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FEATURED RELEASES

Friday
Jul192013

THUNDERCAT - Apocalypse

Two years ago, Thundercat's debut album The Golden Age Of Apocalypse slowly but surely won over enough of us here to reach #11 on our Staff Best Of 2011 chart, and the pared-down title variation for this follow-up seems fully fitting, as Stephen Bruner's funky fusoid tendencies and falsetto vocal melodies continue to set him apart from any of his 'beat scene' peers, but with a slightly darker, barer tinge to it all this time around, due in part to the passing of keyboardist collaborator and friend Austin Peralta, to whom last track "A Message For Austin" is dedicated.

"The chord this record strikes hardest is an emotional and highly personal one; it’s a record that conveys with exceptional delicacy the transition from relative naivete to a more reflective and worldly view. For most of us, this happens in our twenties: much has been written on the subject of the 'lost years' when we establish, or fail to establish, relative stability, and peace with ourselves. For Bruner, this transition seems to have been provoked by a tragic event, but for most of us, it’ll be something experienced painfully and gradually for the better part of a decade.

Apocalypse is very literally a rewarding and difficult second album, with its roots in tragedy and loss and its furthermost fronds in hope and moving forward, an album that challenges listeners with an incredible level of subtlety, hidden depths and wash of openly expressed emotion. It might even just be the album that best sums up what the Low End Theory beat scene in LA has always been about: the perfect blend of virtuous technicality and cosmic self discovery with a message delivered wrapped in genuine human warmth." - Drowned In Sound

Monday
Jul152013

VA - Sophisticated Boom Boom! The Shadow Morton Story

Best known for his role as the Shangri-Las' svengali, Sophisticated Boom Boom! serves to shine a light on the rest of the reclusive producer's behind-the-scenes career.

"George 'Shadow' Morton was an instinctive musical genius who, despite never really playing an instrument, somehow wrote and produced several milestone works, most notably the great sequence of Shangri-Las pop-operettas which established him as the 'East Coast Spector.' But he was no one-trick pony: he would go on to produce 16-year-old Janis Ian's controversial breakthrough hit about interracial love, 'Society's Child,' discover The Young Rascals, and help invent heavy metal." - The Independent

"This collection covers Shadow’s career from his debut as lead vocalist with the Markeys and the Lonely Ones through to the New York Dolls' Too Much Too Soon album. Also included are tracks by the Beattle-ettes, Shangri-Las, Goodies, Ellie Greenwich, Shaggy Boys, Nu-Luvs, Janis Ian, Blues Project, Vanilla Fudge, Vagrants, Iron Butterfly and Mott The Hoopleeverything from 1950s doo wop to 1970s glam-punk via girl group melodramas and Long Island psychedelia. In other words, a very varied listening experience." - Ace Records

Monday
Jul152013

HAILU MERGIA - Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument: Shemonmuanaye

Gently spaced-out and thoroughly out of time, this CD remaster of a cassette recorded in 1985 and now reissued by Brian Shimkovitz's Awesome Tapes From Africa label (once a blog, ATFA now selectively officially licenses their finds for release) is quite a find indeed, unfurling at a leisurely pace while its pattering drum machine, insistent accordion runs and digital handclaps entrance and invigorate.

"In Ethiopia, Mergia found fame as an organist and keyboardist in the soul and jazz ensemble Walias Band. Four years later, while playing in the ex-Walias Band ensemble Zula Band, he released Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument, an instrumental record dominated by a sound that hadn’t been heard in much popular Ethiopian music for decades: the accordion. Amplified instruments had come along and usurped the squeezebox, which had been de rigueur in the 1950s. But it wasn’t a total throwback: Mergia recorded it with a Moog synthesizer, a Rhodes electric piano, and a drum machine, piecing together a drifting, meditative, and thoroughly psychedelic interpretation of traditional acoustic Ethiopian music." - Washington City Paper

Monday
Jul152013

VA - Très Chic: More French Girl Singers Of The 1960s

Just months after the release of a vinyl issue of 2010's C'est Chic! CD compilation (one of Ace's bestselling titles in our shop these past few years) hit our shelves, the follow-up comp is upon us, and as expected, it's a fun, frug-friendly mix of name artists (such as France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot and Anna Karina) and equally strong cuts from a cast of lesser-known yé-yé singers.

yé-yé
yé-yé

"Pretty much completely free of filler, Très Chic is a thoughtfully researched and curated cache of French pop, digging deeper below the surface than most collections by looking beyond just the biggest names to reveal some deeper cuts."- Allmusic

Monday
Jul152013

JERRY MOORE - Life Is A Constant Journey Home

A near-dead ringer for the late Terry Callier in his early New Folk Sound days, Life Is A Constant Journey Home is another predominantly guitar-and-vocal/song-based surprise from the ESP-Disk archives to perhaps enjoy alongside the likewise-underheard Michael Gregory Jackson album Clarity.

