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Okay Kaya

Watch This Liquid Pour Itself

    In Okay Kaya songs, her world looks a lot like ours — Netflix, jetlag, vegan peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, lonely bowls of ramen, diet trends. But unlike ours, each of these vibrates and shimmers with deeper, darker meaning, with existential dread and desire for understanding. Through Norwegian-raised New Yorker Kaya’s dreamy soft-focus lens, the language of Twitter memes becomes modernist poetry as her breathy contralto voice sings lines like, “If you don’t love me at my guttural sound, you don’t deserve me at my guttural sound.” This is Sade for nihilists. On the opening track of her new record she sings, “I used to fight the feeling, always let it win.” As she transforms these feelings, defeats, and victories into songs, the lyrics often involve pools of sweat, oceans, and other forms of wetness. But Okay Kaya’s world is not one of renewal and rebirth—it’s not water at all, actually. “It’s more like bile,” Kaya says, “It’s what comes out in the purge.” In these songs, Kaya swims through her melancholy and anxiety— not as a way of cleansing herself, but as an understanding of their depths

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Coke bottle clear vinyl.

    The descent into darkness is a trope we find time again across history, literature and film. But there’s also an abyss above. There’s a winding white staircase that goes ever upward into the great unknown — each step, each turn, requiring a greater boldness and confidence than the one before. This is the journey on which we find Angel Olsen.

    Olsen’s artistic beginnings as a collaborator shifted seamlessly to her magnificent, cryptic-to-cosmic solo work, and then she formed bands to play her songs, and her stages and audiences grew exponentially. But all along, Olsen was more concerned with a different kind of path, and on her vulnerable, Big Mood new album, All Mirrors, we can see her taking an introspective deep dive towards internal destinations and revelations. In the process of making this album, she found a new sound and voice, a blast of fury mixed with hard won self-acceptance.

    “In every way —from the making of it, to the words, to how I feel moving forward— this record is about owning up to your darkest side,” Olsen said. “Finding the capacity for new love and trusting change, even when you feel like a stranger. This is a record about facing yourself and learning to forgive what you see. It is about losing empathy, trust, love for destructive people. It is about walking away from the noise and realizing that you can have solitude and peace in your own thoughts, that your thoughts alone can be just as valid, if not more.”

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Swooning synth strokes, huge cavernous percussion and snappy mid-heavy bass form a fittingly retrophilic cushion for Olsen's always hypnotic voice, in this instance it's commanding presence soars above the backdrop, both haunting and uplifting. 'All Mirrors' is a triumph.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    2xColoured LP Info: Crystal clear vinyl. Includes exclusive “All Mirrors” alternate artwork print with initial copies.

    February in West Texas. The light low and the days still warm and sweet. The air bright with red-tailed hawk and blue bunting, with the shink and rattle of the green jay. On a pecan ranch east of El Paso, its orchards running down to the Mexican border and the waters of the Rio Grande, a thrum of activity - song, saxophone, dancers, drums, guitar, synths; the sound of something taking shape. Here, 1500 miles from Wisconsin, from where this all began, a new season.

    When Bon Iver released For Emma, Forever Ago in early 2008 it introduced Justin Vernon as one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation and revealed a sound that was distinct - tethered to time and to place, to a season of contemplation and the crisp, heart-strung isolation of a northern Winter. Its successor, the self-titled Bon Iver, Bon Iver, brought something more frenetic, the rise and whirr of burgeoning Spring, of hope and sap and movement. In 2016's 22, A Million, Vernon came to see something different again: "It was," he says, "our crazy energy Summer record." The band's fourth album, i,i, completes this cycle: a Fall record, Vernon says, autumn-coloured, ruminative, steeped.

    "It feels very much like the most adult record, the most complete," says Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. "It feels like when you get through all this life, when the sun starts to set, and what happens is you start gaining perspective. And then you can put that perspective into more honest, generous work."

    The core band for the i,i sessions included Sean Carey, Andrew Fitzpatrick, Mike Lewis, Matt McCaughan, and Justin Vernon with Rob Moose and Jenn Wasner, plus contributions from James Blake, BJ Burton, Brad andPhil Cook, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Trever Hagen, Zach Hanson, Bruce Hornsby, Channy Leaneagh, Rob Moose, Naeem, Velvet Negroni, Buddy Ross, Marta Salogni, Francis Starlite, Moses Sumney, and the members of TU Dance.

    When sessions for i,i moved from April Base to Sonic Ranch, Bon Iver took full advantage of the facility, sometimes utilizing all five of the studio's live rooms simultaneously. "It allowed us to feel confident and comfortable, to be completely free of distraction," says Vernon of the move. "I don't think I left the property in six weeks. And in many ways the story of the album is the story of those six weeks rather than the almost six years of some of the songs."

    The tenure at Sonic Ranch brought Vernon to a calmed creative state that he channeled into the heart of each song. Freed from the vocal distortion that once mirrored a period of fear and panic, he sings about the balance between the individual and the community, inspiration and creation. Vernon adds, "The title of the record can mean whatever it means to you or me. It can mean deciphering and bolstering one's identity. It can be how important the self is and how unimportant the self is, how we're all connected."

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Is there no end to JV's talents? He was the poster boy for brittle, morose hilltop acoutictronica for a good few years, and has seamlessly morphed into a modern take on the progressive chord structures and vocal layering of 70's rock or the percussive immediacy of 80's synthpop.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    LP Info: A beautiful package, the black vinyl is housed inside a matte finished gatefold jacket with spot gloss inks, wrapped in a clear plastic printed sleeve, and contains a full-colour 28 page booklet.

    LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    Tim Heidecker

    What The Brokenhearted Do...

      For the last three years Tim Heidecker has been waging a hellish war of upon the current presidential administration and its shady minions. Whether because of his unrelenting Twitter prodding of Trump, his spot-on impersonation of Info Wars’ Alex Jones or his well of caustic Trump protest songs, Heidecker has found himself in the crosshairs of the Online alt-right community. At some point, one of those Incel or QAnon trolls started a vicious rumour that Tim’s wife had, in fact, left him and the rumour caught fire across certain social channels. Instead of getting pissed off, our protagonist (antagonist?) Tim Heidecker got inspired. He knows full well that here in the music biz nothing breeds good tunes like utter heartbreak. When an artist’s relationship crumbles, we label suits just rub our greedy little mitts together. From ‘Blood On The Tracks’ to ‘Shoot Out The Lights’, it’s a nearly universal truth: Divorce is a hit factory. So he imagined himself an awful divorce and let the hits flow.

      Working with producer Jonathan Rado (Father John Misty, Whitney, Weyes Blood), Heidecker has delivered his most accomplished album to date. In addition to being absolutely gutting, the soulful ‘I’m Not Good Enough’ is a masterclass in less-is-more songwriting. In just over two minutes, the soulful dirge brushes confidently against a big, ‘Hey Jude’ melody before gently coming to a close and leaving your wanting more. It beckons you over to the turntable to reset the needle. The jaunty, Nilsson-nodding live favourite ‘When I Get Up’ is perhaps one more joyful tunes about crushing depression we’ve heard. For a song about succumbing to the void in your bedridden funk, it’s got a lot of pep in its step. The closing piano ballad ‘Life’s Too Long’, is as close to a resolution as Heidecker will give us. “Life’s too long to stay in love,” he croons, a mournful organ the songs only accouterment. Enjoy the bittersweet moment and be thankful that Heidecker wraps up ‘What The Brokenhearted Do...’ as he does, because next chapter for this divorcee is probably a midlife crisis full of neck tattoos and sports car debt.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: 'Tear blue' vinyl.

