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James McAlister

Scissortail

    LA-based producer, composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist James McAlister is a rare creator, and highly sought after collaborator. Perhaps best known for his work with Sufjan Stevens, McAlister has also appeared on record with Lorde amongst many others, and is a regular contributor to Aaron Dessner’s projects, including the latest albums from Taylor Swift, folklore and evermore. His regular work with film music includes The Two Popes, The Big Sick, and Ron Simonsen’s recent films. In 2018 he joined Stevens, Casey Foubert, St. Vincent and Moses Sumney for the Oscar performance for music from Call Me By Your Name, where he played piano and a bottle of cupcake sprinkles. With nearly countless projects to his name, it was in 2017 that his collaboration with Stevens, Nico Muhly, and Bryce Dessner entitled Planetarium was released by 4AD.

    Around the same time McAlister started a deep dive into a personal sonic realm that has manifested as an ambient project under his own name. 2018 saw the release of Three Breaths, the first offering from this exploration. 2021 will see the second installment, an album called Scissortail which vividly puts McAlister’s evolving master craft on display. It is a collection of moving, meditative, immediately satisfying and quietly stunning work. It is the sound of an artist letting go entirely of pre-conceptions or expectations, instead mining the depths of that very real and abstract place of sound, texture, color and feeling. Some songs arrive almost intuitively, while others feel mechanically made, fed through the framework of synthesizers and the patchwork of recording gear. And with that comes a compelling duality to the work; a machine grace informing the on-going but subconscious dialogue between energy and material, sensitivity and asceticism.

    TRACK LISTING

    A
    1. Portrait (5:39)
    2. Slow Wave (5:14)
    3. Cycle 3 (6:16)

    B
    4. Crowns (5:29)
    5. G0 (5:33)
    6. Cycle 5 (5:04)

    Carm

    Carm

      The music of CARM features horns in roles typically reserved for drums, guitars, and voices, while also escaping the genre categorizations reserved for music featuring an instrumentalist as bandleader. It is not jazz or classical music, nor is it a soundtrack. This is contemporary popular music that features a sound normally used as a background color and texture as the unabashed lead voice. According to CARM, aka CJ Camerieri, “It started with the question: ‘What kind of record would my trumpet-playing heroes from the past make today?’ I believe they would want to work with the best producers, beat makers, song-writers, and singers to create new, truly culturally relevant music, and that’s what I sought to do with this project.” Produced in Minneapolis by Ryan Olson (Polica, Lizzo) and featuring collaborations with Sufjan Stevens, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Yo La Tengo, Shara Nova, Mouse on Mars, Francis and the Lights and many others. It is a completely unique sound that additionally serves as a survey of the collaborations that have come to define the artist’s career thus far.

      Says Vernon, "I truly believe there isn’t a more accomplished brass player in the entire world of music. And this is way more than a 'horn' record. It’s a discovery of new heights with what is possible in creating music.” The album begins with an orchestral brass choir of french horns, which quickly gives way to a piano sample from Francis, as Stevens and Lupin combine voices over a lush bed of horns to sing “Song of Trouble.” The album bookends with the same piano sample used as a springboard to an iconic lyric by Vernon in the album closer “Land.” Between these two generation-defining artists we have upward sweeping melodies and fanfares reminiscent of Ennio Morricone. The acutely original sound of Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo in “Already Gone” give way to the virtuoso sound of Nova’s voice. A more experimental path emerges before the strings from yMusic bring us back to the piano sample that started the record. Instead of recycling well-trodden sounds, CARM offers a respite for those seeking an original voice.

      TRACK LISTING

      A/

      1. Song Of Trouble (feat. Sufjan Stevens)
      2. Soft Night
      3. Nowhere
      4. Already Gone (feat. Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan)
      5. After Hours

      B/

      6. Invisible Walls
      7. Tapp (feat. Shara Nova)
      8. Slantwise
      9. Scarcely Out (feat. Mouse On Mars)
      10. Land (feat. Justin Vernon)

      Mina Tindle

      Sister

        The third full-length from Mina Tindle, SISTER is an album populated by mythic creatures of all kinds: lions on parade, lovers turned to cannibals, kings and Sirens and women with wings. Like any great fabulist, she threads her storytelling with a fragile wisdom, revealing essential truths about all the danger and wildness within the human heart. With each moment elevated by her spellbinding vocal work — a gift she’s shown in recording and touring as a singer for The National — SISTER ultimately makes for a transportive listen, at turns impossibly dreamlike and profoundly illuminating.

