The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions Concord Records – out now 3.5 / 5 To understand our frustrations with the New Pornographers’ latest album, we’re going to have to summon two older ones of theirs. So, frustration: Whiteout Conditions, while perhaps one of their best albums in terms of performances, and in terms of musical ability, feels cluttered with too many sounds. Literally. It’s a fun album, yes, but perhaps one of the weakest in their 17-year repertoire. And while we tend to appreciate layering and depth of sound, we find a lot of these extra sonic bits to be extraneous. Let’s bring in that earlier albumRead More →

RG Lowe – Slow Time Western Vinyl – out now 4.5 / 5 This Austin, Texan pianist/guitarist, who is the fountainhead for the instrumental group Balmorhea, decided to take a trip through the 70s and 80s. Citing Prince, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder, his previous ten years of work came through the vocal-less, introspective, quiet Balmorhea. Thus, one would assume RG Lowe would be entirely out of his element on a pop-rock album. But you know the saying about assumptions: turns out Slow Time, Lowe’s debut solo LP, is pure, unadulterated bliss. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Lowe’s nine tracks here are some of the least self-conscious,Read More →

Imaad Wasif – Dzi Grey Market – out June 16 4 / 5 Imaad Wasif is the musician you haven’t heard of that you’ve already loved. As a former member of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, he performed on Show Your Bones, their second full-length; he also co-wrote the soundtrack to Where The Wild Things Are with Karen O as well as toured with her and the crew. The Los Angeles-based pysch rocker is on his fourth full-length solo album, and perhaps like you, we’re surprised his name hasn’t jumped out at us sooner: now there’s no going back. Dzi, which takes its inspiration from IndianRead More →

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up  Nonesuch Records – out June 16 3.5 / 5   Fleet Foxes can’t seem to get out from the shadow of their debut self-titled LP. But don’t despair: their third LP Crack-Up is still a solid offering from the Seattle-based “baroque pop” quintet. While Crack-Up doesn’t rely as heavily on the whiskey smooth harmonies unleashed in 2008’s Fleet Foxes, the latest release does something that we greatly appreciate from a band: Crack-Up experiments, it expands. Most of the waters the Foxes test are in terms of songwriting and composition, specifically with dynamics and unexpected musical progressions. While not as blissful and macabre as something like “White WinterRead More →

Larkin Grimm – Chasing an Illusion  Northern Spy Records – out June 16 2.5 / 5   We respect Alice Coltrane. We like Ornette Coleman. We love Pharoah Sanders. And New York City-based Larkin Grimm references them all on her latest full-length, Chasing an Illusion. But somehow, with all this free-form Jazz woven into Illusion, it’s not enough to get us to enjoy her ostensibly folk-ish album. We’re not saying one can’t work a little of Sanders’ magic into modern folk (or what remains of folk, here), but what Grimm has offered, while earnest and certainly adventurous, is actually fairly boring. Yes. We apologize for the unimaginative term,Read More →

Goodbye June – Magic Valley  Interscope Records – out now 4 / 5 Time for a bit of rock and roll. That must be the impetus behind this Nashville trio’s debut LP. Goodbye June, we must say, sounds like they’re already on their third or fourth album – Magic Valley is a polished piece of record right here. They’ve got cookers (“Good Side,” “Bamboozler”), quiet ones (“Darling”), and just generally a good chex-mix of rock singles. Musically, think of aggravated vocals taking a hint from Angus-Young, simplified, clear guitar hooks (perhaps also a la AC/DC), and singable choruses. All in all, a good time with GoodbyeRead More →

Matthew Logan Vasquez – Does What He Wants  Dine Alone Music – out April 21 3 / 5 Delta Spirit frontman Matthew Logan Vasquez comes upon his second solo LP, the perhaps aptly named Does What He Wants. Up front, we’ll tell you: it’s not bad, and it’s more of the same a la 2016’s Solicitor Returns. That is to say, this is a Vasquez comfortable in his own skin, not the wild yells of a Vasquez of early Delta Spirit fame. But we miss those wild yells, those impassioned pleas stretching, reaching for an imagined musical perfection. But such is life: we grow old, weRead More →

Ecstatic Vision – Raw Rock Fury  Relapse Records – out April 7 1.5 / 5 Philadelphia’s hard rock foursome Ecstatic Vision slash their way through their second LP. Their approach is part gut punch, part slam-your-head-against-the-wall; that is to say, unapologetic. And while we appreciate their forwardness, their energy and approach, we still have to say: sorry, no. Their aimless jams certainly do not appeal to us, and in total feel like an album-long experiment in playing the same few brazen notes obnoxiously loud. There’s nothing wrong with loud, no. But there is when 11 is the only volume you understand: there is a deepRead More →

Laura Marling – Semper Femina  More Alarming Records -out today 4 / 5 Laura Marling’s sixth album is not something we typically listen to. We like rock-outs, soul sessions, complicated layered what-have-yous. Stuff with a lotta moving parts. Contrary to our usual tastes, the Los Angeles native’s Semper Femina feels, to take the opener, “Soothing.” That is, sonically, it feels soothing; but make no mistake, behind the comfortable vocals, the sparse guitar, behind the illusion of a soothing album lies a quiet intensity. It’s an introverted LP, an album that begs multiple listens to catch the subtle effects that work here. In short, it is notRead More →

Susto – & I’m Fine Today  Missing Piece Records – out now 3.5 / 5 Susto, a Latin American term roughly translating as “soul sickness,” doubles South Carolina’s alternative rock quintet on their second full-length. The term is fitting as lead singer and songwriter Justin Osborne, who traveled to Cuba in his mid-20s on a musical quarter-life crisis, pens here a sophomore of songs of wanderlust and disconnection. What comes on this not-quite-dozen are fun, solid tracks that sport a musical twist-and-turn every now and then. Right off the bat, we enjoy the strings on “Far Out Feeling,” which are a powerful accent for aRead More →