Shannon Whitworth High Tide (Glass Nail)
Bill Baird Spring Break of the Soul (self-released) entered format on 3/3/13
The usual eclectic one-man band fare--in that pretty much anything goes. Baird layers his instruments and vocals in a hypnotic gauze, and this lends a further disconnect from reality. I like these sorts of albums; they do such a wonderful job of painting a picture of a singular mind. Baird doesn't always make sense, but his music is always alive.
The Battle of Santiago Followed by Thousands (self-released) entered format on 3/3/13
Canadians well-schooled in Caribbean (especially Cuban) jazz, the Battle of Santiago rumbas its way through some interesting terrain. Not exactly jazz, and certainly not rock, these pieces often float above everything--to the point of disengagement at times. Perhaps a better way to look at this would be experimental jazz, which would cover the band's many flights. An intriguing set, but one that requires a free-spirited listener. I'm happy to volunteer.
Birds & Arrows Coyotes (self-released) entered format on 3/17/13
Take one earnest, introspective folky duo, add some serious ambition and then throw in Chris Stamey to find the final mix. The sound on this album is amazing. Stamey seems to always find the right balance between minimalism and an enveloping sound. The songs themselves take a long time to unwind. This is where the ambition comes in. Andrea and Pete Connolly have the belief that listeners will stick around long enough to let the songs flower fully. I think they will. This one sounds better with every listen.
The Blarney Rebel Band Pursuit (self-released) entered format on 3/17/13
Yes, yes, St. Patrick's Day is the perfect release date for band that plays traditional Irish music. And the Blarney Rebel Band is much more traditional than most. There are the requisite reels, ballads and such--without much interference from the rock side of things. Yes, this is just what one might expect, though perhaps a bit better. Good stuff.
Chic Gamine Closer (self-released) entered format on 3/17/13
In one way, this is just another Canadian pop album. Except that Chic Gamine blends 60s girl groups, 90s girl groups and an indie rock backbeat. Largely composed of a capella harmonies and drums, with the occasional bass and guitar line thrown in, these songs are instantly seductive. This is one of the early favorites for album of the year.
Chrome Sparks Sparks EP (self-released) entered format on 3/10/13
Geeky, inventive, experimental chill-out electronic fare. These pieces do require some patience, but there's a lot hiding behind the initial buzz. A receptive mind is a happy mind.
Cool Serbia Cool Serbia EP (self-released) entered format on 3/3/13
Lovely fuzzpop. And that's about it, really. The five tracks here rarely break out of midtempo fare, but they do sound heavenly. There's a definite Psychocandy groove (as opposed to Loveless, although that may be a production quirk rather than anything intentional), and I can dig it. Louder is definitely better.
Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders What You Gonna Do? (self-released) entered format on 3/3/13
Alex Larson likes his blues loud, aggressive and distorted. This album is just as much punk and indie rock as the blues, and it's all the better for that. After all, there's no good reason to sound like anyone else. Those who recall Jon Spencer will find a few points of intersection, but Larson prefers more traditional song construction and tighter cohesion. Songs that are played with volume in mind. Quite a pile of fun here.
Gold Star Gold Star EP (self-released) entered format on 3/3/13
Well-worn pieces that sound forty-to-fifty years old. Gold Star doesn't emulate the late 60s and early 70s folk-rock sound, but these songs have an old soul feel nonetheless. Modestly dramatic and beautifully arranged, these songs simply sing out the ages.
Greg Boring Heavy Syrup (Critical Heights) entered format on 3/3/13
A real fuzzy mess. These (this?) Australian(s?) make(s?) music that is unsettlingly unsettling. I like the distorted riffs on laptop pop, but I also must admit I dig the more coherent bits within this album. There's a lot going on, and it's gonna take a few more listens for me to pick it all out. That's cool with me.
Gunslinger Breaking Through (self-released) entered format on 3/3/13
This album starts with a bang and quickly diminishes into a whimper. The title track is a lovely disco-rock effort, and the second track adds acoustic guitar and some pretty wild instrumentation. From there, things get more and more generic. If this duo could keep up the energy and inspiration that drove the first two tracks, it would be most impressive.
K-the-I??? Oxidised Matrix Vol. 2 EP (Mush) entered format on 3/10/13
Kiki Ceac is generally described as a rapper, but his K-the-I??? persona is much more electronically-based. Unlike many hip-hop artists who dabble in production, K-the-I??? is much more focused on sound and melody than beats and rhythm. Ceac has created some of the finest experimental electronic works of recent years, and this brief EP is no exception.
Kaleidoscope Jukebox Infinite Reflection (Rhythm & Culture) entered format on 3/17/13
I've been waiting for another Propellerheads album since, well, that singular album arrived more than a decade ago. That's not happening. So I think I'll throw in with Clint Carty, who records as Kaleidoscope Jukebox. He uses the the same organic construction techniques to create orchestral dance music; groove laid upon groove laid upon some of the slinkiest bests you've heard in some time. Oh, and he's got a bit of a fetish for sampling and world music as well. Sounds like heaven to me.
