It's rather appropriate that Los Brincos, known as the Spanish Beatles, recorded this album at Abbey Road studios. Engineered by Geoff Emerick, who had proved so invaluable on Beatles sessions, Contrabando is sure to delight lovers of Swingin' London-flavoured '60s pop.
A return to form for the producer of one of the alltime great ambient/classical albums, 2007's Copia. After an ill-advised journey into vocal music on his last album, 2010's Similes, Matthew Cooper has returned to his instrumental roots on his latest, with the exception of one track featuring guest vocals from Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo. This new album has already jumped to the top of my Best Of 2013 list.
"Intended as a follow-up to 2007′s Copia, Nightmare Ending incubated while Cooper dove down a more pop-oriented channel in 2010 with two EPs and a full-length. Featuring both vocals and something like percussion for the first time, Similes showed that Eluvium’s elegiac movements could be mapped onto the verse-chorus-verse blueprint. This experiment in constraint proved to be the exercise necessary to finish Nightmare Ending, a double album that plays out as the sum of all Cooper has learned through Eluvium. The title could allude to the release that comes after a long period of creative frustration—the feeling of finally getting it all out." - Consequence of Sound
Two virtuoso guitar vets, both based in jazz but versed in many genres, take left turns this year for John Zorn's Tzadik label, with Frisell freely improvising and making full use of his looper and pedal board on Silent Comedy, while Metheny applies his bespoke Orchestrion setup to tunes from Zorn's songbook.
"For all the self-generated hype that Tzadik releases carry on their spine inserts, the one that accompanies Allmusic's is pretty close to accurate. This really is the guitarist as you've never heard him before—at least on record. He's improvising live in a studio with no edits or overdubs. Some of the 11 pieces included here carry traces of his signature bell-like tone, but this is a very free recording. The set's longest cut, 'John Goldfarb, Please Come Home,' is a meld of spaced-out sonic effects, harmonic invention, skeletal phrasing, and aggressive skronk that moves from halting melody to pure dissonance." -
"Guitarist Pat Metheny is revered for his bright, accessible modern jazz. Saxophonist and composer is associated with much knottier, often dissonant experiments. Metheny's new Tap: John Zorn's Book of Angels, Vol. 20 unites these two known opposites of instrumental music, and the result is often intensely visual. These Zorn compositions are part of a mammoth series of songs inspired by (and built around) the ancient scales of traditional Jewish music. Zorn started the project in the 1990s. It eventually ballooned to more than 500 tunes, the last 300 written in a three-month period. Metheny selected some of those for this album, and began recording them in his home studio between tours. He plays all of the instruments except drums, which are handled by his frequent collaborator Antonio Sanchez." - NPR
Nicely complementing El/Cherry Red's earlier reissue of her eponymous first album from 1962, Midnight Blues focuses on the period in her career where Hardy set up her own production company, Asparagus, and moved from the Vogue label to the smaller imprint Sonopresse, where she stayed until 1972.
"From the beginning of her career and into the early '70s, Françoise recorded quite extensively in English, German, Italian and Spanish, but that material is not easy to find these days. This collection, recorded variously in Paris and London between 1968 and 1972, comprises tracks drawn from her albums En Anglais, One-Nine-Seven-Zero and Françoise Hardy (a.k.a. If You Listen), and offers a very welcome opportunity to hear her perform in English." - Ace Records
A pair of impressive debuts by two young singer-songwriters whose albums were both originally released on vinyl this past fall, only to each now be re-released on CD as well.
"The mid-aughts freak-folk moment found artists and fans blurring the boundaries between past and present and seeking out kindred spirits across time, which made it an abundant season for folk reissues. Linda Perhacs' Parallelograms, Karen Dalton's In My Own Time, and Sibylle Baier's Colour Green, to name just a few, all got their long-delayed, much-deserved days in record store windows. And now, after an unhurried half-decade gestation period, 2012 felt like the year we started to hear the debut records from some of the young artists who scooped those reissues up.
