Feb 2021

Amperland, NY (CD)

Pinegrove's new album features reimagined versions of tracks from over the band's career -- a treat to their longtime fans. It's also the soundtrack to a film by the band about their home in upstate New York, affectionately dubbed Amperland. The 20+ tracklist is a deep dive into the band's wistfully angsty sound, expressed through indie rock and emo guitar, with alt-country banjos and pedal steel. There are swelling melodies and strong dynamics to spare, drenched in a dreamy atmosphere. Opening track "Moment" encapsulates the overall feel for new fans -- shimmering, propulsive and dramatic.

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Believer (CD)

Norwegian electronic duo Smerz follow up two EPs with their full-length debut Believer. The album is eclectic and absorbing, centered around their soft, intense vocals. There are some style similarities to The Knife and Fever Ray, the latter especially in the murky, repetitive title track. Songs like "The favourite" are unexpectedly elegant and orchestral, while "I don't talk about that much" is swirling and intricate techno. The instrumental closing track, "Hva hvis" feels like one long, haunting exhalation, from somewhere out in the elements.

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The American Negro (CD)

Producer Adrian Younge has released a timely multimedia project consisting of a short film, podcast and the album The American Negro. The latter is ambitious and fiercely intelligent, pairing intense spoken word with chorused vocals to address racism in America. Younge performed all the instruments and vocals himself, except for the orchestra/chorus, and the music is exuberant soul and jazz with a vintage flair. Both "Revolutionize" and the title track feature syncopated, mesmerizing beats with solid bass grooves and soaring strings and voices.

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As The Love Continues (CD)

Mogwai's tenth studio album, As The Love Continues, is a special one because it marks the 25th anniversary of their first single. The album offers familiar elements mixed with the band's newer, more concise song structure, along with a welcome positive vibe. "To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth" is as epic as its title suggests, melding piano, guitar and electronics with bittersweet joy. "Dry Fantasy" spools out its layers with a warm, interesting melody while "Ritchie Sacramento" is a shoegazey rocker with a wistful vocal and soaring chorus. After all this time, the band continues to create intriguing music and earn new fans.

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Lost Themes III: Alive After Death (CD)

Created with his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies, John Carpenter's Lost Themes III: Alive After Death is his first album of non-soundtrack music in nearly five years. The 2016 release of Lost Themes II was a comeback for the beloved director/composer, but since then he scored the acclaimed 2018 version of Halloween and has continued to delight music lovers and movie fans with his creepy, ominous, synth-heavy creations à la "Alive After Death." But these tracks conjure dramatic movie scenes as well as that kind of sinister crawl: "Weeping Ghost," for example, has an exciting forward motion to it and "Skeleton" is pulsing and dynamic.

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