"Jason Beck, the man who puts the bomb into the bombast of Chilly, retired from the rap game in 2003, and while he's dabbled since then (The Unspeakable purported to be the world's first orchestral rap album), he's managed to successfully smuggle the virtuoso pianist into our midst as his own career Trojan horse, and it's that persona we imagine now when we think of him. It's been a gradual and surprisingly smooth transmogrification, the electro cabaret maître d' with the extra testicle now a fully-fledged classical composer, having released Solo Piano, Solo Piano II and now this; indeed, by the conclusion of Chambers and the final song 'Myth Me', to hear the Canadian's voice suddenly appear almost feels incongruous. It's testament to just how successful he's been in his image overhaul, not that it really feels like one...Gonzales the renaissance man comes with the not uncharacteristically grand ambition of breathing new life into something contemporarily neglected. To do this, he conflates the old with the new with customary swagger." - The Quietus
"Weed's songs sound like layered linen. Instrumental fragments are fragile and wispy on their own, but stacked together, these small pieces create an impressive textural whole. Weed call Vancouver home, and despite being a city with as many scenes stacked within it as there are layers of molten haze on their album, Weed sound distinctly Pacific Northwestern. That is not to say that Weed's new album recalls Sub Pop's early empire; it's more of a reference to the softened gloom found on the album. This is a record that all at once sounds like rain on Sundays, trying to drive home in a late-night downpour, and the moment when the sun slowly creeps out from behind the clouds to breathe some sort of life into a soggy day. There's hope to be found in this dour, silty mud." - Stereogum
"The band with the most unfriendly U.S. border-crossing name in the world are back with a new full-length. Weed formed in 2010 with the chance meeting of Will Anderson and Kevin Doherty at a clothing-optional beach in Vancouver that I can only assume was Wreck. Hugo Noriega joined later, and the band has gone through 'a million drummers' since. Now they’ve signed to Lefse and are starting to garner some serious attention, thanks in part to the well-honed skills of Jordan Koop of the Noise Floor.
"Although Weed didn’t exactly 'run back' to release a follow up to 2013's Deserve, they did it patiently and perfectly. Plodding along, Running Back sees a band comfortably and confidently master a genre. Whether or not the album title refers to a quick jog along a golden beach or a sprint through the cool woods, or perhaps a return to form, they've nailed that melodic, fuzzy, emotional, grungy, shoegaze sound that everyone is wetting themselves over right now." - Beat Route
"'Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress' is exceptional in the GY!BE canon in a whole heap of ways. Firstly, it's a mere 40 minutes long—which is short by anybody's modern standards, let alone for the band which popularised the 20-minute-plus track time for a whole generation. What's more, the four tracks that make up the album play through as one single suite, resulting in such a potent statement that it's tough to argue against always sitting through in its entirety (as if 'motherfucker=redeemer' had been its own album). The only other release by the band to rival Asunder in its sheer distilled potency is the half-hour Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP.
A deceptively meaningful step for Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the occasional soppiness of post-rock, which ultimately rendered it a dirty word in certain circles, has all but disappeared from the work of its godparents, now truly playing the music they were destined to play, and in its purest, weightiest possible form." - The Quietus
"Bert Jansch (and Pentangle), Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Tim Hardin: these are just some of the ghosts that haunt the fringes of Primrose Green, the excellent second album from Chicago guitarist and songwriter Ryley Walker. Whilst his debut showed promise, not least in his tumbling, cascasing acoustic guitar playing, Primrose Green performs an impressive double stunt in better showcasing both his songwriting and singing on one hand, and his ambition to create something looser, freer and more spontaneous on the other.
To achieve the latter, Walker has employed a high level, fluent and creative band of seasoned Chicago jazz players. Walker understands the John Martyn of Inside Out as much as he understands the John Martyn of Bless The Weather, yet the songs here are also richly melodic, evocative and pastoral. The combination of inspired writing and productive improvising results in something freewheeling, psychedelic and fluid, music that is proud to wear its influences on its sleeve, but which also seems in its own way daring and personal." - MusicOHM
"In conjunction with compiler and highlife researcher Dr. Markus Coester, Soundway Records presents this very special release on double CD or triple 180g gatefold vinyl (with bonus 7-inch).
