by: Paul McEldowney
Marissa Nadler - Marissa Nadler (Box of Ceder)
Nadler returns with another whimsical goose-bump inducing country-folk au natural. The album is transient, dreamy, lofty, beautiful and totally lovelorn, reflecting those sad, arresting, tough yet nebulous and complicated mopey love times.Those times can be the worst, but as a romantic and therapeutic response and reflection of those times, this album succeeds like no other. Maybe it was not the best idea that I watched Blue Valentine right before reviewing this album. Keep the tissues close.
The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
Down to earth, rootsy all-american classic rock a la Springsteen and Petty spaced-out psych-rock. Kurt Vile used to play guitar in this band, and like Vile's new album, War on Drugs' new album is way sentimental and reflective while retaining that overtone of cool arrogance a la Vile and Bill Callahan/(smog). I'm reading Into The Wild by Jack Krakauer right now years after seeing the film adaptation. This album is definitely up there if i had to choose a soundtrack for the book. Needless to say, it's great for the road and traveling.
Moonface - Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped (Jagjaguwar)
Amongst the countless number of Wolf Parade side and solo projects is Spencer Krug's new mechanical new wavey synth pop project Moonface. Showcasing Krug's mastery over whatever pop form he wishes to explore, this collection of 5 krautrock-y underwater dream-scapes is going to hypnotize your buns and keep them a shaking.
Body Parts - On Purpose (Ryder Bach)
Schizophrenic doo-wop R&B tropical magic with fancy guitar and vocal work reminiscent of Dave Longstreth and co in the Getty Address era. While the melodies and structure are abstract, it's all still poppy, uncontrived, and emotionally and intellectually engaging and sensitive.
Cult Of Youth - Cult Of Youth (Sacred Bones)
Moody gothy apocalyptic folk with renaissance style orchestration. Vocals are a little bit Mark E Smith, a little bit Colin Newman, a little bit a little bit pirate.
Collections of Colonies of Bees - Giving (Hometapes)
The instrumental part of Justin Vernon's Volcano Choir project. Uplifting sentimental earthy post-rock with banjos, guitars, sparkly mallet sounds, and marching band style drums. Like Friday Night Lights with tiny robotic woodland creatures.
Jandek - Where Do You Go From Here (Corwood)
As with any other Jandek release, this new studio album is a challenging, frustrating, and fascinating. Featuring 12 untitled tracks, overall, it's all more on the hi-fi and psychy-er end of the Jandek spectrum with some jazz elements? There's an actual melody on track 5 sung by yours truly, and the drumming throughout the album is kind of focused and tempo-ed.
Tig Notaro - Good One (Secretly Canadian)
New comedy album by the comedy central/sarah silverman star. I saw her open for Jens Lekman a couple years ago; she's amazing.
Low – “C’mon”
A good Low song will invite a sing-a-long on the first listen, conjure tears or goosebumps. A transcendental one will do all three. If you’re not in the mood, or it’s a filler, it’s just more repetitive and droning slowcore from a band that jokes on stage about “only having five songs” and sometimes performs its greatest hits in the style of the Misfits (while somehow keeping tongue in cheek). Granted, they’ve got a predictable formula, and this album has a hard time finding unexplored permutations of it. Sunnier than the previous “Drums and Guns”, the most moving tunes are also the longest here, and like any good Low album it can be heard in its entirety over and over again. Mimi sings a bit more, but otherwise there’s no big change that will win many new followers or frighten their devotees away.
Amor de Días – Street of the Love of Days (Merge)
Light chamber pop from the voices of The Clientele (m, in English) and Pipas (f, bilingual Spanish), these are pleasantly innocuous and decidedly not for those who need to stay away behind the wheel. If the music and vocal tones weren’t dreamy enough, they also sing somnambulant lyrics on #7, the passing of nights & days on #11, etc. Grandparents would approve of these as lullabies, but they’re not overly simplistic or precious, just nice.
Here We Go Magic – The January EP (Secretly Canadian)
An exceptionally varied palette for an EP, each of these is well-crafted and evocative of different feelings. 1 is built on a guitarry melody and falsetto whoops about picturing oneself in leather, after which psychedelia ensues. 2 is a soft, pretty ballad which builds to a looping, shimmering finale without ever getting loud. 3 is a bright pop song with flighty vocals, backed by women’s voices. 4 is the slightest ditty, an acoustic guitar over ethereal chanting of the title. 5 picks up the pace with jangly guitars and the most straightforward vocals of the bunch. 6 closes with a hard electronic beat but oddly serene vocals, becomes clearer midway what they’re going for. Again, each sounds quite different, none unpleasant.
Dodos – No Color (French Kiss)
These guys need little introduction; their high-energy dance rock speaks for itself and screams “college radio”. These are very tight, bright, full of crashing hooks, and somehow manage to be both driving and pretty. It all rushes past the first time, but everything is very intricately structured, right down to the “experimental” drumming and harmonies. It’s hard to keep all the elements in harmony while cranking the volume or to sound this fresh without a single miscue, but they really pull it off, firing on all cylinders and hitting the choruses at just the right times. Pick any song…it will rock you at any speed and as never before.
Arrington de Dionysio’s Malaikat Dan Singa (Suara Naga)
Lurking beneath this menacingly incomprehensible Indonesian growl is something proto-punk, deliberately uglified and atavistic, which resonates in our rhythmic instincts. Primitive instrumentation matches the cadence and tone of the vocalists, who actually vary quite a lot from song to song but never deign to croon—think more of straddling the lines between shouting, howling, and throat-singing. Contains improvisation and inevitably gets repetitive, yet one can’t call any of it predictable. Anyone fond of aggressive world music and world rock should definitely check this out; you won’t hear anything else like it for a good while (and I’m at a loss for what should precede or follow one of these on air). #3 is mellower, breathy and more recognizable as singing. #4 rides a familiar guitar melody. #5 is an almost-traditional but angular instrumental. #7 has a C.Beefheart & Magic Band feel, very loose. #10 is almost a rock song, then becomes traditional percussion.