      Black Mountain’s Stephen McBean turned 16 way back in 1985. And yet, until just two short years ago, McBean had lived his entire adolescence and adult life without a proper driver’s license, that first and most coveted ticket to personal independence. When he did finally take the wheel in 2017, he essentially became a 48-year-old Sixteen Year Old, blowing out the doors off the DMV like a pyrotechnics display at a W.A.S.P. gig. Black Mountain’s new album, Destroyer, named after the discontinued single-run 1985 Dodge Destroyer muscle car, is imbued with all that wild-ass freedom and newfound agency (and anxiety and fear) that comes with one's first time behind the wheel. McBean, welding mask pulled over his Alan Watts beard, has even been rebuilding a 1985 Destroyer in his step-dad’s garage all spring — building it from its frame, putting in weekends of work to have this beast ready for sunnier days. And wouldn’t you know it: when the Destoyer's engine gives its deep snarl and the stereo rattles with Metallica's $5.98 EP, McBean is fully in the driver’s seat.

      Destroyer is structured around that first time behind the wheel of a hot rod. The fat, charging “Living After Midnight” riffs of opener “Future Shade” is, according to McBean, “Straight outta the gates. FM radio cranked.” He ain’t kidding. The song, and all of Destroyer for that matter, seems to exist at that crucial nexus of the early-to-mid 80s Los Angeles when a war between punk and hair metal was waged. Black Flag’s My War tried and failed to keep the peace. But in the trenches, some hybrid ghoul was beginning to form in bands like Jane’s Addiction and White Zombie. The heavy extended player “Horns Arising,” with its Night Rider vocals and golden, climbing Blade Runner synths, is a fill-up at a desert gas station just in time to see a UFO hovering near a mesa. . And other songs, like The serpentine “Boogie Lover” is a cruise down the Sunset Strip. You pull into The Rainbow Bar & Grill to take the edge off. Doesn’t matter what year it is, Lemmy’s there in flesh or spirit. To continue the teenage theme, there’s also a sense of to these cuts — “High Rise” is a foray into Japanese psych, rounding the bend to a careening, youthful sense of discovery, while “Closer to the Edge” feeling like falling in love with Yes (Remember how good they were for a minute there in your youth?). “Licensed to Drive” would easily be the most exhilarating and dangerous ripper on a titular film’s soundtrack, a dose of heavy right before the muscle car’s wheels fly off going 100 mph on the freeway.

      Shacked up in his rehearsal space, McBean found an old chair in an alley, spray painted Producer on the back and pressed record. Friends from the endless rock’n’roll highway were invited over and 22 songs were brought to life. And while some were laid back into shallow graves to dig up once again at a later date, the remaining skeletons were left above ground — given organs, skin, eyes, and the opportunity to grow their hair real long and greasy. Some of these zombie hesher jams were sent on a journey to Canada where longtime band member Jeremy Schmidt, slipping on the Official Collaborator satin jacket, had at them with his legendary synth arsenal. As he added long flowing robes, sunglasses, driving gloves and medallions, the undead songs began to transform into the new breathing creatures that make up Destroyer. Schmidt’s work with these songs was the needed transformative glue for this new era of Black Mountain.

      Coming off his newfound automotive freedom, McBean also saw some personnel shuffling within Black Mountain. Both Joshua Wells and Amber Webber have retired their Black Mountain Army uniforms while Arjan Miranda paid his outstanding membership dues and rejoined. New members include Rachel Fannan (Sleepy Sun) and Bulgasem (Dommengang & Soft Kill) plus other familiar names like Kliph Scurlock (Flaming Lips), Kid Millions (Oneida), and John Congleton (St Vincent, Swans) take a turn in the shotgun seat. Collectively, there’s a renewed vitality to Black Mountain on Destroyer — a seasoned, veteran of heady hard rock that’s found new, young muscles to flex and roads to explore.


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Mine says: On their 5th album, psych rockers Black Mountain go big. Less psych, more rock, Destroyer might be their most powerful and driving album to date.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: White coloured vinyl.

      Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

      In the clip of an older Eartha Kitt that everyone kicks around the internet, her cheekbones are still as pronounced as many would remember them from her glory days on Broadway, and her eyes are still piercing and inviting. She sips from a metal cup. The wind blows the flowers behind her until those flowers crane their stems toward her face, and the petals tilt upward, forcing out a smile. A dog barks in the background. In the best part of the clip, Kitt throws her head back and feigns a large, sky-rattling laugh upon being asked by her interviewer whether or not she’d compromise parts of herself if a man came into her life. When the laugh dies down, Kitt insists on the same, rhetorical statement. “Compromise!?!?” she flings. “For what?”

      She repeats “For what?” until it grows more fierce, more unanswerable. Until it holds the very answer itself.

      On the hook to the song “Eartha,” Jamila Woods sings “I don’t want to compromise / can we make it through the night” and as an album, Legacy! Legacy! stakes itself on the uncompromising nature of its creator, and the histories honored within its many layers. There is a lot of talk about black people in America and lineage, and who will tell the stories of our ancestors and their ancestors and the ones before them. But there is significantly less talk about the actions taken to uphold that lineage in a country obsessed with forgetting. There are hands who built the corners of ourselves we love most, and it is good to shout something sweet at those hands from time to time. Woods, a Chicago-born poet, organizer, and consistent glory merchant, seeks to honor black people first, always. And so, Legacy! Legacy! A song for Zora! Zora, who gave so much to a culture before she died alone and longing. A song for Octavia and her huge and savage conscience! A song for Miles! One for Jean-Michel and one for my man Jimmy Baldwin!

      More than just giving the song titles the names of historical black and brown icons of literature, art, and music, Jamila Woods builds a sonic and lyrical monument to the various modes of how these icons tried to push beyond the margins a country had assigned to them. On “Sun Ra,” Woods sings “I just gotta get away from this earth, man / this marble was doomed from the start” and that type of dreaming and vision honors not only the legacy of Sun Ra, but the idea that there is a better future, and in it, there will still be black people.

      Jamila Woods has a voice and lyrical sensibility that transcends generations, and so it makes sense to have this lush and layered album that bounces seamlessly from one sonic aesthetic to another. This was the case on 2016’s HEAVN, which found Woods hopeful and exploratory, looking along the edges resilience and exhaustion for some measures of joy. Legacy! Legacy! is the logical conclusion to that looking. From the airy boom-bap of “Giovanni” to the psychedelic flourishes of “Sonia,” the instrument which ties the musical threads together is the ability of Woods to find her pockets in the waves of instrumentation, stretching syllables and vowels over the harmony of noise until each puzzle piece has a home. The whimsical and malleable nature of sonic delights also grants a path for collaborators to flourish: the sparkling flows of Nitty Scott on “Sonia” and Saba on “Basquiat,” or the bloom of Nico Segal’s horns on “Baldwin.”

      Soul music did not just appear in America, and soul does not just mean music. Rather, soul is what gold can be dug from the depths of ruin, and refashioned by those who have true vision. True soul lives in the pages of a worn novel that no one talks about anymore, or a painting that sits in a gallery for a while but then in an attic forever. Soul is all the things a country tries to force itself into forgetting. Soul is all of those things come back to claim what is theirs. Jamila Woods is a singular soul singer who, in voice, holds the rhetorical demand. The knowing that there is no compromise for someone with vision this endless. That the revolution must take many forms, and it sometimes starts with songs like these. Songs that feel like the sun on your face and the wind pushing flowers against your back while you kick your head to the heavens and laugh at how foolish the world seems.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Millie says: Jamila Woods returns with her soul-filled lyrics and incredible, strong vocals. The song titles are named after inspiration black people in creative industries and in her lyrics incorporates their experiences and how they came to be. The album is truly beautiful and holds the same strength and passion as her debut, Heavn.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      2xColoured LP Info: Indies exclusive pale pink vinyl.

