“When you listen to these songs, and you’re waiting for the twist, or the joke, or any kind of discomfort, I can assure you none of those things were there when I wrote them,” says Cameron. “These are true stories, of actual events. Specific but never esoteric. And graphic but never offensive. Miami Memory is the story of a couple balancing sex with contemporary family values...It’s my gift to my girlfriend, a symbol to hoist on the totem of love.”
Though remnants of his synth-driven earlier work sneak in to unsettle the tone, the bulk of Miami Memory, produced by Jonathan Rado (Weyes Blood, Father John Misty) and recorded and mixed by Marta Salogni (Björk, Kelela), revels in the emotional overdrive of classic dad rock, its warm, anthemic songs driven by bass, guitar, sax, and layers of Vegas wedding chapel-ish organ.
Cameron’s dad rock funhouse of an album ultimately twists and subverts the genre: it recalls classics the white male ego has historically visited for its regular adrenaline injection, and morphs them into a singular “stepdad” rock that largely turns its lens away from the dads, celebrating the demise of old norms of gender and power. In his depiction of his relationship, Cameron reveals a striking honesty about love and sex in a time where a palpable fleetingness hangs over everything from relationships to human life on this planet—but also where constricting mores have deteriorated enough to let “family life,” in all its morphing forms, exist outside of social obligation. With arresting straightforwardness, Cameron now sings as himself, paying tribute
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Huge stadium-rock choruses and growling synths provide a glitzy and sturdy backdrop for Cameron's soaring vocals and robust 80's-tinged pomp. Huge, overblown, and great fun all round.
It’s these risks and experiments that make Forever Turned Around a triumph. Take opener “Giving Up,” which started from a stream-ofconscious revelation when Ehrlich improvised the chorus while Kakacek played Wurlitzer. What began as a nod to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall 1971 in an afternoon turned into a heart-rending and relatable song about the ups and downs of long-term relationships. Over twinkling piano, Ehrlich sings, “Though we started losing touch / I’ve been hanging on because / You’re the only one I love.” He explains, “In a relationship, you don’t stay at the same level at all times. You go through weeks where you’re closed off.”
After a session with producers Bradley Cook (Hand Habits, Hiss Golden Messenger) and Jonathan Rado (Weyes Blood, Father John Misty) helped color in the arrangements, the album truly revealed itself when they reunited with original rhythm guitarist Ziyad Asrar in his basement Chicago studio—the same place where they hashed out much of their critically acclaimed 2016 debut, Light Upon The Lake. “Getting down there was so important because we’ve always used that basement for music. The comfort and familiarity mattered but having Ziyad be a buffer between us was so helpful,” says Ehrlich. With Asrar, songs like “Song For Ty” and “Forever Turned Around” effortlessly came together.
Restlessness is at the heart of Whitney’s resonant and stunning sophomore album Forever Turned Around. As Ehrlich and Kakacek realized life can change almost instantly. Priorities shift, relationships evolve, home can become far away, and even when luck momentarily works out, there’s still that underlying search for something better. Happiness can be fleeting but this album proves that even when it feels like time is turning on its head and there’s either a moment of clarity or crippling doubt, there’s still beauty in figuring it all out.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Whitney are absolutely unmistakable. After their 2016 outing 'Light Upon The Lake', i'm pretty sure i'd recognise those vocals anywhere. Stunning upbeat jangles, soulful progressions and smooth-as-silk percussion throughout.
FORMAT INFORMATIONColoured LP Info: Indies exclusive 'forest brown' coloured vinyl.
"Forevher," then, is a record born from a budding romance, covering everything from the initial pull of desire, to the giddy joy of finally being together, to recognising the moment when the connection develops from lust into something scarily meaningful. Here is a classic London-to-NYC love story but one told through the filter of dating apps and Skype chats. And whilst how to live - and love - as a queer woman has always been integral to Shura, it’s remarkable to hear these stories twisted through such a gorgeous amalgam of influences: Joni Mitchell and Minnie Riperton, Bon Iver and Frank Ocean, Prince and Ariel Pink. Through these inspirations, Shura’s own modern, outlier perspective found a newer, more daring approach to sound and song.
The luxurious groove of "Side Effects" shakes off the shackles of past love, chiefly saying goodbye 'to that more anxious iteration of me. I don’t miss her.' "Religion (U Can...)", meanwhile, is an unabashedly queer sex-jam - free of guilt, long-term future and faith itself.
