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1. ALVVAYS - S/T
2. SHARON VAN ETTEN - Are We There
3. THE WAR ON DRUGS - Lost In The Dream
4. OWEN PALLETT - In Conflict
5. VA - Country Funk II: 1967-1974

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FEATURED RELEASES

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

Friday
May242013

ANGEL OLSEN - Half Way Home / JESSICA PRATT - S/T

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

Thursday
May232013

IRMA THOMAS - In Between Tears

The out-there graphics on the cover are a little misleadingthis 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 Irma Thomas abandoned 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. Thomas finally resurfaced in 1973 with a series of little-noticed singles on the Fungus label that teamed her with producer Jerry 'Swamp Dogg' Williams and guitarist Duane Allmanthe resulting LP In Between Tears remains a lost classic that captures deep soul at its most poignant and resonant, couching Thomas' deeply affecting vocals in earthy arrangements that emphasize the singer's gospel roots." - Allmusic

Wednesday
May152013

SAM AMIDON - Bright Sunny South

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 deliverya 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

Wednesday
May152013

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 campaignsVolume 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

Tuesday
May142013

MIKAL CRONIN - MCII / THEE OH SEES - Floating Coffin

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

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