      Seeing Other People is curiously positioned as Foxygen’s most recent last-ever album. With every album the band dies; with every album the band is reborn. But unlike the last-ever Foxygen albums before it, this one seems to have a self-effacing bittersweetness to it that signifies some sort of passing; some sort of white flag. But it SOUNDS in no way like a band giving up. It has experiments in tone and genre the likes of which we’ve not heard on a Foxygen record since….Starpower?; since 21st Century?; since Take the Kids??? You don’t need our hot take on this thing

      Remind Me Tomorrow comes over four years after the release of Are We There, a top 10 critically praised album of 2014, and reckons with the life that gets lived when you put off the small and inevitable maintenance in favor of something more present. Throughout, Van Etten veers towards the driving, dark glimmer moods that have illuminated the edges of her music and pursues them full force.

      Written while pregnant, going to school for psychology, after taking The OA audition, Remind Me Tomorrow was written in stolen time: in scraps of hours wedged between myriad endeavors — Van Etten guest-starred in The OA, and brought her music onstage in David Lynch’s revival of Twin Peaks. Off-screen, she wrote her first score for Katherine Dieckmann’s movie Strange Weather and the closing title song for Tig Notaro’s show, Tig.

      The songs on Remind Me Tomorrow have been transported from Van Etten’s original demos through producer John Congleton’s arrangement. He helped flip the signature Van Etten ratio, making the album more energetic-upbeat than minimal-meditative. The songs are as resonating as ever, the themes are still an honest and subtle approach to love and longing, but Congleton has plucked out new idiosyncrasies from Van Etten’s sound. Joined by Van Etten’s longtime collaborator and bandmate Heather Woods Broderick, plus Jamie Stewart, Zachary Dawes, Brian Reitzell, Lars Horntveth, McKenzie Smith, Joey Waronker, Luke Reynolds, and Stella Mozgawa, Remind Me Tomorrow was recorded at studios throughout Los Angeles.

      For Remind Me Tomorrow, Van Etten put down the guitar. When she was writing the score for Strange Weather her reference was Ry Cooder, so she was playing her guitar constantly and getting either bored or writer's block. At the time, she was sharing a studio space with someone who had a synthesizer and an organ, and she wrote on piano at home, so she naturally gravitated to keys when not working on the score - to clear her mind. Lead single “Comeback Kid” was originally a piano ballad, but driven by Van Etten’s assertion that she “didn’t want it to be pretty,” it evolved into a menacing anthem. Remind Me Tomorrow as a whole shows this magnetism towards new instruments: piano keys that churn, deep drones, distinctive sharp drums. There are dark intense synths, a propulsive organ, a distorted harmonium.

      The breadth of Van Etten’s passions (musical, emotional, otherwise), of new careers and projects and lifelong roles, have inflected Remind Me Tomorrow with a wise sense of a warped-time perspective. This is the tension that arches over the album, fusing a pained attentive realism and radiant lightness about new love.


      Unknown Mortal Orchestra

      IC-01 Hanoi

      While recording Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s latest release, Sex & Food, Ruban Nielson, his longtime collaborator Jacob Portrait and his brother Kody Nielson, found themselves in the Vietnamese city of Hanoi playing and recording with local musicians at Phu Sa Studios. The studio, normally used for traditional Vietnamese music, found the band jamming on sessions dubbed IC-01 Hanoi: exploring the outer edges of the band’s influences in Jazz, Fusion and the avant-garde. The musicians, along with Ruban and Kody’s father, a Jazz musician in his own right, helped lay down the unique textures heard throughout Hanoi. At its core Hanoi is a record of exploration, finding its closest antecedent in Miles Davis’ experimental On The Corner – itself a record full of nods toward avant-garde composers and Jazz outsiders alike. Hanoi finds Ruban amplifying and stretching out on lead guitar, with a blown-out and wandering fuzz tone that slinks throughout the sessions. Kody and Jacob match Ruban’s melodic diversions with aplomb, mining their talents to finding as easy a role in the fusion of funk as they do in the more ambient and abstract tangents on Hanoi.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Definitely not typical UMO this, but absolutely brimming with feeling and focused on an entirely different aspect of their sound. Though they are by no means avant-garde, the more meandering ruminations of their melodic forays are exacerbated on this release, breaking into the realms of jazzy ambience, eastern flow and hypnotic woodwind. A completely surprising but thoroughly enjoyable change. Lovely stuff.

      Where are we headed? What are we consuming, how is it affecting us, and why does everything feel so bad and weird sometimes? These are some of the questions posed on Ruban Nielson's fourth album as Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Sex & Food-a delightfully shapeshifting album that filters these real-deal serious themes through a vibrant sonic lens that spans battered drum-machine funk, doomy and thrashing rock, and pink-hued psychedelic disco. Recorded in a variety of locales from Seoul and Hanoi to Reykjavik, Mexico City, and Auckland, Sex & Food is a practical musical travelogue, with local musicians from the countries that Nielson and his band visited pitching in throughout.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      LP Info: Standard black vinyl edition.

      Preoccupations’ songs have always worked through themes of creation, destruction, and futility, and they’ve always done it with singular post-punk grit. The textures are evocative and razor-sharp. The wire is always a live one. But while that darker side may have been well-explored, that’s not quite the same as it being fully, intensely lived. This time it was, and the result is ’New Material’, a collection that broadens and deepens Preoccupations to a true mastery of their sound. In it lies the difference between witnessing a car crash and crashing your own, between jumping into an ocean and starting to swallow the water.

      “It’s an ode to depression,’ singer Matt Flegel says plainly. “To depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred.” Typically resilient, the months leading up to recording ‘New Material’ brought a new order of magnitude to feelings that had been creeping up on Flegel for some time. He’d written bits and pieces of lyrics through the course of it, small snippets he hadn’t assigned to any one thought or feeling but were emblematic of a deeper issue, something germinating that was dense and numb and fully unshakeable. As the band began writing music, that process gave shape to the sheer tonnage of what he’d been carrying. With virtually nothing written or demoed before the band sat down together, the process was more collaborative than before. It was almost architectural, building some things up, tearing others down to the beams, sitting down and writing songs not knowing what they were about. But for Flegel, it led to a reckoning. “Finishing ‘Espionage’ was when I realized,” says Flegel. “I looked at the rest of the lyrics and realized the magnitude of what was wrong.”

      ‘New Material’ builds a world for that feeling, playing through its layers and complexities while hiding almost nothing. That inscrutable side is part of the magic, here, and a necessary counterweight to the straight-jab clarity of Flegel’s lyrics. You can deep-dive the lyrics or zone into a riff; you can face it or you can get lost in it. “My ultimate goal would be to make a record where nobody knows what instrument is playing ever,” says multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro, “and I think we’ve come closer than ever, here. It shouldn’t sound robotic — it should sound human, like people playing instruments. It’s just maybe no one knows what they are.”

      Opener “Espionage” lives up to Munro’s goals, kicking off with a clattering, rhythmic echo that gives way to sprinting percussion and a melody in the orbit of Manchester’s classics. “Manipulation” explores the futility of going through the motions, balancing a droney, minimal march with a thunder roll that brings it to the brink, and to the doomed romantic declaration, “please don’t remember me like I’ll always remember you.” “Disarray” bursts up like a blackened confetti cannon, the song’s undeniably bright melody dancing over a refrain of “disarray, disarray, disarray” and literally nothing else. “A lot of this is about futility,” he says, “trying to find something where there’s nothing to be found.” That hunt turns into a search-and-destroy mission on “Decompose”, a tense, speedy, “blow yourself up and start again” type of song, the very picture of creation and destruction, as Flegel writes “for better or worse, we are cursed in the ways that we tend to be.” And while calling an album ’New Material’ might seem like a smartass move, the truth is it’s as matter-of-fact a title as Espionage, Disarray, or anything else on the record. Why fight that?