        Mina Tindle is the project of Parisian singer/songwriter and multiinstrumentalist Pauline De Lassus. Mostly made in New York City with producer Thomas Bartlett (Yoko Ono, Florence + the Machine), the album’s elegant detail balances the odd magic of the songs with a fierce emotional realism. “Give a Little Love,” written and produced by Sufjan Stevens, channels intense longing, its soulful melancholy magnified by Stevens’s warm background vocals. On “Belle Pénitence,” she shares a tender love letter to her husband (The National’s Bryce Dessner), twisting the mood of lovely surrender with some fantastically brutal hunting imagery rendered in her native tongue. And on “Lions,” with its shimmering grooves, De Lassus offers up a bit of soft-hearted encouragement in the face of self-doubt: “If the roads are made for a parade/Go march with the lions.” She adds, “You need to keep going, even if sometimes you feel like you’re just pretending to be brave. It’s all about the march.”

        After the gloriously sprawling “Triptyque”— partly written with Dessner — SISTER closes out with a stark rendition of “Is Anything Wrong” by Lhasa De Sela, the late artist whom De Lassus names among her most enduring influences. Mina Tindle’s version originally featured as part of a tribute to the late singer that she conceived and organized in 2019 with another of her longtime heroes Canadian singer Leslie Feist. They would later perform the tribute at London’s Barbican and the Cork Opera House.

        De Lassus later appeared as a featured soloist on The National’s 2019 album I Am Easy to Find and toured extensively with the band. During the last few years as she was writing and recording SISTER, De Lassus has also been an integral part of the PEOPLE Festivals at the historic Berlin Funkhaus in 2016 and 2018, where she worked with a vast range of musicians and artists in the community.

        SISTER achieves a potent complexity, arriving as her most imaginative selection of songs to date while wholly embracing the sometimespainful truth-telling she’s long treasured in her most beloved artists. “All the people I love the most have this beautiful way of singing their truth, and I hope these songs give that same kind of honesty.”

        TRACK LISTING

        1/ Jessa
        2/ Lions
        3/ Give A Little Love (feat. Sufjan Stevens)
        4/ Indian Summer
        5/ Louis / QMB622001005
        6/ Belle Pénitence
        7/ Fire & Sun
        8/ Triptyque
        9/ Is Anything Wrong

        Naeem

        Startisha

          Startisha introduces Naeem as a restlessly creative artist with an impressionistic, genre-bending album. As a complete work, Startisha exemplifies artistic daring and emotional intelligence while exploring new ideas and sounds, and philosophically excavating the artist’s histories. Startisha may be loaded with impressive collaborations and left-field sounds, but don't get it twisted—this music comes straight from Naeem's heart, representing the journey he's taken to get to this point as well as what lies in the future for him.

          Baltimore-hailing Naeem Juwan has spent much of the last decade stretching his creative legs in a variety of ways: he's hit the road with artists ranging from the Avalanches and Bon Iver to Big Red Machine and Mouse on Mars, took part in a 37d03d residency in Berlin, and was selected as the music resident in 2019 for New York's Pioneer Works space. Through it all, he's been building the songs that make up Startisha, a record a half-decade in the making that featured Juwan pulling from creative circles all across the U.S. to craft a truly unique document of sound.

          After studio sessions in Philadelphia and New York, Juwan decamped to Minneapolis and holed up in Justin Vernon's home studio, where Startisha continued to come together with contributions from Vernon, Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Polica), Swamp Dogg, Velvet Negroni, Francis and the Lights, and regular collaborators Amanda Blank and Micah James. The guest spots came together "very organically. I originally didn't want any features at all. Over time, meeting people and sharing the record with them, things just kind of happened."

