This Month's Picks

Life Will See You Now (CD)

Jens Lekman
Jens Lekman’s witty way with detail won him fans the world over with albums like Night Falls Over Kortedala . But the long wait for his next album was rewarded with the so-so I Know What Love Isn’t in 2012. Now, after another five-year wait, Lekman returns with his best release in a decade. He still shares the same sardonic wit as before, on songs like “Our First Fight” (“Another discussion about some TV show that never ends/No I haven’t seen Season Three/God I wish that you would just look at me”). But his occasional sour mood is tempered by a vibrant travelogue of worldly sounds, and as a result, Life Will See You Now sounds like a nomadic diary, full of sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking tidbits. From a stately crisis of faith in the late ’90s (“To Know Your Mission”) to a Balearic beat-laden ode to fucking up a carnival (“Hotwire the Ferris Wheel”) to a folksy unrequited bromance (“How Can I Tell Him”), there’s no shortage of vivid scenery. And the music has never been more inviting, on the island-dance fun of “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?” and nu-disco of “How We Met, The Long Version.” Similarly to Belle & Sebastian in their later years, Jens Lekman has learned to let loose. The result is one of his best releases yet. More
Genre: Rock

I'm Only Dreaming (CD)

Eisley returns with I'm Only Dreaming , another polished heartfelt LP full of indie pop gems. Album standouts include "You Are Mine," a slow-burning, yearning ballad and "Defeatist," a sweetly vulnerable and very catchy radio-friendly track. Sherri Dupree-Bemis's dulcet vocals sound like honey, linger in the mind, and punch you in the gut -- make no mistake, the melodies here are lovely, but the emotions beneath the tracks have a quiet, intense power. This is an album brimming with passion, earnestness, and beauty. More
Genre: Rock

Drogas Light (CD)

Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco returns with the uniformly-strong Drogas Light , which features guest turns from Ty Dolla $ign, Rick Ross, and Big K.R.I.T. There are a few down-tempo, low-key party jams but the rapper is at his best when he comes out with guns blazin’ on standout tracks “Tranquillo” and “Made in the USA.” The production and instrumental tracks are silky smooth, innovative, and very easy on the ears — Lupe’s rhymes are solid, but these elements really kick the LP up a few extra levels. This is Lupe’s first independent release after parting ways with Atlantic; the level of creativity here is all the evidence fans need of the rapper’s newfound freedom. More
Genre: Hip Hop

The Temple Of I & I (CD)

Thievery Corporation
The long-reigning kings of globally-influenced downtempo electronica are back with The Temple of I & I , another clear step forward in their evolution. This time around, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton found inspiration in Jamaican rhythms and settings. (The album was recorded at the island’s famed Geejam Studios.) Standout tracks include the Mr. Lif-starrer “Ghetto Matrix” and “Letter to the Editor,” which features ultra fresh Kingston MC and singer Racquel Jones. Fans of intelligent, jet setting trip-hop vibes won’t want to sleep on this one. More

Friends (CD)

White Lies
Post-punkers from across the pond White Lies are back with an album that can only be described as elegantly catchy. Since forming in 2007, the band has successfully married the neo-new wave of bands like The Killers and Interpol with the more anthemic rock normally associated with American acts like Kings of Leon and Mumford & Sons. Having ridden the wave NME -fueled hype there and back again, the band now hones its sound even further, dishing out perfect sounding synths, quickly clipped guitars a la The Cars, and Harry McVeigh’s Ian Curtis-esque intonations. Though it may be well-trod territory, the band sticks it out by writing memorable tunes throughout. The album’s first three tracks could all easily be radio hits, while songs like “Is My Love Enough?” dig deeper as McVeigh admits “I overthink all my thinking” over a fluttering synth tapestry. Mostly, White Lies give you the kind of tracks you want to hear while poolside sipping a martini—or dreaming about being there, as songs like “Don’t Want to Feel It All” alternate between silky synth lines and lighter-waving moments that beg to be heard from festival speakers. With the band’s strongest set of songs yet, Friends should be the album that finally wins White Lies the U.S. fanbase it deserves. More
Genre: Rock

