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The record release schedule usually cools off as summer heats up, but this July offers its fair share of highly anticipated albums from across the musical spectrum. From Nas’ long-awaited comeback to a new Zac Brown Band album to the debut by touted electropop it-band Purity Ring, this month has a lot to offer. And that’s not even counting the 21-disc Blur boxset (read below), an extravaganza that might be as big as the concert Britpop’s defining band will be putting on to close the London Olympics.


 

 



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Aesop Rock

Skelethon

(Rhymesayers; US: 10 Jul 2012; UK: 9 Jul 2012)

Review [27.Aug.2012]
Aesop Rock
Skelethon


While Aesop Rock has been plenty busy, producing a Felt record for Murs and Atmosphere, working with Kimya Dawson, and making that Hail Mary Mallon record with Rob Sonic, it’s been six years since he’s released a proper album. Luckily, Skelethon does more than enough to slake the thirst of long-time fans who have been dying for new stuff since None Shall Pass. Aesop produced the album himself, and the beats are dark, subterranean things—skronky and brooding, but never trudging—and his ever-labyrinthine lyrics are at their wordy best here. He has refined his flow by degrees over the years, and Skelethon marks his smoothest and most fascinating delivery yet. You may strain through many listens to pull Aesop’s meaning out of these songs, but when you do finally string together the lasting images in great tunes like “Leisureforce” and “Crows 1” and “Crows 2”, you’ll be rewarded with some lasting moments. He’s also slipped in some odd but perfect hooks—check out how he rattles off “Down from a huntable surplus to one” on “Dark Zero Thirty”—pushing the limits of how verbose you can be and still be as catchy as hell. It’s mostly just Aesop Rock here, no other rappers and not many guests, but he proves he’s got more than enough wordplay and personality to carry an album himself. You remember when you thought Aesop had already made his best record? Well, Skelethon is good enough to make you rethink that one. Matthew Fiander


Aesop Rock - “Zero Dark Thirty”


 

 



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Baroness

Yellow & Green

(Relapse; US: 17 Jul 2012; UK: 16 Jul 2012)

Baroness
Yellow & Green


On its last album, Blue Record, Savannah, GA’s Baroness already became one of those divisive bands that blurred the lines between metal and mainstream rock. Well, those preferring the metal side will see little of it on the expansive double-album—or is it two albums released simultaneously?—Yellow & Green. But if they can’t find plenty to love about this record, then they’ve just got blinders on. This is an ambitious and far-reaching set from a band which had already seemed to hit its ceiling. Both records are spacious and surprisingly moody. Yellow charges in with the one-two punch of “Take My Bones Away” and the darker “March into the Sea”, but from there we get the shadowy textures of “Twinkler” and “Cocainium” that manage to punish you with tone instead of blistering riffage. Green starts with the massive arena-rock vamping of “Green Theme” and the towering “Board Up the House”, but it delves down into the same dank valleys as Yellow with similarly great results. Make no mistake, Baroness is staking its claim in the world of catchy, accessibly rock on this huge set. But they are making no compromises in doing so and they show that moving towards the middle doesn’t mean you can’t try new things, especially when you’ve got the arsenal of talents these guys have. Matthew Fiander


Baroness - “Take My Bones Away”


 

 



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Blur

Blur 21: The Box

(Virgin/Parlophone; US: 31 Jul 2012; UK: 30 Jul 2012)