One such record is Missouri native Angel Olsen's excellent debut LP Half Way Home. Her songs are struck through with poetic macabre ('I thought this time last year I'd be dead/ It's quite strange the thoughts that pop into your head') and showcase a tortured, warbling croon that sounds like Vashti Bunyan leading a seance to commune with Roy Orbison. San Francisco's Jessica Pratt calls upon similar influences but makes music that feels like a counterpoint to Olsen's. As with Baier, the simplicity and affectlessness of Pratt's tranquil tunes are precisely what make them so hypnotic." - Pitchfork
The out-there graphics on the cover are a little misleading—this is not Irma Thomas' stab at psychedelic soul, rather it's another stunning set of classic deep soul from one of the greatest of all soul vocalists. Still, the cover concept of 'tears' does make sense, given that most of these tracks are about heartbreak. No less an authority than Dave Godin selected "These Four Walls" from this set for his Deep Soul Treasures Volume 2. The undisputed highlight, though, is the extended "Coming From Behind" monologue that leads into a re-recording of "Wish Someone Would Care," capturing all the desperation of what it feels like "sitting home alone" wanting someone, anyone, to love you.
"In the wake of 1969's devastating Hurricane Camille, New Orleans soul queen Allmusicabandoned the Gulf Coast in favor of the West Coast, settling in Los Angeles and largely forsaking her singing career in favor of the relative stability of retail work. finally resurfaced in 1973 with a series of little-noticed singles on the Fungus label that teamed her with producer and guitarist the resulting LP remains a lost classic that captures deep soul at its most poignant and resonant, couching ' deeply affecting vocals in earthy arrangements that emphasize the singer's gospel roots." -
As fans of Sam since the pair of albums he recorded for Iceland's Bedroom Community label (2008's All Is Well and 2010's I See The Sign), we were very excited to hear of his signing to Nonesuch; similar to the case of Devendra Banhart's impressive effort for them earlier this year with Mala, Amidon has stepped up to the major-label plate and delivered what could be his best record yet, with thoughtful, sparse arrangements and a set of adaptations (both trad and not-so-trad) sung with graceful restraint.
"Throughout the record, there’s an underlying tension between what Amidon is singing and the means of his delivery—a melancholic feeling allowed to take root in the spaces between the thin arrangements...The result is his most emotionally and tonally complex LP to date. With Bright Sunny South, Amidon has taken a huge step forward as a folk artist, creating arrangements which preserve his musicianship, while deepening the maturity of his interpretive skills." - Drowned In Sound
"Amidon describes Bright Sunny South as a 'a lonesome record' and a return to the more spare sound of his 2007 self-recorded debut, But This Chicken Proved Falsehearted: 'There was an atmospheric quality to my last two records; those albums are like a garden of sounds,' says Amidon, 'but this one is more of a journey, a winding path. The band comes rushing in and then they disappear. It comes from more of a darker, internal space.'" - Nonesuch
ORCHESTRE POLY-RYTHMO DE COTONOU - Volume 3: The Skeletal Essences of Afro Funk 1969-1980 / VA - Kenya Special: Selected East African Recordings from the 1970s & '80s
Two ever-reliable reissue labels continue their respective African funk campaigns—Volume 3 from Analog Africa's Poly-Rythmo archives displays the diversity of the group's output, due to both the length of the band's career as well as the sheer number of singers and musicians who went through its ranks over a decade of activity; Kenya Special, meanwhile, sees Soundway's Special series drift east from Nigeria and Ghana over to Kenya.
"This album smokes, and does so in a way different from most of what’s out there these days, including the current Afro-pop and Afro-funk. With Fela Kuti receiving quite appropriate recognition for his contributions to African music, it’s a shame that pioneering bands like Orchestre Poly-Rythmo have yet to reach an equally wide audience. That should change. With any luck, this will be the record to change it." - Spectrum Culture
"Kenya Special is a collection of 32 recordings (most of which were only ever released on small-run 45rpm 7" singles) that stand out as being different or unique as well as some classic genre standards. From Kikuyu language 'liquid soul,' Luo benga and Swahili afrobeat to genre-bending Congolese and Tanzanian tracks recorded in Nairobi, Kenya Special sees Soundway yet again taking the less trodden path. Many of the tracks featured here are peppered with innovation and experimentation highlighting how diverse the music scene in Kenya was at the time." - Soundway
Ah, there's nothing like springtime for some of that cool Californian crunch. Thee Oh Sees out of San Francisco just keep churning out one album after another, but no complaints here! Their latest, Floating Coffin, may not have the offbeat touches of their previous efforts, but still kicks out the garage jams in a satisfying fashion. Meanwhile, from Laguna Beach comes Mikal Cronin, Ty Segall's frequent collaborator. His second solo album, released last week, finds him smoothing out his rough edges as he offers up clean, catchy power-pop.
