Sunday, July 29, 2018

Green dreams were folding over: June 2018 music diary

The age-old question -- what's an album and what's EP, really? -- gets a considerable workout this month, with multiple "albums" clocking in under half an hour, and one at just two minutes longer than the EP at the head of the post. My only canonical answer is: it's whichever the artist says it is. So All Delighted People (59 minutes)? EP. ye (23 minutes)? LP. The artist creates their own moral universe.


Wussy: Getting Better (Shake It EP) [r]
A modest band whose best work can pack unexpected power, much of it in the singing: listen to Lisa Walker's cynical resignation on the titular Beatles cover, and Chuck Cleaver's terrified, shaky but articulate passion on "Nomenclature." And the Walker-led "Runaway" is just a beautifully brisk stab in the heart, but it can't redeem the extremely bad idea "Retarded." For those of us who appreciate Wussy more in small doses, three of these four will be just the thing.

Pusha T: DAYTONA (Def Jam) [hr]
In the spring of 2018, an increasingly divisive public figure named Kanye West holed up somewhere in Wyoming and produced five seven-song, twenty-minute albums in rapid succession, each with a different credited artist; this odd format lent itself to the most confident work West has produced in five years. The first and -- by universal consensus -- best of them is Pusha T's bare, stark third LP, which isn't the long-awaited Big Statement that T's been promising for half a decade but might be stronger than that less modest creation ever could be. Push still talks the guff about dealing more than any rapper of his generation who isn't currently behind bars, and some of his lyrics are as confused and embarrassing as his current producer's -- I'm still trying to understand the verse about janitors and Matt Lauer -- but the brutality and brilliance of this shot in the dark is tough to shake. It opens with a rant and rave set against Halloween party store sound effects and holds its grip thereafter as we're led further into the mire, though as vividly and confidently as Push delivers his celebrations of That Life (and you can sense that self-satisfaction is soon to become a problem with this one), you can be forgiven for barely hearing him over the infinitely evocative music: "The Games We Play" transforms a noodling guitar sample into outrageous backwoods funk, "Hard Piano" is like zombie Late Registration with strings and a half-snoozing Rick Ross, and "Infrared" offers a creepy-crawly fade to black well matched with its apocalyptic subject matter (the continued, inexcusable success of Drake). At worst, West's work here is merely an adventurous building up of old techniques, but at best, it's simultaneously ominous as hell and impressively elegant, defying (or maybe demonstrating the virtues of) its slapdash creation. But let's not make this a Kanye lovefest; his guest verse here is nothing special, despite a long-awaited NKOTB reference, and Push himself is what keeps me coming back to "Come Back Baby"; after a bit of "King Heroin"-style sampled addict pep talk, we get one of the most belligerently amoral drug songs in hip hop history, with a trademark yeuuugh and "We buy big boats, bitch I'm Sinbad" and "Dapper Dan" rhyming with "Zatarain's," and Kanye would never tell us any of this because how could he? But it's rock & roll indulging us yet again in the fantasy of total irresponsibility, and you won't understand why that's so liberating if you're determined not to but if you know you know.

LUMP (Dead Oceans) [r]
The premise here is that heretofore average singer-songwriter Laura Marling has recorded an album of baroque pop arranged and produced by Britfolkie Mike Lindsay; I can't speak for the latter but the result barely resembles any of Marling's previous work as far as I can tell, and I'm hesitant to declare Lindsay's instrumentation as the reason Marling's relatively thin voice suddenly sounds sumptuous and overwhelmingly communicative (one precedent is her older lullaby "Always This Way"), but whatever has ping-ponged the two into this level of inspiration is welcome. The dirge-like "May I Be the Light" is made hypnotic by its tense electronic undercurrent (later there's "Hand Hold Hero," which could practically be Venetian Snares), and there are Echo and the Bunnymen and Shakespeare's Sister and even Eurythmics textures (see the aptly titled "Curse of the Contemporary") that don't violate the half-hour's general timelessness. And Truffaut nerd that I am, I like that they put the credits in as spoken word on an actual song, an overdue cop to common decency in the streaming era that sounds very Black Box Recorder and futuristic to boot.