As the album progresses, so too does the relationship deepen, with the risks and rewards getting greater and greater. "Forevher’ is an album that feels the fear and does it anyway: "Princess Leia" considers the fact real love means having so much more to lose. Elsewhere, "BKLYNLDN" looks at romantic longing through the lens of texts, anxiety-inducing silences and what presence and absence really means in today’s relationships. The record closes on the epic "Skyline", which builds to an explosive crescendo before levelling out to peace in a way that evokes some of the lusher, linear moments on Frank Ocean’s "Blonde". For Shura, this soundtrack’s not only her final relocation to New York but also a much deeper journey as an artist and young woman. "Forevher" feels the same as its creator: a little sharper, a little wiser.
On the 21-year-old Atlanta native’s new album, the omnipresence of pedal steel eschews bluegrass trappings, flexible under Webster’s genre-bending direction. Webster didn’t set out to make it sound like any artist in particular but she cites Aaliyah as her main musical inspiration for how she uses sound. “That’s where I first heard, ‘Oh, there’s this weird guitar that’s bendy and it could totally be in a country song,’ but the way she’s using it is what makes her music so special to me,” Webster explains. “I try to do that. I try to change the way pedal steel is supposed to sound, or keys, to make it more R&B.”
Pulling from a familial lineage of folk storytelling and time spent in Atlanta’s hip hop scene, Webster’s work is a study of duality, weaving through her own introversion and heartbreak; it’s an idiosyncratic sadness punctuated by fleeting observations and an unexpected, sly sense of humour. And like the way Webster takes the traditional instrumentation of Americana and flips it into something else, she uses her own calm, laid-back demeanour to say you can be boldly and unapologetically yourself in a quiet way, too.
On March 20, 1969, John and Yoko were married in a civil service in Gibraltar. To celebrate the event, in lieu of a conventional honeymoon, the newlyweds spent a week in bed at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam, inviting members of the press into their room for interviews and photo sessions and using their fame and the publicity generated by their ‘Bed-in’ to call attention to their campaign for world peace.
With ‘Wedding Album’, John and Yoko created an enduring snapshot of a vibrant pop-cultural moment, with the hostilities of the Vietnam War as its bracing backdrop. It captures the humour, earnestness, and spontaneity that marked the early years of the ‘Ballad of John and Yoko’ era.
‘Wedding Album’’s innovative, original packaging, created by graphic designer John Kosh, included a box filled with souvenirs of John and Yoko’s nuptials: photographs, a copy of the couple’s marriage certificate, both Lennon’s and Ono’s drawings, a picture of a slice of wedding cake and more. Now, with a faithful recreation of ‘Wedding Album’ on special edition white vinyl LP, as well as compact disc, Secretly Canadian are making one of the most unusual and emblematic recordings of the Sixties available again - fifty years after John and Yoko were married - to mark the Golden Wedding anniversary of two of the 20th Century’s most emblematic cultural figures.
FORMAT INFORMATIONColoured LP Info: Housed in a box set. LP packaging is a near precise replica of the 1969 pressing, down to the vendor who made the original boxes.
The album showcases an artist totally in command of her voice, able to wield her inviting charm and razor-sharp wit into authentically raw songs. It’s a resounding statement of purpose in recent memory and most importantly, it’s a portrait of Donnelly taking charge. She says, “this album made me feel like I was back in the driver’s seat. It was really liberating and grounding to realize that no one can fuck with this except me.”
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: There certainly is a coherent thread running between a lot of the music coming from Australia nowadays, not in terms of sound necessarily, but the attitude and pacing of the music. 'Beware Of The Dogs' epitomises that effortless cool without ever feeling like it's too loose. tightly woven melodies and strummed guitars form the perfect backdrop to the wry political meanderings and stunning vocals peppered over the top. This really is a killer LP, and one that is sure to appear in my top-10 come the end of year.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Heavy in parts, but with a carefully graduated delivery, Clem Creevey's voice rides over the top, lending an air of assertive dominance whilst still moving with the changing dynamics of the music. Heavy as f**k at certain points before breaking down into echoing gothic malaise. It's a superb outing, and one sure to impress fans old and new.
FORMAT INFORMATION2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.
