|Play by Play||Anxiety|| |
|Autre Ne Veut|
|Mexico||Dead & Born & Grown|| |
|For Real||The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant|| |
|You Are in Love||High Tide|| |
|Long Time Gone||Magical Thinking|| |
|Still Can't Get You Out Of My Heart||Love Is Only Everything|| |
|Charles Walker & The Dynamites|
|The Swan||Extended Plays|| |
|Come Home||Same Stars We Shared|| |
|Differences||Still Goin In|| |
|Rich Homie Quan|
|Sunburn||X'ed Out|| |
|Like A California Wildfire||Cannery Row|| |
|Anomaly||Lesser Evil|| |
Autre Ne Veut's self-titled debut and the Body EP were indistinct and luminous, more about the feelings Arthur Ashin channeled than easily pinned-down songs. On Anxiety, Ashin removes his music from its lo-fi trappings and, as the similarly minded How to Dress Well did on Total Loss, uses this newfound polish in even more expressive ways. Reuniting with Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin -- who had Ashin contribute vocals to their album Channel Pressure -- and bringing in avant-pop sisters Jessica and Cristina Jo Zambri among other collaborators, Ashin gives Anxiety a sound that's slick but also slightly askew. The album is full of lush synths, stark beats, and rich vocals, all of which are on display on tracks like the glitchy but hopeful "Promises." This gloss nods more clearly to classic and contemporary pop and R&B than any of Autre Ne Veut's previous music, but unlike some indie artists who try to incorporate these elements into their work, it never feels superficial or ironic on Anxiety. Ashin's genuine love for these genres' roots and where they're at in the 2010s comes through at every turn, but most importantly, in his hands these sounds seem natural, and above all, personal. While "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" isn't a remake of the Whitney Houston classic, there's a kinship in how completely Ashin throws himself into his vocals. Thanks to Anxiety's higher fidelity, it's easier to hear what he's is singing about, and while it's a more polished set of songs, it's also a more vulnerable one. The album's titular fear is often separation anxiety, and Ashin finds plenty of ways to give voice to his romantic doubts. On the expansive opener "Play By Play," he searches for reassurance, repeating "don't ever leave me alone"; on "Counting," he pleads, "everything you say is breaking up" as a saxophone wail underscores that things are being torn asunder. Later, the choppy, creeping dread of "Warning" serves as a potent reminder of why this album has the name it does. Even on the album's most overtly sexy tracks, like "Ego Free Sex Free," there's an undercurrent of doubt and a willingness to give whatever it takes to make things work that remains unique. Aside from the rare occasions when his slick surroundings make Ashin's voice sound particularly ragged, Anxiety is a satisfying study in paradoxes: Moving toward more mainstream sounds makes this album some of Autre Ne Veut's most distinct and confident music yet.
Looking like a bouncer at some backwoods biker bar but flowing fast like he was Twista's younger brother, Atlanta rapper Rittz brings some Southern slang to the Strange Music roster, kicking the relationship off with The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant. This debut effort should still satisfy those who follow Tech N9ne and the Strange Music roster, as stoner anthems, swaggering club music, and punch line-filled putdowns are the man's bread and butter., Rovi
Magical Thinking is the third solo album from Antibalas guitarist Chico Mann (Marcos J. Garcia) and is as different from its predecessors as they were from one another. On 2007's Manifest Tone, Vol. 1, he melded Afro-Cuban, hip-hop, and neo-soul sounds with Afrobeat, and 2010's Analog Drift used Afrobeat as a basis for exploring the brightly lit funk (Prince, Sheila E, Talking Heads) and electro-dance music of the '80s. Magical Thinking still references the '80s, but Afrobeat gets pushed to the background this time. And though Prince's vamp-heavy, repetitive-groove consciousness is ever-present, Mann's digging deeper into the wonderfully hedonistic synth-drenched soul, post-disco, and the smooth club music of the period, as well as some deep Latin sounds. He's also writing better songs. The album's two finest moments feature his guest singers. Annakalmia Traver delivers a honey of a performance on set opener "Comes and Goes." With a pervasive synth riff up front, underscored by an equally keyboard-centric bassline (Dâm-Funk anyone? Mann's played with him), it's drenched in funky soul and tight guitar vamps as she glides over the top, smooth and sultry. Kendra Morris fronts "Same Old Clown," which employs Prince's hook-first aesthetic to near excess, but never falls over the edge, and her airy vocal delivers the lyric with a slightly detached sense of confident cool. Mann's rhythm tracks and his perfect balance of guitar synth and bass create an irresistible groove. A crunchy, Syn-drum loop introduces the call-and-response chorus on the uber-funky "Magic Touch," and recalls the best of Tommy Boy funk. "Esta Bueno" combines Harlem-centric Latin funk with electro, and "Estrellitas (Little Stars)" indulges full-blown Detroit techno as a vehicle for salsa. The way Mann weaves soul, electro, synth funk, and club in "One Day Late" is infectious. The burning "Vengo a Ti" is almost electro-descarga. Closer "Oye, Mira" is a wonderful tapestry as Kraftwerk-ian electronics, Afrobeat guitar riffs, gritty salsa, and smooth soul carry the record off into space. While Mann's inspirations clearly lie in the musical past, and his greatest skill as both a composer and producer is finding new ways of combining familiar elements, each of these cuts carries his own distinctive fingerprint, making the album a solid groover, top to bottom.