"This 1967 reissue is definitely of its time. Recorded shortly before his ordination as a preacher, Jerry Moore's Life Is A Constant Journey Home is a meditative plea for peace and faith, delivered in a smooth plaintive voice and utilizing many of the familiar folk, country, soul and light blues styles of the era. Moore’s message is subtly Christian, but its overtly compassionate and fiery defense of love is certainly all-inclusive. With its light, soulful blues and gently chiding lyrics, the title song opens things up with a mellow but edgy tone. This is a call to wake up, a search for a fast track to insight and redemption." - Music Emissions

Thursday
Jul112013

MONOMYTH - King, Does This Not Please You? (Behold The Power)

Halifax-based guitar guys Monomyth have been hoofing it across Canada this summer, and a couple of us Soundscapers were lucky enough to catch them recently in Toronto and grab some CDs that feature their new EP, their old EP and a couple of other tunes. While we eagerly await a full-length release, this compilation flows like it was intended to be a cohesive album, all woozy layers, three-part harmonies and sweet jangly riffs. Sure to please the Flying Nun Records fan in all of us.

"Easily one of Halifax's best acts, these guys have been on my radar for a while now. Their recordings jump between psychedelia and weirdo-pop; it's experimental yet catchy and accessible...Their latest release King, Does This Not Please You? (Behold the Power) is a four-track masterpiece.. it's surfy, its shoegazey, it's poppy yet complete punk rock." - Londonfuse.ca

Thursday
Jul112013

RODION G.A. - The Lost Tapes

Crackling with distorted organ, synth, guitar, drum machine and live kit, this archival set from Strut reveals a persecution-skirting hybrid made between 1978 and 1984 by Romania's Rodion Rosça, one that in hindsight can be slotted somewhere between Kosmische prog and the punky sci-fi defiance of Heldon's Richard Pinhas, all while maintaining a degree of regional tradition in its scales and melodic lines, aligning Rosça and band with the psych-rock of their Turkish neighbours just across the Black Sea.

"In the late '70s and early '80s in communist Romania, Rodion Ladislau Roșca and his band Rodion G.A. created a hybrid of electronic music, psychedelics, and progressive rock that, decades later, has revealed itself to be remarkably ahead of its time. After years of obscurity, and only a handful of singles ever released officially, Rodion’s music is finally getting the recognition it deserves" - Wax Poetics

"This is some of the raddest music you’re likely to hear this year: rad in its overall excellence, and radical in its forward-thinking nature, sounding so even today, though recorded at the height of Ceausescu’s suppression and censorship." - The Quietus

Thursday
Jul112013

VA - Enjoy The Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992

Running the gamut from oddball entertainers attempting to capture/recreate their live act for posterity to home-recording outsiders hoping to create an LP-sized business card of sorts, this 2CD set documents the US private-press phenomenon in all its strange, colourful, varied and unvarnished wonder!

"[W]hile now one can upload content to platforms where it can be found with little effort by millions for free, from the late 1950s to the early '90s, aspiring stars paid out of their own pockets to press their music on vinyl. And then, without distribution, radio play, buzz or press coverage, their music languished in basements or crawlspaces, accruing dust and mold. It is the spirit of the latter that inspired the art book Enjoy the Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992, released this month by Sinecure Books in conjunction with New York's Boo-Hooray art gallery, with a companion 2-CD set of some of the choicest bits." - NPR

"Take note: this is not a novelty freak show. Contained in this anthology are examples of some of the most highly regarded rock, soul, jazz, funk and singer/songwriter albums from the '60s through to the early '80s. From the awkward-yet-talented to the genius-yet-bizarre, one thing unites all musicians presented here: they sincerely hoped to become stars, they committed themselves to record, and they left themselves vulnerable to an industry not understanding of nuance, not appreciative of character." - Now-Again

Thursday
Jun272013

MICHAEL HURLEY - Armchair Boogie/Hi Fi Snock Uptown

Following limited-edition vinyl pressings of both these albums by Mississippi Records, Light In The Attic's new Future Days imprint has now remastered these second and third records in Michael Hurley's storied but long-unavailable discography, originally respectively released in 1971/72 on The Youngbloods' Warner Bros.-distributed Raccoon label. Snock on [mouth trumpet solo]!