          For Juwan, the challenge inherent in Startisha was to “write songs from a personal place, and to write love songs – both things I’ve never done before.” The album kicks off with a gorgeous cover of the Silver Apples classic "You and I," reinterpreted for today's fraught times. He describes “Stone Harbor” as “a simple love song to my boyfriend, written in and name after the shore town he and his family spend their summers, Stone Harbor, NJ.” On “Simulation,” the album’s first proper single, Juwan offers a kind of treatise of creative resistance on art and culture. “I had been reading a few books, such as Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, and they helped me solidify feelings I’ve had all of my life about surviving a society of institutions that presents fictions as fact, and often use these fictions to diminish my worth, or to convince me to join their gangs. So I wrote this song to remind myself, and hopefully everyone that hears it, that nothing is real, and our greatest defense in this life is our own creativity, and finding great faith in whatever sigils and icons we choose to guide us.”

          TRACK LISTING

          A
          01/ You And I
          02/ Simulation (feat. Swamp Dogg, Justin Vernon)
          03/ Let Us Rave (feat. Velvet Negroni)
          04/ Woo Woo Woo (feat. Amanda Blank, Micah James)
          05/ Us
          B
          06/ Stone Harbor
          07/ Right Here
          08/ Startisha
          09/ Tiger Song

          Eve Owen

          Don't Let The Ink Dry

            The debut album from British singer/songwriter Eve Owen, Don’t Let the Ink Dry, is a work of raw sensitivity and uncontained imagination, brought to life over the course of three transformative years. During that time, the 20-year-old artist spent her summer holidays writing and recording in New York with The National’s Aaron Dessner, immersing herself in a creative exploration that provided welcome refuge from her sometimes-troubled school life. As she discovered an entirely new sense of freedom and belonging, Owen devised a sonic language all her own: frenetic yet delicate, mercurial yet nuanced enough to capture the most ephemeral of feelings. Produced by Dessner at Long Pond Studio (a converted old farmhouse deep in the Hudson Valley), Don’t Let the Ink Dry finds Owen embracing her affinity for folk music while pursuing the endless possibilities in electronic experimentation.

            “I’ve often felt a bit uncomfortable in myself, and I love how that came out in the music,” says Owen. “I don’t really care for songs that flow just right or have a perfect cadence—I’d rather there be some sort of unnerving element to them. I think Aaron and I are both attracted to weirdness in music, and we instinctively went after that without really even talking about it.” For his part, Dessner reflects on the first day of their collaboration: “Eve came up to visit the studio for a day a few years ago when she was 16. I thought we would record one song but we ended up working on several in just one day. By the next morning she had written a few more songs based on her experience the previous day. This prolific songwriting continued throughout our work together. Every morning there would be new songs, written sometimes overnight. I’ve been lucky to work with some incredibly talented artists and it was clear to me immediately that Eve was deeply gifted, expressing herself with such force and sincerity on essentially her first proper recording day at Long Pond. I was spellbound.”

            TRACK LISTING

            1/ Tudor
            2/ Lover Not Today
            3/ Mother
            4/ After The Love
            5/ For Redemption
            6/ Bluebird
            7/ She Says
            8/ I Used To Dream In Color
            9/ So Still For You
            10/ Blue Moon
            11/ 29 Daisy Sweetheart
            12/ A Lone Swan

            Bonny Light Horseman

            Bonny Light Horseman

              The timeless qualities of traditional tunes can carry us across oceans and eons, linking us not only to the past but to each other as well. It was under the banner of these eternal connections that the trio of Bonny Light Horseman came together. From festival fields and a German art hub to a snowy upstate studio and everywhere in between, the astral folk outfit - comprised of Anaïs Mitchell (fresh from winning eight Tonys for her musical ‘Hadestown’), Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats, The Shins) and Josh Kaufman (The National, Bob Weir) - mix the ancient, mystical medium of transatlantic traditional folk music with a contemporary, collective brush. The resulting album, ‘Bonny Light Horseman’, is an elusive kind of sonic event: a bottled blend of lightning and synergy that will excite fans of multiple genres eras and ages.