Blur
Blur 21: The Box


It’s a good time to be a Blur fan. The band is reuniting for the big upcoming Hyde Park show, there are new songs soon to be available, and—to top it all off—Blur will unleash a huge reissue campaign of its catalog. All seven of the group’s albums will be available in two-disc editions, with plenty of bonus material, but it is all collected in the massive Blur 21: The Box, which, for true fans of Blur—or Britpop or great music in general—is the way to go. Never mind that you can relive everything from classic early stuff like Modern Life Is Rubbish through the lush heartbreak of 13 or their last great statement Think Tank. On top of that, you’ve got over five hours of unreleased material, from demos taken from the Leisure sessions to unreleased recording sessions made with the likes of XTC’s Andy Partridge. There are also DVDs of live performances on top of the 18 compact discs included here. The studio albums will sound as good as ever to you (the first five are remastered just for this release) and there’s a glut of unreleased stuff—stuff that is consistently exciting. Blur 21: The Box is a huge release, but it’s not bloated with useless tack-ons. This one is a must-own. Matthew Fiander


Blur - “Girls & Boys” (Live)


 

 



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Dirty Projectors

Swing Lo Magellan

(Domino; US: 10 Jul 2012; UK: 9 Jul 2012)

Review [8.Jul.2012]
Dirty Projectors
Swing Lo Magellan


Dirty Projectors’ mastermind David Longstreth has always stood out for his omnivorous, hyperactive imagination, which is infused in his group’s inventive eclecticism through and through. While that pioneering spirit is certainly apparent on Dirty Projectors’ latest Swing Lo Magellan, it’s channeled through more focused arrangements and subtle craftsmanship than before. It’s as if Longstreth has settled down a bit and become more comfortable in his skin as a songwriter this time around: Swing Lo Magellan feels like a calmed down version of Dirty Projectors’ breakthrough effort Bitte Orca, as the organic interaction between Afropop-ish guitar play, understated polyrhythms, and Longstreth’s resonant voice create a sense of complexity and richness here more than any baroque bells-and-whistles. Sure, there are still those tantalizing hints of excess, from the metal riffs on the opener “Offspring Are Blank” to the blossoming strings of “About to Die” to semi-symphonic orchestration of “Dance for You”, but the pieces on Swing Lo Magellan just have a more streamlined feel to them. As a result, Dirty Projectors’ other assets shine through more evocatively on Swing Lo Magellan, from lyrics deep enough that they feel like they need annotations to a warm, natural exuberance for what they’re collectively doing. Sometimes, less can be more. Arnold Pan


Dirty Projectors - “Gun Has No Trigger”


 

 



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Sugar

Copper Blue and File Under: Easy Listening Deluxe Reissues

(Merge; US: 24 Jul 2012; UK: 28 May 2012)

Sugar
Copper Blue and File Under: Easy Listening Deluxe Reissues


The lesson of Bob Mould’s post-Hüsker Dü gig Sugar was that it took the forefather of grunge to perfect the subgenre. In the span of just two super-productive years in the early ‘90s, Sugar released three power-packed recordings—Copper Blue (1992), Beaster EP (1993), and File Under: Easy Listening (1994)—which are being reissued in deluxe editions, accompanied with B-sides and live performances this month by Merge. In particular, Copper Blue still bristles and roars like it did two decades ago, with a relentless tracklist that feels almost like a best-of collection of singles-quality songs. Putting the power-pop into grunge, the album’s timeless modern-rock hits “Helpless” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” are as hard-hitting as they are tuneful, standing toe-to-toe in their staying power with anything from the Alternative Nation era. Yeah, those tracks—along with the vicious “A Good Idea”, the best Pixies song that wasn’t—are seared into memory of anyone who’s heard ‘em, but you might not remember how strong the rest of the album is; if anything, “The Act We Act” and “Changes” have aged better with time. While File Under might not be the definitive statement Copper Blue was, it’s an underappreciated gem, as Sugar rounded out its edges with catchy pop ditties like “Gee Angel” and “Your Favorite Thing”. Talk about favorite things, indeed. Arnold Pan


Sugar - Reissues trailer


 