"The semi-reclusive Hurley is best known these days for high-profile reissues from Light In The Attic and Mississippi, as well as his association with Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. But he rose to a strange sort of fame in the '60s via his association with outsider folk acts The Holy Modal Rounders and The Youngbloods. He then struck out on his own and released Armchair Boogie and Hi Fi Snock Uptown, masterpieces of left-field Americana characterized by Hurley's brilliant, offbeat guitar playing and creeping insanity. This is the first time either album has been reissued on CD, and in typical Light In The Attic fashion, they come remastered with thoughtful accoutrements. For example, a Hurley-helmed comic book accompanies Armchair Boogie. Hurley's drawingswhich also grace the album coversare good indicators of his music: nonsensical, non-linear, funny, warm, and somehow familiar." - Ad Hoc

Thursday
Jun272013

PETER JEFFERIES - The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World

A punky, piano-led solo debut placing proper emphasis on Jefferies' weathered baritone and world-weary yet outwardly-engaged lyrics, this is a crucial document of the '90s New Zealand cassette underground thankfully brought back to life by ever-discerning, primarily archival left-field label De Stijl.

"Last Great Challenge... is a claustrophobic, private-sounding collection that ranges from homegrown, tinny post-punk to melancholic piano ballads to fucked up tape manipulations to the sound of a man singing calmly (and resignedly) while he does the dishes." - Pitchfork

"Though no one’s gotten around to writing a book on it yet, The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World nonetheless stands as one of the singular singer-songwriter albums of all time, existing on a sparsely populated plane with Pink Moon, I Often Dream of Trains, Blues Run the Game, Our Mother the Mountain and not many others. In a sandy voice that soothes and slashes, Jefferies offers a compassionate, piercingly lucid view of the endeavor of life, all our pain and small glories rendered in tones both harrowing and tender. On piano, drums and percussion, he pounds out melodies that roar, sweep and lilt, accompanied on many songs by the serrated guitars of a variety of players." - De Stijl
Thursday
Jun272013

STEVE GUNN - Time Off

A melodiously drony set of boogie-folk by a fellow who's currently turning heads as guitar slinger-for-hire with Kurt Vile and the Violators, after years of plugging away in the psych underground with a discography that includes multiple releases for Digitalis and Three Lobed Recordings. Highly recommended, and likely to appeal across a wide swath of listeners.
 
"Even when Gunn fries up an electric solo on 'New Decline,' the drums are mixed to the back like silverware being thrashed around a bar kitchen. His sly, muted vocals disintegrate and replenish as they please. Dynamics or structure are not a major concern; these songs sound happy to just get the ignition working...'Found a spot to kill time and look around,' he sings, and that's what Time Off sounds like: a resting place, both for the riffs that this sideman needed to exorcise and a comfy little alcove for us to hear them played, with care and patience." - SPIN  

"[Time Off] bathes in gauzy pastoral hues and rippling guitars, and Gunn’s voice is distant and ethereal, but don’t mistake that vibe and the album’s title for some sort of slacker folk. Instead, this stuff meditates and digs, with slow rotations, grinding through the dusty surfaces it creates." - PopMatters 
Wednesday
Jun192013

RUTHANN FRIEDMAN - Windy: A Ruthann Friedman songbook

Water's 2006 reissue of Friedman's only proper album, Constant Companion, was a store fave as far as that year's batch of rediscoveries went, so we're very excited that Now Sounds has found even more breezily cerebral, well-arranged soft-pop/folk from someone who should have been as well-known as the likes of Laura Nyro and Carly Simon.  

"Having written The Association’s 'Windy' while living in David Crosby’s basement, Ruthann Friedman remained an intriguing and mysterious figure of '60s pop for decades. Until recently, her released output consisted of a lone folk album issued in 1970. Unbelievably, many fascinating recordings she created with some of the most revered names in West Coast pop have remained locked away in the vaults…until now!" - Cherry Red

Wednesday
Jun192013

PRINCE NIFTY - Pity Slash Love

A key yet underheralded contributor to many great things about Toronto's local independent music scene(s), from Double Double Land, 6 Nassau, and sound design for the plays of Alex Wolfson to Blocks Recording Club, sporadic live techno supergroup of sorts New Feelings, and Les Mouches/the Owen Pallett band, Matt "Prince Nifty" Smith finally officially follows up 2007's A Sparrow! A Sparrow! with an inimitable blend of guitar pop, R&B-savvy vocal stacking and manic Shangaan/Footwork-like electronic dance touches.

