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FEATURED RELEASES

Sunday
Jan292017

TIM COHEN - Luck Man

Whether he’s cranking out psych rock with The Fresh & Onlys or mellowing things out adult-contempo style in Magic Trick, Tim Cohen is a musician who follows his own path and follows it quite often. He’s determined to not let any idea or “bit of wisdom” to slip away. “I don’t possess the wisdom for longer than it takes to make a song. I inherit it momentarily, write it down, attach a melody that fits the words in rhythm, and then record it,” says Cohen about his writing process. Sounds like Twitter with musical accompaniment. Thankfully, his description of “wisdom” doesn’t come off as an exaggeration as the songs behind Cohen’s latest Luck Man are quite sharp.

It’s almost hard not to expect any solo album to recycle tired clichés that maybe its creator felt were too personal for his main projects. However, this isn’t Cohen’s first solo release, and he’s not the typical musician to get hung up on love or pain. Rather he allows Luck Man’s songs to come alive with its own characters and stories, which allows each one to stand apart in its own way. The most immediate grabber is “Meat Is Murder”, where Cohen’s sleepy (maybe defeated) growl sings over this haunting, determined riff. The music paints the idea that its character is ready to go to war over his conviction. “I Need A Wife”, disarming with its sad but sweet titular sentiment, seems to be a touching declaration before being realized in an epic burst as a desperate desire. The shift in tone makes the song remarkable. - Earbuddy

Monday
Jan232017

ERASMO CARLOS - Erasmo Carlos

Erasmo Carlos has no counterpart in the universe of Anglophone pop music that could begin to hint at his relevance, popularity and his complex relationship with the only Brazilian pop star more universally recognized than himself, Roberto Carlos. He may be a beloved pop star and household name in Brazil, but hardly because of the music found on the three albums reissued by Light In The Attic. While in retrospect they can be appreciated as some of his most creative, consistent and personal albums, they were also some of the least commercially successful and underappreciated of his long career, at least until recently. Embracing the artistic freedom of the global counterculture of the late sixties and early seventies, over the course of these three albums, Erasmo evolved from his bubblegum beginnings into a sophisticated seventies singer-songwriter. Erasmo Carlos E Os Tremendões (1970), Carlos, ERASMO . . . (1971) and Sonhos E Memórias 1941-1972 (1972) collectively find this maturing teeny-bopper delivering a mix of world class psychedelic Rock, traditional Rock ‘N’ Roll, Soul, Funk, Folk, Bossa Nova, and Samba-Rock to an unsuspecting Brazilian audience.

As a student and fan of Elvis, Little Richard, Bill Haley, and Chuck Berry, Erasmo indulged his primal rock urges on these albums, notably getting sufficiently psychedelic and fuzzy on Carlos, ERASMO . . . Arriving in 1971 while Caetano and Gil were still in exile, Rita Lee had recently quit Os Mutantes and Gal Costa was onto a new sound, Erasmo’s 1971 album was the closest thing to Tropicália around. Carlos, ERASMO . . . was co-produced by the Tropicália producer, Manoel Barenbein, including a new composition from Caetano, a few arrangements courtesy of Rogério Duprat and the musical talents of no fewer than three Mutants: lead guitarist Sergio Dias, drummer Dinho Leme and bassist Liminha, not to mention Brazil’s undisputed psychedelic axe-master, Alexander Gordin, aka “Lanny”, Carlos, ERASMO. . . is a virtual all-star team of Tropícalistas (not in exile). This album is considered a bedrock album within the Brazilian rock scene and a notable late entry in the Tropicália tradition, rocking harder than any album in his catalog, but also including wispy love songs, soul and funk moves, brassy pop tunes and a marimba-driven ode to marijuana. - Light In The Attic

Saturday
Jan212017

SUN RA - The Space Age Is Here To Stay

Not many jazz acts can be confused with Sun Ra and His Arkestra. From his Egyptian-style African garb to his obsession with space, Sun Ra managed to define Afrofuturism both culturally and musically. Tribal rhythms hid behind lyrics dealing with space, science, and the future; ancient mythologies merged with dystopian literary references; lyrics dealing with nuclear explosions and Mutually Assured Destruction are sung over jazz bass lines and horns. Taken individually, these topics have been discussed before, but no one other than Sun Ra has managed to combine jazz, science fiction, and ancient civilizations together, and made it all sound so good in the process.