      If the through-line unifying Preoccupations’ work is a furious, almost punishing cyclical quality, ‘New Material’ does offer some relief. “This is somehow the most uptempo thing we’ve ever done,” observes Flegel. That propulsive, itchy quality rescues ‘New Material’ from the proverbial bottom of the pit. To write these songs is to force oneself to reignite, to play them is to stand up and reengage. Closer “Compliance” may not seem revelatory on first listen, but it is deeply elemental, a crucial finale and the band’s first standalone instrumental. Original versions were built to death, reexamined and re-destroyed until they landed on just two chords — something simple, fundamental — and resolved to make meaning out of that, to show instead of tell. Flegel acknowledges it is more affecting to him than any other song on the record. It’s not redemption, more like a forced reprieve.


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Darryl says: One of the greatest modern post-punk outfits return for one of their most blistering outings yet. Atmospheric and ambient in parts, and downright catatonic in others, this is the sound of a band reaching the peak of their game.

      At its heart, Hundred Acres -- the third full-length album from Wisconsin singer/songwriter S. Carey -- finds him grounded comfortably in his skin, but still with one foot in the stream. More direct than ever, there is a wellspring of confidence in this new batch of songs that lays bare the intricacies of life while keeping its ideas uncomplicated.

      Trained in jazz, Carey’s astute musicianship has never been in question nor taken for granted, and the execution of Hundred Acres’ new ideas is seamless. He intentionally unburdened himself from a more complicated instrumentation palate for these ten songs, and, in effect, this modification to his approach brings the content of the work much closer to a living reality. By giving equal status to the indifference of nature and the concerns of a material world -- while employing more pop-oriented structures instead of the Steve Reich- or Talk Talk-ian repetitions of his past work -- a new balance is struck that creates something unique. This in turn provides equal status for the feeling that created each song, and the feeling each song creates. Almost impossibly, there is more air between the bars; Carey and his contributors sway like treetops in the wind, remaining flexible enough that they never threaten to break.

      Preoccupations

      Cassette

        In late 2013, Preoccupations (then known as Viet Cong) released a small-run cassette EP only available on tour. Over the course of a year, Matt Flegel and Scott Munro worked in their basement studio with a mess of old and run down equipment to build a set of fresh material. Joined by bandmates Daniel Christiansen and Michael Wallace, the band completed work on an debut cassette. What emerged from the studio was a mixture of sharply-angled rhythm workouts and euphoric 60s garage pop-esque melodies, balanced with a penchant for drone-y, VU-styled downer moments and became a hard-to-find classic.

        Preoccupations’s first ever release, ‘Cassette’, originally a tour-only cassette, is now being reissued on vinyl.

        Midnight Sister

        Saturn Over Sunset

          Midnight Sister - the project of intense creatives Juliana Giraffe and Ari Bazoulian - is brought to you by the isolating landscape of the San Fernando Valley - its colours, diners, lunatics and neon lights. Both lifelong residents of this storied valley, Giraffe and Bazoulian have only become more inspired by the area’s mythology over the years: its two-faced magical wonderland and tragic circus. Their debut, ‘Saturn Over Sunset’, works almost as an album version of Altman’s ‘Shortcuts’, each song a character study of the valley’s odd personae.

          Giraffe, 23, the daughter of an LA disc jockey, was raised almost exclusively on disco and Bowie. Her lyrics and lyrical melodies, informed very much by her film-making background, were composed gazing out from a tiny retail window on Sunset Boulevard. Her ‘Rear Window’-like longing allowed her imagination to run wild and cook up the wild narratives that would fill Balouzian’s compositions.

          Balouzian, 27, is classically trained and already a go-to arranger for odd-pop names like Tobias Jesso Jr. and Alex Izenberg. Midnight Sister represents a first for both of them. It’s Giraffe’s first time writing and performing music and it’s Balouzian’s first foray into playing true pop music.

          ‘Saturn Over Sunset’ is a shared musical vision of Hollywood’s oddest corners. It is the baroque, eldritch alley you must pass through to find the speakeasy night of your life. You’ll come out bleary-eyed and the sunrise will be pouring all pink and orange through the smog and palm trees.

          FORMAT INFORMATION

          Coloured LP Info: Blue coloured vinyl.

          Gordi

          Reservoir

            On the farm in rural Australia where 24-year-old Sophie Payten - AKA Gordi - grew up, there’s a paddock that leads down to a river. A few hundred meters away sits another house, which belongs to her 93-year-old grandmother. The rest, she says, “is just beautiful space. And what else would you fill it with if not music?” And so she did, first tinkling away on an out-of-tune piano and then on the acoustic guitar she got for her 12th birthday.

            Gordi’s first foray into songwriting came in the form of performances at her school’s weekly chapel. There the chrysalis of the music she’s making now - a brooding, multi-layered blend of electronica and folk, with lyrics that tend to avoid well-trodden paths - began to form. “I often find that writing about platonic relationships,” she says, “can be a great deal more powerful than writing about romantic ones.”

            ‘Heaven I Know’, from Gordi’s debut album ‘Reservoir’, is an example of just that. With the breathy chant of ‘123’ chugging along beneath the song’s sparse melody and melancholic piano chords, ‘Heaven I Know’ gazes at the embers of a fading friendship.

            The ramifications of loss ripple throughout ‘Reservoir’, which she wrote and recorded in Wisconsin, Reykjavik, Los Angeles and Sydney. Gordi produced two of the tracks herself (‘Heaven I Know’ and ‘I’m Done’) and co-produced the rest.

            When it comes down to it, the running thread of the album is its lyrics. “Music is kind of what encases this story that you’re trying to tell,” says Gordi. Her stories are stark, honest and soul-searching. Like ‘the trifecta’ of Billy Joel, Carole King and James Taylor that soundtracked her upbringing, she’s unafraid to sit in contemplative melancholy - a place she calls, fittingly, “the reservoir.”

            FORMAT INFORMATION

            Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive marbled magenta vinyl.

            There is something unforgettable about great love songs and Briana Marela’s ‘Call It Love’ wraps its welcoming arms around the subject, invoking all its complexity.

            Before writing the songs that would become Call It Love, ‘Briana Marela’ was guided first and foremost by her instincts as a producer and engineer. Marela’s original vision for this album was to dig into the two poles of her songwriting styles: her ambient, ethereal side and her brighter, beat-driven pop leanings. She enlisted the production help of Juan Pieczanski and Ryan Heyner of the band Small Black upon hearing their most recent self-produced album.

            On this album, Briana Marela has made her proverbial giant leap, deepening her songwriting and expanding her palette to explore the sounds of love in beautiful, striking new ways. ‘Give Me Your Love’ explores what Marela calls “love’s immature, silly and selfish side.”

            ‘Quit’, the deep, dramatic centrepiece of ‘Call It Love’, was originally penned about a breakup with a longtime partner and written with the idea that she could give the song away to another artist. Instead, ‘Quit’ is powerful and revealing in Briana’s own hands.

            If ‘Be In Love’ is the sound of falling in love, ‘Farthest Shore’ is the sound of looking inward, of reckoning with and without ourselves. It is an intricate, cavernous song, setting a deceptively pretty melody over ominous drones and skittering percussion. Here, again, the contradictory becomes complementary.

            STAFF COMMENTS

            Barry says: Dreamy vocal passages, grooving basses and swirling ethereal synths work together to form a lucid and thoroughly enjoyable suite of slightly mournful indie anthems. Great stuff.

            FORMAT INFORMATION

            Coloured LP Info: Initial LP copies on clear vinyl.

