Richard Buckner – Impasse [Reissue/2002] CD/LP+MP3 (Merge)
The words are entrancingly cryptic, as if their simplicity conceals unfathomable depths. The music is sparse, almost whispered at times, like a secret. The title gives everything away, though. During the gestation of his 2002 album Impasse, Richard Buckner was stuck. But, with perseverance, what began as one of his most troubled recording attempts ended as one of his best and most pivotal—a capstone for his wayfaring early period before he planted roots with Merge.
Rodney Crowell – Close Ties CD/LP (New West)
Rodney Crowell’s new album demonstrates his strengths as a songwriter and illustrates how he has learned to balance personal recollection, literary sophistication, and his profound musical reach. “It’s a loose concept album, you could say,” Crowell says. “And the concept is related to how you tell stories about yourself. Having a few years ago written a memoir, my sensibilities toward narrative—especially trying to find a common thread in different pieces of writing—had become a part of my songwriting process.” Close Ties is a roots record, in the sense that Crowell himself has deep roots that stretch back into the alternative country scene of the early ‘70s. The rise of Americana music has struck a nerve with Crowell. “I have declared my loyalty to Americana. It’s a hard category for people to get their heads around, or at least the terminology is. But all the people who represent it—Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more recent stars like John Paul White and Jason Isbell—share a common thread, and that thread is poetry. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favor of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.”
Dave Davies & Russ Davies – Open Road CD (Red River)
“Dave Davies certainly doesn’t have to put any more music out into the world to secure his status as one of rock and roll’s true living legends. The lead guitarist of The Kinks changed the game when he first sliced his amp speaker with a razor blade, and his crunchy riffs have inspired punk and heavy metal bands for no less than half a century. Not what we’d call a shabby legacy. So, why bother with a new album? Well, you can call it a family thing. For his new album Open Road, Davies collaborated with his son Russ — a successful electronic musician in his own right — to create a collection of “good, honest, traditional songs” that play to each songwriter’s strengths” – Consequence Of Sound. [Vinyl edition due June 2.]
Bob Dylan – Triplicate 3xCD/3xLP (Columbia/Sony)
Triplicate is 38th studio set from Bob Dylan, and features 30 brand-new recordings of classic American tunes and marking the first triple-length set of the artist’s illustrious career. The titles of the individual ten-track discs are ‘Til The Sun Goes Down, Devil Dolls and Comin’ Home Late. For the set, Dylan assembled his touring band in Hollywood’s Capitol studios to record hand-chosen songs from an array of American songwriters such as Charles Strouse and Lee Adams (“Once Upon A Time”), Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler (“Stormy Weather”), Harold Hupfield (“As Time Goes By”) and Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh (“The Best Is Yet To Come”). According to Bob Dylan, “I am finding these great songs to be a tremendous source of inspiration that has led me to one of my most satisfying periods in the studio. I’ve hit upon new ways to uncover and interpret these songs that are right in line with the best recordings of my own songs, and my band and I really seemed to hit our stride on every level with Triplicate.” [Vinyl is available in Regular and Deluxe editions. Deluxe features hard-book 78rpm-style folio packaging.]
Jake Xerxes Fussell – What In The Natural World CD/LP (Paradise Of Bachelors)
Entrancing guitarist and singer Jake Xerxes Fussell follows his celebrated self-titled debut (produced by William Tyler) with a moving new album of Natural Questions in the form of transmogrified folk/blues koans. This time these radiant ancient tunes tone several shades darker while amplifying their absurdist humor, illuminating our national, and psychic, predicaments. Featuring art by iconic painter Roger Brown and contributions from three notable Nathans — Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn), Nathan Salsburg (Alan Lomax Archive), and Nathan Golub (Mountain Goats) — as well as Joan Shelley and Casey Toll (Mt. Moriah). RIYL: Michael Hurley, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Dave Van Ronk, Jim Dickinson, Raccoon Records, Joan Shelley, Nathan Bowles, Nathan Salsburg, William Tyler, Daniel Bachman, Wilco.
Goldfrapp – Silver Eye CD/LP (Mute)
Silver Eye, Goldfrapp’s seventh album, is dance music that evokes a pagan ritual rather than a club soundtrack. Cold, metallic electronics with a hot current of blood running through them. A 21st century moon dance. [Limited clear vinyl pressing also available.]
