Jan 2019

Five (CD)

The centerpiece of White Lies’ fifth album, the aptly titled Five, is the mini-epic “Time to Give,” a seven-minute long ode to marriage dysfunction. The song paces around patiently, utterly unhurried while frontman Harry McVeigh delivers lines such as “Sell the house but not the home” and “Kids grow up and they’ll pin the blame on you,” before our protagonist takes a hit of some really strong midlife crisis weed and ventures into a synthesizer fantasia. It’s one thing to costume yourself as a buttoned up, sharp-dressing ensemble in the vein of post-punk revivalists Editors or 21st century sophistipop group The National, it’s another thing entirely to actually live it. A decade into their career, White Lies have lived it. The band’s existential melancholy is draped in new-wave signifiers not because '80s music is fun, but because these are the kinds of lads whose formative nights were spent debauching in various dingy '80s nights and whose identities were shaped by the hungover memories. Five is the sound of realizing your youth is firmly behind you, and White Lies are quickly finding themselves to be the old guys at the club. Sure, the kids might not understand this one. Good thing the hooks are here for everybody.

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The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change (CD)

Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt seems to be bordering on the big time with her latest, The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change. Although not unfamiliar to UK audiences who took her sophomore LP to #21 on the charts, this latest LP should serve as an intriguing intro to American audiences. Nesbitt’s songwriting and performance prowess is on excellent display here, with tracks that are sometimes introspective and yearning, other times boldly defiant and confidently badass. Case in point: standout track “Loyal to Me.” This sugar sweet pop album with an edge will keep listeners coming back again and again.

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Stuffed & Ready (CD)

Cherry Glazerr’s excellent Stuffed & Ready showcases the LA trio’s evolution from their garage rock roots into an eclectic, accomplished group that navigates post-punk, dream pop, and power chord-heavy indie rock with ease. Lead single “Daddi” is a satirical, biting response to patriarchal culture set to a dark, moody post-punk melody. “Wasted Nun” is a variation on the theme played out over bouncy big riffs—you could party hard to it, if you weren’t listening too closely to the smart, defiant lyrics. (Hell, perhaps you could anyway, if it was that kind of party.) “Pieces” is hazy, dreamy, and lush. Early as it is in the year, Stuffed & Ready stands out as one of the best records of 2019 so far.

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Future Ruins (CD)

Shoegaze dreams can come true. On Future Ruins, Oxford, UK legends Swervedriver sound as mighty and magical as they did in their initial ‘90s incarnation, building a hypnotic, fuzzed out wall of sound right off the bat with opener “Mary Winter.” The intensity never lets down over the course of these excellent ten songs — and who would want it to? Swervedriver’s latest LP is a feast for the senses, a gloriously noisy serving of art rock that will tick all the right boxes for fans.

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Oliver Appropriate (CD)

In August 2018, Say Anything's Max Bemis wrote that the act was taking a hiatus, and that Oliver Appropriate would be it's last album for the time being to focus on life and other projects. Billed as a sequel to 2004's ...Is A Real Boy, Oliver Appropriate is a concept album revolving around the fictional title character finding unrequited love with another male character, death, and redemption. At just over thirty minutes, Appropriate is shorter than most Say Anything releases, but longtime fans will find enough familiar bursts of Bemis' pop-punk angst to tide them over until the next chapter of his musical career is offered.

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Why You So Crazy (CD)

Portland's own Dandy Warhols kick off their twenty fifth year of existence with their tenth full-length release, Why You So Crazy. The title may be a reference to the current state of the world at large, but it could also apply to the band's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to this latest batch of songs. Psych-pop first single? Check. Electro country-tinged Iggy Pop pastiche? Check. Goth piano and spaghetti western guitar dirge? Check. Things may be crazy outside, but inside the Dandy's Odditorium studio things are as satisfyingly eclectic as ever.

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Ingenue Redux: Live from The Majestic Theatre (BLU)

Fans of K.D. Lang's sumptuous voice can now enjoy the 25th anniversary concert for her widely acclaimed 1992 album, Ingenue, on Blu-ray. Filmed at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, TX, Lang performs mega-hits like “Constant Craving” and “Miss Chatelaine,” which was a step away from her previous country music stylings, into a new world of jazz and cabaret-influenced pop. The concert also includes an unreleased song entitled “Sleeping Alone” and Lang's cover of Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah,” as well as highlights from the rest of Lang's catalog.

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Outer Peace (CD)

Toro Y Moi’s Outer Peace is a lively, lushly-crafted sojourn into the smoother, more seductive side of main man Chaz Bundick. Guest artist Abra shines on the sultry, instantly addictive “Miss Me,” while Wet contributes to the chilled out, funkified atmosphere on “Monte Carlo.” Instupendo helps Bundick flex his pop production muscles on the languid, dreamy, (and auto-tuned) “50-50,” of one of Bundick’s favorite tracks on the LP. Outer Peace straddles the line between two worlds — indie electro (is chillwave still a thing?) and indie R&B — and the result is this perfectly harmonious marriage of sounds.

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Fool (CD)

One of the most musically literate of the New Wave songwriting sect, Joe Jackson slowly graduated from acerbic-yet-tuneful, Elvis Costello/Graham Parker-indebted spunk to the sophisti-pop and yuppie rock of his most successful period, with Night and Day and Body and Soul both acting as perfect soundtracks for all the Gordon Gekkos and Patrick Batemans of 1980s NYC. Fool, his first studio album in 4 years and 21st overall, splits the difference between his two best-known eras. A song like “Fabulously Absolute” strips off the soft edges Jackson is so often fond of and transports us back to late '70s England, evoking not only Look Sharp! but the hyperactivity of early XTC as well. On the other end of the spectrum lies “Strange Land,” a patient ballad that is as smooth as smooth can be. Drenched in jazz piano and atmospheric synths, it moves at a languid pace, propelled by Jackson’s powerful and unique singing voice. With a career spanning over 40 years, Jackson isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here; he’s comfortable in his own sound and knows where his strengths lie. Thankfully, Fool puts them all on full display.

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Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (CD)
Vocalist/composer Jeremy Dutcher's debut combines post-classical arrangements with samples from archived recordings of his Wolastoqiyik First Nation's first music, stored at the Canadian Museum of History. The results are both operatic and earthy, buoyed by strings, percussion, electronics, piano, and Dutcher's soaring tenor vocals. The opening track “Mehcinut” builds to a stunning climax and then slides into a peaceful conclusion with scratchy original vocal samples at the center. “Essuwonike” features pounding drums and a stirring rhythm, signaling early on that this is not sleepy New Age, but its own kind of unique baroque pop. Read more