Apr 2022

Zeit (CD)

Like many bands, Rammstein have their pandemic album. Of course, being Rammstein, Zeit goes much harder, much heavier. After the band’s busy touring schedule was grounded by COVID-19, they hit the studio, finding artistic inspiration in the grave circumstances surrounding the recording sessions. It’s a typically intense listening experience, with punishing riffs, foreboding vocals, and lyrics that upend your expectations at every turn—here you’ll find the band delighting in crassness, while just around the corner they’re delving into even more delicate topics, namely despair, death, and emotion. Rammstein has always been a band that takes pleasure in provocation and with these sometimes nuanced lyrical excursions, they’re certainly headed off in uncharted directions. And it works. Forceful, fiery, and perfect for the times we’re living in.

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Emotional Eternal (CD)

Melody's Echo Chamber takes their time crafting each element and that care and inspiration are felt on their latest, Emotional Eternal. Having moved from cosmopolitan Paris to the majestic Alps, Melody Prochet builds on her band’s ethereal, throwback sound by incorporating elements of haunting psychedelia, English folk, and swirling guitar. Although there are many standout tracks, this is an album with a capital “A,” meant to be listened to in its entirety, all the better so it can cast its heady spell. Hazy and vaguely melancholic, Emotional Eternal feels like a pastoral daydream.

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Two Ribbons (CD)

As you may have guessed from their distinctive name, Let’s Eat Grandma isn’t afraid to take chances. On their album Two Ribbons, longtime best friends Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton push indie pop into experimental, exciting, affecting new dimensions. The duo creates dreamy washes of synth-powered sound with danceable beats and moments of intensity and intimacy. The vocals are astounding; paired together, Hollingworth and Walton’s voices intermingle effectively, and when on their own possess a piercing, unforgettable quality. This should be the year of Let’s Eat Grandma—don’t sleep on this one!

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Profound Mysteries (CD)

Royksopp’s new release, Profound Mysteries, is more than just an album; it’s a whole multi-pronged conceptual project. The universe of Mysteries includes films and visualizers described as “artifacts”—if it all seems very intellectual and gallery chic, you’ll be glad to learn that the music doesn’t require a PhD in art criticism to enjoy, just a beating heart and an appreciation for soaring electronica. Standout tracks include the Alison Goldfrapp-voiced “Impossible” and the disco-tinged “Breathe” featuring Astrid S. There’s no filler on this collection; all the songs create their own mini world that blends elegantly into the album as a whole. These are Mysteries you’ll want to explore.

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RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART (CD)

Vince Staples' Ramona Park Broke My Heart is one of the most solid, moving hip-hop albums you're likely to hear this year. It's definitely one of Staples' most introspective and intense. Even the tracks that initially feel like Friday night party bangers have a bittersweet undercurrent for a young life lived on the tightrope between good times and despair. This is a serious, no holds barred chronicle of Staples' experiences in a neighborhood marked by gangs, violence, and poverty; the artist has spoken out about the way others produce and consume street life narratives with a relish for "trauma porn." That's not what Ramona Park is about. This excellent album shows a young man grappling with the ways in which one's past is always present. That he chooses to share that process with us is a gift for fans of intelligent, affecting hip-hop.

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Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 (CD)

Johnny Marr is a legend for a reason, and Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 is another winner. The double album was crafted during the UK’s first lockdown; it’s easy to feel Marr’s sense of urgency, to relate to the album’s interior explorations. An evolution in sound for one of modern music’s greatest guitarists, Fever Dreams& is multi-dimensional, tightly-crafted, and propelled by his own singular power as a performer. Crank this one up and get carried away by the force of Marr’s vision.

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Neon Blue (CD)

Joshua Hedley has an unexpected ace of a country release on his latest, Neon Blue. Why unexpected? Because '90s-style radio-friendly country may not be what most aficionados of the genre consider as its heart and soul...but that's exactly where Hedley finds his inspiration. And boy, is it a treat. The twang is pure backwoods harmony, the fiddle is bittersweet and soaring, the guitar rollicking and ready for anything. The songs are upbeat and ultra catchy, with that unmistakeable country ethos that sometimes feels like it has been swallowed up by the genre's mainstream flirtations with pop songwriting conventions. Neon Blue is solid through and through. If you fell in love with country back in the radio days, this album just might reignite your love affair.

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Everything Was Beautiful (CD)

Everything Was Beautiful is an appropriate name for the latest LP from Spiritualized. It's an exquisite album that nods to the past while celebrating the ephemeral beauty of today. The songs are both grounded and otherworldly; their sweeping structures seem to touch on the sacred while staying firmly tethered to earth, in all its disasters and delights. Opener "Always Together with You" is a prime example. Released in an earlier iteration as "Always Forgetting with You (The Bridge Song)" back in 2014, the track finds new life, meaning, and loveliness in this updated version. Everything Was Beautiful is at once epic and intimate, bittersweet and joyous.

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Skinty Fia (CD)

The Fontaines D.C. look poised to take over the world with their top-notch latest, Skinty Fia. The Irish post-punks have created a cohesive, eclectic collection of songs that blends irresistible melodies with acerbic, effective lyrics. The band keeps thing interesting by constantly experimenting with genre conventions, from the bittersweet, percussive "Jackie Down the Line," to the dub-driven title track, to the desperate, haunting "I Love You." Addictive and intriguing, Skinty Fia possesses a powerful, beating dark heart with melodies so catchy you'll be thrilled to dive deeper into the gloom.

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Paint This Town (CD)

Old Crow Medicine Show's Paint This Town celebrates the panoply of rootsy American genres, colorful history, and backwoods weirdness. The title track starts with rousing fiddle and southern-fried harmonies, setting the stage for the journey listeners are about to take. Over the course of the album, OCMS traverses the thin line between the simple joys and all-American optimism of country life and the darker undercurrents of our history as well as our present. It's a rollicking good time, filled to the rim with heart, soul, and passion. An atmospheric, ebullient must-hear.

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