March was another great month for music releases, and as much as I hate grouping recommendations into posts like this, other aspects of life are getting in the way of individual recommendations. These types of posts will have to serve as ‘better than nothing’ for the time being.
Arliss Nancy – Simple Machines
(Suburban Home, 2012)
Back in April of 2010 I found myself in Ft. Collins for work on a day that Lucero happened to be playing the Aggie Theater. I stuck around and caught the show that night, even though I was going to see Lucero the very next night in Denver. That’s how much I love a good Lucero show. And because I was there for work, I was there very early. Even after grabbing a few beers, lunch, dinner, and a few more beers, I was still one of the first people to enter the venue. Arliss Nancy opened the show that night and I was able to catch their whole set. To be honest, I was less than impressed. It’s been a long time now, but if I remember correctly, it wasn’t the music that turned me off, it was the stage banter and how the band held themselves. They came off as young and immature. Flash forward a couple years and I’m partying with the guys from Arliss Nancy, as well as others on the Suburban Home roster, in the dawn of the morning light after the label’s Anniversary Party at 3 Kings. Turns out Arliss Nancy is a great group of guys. I made a commitment to myself to give their music another shot. Well, it took me awhile, but when the dull roar of praise around Simple Machines started to leak out, I took no time buying the album. And holy shit! These guys are blowing my mind! Not only did they get Micah Schnabel to help them open the record — not only did they get Jon Snodgrass and Lizzie Huffman to lend vocals, but I don’t think it would be too much to say Arliss Nancy have the potential to be the next Two Cow Garage, Drag The River, Glossary, or even Lucero. Granted, they still have a little bit of growing up to do, but Simple Machines proves this Ft. Collins band is about to be known well outside our little scene here in Colorado! (get 2 CDs and a download for $9.99 here)
Big K.R.I.T. – 4Eva N A Day
It is my opinion that Big K.R.I.T. is one of the best in the game. Not only does he oversee every aspect of his production, I personally think he is an incredible lyricist who manages to sound hard and smooth at the same time. With 4Eva N A Day, K.R.I.T. has now completed a trifecta of mixtapes that rival anything on a major (or minor) label in recent history.
Black Breath – Sentenced to Life
(Southern Lord, 2012)
Black Breath are from Bellingham, Washington and they are a part of a new breed of crust punk that has come to define the hardcore direction of Southern Lord in recent years. Heavy Breathing was arguably one of the best albums of 2010 and Sentenced to Life is poised to shatter 2012. Black Breath are most definitely a hardcore band, but you would be forgiven for calling this a trash album — and you would not be wrong, but with music like this, labels are about as useless as your bleeding ears after seeing this band live! If you like you’re crossover to sound like a sledgehammer to the skull, check out the latest from Black Breath!
Chromatics – Kill For Love
(Italians Do It Better, 2012)
To be honest, this is probably my favorite album of the year so far. However, I haven’t been able to give it more than a few spins since it (unexpectedly) dropped on Monday, and since I refuse to buy anything from itunes, I am left waiting for Italians Do It Better to get my physical copy in the mail. In the meantime, I have been streaming whenever possible. I can’t express how much I like this album. Chromatics are synthpop revivalists from Portland, OR. They started out as a post-punk outfit, but in 2012 they are firmly rooted in what Italians Do It Better do best…dance, synth, post-disco and film music. Johnny Jewel is the most recognizable face of this scene, playing in/as Chromatics, Symmetry, Glass Candy and Desire, and ever since his involvement in the Drive soundtrack/score his profile has brought his label, projects and bands an insane amount of attention. So it’s no wonder people went crazy when he dropped this epic 2-CD opus on the world wide web this week. Kill For Love is not only going to expand Jewel’s following, but also the following of Italians Do It Better and the excellent Chromatics.
Julia Holter – Ekstasis
(Rvng Intl., 2012)
Julia Holter makes bedroom music with the production value of studio music. It’s pop, but it’s not. It’s huge, but it’s quiet. It’s personal, yet out of reach. Ekstasis is a collection of songs that are impossible to accurately categorize or explain. I hear Kate Bush, Julianna Barwick, (a grown-up) Grimes, Atlas Sound…the list could go on and on, but using words to explain this album is a disservice.
Locrian & Mamiffer – Bless Them That Curse You
(Profound Lore, 2012)
Locrian is an experiment in sound based out of Chicago. Mamiffer is an experiment in sound residing in Seattle. Bless Them That Curse You is a collaboration between these two projects, and if you are familiar with their work, you won’t be surprised with the material presented here. Like a warm blanket to wrap around yourself as everything dissolves into the abyss of nothingness, this album might present itself as a harmless journey through an industrial park during the end of days, but by the time you find yourself in the 19-minute closer that is “Metis/Amaranthine/Emperor”, it will be too late. This album is best experienced through headphones. I’ve been listening to it a lot while I catch up on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R. R. Martin, it really does provide the perfect soundtrack. (Worm Ouroboros’ Come The Thaw also goes very well with the series)
Lucero – Women & Work
For those of us who have been to a Lucero show, it’s a bittersweet thing that these guys are literally addicted to the road. I’m never going to complain when one of my favorite bands comes through town multiple times every year, but this non-stop road rage doesn’t leave much time for recording new material. I have seen Ben and the crew a half dozen times since 1372 Overton Park was released and I have been hungry for new material for quite some time. Well, the wait is over and Women & Work was well worth the time it took. Now, there are those who will disagree with me. The arguments for and against Lucero’s new direction have been heated, to say the least. And I will be the first to admit I was a little taken aback when I first laid ears on this ‘straight-up Memphis soul’ album. It’s Lucero, no doubt, but it is a Lucero transformed — a Lucero taking a slightly different road. The haters (and purists) might not like this new road, but I can think of a lot of bands who could take a page from Lucero’s book on how to mature (and keep things interesting) without losing what made you great in the first place. I can’t wait to see this material augment the old stuff in a live setting!
