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 →

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 →

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 →

Sondre Lerche – “Sondre Lerche”Mona Records-out now4 / 5 Sondre Lerche’s songs are, in a word, addictive. The Norwegian has a natural talent for pop that swims about into different-Okay, metaphor on hold, we’ve just got to get this out first: “Private Caller” is the pop song of the year. Just laying it out there.Yeah, that pretty much describes how we feel about the Norwegian’s self-titled. That metaphor up there was going to describe something about his penchant for taking his listeners on a pop mini-journey, taking the opener “Ricochet” and “Go Right Ahead” as prime examples of his brilliant sense of diverse songcraft. ButRead More →

Gillian Welch – “The Harrow and the Harvest”Acony Records-out today4 / 5 Eight long years. Almost a decade, if you’ve been keeping track since her last solo release, “Soul Journey.” The traditional folk duo of Welch and David Rawlings release a spare, bare-bones treasure trove of below-the-dixon-line croons, and if you’re a fan of banjo and whiskey in the moonlight, then it’s safe to say this album should be in your collection. There are several reasons, not the least of which are the haunted “Tennessee” and the sheer drive of “The Way It Goes”; we might site the clarity of the hard-luck images, the easeRead More →

White Denim – “D”Downtown-out now4 / 5 We never realized how much we loved White Denim’s previous “Fits”; their wild, rambunctious sense of punk and pop ignites like a wildfire. And here, on D, there is a sense that some of the fire has died down a bit: no worries, though, because the wild half-yelling has been replaced with thoroughly impressive instrumentals. Think of it more as an exchange: the jarring punk aspects have matured into a more melodic, more assured sense of song structure. You will like this album, that much is sure; but will you love it, will you devote your waking momentsRead More →

The Civil Wars – Barton HollowSensibility Music-out now4 / 5 There is little as refreshing as an intimate male/female duet; Swell Season knows it, and Fleetwood Mac certainly knew it. Joy Williams and John Paul White must sense something special in their debut studio LP, because without flash and without pomp, we can say “Barton Hollow” is a delightful, gorgeous slice of Americana. Their romantic tracks here are pared down, sporting rhythmic guitar and sometimes banjo/piano, because who wants to hear anything else when the vocals are so soothing and beautiful? We dig the title track especially, but there’s nary a weak one here, whichRead More →

Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”Sub Pop -out May 34.5 / 5 As one of the most anticipated albums of the (indie) year, the Fleet Foxes have their work cut out for them. Having delayed the release of Helplessness Blues since announcing the sophomore album last year, critics and fans alike have been wondering: is this second release going to be as brilliant and polished pop-perfect as their self-titled debut? The answer to that question, is this: Helplessness Blues is good. Quite good. Rife with their celestial male harmonies (which are most of the show) and clean, classic guitar, Helplessness Blues will repay fans itching forRead More →