The 45 includes the two first-ever recordings by Fela Ransome Kuti with his band The Highlife Rakers. Recorded by Melodisc in London in 1960, both tracks have been unearthed after more than fifty years in hiding.
In many ways, this compilation is a prequel to Soundway's groundbreaking Nigeria & Ghana Special compilations, telling the early story of modern highlife's foundation & formulation. It traces the music from West Africa to London, adding elements of jazz, mambo and calypso along the way and paving the way for the Afro sounds of the 1970s." - Soundway Records
"The story of Tobias Jesso Jr.'s rapid ascent in many ways began with the breakup of the band Girls and Jesso reaching out to producer Chet 'JR' White in the aftermath of the split. But the storybook beginning, which included Jesso relocating from Vancouver to San Francisco, sleeping on White's couch during recording, and inevitably collaborating with the likes of The Black Keys' Patrick Carney and Ariel Rechtshaid as well, is only the background. Jesso's debut, Goon, doesn’t need any of it to be impactful or important. What Jesso has delivered is a record that needs no context, that can exist outside of time and place. Jesso, in short, has crafted a masterpiece, with the only connection of real significance being between him and his audience.
While the comparisons to Harry Nilsson and John Lennon hold up over the course of the debut, what may be the most surprising is the range that Jesso shows throughout. Goon isn't all piano ballads; hell, it isn't all ballads, period. 'Crocodile Tears' is a mid-tempo, psych-tinted strut that finds Jesso boo-hoo-hooing his way into unexpected territory. 'Leaving L.A.' is something totally different, lounge-y in its instrumental breaks, allowing Jesso freedom to veer from straight-ahead singer/songwriter territory. Throw in the guitar backbones of 'The Wait' and 'Tell the Truth,' and Goon contains plenty of variety in both tone and arrangement, carefully placed gaps in the ultimate strengths of the album." - Paste
"'Take what you want from me,' Courtney Barnett repeats near the end of 'Kim's Caravan,' a highlight from her new album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. That bit of exasperation is surrounded by some clever observational lines and a fiery guitar solo, but it sits at the song’s core, a reminder that Barnett is more than a Seinfeld-ian joker pointing out life’s little quirks. Like Stephen Malkmus or Kurt Vonnegut, Barnett looks at the mundane with a skewed perspective, turning it over in her mind and transmogrifying it into something extraordinary." - Consequence Of Sound
"Modernists is the soul version of Mod Jazz, comprising records we feel could have been massive in mod clubs in the 1960s and could fill dancefloors today. We hope you will be impressed by the high quality throughout, from Jeb Stuart's boogaloo opener to Paul & Rick's perfect ender. Timmy Wilson's 'Long Ways To Go' would surely have been an R&B club smash had his record label not gone bust, while Mel Williams' 'Jet Set' fulfils all the musical and lyrical requisites of a mod classic. It's difficult to choose highlights, but as we've been championing it in clubs for a couple of years, we're going to mention Little Eva's 'Dynamite,' an amazing answer to James Brown's ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.'" - Ace Records
"For 23 straight Saturday nights of 1982, The Chicago Party dance show assaulted Chicagoland UHF eyeballs with Spandex, Southside fly guys, tender tenderonies, magicians, contortionists, prismatic video gimmickry, and lip-synched singles by a rising regime of local post-disco casualties. Unfettered nightlife and outlandish humor poured out of oddball outpost The CopHerBox II and onto TV screens, presented here as a 100-minute video mixtape on DVD. Its companion compilation features five previously unreleased tracks, joined by music culled from a trove of self-released 45s and small-time 12”s. Die-cut cathode-ray jacket and six in-package stills put the Party at your fingertips." - Numero Group
"The Bihari brothers, owners of Los Angeles' Kent and Modern labels, knew their black music, signing artists of the calibre of Etta James, Jesse Belvin and Jimmy Witherspoon in the '50s. Their travels to New Orleans, Memphis and elsewhere saw them expand their horizons, recording acts in those locales or licensing in material for release. In the soul era, The Other Brothers from Texas, Jeanette Jones and Wally Cox from the Bay Area, and the Memphis-recorded Earl Wright fit that pattern." - Ace Records
