Brazos – Saltwater (Dead Oceans)
Listen Now: “How The Ranks Was Won”
GOING FOR TOP 200 ADDS
Martin Crane, who now records as Brazos, is on track to become a leading musical light, with a burning creative mind and a searching soul. Originally hailing from Austin, Crane currently resides Brooklyn, where he works part time as art handler, “hanging famous paintings in Park Ave apartments.”
Brazos gained recognition in 2009 with Crane’s self-released debut album, Phosphorescent Blues. His musical path was enlightened by the poetry of feminist and radical, Adrienne Rich. The album was hewn around ‘The Observer,’ the 1969 Rich poem Crane put to music. From the bouncy, free-formed vocal phrasing of that adaption, the album grew into a hypnotic tour-de-force that combined raw energy and dance rhythms with the subtle intricacies of jazz and folk. “She was one of my heroes,” Crane says, “and when she gave me permission to use her poem and said that she was excited to hear the record, it was a huge moment for me.”
Recorded with new bandmates Spencer Zahn (bass) and Ian Chang (drums), the initial sessions for Brazos’ new album, Saltwater, began with three days of basic tracking where Crane’s acoustic guitar, Zahn’s warm bass lines, and Chang’s frenetic, melodic drumming were all recorded live. Then, over several months, Crane added and refined layers of pianos, synths, guitars and production embellishment. The multi-talented Sandro Perri mixed the final arrangements into a quixotic melange that is both understated and startlingly honest.
Saltwater was gestated in an atmosphere of listening to “transcendent groove music” – Pharaoh Sanders, Can, Harmonia, Fela Kuti, among a cornucopia of others. “Pharaoh Sanders is looking for selflessness and love and peace, and there is no attempt to dress up what he’s after,” Crane muses. “He is yelling and singing, and it is pure joy. Can is lost in a subconscious world where language interacts with feelings and grooves, kind of like a Cy Twombly painting. Fela is righteous marching music.”
Brazos’ Saltwater touches upon all these elements, with a light and lilting poise and the unique perspective of Crane, who is doing his utmost to struggle with and make sense of his place in the world.
“I think this record is about learning how to be alone. And I think that’s how it’s spiritual. You can’t actually love anything if you need it. I think this record is an odyssey out into deep solitude in order to really get a grasp of myself.”
But don’t start thinking Saltwater is a doleful album of introspection – it’s just the opposite. Like a stunning spring morning, Saltwater is buoyant, expansive pop, with an astonishingly sure hand of craftsmanship. This is no hazy psych mess, but a spacious, beautifully arranged body of work that is the mark of an important artist.
Opening track “Always On” begins mid-synth swirl blast, plunging the listener into a dervish of melody and a frenetic beat. “Charm” jumps down a notch to a loping, staccato groove and seeing-stars joie-de-vivre. By track three “How the Ranks Was Won,” the cascades of melodic joy have been translated into a tale about the voyage of a ghost ship and its descendants.
Crane says he developed a penchant for New Orleans bounce music at local bounce gigs in Austin – not that this is a psych-folk-bounce album, it’s not, but the irrepressible energy, emotional urgency and verve that populates Saltwater cannot be denied.
On the title track, we find Crane using Ishmael, the narrator from Moby Dick, as a surrogate “because he finds a way to talk about the terrible things in a way that’s adventurous and curious.” This is our Martin Crane – the restless, yearning young musical adventurer, balancing raging power, with a lovely articulation of deep feelings. The song holds its tempo, just barely reined in, with spirals of guitar, swells of organ or explosions of percussion threatening to erupt, while Crane’s salty caramel vocal is warm and emphatic.
“I particularly like that in male singers,” Crane says, “a sensitive masculinity that makes room for sadness yet still retains its strength.”
Focus Tracks: 3, 1, 2, 4
Rob Garza – Remixes (Smashpad)
Listen Now: Thievery Corporation “Vampires (Afrolicioius & Rob Garza Remix)”
GOING FOR RPM ADDS
In demand due to the prestige of his work as one half of pioneering electronic music duo Thievery Corporation, recording artist, producer, and DJ Rob Garza is releasing his labor of love – a compilation of remixes from across the musical landscape. What began as an exercise in creative output and new musical directions has become a collection of over a dozen epitomic compositions presented in a new light on Garza’s Remixes.
On this new solo release, Garza delivers infectious remixes of tracks by deep-house DJ Miguel Migs, Afro-Peruvian/electronica act Novalima, Latin-influenced neo-soul act AM & Shawn Lee, dancehall veteran Sleepy Wonder, ambient musician Tycho, and electro-chanteuse Shana Halligan. Also featured are Garza’s remixes of Gogol Bordello’s “Through the Roof and Underground” and Federico Aubele’s “No One”— as well as a reworking of Thievery Corporation’s fiery, Afrobeat-infused “Vampires” with San Francisco-based collective Afrolicious.