Hauschka – What If CD (Temporary Residence)
Since 2004 Volker Bertelmann aka Hauschka has steadily earned a remarkable reputation as a purveyor of imaginative, distinctive, prepared piano music. While engaging with his trademark technique of utilizing unusual objects — art erasers, for example — to treat (or ‘prepare’) the piano, Hauschka also programs parts for player pianos, exploiting the speed at which they could play, manipulating the resulting sounds, and building layers to emphasize a composition’s meter. Wha If is overflowing with haunting melodies, mysterious sounds, and complex patterns. [Vinyl edition due April 7.]
Julia Holter – In The Same Room CD/LP+MP3 (Domino)
The first release in Domino’s new Documents live studio recordings series. Comprised of new arrangements of songs from all of her studio releases to date, Holter‘s Domino Document is essential for anyone who has witnessed her brilliant, beguiling band on tour around the world in the last five years, and is a perfect introduction to a truly important and innovative young artist.
Isis – Live VII CD (Ipecac)
A full live set from Isis’ final Australian tour in 2010. The 9-track set features material from their fifth and last album Wavering Radiant, as well as select highlights from all of the band’s additional four full-lengths. Although rooted heavy metal and the punk/hardcore aesthetic, Isis’ music relies just as heavily on ambience, atmosphere, and tone as it does complexity and aggression. [Vinyl edition due April 14.]
Aimee Mann – Mental Illness CD/LP (SuperEgo)
“The title of Aimee Mann’s latest solo effort, her ninth, registers like a punch to the gut. In a world full of self-consciously clever and willfully obtuse album titles, Mental Illness is the equivalent of washing someone’s mouth out with soap. It’s not something you mull over or analyze in search of some hidden subtext or meaning. Instead, it smacks of cold reality. In an interview with Rolling Stone in January, Mann called Mental Illness the ‘saddest, slowest’ record of her 35-plus-year career. She’s not kidding. Her latest collection finds her singing love-spurned tales of heartache, anger, and remorse, giving the emotionally loaded title some added weight. But that doesn’t mean that Mann isn’t putting us on, at least a little bit. ‘I mean, calling it Mental Illnessmakes me laugh, because it is true,’ she said. ‘It’s so blunt that it’s funny.’ But while she might be having fun with us, she’s nonetheless created a remarkable character sketch. For 44 minutes, Mann slips into the skin of someone walking an emotional tightrope, and it’s an act she pulls off with grace and conviction. Mental Illness lays its hurt and sadness out so effectively that it’s hard to completely accept it as pure fiction. But even if we’re to take Mann’s word for it that these songs were created with some personal distance, it’s still no less powerful of a record” – Rolling Stone. [Limited color vinyl pressing also available.]
Mastodon – Emperor Of Sand CD/2xLP (Reprise)
Emperor Of Sand finds Mastodon returning to a deeply imaginative and complex conceptual storyline that ponders the nature of time. Threading together the myth of a man sentenced to death in a majestically malevolent desert, the band conjures the grains of a musical and lyrical odyssey slipping quickly through a cosmic hourglass. “Emperor Of Sand is like the grim reaper,” says drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor. “Sand represents time. If you or anyone you know has ever received a terminal diagnosis, the first thought is about time. Invariably, you ask, ‘How much time is left?’” “We’re reflecting on mortality,” adds bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders. “To that end, the album ties into our entire discography. It’s 17 years in the making, but it’s also a direct reaction to the last two years. We tend to draw inspiration from very real things in our lives.” Emperor Of Sand was recorded at The Quarry Recording Studio in Kennesaw, just outside Mastodon’s hometown of Atlanta, with producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Neil Young, AC/DC, Rage Against The Machine), who first worked with Mastodon on their seminal 2009 album Crack The Skye.
The Mavericks – Brand New Day CD/LP (Mono Mundo Recordings)
More than two decades into a career that’s always avoided the predictable path, the Mavericks – whose Tex-Mex twang, Cuban-influenced country and retro rock made them unlikely stars in the mid- ‘90s and critical darlings during later years – turn another corner with the new album Brand New Day. “We’re gonna love all our troubles away,” Raul Malo sings on the title track, whose throwback, symphonic sweep recalls the wall of sound arrangements of the 1960s. Malo pulls double duty as frontman and Phil Spector-ish producer, stacking the song high with bells, horns, harmonies and plenty of four-on-the-floor stomp. Also pitching in are three longtime Mavericks — drummer Paul Deakin, guitarist Eddie Perez and keys man Jerry Dale McFadden — and co-producer Niko Bolas, who helped birth songs like Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” and Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer.”
