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Thursday
Apr042013

TANDYN ALMER - Along Comes Tandyn

Pssst! You, yeah, you! Lookin' for some slightly-delic sunshine pop? Well, has songwriter Tandyn Almer ever got a good strong dose for you! That’s right, Tandyn Almer… Name don't ring a bell, eh? Hmm, maybe you’ve heard one or two of his tunes like "Sail On, Sailor" by The Beach Boys or "Along Comes Mary," a Top 10 smash hit by The Association. Yeah, now you’re gettin' the picture, right?

But if that still ain't the case, it'll come through loud and clear upon listening to this new collection of fifteen previously unreleased mid-'60s demos Almer's publisher sent to potential clients. And yet it's hard to believe that the songs on Along Comes Tandyn (recorded with a number of different musicians and vocalists) are demos, since they don’t quite have the rawness typically found on demo tracks. Coming off somewhat more like a finished product, the album kicks off with the Association-like "Find Yourself." Tougher-sounding pop-rock tunes such as "You Turn Me Around" and its infectious refrain will stick to you like glue from the very first spin, while "Alice Designs" is a not-so-veiled ode to LSD. Dylan-esque folk-rock also makes a welcome appearance on "About Where Love Is," and, speaking of protest songs rockin' the folk, the album wraps up with some social commentary on the Hollywood teen riots of late '66, "Sunset Strip Soliloquy."

While some of the demos here were indeed recorded by various groups, Almer's compositions hardly struck gold. His career was sadly hampered by mental disorders and he passed away this January. This Sundazed release, with its detailed liner notes telling the full tale of Tandyn Almer, fittingly provides a testimonial to his considerable melodic talents. Available on CD and vinyl, it should appeal both to fans of Californian '60s pop and, for that matter, anyone who loves well-crafted tunes from any era.

Thursday
Apr042013

BOMBINO - Nomad

With the grit of its Tuareg drone-blues and the insistence of his group's handclaps, ululations and choral responses offset by the mellow delivery of titular bandleader Omara "Bombino" Moctar, Nomad is evidence of Bombino's ability to court an even wider North American market already entranced by the likes of Tinariwen, as well as of another production coup for The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, as fitting and tasteful a pairing as his success behind the board last year with Dr. John's Locked Down.

"With its bright, saturated guitar sound, Nomad reproduces a little bit of the intensity of the Guitars From Agadez recordings...There are crowd or street sounds, and some songs stop in a collective slump, with the sound of clapping, as if this were a party or a casual outdoor jam rather than a heavily considered shot at a worldwide audience. But these songs sound less driving, more streamlined, structured and consolidated. [Auerbach] has helped Bombino make a spacious, centered record, one that stretches to appeal to Western listeners without strain, clutter or hipness overload." - The New York Times

Thursday
Apr042013

MAYLEE TODD - Escapology / THE BICYCLES - Stop Thinking So Much

Two terrific local acts are back with anticipated new releases this week, as Maylee Todd follows up her 2010 debut Choose Your Own Adventure, while The Bicycles reunite for their first album in five years!

"An eclectic performer and songwriter, Todd is drawn to a variety of styles and influences, including jazz instrumentation, soul vocals, and even brassy, energetic bossa nova. And yet it’s her disco influence that stands out on Escapology, though the record never succumbs to mimicry. The song structures are employed cleverly enough that the sound never feels retro. Todd’s voice is a highlight. She’s capable of producing a smooth, sleek, almost buttery tone for the more lighthearted numbers, or committing to a more gravelling, insistent croon at moments of longing or rebuke." - Torontoist

"After releasing the best bubblegum-inspired indie pop album ever, 2006's The Good the Bad and the Cuddly, and an almost as impressive but sadder follow-up, 2008's Oh No, It's Love, the Bicycles went on a hiatus that seemed permanent. the Bicycles made lovers of pure pop music happy with the news in 2012 that they were back together with their original lineup and making a new record. Stop Thinking So Much is a triumphant return that delves lightly into the pop the Toronto group mastered on The Good, but also shows an increase in the maturity and musical expansion that began on Oh No. Once again the bandmembers split songwriting and vocal duties, all proving that they could be fronting their own bands." - Allmusic

Friday
Mar222013

SWAMP DOGG - Total Destruction To Your Mind / Rat On!