Remixes will be available in-stores on May 28th through Garza’s new Smashpad Records imprint.
Focus Tracks: 7, 10, 5
Last Good Tooth – Not Without Work And Rest (Team Love)
Listen Now: “What’s What I Do”
GOING FOR AAA ADDS
Last Good Tooth came together like many bands do… as teenagers, smoking grass and aping their favorite band of the moment in their parents’ garages across the country. In the case of Last Good Tooth, that band was the Black Keys which is a bit shocking once you hear the first notes of Not Without Work and Rest trickle through your speakers. You see, the band is stunning when it comes to melodies, at carving out a line with a guitar that leads you straight into the first lyric of the songs while at the same time invoking some sort of strange Gordon Gano-ish Appalachian voodoo.
Well before the sessions for their debut were underway, word of their spirited live shows reached the offices of Team Love Records in New Paltz, NY. The band eventually dropped in on the sleepy Hudson Valley town and shook things up at the local dive bar, leading the room full of inebriated youth into a sing-along of a Michael Hurley song. Later they played alongside an abandoned thespian camp to a field of hedonists and swimming-hole experts. All of this left a strong impression on the folks at Team Love, and the plans for their debut album took root.
Recorded over the summer and fall of 2011, Not Without Work and Rest is a record for the young and the old, offering up tinges of mystery alongside a familiar warmth.
Last Good Tooth formed in Providence, RI and is currently based in New York State. The band is made up of Penn Sultan (Guitars), Kevin Sullivan (Bass), Arthur Kapp (Drums), and Alex Spoto (Fiddles) Not Without Work and Rest is out May 28th, 2013 on Team Love Records.
Focus Tracks: 2, 1, 3, 4, 9
Mike Marlin – Grand Reveal (Self-Released)
Listen Now: “Grand Reveal”
GOING FOR TOP 200 ADDS
British songwriter Mike Marlin’s sound is dark and haunting, full of discordant melodies, deep, reverberating vocals, and ominous, storytelling lyrics. Raised in suburbia, he dropped out of Oxford and completed his education by attending as many gigs as possible, from Elvis Costello and Graham Parker to Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure. It wasn’t until 25 years later, after a career spent staring at a computer screen, that he decided to walk away and record an album. Within a year, he found himself performing for thousands of people on tour with English punk rockers The Stranglers. Now Mike is coming to the United States for the first time– he will once again join The Stranglers on tour this spring, and will release his new album, Grand Reveal, on May 28th.
Mike describes Grand Reveal as “a progression from someone who is happy and in love to someone who is truly murderous,” so it’s only fitting that the album contains a song titled “The Murderer.” A song fit for a horror movie soundtrack, it opens with an ominous kick drum and features eerily screeching strings and ghostly echoing harmonies.
Grand Reveal opens with “Skull Beneath The Skin,” featuring Mike’s crystal-clear, commanding vocals and sinister lyrics above layers of rich instrumentation. On title track, Mike’s vocals become hushed and conversational, as if he’s sharing deep, dark secrets with his listener. “Amazing” is a heartbreaking song of love and loss that starts out soft and gentle before a wall of guitars comes crashing through the stillness.
Be sure to catch Mike Marlin on tour with The Stranglers this spring, and stay tuned for more information coming soon!
Focus Tracks: 6, 1, 2, 4
Secret Colours – Peach (Self-Released)
Listen Now: “Blackbird (Only One) [Radio Edit]“
GOING FOR TOP 200 & MODERN ROCK SPECIALTY ADDS
Chicago’s Secret Colours are a young band from Chicago with a new record, Peach (coming out May 28), that should push them to the front line of this burgeoning psych revival. Their roots are heavy in the first wave of British psychedelia, with an emphasis on the works of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Brian Jones-era Stones, with a newly emphasized streak of influence another wave of guitar-slinging, drug-munching Brits who came around during the 90s and were filed under the term “shoegaze.”
Secret Colours revel in being the bastard seed of the ’60s psychedelia and ’90s Britpop bloodlines. Since their eponymous debut in 2010, the band moved swiftly from neophyte in the Chicago psychedelic-newgaze scene to crusader over the course of unforgettable performances at Austin Psych Fest and Levitation in 2012. Appearances with Night Beats, Ringo Deathstarr, Elephant Stone, Spindrift, Asteroid #4, Raveonettes, and The Warlocks, have continued to keep Secret Colours in the hearts and minds of their Chicago faithful, but all the while, they’ve been hard at work with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Gomez, Sage Francis, Iron & Wine) sharpening the edges of their polychromatic sophomore album, Peach.
