Mar 2019

Miss Universe (CD)

Nilüfer Yanya’s star is rising quickly, if Miss Universe is any indication. The London-based singer’s debut LP is an out-of-this-world collection of songs inspired by the music of Angel Olsen and Kelis and lit world essentials like Brave New World and Edgar Allan Poe. Sounds weird? Listen to the album and you’ll understand that it sounds divine. Yanya incorporates jazz, electro, and the new school of glistening, minimalist R&B into a loose concept album structured around the idea of a dystopian self-care program called WWAY Health that’s fresh, innovative, and exceptional.

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Dead Man [OST] (CD)

When Neil Young improvised the score to Jim Jarmusch's hallucinatory, revisionist-western did he know it would become the revered cult classic it is now? One can hardly bring up the '90s indie film without mentioning its introspective, sparse, sometimes violent guitar and lonely organ rumblings, which create textures both tense and serene. Finally, after over twenty years, Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack is being reissued on vinyl and CD. Though the score is purely instrumental, interspersed throughout the record are short bits of dialogue from the film's stars, Johnny Depp and Gary Farmer. Let yourself drift off with this moody, pure, one of a kind recording, and keep your ears open for a cameo of Iggy Pop's scene from the film.

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Lux Prima (CD)

As the Joni Mitchell song says, “You don't know what you've got til it’s gone.” Fans of both Karen O and Danger Mouse will certainly appreciate that sentiment as it has been five years since either artist released an album. Fortunately, the superstar duo has come rip-roaring back into the musical galaxy with their first collaborative LP, Lux Prima. It’s a heady, cinematic, celestial piece of work. Heavy on atmosphere and flush with style, this is the kind of album that’s instantly addictive. Lux Prima is a world fans will want to dwell in for years to come — but we can only hope there’s more in the works from this talented team.

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Bahir (LP)

Dexter Story is a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer, arranger and ethnomusicologist. Don’t let the eclectic rank and title fool you, as Bahir doesn’t require you to have paid attention to that Intro to World Music elective in college you slept through to appreciate its deeply catchy polyrhythmic grooves. Featuring a wealth of guest singers, Bahir is a celebration of multicultural pop music, incorporating elements from the mainstream sphere alongside contemporary sounds from East Africa. Songs like “Gold” build off of a soulful blues/funk base, the kind you might find on a Leon Bridges or Sharon Jones tune, and then adds elements such as Sudan Archives’ modal violin playing to give it an unconventionally rich texture. “Shuruba Song” features renowned Ethiopian singer Hamelmal Abate lending an otherworldly vocal melody, while other tracks on the record opt to have the instrumentation do all the talking. For someone as musically well-versed as Dexter Story, there’s quite a lot to say.

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There Will Be No Intermission (CD)

The sheer ambition that imbues all 78 minutes of There Will Be No Intermission, Amanda Palmer’s third solo album since leaving dark cabaret/weirdo pop duo Dresden Dolls, makes the overt theatricality and self-described “Brechtian punk” stylings that defined all her previous career works seem almost quaint in comparison. A statement album if there ever was one, this particular statement entails, among other things, having ukulele-led ballads side by side with 10-minute long vaudeville piano vamps, all full of strikingly personal, stream-of-thought lyrics and buttressed by orchestral mini-movements composed by collaborator Jherek Bischoff. The most straightforward pop moment to be found here (and that’s a very liberal use of “straightforward”) might be “Drowning in the Sound,” which nails the oddly-specific aesthetic of mid-2000s Vegas pop rock, sounding like a direct conduit between The Killers and Panic! At The Disco.

 

What is remarkable about Intermission is that out of all its stylistic idiosyncrasies, the production might be the most striking thing here. Songs jump from an intimate, quiet mix to lavish arrangements draped in booming reverb at a moment’s notice, accentuating the high drama of the emotional peaks and valleys that these often epic songs traverse. On an album that dwells on moments small and individual, it conveys them through absolute maximalism. For a seasoned performer like Amanda Palmer, consider her playing to rafters.

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Still On My Mind (CD)

Dido’s Still on My Mind is a slow burn. After a five year hiatus, Dido returns with a moody, haunting collection of ballads that seamlessly blends her interest in synth beats and trip-hop vibes with her signature folk-inflected downtempo vocals. (The album was created in close collaboration with her longtime production / songwriting partner Rollo, also known as half of the hard-hitting English electronica duo Faithless.) The result is truly a force of nature, a quiet storm roiling beneath the serene surface.

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Dusty Notes (CD)

The Meat Puppets have created a lively, backwoods hootenanny on Dusty Notes, their first studio LP in six years. The band's signature hybrid of country/punk/folk is enlivened by the addition of organ, banjo, and harpsichord, and bolstered by the welcome return of original drummer Derrick Bostrom. One of the band's more mellow releases, Dusty Notes is big on atmosphere and strong (obviously) on songwriting, while steering clear of some of their rougher, rowdier elements. This is solid American cowpunk craftsmanship at its finest; one listen to this evocative collection of songs should serve as evidence as to why people are still as mad about Meat Puppets' second act as they were during their early '80s/'90s output.

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Young Beauties & Fools (CD)

Young Beauties and Fools is the instantly-likable sophomore LP from Canadian sibling duo Glorious Sons (aka Brett and Jay Emmons.) Melding Jack White’s rock ’n’ roll grit with sing-a-long Mumford & Sons style folk, the album manages to sound heartfelt and earnest while still providing a rollickin’, boot-stompin’ good time. It’s a thoughtful, eclectic collection of songs, ranging from introspective, intimate ballads and raucous ragers. Sure to win over fans of Americana-tinged rock with catchy hooks and stadium-ready choruses.

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Get It Out (CD)

Anthrax's Frank Bello and Megadeth's David Ellefson team up to deliver melodic hard rock with big riffs and infectious choruses on Get It Out, their debut full-length as Altitudes & Attitude. Diverging from their respective musical roots, Altitudes & Attitudes scratches that riff-heavy, edgy early Foo Fighters itch without losing a moment of urgency or danger. The duo have enlisted an impressive amount of rock heavy-hitters for the LP, with contributions from some of the biggest guitarists in the game, including Ace Frehley (KISS), Gus G (Ozzy Osbourne, Firewind), Jon Donais (Anthrax), Russ Parrish (Steel Panther), Christian Martucci (Stone Sour), and Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper). Produced by Jay Ruston (Stone Sour, Anthrax), Get It Out is pure rock ’n’ roll that ticks all the right boxes.

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