Well, we’re almost through week two of instore shopping and it’s been real nice to see everyone who’s dropped in. And thanks to everyone for wearing a mask, it’s such a simple thing to help keep everyone safe and well. Hell… I’d be pretty content to wear one in public for the rest of my life if it means I won’t get a cold ever again! Just to recap….
– pick-ups – 11 am – 6 pm Monday – Friday, 11 am – 4 pm Saturday
(if you don’t want to come into the store for a pick up, call and/or use the back door)
– in-store shopping – Noon – 5 pm Monday – Friday, 11 am – 4 pm Saturday
– Max 4 people in the store at a time
– Wear a mask (if you don’t have one, we’ll have some)
– Sanitize your hands (we’ll have some)
…..picks of the week….
Mecánica Clásica: Mar Interior (Abstrakce) LP
The Mecánica Clásica project combines modified elements of early electronics, krautrock, ambient, minimalism & fourth world music, generating an interplanetary space where enterprising guitar tones, lush synth sequencing & off-kilter percussion coalesce. ‘Mar Interior’ the new album by Mecánica Clásica is a fusion of kosmische & fourth world music inspired by ancient Mediterranean culture. Loosely translated as ‘Inland Sea’, ‘Mar Interior’ is thematically centred on the history & legacy of the ancient civilizations that proliferated around the Mediterranean Sea. Augmented by environmental recordings, Mecánica Clásica renew the extensive topographies opened up by early pioneers like Craig Leon, Jon Hassell, Brian Eno & Cluster, in an immense vision of Spanish space ambient. On ‘Mar Interior’ their work expands upon these influences, moving into a shimmering, hypnotic sound world which finds common ground with the likes of O Yuki Conjugate, K. Leimer, Roberto Musci & X.Y.R.
File Under: Electronic, Ambient, Fourth World
Rick White: Where It’s Fine (Blue Fog) LP
Blue Fog is pleased as punch to announce a new ten song album from Rick White, titled “Where It’s Fine”. The mysterious psychedelic hermit behind Erics Trip and Elevator continues to make his unique brand of art; this new album of original dreamy, fuzzy and catchy tunes is Rick at his finest. Pressed on bright neon purple vinyl and a terrific new painting for the cover art.
File Under: Psych
The Awakening: Mirage (Real Gone) LP
The only “group” on the Black Jazz roster, The Awakening today should be heralded as one of the great bands in early ‘70s jazz. That they’re not is the result of the Black Jazz label’s distribution woes; witness the fact that original copies of both of their records for the imprint command prices in the hundreds of dollars if you can find them at all. Mirage is their second (1973) album, the last one they made together; it boasts the same Chicago-based, AACM-centric line-up as the first, with the notable addition of bassist Rufus Reid on a couple of tracks. Spiritual jazz, free jazz, soul jazz, fusion jazz, you name it—The Awakening take all those threads common to early ‘70s African-American music and, like any great ensemble, weave them into a beautiful sonic garment that’s greater than the sum of its parts. The Mirage is a bit less political/pan-African than Hear, Sense and Feel, its predecessor, which definitely owed some of its feel to the band’s Art Ensemble of Chicago/AACM roots; this record is a little more abstract, a little more varied in its moods and textural coloring, yet no less powerful and transporting. Our Real Gone release represents the first time Mirage has been reissued on LP; it comes newly remastered (by Mike Milchner at Sonic Vision) and with new liner notes by Pat Thomas. A record to discover, savor, and treasure.
File Under: Jazz, Black Jazz
Bleachers: Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night (RCA) LP
Bleachers – led by five-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, and producer, Jack Antonoff – follow-up 2017’s critically acclaimed Gone Now with their third studio album, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night. “Stop Making This Hurt” is the first single and third offering from the record issued on the heels of “Chinatown” featuring Bruce Springsteen and “45” which were met with mass critical praise in late 2020. The New York Times hailed Bleachers’ new music a “anthemic life-affirming pop-rock.” Vinyl LP with accompanying 24 page booklet.
File Under: Rock, Pop
Bros: Vol. 2 (Dine Alone) LP
After boldly displaying their full musical range on the 2016 debut album Vol. 1, Bros – aka The Sheepdogs’ Ewan and Shamus Currie – return with Vol. 2, an endlessly surprising new 13-track collection that’s something akin to a party thrown by your friends with the best record collection. Recorded over a two-year span with producer/engineer Thomas D’Arcy in Toronto, Bros sought to expand their scope on Vol. 2 by inviting a host of collaborators, from a horn section and tabla drummer, to Sheepdogs guitarist Jimmy Bowskill (on a range of instruments he doesn’t normally play) and even their father Neil Currie on piano. *The results contain something for everyone, from the Tropicalia-inspired “Sunflower” and the smooth jazz of “Clams Casino,” to the lowdown funk of “Never Gonna Stop” and the vintage AM radio homages “Crazy Schemes” and “You Love This Song.” With Vol. 2, the combination of visually evocative instrumentals and finely crafted pop and soul nuggets is now undeniably Bros’ trademark sound, one that’s utterly distinct from The Sheepdogs’ arena-ready, guitar-fueled rock. As a pure studio creation, the album not only displays the Curries’ dynamic creative bond, but also their playful sense of humor and easy-going relationship, something that can’t often be said of fraternal musical partnerships.