"While we're on the subject of weird melodies, I'd like to introduce you to Prince Nifty. Experimental in nature, the vocals are free-flowing like Gregorian chant. Avant-garde artist Thomas 'THOMAS' Gill is one of the contributors to his latest, Pity Slash Love, most audible in the keyboards of the album's second track."- Ride the Tempo

Wednesday
Jun192013

SEAN NICHOLAS SAVAGE - Other Life / DIRTY BEACHES - Drifters/Love Is The Devil

As anyone who saw him play here during recent NXNE festivities can attest to, Sean Nicolas Savage is a magnetic performer, whose off-the-cuff, quasi-karaoke, romantically rebellious songbook (mainly documented via cassettes and downloads, until now) has influenced enough hometown peers to have inspired an entire covers collection. With its tales of heartbreak and renewal, the first half of Other Life is especially lyrically devastating.

Meanwhile, fellow Montrealer Alex Zhang Hungtai's sophomore full-length sees him retain his Alan Vega-influenced croon, while replacing the loops and samples of his debut Badlands with an array of live-played, distorted drum machines and synths that, while naturally indebted to Suicide, also inventively and soulfully nods to a wide variety of related dark/outsider music of 30+ years past, from coldwave and industrial post-punk à la Cabaret Voltaire to the 'electronic body music' of DAF. 

Wednesday
Jun122013

STEVE TILSTON - An Acoustic Confusion

We're really looking forward to further acquainting ourselves with this 1971 debut, an album that's grabbed the ears of many a staffer here ever since we cracked open a copy out of curiosity. Hopefully you'll be as excited as us upon hearing An Acoustic Confusion, a set stacked with equally arresting vocals and solo guitar accompaniment that honestly rival the likes of Bert Jansch and Davey Graham!

"An Acoustic Confusion was recorded in the early winter of 1971. Tilston tells of how the heat in the house where the album was recorded broke down from time to time, so he was forced to record with a fur coat and freezing fingers. Not the best conditions for the 20-year-old Tilston, but he managed to make magic there, assembling an album of ten beautiful, personal, catchy and haunting songs with fantastic lyrics, and a terrific level of composition.

All the songs have a big cloud of inspiration from Jansch/Renbourn/Jones/Graham, but it's also a very solid and strong personal statement for the young musician. He avoids the Drake melancholy, the Jones humor, and the Jansch darkness. He’s closer to Paul Simon and Al Stewart in his songwriting than the fathers of his inspiration." - Sunday's Child

Tuesday
Jun042013

VA - New Breed Blues With Black Popcorn

If you loved the Vampisoul label's R&B Hipshakers series, you'll also get a real charge off this spankin' new Kent comp filled with rough-edged late-'50s/mid-'60s r'n'b. Funkified dancefloor action guaranteed!

"Make way for a brand new selection of collectables, curios and rug-cutters for R&B fans who feel the beat and need new sounds to scratch their itch...Inevitably it’s the debutantes that will steal the show and attract the more traditional R&B fan. There is a pounding blues by Freddie North from Bob Holmes' tapes, when he was working with Freddie along with Slim Harpo in Nashville in the late '60s. From Los Angeles there is Adolph Jacobs' unreleased Class recording 'Cannibal Stew' that sounds like the Coasters and might even have them singing behind him (he was their guitarist at the time). Then we have a taster for the forthcoming Ace CD of Richard Stamz's Chicago blues productions, with a fine mover from Tony Gideon called 'So Strange.'" - Ace Records

Monday
Jun032013

LOS BRINCOS - Contrabando

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.

"Contrabando proved the band's viability after members Juan Pardo and Junior had left to start their own career as a duo. The other original members, Fernando Arbex and Manolo González, quickly rebuilt the four-piece with Ricky Morales (Junior's younger brother) and Vicente Fernández. Los Brincos remained faithful to their beat group aesthetic, but at this point also opened up to more eclectic and playful musical and conceptual possibilities. The album was recorded at Abbey Road, with engineer Geoff Emerick. It was essential to establish themselves in the international market and several songs were recorded in both English and Spanish. In order to help realise their international ambitions, the group enlisted the services of Larry Page, who had handled both The Kinks and The Troggs with enormous success. But all of Page's contacts weren't enough for the band to break through in the UK, where two singles were released on the producer's own Page One label. Still, 'Lola' and 'El Pasaporte' were big hits in Spain, making it clear that Juan & Junior hadn't taken the four-piece's audience with them." - Cherry Red
Friday
May312013

ELUVIUM - Nightmare Ending

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

Wednesday
May292013

BILL FRISELL - Silent Comedy / PAT METHENY - Tap: John Zorn's Book of Angels, Vol. 20

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 Bill Frisell's Silent Comedy is pretty close to accurate. This really is the guitarist as you've never heard him beforeat 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." - Allmusic

"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

Tuesday
May282013

FRANCOISE HARDY - Midnight Blues: Paris, London 1968-1972

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

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