This, in essence, is what The Space Age Is Here To Stay offers its audience. From the very first song, “Along Came Ra/The Living Myth”, Sun Ra utilizes religious lyricism and imagery to create a mythos around the album and him. It sounds ostentatious and pretentious at first, but the stripped back percussion and tribal chants ground the song in a way that makes the abstract concrete, the general more intimate. In this way, he delivers unto his listeners more than mere music; he’s giving them an opportunity for a musical and spiritual journey through the cosmos of sound. - Popmatters

Tuesday
Jan172017

DAN PENN - Nobody's Fool

Dan Penn is one of the great songwriters. His work and his life are what legends are made of, and so is this recording. Penn wrote or co-wrote such '60s classics as "Dark End Of The Street", "Do Right Woman" and "I'm Your Puppet"; Nobody's Fool, released in 1972, was his first solo record. His voice and demo recordings had been spoken about with great reverence, and he had written hits, so Bell records might have expected such a record from him. The sad truth was that it wasn't very successful saleswise and didn't stay in print very long.

Penn had a hand in writing all the material here, with the exception of John Fogerty's "Lodi". Penn's reading of the Creedence classic is a natural; his incredibly soulful voice and a great arrangement make this an ideal cover choice. The title track, which opens the disc, is a loner's anthem that sounds like a standard the first time your hear it. The great country-soul of "I Hate You" is also a stunner, with Penn's warm voice lamenting in the first degree...This is an essential recording by an essential artist. They just don't make records like this anymore, and it's a shame. - No Depression

Friday
Dec162016

OXFORD AMERICAN 2016 Music Issue 

"Across the 160-page magazine and 23-song CD compilation, we’re celebrating one of the South’s greatest cultural exports: blues music. The issue comes in multiple covers, showcasing three generations of blues artists: John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, and Adia Victoria.

The CD features classic blues (Charley Patton, Allen Toussaint, Big Mama Thornton) alongside contemporary artists reinterpreting the genre (Alabama Shakes, Bassekou Kouyaté, Regina Carter), plus rare recordings (including a never-before-released vintage CeDell Davis track). The magazine contains new work by some of the best music writers of our time (Greil Marcus, Daphne A. Brooks, Elijah Wald, John Jeremiah Sullivan) and essays by first-time Oxford American contributors (Jeffery Renard Allen, Rashod Ollison, Sarah Bryan, Zandria F. Robinson), as well as stories from OA regulars (Amanda Petrusich, Jewly Hight, Cynthia Shearer, David Ramsey)." - Oxford American

Friday
Dec162016

DANIEL TAYLOR & TRINITY CHOIR - Tree Of Life

"When Daniel Taylor's Trinity Choir released its 2015 Christmas album Four Thousand Winter, it impressed even the committed scrooges here at CBC Music. And now, a year later, the choir has returned with a record in a very similar mould. Like its predecessor, The Tree of Lifefeatures music spanning two millenia: from chants dating back to the earliest days of Christmas celebrations, to contemporary works by Arvo Pärt and John Tavener. But this new album has a concept and a goal of its own.