File Under: Rock
David Chesworth: Industry & Leisure (B.F.E.) LP
Originally released in 1983 as a cassette and an EP containing three tracks – The Search,I Just Thought, and Schoolbooks Decide on Innocent Records. This is a remastered version of the cassette including an unreleased track. Electronic Post Punk and Synth Pop, waves travelling in circles, spiralling around solid blocks of underground experimental rhythms. A proper treasure in the hidden realm of eighties experimentation. These songs demonstrate some of the most brilliant occult songlines in musical innovation of their time. They have the marks of domestic pieces of art where you can hear the anxious tension between the mechanical production of goods and the need to consume pleasure in your free time; just as unsatisfying, just as devoid of essence. Around this dialectic, we hear the result of home made repetitive music as a reflection on consumer existence. Not conceptual but very much thought out, the success of these tunes is both their initial idea and the end product. We can hear a solitary room of composition and an exhibition in an art gallery interacting with bodies. The imaginative sound design and very catchy composition make this one of the most memorable entries in the fertile and innovative musical canon of its time. David Chesworth (born 1958, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom) is an Australian-based interdisciplinary artist and composer. known for his experimental and at times minimalist music. He has worked solo, in post-punk groups (Essendon Airport,Whadya Want?), electronic music, contemporary ensembles and experimental performance. Industry & Leisure was partly written while Chesworth was Artist In Residence at the Praxis Community Art Foundation in Fremantle, in1981. Remastered by David Chesworth. Including the original tape insert/poster and new liner notes, photos, etc FFO of: A Certain Ratio or Talking Heads of “Remain In Light” mixed with Dark Day, Ike Yard, Din A Testblid, Marc Barreca…
File Under: Post Punk, Electronic, DIY
Joao Donato/Adrian Younge/Ali Shaheed Muhammad: João Donato (Jazz is Dead) LP
Where’s João Donato? It’s a frequently asked question, referring simultaneously to the physical location and the musical moment he inhabits. A sampling of some of his more descriptive song titles suggests Donato’s comfort with musical hybrids: “Bluchanga,” “Sambolero,” and “Sambongo,” to name just a few. Lacking a name for his style of music, Donato’s is a distinct sound, immediately recognizable from the first few bars of any of his compositions. He was funky back when “funk” was a bad word (listen to either of his 1960s Brazilian LPs for proof). His compositions are deceptively simple, while his arrangements are harmonically complex, resulting in songs that are seemingly childlike, yet reveal their intricate details upon repeat listening.
File Under: Jazz
Aretha Franklin: Aretha (Rhino) LP
To say that Aretha Franklin was one of the greatest American artists of all time is an understatement. Her multi-octave voice moved millions around the world during an unrivaled career that spanned six decades and garnered the singer-songwriter every achievement and honor imaginable. Franklin’s reign as the Queen of Soul is highlighted here with the 20-track vinyl 2LP collection Aretha culled from the new career-spanning box set of the same name. Includes the previously unreleased tracks “Call Me” – Alternate Version, “Until You Come Back To Me” – Work Tape, “You Light Up My Life” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” – Live, which was originally broadcast on The 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors on 12/19/15. Franklin’s biggest hits are here too, like “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” “Think” and her signature smash, “Respect.” But instead of using familiar takes for other hits, the collection selects different versions, like an alternate take of “Chain Of Fools.” Featuring artwork by celebrated artist Makeba “KEEBS” Rainey, who provides her signature style to a photo of the Queen Of Soul taken by the legendary photographer, Neal Preston.