The songs from the sleeker collective of Tommy Evans, Dave Stach, Justin Frederick, and Eric Hehr bring are definitively next level, but are still drenched in the sound that will help you to turn on, tune in, and drop out.
Focus Tracks: 1, 6, 3, 12
ADDS for 5.21.2013
Camera2 – This Is Not A Sad Song EP (Unfiltered)
Listen Now: “This Is Not A Sad Song”
GOING FOR AAA, TOP 200 & MODERN ROCK SPECIALTY ADDS
Brooklyn foursome Camera2 is made up of producer-songwriter-vocalist – Andy Chase (Tahiti 80/Juliana Hatfield/Smashing Pumpkins), guitarist – Michael Jurin (Stellastarr*), bassist – Aric Gillis (Teenage Kick) and drummer – Mike Williams (Teddybears). The band came together in mid-2012 and soon after completed an album Andy wrote and produced in his home studio with co-production by Blondfire’s Bruce Driscoll. Camera2 is a decidedly new direction and a departure from the sounds of the previous projects for all the members who have now stepped into a harder hitting, darker, upbeat and more electronically driven indie-universe.
The music quickly caught the attention of former Morning Becomes Eclectic host, Nic Harcourt, who took the new band under his wing as a mentor and has begun championing them at his new radio home, KCSN in Los Angeles. Over the past 6 months Camera2 has been making music videos for every song on the album, in locations as broad and diverse as rural Pennsylvania, Martha’s Vineyard, San Francisco, and their hometown. In each video the band takes a back seat to a striking nine-year-old boy who walks, (or runs), the music through a series of twists, turns and interweaving themes.
Camera2 has parterned with Noisey.com to release their first album, video-by-video, over the next six months.
Focus Tracks: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7
Vieux Farka Toure – Mon Pays (Six Degrees)
Listen Now: “Nouhoume Maiga”
GOING FOR WORLD ADDS
Vieux Farka Touré’s beautiful latest album was recorded as an homage to his homeland. Being that his native Mali has been splintered by territorial fighting between Tuareg and Islamic rebels since January 2012, his new album, Mon Pays, is devoted to reminding the world about the beauty and culture of his homeland.
“For me it is a statement for the world that this land is for the sons and daughters of Mali, not for Al Qaeda or any militants. This land is for peace and beauty, rich culture and tolerance.This is our heritage, what we must always fight to protect in any way that we can. For me, that means making music that reminds the world of who we are.”
Translating as ‘My Nation,’ this predominantly acoustic undertaking had been planned before the invasions began. Inspired by his work with Israeli pianist and vocalist Idan Raichel, Touré initially went into a Bamako studio to honor the acoustic blues tradition of Northern and Southern Mali. Since that time, Mon Pays transformed into an artifact of cultural preservation.
Two songs on the project – “Future” and “Peace” feature Sidiki Diabate’s kora leading an emotional charge complemented by Touré’s spectacular guitar work. Both tracks represent an important generational “passing of the torch” as Sidiki’s father, Toumani is considered one of the greatest living kora masters and was a close friend of Vieux’s father Ali. Their two records together, In the Heart of the Moon and Ali and Toumani, were awarded Grammies. At the 2011 ceremonies, Vieux accepted the prestigious award for his father, who had recently passed from bone cancer.
Mon Pays is the most mature and lovely record yet from one of this generation’s most exciting artists to come out of Mali and one of world music’s true rising stars.
Focus Tracks: 2, 4, 5
Foreign Talks – Foreign Talks (Expunged)
Listen Now: “Santa Cruz”
GOING FOR MODERN ROCK SPECIALTY ADDS
When not getting into trouble, brothers Marcus Fischer (lead vocals, guitar, bass) and Madison Fischer (lead vocals, percussion, keyboards), along with their friends Tanner Steinmetz (guitar, bass, backing vocals) and Kevin Downes (guitar, backing vocals, percussion), make up Portland, Oregon based Foreign Talks.
Formed in 2011, the members met in high school and began jamming at a local music store. They wrote their first song within minutes of playing together, and the music has never stopped pouring out of them. Soon they compiled a catalog of songs worthy of national attention, and they got that when some big time L.A. producers saw a home video of the guys, and came courting. But just when Foreign Talks was thinking of packing up for L.A., Expunged Records (home to NPR favorites Blind Pilot) swooped in and signed them up. They soon began recording their self-titled debut album at LoudWar Studios in Portland.