The album is structured around Pärt's Seven Magnificat-Antiphons, a collection of gloriously straightforward settings of sixth-century sacred texts. Around the scaffolding of these seven short pieces, Taylor and his choir build a meditative musical experience that's a far cry from the standards-and-sleigh-bells approach to Christmas music. Tavener's setting of William Blake's "The Lamb" is so static, you might find yourself slipping into a trance by the end of its brief running time. Robert Parsons's placid "Ave Maria" will immediately purge your mind of more familiar settings by Schubert and Gounod. And Benjamin Britten's "Hymn to the Virgin" (written when Britten was only 16) cuts straight to the part of you that recognises beauty — regardless of what sort of spiritual journey you may personally be on." - CBC

Wednesday
Dec072016

DAMIEN JURADO & RICHARD SWIFT - Other People's Songs: Volume One

"It shouldn't be a surprise that Other People's Songs is an album composed entirely of covers, or that Damien Jurado and Richard Swift are working together — Swift has produced several of Jurado's previous releases. What's surprising is that Jurado and Swift manage to strip down these nine songs and reinvent them as something entirely original.
 
The songs chosen by Jurado and Swift is what makes Other People's Songs stand out. It's representative of the duo as aficionados of their trade, and reflects the gamut of their musical taste. Through mastery of their craft, Jurado and Swift pay homage to cult icons like Bill Fay and John Denver, and also more popular acts such as Yes, Chubby Checker and even Kraftwerk. The motif in these choices is definitely demonstrative of a passion for '50s, '60s and (mostly) '70s-era rock'n'roll, soul and pop that's catchy, upbeat and, mostly, groovy." - Exclaim

Wednesday
Dec072016

GILLIAN WELCH - Boots Vol.1

"Gillian Welch’s 1996 debut, Revival, is one of the era’s most influential albums, its retro stylings and bleak evocations of the dust bowl era marking the transition from alt-country to Americana. Welch’s revivalism was no Carter Family copyism; here was a startlingly good songwriter who could put you in the place of a barroom girl or mountain moonshiner with a few piercing images. David Rawlings’s impeccable picking and harmonies sealed the deal. This 20th-anniversary set fills a bootlegger’s jug with 21 outtakes and demos of Orphan Girl, Annabelle and the rest. The pick of its eight previously unreleased songs are the caustic I Don’t Want to Go Downtown and the homely Wichita, but every drop is delicious." - Guardian

Wednesday
Dec072016

VA - New Orleans Funk Vol.4

"Soul Jazz Records‘ New Orleans Funk series is one that should need no introduction. Vol. 1 came out in 2000 and established a benchmark for funk compilations both in terms of killer content, scrupulously researched liner notes and audio quality that no other label has thus far equalled. It was subsequently followed by three sequels – the ‘real’ second volume (entitled Saturday Night Fish Fry) and then two official sequels – Vol. 2 and 3. If there was any grumble at all, it might have been that the latter of these contained fewer dancefloor-oriented cuts than the others. Not so Vol. 4, subtitled Voodoo Fire In New Orleans 1951-77which arrives sixteen years after the first in the series and decisively re-establishes the series as a go-to for rare floor-filler material, despite possessing the same relative brevity (‘only’ eighteen tracks instead of more than twenty) as its immediate predecessor." - Monkeyboxing 

Wednesday
Dec072016

VA - Punk 45: Les Punks: The French Connection

"In an effort to set the record straight about the French contribution to '70s punk, Soul Jazz Records has delivered an installment in the PUNK 45 series titled PUNK 45: Les Punks: The French Connection: The First Wave of Punk 1977-80. The album collects 19 tracks from 17 bands that were recording during the first wave of European punk rock, and if this doesn't connect as hard as the typical American or British punk comp from the same period, it does confirm France had a lively scene that left behind some admirably tough and effective sides. 

