It seems to be a running theme around here lately, but it isn’t my fault so many great boxsets are coming out all around the same time! And then of course there’s some seriously big new releases other than said boxsets as well. Another short but sweet list.
…..pick of the week…..
Unwound: Empire (Numero) 4LP Box
The climactic entry in Numero Group’s four-set Unwound exploration, Empire compiles the final pair of albums by the Olympia, WA trio. On 1998’s Challenge For A Civilized Society, the band toyed with conventional verse/chorus form, stacking layers of noise and distraction on top of tightly constructed melodies. They’d abdicate entirely just three years later with 2001’s Leaves Turn Inside You, executing a 14-song masterclass in home recording that observed a crucial band in graceful transition from post-hardcore trio to experimental quintet. The mammoth double album was lost in the chaos of a post-9/11 media, baffling onlookers and exhilarating fans in successive breaths before it fell far out of print. At their reinvention and terminus, Unwound ultimately asked “Who Cares”? The Empire box-set teems with period singles, B-sides, unreleased studio tracks, and demos, alongside a 15,000-word essay exploring the terminal stages of the ’90s, indie rock, Unwound, and civilization as we know it.
File Under: Indie Rock, Punk Rock
Beach House: Depression Cherry (Sub Pop) LP/CD
“Beach House is Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. We have been a band for over a decade living and working in Baltimore, MD. Depression Cherry is our 5th full-length record and was recorded at Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, Louisiana from November ’14 through January ’15. This time period crossed the anniversaries of both John Lennon’s and Roy Orbison’s death. “In general, this record shows a return to simplicity, with songs structured around a melody and a few instruments, with live drums playing a far lesser role. With the growing success of Teen Dream and Bloom, the larger stages and bigger rooms naturally drove us towards a louder, more aggressive place; a place farther from our natural tendencies. Here, we continue to let ourselves evolve while fully ignoring the commercial context in which we exist.” – Beach House Here are a few quotes that Beach House feel relate to the feeling and themes of Depression Cherry: — “I’ll never be able to be here again. As the minutes slide by, I move on. The flow of time is something I cannot stop. I haven’t a choice. I go. One caravan has stopped, another starts up. There are people I have yet to meet, others I’ll never see again. People who are gone before you know it, people who are just passing through. Even as we exchange hellos, they seem to grow transparent. I must keep living with the flowing river before my eyes.” – from Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto — “We inhabit a world in which the future promises endless possibilities and the past lies irretrievably behind us. The arrow of time… is the medium of creativity in terms of which life can be understood.” – from The Arrow of Time by Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield — “Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.” – from Parerga and Paralipomena by Arthur Schopenhauer — “Hark, now hear the sailors cry, feel the air and see the sky, let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic…when the fog horn blows, I want to hear it, I don’t have to fear it” – from “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
File Under: Indie Rock, Dream Pop
Destroyer: Poison Season (Merge) LP
Destroyer’s new Merge Records release Poison Season opens with Vancouver native Dan Bejar swathed in Hunky Dory strings. He’s a dashboard Bowie surveying four wracked characters – Jesus, Jacob, Judy, Jack – simultaneously Biblical and musical theatre. This bittersweet, Times Square-set fanfare is reprised twice more on the record – first as swaying, saxophone-stoked “street-rock” and then finally as a curtain-closing reverie. “The first and last songs are actually one song tracked live with quintet,” explains their author. “I even sang with the band. That song always swung between super austere and super mid-’70s Springsteen/Bowie street-rock. In the end, I decided I wanted both. Couldn’t really figure out a way to sequence the orchestral version within the record, so I decided to carve it up as a book-ending motif, with the rock version squarely in the middle.” Mr. Bejar has long displayed a chameleonic instinct for change while maintaining a unified aesthetic (rather than just pinballing between reference points). No two records sound the same, but they’re always uniquely Destroyer. His latest incarnation often appears to take sonic cues from a distinctly British (usually Scottish, to be precise) strain of sophisti-pop: you might hear traces of Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Orange Juice, or The Blow Monkeys. These songs merge a casual literary brilliance with intense melodic verve, nimble arrangements, and a certain blue-eyed-soul sadness.
File Under: Indie Rock, CanCon
Faith No More: Sol Invictus (Ipecac) LP
In tomorrow! Faith No More, who reunited in 2009 for a series of sold out performances and international festivals, will issue Sol Invictus, their highly anticipated first full-length album since 1997’s Album of the Year on Reclamation Recordings/Ipecac Recordings in May 2015. Sol Invictus – which is preceded by lead single “Superhero” – was produced by Bill Gould and recorded in the band’s Oakland, CA studio. The music of Faith No More has lived through five presidents, endless wars, economic boons and busts, global meltdown and revolutionary rebirths. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the hard-edged group’s hybridized sound has scored the soundtrack to a time of change, and now in the 21st century, the legendary band has evolved once more to return with a powerful new album and a new focus. “What I can say is that I think through our experience as musicians over the years, I think what we’re doing reflects where we’ve gone through since we made our last record as Faith No More. I think this kicks things up a notch,” explained Gould to Rolling Stone. “And I think there’s parts that are very powerful and there’s parts that have a lot of space. Everything we do, with our chemistry, the way we play; it’s always going to sound like us. It’s just what we do, that makes us feel good.”
