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FEATURED RELEASES

Monday
Sep212015

JULIA HOLTER - Have You In My Wilderness

"Sometimes listening to Julia Holter is like watching a film of a dream: gauzy, beautiful, the set immaculately dressed and the light in the golden hour haloing the characters’ emotional highs and lows. At other times, her music is like dreaming of a film, something half-remembered or only eerily discernible, as if you're falling asleep in front of the TV as snatches of a classic romance flit around amid your own concerns and passions. Her style is rooted in her classical training, composition degree, and highbrow references, but has always been generous with its visceral delights.

While still dreamlike, Have You in My Wilderness, Holter's fourth album, is something clearly felt—ocean spray on a warm breeze, sun baking exposed limbs, a hand glancing across your skin before drifting away. [...] Her previous work didn’t necessarily require any outside reading to unlock its pleasures, but Have You in My Wilderness cuts extraordinarily quickly to the core." - Consquence of Sound

Monday
Sep212015

SPOONER OLDHAM - Pot Luck

"Muscle Shoals keyboard stalwart Spooner Oldham (who has possibly the greatest name of all time) has had his fingers on myriad classic tracks. Co-writing hits like the Box Tops' 'Cry Like A Baby,' Percy Sledge's 'Out Of Left Field,' and James and Bobby Purify's 'I'm Your Puppet' with collaborator Dan Penn might be enough to secure a spot in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which he was inducted into in 2009), but he also lent his keyboards to music from Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, the Stones, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He's frequently toured with Neil Young and in 2007, toured with the Drive-By Truckers. His pedigree is incredible.

It's curious, then, that his solo album appeared and vanished without a trace. Until now, of course. Light In The Attic Records have reissued Oldham's 1972 collection, Pot Luck, on vinyl and for the first time on CD, complete with extensive liner notes. The songs chosen present an interesting mix: side A is compositions that Oldham wrote (both by himself and with Dan Penn and/or Freddy Weller), and the B-side is an opus of songs that Oldham played on for other artists, each track blending into the next, ending with a gorgeous 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken,' soulful and a bit funky, with some incredible backing vocals." - Popshifter

Monday
Sep212015

THE CITY - Now That Everything's Been Said

"We all know the Carole King who wrote some of the biggest hits of the '60s, from 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow' to 'Pleasant Valley Sunday,' via 'The Locomotion' and '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.' We also know the singer-songwriter behind Tapestry, the album that launched King as a solo singer in her own right. But in between–and not nearly as well known–is King’s band, The City, and their album, Now That Everything’s Been Said.

By the mid-'60s, King's marriage to Gerry Goffin, with whom she'd written many of those wonderful hits, had hit the rocks. A divorce loomed, and King all but retired to raise their two daughters. She headed west to Laurel Canyon in '67, taking the children with her, and made the previously unlikely move of joining a progressive folk-rock band. King formed The City with future husband Charles Larkey on bass and Danny Kortchmar on guitar and vocals. With King on piano and vocals, they created a folk rock sound that pre-empted the singer-songwriter boom of the '70s.

Produced by Lou Adler and featuring Jimmy Gordon on drums, The City's sound is deep and soulful, imperfect but passionate. And the songs, with King writing or co-writing all but one, are as exceptional as you’d expect and as widely covered as her factory work." - Light In The Attic

Thursday
Sep172015

EVENING HYMNS - Quiet Energies

"Despite his band's ever-revolving lineup, Jonas Bonnetta has pinned down some familiar faces for his latest project. James Bunton returns to fill the engineer role and also plays on the album. Rounding out his backing band are The Wooden Sky's Gavin Gardiner and Andrew Kekewich, Jon Hynes and Sylvie Smith. The 'extended cast of players' also includes string arrangements courtesy of Mika Posen, who has played with Timber Timbre.
 
The songs were primarily written by Bonnetta as an intended solo project, immediately after the release of 2012's
Spectral Dusk, but after shelving them for a couple of years, he decided to revisit them with the band. The majority of the tracks were recorded live off the floor.
 
Quiet Energies was recorded over the span of a couple weeks at Bonnetta's new home studio in Mountain Grove, about an hour outside of Kingston, ON. It's a move that profoundly affected Bonnetta—and his sound. While Spectral Dusk was an incredibly personal record inspired by the death of Bonnetta's father, the new set of songs hears him moving forward." - Exclaim!