"Mikal Cronin's self-titled debut from 2011 was all about endings: the end of college, the end of a serious relationship, and the end of his time in Los Angeles, where he grew up. So it's no surprise that his sophomore release MCII—and first disc for Merge—is all about new beginnings. 'Since the first record came out, my life has changed quite a bit,' Cronin says, referencing his move to San Francisco and tours with Ty Segall as well as with his own band. 'I was presented with a whole new slew of problems and situations that I was trying to work through.' 'Am I Wrong' and 'Shout It Out' dissect his fears over a new relationship, while 'I'm Done Running from You' and 'Weight' find him freaking out about what it means to grow up in the 21st century." - Merge Records
"John Dwyer & Co. have a style distinctly and linguistically their own at this point. Draw whatever parallels you want to various Nuggets bands, but that conversation is old and boring now. Looking at the last four (!) albums released by this band in the last three years, Thee Oh Sees can do full-band captures (this album, Carrion Crawler/The Dream), home 4-tracked goofiness (Castlemania), and studio-embracing fuckery (Putrifiers II), all while retaining the essence of what it is that makes them themselves: those balanced moments between serious and playfulness, the comforts of what we normally expect from the safety of a childish existence not necessarily broken, but rather, the two expectations trying to coexist." - Tiny Mix Tapes
Clocking in at just under half an hour, the Empty Estate EP is Jack Tatum's second between-LP effort for Captured Tracks, and a welcome teaser for whatever he has planned for full-length number three, ranging from the instrumental drift of "On Guyot" and "Hachicko" to the increasingly electro-laced new New Wave with which Tatum has mainly made his mark to date, best exemplified here by the laidback swagger of "Ocean Repeating (Big-Eyed Girl)" and "Data World"'s insistent toms and needly synth.
"Empty Estate feels like an arrival of sorts, a move from the quieter hum of his earlier work into full-blown pop territory, without losing any of the warmth that has made his music so great in the first place. 'A Dancing Shell' is all pastel synths and soft bass-led funk, with an appropriately bright video to along with it." - The FADER
With Bon Iver's Justin Vernon providing guest-vocal cameos (including "Brute"'s uncharacteristically heavy-metal 'Cookie Monster barking') on this follow-up for Constellation (replacing Laurie Anderson and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden's contributions to Vol. 2), Stetson's multi-mic'ed roars and circular-breathed sax cycles continue to pummel with a delicate fierceness that's halfway between the dark ambience of Tim Hecker (whose work has likewise been mixed by Ben Frost) and the vein-busting baritone blowing of Mats Gustafsson.
"The physicality of Stetson's efforts is apparent here. The longest track at 15 minutes, 'To See More Light' is his crowning triumph. Stetson maintains the structure of the piece, building upon his circular breathing to create a hypnotic and trance-like state. About halfway through, he slows the proceedings to produce a heavier vocalization and thumping sound that crests into a zenith of growling energy." - All About Jazz
Two of this region's most admired indie-rock singer-songwriters return with new releases this week, as Jim Guthrie releases his follow-up to 2003's Now, More Than Ever and Mike "Michael" Feuerstack makes his first full-length album under his own name after nearly twenty years of recording and touring as Snailhouse.
"Although the sounds Guthrie creates are often airy, nothing was instantaneous in creation. Forget the magnitude of layers Guthrie adds; the key contributors were a discerning ear and patience. Time quickly became an irrelevant factor as Guthrie tried endless combinations of emotion, tone and texture until the final dressing was right. These songs are finished products—even on the most casual listen, you hear complex and complete thoughts. All things considered, the most remarkable aspect of Take Time is that even with Guthrie’s constant tinkering and meticulousness, the end result is a record that breathes deeply and savors each moment." - Herohill
"Even after saying goodbye to his spiral-shelled pseuodonym, Michael Feuerstack keeps the delicate destruction of his work in Snailhouse close by. Tambourine Death Bed, the first record under his own name, sees the indie-folk mainstay managing to keep dazzling and drawing tears with a marvellous, macabre collection of love songs, lust songs and hard-done-by singalongs. Wonderfully fragile, heart-wrenchingly powerful, it’s just what you’d expect from Feuerstack, except with the shell shed from his back, his lyrical penmanship seems that much more like a rousing grasp at something new and clear and less like sombre soliloquizing." - Beatroute
THE DELFONICS - Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics / GHOSTFACE KILLAH - Adrian Younge Presents Twelve Reasons To Die
Wax Poetics associate, imaginary-soundtrack composer and crate-digging producer extraordinaire Adrian Younge stamps his neo-vintage sound onto two new collaborations, using live instrumentation to evoke the patina of sample-based beats.