At the ripe old ages of 17 (Madison), 18 (Marcus) and 19 (Kevin and Tanner), Foreign Talks deliver a mature sound, and technical sophistication well beyond their years. Their unique brand of indie-rock is created by blending fast-paced lyricism, four-part vocal harmonies, and syncopated hook-driven guitar riffs. While completely original, it is somewhat reminiscent of Bombay Bicycle Club and Local Natives. The compilation of songs on their self-titled debut bursts at the seams with youthful energy. It only takes one listen of Foreign Talks debut to become completely captivated by Marcus’s raw vocal timbre and razor-like cadence, which brilliantly contrasts with Madison’s unique and powerful falsettos.
Focus Tracks: 1, 2
Radical Dads – Rapid Reality (Uninhabitable Mansions)
Listen Now: “Mountain Town”
GOING FOR TOP 200 ADDS
“Radical Dads excavate a moodier, more shoe-gazer-friendly strain of late ‘80s and early ‘90s indie rock” – New York Times
“Radical Dads dip into everything from lo-fi rock’n’roll to gorgeous twee-pop, which is all unified by their figt for massive melodic hooks” – Spin
“Gowanus trio Radical Dads are a bold, beaming, lo-fi treet – as brassy as the Screaming Feamles/Jeff The Brotherhood breed of nu-grung, but with the snappy snarl of ‘90s D.C. indie” – The Village Voice
“They just straight-up play like they DGAF – either way, the song’s razor-edged guitars seem to screech and relentlessly rip through speakers like a pair of rusty, serrated scissors.” – Consequence of Sound
The film’s stuck on fast-forward, the gas pedal’s floored, and there are buffalo up ahead. This is Rapid Reality the second album by Radical Dads.
Radical Dads coalesced in Brooklyn, NY ca. 2008, likely generated by the spontaneous commingling of two or more types of sludge in the Gowanus Canal. The members are Lindsay Baker, Chris Diken, and Robbie Guertin (formerly of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah). They first laid ears on each other all the way back in the mythic ancient age known as the late 1990s.
As the decades have trudged by, the pants have shrunk, but the beat and the racket have slunk on, free flowing as a pair of XL kulats. In 2011, Radical Dads released their first full-length record, Mega Rama, produced by Phil Palazzolo (New Pornographers, Neko Case, Ted Leo) and crowned by swamp manbeast art by Michael Deforge. The succeeding ripper was 7-inch “Skateboard Bulldog,” produced by same, and illuminated with mind-erasing canine cartoon art by THEE Matt Furie.
During the summer of 2012, Radical Dads hauled themselves to the northerly territories of the northern state of Rhode Island to work with Keith Souza and Seth Manchester at Machines with Magnets (Battles, Lightning Bolt, Callers). It was at this locale that their new album took the shape of a Lamborghini driving through space headed Andromeda-ward. Those who survived said it was extremely magical.
Radical Dads are fucking thrilled to present their new LP, Rapid Reality, to your earholes. They are especially delighted that all the album art was created by the inimitable and unintimidatable Dana Schutz, #1 paintress of the 21st century. When not pulling late shifts at the jam factory, the guitar- guitar-drums outfit enjoys gummy snacks, hitting the fizz, snoozin’ on Sundays, meditation, meditating on pizza, pizza itself, sunglasses, friends, all-time peace, and the search for the attainment of the transcendence of coolness.
Focus Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6
Second Sky & Thomas Blondet – Remixes (Rhythm&Culture)
Listen Now: Thievery Corporation “Stargazer (Second Sky & Thomas Blondet Remix)”
GOING FOR RPM ADDS
Second Sky & Thomas Blondet is a collaborative remix collective pooling the talents of the Rhythm and Culture Music camp.
Second Sky is the trio of Billy Medina, Wes DiIorio, and Bill Lascek-Speakman. With the help of horn section Todd Fulginiti and Darnell Scott, they bring their unique dub-influenced trip-hop sound to their remixes, adding live instrumentation, and dynamic musicality. Based in Washington, DC, Thomas Blondet is known for his skills as both a DJ and producer, and provides top-notch production quality as well as a DJ’s sensibility to the tracks.