"This bumper collection of numbers penned by Gerry Goffin and his wife Carole King includes familiar hits (The Shirelles' 'What A Sweet Thing That Was,' Bobby Vee's 'Sharing You,' The Cookies' 'Will Power,' The Drifters' 'When My Little Girls Is Smiling,' et cetera), overlooked gems (The Hondells' 'Show Me Girl,' The Hearts & Flowers' 'Road To Nowhere,' Walter Jackson's 'Anything Can Happen') and some new-to-CD rarities ('You Turn Me On Boy' by The Honey Bees, The Orlons' 'Keep Your Hands Off My Baby,' The Clovers' 'The Sheik' and Theola Kilgore's 'It's Gonna Be Alright')." - Ace Records
"This release on our occasional Ace International imprint comprises an hour of pure pop highlights from the career of Annie Philippe, one of France's leading yé-yé girls. The collection is available as a 24-track CD and 12-track 180g red vinyl album, both featuring notes by Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe, author of the recent book Yé-Yé Girls Of 60s French Pop, who interviewed the lovely Annie specifically for this project.
Annie was launched into a yé-yé world dominated by Sheila, Sylvie Vartan, Françoise Hardy and France Gall. Her debut, a Lulu cover, didn't fly for the 17-year-old Parisienne, but sales were excellent for her follow-up, a version of the Supremes' 'Baby Love.' A year passed before Annie achieved fame at a parallel level to those others girls; her smash hit 'Ticket De Quai' paved the way for many others and remains her biggest seller.
Annie's final chart record came at the end of 1967, following which superstar Claude François signed her to his newly formed label, where she saw out the decade. There were sporadic releases in the ensuing decades but, after a protracted silence, she re-emerged looking as glamorous as ever." - Ace Records
"It was a lucky day for music lovers when Johnny Adams' songwriter neighbour Dorothy La Bostrie knocked on the young gospel singer's door and asked if he would consider singing the demos for two R&B songs she was hoping to pitch to record man Joe Ruffino of Ric and Ron Records. One of the songs was 'I Won't Cry,' which started the Tan Canary on a career that spanned five decades, gave so much pleasure to fans of New Orleans soul and R&B, and which now features as the title track of a must-have Ace CD.
It was only a local hit, but 'I Won't Cry' set standards for the great music collected in this first-ever compilation to include the A- and B-sides of all 11 of Adams' Ric and Ron singles, along with two otherwise unrecorded demos that made their first appearance on a vinyl single in a boxed set of Ric and Ron 45s issued for Record Store Day a couple of years back. It beggars belief that of these 11, only 'A Losing Battle' became a national R&B hit, so high is their overall quality." - Ace Records
"In the mid 1960s, before launching a solo career that profoundly influenced and altered the course of popular music, Jimi Hendrix was a little known sideman, working for short periods with a variety of artists including the Isley Brothers, Don Covay, Little Richard, and the Harlem-based R&B combo Curtis Knight & The Squires.
These recordings made for PPX and RSVP are part of Jimi Hendrix's extraordinary legacy. They neatly align with those other sessions Hendrix participated in during this same era as a sideman for other acts. 'I was a backing musician playing guitar,' Hendrix explained in a 1967 interview. 'I was always kept in the background, but I was thinking all the time about what I wanted to do.' Enjoyed in this context, these Curtis Knight sessions showcase his evolving technique and emerging brilliance." - Experience Hendrix
"From the dawn of doo-wop to the death of disco, the Notations saw—and sang—it all. Persisting through changing trends and technologies, on major labels and minor ones, produced by both Syl Johnson and Curtis Mayfield, nothing could stop the Notations from representing Chicago's Southside for decades. The first overview of their indie label golden age, Still Here 1967–1973 finds the Notations at a musical crossroads, turning from simmering R&B ballads to socially-conscious soul." - Numero Group
"By April 9, 1965, as the Staple Singers set up at the New Nazareth Church in Chicago to record the album that would become Freedom Highway, the group had moved far afield of its original gospel roots. Galvanized by the emerging Civil Rights movement, Roebuck 'Pops' Staples and family had offered a series of stirring protest songs like 'March Up Freedom's Highway,' 'Why? (Am I Treated So Bad),' and 'Washington Is A Long Walk To D.C.'—moments that helped frame the era.