            Dasher

            Sodium

              After a string of well-received 7” releases on labels like Suicide Squeeze and Die Slaughterhaus, Dasher songs new and old have finally been smelted down into their debut album, ‘Sodium’.

              Dasher knifes out the chop-crunch guitar of latterday post-punk with a seething screech echoing the hardest horizons of the early 90s underground.

              STAFF COMMENTS

              Barry says: Thrashing bouts of distortion, chugging basslines and frantic riffage open things and pretty much continue along the same uncompromising route. Brilliantly energetic post-everything punked-out rock and/or roll. Killer.

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              LP includes MP3 Download Code.

              On their first proper studio record, the Los Angeles pair once again present their uncanny knack for pulling together myriad strands of influences to an elaborate, uncompromising vision. And this time, they’ve gone true big band! Every song on Hang features a 40-plus-piece symphony orchestra arranged and conducted by Trey Pollard with additional arranging from Matthew E. White. Additionally, Hang was recorded with the brother rhythm section duo of Brian and Michael D'Addario, also known as the Lemon Twigs, and features Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips on select tracks. Written and produced entirely by Foxygen, Hang was recorded on 2” tape at Electro Vox Studios in Los Angeles.

              Lead single, “Follow The Leader,” is one of the album’s most upbeat songs. As described by the band, “it was a blast to make! It's a positive anthem, with some lyrical scenarios we don't quite understand." The song’s video was directed Cameron Dutra (who directed Foxygen’s “San Francisco” video).

              STAFF COMMENTS

              Barry says: Epic symphonic strings, horns and organs working around incredibly intricate and conceptually impeccable writing. Textured, grand and bold choruses, huge build-ups and all brilliantly executed. A stunning and ambitious studio debut executed with grace.

              22, A Million is part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for self- understanding like a religion. And the inner-resolution of maybe never finding that understanding. The album’s 10 poly-fi recordings are a collection of sacred moments, love’s torment and salvation, contexts of intense memories, signs that you can pin meaning onto or disregard as coincidence. If Bon Iver, Bon Iver built a habitat rooted in physical spaces, then 22, A Million is the letting go of that attachment to a place.

              STAFF COMMENTS

              Millie says: Bon Iver takes a new approach for his latest album, taking influences from heavy electronic sounds and a long list of collaborators. Stylistically different, it's best to have no preconceptions and listen with fresh ears as it's a marvel of an album with a diverse sound. Just brilliant!

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              2xIndies Exclusive LP Info: Ultra limited 12" and single LP bundle. Shrinkwrapped together, 12” is random colour, LP is black. Gatefold sleeve, comes with download card.

              LP Info: Single Black Vinyl LP, Gatefold sleeve, comes with download card.

              "Anyone reckless enough to have typecast Angel Olsen according to 2013’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness is in for a rethink with her third album, MY WOMAN. The crunchier, blown-out production of the former is gone, but that fire is now burning wilder. Her disarming, timeless voice is even more front-and-center. Yet, the strange, raw power and slowly unspooling incantations of her previous efforts remain.

              Over two previous albums, she gave us reverb-shrouded poetic swoons, shadowy folk, grunge-pop band workouts and haunting, finger-picked epics. MY WOMAN is an exhilarating complement to her past work, and one for which Olsen recalibrated her writing/recording approach and methods to enter a new music-making phase.

              As the record evolves, one gets the sense that the “My Woman” of the title is Olsen herself, absolutely in command but also willing to bend with the influence of collaborators and circumstances. An intuitively smart, warmly communicative and fearlessly generous record, MY WOMAN speaks to everyone. That it might confound expectation is just another of its strengths."

              STAFF COMMENTS

              Barry says: Whether she is banging out swooning gothic eyeshadow-pop choruses or walking us through rural America with swinging slide-guitar laden finger-clickers, Angel Olsen constantly manages with aplomb. The Melancholy lilt in some parts only serves exacerbate the impact of her more driven passages. This isn't a cheery listen, but it is touching and masterful. Highly recommended.

              Dinosaur Jr

              Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not

              PICCADILLY EXCLUSIVE: PRE-ORDER THE ALBUM AND ENTER A DRAW TO WIN A 100cmx100cm PROMOTIONAL FABRIC DISPLAY BANNER – ONLY 1 IN THE WORLD!!!

              With all the insanity that is stalking the Earth in 2016, it’s nice to have something to rely on. Who’d’ve dared to think it’d be Dinosaur Jr.? There’s no doubt about it - this is the record that the fans have been waiting for since the original line up reformed.

              The songs on ‘Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not’ were recorded over the past year or so, again at Amherst’s Bisquiteen Studio (located in a secret nook of J’s basement). The sound is great and roaring with J’s various bleeding ear psychedelic guitar touches oozing their way into the smudge-pop modelling, while Murph’s drums pound like Fred Flintstone’s feet and Lou’s bass weaves back and forth between proggy melodicism and post-core thug-hunch.

              STAFF COMMENTS

              Barry says: As you would expect from Dinosaur Jr, this is an anthemic grunge tour-de force. Hard-hitting drums and distortion abound all topped with Mascis' snarling but perfectly tuned vocals. Rousing chord progressions are rife here, but not the only thing on offer,'Be A Part' shows a bit of single-note twiddling before breaking out into a melancholic minor-key chord fare. 'Knocked Around' could be the soundtrack to a particularly heartwrenching college-party romantic failure montage. A brilliant return to form for Dinosaur Jr, as exciting, dynamic and emotive as ever. Highly recommended.

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              LP includes MP3 Download Code.

              The Cave Singers’ writing is unfettered; their songs possess a quality of deliverance. Each track of their four album catalogue compels movement, physical and emotional. It can manifest as the tapping of one’s foot, nod of the head or even a silent lifting of the heart. The Cave Singers’ melodic harmonies pull the body to the present, demanding our attention beyond all of the other noises of the world.

              ‘Banshee’ brings The Cave Singers back to their original three piece line up and also their approach to songwriting: an exchange of Derek sending Pete a riff and Pete responding with vocal ideas. From there the songs come together. The album was recorded live in July of 2015 over 6 days with producer Randall Dunn. The record is warmly anchored in the members’ creative familiarity with one another. Yet there is a new thirst to ‘Banshee’, one that can be attributed to the combination of the band taking a year off to work on other projects Pete Quirk’s solo album and the Kodiak Deathbeds’ debut record and their return to songwriting from distanced correspondence.

              Lead vocalist Peter Quirk possesses a spiritual healing quality that rides within the tonal waves of his lyrics. Driving guitars, foottapping percussion and Quirk’s powerful vocals make an intricate quilt that blankets the audience in comfort, aggressively communicating a gentle reminder: we are soft bodies trying to survive with one another. ‘Fade Away’ highlights this: “With the sun on our back we will never get cold, with the light in our eyes it’s alright to get old, whatever your story might say, however, it's told, let it go, let it let go, let it fade away.”

              The Cave Singers remain approachable while retaining the complexity of writing skills possessed by folks who have dedicated their lives to music. Their appreciation of varied sounds, the writing process and performing in every type of venue, house and festival possible allows them to connect with those they speak to. Their passion for their craft translates from their recordings and resonates through their performances. The Cave Singers are the people’s band.

              Small Black’s third full length release, written and recorded at their Brooklyn home studio, nicknamed 222, showcasing a band still evolving and embracing the unpredictable.

              After a year of recording the band enlisted mixer Nicholas Vernhes (War On Drugs, Deerhunter) of Rare Book Room Studio to help complete the record.

              ‘Best Blues’ finds the band in their sweet spot: the smoky intersection of considered and vulnerable songwriting and loose, almost nonchalant ambience. The addition of piano flourishes, trumpet (Darby Cicci of The Antlers), hidden acoustic guitars and Kaede Ford’s ethereal vocals provide new dimensions to the band’s already expansive sonic palette.