The idea of collaborating on remixes came a few years back when Thomas Blondet, resident DJ at the Eighteenth Street Lounge in Washington, DC called upon the talents of a new trio he himself had recently discovered. Already in demand as a producer, Blondet was working on a remix for friend Nickodemus. However, with a very short-deadline to get it done, he realized he could use some help. Second Sky was invited into the project to help get it done in time. That didn’t happen. Nickodemus’ Sun People Remixed was released sans Second Sky & Thomas Blondet Remix. A missed opportunity however, would soon turn to triumph when the now completed remix of “2 Sips and Magic” reached the ears of Nickodemus and ESL Music: “At first listen, I knew that the ’2 Sips & Magic’ remix was aimed straight for that smooth, cosmic, outernational dance floor! Great use of the original parts as well as adding their nice, dubbed -out sound!” – Nickodemus
The track was then issued on a special 12” Vinyl EP from ESL Music. Shortly thereafter; “Our cell phones all started lighting up with text messages. Thievery Corporation had just debuted the remix at a live DJ set, and the reaction of the crowd was huge. At that point, we decided that working together was the way to go”. – Bill Lascek-Speakman, Second Sky
Before long, their remixing skills were in high demand; creating dynamic remixes for artists like Balkan Beat Box, to ESL Music artists like Thunderball, Ancient Astronauts, and Afrolicious, Thievery Corporation, and Fort Knox Recordings’ Empresarios and Fort Knox Five. While some of the remixes have been previously released, several have not, including their soulful rework of Stargazer by Thievery Corporation. “The remix is epic production at it’s finest” – Sleepy Wonder, Vocalist with Thievery Corporation
Focus Tracks: 1, 3, 4, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17
Treetop Flyers – The Mountain Moves (Partisan)
Listen Now: “Things Will Change”
GOING FOR AAA & TOP 200 ADDS
“Tuneful late-’60s Laurel Canyon vibe” - Wall Street Journal
“Folk-rock that references acts from Stephen Stills to Simon & Garfunkel.” – Billboard
“The British invasion continues, and we’re not complaining” - Paste Magazine
The debut album from Treetop Flyers, The Mountain Moves, will be released via Partisan Records on June 25th. A record of hope, honesty, expert playing, huge choruses, and universal themes, it sports a vintage West Coast sound — not entirely surprising, since the London five-piece recorded the set near the picturesque beaches and rolling hills of Malibu.
Comprised of Reid Morrison (vocals/guitars), Sam Beer (guitar/vocals), Laurie Sherman (guitar), Mathew Starritt (bass/vocals) and lone American Tomer Danan (drums/vocals), the band’s songs are strewn with sunshine-infused four-part harmonies propelled by an irresistible open-highway groove. Paying their dues to everyone from Neil Young and The Band by way of Little Feat and Fleetwood Mac, there are also gracious nods towards the more contemporary likes of My Morning Jacket.
Ostensibly named after the Stephen Stills song “Treetop Flyer,” the band’s name also references the similarly-titled low altitude of American pilots who fought in Vietnam. “When the war was over they were forgotten about and came back to a country that had nothing for them. So they formed their own club, did work crop dusting, and banded together,” explains Sam. “I felt that that represented us a bit.” Before Treetop Flyers got together in 2009, all five band members were entrenched in the West London scene, gigging locally in different acts, watching the likes of Adele, Florence Welch, Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale and Jamie T rocket to the top of the charts. “We all met on the periphery of that scene,” says Sam.
Opening with the driving “Things Will Change” the message of which is “things are shit sometimes, but they’ll be alright in the end” – the powerful pace of The Mountain Moves doesn’t let up.
Focus Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7
ADDS for 5.14.2013
Baptist Generals – Jackleg Devotional to the Heart (Sub Pop)
Listen Now: “Dog That Bit You”
GOING FOR TOP 200 ADDS
“…a stirring, folk-scuffed celebration of brokenness.” - SPIN (on “Broken Glass,” 2013)
“We may not know why it took so long to get a new album from the Generals, but the good news is that it’s almost here and the first new song from it sounds great” - WXPN (on “Dog That Bit You,” 2013)
“Flemmons’ songwriting is so sharp and cutting that his tunes sound just as amazing dressed up with jangling guitars, strings, and horns as they do covered in sonic muck.” - Tiny Mix Tapes (on “Dog That Bit You,” 2013)
“…some bands you know will someday get the acclaim that’s due them and this is one of them. Their new album is so deeply moving…” - John Darnielle of Mountain Goats
“The music is fragile and spiritual, sodden and boisterous. It’s as if the players are seeking out loosely sewn faultlines while trying to balance decay and redemption and to escape a permanent rupture in either direction.” - Pitchfork (No Silver / No Gold review; 8.5/10)
Denton, TX staples The Baptist Generals, a band known for their haunting, claustrophobic take on drunken folk, needed a full ten years to bare its hearts—one of which is in the album title, Jackleg Devotional to the Heart, a name that songwriter Chris Flemmons conjured shortly after he recorded (and then trashed) the album’s first attempt in 2005.