Thursday
Sep172015

HELEN - The Original Faces

"Over the course of her nearly decade-long career as Grouper, Liz Harris has become a master of all things overcast. Her ambient compositions and waterlogged ballads are like fogged-up windows—bleary enough to indicate the bleakness inside, but only its vaguest outlines. There's suggestion of something heartbreaking, but its true shape remains occluded, unobtainable, and all the more moving for such an approach. With Helen, her occasional 'pop' band, she's occasionally parted those clouds, peeled back the layers of reverb to reveal the bruised heart at the center of those songs." - SPIN

Thursday
Sep172015

NICK FRASER - Too Many Continents

"Too Many Continents finds Fraser leading a trio with two heavyweight improvisers who need no introduction: pianist Kris Davis and saxophonist Tony Malaby. On second thought, labeling anyone 'leader' of this date might be inaccurate. The three have been friends for twenty years and seem to communicate their ideas telepathically.

On my second pass through this album, the cover image of The Art Ensemble of Chicago's Nice Guys (ECM, 1979) flickers through my mind. You know, that wonderful black and white shot of the group seated around a gingham-clothed table drinking coffee? Too Many Continents sounds like that photograph. Natural. Comfortable. This is not to suggest that it doesn't take chances or stray from familiar territory. Were the Art Ensemble ever tame or predictable? Neither are Fraser and company. Malaby is in top form, sputtering and bubbling above the others in 'I Needed It Yesterday,' tethered by Davis as Fraser navigates. Davis employs a sustained single note pattern in 'Nostalgia For The Recent Past,' fueling a restless Malaby to launch into a manic discourse. Fraser really seems to bloom at this point in the album, absorbing the energy of his companions, but never overshadowing them. There’s plenty of fire and fury here, bookended between the controlled burn of sensitive ballads." - The Free Jazz Collective

Saturday
Sep122015

NILS FRAHM - LateNightTales

"Nils Frahm's musical curation of the latest edition of LateNightTales leans on the side of the slow burning, the meditative and the hypnotic; it's a listening experience for those who appreciate subtle complexity. Frahm mixes and layers various genres, especially jazz and electronic, with organic natural sounds and gently humming drones, and a number of the featured compositions have been slowed, to great effect. 

Most notably he not only slowed Boards of Canada's 2000 track 'In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country,' but appears to have emphasized both the beats and the keyboards, transforming it into a narcotic, molasses-slow drip. Perhaps the crowning achievement on this collection is Frahm's ability to seamlessly unite the compositions of a diverse array of artists—Miles Davis, Four Tet, Nina Simone and the glitchy stylings of System, to name but a few—into a cohesive whole. There is never a moment when any of the songs clash or seem otherwise out of place."
- Exclaim!

Saturday
Sep122015

JOHN HULBERT - Opus III

"The Tompkins Square label is well-known for reissuing lost records and reactivating careers (Mark Fossom, Max Ochs, Don Bikoff) as well as kickstarting the careers of younger musicians (Frank Fairfield, William Tyler, Daniel Bachman, Ryley Walker).

In this case, Tompkins Square alumnus Walker found the long-forgotten Opus III LP in a Chicago record store, dug it and shared it with Tompkins Square owner Josh Rosenthal. I guess it was a no brainer for Rosenthal to reissue this.

There were not much traces of Hulburt on the internet before this reissue. There are recordings of The Knaves, a '60s garage rock band he founded, and an early '80s video of Hulburt playing some folk tunes in a bar in Chicago. With this release and its nicely informative booklet, though, he's got the international attention that this record deserves, even if it is post-mortem.

This album counts 20 titles, so it's approximately two minutes per song: mostly solo guitar, some with lyrics, and even a flute shows up. The overall vibe is like the guitar guys on Numero Group's Wayfaring Strangers series, with a kind of jazzy, bluesy virtuosity." - Dying For Bad Music

Friday
Sep042015

SLIM TWIG - Thank You For Stickin' With Twig

"After producing two albums for U.S. Girls (U.S. Girls on Kraak in 2011, Gem in 2012), and scoring two films (Sight Unseen & We Come As Friends (winner of a Special Jury Award at Sundance, among numerous other accolades), Twig found himself in 2013 at a creative impasse re: his own songwriting. He had been through full band incarnations live and on record. They featured a cast of Toronto heavies (members of Zacht Automaat, etc...). He briefly performed Slim Twig sets as a duo, featuring multimedia artist and musician, Meg Remy (U.S. Girls). They performed sets that combined versions of Twig’s released songs with freely structured improvisations, samples, and brightly melodic synth textures. Something in this combination of the pop-minded and the cerebrally-produced has rubbed off on the recordings found on Twig’s latest.