The pain fueling Swift’s cries of “She’s never comin’ back” on the absolutely gutting standout “Nancy” is some sort of dark catharsis for anyone who’s ever lost a loved one to the cold abstraction of Death. Over a slow, Wall of Sound kick and a warbling synth, Swift’s cries climb higher-n-higher-n-higher into what may be his most devastating vocal performance on record. A cry of pain so real and so raw Swift had to treat the performance with just a little studio effect, without which the recorded grieving might be too much to bear. The Hex is presented here as “The Hex For Family and Friends.” An obsessive fan of Wall of Sound doo-wop, early Funkadelic, Bo Diddley, Beefheart and Link Wray, Swift gives them all a moment with the flashlight around The Hex campfire, one moment to make a strange shadow-cast face for us, his family and friends.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: A visceral but fascinating look into the mind of one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, 'The Hex' is disarming at points, but dynamically absorbing and brilliantly written. A superb legacy, and a superb listen throughout.
FORMAT INFORMATIONLP includes MP3 Download Code.
We know Molina was diligent in both love and work. He treated songcraft like a job at the mill, and his approach to romance was not so different. We know that when he fell in love with his wife, he was dutiful in his adoration. There were strings of love letters and poetic gesture. Included in this edition are replicated examples of this relentless love — an envelope with a letter from Molina, a photograph of Molina and his to-be wife, a postcard, a Two of Hearts playing card, and a personal check for one million kisses. Some of these items were gifts he would send to his new love from the road; others, like the 2 of Hearts, were totems he’d carry with him around this time as a symbol for his burgeoning love.
And so, the head-over-heels album that is The Lioness has its workman counterpart. Nearly another album’s worth of material was recorded in Scotland during the album sessions. While similar in tone and structure, the songs seem to deal in the grit and dirt of being. These are songs for aching muscles getting soothed in the third-shift pub. But they’re also examples of Molina’s diligence as he constructs what would be the essential elements of The Lioness. In addition to these outtakes, we also have a 4-track session made weeks earlier in London with friend James Tugwell. Comprised of primarily guitar, hand drums and voice, these songs are raw experiments that mostly serve to illustrate Molina’s well of words and ideas. But then, there is the devastating Sacred Harp hymn “Wondrous Love.” While he may have had his new love in mind, one can’t help but think of Molina’s legacy as he softly warbles “Into eternity I will sing/Into eternity I will sing.” You don’t have to try too hard to mythologize Molina. He did all the work for you.
FORMAT INFORMATION2xDeluxe LP Info: Translucent purple vinyl, limited to 3000 copies worldwide.
‘Where Neon Goes To Die’ retells Clark’s travels through the Miami’s nocturnal fantasyland. At its core, it is the story of a musician casting aside the distractions of his youth and discovering not only a new level of maturity but a new level to his talents.
After a string of mixtapes and EPs and his 2015 debut album ‘The Lonely Roller’, Clark is making music more confidently than he ever has before, sliding effortlessly between effervescent future disco on ‘Feel This Way’ to purple-tinged slow-burn soul on ‘Easy Fall’, a duet with Gavin Turek.
The album feels like a beautiful collage — its narrative pieced together through letters and postcards, with each part contributing to its greater whole, and providing snapshots of ones journey to find a sense of place and connection to a changing world.
STAFF COMMENTSBarry says: Jurado just goes from strength to strength, and this continues that trajectory. Beautiful production mixed with his singular songwriting ability make for a spellbinding and nuanced ride.
"Loud Patterns" is noticeably indebted to house and techno; there are 4/4 rhythms, and a no-nonsense directness that harks back to the Detroit pioneers. Channeling avant-garde experimentalism and an outsider’s interest in pop, Kyle embraces the distance between those two poles.
Cosmic Slop, an underground institution in Leeds, was another touchstone. As Kyle recalls,'That place was definitely an awakening in terms of dance music.' It boasts a hand-built, peerless soundsystem, a near-pitch black dancefloor and a music policy that ranges from Dilla instrumentals to Detroit house. It takes dance music away from regimented structure, fashion and trends and into a freeform world of creative, one which Kyle thoroughly embraces.
"Loud Patterns" arrives after a series of releases that have established his particular, in-between approach to dance-minded music. He put out two EPs on Manchester-based imprint Handsome Dad, a one-off single with Adult Jazz and self-released Temple Works EP; Whities also released a limited-edition white label of a Minor Science dub of one of his tracks.
Containing single, “Stepping Out Of Sync" - 'for me is about losing a little bit of a grip on reality,' says Kyle. 'There’s a big nod to the world of pop music in the track and I wanted to reflect that in the video too. Josha and Felix, who directed the video, came up with this great time splicing technique using a custom 3-camera rig. The idea was to use the technique as a character in the video to add a sense of detachment from reality and subtly invert the upbeat aspect of the music. I had also been talking to my friend Maddie who is a brilliant dancer about working on some choreography for the video. These aspects seemed to come together perfectly when Josha and Felix started sending ideas across. I think the video really captures the range of emotions that exist in the track, it’s upbeat and positive aspect alongside a layer of dissonance and confusion that lies under the surface.'.