File Under: Soul
Henry Franklin: The Skipper at Home (Real Gone) LP
Bassist Henry Franklin’s 1972 release for Black Jazz, The Skipper, is one of the highlights in a label catalog full of many, and his 1974 follow-up, The Skipper at Home (“The Skipper” is Franklin’s nickname), lives up to its predecessor’s high standard and might even surpass it. Which is no surprise given that a lot of the same players are on it, including trumpeter/flugelhornist Oscar Brashear, tenor/soprano saxophonist Charles Owens, and pianist Bill Henderson (here billed as Kemang Sunduza). But The Skipper at Home also boasts ace talents like keyboardist Kirk Lightsey (memorably featured on the Roland Haynes Black Jazz release 2nd Wave), trombonist Al Hall, Jr. (who appeared on Black Jazz releases from Doug Carn, Chester Thompson, and Calvin Keys), and drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, who’s played with everyone from Miles Davis to Joe Henderson. The result is an album that, like The Skipper, is rooted in bop but one that nods to some of the currents that were swirling in jazz at the time; it’s a little freer, a little more electric. And, as is true of just about every Black Jazz release, the ensemble work is remarkably intuitive and swinging, driven by Franklin’s melodic, inventive bass playing. The Skipper at Home has never been reissued on vinyl outside of Japan, and it’s never sounded better thanks to Mike Milchner’s remastering. Pat Thomas’ liner notes complete the package. A beautiful record. Orange with black swirl pressing limited to 750 copies and exclusive to independent record stores!
File Under: Jazz
Wayne Horvitz: Dinner at Eight (Abstrakce) LP
Reissue of this amazing 1986 album where drum machines meet improv jazz. Horvitz gathers together his drum machine and synths along with his talented friends -Elliot Sharp included- for this really original record that is both composed and improvised. An obscure gem by one of the most spirited musicians to populate NY 80’s avant-garde, a golden era for vanguard attitudes and sounds. Horvitz, keyboard player at Naked City (along with John Zorn, Bill Frisell, and Fred Frith) had classical musical education and an ulterior demise of the discipline; radical jazz sensibilities, and rock’n roll vitality. That made up for a very unique, highly distinctive, breed of cutting-edge music. The boundaries of contemporary composition are expanded, breathing from improvisatory strategies and awareness of both the pop world and the most experimental milieu’s discoveries. Large is the importance of his long-time collaborator Butch Morris’ Conduction method, a system of structured free improvisation. “Dinner at eight” offers new turns on the development of these mixed approaches by being both composed and improvised but also neither fully electronic nor fully acoustic. Written mostly in the loneliness of a San Francisco apartment, the project is less collaborative than others by Wayne, and its sound palette becomes more electronic and rhythm-based. Nevertheless, the helping hand of the most stellar musicians in New York becomes crucial as it rounds the timbral and structural magic of the project. The rhythmic and sound design experiments of tracks such as “Dinner at eight” or “Conjunction For C” go hand in hand with the machine funk of “This New Generation” (where angular bass and guitar are provided by Elliot Sharp). We can find a robust synthetic marimba and bass jazz in “Extra Extra” or insistent dry percussions on “Second Line” that wouldn’t be far from Marc Barreca’s investigations. “True” and “These Hard Times” are also harmonizing with these mechanic sounds. Joyous, exotic, and whimsical songs that prove how an ear for experimentation is an open ear to all sounds, including the most melodic and overtly fun. Brilliant fresh sensibilities and musical interests collide in “Dinner At Eight” to form a very special milestone of NYC avant-garde music, offering us an even richer vision of that amazing fertile scene.
File Under: Jazz, Electronic, Fourth World
Human Figures: Footsteps (BFE) LP
An album of intricate minimal wave/post punk from Daniel Holt’s new project Human Figures. You may know Holt as the head of Ardetha Records, but he also has an impressive resume of experimental synth and ambient projects, such as synth duo Vault, and the mind-melting techno 12″ for L.I.E.S. Records and Frigio records under his own name. Human Figures is a completely new and personal avenue of expression for Holt. “Footsteps” is liminal, lonely and misty with negative space between each instrument. Each note invokes a warm hypnagogic atmosphere, tinged with fluttering anxiety. Through these eight tracks, this multifaceted musician shows another side of his art with guitars, basslines and drum machines. The mournful “Lifted Burden”, with its cowbells and echoing vocals swaddled in warm strings, sets the tone. Haunting notes are supported by a staccato beat as Holt´s melancholic vocals sail in “40 Days” before the bare brilliance of “An Open Heart.” A spread of influences is drawn on for Human Figures: the post-punk rawness of “For My Angel”, the synth romance of “Footsteps” the cold reductions of “Passing Beyond Body.” Sombre, stirring and superb. FFO of the minimal vibes of records like Solid Space “Space Museum”, Dark Day “Exterminating Angel”, The League Of Nations “Music For The New Depression”, Lives of Angels “Elevator To Eden”
File Under: Post Punk, Minimal Wave
Lingua Ignota: Sinner Get Ready (Sargent House) LP
Kristen Hayter, the classically trained multi-instrumentalist, performance artist, and vocalist known as Lingua Ignota has announced her Sargent House debut, SINNER GET READY. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an MFA in Literary Art from Brown University, much of Hayter’s work is centralized around abuse. A survivor of domestic abuse for much of her life, her music seeks to explore survivor hood of abuse through the vantage point of rage and despair in leu of common approaches she views as “enforced patriarchal models of civilized femininity”. The follow up to her critically acclaimed break out CALIGULA, SINNER GET READY is an abrasive, unsettling portrait of devotion and betrayal, judgment and consequence, set in the derelict landscape of rural Pennsylvania, a neglected region deeply embedded with a particular god-fearing brand of Christianity, and where Hayter currently lives. With SINNER GET READY, Hayter continues to build on the mythology she has created with CALIGULA and ALL BITCHES DIE but renegotiates and dismantles her own aesthetic language. She abandons any previous industrial grandeur and multi-genre approach, instead focusing on creating dissonance with traditional instruments of the Appalachian region, otherworldly vocals and congregational polyphony, subverting American primitive forms with avant-garde techniques and nods to modern composition. Lyrically, Hayter’s distinctive ability to weave the allegorical with personal trauma is further refined here, as intimate lamentations on abandonment and loneliness are carefully braided with references to Pennsylvanian Dutch lore, Mennonite treatises, calls to repent written on barns in Amish Country, and illuminated manuscripts from ascetic religious sects in Ephrata. SINNER GET READY was created with Hayter’s primary collaborator, producer, and engineer Seth Manchester at Machines With Magnets in Rhode Island, with additional arrangements and performances from multi-instrumentalist and composer Ryan Seaton, and banjo-playing from J. Mamana.
