Nick Thorburn started constructing A Sleep & A Forgetting alone, on a piano, while processing a painful breakup. His soul-exposing lyrics carry questions and incredulity. Although there aren't many uplifting spots in here — literally every song is sad — his voice oscillates between sunny and depressive, heartfelt and sardonic. Quite a conceptual turn from Islands' last album, Vapours, which featured upbeat, carefree love songs. Read more »
Hearing a band being described as "tribal electronic" gives me a headache, but Young Magic actually pulls it off on its debut full-length, Melt. This New York-via-Australia trio works irregular drum machine beats, swirling synths, and haunting vocals into dark, psychedelic pop songs. The sluggish, heavily reverbed "Night In The Ocean" is sensual and explosive. With its fluttering synths and repeated "I found love with you" vocals, "Jam Karet" is catchy and almost chant-like. "The Dancer" opens with a few creepy music box notes, and features what sounds like a shrieking tropical bird. Read more »
Sick of the usual holiday favorites (though I'll never tired of Saint Mariah), I was pleased as rare twist punch with In the Christmas Groove — a compilation of obscure stone cold soul, funk, and other vintage grooves from Christmas past, namely the 1960s and '70s holiday spirits.
Poor choice in band name aside, Oakland psych-rock quartet Mwahaha's debut has a lot to offer. On album opener "Swimmer," Ross Peacock sings "I swim deeper through darkness and danger / from the surface and its beautiful light" in an alluring falsetto over warm synth tones. Read more »
THEE OH SEES CARRION CRAWLER/THE DREAM (In The Red)
It's very easy to take things for granted in San Francisco, and in many ways that's been the demise of so many amazing things in this city; we forget to applaud, support, and revel in the magic when it's here, only to lament it when it's taken away. Thee Oh Sees are on fire, this is their second full length of the year. Their work ethic is as charged as the songs that fill this record. Something happens when you listen to Carrion Crawler/The Dream, you blast it loud and then you begin to move, and sweat, and get out of your head and into your body and feel so raw and alive. Don't take them for granted; they are the best rock band on the planet right now.See videos after the jump.Read more »
Led by hand drumming, three-stringed n'goni lute, and organic pitch shifting Malian chant, Super 11's Super Onze is a compelling set of songs. The band, a collective formed in a remote region of Northern Mali, plays Takamba, a type of music typically created for weddings and other ceremonies. It comes from a rich musical history, linked to other artists in the area, and in style to acts such as Ali Farka Touré.
It’s not really a subtle couplet, “Weighted down with silent dead/ I fear our blood won’t rise again,” but with it the title track for PJ Harvey’s newest offering Let England Shake sets the stage for the songs to come. A surprisingly melodic exploration of the still reverberating effects of World War I on England’s shores and English mores, Let England Shake is both a call to arms and a plea to lay them down again. And despite its deliberate focus on atrocities past, the album can’t help but to implicate all current and future wars within its narrow rifle scope. Read more »
JESSICA 6 "White Horse" and "Fun Girl" (Peacefrog)
Siren of the dance floor Nomi Ruiz is looking and sounding even better outside of Hercules and Love Affair; in fact, depending on the petty commercial whims and deeper prejudices of the world, she could be the most alluring pop diva since Aaliyah. Washing in on peerless cymbal-sprays, "White Horse" comes on like the 21st-century answer to Shannon's "Let the Music Play" while also notching top spot in the current Madonna revival. Its video sashays through the kind of N.Y. nighttime sleaze that just about disappeared with the Gaiety, and does so with style. The older "Fun Girl" has traces of the Hercules sound as well as Janet Jackson's and Aaliyah's feline flirtations with guitar rock, and a warped horror-tinged sound that make sense when one considers Jessica 6's original name was Deep Red. Check out the flawless combo of windblown hair/keyboard at 1:14. Can't wait for the album. Videos after the jump. Read more »
ARNAUD FLEURENT-DIDIER La Reproduction (Columbia/Sony Music)
If you're a lover of chanson-tinged pop and you found Benjamin Biolay's recent double-LP a letdown, then there's bittersweet relief to be found in this song collection, which covers similarly vast instrumental terrain with an ease that the ostentatious Biolay didn't manage. Fleurent-Didier reminds me a bit of Gerard Manset, but not quite as brooding -- there's modernity and whimsy to his compositions and vocal delivery. The interplay between vulnerable voice, acoustic guitar, piano, electronics, and orchestration in "Reproductions" is flat-out gorgeous. The Contempt-inflected music video for that song is one of the best I've seen in quite a while. Totally, tenderly, tragically, after the jump. Read more »