Previously available on a cheaply packaged two-fer, it's great to see Swamp Dogg's first two albums getting the reissue treatment they deserve courtesy of Alive Records. This is top-notch funky soul that pulls no punches in lyrical content. Worth the purchase for one of the most unique record covers you'll ever see...Rat On!

"Industry veteran Jerry Williams, Jr. unleashed his alter ego on his 1970 masterpiece Total Destruction To Your Mind, spelling out his unconventional views in groove-heavy soul music. He makes good on the title’s brag with catchy, original songs that touch on environmental decay, social isolation, dystopian visions, racism and questions of paternity. Williams' lyrics are often Zappa-like in their surface absurdity, but there’s a gripping observation or lament at each song's heart. Recorded at Capricorn Studios in Macon, GA, his band is soaked in the horns, low bass and guitar riffs of Southern soul, and touched by the propulsion of West Coast funk. It’s hard to imagine how this record (as well as follow-up Rat On!, an album better known for its cover than its content) has remained so obscure and hard to find.

Listened to in passing, Rat On! offers top-flight '70s southern soul, with deep bass and punchy horns. But listened to more carefully, the album reveals a daring songwriter who wasn’t afraid to tell it as he saw it, challenging society's icons of freedom with 'God Bless America For What?' and landing himself on Nixon’s enemies list. The album features soulful reworkings of the Bee Gees' 'Got to Get a Message to You' and Mickey Newbury's 'She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye,' and though the original tunes aren't nearly as absurd as those on Total Destruction To Your Mind, their messages are just as powerful, and their grooves are just as deep." - No Depression

Thursday
Mar212013

THE HIGHEST ORDER - If It's Real

A mix of psych/country covers and originals split into sides by the intervention of three two-chord takes of motorik "Cosmic Manipulations," If It's Real is the debut recording by the newest project to spin off from the One Hundred Dollars/Fiver axis.

"The Highest Order formed in early 2012 after its members found good fortune in an unfortunate situation: while alternative-country band One Hundred Dollars was on tour, drummer Dave Clarke was unable to participate in one leg. The band recruited Simone TB (Ell V Gore) as a replacement. She had such great chemistry with the group that vocalist and guitarist Simone Schmidt, vocalist and guitarist Paul Mortimer, and bassist Kyle Porter started a new project with with her. Since then, The Highest Order has been making a name for itself by composing and performing spacey, psychedelic country that’s as strange at it is soulful." - Torontoist

"While Simone Schmidt's projects typically focus on her first-person stories—One Hundred Dollars and Fiver, for example, put listeners in the steel-toed boots of migrant farmers, hopeless addicts and bottom-rung oil men—her supporting ensemble is usually underrated. Songs of Man and Forest of Tears, to the credit of electric guitarist Paul Mortimer and bassist Kyle Porter, painted impeccable country-music backdrops for Schmidt’s tales of work, love and loss. Porter and Mortimer, along with Tropics drummer Simone TB, join Schmidt in The Highest Order, and If It’s Real is a logical, yet no less substantial, progression from One Hundred Dollars. Finally, Schmidt’s instrumental backing has caught up to her vivid storytelling—no small feat. - Fast Forward Weekly

Thursday
Mar212013

LOW - The Invisible Way

With piano playing a bigger role in most of these songs and Mimi Parker taking the lead on more tracks than is typical for the band, Jeff Tweedy's guiding hand as producer for these sessions proves to have been the perfect choice.