Les Fantômes and Angel Face confirm the level of Stooges worship in France; Metal Urbain's fusion of distorted guitars and drum machines anticipated Big Black by six years; Guilty Razors suggest a unique fusion of the Heartbreakers and noise rock; Gazoline offer a malignant take on Bowie's Spiders from Mars period; Charles de Goal, Kas Product, and A3 dans le WC confirm there were plenty of angular and arty new wave acts on the scene; and 84 Flesh and the Dogs navigate the border between punk and hard rock. Not everything on this collection sounds stellar in the 21st century, but even the weakest tracks here are smart and muscular rock & roll, and while most first-era punk rock from the U.S. and U.K. has been compiled to death, most of these tracks have been little heard outside their native land, making this relatively fresh listening. Les Punks isn't likely to change the prejudice against French rock, but it's hard evidence that punk rock gave their scene a welcome kick in the butt just as it did all around the world." - All Music

Saturday
Nov192016

VA - David Holmes: Late Night Tales

"Few individuals fit the mould for a much-loved, artist-curated compilation series quite as comfortably as David Holmes. From his globetrotting, hugely influential DJ career to his genre-hopping solo output via soundtrack work for the likes of Steven Soderbergh and Steve McQueen, the Belfast polymath has the quintessential markings of a Late Night Tales curator. Doubling up as a feature-length breather of sorts following two decades of activity and crate-digging, Holmes’ addition to the series is a quiet triumph of meditative poise and restraint, underscoring his reputation as a savant whose appetite for curio, collaboration and the deepest of cuts continues to hold him in good stead...

...Rather than simply invite one to slumber, David Holmes impels the listener to cut themselves some metaphysical slack on his Late Night Tales. Conjuring both a sense of Nietzschean Eternal Return and the aboriginal concept of Dreamtime, this is music to be listened to on a solitary stroll just as the evening starts to bleed into the night. It’s music to submit to on good headphones whilst quietly rejoicing in the ever impenetrable, fucked-up madness of it all. It’s music to seek out when some respite from all the blurred lines in this very busy world is desperately sought. In taking our hand but never gripping too tight, Holmes taps into something that even the best Late Night Talescompilations sometimes neglect: the pure self-therapy of total escapism." - The Quietus

Wednesday
Nov092016

VARIOUS - (Microcosm) Visionary Music Of Continental Europe 1970-86

"The follow up to Light In The Attic’s game-changing I Am The Center box set is finally here. The Microcosm: Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 is the first major overview of key works from cosmically-taped in artists needing little introduction — Vangelis, Ash Ra Tempel, and Popol Vuh — and unknown masterpieces by criminally overlooked heroes like Bernard Xolotl, Robert Julian Horky and Enno Velthuys.

Whereas I Am The Center called for a reconsideration of an entire maligned genre, The Microcosm requests nothing more than an open mind to consider this ambient, new age, neuzeit, prog, krautrock, cosmic, holistic stuff, whatever one calls it — as a pulsating movement unto itself, a mirror refracting the American new age scene in unexpected, electrifying ways, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt the universality of the timeless quest to express “the Ineffable” through music.

Drawing from major label budgets and homemade cassette distributed circumstances alike, The Microcosm demonstrates a depth of peace profound to behold, and clearly expands the boundaries. Lovingly conceived and lavishly presented by producer Douglas Mcgowan (Yoga Records) and liner notes contributor Jason Patrick Woodbury (Pitchfork, Aquarium Drunkard), The Microcosm features stunning cover paintings by Étienne Trouvelot, and labels by Finnish savant Aleksanda Ionowa." Light In The Attic

Tuesday
Nov082016

CHOIR OF CLARE COLLEGE - Remembrance

"Early November is filled with recollections of loss, from All Saints’ Day, on the first, to All Souls’ Day, on the second, to Remembrance Day on the 11th. In keeping with those traditions, the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge has released a new recording on that theme called “Remembrance.” The packaging is decorated with poppies, the traditional image of the tragedy of World War I, taken from Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields:” “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row ...”