              The album features fellow 37d03d artists-in-residence Michael Lewis (bass, saxophone) and JT Bates (drums), as well as Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Aaron Dessner (Aaron Dessner), Kate Stables, Lisa Hannigan, The Staves, Christian Lee Hutson and more.

              Leaving the 2018 37d03d Berlin event with roughly 60-percent of a record, the band reconvened at Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, NY, in January 2019 to finish, bringing Lewis and Bates as well as engineer Bel la Blasko along with them.

              TRACK LISTING

              Bonny Light Horseman
              Deep In Love
              The Roving
              Jane Jane
              Blackwaterside
              Magpie’s Nest
              Lowlands
              Mountain Rain
              Bright Morning Stars
              10,000 Miles

              Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Bryce Dessner & Eighth Blackbird

              When We Are Inhuman

                Julius Eastman and Will Oldham are kindred spirits. Self-styled provocateurs, they have positioned themselves on the outskirts of distinct traditions, pulling all manners of musical influence towards their outré stance. Eastman, who passed away in 1990 and whose work is experiencing a necessary revival, harnessed the vocabulary of minimalism for joyfully insurgent ends; Oldham’s songwriting regularly conjures a pantheon that Greil Marcus called “the old, weird America.”

                Last spring, these two visionaries collided at Cincinnati’s MusicNOW Festival, and any distance between them was mediated by curator Bryce Dessner and ensemble Eighth Blackbird. On this album, woven between new arrangements of Oldham’s cryptic songs and Eastman’s iconic “Stay on It” are several of Dessner’s “Murder Ballades,” works that tease out the homicidal strain of old folk tunes. In “Down in the Willow Garden,” a classic Appalachian tune, Oldham sings bleary-eyed atop harshly twanging timbres; “Underneath the Floorboards” takes inspiration from a recent murderous classic by Sufjan Stevens.

                These explorations of violence are natural fits for Oldham, who has always examined the interstices between intimacy and cruelty. Four of his songs appear here in new, sumptuous arrangements by pianist Lisa Kaplan. In Cincinnati, Oldham compared working with Eighth Blackbird to becoming acquainted with a “haunted house,” continually returning to the same spot and observing how his fear was interlaced with a charged energy. The arrangements push Oldham’s voice to new heights, as in the ecstatic refrain of “New Partner” or the lithe polyrhythms of “Beast for Thee.” On “One with the Birds” and “When Thy Song,” shimmering introductions deploy avant-garde effects as a window into Oldham’s bleak, poignant sound world.

                Musicologist Matthew Mendez has identified the web of influences on Eastman’s “Stay on It”: a post-Stonewall queer subjectivity, which the composer-performer flaunted; disco hits by Diana Ross, to which Eastman regularly danced at a Buffalo gay bar; and 1970s minimalism, via Eastman’s emphasis on what he called not “the pulse” but “the beat.” “Stay on It” was worked out in performance in the ‘70s, and no complete score exists. This live rendition, based on archival recordings, sharpens the edges of Eastman’s music while still capturing its anarchic ideal. Oldham’s repetitions of “Stay on it” are subversively subdued, and Dessner’s guitar inserts a punch of the urbane. The riff mutates, changes, fades away, returns triumphantly. It overpowers and is overpowered. Boundaries between musicians and audience dissolve––in concert, percussionist Matthew Duvall ran off the stage to make a surround-sound ruckus––addressing the broader political hierarchies that Eastman sought to triumphantly topple. The party is political. – Will Robin

                STAFF COMMENTS

                Barry says: Well, it's hardly surprising that Bonnie Prince Billy, Bryce Dessner and the chamber music majesty of Eighth Blackbird could collaborate and come up with anything less than absolute gold. Here is the result, and it's a meditative and moving collection of slow classical ballads, overlaid with the unmistakeable vocal charms of two of the most well regarded musicians of modern times.

                TRACK LISTING

                Side A
                1. Beast For Thee
                2. Down In The Willow Gardern
                3. New Partner
                4. Underneath The Floorboards

                Side B
                5. One With The Birds
                6. When Thy Song
                7. Banks Of Red Roses

                Side C
                8. Stay On It

                Side D
                (etching)


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