This Month's Picks

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. More
Genre: Experimental

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. More
Genre: Rock

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. More

Weather Diaries (CD)

Ride
Weather Diaries is Ride’s first new album since 1996 and fortunately it’s worth the wait. Produced by Erol Alkan, the band sounds as intriguing and tripped out as ever; this fresh batch of songs shows them moving forward as a band but still retaining many of the elements that made them a hallmark of shoegaze. Lead single “Charm Assault” is surprisingly catchy, fusing Britpop with Paisley Underground and Ride’s signature blissed out vocals and hazy melodies. The title track is melancholy and grand with a swelling, lush contemporary shoegaze vibe. There’s definitely a nostalgia inherent in these new tracks, but Ride isn’t coasting on their reputation. Weather Diaries is like coming home. More
Genre: Rock

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. More
Genre: Rock

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. More
Genre: Rock

The Click (CD)

AJR
The three brothers that comprise AJR make bubblegum pop that they write, record, and produce in their living room. Not that you would know from hearing it, as the songs on The Click are impeccably crafted radio-worthy nuggets, full of clever sonic tinkering, EDM-flourishes, and everything that you have come to expect on a big budget pop record. Every tune jumps from hook to hook, with a sound that deftly combines disparate elements, seamlessly blending dubstep-influenced bass breaks with soaring, falsetto choruses; Mumford & Sons styled tenderness contrasted with the immediacy of The Chainsmokers. A DIY, pop blockbuster if there ever was such a thing from boys who have clearly done their homework. More
Genre: Rock

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. More
Genre: Rock

Sugar At The Gate (CD)

TOPS
Sugar At The Gate is a remarkable, upbeat indie pop record from a band that just keeps getting better and better. TOPS blend ‘80s style soft rock pop with modern indie, creating a swooning atmosphere that feels cozy yet entirely unique. The album is jam-packed with catchy hooks, smart songwriting, and tangible emotion. This dreamy collection of songs sounds like being in love; fans of smart lyrics and wistful harmonies will fall hard. More
Genre: Rock

Somersault (CD)

Beach Fossils
With every new record, it seems Beach Fossils have been continually evolving their indie/post-punk sound. Somersault , their latest, shows a band working at its fullest potential. The songs are lush and dreamy, thoughtful and warm. This is not the same band who was making angular, propulsive post-punk just a few years back — instead there’s a hazy, modern New Romantic meets shoegaze vibe, which gives the album a deeper, more emotional allure. This album is pure romantic pleasure. More
Genre: Rock