"Younge's approach towards working with an older artist is less like [Rick] Rubin's and more like Quentin Tarantino's: instead of aiming for gravitas and youth culture appeal, he's placed [William] Hart in his own stylized and slightly warped vision of the past that's both a tribute to the Delfonics' heyday, a radical deconstruction of it, and something altogether original." - Pitchfork
"Though Wu-Tang figurehead RZA executive-produced Twelve Reasons and narrates several of its songs, he handed the production reins to Adrian Younge, a composer who shares his cinematic sensibilities but executes them on a greater scale than RZA ever could. The result is a grandiose extrapolation of Wu-Tang’s signature sound, with a live drummer filling in for static loops and full string and horn sections supplanting RZA’s usual dusty samples." - A.V. Club
With all three screenings now accessible only if you wait in the rush line, one of the hottest tickets at this year's Hot Docs has to be Muscle Shoals, the story of Rick Hall and FAME Studios. Well, if you can't see the story of the music, why not listen to the music itself?
The recently released Volume 2 in the excavation of the archives of FAME Studios contains more examples of the classic Muscle Shoals sound. This time around, they've dug so deep that the first song is billed to an "Unknown Female" and the fifth song to an "Unknown Male"! Not to be missed is an alternate take of Clarence Carter's interpretation of "At The Dark End Of The Street." We also stock Volume 1, as well as 2008's Reissue Of The Year according to both MOJO and Record Collector, the 3CD boxset The Fame Studios Story 1961-1973. A bounty of great soul music awaits!
The recent winner of a 2013 Children's Album of the Year JUNO Award for her work on the animated TV series Stella and Sam, Emilie will be performing songs from her excellent new record Mighty Time live in our shop this Friday, April 26 at 7pm!
"The follow-up to 2011's Seems So Long, Mighty Time showcases a far more eclectic side of this silky-voiced twenty-something, stemming from her recent focus on the latter half of her singer/songwriter title. Bouncing between her adopted hometowns of Toronto and New York (she’s a native Montrealer), Mover spent much of her time between her latest LPs writing music for a myriad of projects and artists—from a children’s album to a full-length tribute to jazz innovator Peggy Lee.
These recent experiences, coupled with her array of existing influences—from smoky '60s jazz to modern dream pop and plenty in between—greatly informed her approach to writing for Mighty Time." - CBC Music
Bobby Krlic's sophomore full-length as The Haxan Cloak (and debut for young-'n'-bleak English imprint Tri Angle) contains enough growling bass beds, spooky string samples and spacious, heaving beats to satiate anyone looking for another contemporary artist to add alongside such other doomy/dreadful electronic heavyweights as Ben Frost, Raime, Emptyset, and labelmate Vessel.
"Thematically, where The Haxan Cloak was a descent into darkness, Excavation represents the ascent into light that directly follows it. The differences between the two LPs run further than their mood and themes, however; for this second album, Krlic has flipped his approach to composition and sound design on its head. Where his debut was rooted in the raw, natural tones of classical instrumentation, its follow-up deals in electronic timbres and heavily processed effects. As such, Excavation shares many traits with its predecessor while still sounding like a unique proposition; here, Krlic makes no attempt to repeat the tricks of his debut, and creates a hugely worthy successor to it as a result." - XLR8R
"Krlic takes full advantage of the album form, often stretching his songs to more than ten minutes. The result is something truly narrative—this isn't the kind of record you'd play on shuffle. In the title track's two parts, we're taken through a sonorous tunnel only to be dumped into an empty pit of despair, all static and hissing hellmouths. With 'The Mirroring,' those dissociative drones collect themselves back into fire-and-brimstone techno." - Resident Advisor
Honest Jon's' longest-standing compilation series delves deeper still into the sounds of London's Afro-Caribbean diaspora during the '50s and '60s.