Thank You For Stickin' With Twig is to date the most sonically immersive album in Twig’s discography. Where some records have focused explicitly on sample-based songwriting, while others have been completely live-recorded, the new album arrives at a perfectly produced fusion of fidelities. It hovers, glamorously caught between a cloud of obscurant, half-speed tape hiss, and the most stoned Jeff Lynne production you’ve ever heard. Twig flirts here with a variety of vibes, most often opting for a three dimensional approach whereby a warped tape aura is overlaid with colourful, laser-cut keyboard and guitar melodies. A fetishization of analogue texture is married to a digital approach. All the while, we find Twig irreverently raiding classic rock of its symbolism, sexuality, and social ambition for ulterior subversions. In this respect, TYFSWT's closest cousin may be Royal Trux's Accelerator." - DFA Records

Thursday
Sep032015

LINK WRAY - 3-Track Shack

"Following his instrumental hits 'Rumble' and 'Jack The Ripper,' Link Wray settled into a routine of gigging with his band the Raymen in the Northeastern states, particularly the rough and ready dives of Washington, DC. In the early '70s this stopped, and Link concentrated on working on the farm his brother Vernon had bought in Accokeek, Maryland. Vernon installed a three-track recording studio in the basement of the farmhouse, but his wife complained about the noise so it was moved outside to an old chicken house: the 3-Track Shack was born.

Producer Steve Verroca caught one of Link's performances in a local bar, was impressed, and thought the time was right for a comeback. Extracting elements from his own country, blues and gospel roots and somehow melding them together with the very landscape itself, he created an organic blend of downhome music that was imbued with a primitive spirituality. There is an unpolished, spontaneous feel to the music which sparks it greedily into life, and the Accokeek earth seems to be ground deep into every groove.

These three albums have been out on CD before, but never mastered from the original tapes. You can even hear the frogs croaking outside the shack!"
- Ace Records

Thursday
Sep032015

VA - Reaching Out! Chess Records at FAME Studios

"There aren't many recording studios that play such an important part in their town's history that they’re added to the list of local landmarks and designated part of the town's heritage: that's what happened to FAME Recording Studios in December 1997, when the studios were added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

FAME Recording Studios is no ordinary recording studio. It was where some of the greatest soul music of the sixties was recorded. FAME was also home to one of the greatest house bands in soul music, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Along with the Muscle Shoals Horns, they featured on countless recordings. Record labels often sent their artists to FAME, seeking that elusive hit single. 

This included Atlantic Records, who in the summer of 1966 started sending artists to FAME. By the spring of 1967, the Muscle Shoals horns and rhythm section had worked their magic, playing on hits by Percy Sledge, Arthur Conley and Wilson Pickett. They would later send Aretha Franklin and Jimmy Hughes.

Reaching Out! Chess Records At FAME Studios, released via Kent Soul on 28th August 2015, features twenty-four tracks recorded at the legendary studios. By 1967, the Chess brothers, who no longer had their own studio band, sent their artists to Alabama, hoping that they would enjoy the same success as their counterparts at Atlantic." - Derek's Music Blog

Thursday
Sep032015

BLANK REALM - Illegals In Heaven

"Illegals in Heaven lives between past and present fun. Blank Realm's fourth LP, it's impulsive yet nostalgic—it's pulling on your shoes and running across fields when you were a kid, running into green and more green, unashamedly free.

The Australian band channel this feeling of reflective escapism from fizzy opener 'No Views'. The over-arching impulsiveness of the album is captured in its eminently shoutable chorus: 'I've got no views on it, it's just something that I did.' 'Just do it,' it seems to whisper. Lead single 'River Of Longing' speaks only in the most hopeful of terms. 'Meet me on the other side/and we'll make up for stolen time,' chant sibling singers Daniel and Sarah, arms outstretched—'won't you take me by the hand?' It bubbles over with an unbridled, youthful charm." - Crack Magazine

Thursday
Sep032015

YO LA TENGO - Stuff Like That There

"Yo La Tengo have been in a retrospective bubble since 2013's well-received but too quickly forgotten Fade LP.  With an expanded version of 1993's sublime Painful (as Extra Painful, on Matador) and a vinyl reprint of 1990's well-loved Fakebook on vinyl (on Bar/None) both appearing last year, backwards glancing has been helpfully reminding us how special the group can be.  Now appears the tongue-twistedly-titled Stuff Like That There as an ostensible Fakebook sequel, mixing-up obscure as well as not so obscure covers, self-reworkings and a couple of new songs in less amplified settings, with even past member Dave Schramm returning as an auxiliary guest guitarist.

