Say hi to the new prog-rock! Boasting members whose alma maters include such 90s experi-metal luminaries as Don Cabellero and Helmet, Mirrored is a full-length debut whose sound finds four players woven into each other's fabric with the most careful precision. Despite the premium paid toward virtuosity and exact electronics, Mirrored is highly playful and unpredictable. Complex and polyrhythmic but still catchy, it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it rains like manna from heaven on those who can't stomach yet another introspective singer-songwriter.
The Numero Group's dedication to hunting down the forgotten of music's past has led to a flawless run of surprises. Their 14th release, Grand Bahama Goombay, retains the chief characteristics of most of their titles: crisp, wide-eyed soul music made with equal parts sweat, humour and naivete. All but the most scholarly of listeners will be hearing this blend of soul, funk, calypso and reggae for the first time. Fresh versions of "Take Five" and "Theme from Shaft" pair with Sylvia Hall's ode to abstinance, "Don't Touch That Thing", to make a collection that is unpredictable and damn fun.
With a near-perfect 20-year history of stellar releases from mainly African and Cuban artists, this label digs deep to put together World Circuit Presents, a 2CD compilation that is an embarrassment of riches. Considering this label helped introduced the world to Buena Vista Social Club, Orchestra Baobab and Ali Farka Toure (just to name a few), the quality here isn't surprising. But the real draw of this collection, aside from great unreleased material, is that it allows you to easily absorb a catalogue whose lesser-known talents are just as worthy of your ears as their "stars".
Montreal darlings Wolf Parade have their fair share of side projects (Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake), but Handsome Furs is the first by songwriter Dan Boeckner. This duo features his fiancee, Alexei Perry and yes, they look extremely cool together. Their album is pretty strong as well. Boeckner's style was always the workman foil to Parade's more arty writer, Spencer Krug. Plague Park allows those impulses to grow, creating a concise, minimal album of strummed guitar and fractured drum machine. Its simplicity is a strength and flaw, but its honesty has its way with you over time.
After several under-the-radar releases (not to mention a slow-burning indie hit with 2005's Alligator), it seems the time is finally nigh for The National. Boxer should be the one to nestle these Ohio-by-way-of-Brooklyn boys firmly in your adoring bosom. Stark and dark are the main order of the day with singer Matt Berninger's rich delivery and poetic lyrics keeping an air of mystery as thick as the smoke from Humphery Bogart's cigarette. Boxer may be a bit more of an autumn disc than summer hit, but the good news is that you won't be sick of it by then so everything evens out.
After a slowly discovering the amazing National album Alligator, I was very excited to hear that had a follow-up coming this year. I'm happy to say I was not disappointed when I finally heard it; in fact, I was blown away. Boxer takes what is best of Alligator, that being great lyrics, a tight sound that is catchy yet not annoying and an amazing progression from track to track. The whole album is great but some key tracks are "Fake Empire," "Slow Show," and "Start a War" if you are just looking for a bit of their sound.
An often overlooked Coltrane album from his Atlantic years and released while he was on Impulse. This is most notable for an exceptional ballad "Central Park West," which shows Coltrane at his most lovely and lyrical. A varied record that any fans of his Giant Steps era will appreciate.
Rufus taps into my hidden desires of my ideal music. He knows things that I want to hear that even I didn't know I wanted to hear. Operatic, daring, funny, poignant... Release the Stars is yet another example of this man's ability to make a modern hybrid of explosive Wagnerian fireballs and porcelain pop caresses. My jaw is slack.