Lunar Aurora – Hoagascht
(Cold Dimensions, 2012)
Extremely atmospheric black metal. Lunar Aurora have been exporting the darkness out of Bavaria for close to twenty years now, but Hoagscht is my first exposure to their work. With so many bands making this type of music today, it’s hard to differentiate one from the other, but Hoagascht immediately grabbed my attention from the opening sounds of “Im Garth” and held it until the finality that is “Reng”. If you like your black metal to transport you to another place, check out the latest from Lunar Aurora.
The Men – Open Your Heart
(Sacred Bones, 2012)
The Men have put a leash on the crazy with their latest, Open Your Heart, but that’s not to say they are any less exciting than they were when they put out one of 2011′s best albums. Like Leave Home, Open Your Heart is a noise rock album that refuses to play nice. Filled with straight-up punk, garage rock, long instrumental tracks (one called “Country Song”), and even a few psychedelic passages that make their laser/fog filled stage at SXSW make sense, Open Your Heart is another solid brick in the house that Sacred Bones built.
Mirrorring – Foreign Body
Liz Harris is from Portland and records as Grouper. Jesy Fortino is from Seattle and records as Tiny Viper. Together, they are the Pacific Northwest collaboration known as Mirrorring. Foreign Body is the debut from this collaboration. If you are familiar with the spaced-out drone of Grouper, or the fragile guitar meanderings of Tiny Vipers, you will not be surprised with what Mirrorring has to offer. Foreign Body sounds like a day in the PacNW — a walk in the wet woods, a cool evening on the streets of the city, a glass of wine while the rain beats against the window, and a late night in a half-sleep, dreaming while the water trickles down gutters outside your bedroom. Needless to say, this album is best experienced through headphones.
Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour/Golden Mile
There are so many layers to the music of Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles that it obscures Daniel Rossen’s haunting vocals. His first solo effort, Silent Hour/Golden Mile, does a great job of peeling back the layers and exposing the voice within. A mostly acoustic affair, fans of both bands should be able to find something to like on this EP, because while it is stripped down, there is nothing simple about what’s happening here. Makes me look forward to more material to come.
The Shins – Port Of Morrow
(Columbia/Aural Apothecary, 2012)
Port Of Morrow has been released to mixed reviews. It seems not everyone agrees it was worth the wait. To be honest, I didn’t even know I was waiting for another Shins album. Sure, Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow were great albums (classics even), but they didn’t change my life. And I forgot Wincing the Night Away even existed. So I will chalk Port Of Morrow up as a pleasant surprise — a reminder as to why I got into this brand of ‘indie pop’ in the first place. So many bands followed in Mercer’s footsteps, but few captured the ‘simple’ pleasure of a Shins song. Port Of Morrow isn’t groundbreaking work, it’s just a reminder of times that shoudn’t seem so long ago…and I enjoy that.
Sigh – In Somniphobia
In all reality, most of you will probably hate this album. I hated it on the first listen. Imagine if The Mars Volta were a Japanese band fronted by a black metal singer. Now imagine they are part of a traveling carnival and their material is influenced by ‘big top circus’ and Warner Bros. cartoon music as much as it is by progressive and black metal pioneers. If you can hear that in your head, you might be prepared for In Somniphobia. The latest from Tokyo’s avant-garde outfit is like nothing I have ever heard (in a good and bad way). Sometimes there is so much going on, I have to turn it off just to catch a thought, but overall this is an epic experiment in extreme music, and it would be a crime not to tell you about it.
Soap&Skin – Narrow
Soap&Skin is 21-year-old Anja Plaschg. She has been hailed the new star of Austrian pop music. The (mini)album Narrow proves the Austrians elect much different pop stars than those in the U.S.. These original tracks, along with an interpretation of the 80′s synthpop “Voyage Voyage” (by Desireless) were inspired by the death of Plaschg’s father. Laden with a yearning only to be found in the shadow of a loved one lost, this epitaph should make Soap&Skin a household name beyond the borders of Europe.
Tanlines – Mixed Emotions
(True Panther, 2012)
Another band from Brooklyn with an unhealthy obsession with 80′s synthpop? Yeah, that’s pretty much what Tanlines debut full length represents. You can even throw the ‘chillwave’ term around a little, if you really want to make people cringe. But damn if Mixed Emotions isn’t a good album. I can hear this on the iPod dock during quite a few backyard bbq’s this summer. Who cares if it isn’t all that original when it’s this much fun? It’s just too bad the cover artwork is so damn creepy!
Rewind: (pre-March albums on heavy rotation)
Danny Brown – XXX (Fool’s Gold, 2011)
Christian Mistress- Possession (Relapse, 2012)
Drudkh – Eternal Turn of the Wheel (Season of Mist, 2012)
The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past (Epitaph, 2012)
Mgła – With Hearts Toward None (Northern Heritage, 2012)
Anaïs Mitchell – Young Man In America (Wilderland, 2012)
Monolake – Ghosts (Monolake/Imbalance Computer Music, 2012)
Poliça – Give You The Ghost (Totally Gross National Product, 2011)
Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light (Earache, 2012)