Joey is an inveterate collaborator who has worked extensively with the likes of Vulfpeck, Nikka Costa and Miguel Atwood Ferguson and who is a vital part of an LA scene that updates vintage sounds into a more contemporary context. ‘Game Winner’ was a different project with a different process; the lion’s share of the release was recorded solo in Joey’s home studio.
The common thread in the six songs - as well as the four bonus tracks - is musicality and song craft: the two pillars of Joey’s sound. “The most important thing is the song,” explains Joey. “Songwriting won’t go out of style.” It’s that approach, one that thinks beyond style, that gives the title track its magic. Minimal and almost languid, ‘Game Winner’ has a confidence that’s hard to place in time, an ease that meets a buzzer-beater just as well as it meets a Sunday morning. Basketball may have been Joey’s first love but the sport is also the perfect metaphor for where he’s ended up musically, always striving to stay timely and timeless, to bring deep, foundational elements in sync with innovation and imagination.
‘Game Winner’ was originally released in 2016; this re-release features bonus tracks.
The brief, intense period of creativity for the band yielded ‘Light Upon The Lake’s exceptional, unfussy combination of soul, breezy Sixties / Seventies rock and sombre heartbreak woven together by hopeful, golden threads. After critical acclaim and nearly nonstop touring since the album’s 2016 release, Ehrlich and Kakacek are going back to their roots - for the first time, the full demos from ‘Light Upon The Lake’ will be made available. After a whirlwind year following the debut, the demos offer a way for listeners to get a glimpse into the very beginning of Whitney’s sound.
“After almost two years of non-stop touring, we decided we wanted to close the chapter on ‘Light Upon The Lake’ by releasing the songs in their earliest incarnations alongside a cover of a band favorite by Alan Toussaint, and an unreleased track called ‘You and Me’. We’re looking towards LP2 as we finish out the year on the road.” - Love, Max and Julien
Damien Jurado & Richard Swift
Other People's Songs Volume One
The timing was perfect. On ‘Other People’s Songs Volume One’ one can see the scaffolding of what would become a creative turning point for the pair - later seen with the release of Damien Jurado’s ‘Maraqopa’, the first record in his Maraqopa trilogy - less than two years later. The opening drum hits of ‘Be Not So Fearful’, the falsetto vocals of ‘Sweetness’ and the Spaghetti-Western swing of ‘Radioactivity’ are, by now, hallmarks of the Jurado / Swift sound but ‘Other People’s Songs Volume One’ is a transitional fossil, a marking of the pair’s collaborative evolution.
This is the first time ‘Other People’s Songs Volume One’ is available on CD and LP.
A word's meaning can change depending on who utters the thing; and so we present characters - shapes are morphed and stories are delivered. This is a collection of 4-minute tales written to provide you with insight into the inner workings of failed ambitions and self-destruction. Unedited, uncensored, and without inhibition. I've learned to reveal what I want to unlearn. I cast a light on the darkness and in doing so understand love and compassion. Fear is to be confronted, and to learn strictly requires failure - over and over. Celebrate failure with Jumping The Shark.'
Ehrlich had been a member of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but left to play drums for the Smith Westerns, where he met guitarist Kakacek. That group burned brightly but briefly, disbanding in 2014 and leaving its members adrift. Brief solo careers and side-projects abounded, but nothing clicked. Making everything seem all the more fraught: both of them were going through especially painful breakups almost simultaneously, the kind that inspire a million songs, and they emerged emotionally bruised and lonelier than ever.
Whitney was born from a series of laidback early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the harshest winters in Chicago history, after Ehrlich and Kakacek reconnected - first as roommates splitting rent in a small Chicago apartment and later as musical collaborators passing the guitar and the lyrics sheet back and forth. “We approached it as just a fun thing to do. We never wanted to force ourselves to write a song. It just happened very organically. And we were smiling the whole time, even though some of the songs are pretty sad.” The duo wrote frankly about the break-ups they were enduring and the breakdowns they were trying to avoid. Each served as the other’s most brutal critic and most sympathetic confessor, a sounding board for the hard truths that were finding their way into new songs like “No Woman” and “Follow,” a eulogy for Ehrlich’s grandfather.