File Under: Rock, Mike Patton
Frog Eyes: Pickpocket’s Locket (Paper Bag) LP
“My dad left me his acoustic guitar in his will; it was all he had to give, because he wasn’t a rich man. I wrote ten songs on it, and I think that was the real gift he gave me: a love of music, not just the way you all love it (music lovers), but also a love of creating it, sowing myself, in some small way, into the story of music. I was holding the guitar a lot, kind of savoring it: a Martin D-18. I had been making records for a few years with a computer, piling tracks on tracks, writing words over guitar licks already recorded in a studio. “I came to think of an acoustic guitar as somehow akin to a computer, only in the sense that they are both tools of transmission, both effective in their own way. An acoustic guitar is still, in 2015, a very effective way of transmitting one’s songs. I made a deal with myself: write ten songs, write all the words before anyone gets to hear any of the songs, memorize the songs so that I become the hard-drive that the acoustic guitar accesses. I mostly, if not totally, kept to this deal, which is rare: I’m generally pretty easy on myself. “I wrote about Joseph Beuys, about B. Traven, about God and Abraham and Isaac, about my dad being addicted to speed when he was 17. I needed my crew and I found them. Three women: Melanie Campbell, my life-partner and long-time drummer, returned to the band after a hiatus. And my old friend Shyla Seller, an archivist and book designer who happens to also be a really precise and powerful piano player. And Terri Upton, who plays both stand-up bass, and electric bass. “And then we needed some more crew, and we found them: our old friend and colleague Spencer Krug, who wrote string parts over the songs. And then Jesse Zubot, who played every string part on the record in one 10-hour day. And John Paton, who plays saxophone. And Paul Rigby, who caught a taxi cab over with his pedal steel guitar. I wanted the following: Douglas Sirk strings, a noble spin on Corky’s Debt to His Father, some Darkness on the Edge of Town vibes.” – Carey Mercer “Howling voices, waves of super-fuzz, swirling riffs that are always tantalizingly out of grasp and the wild guttural sound of Tom Waits, Scott Walker or The Natinoal when they still had a pair.” – NME
File Under: Indie Rock, CanCon
Jay-Z: Magna Carta… Holy Grail (Third Man) LP
Jay-Z’s twelfth studio album, Magna Carta…Holy Grail, is now pressed on two 180 gram LP’s, heavy as the material carved into them, complete with a printed lyric insert, poetic as the gatefold it’s slipped in between. Most exciting about this double LP is certainly the concealed postcard flexi disc hidden within the back cover and only accessible to those willing to take a knife to the iconic packaging. Once freed of its casing, this flexi disc plays a super secret hidden track. You’ll just have to hear it for yourself, because we sure don’t plan to ruin the mystery of it here. Originally issued in July 2013, the double platinum Magna Carta…Holy Grail debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making it Jay-Z’s thirteenth consecutive studio album to top the chart. Includes guest appearances by Justin Timberlake, Nas, Rick Ross, Frank Ocean and Beyonce Knowles.
File Under: Hip Hop, Rap
Syl Johnson: Complete Twinight Singles (Numero) 2LP
Syl Johnson began the ’60s a blues singer and session guitarist and concluded it having synthesized his own brand of gritty Chicago soul. Their first signee, Syl Johnson set the tone at Twinight Records, writing and producing fifteen 45s during his four year tenure with the label. This double LP neatly bundles each side of each of Johnson’s Twinight 45s, from the heavily-sampled grunts on “Different Strokes,” to the ghetto-conscious “Concrete Reservation.” “There are many great soul singers, but few has inspired hip hop from its early beginning to now. Syl Johnson is a unsung pioneer of musical fusion.” – RZA
File Under: Soul
Replacements: Twin/Tone Years (Rhino) Box
In tomorrow… Along with Prince and Hüsker Dü, The Replacements put Minneapolis on the rock map in the 1980s. Among America’s greatest alternative acts of the last two decades, the ’Mats rose from chaotic noise-makers to polished craftsmen, leaving at least three unqualified masterpieces in their wake. In a perfect world, Let It Be, Tim, and Pleased To Meet Me would have all gone platinum – but then again, endearing imperfection was always a hallmark of this band’s music. The Replacements formed in the wake of the punk explosion of the late 1970s. Their anarchic stage shows had earned them considerable notoriety in local clubs (in fact, they had to change their name from The Impediments after a particularly disruptive performance in one such nightspot). Indie label Twin/Tone took note and signed the quartet, and their first album, Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash was issued in 1981. That record and the Stink EP that followed in the next year were both pretty much standard-issue hardcore thrash. With 1983’s Hootenanny, however, audiences began to take notice of the songs beneath all the sound and fury; “Color Me Impressed” had exactly that effect on discerning rock listeners. By 1984’s Let It Be, The Replacements’ exponential growth as musicians – and most particularly, Paul Westerberg’s growth as a writer – was undeniable. The album topped critic’s polls across the country and earned The Replacements a place on the roster at Sire Records. If you’re a ‘Mats purist who believes that the band was never the same after they signed to Sire, then you’ll dig this! The Twin/Tone Years box set, which includes the aforementioned Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981), the Stink EP (1982), Hootenanny (1983) and Let It Be (1984), will be limited to only 8,000 numbered copies, so if you’re looking to enjoy the band’s earlier, more rambunctious material in the best way possible, then you’ll want to hop to it!