File Under: Metal
King Woman: Celestial Blues (Relapse) LP
King Woman, the outfit featuring songwriter, vocalist and “tour de force of gloom and woe” (Rolling Stone) Kris Esfandiari, return with their eagerly-awaited sophomore album, Celestial Blues. Feeling compelled to reshape the biblical archetypes that once bound her, Esfandiari has created a theatrical tale of rebellion, tragedy, and triumph – a metaphor for her own personal experiences over the years – Celestial Blues was born. Esfandiari sets a dramatic tone for the record with “Morning Star” echoing the primeval account of Lucifer’s fall from grace while the band once again takes us to church with the hardcore gospel of “Coil.” Esfandiari desperately begs to be absolved in the crazed offerings of “Psychic Wound,” ultimately regaining a powerful reflection of herself after a provocative and tormenting dance with the Devil. Celestial Blues is at once a masterclass on crushing atmospheric doom, and at times a sobering take on the weightier sides of shoegaze. At the album’s core, a palpable tension can be felt. Acoustic guitars soar before descending into a darkness of riff-heavy distortion. Drums build upon these moments and explode into a cacophonous groove. Esfandiari’s voice remains at the forefront; somber moments lead to burning intensity and crescendo. This ebb and flow is constant. Recorded in Oakland, California by Grammy-nominated engineer Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Amenra, Oathbreaker) Celestial Blues sees King Woman take a daring step forward as one of the genre’s luminaries, releasing one of the year’s most evocative records.
File Under: Metal
Fela Kuti: Open & Close (Knitting Factory) LP
RSD release repressed on black vinyl… Another long-thought-lost gem from the Fela Anikulapo Kuti archives, Open & Close was originally released in 1971 and is a total groove-fest loaded to the gills with raucous horn blowing, ferocious percussion (once again, Tony Allen take a bow), and song lengths over ten minutes.
File under: Afrobeat, Funk
L7: Hungry for Stink (Real Gone) LP
L7 wasn’t just one of the best all-female bands of the late ‘80s and ‘90s; they were one of the best bands, period, paving the way for the grunge and riot grrrl movements with killer songs, crunching riffs, and badass attitude. And their 1994 masterpiece Hungry for Stink is arguably their best and most consistent record, featuring such fan favorites as “Fuel My Fire” and “Andres,” along with “Shirley,” their tribute to drag racer Shirley Muldowney, and “Questioning My Sanity,” which unflinchingly tackles the subject of depression. Our Real Gone reissue includes the lyric sheet that came with the original (and very rare) LP release, and comes in a red and yellow “sunspot” swirl vinyl pressing limited to 700 copies. Must be played loud or not at all!
File Under: Rock, Grunge
Manzanita y Su Conjunto: Trujillo, Perú 1971 – 1974 (Analog Africa) LP
Berardo Hernández – better known as Manzanita – first surfaced during the psychedelic Cumbia craze. At the head of the scene were the magnificent Los Destellos, whose leader, Enrique Delgado, was such a six-string wizard that other guitarists found it impossible to escape his shadow. But when Manzanita arrived, his electric criollo style sent shockwaves through Lima’s music scene and posed a serious threat to Delgado’s dominance as king of the Peruvian guitar. Starting in 1969, Manzanita y su Conjunto released a steady stream of singles that used Cuban guaracha rhythms as the foundation for dazzling electric guitar lines. After countless 45s and several years on the touring circuit, the band signed to Virrey, an important Peruvian label, and recorded two LPs acknowledged as masterpieces among aficionados of tropical music. Most of the songs on Analog Africa’s new compilation Manzanita y su Conjunto are drawn from those legendary sessions of 1973 and 74. Although he scored a few more hits in the later 70s, his dissatisfaction with the music industry caused him to withdraw from the scene for several years; and when he finally retired for good, the golden age of Peruvian cumbia was a distant memory. But when Manzanita was at the top of his game he had few equals. This is some of the best music ever recorded in Perú. This Limited Edition LP pressed on 180g high quality virgin vinyl comes in Gatefold Cover.