Oneohtrix Point Never: Age Of (Warp) [r]
This doesn't sound as good in the cold light of day as it did when I drove through a lightning storm while playing it, mostly because our boy Dan can't resist throwing in the hideous vocodered James Blake shit at several intervals. Neverthless, I appreciate the opening callback to the Orb, and I like the way Lopatin uses samplers and keyboards to deconstruct familiarity so that the songs attain their off-kilter quality by being very close to comfortingly nostalgic: soft rock pulled apart on "Toys 2," roller-rink arcade pop on "Warning," electrified worldbeat on "RayCats," and an ITT Tech commercial on ""

Natalie Prass: The Future and the Past (Caroline) [r]
A massive 180-degree move away from Prass' older work; if you're cynical you say "new label," or you're more honest with yourself and say she's been listening to Michael Jackson and Adele and Sade a lot, and maybe we all should try that. Major hooks everywhere ("The Fire"), and the pacing is solid (one of the euphoric highlights, "Ain't Nobody," is held off for the end) with plenty of well-crafted pop intricacy ("Short Court Style"). On the whole it swings a little too heavily toward power balladry for my tastes but even at that I dig the lonely intimacy in the way Prass' vocals are performed and recorded.

Neko Case: Hell-On (Epitaph) [r]
Case may be the artist I respect most who hasn't actually put out an album that I especially liked; the biggest problem is that I routinely come in expecting the unchecked passion she lets hang out on the New Pornographers' records, and for one reason or another she's reluctant to cut loose that way on her own stuff. In terms of its sound, her latest record is a step down from The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight (2013), despite the fact that things have gotten worse; it's just a little more bland and conventional, but as always, there are gems to be discovered among the songs themselves. There are two A.C. Newman cowrites, and one of them -- "Gumball Blue" -- soars thanks to a great, reassuringly sad vocal and arrangement; I wish they'd collaborate so closely more often. The rest seldom gets beyond the wall of restraint she puts around herself on these records, but the towering "Bad Luck" is a triumph because it doesn't hedge like most of her attempts at full-on country. The rest is uniformly decent and pleasant, with "Last Lion of Albion" catchy enough to rise above and her lyrics (especially on the other Newman collaboration, "My Uncle's Navy") an asset everywhere; indeed, maybe the solution to both these artists' problems is for Case to take over on the Pornos' lyrics, at least as an occasional antidote to Newman's word-salad surrealism? Just a thought.

Kanye West: ye (Def Jam) [r]
Trained to expect the worst not only by reviews but by West's erratic behavior over the last few years, I ended up being relatively pleased at first; most of the lyrics are more baffling than full-on embarrassing, and despite being increasingly cocooned from normal day-to-day existence he still occasionally delivers a divine moment of sarcasm, a solid joke (the one about focusing on two things at once is pretty good) and the apt description of his "shaky ass year" that suggests more than a modicum of self-awareness. Plus, as others have said, it's foolish to try and pretend any of us are up to the task of a comprehensive interpretation of West's mind or what he's trying to do with it, not least because the other music he issued this month (see above and below) implies he's still perfectly capable of a kind of artistic focus he now chooses to deny for the records under his own name. My inclination is to believe that the shoddy, extemporaneous nature of all this is the point, but that doesn't make it successful -- and sadly, it seems more hollow once its provocations are more familiar. "I Thought About Killing You" begins as confrontation, fizzles into slam poetry; clearing the cache enough to hear it on its own terms again is impossible, and at the record's too insubstantial to offer any rewards for trying (though not in terms of length; its brevity is actually welcome). West continues his recent interest in recapturing the old trademarks with a couple of classic soul experiments ("No Mistakes" and "Ghost Town," the latter of which is probably the best cut thanks in large part to the excellent guest vocals by the young rapper 070 Shake, who also partly redeems the horrendously misjudged "Violent Crimes"), and one weird groove ("Wouldn't Leave") that sounds actually new even as the song gets mired in relationship bullshit. West's state of mind and his attempts to mold it into traditional storytelling are at least interesting if not actually strong -- his contention of mental illness as a brand of superheroism is both timely and disgusting -- and there's something highly comic about his implicit insistence (belief?) that the bizarre situations he's narrating are some sort of universal yeah-we've-all-been-there parable, as when he raps about his wealthy in-laws getting uptight over his incendiary, senseless statements to the media. It's tone-deaf rock star shit rendered as avant garde performance art. The beats are often as good as ever. The songs don't wear out their welcome. Even his vocals are probably as impressive as they've ever been. But either he's slumming it, or he's taking an extremely long view that we can't yet understand, which does us no good right now.