But, as Sony Legacy's Freedom Highway Complete makes viscerally clear, the Staple Singers could still rattle the back pews.
Formerly constrained by the physical limitations of a 12-inch vinyl LP, the Staple Singers' performance—recorded in glorious mono by Billy Sherrill—is now available in its entirety. A highlight of this reissue's never-before-heard material is 'Jesus Is All,' which begins like a field holler before gaining steady, hand-clapping momentum, finally emerging as a jubilant paean to the sturdy faith needed to persevere through the toughest of times." - Something Else Reviews
"On 'Rock & Roll Is Cold,' the second track on Matthew E. White's second album, the 32-year-old Virginian takes a rare break from essaying love in its many various forms to get a little meta, singing about music itself. Off-mic, some cynical cur boasts that he's figured out how to fake it in gospel, soul and R&B. White rolls his eyes, pitying the fool. 'Everybody sees that R&B is free,' he whispers, incredulously. 'Gospel licks,' he adds, 'ain't got no tricks.'
White, by contrast, is no faker, and has got no tricks, evading the valley of slavish copyists by locating his own idiosyncratic dialect within the larger lexicon of soul. The house band at his Spacebomb studio robes his songs with strings, horns, Fender Rhodes, the sort of rich instrumentation that evokes soul at its plushest, but White’s vocals–dry, understated, deadpan–are something else, and the friction between those styles lends Fresh Blood a frisson. His lyrics, meanwhile, are more Bill Callahan than Bill Withers: dark, blackly humorous, mischievous and erotic." - MOJO
"For 30 years, the band Sonic Youth had, as its core, two main vocalists: Thurston Moore on guitar, and Kim Gordon on bass. They were indie rock's power couple—a shining example of love and loyalty in maybe the environment least conducive to marital bliss. Sonic Youth ended in 2011, with their divorce. Now, Gordon has written a new memoir, Girl In A Band, about her marriage, her music and the origins—and the end—of Sonic Youth." - NPR
"It is in its uncrated reports of what she’s always seen but never said, where Gordon allows herself the grace of believing her own intuition, that Girl In A Band becomes a triumph and a manual for owning one’s pain, sensitivity, cruelness, self-consciousness and instinct. Gordon’s heartbreak and insecurities (about her singing voice, for example) are as prevalent as her notable confidence and ferocity." - National Post
"It's taken two years for Canadian singer-songwriter Andy Shauf's The Bearer of Bad News to reach the States, but now we can finally hear why this Saskatchewan crooner is being hailed. Without a doubt, Shauf's folk is the kind of lush, contemplative songwriting that makes you pause." - West Virginia Public Broadcasting
"Recorded in his basement in Regina, Saskatchewan over the course of two years and written over four, The Bearer Of Bad News has the deep, refined feeling of being worked on, but not overworked. The 11 tracks here are decidedly rustic at heart, with a hushed, spartan feeling akin to early Elliott Smith albums, an acknowledged influence. The vision is singular, with Shauf supplying all the vocals and instrumentation save for drums on one track. Shauf's brand of Canadiana is rooted in folk music, but the sophistication of his arrangements reveals a keen pop sensibility that saves it from wallowing too deeply in the sepia-toned doldrums." - All Music
"Here you will find the roots of Studio One's unique sound, from the first jump-up, boogie-woogie and shuffle recordings made in Jamaica in the late 1950s, as the artists emulated their American rhythm and blues idols—Louis Jordan, Roscoe Gordon, Fats Domino—through to the early Rastafari rhythms of Count Ossie, the righteous Baptist beat of Toots and the Maytals up to the joyous excitement of Ska with tracks by Studio One's young protégés Bob Marley and The Wailers and the all-mighty Skatalites." - Soul Jazz Records