              Cut-to-the-chase rippers ‘Back At Belle’s’ and ‘Checkpoints’ embody and build on the group’s signature gritty yet focused electronic sound. While more pastoral tracks such as ‘Between Leos’ and ‘XX Century’ - skeletally based on recorded improvisations - find the band painting a more nuanced, assured aural portrait. The repeating of the line “twentieth century” on closer ‘XX Century’ serves as a coda for the album, offering a simple summation of what ‘Best Blues’ intent has been from the opening Casio stab: an attempt to re-examine the past but also one to let it go.

              “Another sparkling gem of widescreen, starry-eyed synthpop from a band who’ve been crafting such gems for years.” - Stereogum

              Briana Marela

              All Around Us

              Briana's lyrics are forceful, and throughout her second album, All Around Us, traditional song structure gives way to plainspoken declarations that pull back the record's shroud. Her first single,"Surrender" is musically delicate at first, with flickering blips and chords that float into earshot like fireflies. "Take Care of Me" is the album's brightest and most immediate song, a buoyant celebration of friendship with a skittering beat and a warm, sweet melody. And title track "All Around Us" is a stark but inspiring beauty, built on the memory of a family member of Briana's who passed away, and the sadness of not being able to say "goodbye" or "I love you" one last time. It is the balance of the abstract and the intimate that makes Briana Marela and All Around Us so special.

              STAFF COMMENTS

              Barry says: Calm yet assured, this album distils the beauty of modern classical composers into the simple structures of a singer-songwriter, and it works perfectly. Equal measures wistful and mournful, whilst still retaining a sense of melody and drive. This is a confident and beautiful album, equal parts electronic ambient and classical, with those beautiful vocals over the top. Think Múm, Sigur Ros, and A Winged Victory For The Sullen, all together in a room. Mesmerising.

              FORMAT INFORMATION

              Ltd LP Info: Smoke coloured vinyl.

              Unknown Mortal Orchestra

              Multi-Love - Deluxe Bundle Edition

                On Multi-Love, Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson reflects on relationships: airy, humid longing, loss, the geometry of desire that occurs when three people align. Where Nielson addressed the pain of being alone on II, Multi-Love takes on the complications of being together.

                Multi-Love adds dimensions to the band’s already kaleidoscopic approach, with Nielson exploring a newfound appreciation for synthesizers. The new songs channel with the spirit of psych innovators without ignoring the last 40 years of music, forming a flowing, cohesive whole that reflects restless creativity. Cosmic escapes and disco rhythms speak to developing new vocabulary, while Nielson’s vocals reach powerful new heights. 

                “It felt good to be rebelling against the typical view of what an artists is today, a curator,” he says. “It’s more about being someone who makes things happen in concrete ways. Building old synthesizers and bringing them back to life, creating sounds that aren’t quite like anyone else’s. I think that’s much more subversive.”

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                2xLtd LP Info: This is the pink vinyl LP plus a 2 track exclusive 12” tracks, limited to 400 copies. 1 copy found!

                On Multi-Love, Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson reflects on relationships: airy, humid longing, loss, the geometry of desire that occurs when three people align. Where Nielson addressed the pain of being alone on II, Multi-Love takes on the complications of being together.

                Multi-Love adds dimensions to the band’s already kaleidoscopic approach, with Nielson exploring a newfound appreciation for synthesizers. The new songs channel with the spirit of psych innovators without ignoring the last 40 years of music, forming a flowing, cohesive whole that reflects restless creativity. Cosmic escapes and disco rhythms speak to developing new vocabulary, while Nielson’s vocals reach powerful new heights.

                “It felt good to be rebelling against the typical view of what an artists is today, a curator,” he says. “It’s more about being someone who makes things happen in concrete ways. Building old synthesizers and bringing them back to life, creating sounds that aren’t quite like anyone else’s. I think that’s much more subversive.”

                STAFF COMMENTS

                Andy says: Better bottom-end for the funky psych-groovers. Their last album was well loved here, looks like this is gonna top it!

                Foxygen have joined Star Power. It is a punk band, and you can be in it, too. Star Power is the radio station that you can hear only if you believe. We're all stars of the scene.

                FOXYGEN…AND STAR POWER is the new DOUBLE ALBUM from Foxygen, a CINEMATIC AUDITORY ADVENTURE for the speedy freaks, skull krunchers, abductees, and misfits...Made by Foxygen at Dream Star Studios in their Secret Haunted House with the UFOs flying around in the sky.

                A gaggle of guest stars. Roman-numeraled musical suites. Vocals recorded on a shoddy tape machine at The Beverly Hills Hotel and Chateau Marmont. A svelte 82-minute run time of psych-ward folk, cartoon fantasia, songs that morph into each other, weaving in and out of the head like UFO radio transmission skullkrush music. ADHD star power underground revolution. Soft-rock indulgences, D&D doomrock and paranoid bathroom rompers. Process is the point. A kaleidoscoping view. Blasphemy even the gods smile one. Rock and roll for the skull...*

                *From Patty Smith's 1973 CREEM review of Todd Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star. The section concludes "Todd Rundgren is preparing us for a generation of frenzied children who will dream in animation."

                For all the attention that was paid to her 2012 breakthrough ‘Tramp’, Sharon Van Etten is an artist with a hunger to turn another corner and to delve deeper, writing from a place of honesty and vulnerability to create a bond with the listener that few contemporary musicians can match. Compelled by a restless spirit, Van Etten is continuously challenging herself. Now, the result is ‘Are We There’, a self-produced album of exceptional intimacy, sublime generosity, and immense breadth.

                For this album, Van Etten found a kindred spirit in veteran music producer Stewart Lerman. Originally working together on ‘Boardwalk Empire’, they gently moved into new roles, rallying around the idea of making a record together in Lerman’s studio in New Jersey. Lerman’s studio expertise gave Van Etten the freedom to make ‘Are We There’ the way she imagined. Van Etten also enlisted the individual talents of her band, consisting of Heather Woods Broderick, Doug Keith and Zeke Hutchins and brought in friends Dave Hartley and Adam Granduciel from The War On Drugs, Jonathan Meiberg (Shearwater), Jana Hunter (Lower Dens), Peter Broderick, Mackenzie Scott (Torres), Stuart Bogie, Jacob C Morris and Mickey Freeze.

                It is clear from the opening chords in the first song ‘Afraid Of Nothing’ that we are witnessing a new awareness, a sign of Van Etten in full stride, writing, producing and performing from a place that seems almost mythical, were it not so touchable and real. Always direct, and never shying away even from the most personally painful narratives, Van Etten’s songwriting continues to evolve. Many of the songs deal with seemingly impossible decisions, anticipation, and then resolution. She sings of the nature of desire, memory, of being lost, emptiness, of promises and loyalty, fear and change, of healing and the true self, violence and sanctuary, waiting, of silence.

                “Her voice is breathtaking throughout the record, altering to inhabit every emotional extreme.” - Uncut (9/10), “She seems to set her voice no boundaries” - Mojo (4 stars), “Van Etten goes several layers deeper, and faster, than most songwriters. ‘Are We There’ is the kind of album that many people have been trying to make for years and only a dozen or so have pulled off; words, voice and heartbreak.” - The New Yorker.

                Sean Carey is the drummer of Bon Iver and an acclaimed solo musician in his own right. ‘Range Of Light’ is the follow up to his well received ‘All We Grow’. Like its predecessor, ‘Range Of Light’ deals in hugely beatific, restorative panoramas of beauty. An array of musical light and shade, drawn from Carey’s love of jazz, modern classical and Americana.