Yet, in a good way, Stuff Like That There isn't a straightforward second volume of Fakebook. Whilst the concept and band set-up is broadly similar, the sonic execution feels noticeably different. Instead of its quasi-prequel's more overtly rustic hoedowns and more exuberant choice of material, the new album instead frames its gathered assortment of compositions with languid electro-acoustic guitar layers, brushed and shimmery drums, prowling upright-bass lines and some gorgeous tri-part vocal interplay from the long-running core trio of Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan and James McNew. Such arrangements and production settings seem to re-locate the warm intimate spots previously hidden amidst the more art-rocking tracts inside two of the band's most essential albums, 1995's Electr-O-Pura and 1997's I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. This connection is reinforced with balmy remouldings of 'The Ballad Of Red Buckets' and 'Deeper Into Movies' from those respective long-players." - Delusions Of Adequacy

Monday
Aug312015

MICHAEL HEAD AND THE STRANDS - The Magical World Of The Strands

"While Head seems unfussed by his relative obscurity, it is still hard to accept that a masterpiece like The Magical World Of The Strands remains so marginal. If anything, The Magical World has improved with age. In the mid-'90s, there was an imperative to position Head as bruised guru to a generation of British rock classicists, exemplified by the Gallaghers and Richard Ashcroft. Head shared a certain romanticism that was rooted in but transcended the working-class Northwest of the country, and his study of old records was just as thorough and unabashed. He was not, though, a writer of anthems, his songwriting mostly too feathery, too evanescent for blokey singalongs.


The closest he came on
The Magical World was a rueful and brilliant song about his heroin addiction called 'X Hits The Spot,' which articulated a difficult choice that he had madeessentially, drugs instead of a relationshipand its consequences: coming round to discover he had sold all his furniture to stay high. The chorus is punchy, emphatic, memorable. The verses, though, are more typical of The Magical World: words come in breathless, jazzy flurries, Head appropriating [Arthur] Lee's trick of squeezing two or three extra words into a line to create a sense of babbling discombobulation." - Uncut

Monday
Aug312015

JORGE BEN - Ben (1972)

"If there was one thing that all the movements that swept Brazilian popular music during the '60s and '70s—bossa nova, Jovem Guarda, Tropicalia, Música Popular Brasileira, samba soul, Black Rio—had in common, it was that they all revered Jorge Ben. That's because Ben incorporated aspects of all their styles without compromising his own; as Caetano Veloso put it, 'Jorge Ben, without attempting an artificial or homogenizing 'fusion,' came through with a strong, original sound, confronting a body of issues from the opposite end, that of the finished treatment, while we were groping and coming up with varied and incomplete solutions.' Now, Real Gone Music and Dusty Groove are embarking on a long-awaited tour through Ben's catalog, starting with his 1972 masterpiece, Ben. This is the album that made Jorge Ben a superstar in Brazil, a lean marvel of rhythmic and melodic concision that contains some of his most indelible, durable songs, like the first version of 'Taj Mahal' and his ode to his favorite soccer player, 'Fio Maravilha.'" - Real Gone Music

Monday
Aug242015

DRINKS - Hermits On Holiday

"Cate Le Bon wrote some of my favorite words of 2013 on her album Mug Museum. White Fence is the swirly psych music of Tim Presley. Cate and Tim are friends—Cate played guitar on a tour with White Fence—and so now there's this: DRINKS.

DRINKS has an album coming August 21, and the title track is called 'Hermits On Holiday.' The percussion is a machine at the start, the guitar distinctly Cate, as is that thickly Welsh voice. Tim plays bass on this song, though he told me on the phone that they swap instruments a lot on the album. When that bass kicks in, so does White Fence drummer Nick Murray and the song's lockstep rhythm loosens up, as if it's had a drink. The easy joy and silliness here make me look forward to hearing the full album, Hermits On Holiday." - Bob Boilen, NPR

Tuesday
Aug182015

LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX - Press Color

"The lower Manhattan music scene circa the late '70s was a bubbling, effervescent confluence of disco, No Wave, jazz and punk. It birthed the careers of Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Television, the Ramones and even Don Was, whose Was (Not Was) band was also a player. Somewhere on the fringes was Lizzy Mercier Descloux, a French import who used music as just one aspect of her artistic avant-garde arsenal which also included poetry and fashion. This reissue of her off-the-radar ZE label debut didn't make much of a splash upon its 1979 release. Regardless, it has come to be regarded as a charming, evocative curio of a time and place that was fleeting and temporal yet fascinating and influential in its ambitious attempt to join jazz, punk and dance.