"There’s a neat loop formed by The Invisible Way. While calling back to the group's roots as slowcore pioneers, the disc is mostly an unplugged affair. And where recent albums dabbled in distortion and synthesizers, Invisible is all about acoustic guitar and piano. It’s also about that singular, heart-stopping Low hush. 'Amethyst' converts piano chords into soft, wet snowfalls, even as it lets single notes poke out like naked twigs. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy produces Low for the first time here, and it can’t be a coincidence that there’s a marked, if stark, country-rock tint to Invisible. On 'Holy Ghost,' Parker comes on like Emmylou Harris at her most wounded; 'Clarence White' nostalgically pays homage to the late member of The Byrds (along with, weirdly, Charlton Heston). 'Four Score' weaves a symphony out of whispers, while 'Mother' twangs plainly and poignantly." - A.V. Club

"The Invisible Way is very good—and not just 'good for a band that's 20 years old.' In fact, if you compare it to, say, U2’s Pop, the Rolling Stones' Undercover, or R.E.M.'s Reveal (all albums made around their makers' respective 20th year together), it's pretty clear that Low haven't succumbed to a lot of the weaknesses and flaws that tend to crop up in long-running acts; maybe that's one of the silver linings of never becoming world-conquering and mega-rich? The Invisible Way foregrounds piano and acoustic guitar, not instruments Low have traditionally relied on, and the result builds on 2011's tender C'mon. Where Low was once mostly spare, severe, and forbidding even when harmonizing beautifully, now they are warmly idiosyncratic songwriters that can still stun with slow-motion spellbinders like 'Amethyst' as well as the faster-paced but equally charming likes of 'Mother' and 'To Our Knees.'" - Popmatters

Saturday
Mar162013

MY BLOODY VALENTINE - m b v

It's been well worth the waits (both that little twenty-two-year-long one, as well as the initial short-lived limbo regarding whether or not retailers would even be able to stock this, or if it would just be a direct-mailorder-only item), as m b v delivers not only initially, but even more upon further listens, opening itself up to reveal as many details as one could have hoped for the more often one dives in.

"The nine songs divide neatly into three mini-albums. The first three explore the feedback drone of Loveless and Glider. The next three are the pop tunes; the final three go for aggro punk. Any 20-second stretch would be identifiable as My Bloody Valentine, yet every track holds surprises – the pulsing guitar strobes of 'In Another Way,' the way oceanic guitar waves suck your body into the speakers on 'Wonder 2.'" - Rolling Stone

"After an absence of more than 20 years, it's the most aggressively amniotic stuff going. Lead track 'She Found Now' picks up more or less where Loveless left off, with Valentine-in-chief Kevin Shields crooning, guitars flanging, and an urgent aortic throb underpinning all the gauziness. You can imagine fans punching the air at this point, in the blessed relief that this long, long, long-awaited album doesn't induce a desire to kick the cat in disappointment." - The Guardian

Friday
Mar152013

DANIEL HOPE - Spheres

Violinist Daniel Hope follows his brilliant appearance as soloist on Max Richter's Recomposed: Vivaldi's Four Seasons (a turn impressive enough to have made our Staff Best Of 2012 list) with this program centred around the concept of planetary movement, the 'music of the spheres,' featuring pieces by Richter himself as well as Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman and Gabriel Prokofiev, among others. (Listen to Hope's own commentary, along with selections from Spheres, at Deutsche Grammophon's SoundCloud page.)

"The idea that the universe can aspire to elegance, harmony and symmetry has long been an irresistible concept for artists, musicians and even some scientists. It’s a controversial notion, of course, to suggest that subjective aesthetics can be applied to inherently objective disciplines.

But flip the concept around, and you get projects like Spheres, the thought-provoking album by the British violinist Daniel Hope. The collection is based on the 'music of the spheres,' the philosophical idea that the proportions of the movements of celestial bodies (the sun, moon and planets) can be viewed in the form of music, inaudible but perfectly harmonious.