In exorcising their demons they conjured something else, something much more benign—a third presence, another personality in the music, which they gave the name Whitney. They left it singular to emphasize its isolation and loneliness. Whitney is named after Whitney, a muse they created as a songwriting conduit—a phantom third member of the band. Says Kakacek, “We were both writing as this one character, and whenever we were stuck, we’d ask, ‘What would Whitney do in this situation?’ We personified the band name into this person, and that helped a lot. We wrote the record as though one person were playing everything. We purposefully didn’t add a lot of parts and didn’t bother making everything perfect, because the character we had in mind wouldn’t do that.”
In those imperfections lies the music’s humanity. Whilst they demoed and toured the new songs, they became more aware of the perfect imperfections of the songs, and needing to strike the right balance, eventually making the trek out to California, where they recorded with Foxygen frontman and longtime friend, Jonathan Rado. They slept in tents in Rado’s backyard, ate the same breakfast every morning at the same diner in the remote, desolate and completely un-rock n roll San Fernando Valley, whilst they dreamt of Laurel Canyon, or maybe The Band’s hideout in Malibu, or Neil Young’s ranch in Topanga Canyon.
The analog recording methods, the same as used by their forebearers, allowed them to concentrate on the songs themselves and create moments that would be powerful and unrepeatable. “Tape forces you to get a take down,” says Kakacek. “We didn’t have enough tracks to record ten takes of a guitar part and choose the best one later. Whatever we put down is all we had. That really makes you as a musician focus on the performance.” The sessions were loose, with room for improvisation and new ideas, as the band expanded from that central duo into a dynamic sextet (septet if you count their trusty soundman). And that’s what you hear – Whitney is the sound of that songwriting duo expanding their group and delivering the sound of a band at their freest, their loosest, their giddiest.
Classic and modern at the same time, they revel in concrete details, evocative turns of phrase, and thorny emotions that don’t have exact names. These ten songs on Light Upon the Lake sound like they could have been written at any time in the last fifty years. Ehrlich and Kakacek emerge as imaginative and insightful songwriting partners, impressive in their scope and restraint as they mold classic rock lyricism into new and personal shapes without sound revivalist or retro. Whitney arrive as a fully formed gang of outsiders, their album rich in the musical history of the classic bands of the 60s and 70s who, like Whitney, were greater than the sum of their parts. “I’m searching for those golden days.” sings Ehrlich, with a subtle ripple of something that sounds like hope, on the track “Golden Days”. It’s a song that defines Whitney as a band. “There’s a lot of true feeling behind these songs,” says Ehrlich. “We wanted them to have a part of our personalities in them. We wanted the songs to have soul.”
There was no grand scheme to make a trilogy at the outset. Exuberantly prolific, its creator simply wanted the first record to be “a quick snapshot,” says Jurado. “Maraqopa is this peaceful place I can go to in my mind. A little bit psychedelic, but youre not using substances. The brain is such a powerful thing. In that uncharted territory I was able to tap in and find this place. Which was called Maraqopa. Similar to the fictional towns in television or books.”
Maraqopa the album introduced a character deliberately unnamed, intended to represent anyone feeling that way who stumbles upon the titular locale then gets into a car crash… which only frees him further. Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son. It picked up the narrative after the accident, in a commune inhabited by Silver Timothy, Silver Donna, and Silver Malcolm. Visions of Us On The Land journeys further into the subconscious mind, a symbolic road trip spotlighting the people and towns that our central figure and his travelling companion, Silver Katherine, encounter upon leaving the commune. Hence the capitalized track titles, alluding to real American locations refracted through ones third eye in the rear view mirror. Like all great art, its about life and death and love and freedom. A sonic map with no set destination, revealing more with each ride.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: I was a massive johnny-come-lately with this guy, whilst my shop customer-friends had been extolling his virtues for years. Well, they were right! This is proper, deep, cavernously produced Americana with a subtle psych twist, and again, just huge, huge songs throughout. There's a lot on here and it is all good. Now for his OTHER ten records!!
FORMAT INFORMATION2xLP includes MP3 Download Code.
Abraham first found his voice writing songs whilst working in a hospital. Eight years on, he’s made an album, toured with Emmylou Harris, co-written with Grammy-nominated singer Sarah Barreilles and made ‘Sirens’, his debut album.
Originally self-released in Australia, ‘Sirens’ is now receiving a worldwide release via Secretly Canadian.
