at Amoeba Hollywood July 29 at 3 p.m.!)
Heavenly BeatHeavenly BeatTalent
Apparently Beach Fossils’ skeletal guitar-pop perfection extends to side projects, as well — first we got BF member Zachary Cole Smith’s dreamy Diiv record, now bassist John Peña releases divine guitar pop as Heavenly Beat. Peña’s soft jazz chords and lightly melancholic melodies feel like a perfect cocktail in the dead heat of summer. The “beat” part of Heavenly Beat comes in light electronic drums that feel like Balearic beats without the deep pulse, staying crisp and fizzy on “Messiah” in an otherwise cathedral-like song. The steel drums and female backup vocals of “Presence” up the laid-back, island feel, but the melodies are all Sarah Records-style British mope, with nods to Aztec Camera in its spindly acoustic riffs. Just listening to Talent feels like an exotic vacation in and of itself.
Also out today:
MicachuMicachu and the ShapesNever
The second album from Micachu & the Shapes is even more chaotic and messy than 2009’s Jewellry — and that’s a good thing. Whereas that album still concerned itself with being presentable once in a while, Never is truly unhinged. Even at their catchiest, on a trio of songs at the album’s core, “OK,” “Low Dogg” and “Holiday,” Micachu and her cohorts couch the hooks with electronic squelches, strange time signatures and breaks, bits of found sound and other madness. Still, “Holiday” will have you tapping to its weirdo beat.

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