serpentwithfeet: soil (Secretly Canadian)
Baltimore's Josiah Wise is a literal child of the Gospel who uses the traditional textures of religious music as an act of self-discovery, and his experimental songs explore sexuality with almost unheard-of frankness, at least for a gay R&B singer whose directness and complete recasting of ideas about sensuality have little precedent in pop music. His delivery rambles, a sort of cross between Xiu Xiu and Michael Stipe circa "Hairshirt," over songs that often feel incomplete, which for me is more of a block to hearing the appeal than the well-wrought themes, which include some of the most beautiful lyrics and singing about ejaculation that I can recall. It can be operatic and wacky ("cherubim"), and it can sound like a Disney movie ("waft"), and it suffers from a good deal more boredom than you hope it will.

Jorja Smith: Lost & Found (Famm) [r]
British R&B star in the making collaborated with Drake and Kali Uchis; her debut album carries pleasant echoes of the latter's Isolation, though it's more relaxed, professional, very much a late-night-at-the-bar record. A large gang of producers and writers do their stuff on Smith's perfectly toned singing (she sounds more than a little like Rihanna), discovering the loveliest sounds on the kalimba and bass thump-driven "February 3rd," the frayed and beautiful "Wandering Romance," and the major hook-ridden "Teenage Fantasy," the best part of which may be its charming fade on which Smith abruptly drops her defenses. And while I rarely see call for such optimism these days, the fact that such an unguarded element made it in makes me wish we'll hear more like "On Your Own," a Dido-like big urban UK romance wherein Smith makes no bones about showing the full cornucopia of her origins. By default, though, the attention-grabber is "Blue Lights," a strong, assertive, absorbing protest groove: "better run when you hear the sirens come" is really the thesis statement of the decade.

Virginia Wing: Ecstatic Arrow (Fire) [r]
With propulsion right out of the gate, this Manchester synthpop duo hedges on nothing. Their music dares to imagine an unfettered feminist society the way Yoko Ono did on Feeling the Space, so no wonder "Glorious Idea" sounds like a throwback to Ono's dance records of later years, with spoken vocals that will -- depending on your scope of influence -- remind you of "Vogue" or a Whatchamacallit ad from the late '80s. The immersive, tricky, beautiful "Relativity" futhers along the '80s alienation, and "Pale Burnt Lake" calls up one hazily remembered Depeche Mode remix or another. Along with U.S. Girls, this new fashioning of synthesizer pop as a new realm of political music makes an intriguing, welcome twist that could easily be a movement. And somewhere out there I hope Rob Sheffield is thrilled that his favorite format of band-unit is making an assured comeback, only now with direct protests against the idea that the voiceless male involved is calling all the shots from far in the rear of the stage.