Selected Releases for July 2012


July 3


Antagonist A.D., Nothing from No One (Mediaskare)
Asia, XXX (Frontier)
Chris Brown, Fortune (RCA)
Deathspell Omega, Drought (Season of Mist)
James Luther Dickinson and North Mississippi All-Stars, I’m Just Dead I’m Not Gone (Memphis Int’l)
Dub Pistols, Worshipping the Dollar (Sunday Best)
Flo Rida, Wild Ones (Atlantic)
Nick Hoppner, Panorama Bar 04 (Ostgut Ton)
Stevie Jackson, I Can’t Get No Stevie Jackson (Banchory)
Jellyfish, Live at Bogart’s 1991 (EMI)
Joey + Rory, His and Hers (Sugar Hill)
Kataklysm, Iron Will: Twenty Years Determined (Nuclear Blast)
M.I.A., Bad Girls: The Remixes EP (N.E.E.T.)
múm, Early Birds (Morr Music)
Nile, At the Gate of Sethu (Nuclear Blast)
Periphery, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal (Sumerian)
Prodigy of Mobb Depp, H.N.I.C. 3 (Infamous)
Rhapsody, Ascending to Infinity (Nuclear Blast)
Noah Stewart, Noah (Verve)
The Sufis, Sufis (Ample Play/Burger)
Hank Williams Jr., Old School New Rules (Warner Bros.)
Keller Williams with the Travelin’ McCourys, Pick (KW Enterprises)
Wolves at the Gate, Captors (Solid State)
Denny Zeitlin, Wherever You Are (Sunnyside)


July 10


Beak>, Beak II (Invada)
Zac Brown Band, Uncaged (Atlantic)
Clare and the Reasons, K-51 (Frog Stand)
Communist Daughter, Lions and Lambs EP (Grain Belt)
David S. Ware’s Planetary Unknown, Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 (AUM Fidelity)
Debo Band, Debo Band (Next Ambience/Sub Pop)
Deep Time, Deep Time (Hardly Art)
Deleted Scenes, Young People’s Church of Air (Park the Van)
Digitalism, DJ Kicks (!K7)
Duran Duran, A Diamond in the Mind: Live 2011 (Eagle Rock)
Dusted, Totally Dust (Polyvinyl/Hand Drawn Dracula)
Francoise Houle 5+1, Genera (Songlines)
Glass Cloud, The Royal Thousand (Equal Vision)
Woody Guthrie, Woody at 100: Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection (Smithsonian/Folkways)
Holograms, Holograms (Captured Tracks)
Hot Panda, Go Outside (Mint)
House of Heroes, Cold Hard Want (Gotee)
Husky, Forever So (Sub Pop)
Kadavar, Kadavar (Tee Pee)
Dan Le Sac, Space Between the Words (Sunday Best)
Eleni Mandell, I Can See the Future (Yep Roc)
Marina and the Diamonds, Electra Heart (Elektra)
Milk Maid, Mostly No (Fat Cat)
Mission of Burma, Unsound (Fire)
Mornin’ Old Sport, Mornin’ Old Sport (Misery Loves Co.)
Joe Morris/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver, Altitude (AUM Fidelity)
Nguzunguzu, Warm Pulse EP (Hippos in Tanks)
P.O.D., Murdered Love (Razor & Tie)
Howard Shore and Metric, Cosmpolis (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Howe)
Bibi Tanga and the Selenites, 40 Degrees of Sunshine (Nat Geo)
Serj Tankian, Harakiri (Reprise)
Twin Shadow, Confess (4AD)
Various Artists, Richard Sen presents: This Ain’t Chicago: The Sound of UK House & Acid 1987-1991 (Strut)