                Many of the superlatives describing Angel Olsen refer to how seemingly little it takes for her to leave an audience speechless, even spellbound. But Olsen has never been as timid as those descriptors imply, and the noisy, fiery hints in her earlier work find a fuller expression on her newest LP, Burn Your Fire for No Witness. Here, Olsen sings with full-throated exultation, admonition, and bold, expressive melody. Also, with the help of producer John Congleton, her music now crackles with a churning, rumbling low end and a brighter energy.

                Angel Olsen began singing as a young girl in St. Louis, where she explored the remarkable range of her voice and the places it could take her songwriting. Her self-released debut EP, Strange Cacti, belied both that early period of discovery and her Midwestern roots. Cautious and homespun on the one hand, the EP transported us to a mystical, unrecognizable world on the other, and it garnered extensive praise for its enigmatic beauty. Olsen then went further on Half Way Home, her first full-length album (released on Bathetic Records), which mined essential themes while showcasing a more developed voice. Olsen dared to be more personal.

                After extensive touring, Olsen eventually settled for a time in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, where she created "a collection of songs grown in a year of heartbreak, travel, and transformation." The new songs go on to tell us to leave, or to high-five a lover who is lacking, or to dance our way up and out of sorrow. Many of them also remain essentially unchanged from their bare beginnings. In leaving them so intact, a more self-assured Olsen is opening up to us, allowing us to be in the room with her at the very genesis of these songs, when the thread of creation is most vulnerable and least filtered. Our reward for entering this room are many head-turning moments and the powerful, unsettling recognition of ourselves in the weave of her songs.

                This act of meaning-making recurs as a theme throughout the album, as the sublimating response to the power of negativity. In the song, "Stars", for example, Olsen wishes to "have the voice of everything" and in a moment of hatefulness and hurt realizes that the strength of fury results in the power she had been seeking all along. Thankfully for us, Olsen has decided to channel a lot of this newfound power into the ethereal, hypnotic performances of her new and revealing songs, sharing with us the full grace and beauty of her transformative moments.

                Wolf People

                When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate

                Following Wolf People’s critically acclaimed 2013 release, ‘Fain’, comes this 4 track mini album featuring two of the album’s most accomplished songs and two brand new tracks.

                ‘When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate’ has quickly been established as a fan favourite throughout venues during their European tour. Stewart Lee described the song as “the album’s first stone classic, a funky folk-metal workout that trails off into a compellingly extended coda, both guitarists circling and dovetailing and spiralling.”

                A brand new track, ‘Become The Ground’, breaks new ground for the band, being, perhaps, their most obviously folk-influenced song to date. It’s a beautiful duet between lead singer Jack Sharp and guest vocalist Nicola Keary before the song breaks into a swirling psychedelic jam.

                The B-side of this mini LP is made up of the first track fans heard on ‘Fain’, ‘All Returns’, but now coupled with ‘All Returns Part II’, the song’s original extended outro. It’s Wolf People at their best, locking into a masterful groove, razorsharp guitar lines interlocking and intertwining.

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                Ltd 12" includes MP3 Download Code.

                Featuring Grammy Award-winning artist Justin Vernon of Bon Iver on vocals.

                ‘Repave’ brings Volcano Choir into sharp focus. The glitch-laden, cautious presentation of the band’s previous work serves as points of both reference and departure across these eight songs, the product of growing conviction and trust, of a fully-operational rock band, gifted in shading and nuance, and rumbling with power.

                ‘Repave’ is the sound of confident musicians extending their reach to anthemic peaks and pulling back to reveal moments of real vulnerability, sure enough of themselves to let them stand on their own.

                Diana are an enigmatic foursome from Toronto. (They must be putting something in the water, what with the number of great bands hailing from there.)

                Consisting of Joseph Shabason, Kieran Adams, and singer Carmen Elle, with Paul Mathew recently joining the live line up. Shabason and Adams met while studying jazz at music college where they played extensively together. Having lent their skills (saxophone and drums, respectively) to many bands, including Bonjay, The Hidden Cameras and Shabason’s recent contributions to Destroyer's excellent ‘Kaputt’, it was a leap of faith to make their own full length, but the time had come.

                STAFF COMMENTS

                Andy says: Another 80's influenced, lush, synthy dreampop collective. Melt away!

                ‘Naomi’ is the fourth record from North Western mystics The Cave Singers. Written over the span of ten months and recorded in one, it bears a new and more expansive production style that captures the live performance energy the band has developed over the past five years.

                The album was engineered and produced at Avast Studios in Seattle by Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Built To Spill, Shins, Modest Mouse). Each song functions like a chapter in a bigger story, addressing themes of the past, exhuming the memories under moonlight. There are songs of addiction, car ownership, fireworks, tree houses, moving to New Mexico, and God, each shifting in all the ways that make life difficult and miraculous, astounding and beautiful.

                The core trio of singer Pete Quirk, guitarist Derek Fudesco and drummer Marty Lund have added longtime friend Morgan Henderson (Blood Brothers, Fleet Foxes) on bass and extra instrumentation to round out The Cave Singers family. Together they have charted new territory for the band both musically and spiritually, while remaining true to their distinctive brand of brushfired folk. After some time in the dark wealth of the unknown, they have returned to the light with a revitalized purpose.

                Emerging from rampant hedonism and isolation is ‘II’, the new album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The musical vision of Portlander-via-New Zealand Ruban Nielson started as an anonymous home-recording project that fused psychedelia, soul, choppy percussion and funk.

                Unknown Mortal Orchestra came to life in basements and bedrooms after Nielson moved from his native New Zealand to Portland, Oregon with his family. Following the recruitment of bassist Jacob Portrait, new drummer Greg Rogove and a deal with Jagjaguwar, UMO toured the US with Grizzly Bear and Liars.

                ‘II’ builds on the breakbeat, junk shop charm the 32-year-old multi-instrumentalist and songwriter came to be renowned for following his self-titled 2011 debut, and signals the solidification of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s position as an endlessly intriguing, brave psychedelic band. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is unafraid to dig deeper than the rest, to lock into their intoxicating, opiate groove and bring rock ‘n’ roll’s exaggerated myths to life.

                Written during a punishing, debauched touring schedule during which Nielson feared for his sanity and health, ‘II’ illustrates the emotional turmoil of life on the road, painting surrealist, cartoonish portraits of loneliness, love and despair.

                These conflicting themes are evident immediately; on the album’s sleeve is an unnerving image of Janet Farrar, the famous British witch Wiccan, author and teacher of witchcraft. The chilling refrain of opener ‘Into The Sun’ sees Nielson deliver the line “Isolation can put a gun in your hand,” softly, his words starkly intelligible above a warm, slow-burning melody that quickly brands itself onto your brain. His playful imagery (“I’m so lonely I’ve gotta eat my popcorn all alone”) mirrors the melody, before a solo that borders on psychotropic ends ‘II’s introduction.

                As it unfolds, ‘II’ does find Nielson reenergized. ‘One At A Time’ and ‘Faded In The Morning’ boast dizzying choruses and instrumentals - these crusty hunks could have been excavated from a lost 1960s treasure trove. ‘Monki’ unravels over seven minutes like the yarn from a stoner’s cardigan with an eye-frying pattern. ‘Dawn’ is a minute of disconcerting noise that stands out between the nooks and crannies of the choruses, guitar solos, groove-heavy bass and drums that were recorded live by newly-recruited drummer Greg Rogove and Kody Nielson in a move away from the electronic percussion employed on album one. ‘II’ closes with ‘Secret Xtians’, a tender observational puzzle that fizzes to a satisfied end.

                Pulling Pink Floyd, The Family Stone, The Beatles and the Soft Machine through his warped rock ‘n’ roll filter, Nielson has created a collection of expressive psychedelia. Unknown Mortal Orchestra was once Nielson’s closeted concern. With an album that uses his singular musical imagination and extraordinary talent to parade his emotions with unyielding honesty, it is now a fully realized band operating at the peak of its powers.