Flemmons goes so far as to call this his “love album,” and it’s an apt description—though love through The Baptist Generals’ eyes is plenty complicated. Jackleg‘s hearts don’t resemble valentines. The band’s vibraphones, guitarrons and ambient feedback combine like a mess of ventricles, aortas and veins—not to mention, from the sound of it, all of the blood spilled while Jackleg lurched for years toward an eventual finish line.
“After this bad accident, I wanna follow your scent, but you won’t answer my call,” Flemmons cries in the kick-down-the-door, Crazy Horse-loving opener of “Dog That Bit You.” And it’s hard to tell who he’s pleading with. Maybe himself.
For years, Flemmons did everything he could to avoid facing Jackleg, from hiding in his house to obsessing over out-of-town condo developers (long story). His biggest project, a successful music festival he founded called 35 Denton, kept him in the local spotlight, which meant he continued hearing plenty about his critically-acclaimed 2003 full-length debut No Silver/No Gold. The dog kept biting. Which meant, eventually the songs won out.
Finally getting those on tape meant Flemmons needed to let go. A self-proclaimed control freak, Flemmons had to strike a deal before his band mates would try again. The Generals’ integral cast of local, underappreciated experimental-folk heroes (who’ve played with St. Vincent, Mind Spiders, History at our Disposal, The War on Drugs, Robert Gomez, Stumptone, etc.) claimed control of the production, using Flemmons’ demo versions as guidance once the songwriter left the studio. The master tapes remained under the vigilant watch of producer Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn, Cat Power, The Walkmen, Modest Mouse, The White Stripes), co-producer, collaborator and ally Jason Reimer and long-time Baptist Generals mainstay Peter Salisbury. Without all of whom, we might all still be long-awaiting a new Baptist Generals album.
“It might be saying a lot, or nothing at all,” Flemmons dryly says from his Denton home. That’s as close as he gets to explaining Jackleg‘s lyrics—but he is willing to frame the songs in terms of love, and not just because of the bad relationships that inspired at least a few of its songs. Getting the record done meant having a “healthy relationship” with the tracks, which he reached by playing them over the years at intimate concerts powered solely by palm-sized amplifiers. Most of the current band mates were along for those rare gigs, which Flemmons attributes to eventually trusting them with producing this record.
Call it a love record, then. It’s the kind of love Flemmons had to figure out in the ten years since No Silver/No Gold, a period in which he admits he’s fallen in love with a wild spectrum of music—the Ethiopiques series, saxophonist Archie Shepp, film scorer Meredith Willson, and plenty more. That wide spectrum only befits Jackleg‘s repeated need to buck genre; in fact, the 2005 version of the album hit the trash heap because “it sounded like any other indie rock-type band,” Flemmons admits. Yet when making sense of how that music has impacted him over such a long period, he returns to the heart. Specifically, he refers to studies about the heart by 16th century British researcher William Harvey.
“He wanted to understand the vascular system,” Flemmons says, “and it’s largely very dry reading. He was vivisecting mammals and speculating about valves in veins. But what was fascinating, considering he was commissioned by the King, was that he had ideas about the spirit and where exactly it resided: ‘You can’t see warmth in water, therefore very much the same with seeing the spirit in a living organism.’ Occasionally I hear music that is so in sync with me, right down to the alpha level… surely it seeps in. What the conduit makes in the music I write is hard to say.”
Focus Tracks: 2, 6, 7
Dungeonesse – Dungeonesse (Secretly Canadian)
Listen Now: “Drive You Crazy”
GOING FOR TOP 200 ADDS
Dungeonesse is a collaboration between singer Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes) and writer/producer Jon Ehrens (White Life, Art Department). Born of a mutual admiration for Top 40 and R&B and the mechanics of what makes a hit song, the duo and longtime friends began putting jams together remotely. Ehrens would send tracks from LA to Wasner on tour, and they’d bounce ideas back and forth. Part party machine programming, and part homage to the great tradition of R&B vocals, the songs of Dungeonesse retain an experimental and playful inner beauty while leading the charge to a dance floor of abundantly inclusive and carefree spirits.
Says Wasner, “Something that Jon and I talk about a lot is the idea of reclaiming pop music; placing it squarely in the hands of, I dunno, say a couple of regular nerds from Baltimore.”
Ehrens adds, “I think we both knew that even if we intended to make something that was a straight ahead, radio-ready hit, it would come out sounding a little different because of both of our musical backgrounds in which the music we made did not have this intention.”
The charming strength of 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.