Lark's Tongue/Men of Fortune split (Bird Dialect) entered format on 3/3/13
Three lengthy songs from Lark's Tongue, and four longish pieces from Men of Fortune. These bands do share a kindred spirit with King Crimson (as Lark's Tongues moniker might suggest), but they take it in different ways. Lark's Tongue plays fairly cogent and straightforward modern rock riffs on the ol' ecelctic prog ideal, while Men of Fortune deals fuzz and volume along with its technical grace. My fave is LT's "This Little Light of Mine," which really shimmers.
Les Sages Blood Harmony EP (Deep Elm) entered format 3/3/13
Les Sages is content to grab whatever sound catches its fancy and spind it into a song. This doesn't do much for sonic continuity, but the minimalist-experimental-math-non-electronic laptop-etc. sound is intriguing. These songs work best when their inspirations integrate most fully. Given the disparate ideas, I'd say a bit more editing would have made for stronger songs. But I like the way the band isn't afraid to try anything.
The Millions NE Poison Fish re-issue(Randy's Alternative Music) entered format on 3/17/13
These are the unused songs from the 1990 M Is for Millions sessions. That album wasn't a hit for Polygram, though the Millions were (and remain) legendary among midwestern pop fans of a certain age. The production is quite dated (in that distinctive "just-before-Nirvana" way), but the songs retain some bite. I loved the Millions way back when, and Lori Allison remains one of the great alt-pop voices. A pleasant bit of reminiscing.
Mop Mop Isle of Magic (Agogo) entered format 3/3/13
Andrea Benini is the producer, and Mop Mop is his product. He collects musicians and ideas and then spins a shimmering stream of funky, burbling songs. Jazz? Sometimes. Latinesque? Sure. That vague notion that is "world music?" Yep. Fred Wesley, Anthony Joseph and Sara Sayed are among the headlining contributors on this latest not-quite-anything-but-really-awesome set of songs. Glorious.
Niagara Otto (Monotreme) entered format 3/3/10
The latest set from this Italian act just furthers its place among the most intense and accomplished bands around. Whether the sound is acoustic, electronic, straight-up rock or any combination of the above, these are compelling songs. Niagara continues to impress.
Ohvaur A Memories Chase (self-released) entered format 3/3/13
The band describes its sound as "melodramatic popular song" on its myspace page. For all I know, that's actually an accepted genre these days (it probably should be), but it's perfect for these boys. A bit too much drama and a bit too little song at times (losing momentum is no way to sustain drama, but many of these songs stop cold in the middle), but when Ohvaur clicks, the results are impressive.
Nico Rivers To the Bone EP (self-released) entered format 3/3/13
Nico Rivers is a singer/songwriter, and that's what he does. The songs are hit or miss--the song construction is often too generic to really interest my ears. "Oildrips," however, rolls along nicely. I kinda wonder whether Rivers has a notion as to which of his songs work and why. He's obviously got some chops. I hope he gets a bit more selective.
Scott & Charlene's Wedding Two Weeks EP (self-released) entered format 3/10/13
Loopy indiepop from Australia. Largely the work of Craig Dermody, these songs lope along with an insouciant grace. The title track is the only instant stunner, but I like Dermody's conversational tone. More fun.
a simple colony make it start (self-released) entered format 3/10/13
I don't really like the ee cummings thing with the band name, etc., but that's how it does things. What I do like is the music, which sounds like fleshed-out versions of minimalist folk. That flesh includes all sorts of plugged-in instruments and layered vocals, so the bones are somewhat obscured. But I'm really impressed by the tight construction of these pieces. Oh, and the full sound is gorgeous. Quite the set.
Various Artists Khat Thaleth (Stronghold Sound) entered format on 3/3/13
"Khat Thaleth" means "third rail" in Arabic, and this collection of hip hop from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Tunisia attempts to find a path through the Middle Eastern political mess. I have to trust the press notes on this, since I don't much Arabic. What I do know is music, and the disparate beats and backing tracks to these songs are most impressive. Even if you didn't know this was political in nature, the songs would grab you with their originality and intensity. Arresting.
Violeta Vil Lapidas y Cocoteros (self-released) entered format 3/3/13
I believe that this band is from Venezuela. And that sort of "I'm not sure" ethos extends to the music, which trends toward harsh electronic sounds melded to goth mumblecore. In Spanish, which may make this sound more exotic than it is. I do like the edgy sounds, even if I wish the songs themselves had a bit more in the center. Intriguing.
Wake Wake EP (Glass Nail) entered format 3/3/13
Old school hardcore played loud and fast, with some nice brutality thrown in for good measure. Short, sweet and undeniably tasty. For those who need a little pain now and again.
Shannon Whitworth High Tide (Redeye) entered format 3/10/13
Whitworth still dips into the "girl and a guitar" singer-songwriter style, but this album has much more of a band sound. Not a lot of rocking out, per se, but the arrangements feature a steely lushness. The album comes on slowly, but it has a serious punch.