Ben recorded ‘Sirens’ with two local friends, Jono Steer (who was his live mixer) and percussionist Leigh Fisher. A number of other Melbourne musicians joined in on sessions, including Gossling, whose angelic voice can be heard in the opening track. Gotye helped produce the haunting vocals on ‘Speak’, while ‘experimental electronic producer’ Tim Shiel assisted on ‘This Is On Me’.
‘This Is On Me’, co-written / sung with platinum-selling artist Sara Bareilles, has its own story. After Abraham posted a song (‘To Sara, From Ben’) on YouTube, Bareilles’ fans began to tweet the video and it grabbed her attention. When she played Melbourne in 2011, she invited Abraham up on stage to co-sing a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ and an original co-write was subsequently born.
On songs such as ‘Not You’, he flips a brutally honest breakup tale and draws emotions and empathy from being on the ‘right’ side of the conversation.
The title track uses a slinky, sensual beat to create a perfect backdrop to tell the story of a weekend-long tryst in Vegas. For a man of few words, his unadorned and uncomplicated lyrics hit home.
“… a heroic underdog of the specific, delivering diarylike lyrics detailed enough to provide a loaded portrait of a young man in transition.” - SPIN
FORMAT INFORMATIONIndies Exclusive LP Info: Indies exclusive blue vinyl edition.
Featuring guest vocals from Luke Temple, Sleep Party People, Night Beds and a stunning collaboration on a number of songs with Swedish singer Nina K, the album is gaining plaudits internationally.
‘Love Me’ straddles the divide between songwriting, electronic dance and out and out pop music perfectly. The soundtrack to your Summer.
That essence drives Lost In The Dream, a 10-song set produced by Granduciel and longtime engineer Jeff Zeigler. In the past, Granduciel built the core of songs largely by himself. But these tunes were played and recorded by the group that had solidified so much on the road: Dave Hartley, (his favorite bassist in the world), who had played a bit on The War on Drugs' 2008 debut Wagonwheel Blues, and pianist Robbie Bennett, a multi-instrumentalist who contributed to Slave Ambient. This unit spent eight months bouncing between a half-dozen different studios that stretched from the mountains of North Carolina to the boroughs of New York City. Only then did Granduciel--the proudly self-professed gearhead, and unrepentant perfectionist--add and subtract, invite guests and retrofit pieces. He sculpted these songs into a musical rescue mission, through and then beyond personal despair and anxiety. Lost In The Dream represents the trials of the trip and the triumphs of its destination.
"I wanted there to be a singular voice, but I wanted it to be a project of great friends. Everyone in the band cares about it so much," he says. "That is the crux of it--growing up, dealing with life, having close friends, helping each other get by. That is what the record's all about."
As such, these tunes reveal a careful and thrilling reinvention of the sound that's become The War on Drugs' trademark. The signature meld of long tones and scattershot layers still stands, with phantom drum machines and organ lines dotting the musical middle distance all across Lost In The Dream. Note the way the keys whisper against the guitar's growl as the tempestuous "An Ocean in Between the Waves" approaches pentecostal heat. Hear how, when a sharp and hard riff cuts into the inescapable chorus of "Red Eyes," synthetic strings and baritone saxophone shape a soft, infinite bed beneath it.
But there's a newfound directness to these tunes, too. Granduciel's voice steps out from behind its typical web of effects--louder now, with more experiences to share and more steel from having survived them. He sounds less like a prismatic reflection of a rock bandleader, more like the emboldened actualization of that idea. With its crisp, unencumbered delivery, "Eyes to the Wind" becomes the album's centerpiece and the group's new anthem. This is Granduciel's to-date triumph and the exact moment where Lost In The Dream moves from a tale of confusion to one of resolve. Throughout most of the record, grips loosen and senses fail, memories are mourned and expectations are abandoned. But after the Rolling Thunder lift of "Eyes to the Wind," Granduciel finds new contentment and direction. Anguish sublimates into deliverance. Backed by his bros, Granduciel becomes a preacher in a new pulpit.
STAFF COMMENTSSil says: This one polarised the shop a bit. Hesitant in the beginning, it ended up growing on me and I consider it now an outstanding album and one that I keep coming back to. Easy to like with its references to Bruce Springteen, Tom Petty or Bob Dylan, it is an album that is not risky. It is not groundbreaking but it is pleasant and gentle. As Andy wrote long ago now... 'There is a mellow weightlessness to the sound which contrasts beautifully with the driving heart of the songs. They're sad songs, but never sorry for themselves. This is cathartic, redemptive, expansive music, still in love with life and in awe of the possibilities.' So there it is, if you do not have it, get it.