“Shucks” is an apt lead-off for the album, a funk-influenced track full of bass that Wasner’s voice surf like a wave. Wasner & Ehrens know we want to party and the songs on Dungeonesse are the perfect soundtrack: bangers (“Cadillac,” “Drive You Crazy”), slow jams (“Nightlight,” “Wake Me Up”), synthy house (“Private Party”), and carefully crafted beats that make you wanna. On first single “Drive You Crazy,” Wasner’s Ciara-like breathy coo comes to the fore over Ehrens’ gigantic production – Top 40 with a connoisseur’s touch.
Focus Tracks: 2, 1, 4, 5
Yasmine Hamdan – Ya Nass (Crammed)
Listen Now: “Shouei”
GOING FOR WORLD ADDS
Yasmine became known with Soapkills, the duo she founded in Beyrouth, which must have been the first indie/electronic band to appear in the Middle East. The music of Soapkills quickly became the soundtrack to the vibrant, young arts scene which developed in postwar Lebanon, the band gradually acquired an emblematic status and, to this day, Yasmine is considered as an undergound icon throughout the Arab world.
Yasmine moved to Paris a few years ago, and started working with Mirwais (who was part of French electronic new wave band Taxi Girl in the 80s, and produced/co-wrote Madonna’s “Music” as well as the “American Life” album). Under the Y.A.S. moniker, Yasmine and Mirwais recorded the “Arabology” album, which came out in 2009.
After collaborating with CocoRosie for a while, Yasmine teamed up with Nouvelle Vague mastermind Marc Collin to create this mesmerizing, self-titled opus. In order to write the melodies and the lyrics for these songs, Yasmine drew from the repertoire and the attitude ofgreat Arab women singers from the middle of the 20th century, including some little-known or half-forgotten figures, such as Aisha El Marta, Nagat El Saghira, Asmahan, Shadia, Mounira El Mehdeyya and many more. Yasmine (who is an avid collector of records from that era) is inspired by these women, by the mischievous sensuality and the subtle, ironic social criticism which pervades their lyrics, and which is reminiscent of a period of freedom and emancipation in the history of Middle-Eastern societies.
While Yasmine’s vocals are definitely connected to traditions of Arabic music (to which she takes a personal, unconventional and fresh approach), the structures and arrangements of the songs are very remote from its codes. They might be described as a kind of elegant, mutant strain of electro folk pop, mysteriously springing from somewhere in the Persian Gulf… with acoustic guitars, vintage synths, spellbinding atmospheres and Yasmine’s multi-faceted, wonderful voice.
Focus Tracks: 2, 1, 6, 5, 13
SKIP&DIE – Riots In The Jungle (Crammed)
Listen Now: “Killing Aid”
GOING FOR RPM & WORLD ADDS
SKIP&DIE, the sensational new genre-blending band formed by South African vocalist & visual artist Catarina Aimée Dahms (aka Cata.Pirata) and Dutch musician & producer Jori Collignon, have released their debut album on Crammed Discs. Riots in the Jungle was written by Cata.Pirata and Jori while they travelled through South Africa’s Soweto, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Gugulethu, collaborating along the way with some of SA’s most inspiring music makers on the rise. The album portrays their experience of blazing sun, dusty roads, township shacks, cockroaches, skulls, bones and lovebirds. It contains songs in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Spanish and Portuguese.
United by their love for Tropical and Global Bass music, hip hop, electronica and a broad spectrum of sounds from all over the planet, Catarina and Jori started writing songs and playing shows together in 2010. Catarina was born and raised in South Africa, and started moving around as a teenager, following her social activist filmmaker parents. She’s lived in the Azores, the Netherlands, Ibiza and later also in Argentina and in the UK (where she completed her studies in visual and performance arts), learning to speak several new languages along the way. She then settled in Amsterdam, where she developed multiple creative activities, working as a visual artist, an editor-in-chief (for youth-literature mag Spunk), curator… until her passion for music eventually prevailed: she dived headlong into songwriting & performing and started developing her own unique style.
As for Jori, he started out in music as a kid, learning to play jazz standards on his dad’s electric piano every morning before going to school… He switched to electronics after being inspired by The Beastie Boys, DJ Shadow, Daft Punk and many more, and honed his skills as a musician playing with successful Dutch bands such as C-Mon & Kypski and Nobody Beats The Drum (of which he’s still a member). Over the years, he’s developed into an exceptionally gifted arranger and producer.
After an initial string of explosive shows and the release of a limited-edition single on a small Dutch label, garnering SKIP&DIE a devoted following, the pair set out to record a full-length album. Catarina – who has never lost touch with her homeland, where she often makes extended stays – wanted to write and record basic tracks in South Africa. After extensive research, she reached out to a series of young, up-and-coming musicians she wished to collaborate with: rappers, rockers, electronic and tradional artists. SKIP&DIE soon embarked on an road trip in the regions of Capetown, Johannesburg & more, spending a couple of days with each of those collaborators, on their own turf, in order to write/record a track with them.