                ‘II’ is the follow up and refinement to 2011’s self-titled, critically adored debut (released by Fat Possum and True Panther Sounds).

                STAFF COMMENTS

                Andy says: UMO's 2011 debut LP was a one-man, bedroom curio layering sun-kissed psych-pop over chunky break beats. Expanded to a three piece, the live drummer brings an untutored looseness to the band’s sound which perfectly suits the laid-back, mellow vibe of these tunes. Ruban Neilson has made a beautiful night time record; hazy, blurred and luminous. And it still has that home-studio charm: lo-fi, fuzzy and whimsical, but the psych is now the Beatles, the blues a freaked-out Marc Bolan and there's a soulfulness that recalls early ‘70s Curtis Mayfield; a gorgeous blend. Curtis comparisons extend to Ruban's guitar playing too; seemingly meandering, carefree explorations reveal themselves to be intricately worked out, melodic lines that spill into each other, sometimes with a whiff of prog, sometimes even jazz. Mixed with the white-soul and garage, plus (inter)stellar melodies, you have one funky little nugget, a dazed and dreamy gem of an album.

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                The shimmering sound of Sharon Van Etten's Jagjaguwar debut album, 'Tramp', both defies and illuminates the unsteadiness of a life in flux. Throughout the 14 months of scattered recording sessions, Van Etten was without a home - crashing with friends and storing her possessions between varied locations. The only constant in Van Etten's life during this time was spent in Aaron Dessner's garage studio.

                A two year journey brought her to that point of instability. Upon the release of epic (Ba Da Bing; 2010), Sharon Van Etten surprised the music world with a touching embrace. Having established herself as a reliable performer around New York, and coming off the release of her spartan first effort, 'Because I Was In Love' (Language of Stone; 2009), Van Etten created a short album of diverse songs connected by a shared goal of expanded sound and her unmistakable voice. Fans quickly picked favorites, discovered their choices changing, then changing yet again. That is the magic of epic; the intricate, understated record covered so much ground within its 33 minutes, it required more than an initial half hour to absorb. Since epic's release, she has opened the Pitchfork Music Festival, played The Hollywood Bowl with Neko Case and at Radio City Music Hall with The Antlers, sung on new records for Beirut and Ed Askew, and collaborated with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Megafaun on the Songs Of The South project.

                Dessner, a member of The National, heard Van Etten early on, and in collaboration with Justin Vernon, performed a cover of "Love More" at the 2010 MusicNow Festival in Cincinnati. Van Etten heard about this and contacted him. Almost immediately they formed plans to work together, with Dessner offering both a location for Van Etten to record new songs, as well as the opinions of a wise producer.

                Now, one year later, Van Etten unveils Tramp, an album showcasing an artist in full control of her powers. Tramp contains as much striking rock (the precise venom of "Serpents," the overwhelming power of "Ask"), as pious, minimal beauty (the earnest solemnity of "All I Can," the breathtaking "Kevins," "Joke or a Lie"); it can be as emotionally combative ("Give Out") as it can sultry ("Magic Chords"). Contributions from Matt Barrick (Walkmen), Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Zach Condon (Beirut), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Julianna Barwick, and Dessner himself add a glowing sheen to the already substantial offering.

                Van Etten has travelled far, and if her displacement took an emotional toll, she offset those setbacks with a powerfully articulated vision. And so, once again, each listener will discover their own moments along the way, and the debates as to the best song start anew.

                STAFF COMMENTS

                Laura says: This is Sharon Van Etten’s third album, but even if you’ve missed out on her previous two, you really can’t afford to let this one pass you by. With The National’s Aaron Dessner at the controls, and an impressive cast of contributors, including Julianna Barwick , Zach Condon (Beirut), Bryce Dessner (The National), Matt Barrick (The Walkmen) and Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak) she has created an absolutely stunning album. Dressner’s production creates the perfect space within her songs for her vocals to really shine, whether they’re stark acoustic tracks ("Give Out", "We Are Fine") or powerful atmospheric rockers ("Serpents", "All I Can") or ones that fall somewhere between the two ("Leonard") the range of her voice covers everything from fragile and fractured, to strong and defiant, somewhere between Cat Power and PJ Harvey. Add to that, superb emotive songwriting and you have all the ingredients for a truly wonderful album.

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                LP includes MP3 Download Code.

                Coming out of Massachusetts in 1985, this album brought the young, socially inadequate and self-absorbed J.Mascis dimly into focus. Dysfunction always rocks and J's solution / release was to build a wall of noise, with unbelievably loud guitars which were sometimes hazy, sometimes sprawling. The results were mesmerising. Like an East Coast version of The Meat Puppets, there was loser folk mumblings mixed with lo-fi hardcore mixed with psych-metal mixed with nervy U.K new-wave and even Goth! Add Neil Young guitar sprawls and bingo: this is music you've never heard in your life before. This debut is ramshackle and hotch-potch in places, but beneath the noise there's plenty of clever songs mixing pretty melody with brutal power.

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                LP Info: The first three classic Dinosaur Jr. albums get a timely reissue. Three defining albums of both a band and an entire genre, originally released 20 years ago. A must buy for those who have worn their original
                copies out and fans of the recent resurgence in classic independent American rock music.

                Peter Wolf Crier

                Garden Of Arms

                Peter Wolf Crier’s second album ‘Garden Of Arms’ is a document that paints a vivid portrait of all the pain and beauty of growth.

                The duo of Peter Pisano and Brian Moen transformed the fuzzy distortion, rolling and crashing drums, and laser-focused purposefulness into an intensely dynamic yet supremely polished album. The lead off track, ‘Right Away’ best exemplifies the band's new direction, a dense and jarring embrace of the immediacy of real personal connection.

                Volcano Choir is an assembly of Wisconsinites Jon Mueller, Chris Rosenau, Jim Schoenecker, Daniel Spack, Justin Vernon, and Thomas Wincek. You might find these old friends also frequenting records and stages under different monikers, Collections Of Colonies Of Bees and Bon Iver. The collaboration predates the meteoric rise of Justin Vernon's Bon Iver project, with original songwriting dating back to the summer of 2005, right around the time the Bees first toured with Vernon's previous band DeYarmond Edison.
                While entirely a studio record, the collection doesn't suffer from the overburdens of a digital pile up or over-thinking. Rather it breathes and convulses in equal measure, radiating an inherent dynamism found only in the voluntary bondage of intimacy. With influences ranging from David Sylvian and Steve Reich to Mahalia Jackson and Tom Waits, it might be more accurate to say the group's influence is music itself. You can hear it in the care and real love generously applied to each moment of "Unmap". With the vibe of some intimate backwoods gospel, plus a spirit of patience and thoughtful repetition, the music of Volcano Choir is as dynamic as it is lovely.

                Lightning Dust are Amber Webber and Josh Wells, two fifths of critically acclaimed prog and spiritual pioneers, Black Mountain. "Infinite Light", Lightning Dust's sophomore album for Jagjaguwar, finds the duo calling upon the powers of classic pop arrangements and making the most of five days with a Steinway Grand piano, Lightning Dust have delivered a cosmic record about the adventure in finding love and the journey in losing and rediscovering 'the light'. While "Infinite Light" is definitely more layered and lush than previous efforts, Lightning Dust's minimal aesthetic works well in the economy of musical theatre, an influence for the record, wherein each song's movements aim to be more inspiring than the one before it. And this is suiting in that the album is a nod to 'the light of inspiration' that inspires us to keep dancing, creating and loving in spite of an encroaching darkness. It's a reminder that what makes the mountains so very, very black is a distant light somewhere on the other side.

                FORMAT INFORMATION

                LP Info: The vinyl edition comes with a free download coupon.


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