Snail Mail: Lush (Matador)
The second half of the 2010s has pretty well flooded us with dirgey singer-songwriters with an extremely narrow range of vocal approaches; somehow I'm tempted to at least partially blame Jens Lekman, Josh Ritter and Sharon Van Etten, but without the oversized praise handed to the likes of Julien Baker or Snail Mail's Lindsey Jordan, it's unlikely anyone would even connect any dots here, unless you're the kind of asshole who just doesn't want women to play guitars and sing anything. Jordan's music is modest, clearheaded in its approach, unassuming even. It also gets old very, very quickly if you're not in its target audience; and let me remind you quickly that I don't tend to be super-fond of the wave of "classic" singer-songwriters of the 1970s either. There's a certain whiny lilt in these vocals that sounds like a million other people, just like the affected, faux-sensitive croon of the Cat Stevens-Jimmy Buffett-James Taylor-John Denver-Jim Croce class. Like so many others, Jordan's songs and lyrics sound a lot smarter than they really are when you examine them closely; the most passionate, crafty selection "Pristine" offers little real insight in its perception of a broken relationship, perhaps because -- gulp -- it's written by a teenager and is, let's face it, written for teenagers. Were I someone else entirely, I might find something I needed in it, and I don't think it's Snail Mail's fault I'm not someone else, but it's not mine either.

Kadhja Bonet: Childqueen (Fat Possum)
A lush California pop album, nothing groundbreaking but pretty dreamy, all flutes and mysticism and hushed urgent vocals and mild Enya vibes, though it's ominous that the most groove it kicks up is on a lite-jazz song called "Mother Maybe."

Gruff Rhys: Babelsberg (Rough Trade)
Surprised to be telling you that this is somewhat enjoyable, at least as long as you turn your brain off and remember it's goofball cotton candy for people who dug Britpop the same way Them Crooked Vultures were for people who dug sniffing glue. It's all orchestral swinging London mod shit, readymade for a character in an early 2000s Wes Anderson picture to have very pointedly spinning on a turntable. Unlike a lot of throwback pop, this at its best -- "Same Old Song," "Limited Edition Heart" -- has a certain directness in its "classic" sentiments and hooks to avoid copping to irony or sentimentality. If Belle & Sebastian released it (and you bet they'd build up to a duet with an actress -- Lily Cole -- called "Selfies in the Sunset") you'd file it away as part of a continued decline; it's all so relaxed and lazy in the end, right? Or am I just writhing in negative vibes?

Kids See Ghosts (Def Jam) [hr]
Kid Cudi and Kanye West have been perhaps the biggest rappers in history to open up about their own struggles with mental illness, dramas that have played out in uncomfortable proportions on the public stage. This collaborative album of Prozac anthems, dramatic stagnation and joyous woe -- another seven-track twenty-minute opus from West's Wyoming cycle -- is about as productive a reclaiming and revisionist narrative of the resulting tension as can easily be imagined. Cudi has traditionally been a serviceable rapper whose verses continue to be solid and professional here, but the star inevitably is West; yes, he follows up his verse earlier this year about park beautification with one in which he rhymes "brrr-ah-da-da-da" with "brrr-ah-gat-gat-ga" (only Pusha T actually delivers a coherent verse on the opener "Feel the Love"; read that again: Pusha T provides the most coherent verse on a song) but his production is routinely breathtaking and may justify the usual lofty all-timer claims if you disregard all the collaborative credits. "Fire" deviates brilliantly from off-the-wall sea chanty to ethereal finale; "4th Dimension" and "Reborn" are both hot, addictive beats in the most forward-looking, classically appealing sense; and the unhinged, unsettling title song is the freakiest and most impressive psycho-minimal construction of West's career since Yeezus (and it boasts his best verse since that era to boot). It seems that Cudi's ambitions, for all his more modest gifts, have brought out the thirst of the new again in Kanye, much as the opportunity to construct a complete mythology and odyssey on Pusha's album resurrected his best impulses. The record really doesn't have time to get indulgent ("Reborn" runs 5:25) and given West's public image of recent years, its ideology is remarkably consistent: "through with mixed messages," "might need an intervention," "keep moving forward," "I don't feel pain anymore / guess what baby, I feel freeeee." It's troubled, haunted, a mess. It sounds real.