The full-band studio outtake of fan favourite ‘Whip Poor Will’ is a sweet and spare version that ended up being played far differently on Magnolia Electric Co.’s final album ‘Josephine’ (2009). Also included is the studio version of ‘The Big Game Is Every Night’. Previously only available on the Japanese version of the album, this opus serves as Molina’s thesis statement, its poetry weaving through the 20th Century, through art and sporting culture - ultimately questioning what it means to be an American in the autumn of the American Era.
This edition also gathers Molina’s gutting demos for the record, including those two outtakes. Nearly each begins with audible sound of the ‘Record’ button being pressed down on the tape player. They are so close and intimate, it’s hard to look them right in the eye.
With the wailing lap steel of the album opener ‘Farewell Transmission’, Jason Molina and co usher in a new day, playing the sort of rock that your cool uncle rolled to back in the 70s. Landing somewhere on the radar sonically between Bob Dylan’s Desire and Bob Seger’s ‘Beautiful Loser’, though thematically in line with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Simple Man’, The Magnolia Electric Co lies at the crossroads of working class rock, white soul, swamp rock and outlaw country.
While Songs: Ohia’s last record, ‘Didn’t It Rain’, was a meditation on roots and stability, ‘Magnolia Electric Co.’ finds itself toiling with the wages of change, which is well illustrated in ‘I’ve Been Riding With The Ghost’, a real rig rocker that could have easily fit on ‘Time Fades Away’, on which Molina sings: “See I ain’t getting better, I am only getting behind. Standing on the crossroad trying to make up my mind. Trying to remember how it got so late. Why every night pain comes from a different place. Now something’s got to change.”
This thematic preoccupation with change also manifests itself in the rotating cast of lead vocalists. While the entire album boasts a doo wop-like line-up with five vocalists on the floor, six of the eight songs have Molina in the tall stool with the ever-enchanting Jennie Benford (of Jim & Jennie & The Pinetops, who was also a key player on ‘Didn’t It Rain’) as primary back-up vocalist. But on two songs, new Songs: Ohia players step up to take on lead vocal duties, singing Molina-penned songs. Lawrence Peters takes the lead on ‘The Old Black Hen’ with his fantastic Merle Haggard-esque country croon, while Miss Scout Niblett appears from the nether world of the Ohia wardrobe with feathers in her hair and casts her spell on the Ohia rig barreling through ‘Peoria Lunch Box Blues’.
Recorded live, in its entirety, at the hands of Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago, Illinois, with the same core back-up band that played on the ‘Mi Sei Apparso Come Un Fantasma’ Italian live album, this is the record where the Songs: Ohia fan demographics make a radical shift from the dominant bedroom universe of the world’s lonely, sensitive, overqualified young white dudes, and finds refuge in the masses by being embraced by the world’s truck drivers, sorority chicks, and hockey players, alike. Indeed, this is the first Songs: Ohia record with more than one song that could be played at a strip joint or monster truck show. Amid the mid-tempo slow jams, there lie some of the most upbeat material that Songs: Ohia has recorded to date.
Expanded artwork includes rare photos from the era in which it was recorded.
‘Good Mood Fool’ is an extension of the first self titled Here We Go Magic record. It was recorded with the same sense of freedom and joy. The meat of the record finds Luke taking a sharp turn in order to keep himself interested.
First single ‘Katie’ is a prime slice of mid 80s intelligent pop, almost ‘So’-era Peter Gabriel in its rhythms and sound. Meanwhile, ‘Florida’ is a blue eyed soul hit, a lazy sunny evening of summer beauty.
‘Good Mood Fool’ draws from myriad influences, from the hushed soulful wail of Curtis Mayfield to the dense harmonies of Gill Evans and the Bulgarian Women’s Choir. It is meant to be clear in production and in content, hiding nothing.
Born of a mutual admiration for Top 40 and R&B and the mechanics of what makes a hit song, the Baltimore natives and longtime friends Wasner and Ehrens began putting jams together remotely. Ehrens would send tracks from LA to Wasner on tour, and they’d bounce ideas back and forth.
The charming strength of the resulting Dungeonesse rests in the dichotomy formed by of a bold re-introduction of the beautiful imperfections of the human voice into a landscape of what is an increasingly mechanized process of music making. The fun resides in the listen.