Hope has assembled a collection of 18 pieces whose repetitions evoke the recurrent orbits of astral bodies. As bookends are two Baroque works: Imitazione delle campane by Bach predecessor Johann Paul von Westhoff, and a string trio arrangement of Bach’s own Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. In between are minimalist works by Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt, a film music selection by Michael Nyman, and ear-massaging new pieces by Ludovico Enaudi, Alex Baranowski, Max Richter and others." - WQXR

Friday
Mar152013

VA - Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul

Any fans of the Motown era and 'four-on-top'/uptempo '60s soul are urged to lend their ears to this compilation of newly-unearthed material from the archives of Motor City producers Shelley Haims, Jack Ashford and Mike Terry, full of fantastic arrangements, moving vocal performances, and tastefully-placed tambourines galore! 

"This CD heralds the biggest unearthing of Detroit and Northern Soul masters in decades. It is as important and thrilling as the Scepter, Wand and Musicor cache, the Dave Hamilton tapes, or the unissued RCA treasure of the '80s and '90s.

On this volume, there are previously unheard gems from the Cavaliers, September Jones, Lorraine Chandler, Nancy Wilcox and Willie Kendrick (not forgetting two great instrumentals from the Pied Piper musicians). There are also the original Giant label releases issued in 1966 on Tony Hester, The Sandpipers and Mike & Ray, and the first Pied Piper productions for indie labels.

Working with the master tapes was a pleasure, and to hear these wonderfully produced Detroit masterpieces as they were laid down has been a revelation." - Ady Croasdell, Ace Records

Friday
Mar152013

VA - Change The Beat: The Celluloid Records Story 1980-1987

As recounted in this promotional short video, it could be argued that Celluloid's unique cross-Atlantic aesthetic was born the moment that French impresario/BYG Actuel co-founder Jean Karakos chanced upon NYC bassist/producer/multi-scene Zelig figure Bill Laswell; Change The Beat is a long-overdue look at one of the few early-'80s labels able to successfully unite the then-burgeoning B-boy movement with both the U.S./Euro no/new waves as well as that era's African diaspora. 

"With a selection that jumped from early hip-hop to deconstructed European disco, and from downtown NYC experimental head-trips to early fusions of world music with funk, jazz and art-damaged punk, Celluloid was truly a harbinger of things to come.

Winding your way through so much unbridled creativity is like stumbling into an avant-garde toy box filled with outrageous oddities, many of them sprouting dangerous, sharp edges. Having bought every Celluloid record I found for decades, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the label's catalogue, but there's an impressive amount of stuff here I've never heard or heard of.

Blessed by being in the right place(s) at the right time, and having the smarts to take advantage of the considerable opportunities that came their way, Celluloid Records sits comfortably in the file of independent labels that got it right from start to finish." - Blurt

Wednesday
Mar132013

ALEX CALDER - Time

Yes, Alex Calder's debut EP for Captured Tracks may sound near-identical to the music of his ex-bandmate Mac DeMarco, but Time's twenty minutes' worth of tracks are well-executed enough that listeners into this very particular (and peculiar) vein of chiming, jangly guitar pop are not likely to hold that against him in the least.

"If you think that the thin riff on Alex Calder's 'Suki and Me' sounds similar to Mac DeMarco, you've got a good ear. Calder drummed for DeMarco's defunct project Makeout Videotape, and both artists have a way of making everything sound just slightly off, like you're uncovering a home recording from the 1970s that's been eroding in an attic for too long." - Pitchfork

Tuesday
Mar052013

FALTY DL - Hardcourage

NYC's Drew Lustman crafts his third full-length (and first for Ninja Tune) with a sensibility heavily influenced by UK future-garage (using vocal samples in a manner similar enough to Joy Orbison, Mount Kimbie, and early/instrumental James Blake), but with an additional hyper-contemporary edge all his own.