Originally only eight selections clocking in at under 30 minutes, this reissue more than doubles that tracklist and is still only 46 minutes long. Extensive liner notes by noted critic/scenester Vivien Goldman in a sumptuous 20-page booklet tell the Descloux story in detail with rare photos and quotes from Smith and Richard Hell, both of whom were friends.

These minimalist pieces—many can't be considered songs—were often improvised in the studio and Descloux, who spoke virtually no English, wasn't exactly a driven vocal talent. Nonetheless, it's the air of cool detached ambiance with mostly sung/spoken vocals over a funk/jazz backing that makes this such a mesmerizing time capsule." - American Songwriter

Monday
Aug172015

VA - Ian Levine's Solid Stax Sensations

"Most people on the soul scene know of Levine's youthful obsession with Motown and Detroit soul in general, and how it led to a 45-year (and counting) career as a tireless promoter of the music he loved as a teenager, whether behind record decks or in more recent times as a successful songwriter-producer. Less well known is the fact that the young Ian was almost as obsessive about Stax, collecting the blue and yellow Stax-era 45s and those on the company's many subsidiaries with the same level of single-minded intensity that he applied to acquiring rare gems on obscure Detroit labels.

I've known Ian since 1969. We met by chance in the Soul City record shop and immediately established a bond of friendship that has continued unbroken ever since. As far as I am concerned, my good friend Ian will always be a man with the most extraordinary passion for soul music, and a lifelong desire to share that passion with others.

Many of Ian's 25 choices are well-known floor-fillers via the extensive play they have received from discerning DJs down the decades, but he's also chosen a pile of lesser-known and equally great sides that deserve to be part of every soul DJ's playlist. Ian's notes fully convey the pleasure he still gets from this music after all this time." - Tony Rounce for Ace Records

Monday
Aug172015

TRIPTIDES - Azur

"Indiana's Triptides have finally washed up in Los Angeles, a much more suitable home away from home for their appealling, bite-sized snacks of hazy summer psychedelia.

The move seems to have helped them shed the last vestiges of their vintage jangle, replacing it with a much more contemporary sheen, which sees them pawning their Byrdsy tendencies in favour of a much shinier, post-eighties jangle influence.

Perhaps it's just me, but I've found that it's almost impossible to listen to
Azur without visualising one of those really colourful multicoloured plastic beach balls. Go and try now. You're back? Hard, wasn't it? 

Azur, simply put, sounds like Real Estate's Days draped over a deck chair with a margerita, which is extremely welcome as we're smack bang in the middle of one of the chilliest cold spells I can remember over here in the New Zealand winter. Given that this hardly constitutes the ideal listening conditions for this album, I'm a little concerned about how obssesed I'd have become with Azur had I been exposed to it in our summer.

There's not a lot more to be said. Short, sharp and irresistable, there's plenty within these songs to keep vintage pop addicts and scenesters alike happy. The always reliable team at Norman Records sum it up perfectly: 'An utterly perfect amalgam of '60s beat pop (The Hollies!) with those moments when Deerhunter decide they are going to be a pop combo.'

I can't top that. The perfect summer record." - The Active Listener

Thursday
Aug132015

JACKSON C. FRANK - The Complete Recordings (3CD)

"The long wait is over. Justice, at long last, is being done. The prophet is no longer without honor in his own country.

The late Jackson C. Frank was announced early this month as a member of the newest group to be honored in the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. The irony is that is not all, not by a long shot.

In October and November, Buffalo is scheduled to be visited by two French documentary filmmakers shooting a doc on this utterly remarkable and utterly tragic musician from Buffalo. But more than that, his hometown will finally have an opportunity to know exactly why he is so revered by folk musicians everywhere but especially in Europe, where his songs were loved and recorded by Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch and Nick Drake, among many others.

His one album, which included the classic song 'Blues Run the Game' (still sung by folk singers, including by one in the concert honoring the recent movie Inside Llewyn Davis), was produced by Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel before Simon and Garfunkel were cornerstones of their era's folk music. Nevertheless, it has never before been released in America. (Frank later claimed that Simon had stolen 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' from another folk musician.)

Now, finally, courtesy of Frank's crucial biographer and late-life protector Jim Abbott, among others, his complete known recordings have been blessedly been collected on three discs by BaDaBing Records."
- The Buffalo News