"At last, a fresh delivery of open-hearted, bitter-sweet, mash-up postcards to the here and now, from young black London. As then, calypso carries the swing. There are four more Lord Kitchener songs—in consideration of his wife leaving him for a GI, cricket umpires, a fling onboard an ocean-liner and West Indian poultry—besides a hot mambo cash-in, cross-bred under his supervision, and an uproarious, teasing Ghanaian tribute to him in Fanti by London visitors The Quavers. Other calypsos range compellingly from the devaluation of the pound through jiujitsu, big rubbery instruments, football fans, heavyweight champ Joe Louis and the sexual allure of English women police.
Expert jazz idioms course sophisticatedly through all the selections, which include a straight-up, South London version of Duke Jordan's 'Jordhu,' something from Dizzy Reece's soundtrack—brokered by Kenneth Tynan—to the British crime film Nowhere To Go, and a trio of magnificently hybrid, hard-swinging instrumentals led in turn by master-guitarist Fitzroy Coleman, Kitch's innovative arranger Rupert Nurse, and trumpeter Shake Keane—named after Shakespeare because of his love of poetry." - Honest Jon's
Chronicling this legendary Louisianan's work with both the Pine Grove Boys and Balfa Brothers, Master of the Cajun Accordion is an irresistibly swinging slice of '60s and '70s roots revivalism that's lost none of its joyful vitality over the intervening years.
"After some 20 years, Ace Records' Nathan Abshire 2 LPs-on-1 CD has been totally revamped by John Broven. With stunning new mastering, the track sequencing better reflects the recording chronology in the distinct periods with the Pine Grove Boys and then the Balfa Brothers, with the addition of ‘French Blues’ to complete the Swallow output. The now-sumptuous booklet features an essay by Lyle Ferbrache based on his original research with members and families of Abshire’s Pine Grove Boys; a comprehensive song analysis with sterling contributions from Ann Savoy and Neal Pomea; a first-ever attempt at a discography with personnel; many vintage photographs; and LP and label scans. The end result is one of the most listenable and enjoyable Cajun CD releases ever, by one of the music’s most revered musicians." - Ace Records
Seven years after the increasingly influential Silent Shout, The Knife return with nearly 100 minutes of serious play, as even the hookiest tracks here get their parameters totally tweaked and toyed with, stretching out song lengths and upending expectations. To paraphrase the pair, without them electronic pop in 2013 would be a lot more boring!
(The single-disc edition omits "Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized," a wispy twenty-minute Eliane Radigue-like boiler-room feedback drone, as well as the lyric sheet/comic strip posters found in the 2CD set.)
"Against all odds, Shaking The Habitual is the best work Karin Dreijer Anderssen and her brother Olaf have ever done and a candidate for 2013's best album, period. Think of Public Image Ltd.'s Second Edition, John Lydon’s (and Jah Wobble’s) famously abrasive masterpiece, with coherent politics and forward motion in the grooves. Hell, forward motion in the drones. Think of if Liars’ percussion monsoon Drum’s Not Dead was all it was cracked up to be. Think of last year’s Swans album, The Seer, if it was composed and programmed protests rather than improv goth comedy." - Paste
"With their last album, 2010's Tomorrow, In A Year—an opera about Darwin's Origin of the Species, recorded with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock—The Knife demonstrated their desire to think big; unfortunately, they also fell into the trap of thinking that ambitious, 'difficult' music shouldn't be very fun to listen to. So it's a huge relief to see them diving back into the seas of jouissance with Habitual. From the very first flicker of cymbals and finger snaps that opens the album, they tap into an electroacoustic universe whose glassy, metallic timbres ripple across the flesh, and whose rubbery tones undulate deep in the gut. They've never sounded more in tune with the materiality of sound or the sonorousness of the physical world." - SPIN
Ace/Kent soul compilations never fail to deliver the goods, but this new release showcasing Huey Meaux's productions is one party-platter extraordinaire—all killer, no filler!
"Huey Meaux recorded more soul music in the '60s and '70s than any other producer in Texas, leasing some of it to nationally distributed labels such as Jamie and Scepter and issuing even more of it on the dozens of labels he ran in conjunction with various business partners. He wasn’t the only producer in South Texas, but the number of singles that bear the legend 'Produced by Huey P. Meaux' could fool anyone into thinking he was.
Many of soul’s greatest names got their break with the Crazy Cajun. Some worked with him for only a short time; others such as Barbara Lynn stayed with him for virtually all of their active careers. If Don Robey’s Duke and Peacock labels shaped the template for '50s R&B in Houston, then the hundreds of 45s that Huey put out between 1960 and 1980 provided the same service for those decades." - Ace Records