July 17


Alberta Cross, Songs of Patience (ATO)
The Alchemist, Russian Roulette (Decon)
Animal Kingdom, The Looking Away (Mom+Pop)
Bury Tomorrow, The Union of Crowns (Nuclear Blast)
Jimmy Cliff, Rebirth (Universal)
Cooly G, Playin Me (Hyperdub)
Cosmo Jarvis, Think Bigger (25th Frame/The End)
Gatekeeper, Exo (Hippos in Tanks)
Donny Hathaway, Live (Shout Factory!)
Icky Blossoms, Icky Blossoms (Saddle Creek)
JEFF the Brotherhood, Hypnotic Nights (Warner Bros.)
Kinky, Sueño de la Maquina (Nacional)
Leander Rising, Heart Tamer (Sony)
Martin Creed, Love to You (Moshi Moshi)
Matisyahu, Spark Seeker (Fallen Sparks/Thirty Tiger/RED)
John Maus, A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material (Ribbon Music)
Nas, Life Is Good (Def Jam)
Milo Greene, Milo Greene (Chop Shop/Atlantic)
Mommyheads, Vulnerable Boy (Dromedary)
Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE (Def Jam)
Old Crow Medicine Show, Carry Me Back (ATO)
Sam Phillips, Martinis & Bikinis Reissue (Omnivore)
Shintaro Sakamoto, How to Live with a Phantom (Other Music Recording Co.)
Shout Out Out Out Out, Spanish Moss & Total Loss (Normals Welcome)
The Shrine, Primitive Blast (Tee Pee)
Soul Asylum, Delayed Reaction (429)
The Very Best, MTMTMK (Moshi Moshi/Cooperative)


July 24


The Antlers, Undersea EP (Anti-)
Anywhere, Anywhere (ATP)
Lawrence Arabia, The Sparrow (Bella Union)
The Black Twig Pickers, Whompyjawed (Thrill Jockey)
Blood Diamonds, Phone Sex (4AD)
Eternal Summers, Correct Behavior (Kanine)
Family Band, Grace and Lies (No Quarter)
Fang Island, Major (Sargent House)
Foals, Tapes (!K7)
The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten (Mercury)
Golden Retriever, Occupied with the Unspoken (Thrill Jockey)
Guardian Alien, See the World Given to a One Love Entity (Thrill Jockey)
Heavenly Beat, TALENT (Captured Tracks)
Idjut Boys, Cellar Door (Smalltown Supersound)
Shawn Lee, Synthesizer in Space (ESL)
LV, featuring Okmalumkoolkat, Get a Grip EP (Hyperdub)
Micachu and the Shapes, Never (Rough Trade)
OM, Advaitic Songs (Drag City)
Passion Pit, Gossamer (Columbia)
Purity Ring, Shrines (4AD)
Rodriguez, Searching for Sugar Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Sony Legacy)
Laetitia Sadier, Silencio (Drag City)
ShadowBox, Haunted by Colors (Pictures Music)
Slug Guts, Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat (Sacred Bones)
Sofrito, International Soundclash (Strut)
Three Mile Pilot, Maps EP (Temporary Residence)
Kevin Toney 3, New American Suite (k-Tone)
Various Artists, Country Funk 1965-1974 (Light in the Attic)
Woodpecker!, Thanks Anyway (Woodpecker!)
YAWN, Happy Tears EP (Feel Trip)
Young Moon, Navigated Like the Swan (Western Vinyl)


July 31


The Black Swans, Occasion for Song (Misra)
Evoken, Atra Mors (Profound Lore)
Ice Choir, Afar (Underwater Peoples)
Junk Culture, Wild Quiet (Illegal Art)
Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again (Interscope)
The Locust, Molecular Genetics from the Gold Standard Labs (Anti-)
Nachtmystium, Silencing Machine (Century Media)
The newno2, Thefearofmissingout (Xenon)
Joshua Radin, Underwater (Mom+Pop)
River City Tanlines, Coast to Coast (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum)
Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don’t (Maybach Music Group/Def Jam)
Sacred Caves, Sanctuarium EP (hausKat)
Christian Scott, Christian a Tunde Adjuah (Concord)
Joss Stone, The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2 (S-Curve)
Toadies, Play.Rock.Music (Kirtland)
Miguel Zenon & Laurent Coq, Rayuela (Sunnyside)

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