This Month's Picks

III (CD)

BANKS
Jillian Banks continues her obfuscation of R&B with III , which is, all things considered, easily her most out-there production yet. That might be a striking description for an album that would release the crowd pleasing, tried-and-true gospel satisfaction of “Look What You’re Doing To Me” as a single. Sure, Banks’ work is not as uncanny valley pop as others who tread in similar territory (whether that be serpentwithfeet or Jessy Lanza), but nevertheless she prefers to coat sunny and unabashedly accessible songwriting in surreal sonic manipulations which leave plenty of lingering abstract angles to revisit. There’s her inscrutable voice, for one, frequently electronically treated and digitally distorted to a degree that would make Jai Paul proud. Those classic Daft Punk songs where you can’t tell whether it’s a guitar, synth, or some weird vocoder hitting that sweet spot? Shades of that are all over a bold production that isn’t afraid to play with timbre and texture mid-song. More
Genre: Rock

Echo In The Canyon [OST] (CD)

Various Artists
The new documentary on the 1960s Laurel Canyon music scene is accompanied by a soundtrack of classic songs covered by Neil Young, Josh Homme, Beck, Fiona Apple and more—each of them assisted by Jakob Dylan. Dylan's vocals mesh especially well with Apple and Norah Jones, on The Beach Boys' “In My Room” and The Association's “Never My Love,” respectively. Jade Castrinos from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros lends her soaring voice successfully to The Mamas And The Papas' “Go Where You Wanna Go” and Josh Homme sounds strong on The Monkees' catchy “She.” These are enjoyable new versions all around.More
Genre: Soundtracks

Work (CD)

Holy Ghost!
New York synthpop duo Holy Ghost! have released Work , their first full-length album in six years and the first new record to be released by the legendary disco label West End Records in 30+ years! It’s a pairing that makes perfect sense: Work is a lushly-produced modern take on disco-funk filled with infectious melodies and easy NYC cool. Clocking in at forty-nine minutes, this long-awaited LP keeps the hits coming with song after song of joyous, intricately-constructed synthpop. Along for the ride are Juan Maclean, Nancy Whang, Sinkane, Rob Moose (Arcade Fire, Interpol, David Bowie), and Alex Epton (Neon Indian, David Byrne, Gang Gang Dance). More

A Bath Full Of Ecstasy (CD)

Hot Chip
Hot Chip’s A Bath Full of Ecstasy is a warm, danceable slice of electropop with a heartfelt undercurrent of "togetherness and solidarity.” (That’s according to co-founder Joe Goddard and yes, that much-needed positivity is the thread that draws this wonderfully hands-in-the-air album together.) The new LP marks the first time the band has worked with outside producers; they recruited the talents of Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Sampha) and Philippe Zdar (Phoenix, Beastie Boys, Cassius) who bring new insight and life to Hot Chip’s addictive blend of euphoria-lite. As always, there’s a bit of melancholy just beneath the surface of Hot Chip’s tunes — in a way, A Bath Full of Ecstasy serves as the perfect mirror for our troubled yet hopeful times. More

Injury Reserve (CD)

Injury Reserve
Arizona indie rap trio Injury Reserve pushes the boundaries of hip-hop on their innovative, excellent self-titled full-length. Starting off in Phoenix, a city without much of a rap scene, the band got their start playing basement punk shows and there’s definitely a correlation in terms of ethos and aesthetic. Throw some jazz-funk melodies in the mix, get weird on some experimental moments, and slip in a few fleeting moments of Top 40 production and you’ve got the recipe for Injury Reserve . Ambitious and exciting, this fantastic album promises big things for the trio. More
Genre: Hip Hop

III (CD)

Bad Books
It has been awhile since we heard from the ever-surprising Bad Books. Seven years, in fact, but woo boy is III worth the wait. While recording these lightly psychedelic lo-fi ballads the band focused on their in-studio mantra of “Simon and Garfunkel in space,” which is a pretty good touchpoint — just multiply the trippy, lo-fi factor several times what said description would call to mind and you’ll have a decent concept of what this album sounds like. Top-notch songwriting and storytelling combine with cosmic vibes and minimalist melodies to create a truly compelling album that’s worth a careful listen. More
Genre: Rock

Black Pumas (CD)

Black Pumas
Austin, Texas soulsters Black Pumas serve up luscious, psychedelic soul on their intriguing self-titled debut album. The band features the enviable talents of Grammy-winning guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout) and songwriter Eric Burton, who met Quesada in Austin after starting out in LA and busking his way across the country. Together, the two serve up fresh, urgent, ultra vibrant tunes that have been described as “Ghostface Killah and Motown in equal measure.” It’s a pretty apt summation of where Black Pumas draw inspiration from but their sound is 100% all their own. Few records this year sound as vital and important as this one. Crank it. More
Genre: Rock

Rise [Deluxe Edition] (CD)

Hollywood Vampires
Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Johnny Depp serve up their second album as the Hollywood Vampires, this time with mostly original songs. Cooper is at the helm for the most part and tracks like the opening stomper, “I Want My Now,” bear his obvious stamp. Perry lends heartfelt lead vocals to the Johnny Thunders song, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory,” and Depp impresses as the frontman for Bowie's “Heroes” and Jim Carroll's “People Who Died.” The single, “Who's Laughing Now,” is a fun, dark rocker with a chanting chorus and freewheeling guitar solos in the bridge, while “We Gotta Rise” is a bawdy drinking song mocking political rhetoric. More
Genre: Rock

Help Us Stranger (CD)

The Raconteurs
Finally back after a decade long hiatus, The Raconteurs are ready to roll with their third studio release, Help Us Stranger . The band's heady mix of rock and blues continues to flourish, this time with a touch of psychedelia (à la the Beatles-esque bridge in single "Sunday Driver") and a fuzzy cover of Donovan b-side "Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)" that nicely displays drummer Patrick Keeler's chops. Jack White and Brendan Benson's singing and songwriting skills continue to bounce off each other nicely, and with a set of tunes this strong it's obvious why Stranger is one of the more anticipated releases of the year. Welcome back, fellas. More
Genre: Rock

Turn Off The News (Build A Garden) (CD)

Lukas Nelson, Promise Of The Real
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have a message on their latest, Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) . The likable title track implores listeners to do just that. Give people something to believe in. Endow your way of life with hope. It’s a standout moment on an album filled with top-notch tracks, with high-profile collaborators like Kesha, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, and Lukas’ father, Willie. The younger Nelson has created a strong showcase for his songwriting chops, with songs that effortlessly segue from country to folk to rock to soul. Impassioned and brilliant, there’s lots to love about this album. More
Genre: Rock