The almost 80-minute program includes a collection of nine brief choral works, from an ancient Russian Orthodox melody to a new arrangement of William Henry Monk’s iconic hymn “Abide With Me,” John Tavener’s exquisite “Song for Athene” and William Harris’ “Bring Us, O Lord God,” along with a complete recording of Maurice Duruflé’s setting of the Requiem mass. There’s not a weak link in there. Unlike some British university choirs, the Choir of Clare College is composed of both men and women, and they have a beautiful blend. The solo work of mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston in the Duruflé’s “Pie Jesu” movement is particularly noteworthy. Director Graham Ross skillfully maintains that sound; this is a gorgeous disc." - St. Louis Post Dispatch

Saturday
Nov052016

BETTY HARRIS - Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul

"Under the guidance of musical legend Allen Toussiant, unsung soul queen Betty Harris recorded a string of incredible singles that have finally been collected on a new compilation by Soul Jazz Records. Recorded between 1964 and 1969, and backed by seminal engine room The Meters, the singles capture Harris’ raw, soulful, uncompromising voice that reflected the city’s raucous music scene, spilling out of every joint on Bourbon Street.

Although not native to New Orleans – she flew in for sessions from LA – Harris was synonymous with the city, pressing singles to Toussaint and his business partner Marshall Sehorn’s local label Sansu, that would become staples in jukeboxes across Louisiana. However, failing to gain the wider reputation enjoyed by her contemporaries like Lee Dorsey (who she recorded with) and The Meters (who backed her), Harris’ contribution was never fully realised and her career as a musician ended prematurely at the turn of the decade." - Vinyl Factory

Saturday
Nov052016

AGNES OBEL - Citizen Of Glass

"Citizen of Glass, the third album from Danish-born, Berlin-based singer-songwriter Agnes Obel, takes its title from the German concept of the gläserner bürger, meaning "the glass citizen." It's a legal term that refers to privacy — if somebody is glass, every detail about them is known. Though like the material itself, a person can, of course, never be totally transparent. Like glass, one can be distorted, cracked or even a reflection of something else. 
 
Obel uses this idea to create her most ambitious work to date, both conceptually and instrumentally. While 2010's Philharmonics and 2013's Aventine were applauded for the artist's piano work and the hushed beauty of her voice, here Obel complements her compositions with grandiose instrumentation, including violin, cello, spinet and the Trautonium. The additions are magnificent and never overwhelm, staying true to Obel's commitment to minimalism and forming a haunting, symphonic quality that partners with delicate vocals as they lead the way through the album." - Exclaim

Saturday
Nov052016

VARIOUS - After School Special: 123's Of Kid Soul

"Meet the kids with soul and funk galore. Like the label’s previous Homeschooled release, this new compilation focuses on the music 70s schoolgoing ensembles were making when classes ended. The Jackson 5 were the big influence for most of these kids – the brothers’ blend of pop, R&B and soul was a winner in playgrounds everywhere. You can hear shades of the Jacksons in the work of Georgia’s The Scott Brothers, whose Runnin’ Wild is a serious slab of funky pop. But it wasn’t all about the J5, as shown by the Bethlehem Center Children’s Choir’s touching I’m a Special Kid; Nancy Dupree and her students’ James Brown; and a great cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised from Brother’s Rap. A fascinating insight into what happens when music education goes beyond the classroom." - Irish Times

Saturday
Nov052016

STEVE REICH - The ECM Recordings

"There was a time when Steve Reich had few champions. Now he wins the Pulitzer Prize, collaborates with Jonny Greenwood, and on various anniversaries of the composer’s birth, concert halls the world over schedule celebrations of his catalog. But in the late ’60s and early ’70s, during his hardcore minimalist period, labels offered only sporadic commitments, including one-and-done relationships with both Columbia and Deutsche Grammophon. Before the American vanguard of minimalism would be canonized in classical circles, someone would have to demonstrate long-term confidence in Reich’s art.