"With new album Hardcourage, Lustman's called it again. It maps his journey from uncertainty to confidence, toward music that reaches outward rather than inward; those two words pushed together as if to boldly ring the fact that facing your fears is no walk in the park. On Hardcourage, it appears he's worked hard to loosen his thrall to jazz-like introspection-- something that often eclipsed his earlier work-- in favor of a newfound openness. And what's come with that hard-won courage is a sense of fun." - Pitchfork

Monday
Mar042013

MILES DAVIS - Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2

The second volume of Columbia's Bootleg Series focuses on a rare transition period between Miles Davis' great second quintet and his full-on embrace of electric music, presenting the Bitches Brew repertoire that would provide the core of his forthcoming live performances in its nascent form.

"Recorded as little as two weeks before and as much as four months after Bitches Brew Live's July 5, 1969 Newport Jazz Festival date, some within days of the 1969 Copenhagen DVD, and between four and eight months prior to the Live at The Fillmore East show, much of this music—three CDs, plus one DVD with a 45-minute, full-color performance of the quintet in Berlin on November 7, 1969—has been circulating in bootleg versions for years, but rarely in such sonically (and, in the case of the DVD, visually) cleaned-up form. The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 captures this quintet at two significant junctures: first, in July 1969, a few weeks before entering the studio (albeit with a much larger cast) to record Davis' seminal Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970); and second, in November 1969, less than two weeks before once again returning to the studio to continue recording music that was ultimately collected on The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (Columbia/Legacy, 1998).

This group was the first to introduce electric instruments to Davis' music in a live context—only one, actually: [Chick] Corea's Rhodes, which he employs almost exclusively throughout the four discs. Still, this is a far cry from the more rock-inflected music that was soon to come; if anything, the music on Live in Europe 1969 is some of the flat-out freest improvisational music released by the Davis estate to date. Of course, the second quintet—where saxophonist Wayne Shorter (here, that group's only remnant) was joined by pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and Williams—regularly stretched the boundaries of its compositions, heard with crystal clarity on Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (Columbia/Legacy, 2011); but this new quintet of Davis, Shorter, Corea, Holland and DeJohnette took the music to even more far-flung places—a function, most likely, of DeJohnette's formative years in Chicago and Holland's work in England, before Davis called upon him to relocated to the United States." - All About Jazz

Thursday
Feb282013

ICEAGE - You're Nothing

Storming out of the gate with blown-out disco-beat barnburner "Ecstacy," You're Nothing is the sort of sophomore effort that will surely both gain Iceage plenty of new fans as well as easily appease those who've been waiting for a follow-up from these brooding Danes ever since promising 2011 debut New Brigade

"Yes, the angsty lyrics are occasionally comprehensible and the songs, which sometimes push past the three-minute mark, have slightly more breathing room, but the chilly, irritated scrape is just as potent. They may have found some success, but Iceage haven’t ditched the envelope-pushing teenage petulance that brought them there." - NOW Magazine

"Over its 12 tenaciously gritty tracks, You're Nothing reveals itself as an album that operates in contrasts. Amidst a sonic atmosphere of clenched-fist roughness, one can find stark beauty and honest emotional value in the lyrics of lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt." - Exclaim!

"[Rønnenfelt's] presence is in part what makes Iceage so compelling. Fresh-faced, his thick voice always feels like a taunt. "Where are your morals?," he asks at one point, caught somewhere on the threshold between manhood and adolescence. It helps that he has an equally smart band behind him. The drum fills (the drumming here is something else, like an angry speed-driven typewriter) and tightly wired guitar lines alternate and duet, with a trebly discord ringing out across nearly all the tracks." - The Quietus

Thursday
Feb212013

MARCOS VALLE - Marcos Valle/Garra/Vento Sul/Previsão do Tempo

From 1970 to 1973, Marcos Valle released these four classic but long-unavailable albums—while we were previously most familiar with the last record in the sequence, Previsão Do Tempo (where session participation by Azymuth lends the proceedings a slightly synthed-out feel at times), we're looking forward to better acquainting ourselves with each of these early '70s singer-songwriter snapshots!