Orchestra Baobab – Tribute To Ndiouga Dieng CD/LP (World Circuit)
A decade on from their last album and almost half a century since their formation, Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab return with a set of swaying tunes fusing Afro-Cuban rhythms and African tradition in the group’s trademark style.
Pharmakon – Contact CD/LP (Sacred Bones)
Bestial Burden, the previous album by Margaret Chardiet’s Pharmakon project, focused on the disconnect between mind and body, looking at the human as an isolated consciousness stuck inside of a rotting vessel. For Contact, she wanted to look at the other side of the spectrum — the moments when our mind can come outside of and transcend our bodies. In trance states, music and the body is used to transcend the physical form and make contact with some outside force. Chardiet decided to structure the compositions of each side of Contact after the stages of trance: preparation, onset, climax, and resolution.
Phish – St. Louis ’93 6xCD (Jemp)
A six-disc CD box set containing two live Phish concerts on 4/14/93 and 8/16/93 recorded at the American Theater in St. Louis, MO.
Sneaks – It’s A Myth CD/LP+MP3/Cassette (Merge)
With little more than a bass, drum machine, and deadpan vocals, Sneaks, a.k.a. Eva Moolchan, makes minimalist music that takes up space—something she herself has made a point of doing in the male-heavy Washington, D.C., DIY punk scene that has been her home. It’s A Myth builds on Sneaks’ playfully stark approach to post-punk, which, as her hometown City Paper described it, causes listeners to go “from curious to provoked to hungry.” Like most of Sneaks’ music, album closer “Future” is in constant gyroscopic movement—thumping rhythm cutting around deep bass, spoken-word patterns somersaulting through image fragments, childhood nostalgia, and cryptic wordplay. Moolchan calls Sneaks “a character” that she’s playing, and there’s certainly an element of mystery around the persona and her riddles. But it’s also all her, born out of full solo creative control after stints in a number of D.C. bands. “When I’m writing songs, it’s actually pretty selfish, because it’s like, this is what I need to hear right now in my life,” she has said.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Once More With Feeling 2xDVD/2xBlu-ray (Bad Seeds Ltd.)
One More Time Feeling is a feature film about the making of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ acclaimed Skeleton Tree directed by Andrew Dominik (Chopper, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford). Visually unique, One More Time With Feeling is a stark, fragile and raw documentary. Shot in 3D, color and black & white, the film probes the deeply personal circumstances surrounding the making of Skeleton Tree (the band’s 16th studio album) and features interviews and live performances by the band in the studio, along with interjected voice-over commentary by Nick Cave. This double-disc release features three exclusive short films from Andrew Dominik. “An undeniably moving contemplation of shattering loss… a tremendously moving collage.” — The Guardian
Craig Brown Band – The Lucky Ones Forget LP (Third Man)
Detroit’s most beloved bartender, cook, and ping-pong champion has gone solo. Well, solo in the sense that he’s put a firecracker musical act together and called it The Craig Brown Band. The debut full-length album, The Lucky Ones Forget, was recorded “almost live!” by Warren Defever (His Name Is Alive). It’s a long-player filled with songs about heartbreak, drinking, and vans—built upon the work of those daring punks who embraced country music (Replacements, Meat Puppets, Tom Petty, et al.).
Gold Connections – Gold Connections LP (Fat Possum)
RIYL: Car Seat Headrest, The Districts, Pavement, Modest Mouse, Wilco, Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes, Pinegrove, Built to Spill, The Walkmen. “…an animal of its own. Languid atmospherics give birth to howlingly aggressive rock ‘n’ roll that ultimately builds to a richly arranged climax.” – Stereogum
Tall Ships – Impressions LP (FatCat)
Following the release of their acclaimed 2012 debut, Everything Touching, Tall Ships were championed by both the BBC and NME, selling out shows across the UK and headlining the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading & Leeds Festival. Their debut earned a wealth of critical praise, with Pitchfork citing its penchant for “the more swashbuckling strains of Okkervil River and Modest Mouse, M83’s downcast glimmer, and Sigur Ros’ misty yawn,” and BBC Music claiming, “the trio’s debut displays dizzying craftsmanship.” Impressions bristles with a fresh intensity: it’s a set that feels constantly on a knife edge of unpredictability, capable within a single song of being both disconcertingly tender and universal – easily the most ambitious and anthemic music the band has ever written, marking them out as one of the UK’s most promising rock bands but one worn with the battle scars of doubt, fragility and lessons learned the hard way.
Coming Next Week….