Remnants (CD)

LeAnn Rimes
Leann Rimes gets confessional on Remnants , a powerhouse hybrid of adult pop, lounge jazz, and torch songs. Lead singles “How to Kiss a Boy” and “The Story” (a Brandi Carlile cover) are slow burning, classic diva numbers with a brave vulnerability. The album’s sound is as big and bold as its themes — this is one smart, cohesive album. It’s clear from Remnants that the singer continues to evolve as a woman and as an artist. More
Genre: Rock, Country

Occult Architecture Vol. 1 (CD)

Moon Duo
Moon Duo returns with O ccult Architecture Vol. 1 , a gritty, psychedelic descent into the underworld. Inspired by the Chinese concept of yin and yang, dark and light energies, Vol. 1 is an exploration of the darkness — as alluring as it is dangerous on tracks like “Cold Fear” and “Creepin,’” a couple of the album’s highlights. The album dives headfirst into occult themes of magick and the supernatural, the perpetual spin of day into night, and hidden forces, both in our minds and in the larger world. This hypnotic, hazy album is the perfect soundtrack for those deep, dark winter nights before the earth’s axis tilts us all closer to spring. More
Genre: Rock

Snowdonia (CD)

Surfer Blood
Surfer Blood are back with the very strong Snowdonia . “Six Flags in F or G” is a potential ear worm with a slight tinge of melancholy, employing a Smiths-like relish with a veneer of surf rock rumble. The title track is a mellow, beach-y love song that instantly evokes the golden days of youth. Taken as a whole, the album is a pleasant throwback to ’60s sunshine pop and garage, plus a steady helping of ‘80s jangle pop and paisley underground thrown in the mix. This latest release is an immersive, enjoyable experience. More
Genre: Rock

Fresh Air (CD)

The last two years have seen artists like Ariel Pink and Julia Holter step away from their roots of making ultra low-fi albums, instead turning to more polished, carefully produced tracks. As these avant-pop weirdos of the highest degree move into new directions, Homeshake's Fresh Air fills the void that they left. Previously part of Mac DeMarco's band, Peter Sagar split to focus on his solo career as Homeshake. Crafting cartoon sounds, digital bare synth riffs, and R&B vocals, Fresh Air deviates from the indie rock vibe of his previous albums and goes into full funk deepness with riffs trying their best to sound like George Clinton jamming out on a children's Casio. Homeshake removes the corny stigma from "smooth" as his complex, artsy take on funk is taken into mellow depths that feel like a contact high upon first listen. "Khmlwugh" opens up with tinny, drum machine samples with synths that sound like they're being processed through a Commodore 64. When Sagar's vocals come in, his calm, cracking voice is almost antithetical to R&B virtuosity, but it works perfectly to create a psychedelic, computerized landscape. And as quickly as the song starts, it suddenly ends on a minute long drone that sounds more like Terry Riley than Parliament. "Call Me Up" gets as close to the private press, electronic weirdos of the '80s than anything else on the album. The instantly catchy melody is perfectly suited to the raw, unprofessional audio quality and creates a hypnotic jam that feels like a stoned, late-night drive. It's strangely sexy and romantic, but almost too crazy to be a mood setter. Homeshake is the perfect continuation of the future-looking, groundbreaking electronic artists who created unique worlds and sounds with the bare minimum equipment. Spacey and crazy. More
Genre: Rock

Jardin (CD)

Gabriel Garzón-Montano
Many music fans know the name Gabriel Garzón-Montano because Drake sampled his early track “6 8” on “The Jungle,” but the Brooklyn-born French Colombian singer proves his own power on Jardin . Put out by Stones Throw, the album is lush and vibrant, with a bit of ‘70s haze and urban funk to round things out. It’s no wonder that labelmate Mayer Hawthorne is a fan; both artists traffic in the vivid musical traditions of the past while still managing to sound fresh and intriguing. The music on this debut effort is multi-layered and exquisite; put your headphones on, turn it up, and let yourself be transported. More
Genre: Soul