File Under: Cumbia, Psych, Peru
Morrissey: Bona Drag (Parlophone) LP
Bona Drag was originally released in 1990 after Morrissey had released a string of singles in the wake of his solo debut, Viva Hate. His initial intention was to achieve success in the singles market, which he did with the songs “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” and “Interesting Drug.” The effort that he put into the singles took away from any work he could do on a proper full length follow up to Viva Hate. Instead, he released this compilation of singles and B sides. Includes the songs: “Piccadilly Palare,” “November Spawned a Monster,” “Ouija Board, Ouija Board,” and “Suedehead.” Twenty tracks in all. Released by Sire on 180 gram double vinyl house in a gatefold sleeve with printed inner sleeves and a fold out poster.
File Under: Rock, The Smiths
Mudhoney: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge DLX 30th Anniversary Edition (Sub Pop) LP
By going back to basics with Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, Mudhoney flipped conventional wisdom. Not for the first time – or the last – they would be vindicated. A month after its release in July 1991, the album entered the UK album chart at Number 34 (five weeks later, Nirvana’s Nevermind entered at 36) and went on to sell 75,000 copies worldwide. A more meaningful measure of success, however, lay in its revitalization of the band, casting a touchstone for the future. The record is a major chapter in Mudhoney’s ongoing story, the moral of which has to be: when in doubt, fudge it. The album began at Music Source Studio, a large space equipped with a 24-track mixing board – downright futuristic, compared to the 8-track setup that birthed the band’s catalytic 1988 debut, “Touch Me I’m Sick.” The Music Source session quickly turned into a false start when the results, in guitarist Steve Turner’s words, “sounded a little too fancy, too clean.” Lesson learned, the band went primitive and got to work at Conrad Uno’s 8-track setup at Egg Studio. Named after the cartons pasted on the walls in an optimistic attempt at sound-proofing, Egg boasted a ’60s vintage 8-track Spectra Sonics recording console, originally built for Stax in Memphis. So it was that, in the spring of 1991, Mudhoney made Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. The resulting album is a whirlwind of the band’s influences at the time: the fierce ‘60s garage rock of their Pacific Northwest predecessors The Sonics and The Lollipop Shoppe, the gnashing post-hardcore of Drunks With Guns, the heavy guitar moods of Neil Young, the lysergic workouts of Spacemen 3 and Hawkwind, the gloomy existentialism of Zounds, and the satirical ferocity of ‘80s hardcore punk. The quartet’s special alchemy meant these fond homages never slid into pastiche. Ultimately, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge epitomized the best of Mudhoney: here was a band reconnecting with its purest instincts, and in the process reinventing itself. This 30th anniversary edition, remastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service, stands as testimony to the creative surge that drove them in this period. The album sessions yielded a clutch of material that would subsequently appear on B-sides, compilations, and split-singles. This edition includes all those tracks, and a slew of previously unreleased songs, including the entire five-track Music Source session.
File Under: Rock, Grunge
Perila: How Much Time It Is Between You and Me? (Smalltown Supersound) LP
Perila, the moniker of Berlin-based electronic musician Aleksandra Zakharenko, delivers her debut album, How Much Time it is Between You and Me?, via Smalltown Supersound. With a sound world so specific and transportive, Zakharenko’s ambient music is filled with detail and movement akin to hauntological musique concrète touched by song. Zakharenko self-describes the record as an “immersive experience into self” viewed through a “silence prism” where everyday sounds usually ignored felt amplified. Lead single “Fallin Into Space” is a track about “grounding yourself in new places, accepting the surroundings, and opening up to what comes,” explains Zakharenko. “It’s about slowing down and being conscious about what and how your body is in that space. Many new things come to attention when you slow down and observe.”
File Under: Ambient
Prince: Welcome 2 America (Legacy) LP
Recorded in the spring of 2010 and then mysteriously abandoned by Prince before its release, the statement album Welcome 2 America documents The Purple One’s concerns, hopes, and visions for a shifting society, presciently foreshadowing an era of political division, disinformation, and a renewed fight for racial justice. The album features some of Prince’s only studio collaborations with the bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, drummer Chris Coleman, and engineer Jason Agel, with additional contributions from the New Power Generation singers Shelby J, Liv Warfield, and Elisa Fiorillo plus keyboardist Morris Hayes, who Prince also recruited to co-produce the album. The standard vinyl edition has the 12 songs spread across three sides on 2LPs in gorgeous gatefold packaging, with a custom etching on the fourth side.