Leon Vynehall: Nothing Is Still (Ninja Tune) [r]
British downtempo house DJ's debut full-length is like emerging from underground after a rainstorm, then slowly retreating.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Hope Downs (Sub Pop) [hr]
The characters, thoughts, chords and melodies put older bands trading on the same scope of jangle pop influence to shame; they already break my heart three minutes in with the painfully vivid lost-love-and-complacency ramble "Air Conditioned Man," followed on with the wisely frightening pre-apocalyptic "Mainland." The three gifted songwriters feeding off and competing with one another all sound like they're home. The riveting guitar interplay, minimal, seamless and razor-sharp but barely shy of miraculous, makes Real Estate sound like a lengthy joke somebody played on you. Yes, they betray the strong influence of fellow countrymen the Go-Betweens; and yes, their music will be well-nigh irresistible to that group's dogged acolytes. (The Pavement fan in me sneers at everyone who tries to sound like Pavement. The Go-Betweens fan in me swoons whenever anyone cares enough to try to sound like the Go-Betweens, and perhaps no one has ever sounded as much like them -- like Robert Forster specifically -- as they do on "Exclusive Grave" and "How Long?".) But they have the chops and they have the songs, two elements that transcend some phony notion of authenticity or originality. In just 35 minutes, there's so much to explore. It's tougher than the EPs; it's better too; even if it can offer nothing as bold and stunning as "Tender Is the Neck," its pleasures are more indefinite, hazier, heftier. Deadpan ferocity here, Replacements-like urgency there, unresolved riffage here, the faint touches of impassioned punk ("Talking Straight") there, and then wildcards: totally unexpected syncopation ("Bellarine"), and the middle-eight of "Mainland" by itself could merit the buzz. Craziest of all, it gets stronger as it goes (and that's even before you listen repeatedly and get totally seduced by innumerable nooks and crannies), so that the reflective, pretty pop of "Cappucino City," absolutely assured and present, opens the fraught tension up like a rose. The record's a gift from rock & roll itself, and simply gorgeous.

SOPHIE: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (Future Classic) [A+ (originally hr)]
Music can sound old and still deeply compelling, as above; or it can sound like nothing you've ever heard before -- like nonverbal free association -- and make you suddenly conscious of what a privilege it is to live in a future that would permit it. SOPHIE's a producer whose work for various mainstream artists (freaks like me might remember her for Vince Staples' "Yeah Right," which was the sound of being put through the same kind of wringer) gave faint suggestions of her LP's ruthless unpredictability. It is an immodest revolution; it means to startle, beginning with the hilariously jarring jump-cut from the deceptively gentle pop "It's Okay to Cry" to the hostile and mad "Ponyboy" and the mocking hyena beat of "Faceshopping," which fuses the itch-scratching intensity of Crystal Castles with the infectious hyperspeed of Iglooghost. Somehow it gets stranger from there, slipping once in a while into a docile moment that's then yanked from under you like the mattress in a post-coital eviction notice. There's even a Kate Bush song, kind of ("Is It Cold in the Water?") and a moment of immersion therapy ("Infatuation") before "Pretending" shoves us through the feeling of blacking out into an uneasy ambiance, rife with crying and horror. A good indication of how little we can trust this music is that "Immaterial" sounds as though Outkast's "B.O.B." is trying to bust out of it before it goes drugged-out speed addict balls to the wall. "A Whole New World" beats you into submission with its childlike hi-NRG, terror and obnoxiousness, until your only choice is to marvel at the sheer glory of it all. The pacing of the entire album is wild, up to its broken down disappearance into the walls at the conclusion; it's tense precisely because it isn't relentless. Demanding, progressive, brilliant -- this is the sound of 2018 that we don't want to admit we're all hearing.