‘Images Du Futur’ builds upon the intensity of their debut, but often does so through new textures and subtler dynamic manoeuvring. Album standout ‘Edie’s Dream’ begins with a single bassline repeated from which layers build and rise - first drums, then a wash of white noise; echoes of guitar, then chanted vocals. The song’s clever shifts are jazz-touched and delicate, almost subliminal. It all makes for a stark, skeletal boogie - more an astral projection than a song. ‘Edie’s Dream’ exemplifies the restraint of which Suuns is capable and works to make the unhinged moments all the more devastating.
Lauded by Pitchfork and NME - the former saying “few bands this young are operating on quite this scale, and fewer still have the brass - and the patience - to pull off a big, glitzy, complex record like ‘Zeroes, QC’”, and the latter declaring them 2011’s Best New Band - Suuns have deepened their approach, using minimalist techniques to create maximalist works.
Produced once again by Jace Lasek from Besnard Lakes. Shemie says of the process, “As a band we were trying to look at our music from further and further away, seeing more details in the picture as we expanded the landscape.”
STAFF COMMENTSDarryl says: The sophomore release from Suuns builds on their excellent debut with a restrained and minimal intensity that threatens to boil over with washes of unhinged noise, but rarely does. A brooding classic!
Each distorted, silver-voiced melody is wrapped in the sounds of 70s AM gold - plucked acoustic guitars, trumpets, dulcimers and hand percussion. In using these pop touchstones, the songs become something close to memories, the faded feelings that tide in and out of you when conjuring the past.
Harley is a major player and sideman in Philadelphia’s Fishtown scene that has produced The War On Drugs, Kurt Vile, Purling Hiss.
“Even when smoked out or slowed down, [the band] still teems with energy and both Kastlander and Benon, chameleons that they are, blend into snippets of song just as well as they shift gears between genres” - Pitchfork
‘Slave Ambient’, their second album proper, is a brilliant 47-minute sprawl of rock ‘n’ roll, conceptualized with a sense of adventure and captured with seasons of bravado.
Recorded over the last four years, the album puts the weirdest influences in just the right places. Tom Petty and Spacemen 3, ‘Neu! '75’ and ‘Blood On The Tracks’, Flying Saucer Attack and Bruce Springsteen, New Order and No Wave, The Byrds, Bread and Burt Bacharach. How is a music fan supposed to reconcile all of this?
Synthesizers fall where you might expect electric guitars (and vice versa); country rock sidles up to the warped extravagance of '80s pop. Instant classic ‘Baby Missiles’ is part Springsteen fever dream, part motorik anthem. ‘Original Slave’ might sound like a hillbilly power drone, but ‘City Reprise #12’ suggests Phil Collins un-retiring in order to back Harmonia.
STAFF COMMENTSAndy says: This is a beautiful, hazy, rock'n'roll record, which, sure enough shimmers and thrums and is actually semi-ambient. Check all the tasty influences listed below, but if I told you that Kurt Vile is a sometime member of this band and that this was like a mysterious cousin to Vile's "Smoke Rings..", then you'd get the feel of this album right away. Cool.
'I wish that I could float up from the ground / I will never know what that's like'
Heavy stuff. Richard Swift's Spector-esque production is spot-on. He ferries Jurado across the river, where the metamorphosis occurs. He then ferries him back, and it is through Swift's lens that we see Jurado not as a folk singer, but as a mystic - somewhere between Van Morrison, Scott Walker and Wayne Coyne. "Saint Bartlett" was made entirely at Swift's National Freedom studio in Oregon, in just under a week with only Jurado and Swift as the performers.
On the heels of Magnolia Electric Co's recent live album on Secretly Canadian, the raw and incendiary "Trials and Errors", comes what is perhaps Jason Molina's most fully realised studio project yet. Recorded live-in-the-studio by Steve Albini, it captures the simpatico chemistry of Molina's touring band, crackling with connective electricity that can only be generated by the mutual experience of the road. On the writing end of the equation, the song cycle is a conscious step forward for Molina in songwriting approach and intent. Most of the songs were written and arranged on the band's recent relentless touring of Europe and North America. The eight songs that make up "What Comes After the Blues" are all of a piece that should be heard in one sitting, in sequence. As with other Molina projects, a spectral lyrical theme lurks in the shadows of the songs. All the songs are loosely based on the Hank Williams song "I Saw the Light".
STAFF COMMENTSDarryl says: A previous Piccadilly Records album of the year back in 2005. Recorded live in the studio by Steve Albini giving a raw edge to Jason Molina's hearbreaking country-rock sound that drips in winter melancholy.
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