File Under: Rock, Pop, Funk, Soul
Quakers: Supa K: Heavy Tremors (Stones Throw) LP
Supa K (fka Katalyst) tells the origin story of the beat tape: “They returned to the planet to find humans reaping ecological havoc. From their arsenal of secret weapons comes Heavy Tremors: a sonic assault to help bring the world back into balance. This siege of beats targets the few who systematically pillage the planet and its resources for their own benefit. Play it loud.”
File Under: Hip Hop
Rural Alberta Advantage: Departing (Paper Bag) LP
“The percussive, stripped down Indie-folk trio plays acoustic everything, but there’s nothing quiet about them…Every one of those songs just goes for it, in a racing-toward-the-sun kind of way.” – Pitchfork We are proud to announce our Paper Bag Vintage reissue of The Rural Alberta Advantage’s celebrated 2011 album, Departing, pressed on limited-edition, “whiteout” vinyl. With just 400 copies in existence, this is the first time this album has been available on vinyl in four years. Over four acclaimed albums, The Rural Alberta Advantage has explored themes ranging from hometowns lost and found to tragic Alberta disasters with an earnest style of songwriting that has continued to leave its mark and grab fans around the world. Years of touring have filled rooms with a sound far beyond what any music fan would initially expect from a trio, until they witness Paul’s incomparable drumming style live and the number of parts Amy can play at any one time alongside Nils’ cathartic vocals. The band’s sophomore release, Departing, was two-time Juno nominated and Polaris Prize long-listed, and a natural bookend to their critically acclaimed debut, Hometowns. Continuing the exploration of themes of love, loss and leaving, Departing contains ten songs about growing up and moving on.
File Under: Indie Rock
The Shins: Oh, Inverted World: 20th Anniversary (Sub Pop) LP
Oh, Inverted World, the earth-shattering, indie-rock-redefining 2001 debut album by The Shins, is presented here in its finest form, dressed up all nice for its 20th birthday. The classic tunes get new life by way of a full remastering job under band leader James Mercer’s watchful eye, the art is given a little extra zest via a die-cut jacket and a classy inner sleeve, and the package is rounded off with a big ol’ booklet with vintage photos, handwritten lyrics, and more. The music, of course, is obviously essential. Aside from a friendly reminder that this is the album with the smash hit “New Slang,” as heard in the hit movie Garden State, Sup Pop just needs to note that the remastering job truly makes this the album Mercer always wanted it to be. Never quite satisfied with the sonics of the original, Mercer took the 20th anniversary of the album as his opportunity to finally set the (literal!) record straight. And the results sound stellar: great for new fans, and well worth the attention of those already on board! For old times’ sake, here’s what the label had to say about this record back when it came out in 2001: Hailing from Albuquerque, NM, The Shins sprung from the ashes of Flake/Flake Music in 1997 (though those previous incarnations date back nearly a decade) – same members, different instruments, different approach. Counterpoint guitars have given way to a single guitar pitted against calculated keyboard passages; swarming indie rock machinations led to pop-based melodic endeavors. This vital album was easily among the 2000’s most distinguished recordings and one of the best Sub Pop releases to date!