In 1978, Manfred Eicher’s ECM imprint offered the first issue ofMusic for 18 Musicians, after famously spiriting the tapes away from a tentative Deutsche Grammophon. (The latter had been sitting on the album for years, after paying to record it in 1976.) Eicher’s trend-spotting sense proved keen: The jazz label’s first “classical” release eventually sold over 100,000 copies. ECM followed up this success as soon as they could, with a collection of shorter Reich pieces from his past, one of which was already more than a decade old. After a third LP—the recorded debut ofTehillim—Reich moved with onetime ECM employee Bob Hurwitz to the label Nonesuch, his recording home ever since." - Pitchfork

Saturday
Oct222016

LEMON TWIGS - Do Hollywood

"The teenage brothers and leaders of The Lemon Twigs are a gloriously off-kilter proposition. Watch them live and you’ll see Michael leaping around the stage as if he’s been possessed by the spirit of a young, madcap Keith Moon. See them on TV and you’ll instantly think you’ve been transported back to the 1970s. Queen, Tom Petty, spandex jumpsuits, vintage synthesizers, The Beatles after the break-up and genuinely great hair all play a sizable part in their DNA. Haircuts aside, how many other indie bands in 2016 would willingly admit to liking any of the above? This is where even The Lemon Twigs must be surprised at their recent trajectory. Within six months they’ve gone from complete unknowns to being hailed as the future of rock ’n’ roll. Which is funny when you think about it – because they sure do sound a lot like the past.

On much of ‘Do Hollywood’, their debut album for 4AD, there’s a lineage that recalls the A-list of North America’s recent cult music heroes (The Garden, Tobias Jesso Jr and Foxygen, whose songsmith Jonathan Rado produced this record). But The Lemon Twigs’ sheer musical knowledge, and willingness to incorporate it into their own sound, means they’re in a different stratosphere altogether. Their greatest talent is their ability to pick the pockets of rock’s dinosaurs without making it seem passé or pastiche. So we get clever, intricate, well- planned and deftly executed songs that recall Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd (‘Haroomata’), Wings (‘I Wanna Prove To You’), The Kinks (‘Those Days Is Comin’ Soon’) and classic, harmonious Beach Boys (‘These Words’). Only rarely does it ever sound trite. It’s thrilling for the most part, as if you’re being given a crash course in classic songwriting by two young know-it-alls." - NME

Saturday
Oct222016

VARIOUS - Black Gold: Samples, Breaks & Rare Grooves From Chess Records

"Incredible sounds from the Chess Records catalog – not the blues that you might know the label for, but a huge range of funk, soul, and jazz tracks from the headiest years of the 60s and 70s – a time when the Chicago scene was really turning out some incredible musical hybrids! As you'd guess from the title, all the cuts here have had a new life in recent years – thanks to samples by hip hop artists or other producers – but the original grooves are even better than the tracks that used them, and come together here to make one of the most mindblowing collections of Chess material we've ever heard! The package is nicely heavy on sounds from the Cadet/Concept years of the label – with more than a few contributions from producers Charles Stepney and Richard Evans – and the package features 42 wonderful tracks." -Dusty Groove

Friday
Oct142016

JULIA JACKLIN - Don't Let The Kids Win

"Though only her debut, Julia Jacklin’s Don’t Let the Kids Win works like a musical punch to the gut, a tearjerker that makes even the most public of spaces ready sobbing spots. Each of the album’s 11 songs sounds effortlessly polished, her voice seasoned with the emotion of an entire lifetime. Jacklin takes elements of the whip-smart lyrics of fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, the evocative musicality of Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten’s confessional poetry, and Jessica Pratt’s mesmerizing melodies — the mosaic of strengths made fresh by a unique perspective. 

Don’t Let the Kids Win closes with its title track. Lyrics that at first feel generic become utterly personal. “Don’t let your grandmother die while you wait/ A cheap trip to Thailand’s not gonna make up for never getting to say goodbye,” she mourns. “Gonna keep on getting older/ Gonna keep on feeling strange,” she bristles. It’s as if she’s offering advice to her former self as much as she is the listener. Throughout, the album offers a window into her world, revealing the singer-songwriter’s most intimate corners." - Consequence Of Sound