Craft Spells – Idle LaborCaptured Tracks-out now3.5 / 5 The dream-scapes crafted by the Stockton, CA dream pop outfit well suit their name: they are well crafted, and sneak upon the listener like a spell. Evoking a demure Ariel Pink vocally, Craft Spells balances their tracks similarly, scooping in a big heft of guitar and synth that almost overpowers the shy, almost monotone vocals. While not exactly what we had in mind, there’s no denying that “Party Talk” comes off sparkling and shimmering, “After the Moment” just as laid-back, with the overall effect suiting well your 80s high-school-crush flashbacks. We think fellow dream-poppers will adoreRead More →

Freddie Hubbard – “Pinnacle: from Keystone Korner”Resonance Records-out now4.5 / 5 Wow. Let’s just say that first. One of the most blazing jazz trumpeters in the history of the music comes back from the vaults with this posthumous live release from San Fran. Next, let’s get this out of the way: the sound quality is maybe 3.5/5. It’s recorded live, some 30 years old. Get over it. Now, onto the juice of the matter: Pinnacle is pure gold. We don’t feature jazz often enough, and Hubbard blasts through with “The Intrepid Fox,” tearing a veritable hole in our eardrums – in a good, earth-shattering wayRead More →

Slow Club – “Paradise”Moshi Moshi-out now3.5 / 5 We admit, we’re a little slow to get onto this train, but we’ll admit our shortcomings: Slow Club has a good thing going. Yes, we’re still a fan of those slower ditties, “You, Earth or Ash” and “Gold Mountain,” but on this release (the UK duo’s sophomore) we think they hit upon a winning combination of rock, Rebecca Taylor’s strong vocals, and Charles Watson’s bangin’ guitar (he also vocalizes a bit, too). The songs on Paradise run a strong gamut of rockers and ballads, just steaming on the kinda sexist “Where I’m Waking,” (“I can see youRead More →

Deer Tick – “Divine Providence”Partisan Records-out yesterday3.5 / 5 Deer Tick, one of our favorite bands from the Ocean State, has been cranking these albums out like it’s a bad case of fleas. But there is good news here: if you have an itch for J. J. McCauley and Co., then you should scratch. Divine Providence, while not truly divine (see War Elephant, Black Dirt Sessions, or one of his many excellent collaborations) is still the same old grizzled, beer-guzzling, ditch-your-blow-up-doll-on-route-195-and-don’t-look-back kinda band that rocks out your socks out. But this album isn’t somber and gorgeous as BDS, nor is it as brilliant and barebonesRead More →

A Classic Education – “Call It Blazing”Lefse-out tomorrow2.5 / 5 There are any number of ways to make a particular release stand out sonically: good hooks, powerful vocals, Robert Plant’s exposed chest. Consider this, then, a backhanded compliment: A Classic Education is capable of making themselves sound like other bands. The vocals and song structure reminisce over Band of Horses, while early Yo La Tengo almost certainly inspires “Place a Bet on You.” Now, the reality of these comparisons is that ACE doesn’t really add their own to the mix here. At least, we hope not. Because the end result of Call It Blazing isRead More →

My Brightest Diamond – “All Things Will Unwind”Asthmatic Kitty-out tomorrow4 / 5 We love this cover. Absolutely adore it. It’s as vibrant, fun, and unusual as the work within; and considering Michiganian Shara Worden’s penchant for unusuality (see Decemberists’ rock opera “Hazards”), that’s no minor compliment. What grabs us about All Things Will Unwind, other than the classical orchestration, other than the rock-ish song structure worked with a orchestral ear, is the depth of Ms. Worden’s musical vision here. These songs, carried with her, at times, operatic voice (check out “Be Brave”), could easily be the mere eccentricities of an untrained, but curious ear. Yet,Read More →

Brown Bird – “Salt for Salt”Supply and Demand-out Oct. 184.5 / 5 It’s not Rhode Island love that lights this reviewer’s heart (the band is, after all, originally from Washington). And it’s not that David Lamb’s got to do vocals/ guitar/ bass drum simultaneously at shows. It’s, quite frankly, the moody “Bilgewater” and the fire of “Cast No Shadow” that slay us. But, if a couple songs on the previous EP were all that caught our attention, we’d not’ve given this album such striking marks. As excellent as those two songs are, it’s the entire mood of this album, an all-acoustic affair inspired by long-goneRead More →

Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three – Middle of EverywhereFree Dirt Records-out now3 / 5 Style. These guys are all about style. And Lafarge + 3 certainly have it: they’ve got spit-shine shoes and some knee-slapping grooves. On Middle of Everywhere, you get the pure distillation of early ragtime blues, crystalline, unadulterated, and most definitely traditional, in every and any sense of the word. And, having met this outfit, they dress the part incredibly well; all that’s missing is a whistlin’ of Dixie. But enough of that, you want to know why we adore these guys but don’t quite obsess over their music. AsRead More →

Portugal. The Man – “In the Mountain, In the Cloud”Atlantic-out now4 / 5 We’re big fans of Portland, OR’s P.TM. Remember the sweet hooks and 60’s choruses of 2009’s The Satanic Satanist? Thankfully, they’re back for In the Mountain, In the Cloud. Their sixth album in as many years (yes, it’s a crazy number of releases) returns the rock/pop band to what we feel is their true element: polished, straightforward psychedelia replete with harmonies, highs and lows, and strange-ass lyrics. While we feel lyrically this album is a shade off of par with Satanist, fans of Portugal will find them musically in high form, especiallyRead More →

St. Vincent – “Strange Mercy”4ad Records-out today4.5 / 5 We’re not going to say that “Strange Mercy” is a whole step up from 2009’s “Actor.” We’re also not going to say St. Vincent is a modern female Brian Eno. But what we will say is, this album rocks, in the bizarre, angular-electronic way that Annie Clark is getting known for. Add to that a pop sensibility, and you get the knock-out single “Cruel,” which, if you could comprehend the strange lyrics, would make you sing along soulfully. The heart of this album is that it doesn’t rest after that second track, and that Miss VincentRead More →