File Under: Indie Rock
Son Volt: Electro Melodier (Thirty Tigers) LP
2020 was not quite what Jay Farrar was expecting for the 25th anniversary of Son Volt, the band he started in 1995 after leaving the seminal group Uncle Tupelo, whose No Depression album helped define the alt-country and Americana genre. The group had just finished an Outlaw Country Cruise when the pandemic hit and sent them into their homes on lockdown. Instead of a triumphant tour marking the illustrious landmark, Farrar was forced indoors by the pandemic, and his “Reverie” during that time helped define Electro Melodier, Son Volt’s tenth studio album. The title, taken from the names of two vintage amplifiers from the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, also describes the LP’s unique blend of folk, country, blues, soul and rock – an electric troubadour with melodies that hit and stick. Social protest songs like “Living in the U.S.A.” and “The Globe,” the former about the promises of this nation gone wrong, the latter referencing the street protests accompanying the Black Lives Matter movement, exist side by side with odes to long-term relationships (specifically his 25-year marriage) in “Diamonds and Cigarettes” and “Lucky Ones.” Once again accompanied by the current Son Volt line up – keyboardist/steel guitarist Mark Spencer, bassist Andrew Duplantis, guitarist Chris Frame and drummer Mark Patterson – Farrar takes a slight turn from 2019’s politically pointed Union to a series of songs that asks questions rather than demanding answers – think of “Living in the U.S.A.” as Farrar’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” or Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power,” an anthem to unite the populace. One listen to Electro Melodier, which opens with “Reverie,” describing Farrar’s contemplative state gazing out his window, enlivened with Mark Spencer’s “Wichita Lineman” guitar riffs and the lush Big Star melodies, and you wonder why no other rock ‘n’ roll bands or singer/songwriters are making albums like this about what we’re all going through. Listen to the Moog line from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” channeled in “The Globe,” or the Led Zeppelin homage in “Someday Is Now,” the nod to gut-bucket Mississippi delta blues in the Lightnin’ Hopkins low-tuned guitar stylings of “War on Misery” or Spencer’s haunting slide on the funereal dirge of “The Levee On Down,” which takes Andrew Jackson to task for everything from the “Trail of Tears” massacre of the Cherokees to his face on the $20 bill instead of Harriet Tubman. The environmentally conscious “Arkey Blue” nods to a honky-tonk in Bandera, TX, Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar, where Hank Williams, Sr. allegedly carved his name into one of the wood tables, and even quotes Pope Francis on “turbulent rains never before seen.” “I’m just asking the same question, how can so much go wrong in a country that is held up as an example to the world of something righteous,” explains Farrar about songs like “Living in the U.S.A.,” in which you can hear doom saying prophecies like Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” set to the guitar riffs of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.” Farrar is grateful to his wife of 25 years, a sentiment which he expresses lovingly on “Diamonds and Cigarettes” – featuring vocals by country singer Laura Cantrell, along with songs like the soulful “Lucky Ones” and “Sweet Refrain,” a song that captures the spirit of Bentonia, Mississippi, home of Skip James along with name checks for local legends Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and the Bluefront Cafe. “These are the Times” was recorded entirely remotely by Zoom, signaling one of the new methods of making music ushered in by Covid. “It’s a good time to take stock of what’s lost and what’s gained,” said Farrar. “At this point, we’re not even sure what we’re going to get back.” The songs of Electro Melodier help remind us to be thankful of what we still have – new music from Jay Farrar and Son Volt.
File Under: Alt Country, Rock
Taylor Swift: Folklore (Republic) LP
The best selling album of 2020 and the only album to sell at least a million copies during the calendar year, Taylor Swift’s eighth studio effort, Folklore also marks the singer/songwriter’s seventh consecutive No. 1 entry on the Billboard 200. The indie-leaning collection, a surprise move away from the star’s pop roots, was also one of the year’s most critically acclaimed. Three of its tracks reached the top 10 of the official charts in eight countries including “Cardigan,” “The 1” and “Exile.” Working with her longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, Swift also enlisted the help of Bon Iver, and Aaron Dessner of indie darlings, The National to contribute to the album. Of the collaborators, Dessner co-wrote or produced 11 of the 17 songs, while Bon Iver co-wrote some songs and sang on the record as well. As the title and cover art suggest, Folklore is a stripped-down affair, a beautiful collection of contemplative, indie-folk songs that acts as a balm for these chaotic times. “In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result, a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness,” Swift shared. “Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory. I’ve told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve. Now it’s up to you to pass them down.”
File Under: Pop
Torres: Thirstier (Merge) LP
Torres’ fifth album Thirstier pumps the miraculous into the mundane. It is in open revolt against the gray drag of time, a searing and life-affirming eruption of an album that wonders what could happen if we found a way to make our fantasies inexhaustible. What if we got whatever we wanted and still wanted it, endlessly, with no threat of boredom and no danger of depletion? What could we become if we let ourselves grow incandescent with eternally renewing desire? Recorded in the fall of 2020 at Middle Farm Studios in Devon, UK, Thirstier marks a turn towards a bigger, more bombastic sound for Torres. The anxious hush that fell over much of Mackenzie Scott’s previous music gets turned inside-out in songs tailored for post-plague celebration. Scott co-produced the album with Rob Ellis and Peter Miles, drawing on her experience self-producing the acclaimed 2020 LP Silver Tongue to push her music onto an even broader scale.
File Under: Indie Rock
The Wallflowers: Exit Wounds (New West) LP
Rock ‘n’ roll is often hard to define, or even to find, in these fractured musical times. But to paraphrase an old saying, you know it when you hear it. And you always hear it with The Wallflowers. Exit Wounds, which stays true to its title, is an album that is an ode to people – individual and collective – that have, to put it mildly, been through some stuff. “I think everybody – no matter what side of the aisle you’re on – wherever we’re going to next, we’re all taking a lot of exit wounds with us,” says Jakob Dylan. “Nobody is the same as they were four years ago. That, to me, is what Exit Wounds signifies.” To be sure, Exit Wounds is populated by scarred souls and the things they carry with them. Those are your exit wounds. And right now, we’re all swimming in them.