File Under: Punk, Indie Rock
Scientists: s/t (Numero) LP
The Scientists’ 1981 wild debut bewildered Perth, Australia’s punters with its charging anthems centered on themes of young love and alienation. Obvious in its rebellion yet more pop than punk, the self-titled “Pink Album” deftly embodied the tough-yet-danceable outsider aura of The Ramones, and its unheard of, feverish clip shook the shores of the geographically confined Swan Coastal Plain of down under. Recorded just as the lineup of guitarist-vocalist Kim Salmon (The Cheap Nasties), drummer James Baker (The Victims) and bassist Ian Sharples were breaking up, the album stands as a testament to the contagious chops of Perth’s swelling pool of musical talent, and to the promise of Salmon’s unwavering vision that would become one of the most celebrated acts of the Aussie underground.
File Under: Aussie, Punk
Scientists: Blood Red River (Numero) LP
After trekking east from the suburbs of Perth to take new root in Sydney, in 1983 the Scientists hooked up with producer Chris Logan, who’s credited with the album’s imposing sonic girth and rumbling low end, and premier Aussie punk label Au Go Go for an album that would define their unmistakably swampy, psychotic aura. These six songs revisited band leader Kim Salmon’s interest in the Cramps and the Stooges, while adding in the repetitive dementia of Suicide and elements of cow punk twang, with Salmon’s distinctly unrefined Australian accent snarling tales of lust, confusion and angst.
File Under: Aussie, Punk
Frank Turner: Positive Songs For Negative People (Interscope) LP
In tomorrow… British singer-songwriter Frank Turner will release his new album, Positive Songs For Negative People, in August 2015 via Xtra Mile Recordings/Polydor UK /Interscope. The record is the London-based Turner’s sixth full-length effort and serves as the follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2013 release Tape Deck Heart. Turner recorded the 12-track set with his trusted backing band The Sleeping Souls and it was produced by Butch Walker in Nashville. “I feel like this record is my definitive statement, a summation of the first five records,” Turner says. “When a band makes a debut record, there’s a freshness and excitement to it that bands often lose as time goes by. I wanted to make a record with that young, exciting feel.” After a period of writing and perfecting the songs at a rehearsal studio in England, they headed to the US to work with Walker for an intense nine-day recording session. “Pretty much all of it is live,” Turner adds. “The end result is everything I wanted it to be.”
File Under: Folk, Punk
13th Floor Elevators: Psychedelic Sounds of…. (Snapper) LP
A Tribe Called Quest: Low End Theory (Jive) LP
A Tribe Called Quest: Midnight Marauders (Jive) LP
Badbadnot: III (Arts & Crafts) LP
Black Keys: El Camino (Nonesuch) LP
Boards of Canada: Music Has The Right To Children (Warp) LP
Leon Bridges: Coming Home (Columbia) LP
Broadcast: Haha Sound (Warp) LP
Broadcast & Focus Group: Investigate Witch Cults (Warp) LP
Nick Cave: First Born is Dead (Mute) LP
Nick Cave: Henry’s Dream (Mute) LP
Nick Cave: Let Love In (Mute) LP
Cream: Disraeli Gears (Universal) LP
Lana Del Rey: Born To Die (Interscope) LP
Lana Del Rey: Ultraviolence (Interscope) LP
Nick Drake: Bryter Layter (Island) LP
Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On (Tamala) LP
High On Fire: Luminiferous (Eone) LP
Jay-Z: Vol 3 – Life & Time of S. Carter (Rush) LP
Cate Le Bon: Me Oh My (Control Group) LP
M83: Before the Dawn Heals Us All (Mute) LP
Portishead: Third (Mercury) LP
Portishead: PNYC (Polydor) LP
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (EMI) LP
Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis (4 Men With Beards) LP
Tame Impala: Currents (Modular) LP
Wilco: A Ghost is Born (Nonesuch) LP
Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch) LP
Witch: Lukombo Vibes (Now Again) LP
Witch: s/t (Tee Pee) LP