"Evolving from samba's percussive pulse in the late 1950s, bossa nova (literal translation: new trend) was Brazil's internationally accepted gift to the global melting pot of music. Initially brought to prominence by the likes of Antônio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, and João Donato, by the mid-1960s, there was an emerging pool of youthful talent ready to make their voices heard. Marcos Valle and his lyricist brother Paulo Sergio were no exception. By the dawn of the 1970s, the multi-talented Valle was entering a new era, ready to test the government censors and express a socially aware stance and a playful hodge-podge of musical styles including samba, bossa nova, baião, black American music, and rock." - Light In The Attic

Sunday
Feb172013

DANIEL ROMANO - Come Cry With Me

On this, his third solo outing, Welland, Ontario's Daniel Romano finally fully embraces his love of classic country music in the vein of George Jones, Hank Williams, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Signed on with a new record label, Normaltown Records (a subsidary of New West), it's his most accomplished release to date, sure to satisfy his fans and make him plenty of new ones.

"In tracing the evolution of former Attack in Black singer Daniel Romano as a classic country songwriter, one can hear the steady formation of a distinct sonic landscape pulsing hard and true through the veins of that heart wrenching, '70's-era honky tonk sound. Building from his solo debut, Workin' for the Music Man (2010), to Sleep Beneath the Willow (2011), this landscape has become so vivid, so exquisitely entrenched in bygone lyricism and traditional arrangements that with a title like Come Cry with Me, listeners know exactly where Romano is taking them." - Exclaim

"Daniel Romano, hailing not from the south but the great white north—Ontario, to be exact—may not have been raised in the Tennessee countryside or Texas plains, but his knack for broken-hearted trad-county songs that pay tribute to Gram Parsons and Hank Williams is fairly uncanny for someone surrounded more by ice hockey than honky-tonks. Coming from a thin, 27-year-old Canadian whose only connection to the genre is from his grandparents (big country radio fans), and who used to play in an indie punk-band, this could all come off as a little eyeroll-inducing if it weren’t so well executed. It’s a fine line between revival and parody, and he walks it well, cowboy boots and all." - American Songwriter

Thursday
Feb142013

DEL SHANNON - Home & Away

Del Shannon was the hardest-rocking teen idol of the early '60s, but had no trouble updating his style as the decade wore on. By 1967, he found himself in England recording this orchestrated pop-rock gem, produced by Andrew Loog Oldham.

"[D]espite its lofty ambitions of being a British answer to Pet Sounds, this LP didn't see release as scheduled in 1967. It took more than a decade for Home & Away to surface, and it’s recently been reissued as a remastered CD from Now Sounds.

Though the new Home & Away is a most welcome release, the oft-quoted Pet Sounds analogy isn’t quite appropriate.  Though Home & Away and the Beach Boys' classic are both orchestrated pop albums, Pet Sounds was an intensely personal vision both musically and lyrically–that of Brian Wilson and his chief lyrical collaborator, Tony Asher. Home & Away was the work of numerous pop songwriting teams from Oldham’s Immediate Records stable. Not that there’s anything shameful about an immaculately crafted collection of largely original pop songs, which is what Home & Away is; the high quality of these tracks, sung passionately by Shannon and arranged pristinely by Arthur Greenslade, will make you wah-wah-wonder why the album was initially shelved in the first place." - The Second Disc

Thursday
Feb072013

PUCHO & THE LATIN SOUL BROTHERS - Saffron and Soul/Shuckin' and Jivin'

A great jazzy Latin set from BGP comparable in many ways to the label's late 2011 reissue of Cal Tjader's Latin jazz outlier Agua Dulce, another staff favourite which received plenty of plays upon its release; where that record's highlight was a cover of "Gimme Shelter," this two-fer's standout (to these ears so far) is a smoothly discordant revoicing of "Reach Out, I'll Be There" fully deserving of a listen!