Nas: Nasir (Def Jam) [hr]
Even more of a conceptual grab bag than ye, but maybe more than any of the other albums in the Wyoming cycle this plays to the strengths of both West and his star attraction of the moment: Nas can run self-evident circles around Kanye West as an MC even today -- he's both more eloquent and more formidable as a performer -- and even when he's on his most tiresome bullshit (the goofy anti-vax verse on "Everything," which isn't the first time he's gone on that particular rant) he's still compelling, commanding and even funny. The messaging isn't always on the other side of Mars, either, with the confrontational opener and closer "Not for Radio" and "Simple Things" stepping further into America's state of political insanity and its systematic disenfranchisement of its people than West would dare without someone holding his hand. But West more than pulls his weight; the skittering, stark, terrifying "Cops Shot the Kid" is one of the most innovative recordings in the whole month of recordings -- and, improbably, this album's biggest hit despite its flagrant middle finger toward commercial appeal (West would do so much better if he shunned the outside world consistently, not just for show); "White Label" takes the opposite tactic, resembling something from the Blueprint era, but is no less impressive. Even the frustrating "Everything" has a magical hook provided by West and The-Dream, who also trills a piano and croons through "Adam and Eve." Low-key but compelling, the record rewards continued attention and comes off as a surprisingly successful mutual pushing forward by two masters of their form, who for the most part seem aware of their heights and limits.

Tierra Whack: Whack World (s/r) [hr]
Pink Flag and Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs fan that I am, nothing's nearer and dearer to my heart than the idea of a quarter-hour of tantalizing grooves, each immediately ending at the one-minute mark; no repetition, you want to hear that part again, you gotta rewind. Perhaps the element of a specifically ordained time for each song -- the stopwatch factor -- makes it a little more mathematical than spontaneous, but the question is how does it pan out? Some of the songs admittedly are overstuffed -- you can hear this Philadelphia magician almost lose her breath a few times trying to get all her ideas out in the alotted space -- and some are too wispy to fill the full time without padding. But when it works, it works perfectly: a succession of blink-and-you'll-miss-it treasures fully putting across a new voice's entire eccentric, individualistic personality; she talks about creating a world around her ADHD, and she generally succeeds. The opener "Black Nails" sounds like a song that never starts -- a la "Revolution 9" -- but that's quite appropriate if you think of the entire record itself as a song, and an adventurous and enlightening one. The complete creations ("Bug's Life," with intro, buildup and funny, revealing lyric; "Cable Guy," which Frank Ocean would have turned into a throwaway but which Whack infuses with grace, passion and surprising detail; "Hookers," a killer beat that should by all rights be longer except the whole point is it's not) carry the ones that don't quite work, like the Jamiroquai-like "Hungry Hippo" or the vaguely funky but indistinct "Dr. Seuss." That list is short, though, and while things get goofier in the back half -- the playful "Pet Cemetery" toying with sound effects and sporadic bass, sounding a bit like a mutated Sidney Gish outtake, is the top of a heap that includes deliberately terrible Casio country and a "Starfish and Coffee"-like interlude called "Silly Sam" that namedrops Mario and Luigi -- there's a remarkable amount to discover in this scant timeframe. And note that while Whack is credited far and wide as a rapper, what she really is is a singer-songwriter, and a creatively restless one whose every impulse can be cultivated into a highlight; she so rarely employs her MC skill set here that it's jarring when she steps into her low-toned delivery on "Sore Loser." There's new music and there's new music, and Whack (along with SOPHIE) is fully carrying the flag for the latter right now.

The Midnight Hour (Linear Labs)
Lush collaboration between psych-soul producer and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad seeks a chill jazz NPR crowd much more than either the fun-loving mischievous nostalgics of the Foreign Exchange or the high-minded experiments with hip hop and jazz by Flying Lotus and the like. Rap is limited to a few selected intervals (one almost drunkenly robotic verse by Ladybug Mecca early on is most memorable) and the goal is mostly texture and mood. It can be pretty (the Karolina vocal "Smiling for Me" is Judy Garland stuff) and sometimes catchy (the Cee-Lo guest vocal "Questions," which you'll remember from Kendrick Lamar's untitled unmastered.) but an hour of it gets pretty old, especially when there's no real break in its polite, shiny mood.

