May 2022

Always (CD)

On so many levels, The Frightnrs’ Always is a triumph. Steeped in that ebullient Daptones cool, the album is the realization of the late singer Dan Klein’s wish that the band continue making music even after his passing. The Frightnrs, along with producer Victor Axelrod, crafted a new collection of retro rocksteady masterpieces, using Dan’s vocal stems from earlier recording sessions to create these jubilant, vividly realized tracks. The compositions feel like technicolor washes of sound…like the greatest neighborhood block party in the world on the hottest night of the summer…like the joy and beauty of friends making music together. A must hear for fans of retro reggae and soul.

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Straight From The Heart (CD)

If you want swampy, celebratory, down south blues, Kenny Neal’s Straight From the Heart is the answer. The Grammy-nominated Louisiana bluesman Kenny Neal stirs up his own distinctive stew of blues, jazz, and zydeco that feels hot as a late summer evening in Baton Rouge. There are no watered-down, chain BBQ restaurant blues here—Neal’s songs are gritty, authentic, and jubilant. Kenny Neal is the real deal and Straight From the Heart really does seem like an expression of love for the genre, the land, and the people who keep evolving the blues.

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Pursuit Of Ends (CD)

Genre-bending post-rockers High Pulp’s new album, Pursuit of Ends, is an enlivening, dynamic listen. The Seattle group paints in bold brushstrokes, with vivifying colors—there’s no snoozing your way through this album, no putting it on in the background as light party music. Drawing sonic inspiration from Miles Davis’ Second Quintet and creative concepts from ideas about magic, the will, and the individual, Pursuit of Ends’ joyous spirit and colorful palette demands to be heard. Close your eyes and let your imagination run free to the lush soundscapes provided by this inspired collection of songs.

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Time~Lapse Nature (LP)

Diatom Dell’s Time~Lapse Nature feels mythic, pastoral, and entrancing. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Deli Paloma-Sisk’s crystal clear vocals float above lilting guitar like a classical wood nymph singing hymns to the surrounding countryside. The sounds of crickets and birds add evocative atmosphere and fascinating texture to these hypnotically simple songs. Utterly spell-binding and otherworldly, Time~Lapse Nature feels imbued with ancient wisdom, modern environmental concerns, and timeless beauty.

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Songs From The Elkhorn Trail (CD)

Jim Lindberg trades black leather for dirty denim on his new acoustic album, Songs from the Elkhorn Trail. The Pennywise singer has always been a nimble, thoughtful songwriter, and it's very cool to see how he applies those skills to a more rootsy folk-punk sound. These songs could hold their own among the story-driven workingman's rootsy rock of Lucero or Drive By Truckers--although Lindberg's vibe is a bit more upbeat, his choruses sometimes more anthemic. Gritty, authentic, and approachable, Songs from the Elkhorn Trail feels like an old friend.

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The Gods We Can Touch (CD)

Some singers just seem touched by the gods; that’s the case with Norway’s left-of-center pop singer Aurora. Fittingly for this daring songwriter, her latest album reaches back out into the cosmos, with the title The Gods We Can Touch. The songs are theatrical electro-pop with avant-garde sensibilities in the vein of Florence + the Machine, Austra, and perhaps a glossier Jenny Hval. The vibe is sweeping and cinematic, with seeing strings, captivating vocals, and disco-tinged rhythms. On this album, Aurora crafts a fairy tale world all of her own imagining—it’s a welcome, vivid, brilliant dream.

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Peacock Pools (CD)

After an eight-year hiatus, Stephen McBean (Black Mountain) is back with new music from his project Pink Mountaintops. The songs that would become Peacock Pools materialized in the early days of the pandemic, fomented from McBean’s eclectic interests (Camille Paglia essays, David Cronenberg flicks, early Pink Floyd) and brought to life by a star-studded stable of indie world musicians who also sought sonic collaboration. With contributions from artists who’ve worked with Destroyer, Death Valley Girls, Ty Segall, and more, the album has a varied, interesting vibe—everyone here is powered by passion and ready to experiment. The album opens with a cover of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” before heading into a tribute to the Swell Maps’ Nikki Sudden. Along the way, Steven McDonald of Redd Kross and Dale Crover of Melvins show up to participate in the cosmic proceedings. Trippy and tremendously fun.

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