Thom Jurek, Rovi
Writing music that is equally catchy and technical is a hard bridge to cross and it is rare to find a band that rides that balance as fluently as Sacramento trio Tera Melos do on their fourth official album. Tera Melos continue to showcase their expert playing, but for the first time, they let melodies lead the way. Drugs to the Dear Youth was relentless, but this smart new "attack when necessary" approach gives a wider range of dynamics, and opens up a song like "No Phase" so that the sweet, ambient vocals of guest singer/keyboardist Aurielle Zeitler can shine through without the interference of killer guitar scales and drum fills. Elsewhere, the tightly wound musicianship of guitarist/vocalist Nick Reinhart, bassist Nathan Latona, and new drummer John Clardy is dazzling to the point that it's hard to believe this is the sound of a mere trio. Restraint is exercised when it serves a song best, like on the bittersweet titular ballad, but when it's time to rock out, the band goes completely bonkers, and, in this sense, "Tropic Lame" sounds like a conventional alt-rock tune written by J Mascis and bashed out by a more mathematically muscular band like Thingy. Much like the criminally underrated aforementioned fellow SoCal group, Tera Melos are likely too clever and otherworldly with their music to ever make the cross from cult status to mega-stardom, which is upsetting, since X'ed Out deserves to be more than a secret pleasure. For one, they jump styles and slip into indie pop too effortlessly to be restricted to the shelves of post-rock fans. For another, it's hard to find fault with the pristine, angelic vocals (musicians of this caliber too often have a weak link in the vocal department, but Reinhart is a triple threat: guitarist, songwriter, and great singer to boot). Lastly, there isn't a soft spot on the album. X'ed Out is more fleshed-out, listenable, and revelatory than one could ever expect. At a time when fellow fingertapper Marnie Stern is toning down on the acrobatics in favor of hooks, Tera Melos show that you don't have to sacrifice one for the other.
Jason Lymangrover, Rovi
First off, Detroit's Deadstring Brothers have left Motown and relocated to Nashville, a move that isn't all that startling, since they've always sounded like they were from some mythic deep south anyway, with a sound that wrapped country, gospel, and blues up into a skillful facsimile of "Wild Horses"-era Rolling Stones, and Cannery Row is Kurt Marschke and company's first album since Nashville beckoned. The problem with this band, if it's really a problem, is that they sound exactly like that moment in time when Gram Parsons collided with the Stones in the 1970s, so much so that the Deadstring Brothers' sound like a cover band for a whole era of Stones albums recorded in an alternative universe where the actual Stones never ventured, which is all fine if you like the thought of that kind of thing, but a problem -- and at the very least, a conundrum -- if you don't. Marschke always sounds like Exile-era Mick Jagger when he sings, and one could swear the alternative ghost of Keith Richards is in there somewhere, too, with all the layered, swampy arranging of acoustic and electric guitars. All of this wouldn't even be the slightest bit bothersome, since the songs and production are wonderfully done and sound almost vintage, if it wasn't so damn eerie. Did the move to Nashville change any of this and maybe move the Brothers a little closer to an utterly original Americana country sound that was all their own? Well, no. There are a few more country elements on Cannery Row, but it still sounds like the alternative trapped-at-"Wild Horses" facsimile version of the Stones doing their thing. Hey, these guys do that thing well, and songs like the title tune, the majestic "Cannery Row," seem like they should have been great lost Stones songs, while the couple of songs that take baby steps out of that sound, including the lovely and bouncy "It's Morning Irene" and the chugging two-step shuffle "Lucille's Honky Tonk," are really the brightest moments here, for they suggest a Deadstring Brothers that could actually sound like themselves and not be dragging a long vanished phase of the Rolling Stones around with them.
Steve Leggett, Rovi
Openly referencing the sounds of Britain's "Madchester" scene, Canadian musician Nathan Hewitt, the mastermind behind Cheatahs, recorded two EPs in London in 2012 with the help of his bandmates James Wignall, Dean Reid, and drummer Marc Raue. Both four-song outings are excellently executed, and give no hints that they were recorded anytime after the 2000s. Additionally, you would never know that Hewitt is a member of the indie punk group Male Bonding. Filled with bright guitars and ethereal vocals, the songs on the first, Marshall Teller Records EP, Coared (compiled in tracks five through eight), come closer to connecting with the British psych pop sounds of Wignall's alternate band, Weird Dreams. The hooky rush of American groups like the Lemonheads and Dinosaur Jr. also comes into play on these slightly sweeter moments, whereas their second EP (for Wichita Recordings), SANS, is just a touch hairier, and delves into shoegaze with thick walls of silky vocals and brittle, driving guitar washes to manipulate their melodies into a noisy but sonically interesting headphone experience. Early albums by Sloan and the Swirlies might be a reference point for these first four tracks. While there are subtle recording variances, the two EPs sit well together, and despite being uptempo with blasts of distortion, Extended Plays feels like an easy, breezy listen from beginning to end. Fans of early-'90s alternative radio should be sure to check out the songs "Coared," "The Swan," and "Fountain Park." These hit the golden age of slacker pop right on the mark.
Jason Lymangrover, Rovi