"Pucho and the band were not yet reflecting the music that was taking off in the Latin clubs of New York; they were a more staid outfit with one foot in the jazz past. This was emphasised by their second album, Saffron and Soul...[T]he material mixed originals with jazz standards and current pop hits such as the Four Tops' 'Reach Out, I’ll Be There.' The originals varied from the soul jazz grooves of 'What A Piece' to intense Latin numbers showing the power of the multi-layered percussion. For their follow-up Shuckin’ and Jivin', vocalist Jackie Soul joined the line-up, immediately taking the record into Latin soul territory." - BGP/Ace

Wednesday
Feb062013

TOWNES VAN ZANDT - Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions & Demos

From the ever-intriguing desk of Omnivore Recordings (who also brought us such recent archival finds as Darondo's Listen To My Song, Two Things In One's Together Forever and Alex Chilton's Free Again: The "1970" Sessions, with a Gene Clark White Light demos set soon to follow in late March) comes this trove of alternate versions, mixes and demos, with astute liners by Hank Williams biographer and roots music authority Colin Escott.

"Sunshine Boy will only burnish Van Zandt’s legend. Even those who think they know him will find stark new insights into his doomed genius. Unlike your typical star, shooting or otherwise, Van Zandt’s most important music, his best stuff, didn’t happen right away. Instead, it was on 1971's High, Low and In Between and 1972's The Late Great, now a bitterly ironic title. Songs from those projects (his fifth and sixth, respectively) make up the bulk of Sunshine Boy, and the bulk of the project's new revelations, as well. "Pancho and Lefty," for instance, is presented without strings or horns. His Dylan-esque pretensions are made clear during this raw take on “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold.” “To Live Is To Fly” takes on an even greater, devastating beauty. Maybe more interesting, however, are the stripped-down versions of earlier songs that producer Cowboy Jack Clements had dimmed with of-the-moment, overly pretty Nashville production—de rigueur at the turn of the 1970s, but hopelessly dated today. The four demos here from 1970's eponymous release and 1971's Delta Momma Blues may be the most revealing of all." - Something Else!

Tuesday
Feb052013

UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA - II

Ruban Nielson's follow-up recordings as UMO do not disappoint, similarly sequenced to his debut with a mix of bouncy breakbeat funk-pop and psych/garage detours (with the latter approach nearing Chrome-finished menace both tonally and lyrically on surfy sci-fi chugger "No Need For A Leader"), strong vocal performances (especially, for this writer, on his most soulful take to date, second advance single "So Good At Being In Trouble"), and inventive guitar playing with a near-classical intervallic flair that befits the last part of that goofy band name surprisingly well.

"...[T]here’s the rickety strut of lead single 'Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark),' with its gentle wish to 'swim and sleep like a shark does,' a line whose childish syntax neatly decorates Neilson’s yen for emotional lobotomy. For a New Zealander who crossed the Pacific to prosper in Portland, Neilson has a remarkable grasp on the nature of stasis. All this is delivered, refreshingly, without irony or self-awareness: UMO opt for nifty and direct lyrics that charm with morbid honesty while eschewing self-loathing. Beneath the isolation blues, II is buoyant and visceral enough to suffuse its existential cloud with a redemptive joie de vivre by way of the playful talent inherent in its creation." - Drowned In Sound

"...II feels more complete in its ambition; it's a warmer record that, instrumentally at least, heads more in the direction of The Beatles ('The Opposite Of Afternoon') than the mind-expanding riffs that their debut was slathered in... Unknown Mortal Orchestra's focus on a lazier psychedelia ('So Good at Being in Trouble') that better suits Nielson's androgynous voice is what allows this record to stand out in what is fast becoming a crowded field." - Altsounds

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