The Last Poets: Understand What Black Is (Studio Rockers) [hr]
The collective that can lay credible claim (if anyone can) to having invented hip hop in the late 1960s, Harlem's Last Poets return here with their first studio album of the current century, almost simultaneously with the death of founding member Jalal Mansur Nuriddin. It's amazing to compare this to the type of material that tends to be issued by veteran rock musicians: a desperate clinging to the past, a humbled bid for retained affection. None of that shit here -- these battered souls expect you to come to them on their terms and they have much to impart, all from occupying the same unprotected world as any of us. Poets Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan, and poet-percussionist Baba Donn Babatunde, carry the legacy on as if they never stopped, fully prepared and fully resigned for the myriad ways in which they're now performing to a different world, telling the story of all of us with flawless words and infectious music. The engrossing, beautiful record that results is challenging and righteous, never mincing words, but fully allowing for redemption, if nothing else than in the form of music: on the Prince tribute "North, East, West, South" and the valentine to form "The Music," the past and future are a beacon of mutual admiration and respect in all directions; but if you want the world defined with a wisdom and distance unachievable by millionaires like Kanye West and Nas, "Rain of Terror" will get you there and well past it, an unbearably funky rattling off of America's centuries of crime.

- Modern Studies: Welcome Strangers (Fire) [omg it's Locust! no no, the other Locust!; "Mud and Flame"/"Disco"]
- Cut Worms: Hollow Ground (Jagjaguwar) [Herman's Hermits doing Beach Boys harmonies, with carnival-ride sounds; old world woes made new and lilting, and Max Clarke sounds a little like Gram Parsons, but it's all a bit sugary; "Coward's Confidence"/"Don't Want to Say Goodbye"]
- Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo (Shanachie) [Malian singer-songwriter performed in the film Timbuktu and imparts a message that means to unite more than it means to confront, but inevitably the small helpings of the latter come strongest; "Negue Negue"]

- Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois (Planet Mu)
- Simian Mobile Disco: Murmurations (Wichita Recordings) ["Hey Sister"]
- Mary Lattimore: Hundreds of Days (Ghostly) [she plays, the harp]
- Gas: Rausch (Kompakt) [heavier than the blackest black metal, and somehow sillier than the proggiest prog rock]

* Tracyanne & Danny
* Chvrches: Love Is Dead
* Black Thought: Streams of Thought: Vol. 1 EP
* Angelique Kidjo: Remain in Light
J Balvin: Vibras
Jenny Hval: The Long Sleep EP
Aisha Burns: Argonauta
Norma Waterson & Eliza Carthy: Anchor
Jamie Isaac: (4:30) Idler
Erin Rae: Putting on Airs
Proc Fiskal: Insula
Shannon Shaw: Shannon in Nashville
Lykke Li: so sad so sexy
Lily Allen: No Shame
Tangents: New Bodies
John Parish: Bird Dog Dante
Olivia Chaney: Shelter
Christina Aguilera: Liberation
Melody's Echo Chamber: Bon Voyage
Sami Baha: Free for All

Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse [NYIM]
Charles Watson: Now That I'm a River
Bernice: Puff! In the Air Without a Shape [NYIM]
Wooden Shjips: V.
Ben Howard: Noonday Dream
Roger Daltrey: As Long as I Have You
Uniform: Mental Wounds Not Healing
Eartheater: Irisiri
Boy Azooga: 1 2 Kung Fu!
Matt Maltese: Bad Contestant
Flasher: Constant Image [NYIM]
YOB: Our Raw Heart
Howlin Rain: The Alligator Bride
John Hassell: Listening to Pictures
Petal: Magic Gone
Fantastic Negrito: Please Don't Be Dead
Protomartyr: Consolation EP
Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part 3 [NYIM]
Johnny Marr: Call the Comet [NYIM]
Mike Shinoda: Post Traumatic
Culture Abuse: Bay Dream

The Midnight Hour "Questions" [The Midnight Hour]
Charles Watson "You've Got Your Way of Leaving" [Now That I'm a River]
Ben Howard "Towing the Line" [Noonday Dream]

Albert Ayler: Spirits (Debut 1964/1966) [r]
Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity (ESP-Disk 1964/1965) [hr]

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