|Leaving Me Later||JT Hodges|| |
|Guv'nor||Key To The Kuffs|| |
|Presence of Mind||Long Slow Dance|| |
|The Fresh & Onlys|
|Gaita Trópica||Ondatrópica|| |
|Blue Eyes||Borderland|| |
|Skeleton Key||Contraption Vol II|| |
|Flange Face||Breakthrough|| |
|The Gaslamp Killer|
|My Dear||It's About Time|| |
|Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics|
Judging from his debut album, it seems like a fair bet that JT Hodges grew up absorbing as much heartland rock (Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, et al.) as country music. It's in the way the roots-rocking guitar riffs on tracks like "Sleepy Little Town" and "Goodbyes Made You Mine" occupy a central spot in the arrangements, and in that touch of grit and growl he's capable of injecting into his delivery on a good 'n' greasy, almost ZZ Top-ish blues-rock track like "Green Eyes Red Sunglasses." That doesn't mean he can't cut it when it comes to slow-rolling tearjerkers (see "When I Stop Crying"), but as we've seen from the pair of hits Hodges scored in advance of the album ("Hunt You Down" and the aforementioned "Goodbyes"), his specialty so far is perky tunes full of forward momentum and earworm hooks.
Jim Allen, Google Play
Coming after underground rap icon MF Doom's (a.k.a. DOOM) three-year hiatus, JJ DOOM finds him backed by under-heralded production whiz Jneiro Jarel. By now DOOM's method is firmly established. The masked eccentric raps in rolling densely penned multisyllable threads: "In the world but not of it/ shove it above top secret bug-ness/ you gotta love it"—delivered through a lackadaisical, half-drunk stumble flow. Jneiro's a talented producer in his own right, having descended from the J Dilla/Flying Lotus school of synth-heavy and spastic beat constructions, but MF DOOM makes very few concessions to this style. With Keys to the Kuffs, JJ DOOM is a case of two talents bouncing around at their own distinct angles and only occasionally intersecting paths.
Andrew Nosnitsky, Google Play
You'd be forgiven for thinking that maybe after recording an album or a long EP a year since 2009, as well as members putting out solo and side project albums during that time, that the Fresh & Onlys might be a little tapped out. One listen to Long Slow Dance shows that any fears of that nature are unfounded, and the band has turned in another neo-psych gem. Just as on the previous album Play It Strange, the Fresh & Onlys take a step further away from their murky, lo-fi beginnings, this time sounding slicker, and also more powerful, than ever; as at times, guitars envelop the listener, drums ring out like canon blasts, and Tim Cohen's vocals, while still happily weird, are up front in the mix. Many bands have tried this tactic and failed, the Fresh & Onlys make it work for them by keeping enough of the atmospheric swirl of reverb lurking in the mix, making sure that the guitar sound varies from track to track, and above all, writing killer songs. Cohen seems to have held back some of his best for this album, including some seriously catchy songs that jangle like classic '80s college rock, especially the complexly arranged psychedelia of the Church. The relaxedly dreamy "Presence of Mind" is one of these; the sprightly "No Regard" is another. Poppiest of all, though, is the midtempo "Dream Girl," which features a supremely hooky vocal melody and an excellent fingersnaps/vibraphone breakdown. These moments of sweet pop that make up the bulk of the album are balanced by fierce tracks that burn through the speakers ("Euphoria," "Yes and No") in a blaze of fretwork, and quieter songs like the title track and "Executioner's Song" that are built around acoustic guitars and deliver a more nuanced punch. The band even stretches out on the epic length "Foolish Person," jangling smartly on the first half and then charging into a long section where the guitars tangle and howl in a fiery duel that never flags. The three song types blend together perfectly and the album flows smoothly from start to finish. Even though Long Slow Dance sounds one coat of studio gloss away from a Mitch Easter production, the strength of the songs and performance mean the band is still working as well as ever, maybe even better, and Long Slow Dance stands as their most satisfying album to date.
Breakthrough, William Bensussen's first album as the Gaslamp Killer, provides more of the left-field beat psychedelia he offered through his 2009-2010 Brainfeeder EPs, his production work on Gonjasufi's A Sufi and a Killer, and all of his other collaborative work dating back to 2006's "Cadillac Steeze" (recorded with Blu under the name Bobby Johnson). Whipping through these mostly brief tracks, whether in order or at random, one gets the sense that Bensussen is everlastingly scatterbrained with a voracious musical appetite, regardless of origin, from east to west, whether it came from a Turkish opium den or a Midwestern U.S. garage. He takes the trip with several past and new recording partners. The psych-folk freak-out "Apparitions," featuring Gonjasufi, sways drunkenly with random organ filigrees. "Dead Vets," made with Adrian Younge, is nightmarish funk with a gnashing beat, somewhere between an amateur David Axelrod cover band and early Funkadelic. The likes of Shigeto, Samiyam, and Daedelus also assist, but the most fruitful collaboration comes from Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, whose suspenseful strings and Wurlitzer work on "Flange Face" is magnetic and petrifying. Breakthrough splatters so many short ideas across its 47 minutes that a front-to-back listen is wearying, like hearing a dozen erratic interludes mixed in with a handful of lengthier sketches that are no more settled. Better to dip in and out, and approach it like a trio of EPs thrown into a shuffled playlist.
Andy Kellman, Rovi