File Under: Alt Country, Rock
The Wedding Present: Seamonsters (RCA) LP
Double vinyl LP pressing + CD edition. 30th Anniversary Edition of Seamonsters, the third studio album by British rock band The Wedding Present. Recorded in 10 days in America, Seamonsters has a rougher, harsher overall sound than the group’s earlier albums owing to producer Steve Albini working with the band and is now considered a landmark 90s rock release. This 30th anniversary package includes the studio album alongside the Dalliance, 3 Songs and Lovenest EPs. Rounding out the music on the release are a set of live BBC Peel Sessions recordings. This 30th anniversary bundle also includes a CD comprising the studio album and EPs.
File Under: Rock
Erik Wollo: Silver Beach (Abstrakce) LP
Erik Wøllo is a unique Norwegian musician that has been active since 1980, covering a wide range of styles but mostly known for his very personal take on electronic ambient music. In Silver Beach, gentle rhythms hold center for lush beautiful melodies to unfold, manifesting a restrained elegance in the way the chords hover around this percolating heartbeat. The result is synthetic walkabout music, an album of simple yet vibrant sophistication, perfect for wandering around or sitting contemplating imaginary beautiful vistas with eyes closed. These seventeen stunning tracks create a sense of ceaseless motion without arrival, the pleasure of traveling without destination: walking on an outer limits beach. An early electronic music masterpiece, it was made using the latest MIDI technology at that time. Everything was composed and recorded on the now vintage Roland MSQ700, and all the diverse synths and rack modules were mixed directly down to 2 track analog tape (no multitrack tape was used). The original Silver Beach album was released on vinyl on the Norwegian label Cicada Records in 1986. In 1988 the album was released on CD (also Cicada) and included the additional and very rhythmical tracks “Little Big Tune” and “Mountain Train.” The album was also re-released on CD on the Spanish label Margen Records in 2005, remastered and fine-tuned with 5 additional previously unreleased tracks from the same era. These tunes just refuse to be forgotten, their glittering beauty having both an air of nostalgia, but also of validity, as they continue to haunt new ears. There’s no doubt that this is a classic of European eighties electronic music composition, a polished artwork with the best aesthetic and emotional signifiers of its era.
File Under: Electronic, New Age, Ambient
Various: Too Slow to Disco: Yacht Soul Covers (How Do You Are?) LP
TSTD returns with another trip into the musical past of the sun-drenched West Coast: This time DJ Supermarkt unearthed 16 Soul & Funk versions of original Westcoast/AOR/Yachtpop gems. You can find tracks originally performed by Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, Wings covered by big Soul & Funk legends like Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Quincy Jones, Brothers Johnson and more. Most of the tracks have been recorded in the late 70s/early 80s, but failed to become big hits and fell under the radar. Like Chaka Khan doing a seriously funky version of Fleetwood Mac’s „Everywhere“ (from an unreleased album recording), next to obscure reworks like Leslie Smith’s version of „Nothin’ You Can Do About It“ by Airplay (Jay Graydon and David Foster). There are especially surprising versions here, like Millie Jackson’s gospel-like rendering of „This Is It“ by Kenny Loggins/Michael McDonald, or Billy Paul’s „Black Power“-influenced version of Paul McCartney/Wings’ „Let Em In“ and the rare cover of The Beach Boys’ „God Only Knows“ by Betty Everett. Overall another TSTD collection of smooth, sunny, extremely soulful and funky tracks, that needed to be dug-out to be heard again. This is Bottled Sunshine!
File Under: Soul, Yacht Rock
Leon Bridges: Gold-Diggers Sound (RCA) LP
Czarface: Czar Noir (Silver Age) LP
Miles Davis: Merci Miles! Live at Vienne (Rhino) LP
Miles Davis: Rubberband (Rhino) LP
Miles Davis: Workin’ (OJC) LP
Elevator: August Extra (Blue Fog) LP
Feelies: Crazy Rhythms (Barnone) LP
Jon Hassell: Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Vol. One) (Ndeya) LP
Durand Jones & The Indications: s/t (Dead Oceans) LP
Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (Rhino) LP
King Crimson: Larks’ Tongue in Aspic (Panegyric) LP
King Woman: Created in the Image of Suffering (Relapse) LP
Modest Mouse: Good News for People… (Epic) LP
Modest Mouse: Moon & Antarctica (Epic) LP
Molchat Doma: Etazhi (Sacred Bones) LP
Oliver Nelson: Blues and the Abstract Truth (Acoustic Sound Series) (Verve) LP
John Prine: Live at the Other End, December 1975 (Rhino) LP
Radiohead: Amnesiac (XL) LP
Taylor Swift: Evermore (Republic) LP
Tragically Hip: Road Apples (Universal) LP
Vangelis: Blade Runner OST (Warner) LP