Catarina and Jori describe this adventure as “a magical experience” which lasted for two months, during which they met and worked with young South African peers such as vocalist Gazelle (with whom they share a common love for intertwining politics and dance music), hip hop crew Driemanskap, rappers Emza & Magebz, experimental rock musician (and BLK JKS collaborator) João Orecchia, the Season Marimba Stars & more.
RPM Focus Tracks: 6, 1, 2, 5
World Focus Tracks: 3, 9, 10
Tunng – Turbines (Full Time Hobby)
Listen Now: “Trip Trap”
GOING FOR TOP 200 ADDS
“…staggering beauty…” SPIN
“For five minutes, a weird collection of sounds swirl together to create one of the year’s most unusual (but beautiful) songs.” – Fishy Tunes
Bands as emotive and enduring as Tunng don’t come around too often. Across their decade together, the group have honed their pastoral pop to perfection, winning over audiences and critics one rustic twang of guitar, icy electronic echo and sumptuous whisper of vocals at a time to become one of Britain’s most championed underground forces – fitting for an act who began literally underground, in the basement of a Soho women’s clothing boutique some ten years ago.
Now their success story is set to continue with the release of fifth studio album Turbines on June 18th on Full Time Hobby in America, their most bewitching and brilliant listen yet. “It’s been a twisted adventure to this point, one that has taken us all over the world, an amazing journey,” grins instrumentalist and founding member Mike Lindsay. As the band has evolved and grown, so too has its members. “There’s a lot happened in this band in the last couple of years” he adds. “Children born, people moving into different places, falling in love, skipping country, broadening horizons… maybe this is a coming-of-age record!”
Recorded mainly in a Dorset studio this is the first Tunng album where all six members were more or less all present at each stage of the recording process. Bar an excursion to album engineer and vintage equipment expert Ben ‘Benge’ Edwards’ “synth museum” to add electronic embellishments. It’s an album rich in colour and emotion, from the geyser-like organ eruptions of “By This” to the trip-hop grooves and thunderous timpani of “Trip Trap” and “Heavy Rock Warning.” “I remember thinking that this album would go full circle and match the first record in its experimentalism. But that didn’t happen.” Instead came Tunng’s most direct and affecting effort to date. “It’s more concise,” says Winter. “It’s just the essentials, delivered straight.”
“It’s our sci-fi folk rock album,” declares Lindsay, who stresses the key to Turbines’ enchanting charm is the sense of family among its creators. “We have been through a lot together, seen some amazing places and some pretty bad places too… and it’s time to see some more!”
Focus Tracks: 2, 4, 6, 7
The Virgins – Strike Gently (Cult)
Listen Now: “Travel Express (From Me)”
GOING FOR AAA ADDS
“(The Virgins are) making reliably honest, memorable music… their next album is definitely something to look forward to.” -Rolling Stone
The Virgins join The Killers on tour this month in celebration of the band’s highly anticipated sophomore album, Strike Gently, which is out now on Cult Records. Of the album, The New York Times praises, “the new material is more organic, a harmonic, stripped-down rumble of moon-light swagger and blue-rose tattoos.”
Strike Gently was recorded in NYC at the East Village Recording Center underneath the site of the storied former rock club Brownies and produced by Johnny T. Yerington and Gus Oberg of The Unicorn Parade. Cult Records founder, The Strokes own Julian Casablancas notes, “When I first saw the Virgins I was psyched there was such a rad new band from NYC. Donald’s such an awesome guy and it’s great to meet someone who’s such a true artist. I think they’ve made a classic record and we’re really excited they chose to work with us.”
Strike Gently follows up on the Virgins’ 2008 self-titled debut, which NME raved was “jam-packed with pop hits” and Entertainment Weekly called “punchy and slinky and over before you know it, but good, dirty fun while it lasts,” while SPIN noted that “these New York kids reflect the mirror-ball gleam of primo INXS and Emotional Rescue–era Rolling Stones onto the lives of today’s young, rich, and wasted.”
The group was started by frontman Donald Cumming in 2006 and features Max Kamins (bass), Xan Aird (guitar) and John Eatherly (drums). They have shared stages with Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Lou Reed, Sonic Youth and Patti Smith and have appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Last Call with Carson Daly. The single “Rich Girls” from their 2008 release was included on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Best Songs of 2008,” recorded a Morning Becomes Eclectic Session, and most recently “Wheel Of Fortune” on Strike Gently was Today’s Top Tune on KCRW.
Focus Track: 7