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February is Grammys time, but instead of rehashing last year’s big hits, you’ll probably be better served checking out this month’s new batch of releases. February’s release schedule includes new work from familiar names, ranging from Nick Cave’s latest with the Bad Seeds, to a solo effort by Johnny Marr, to a don’t-call-it-a-comeback comeback by LL Cool J. Just as eagerly anticipated are full-lengths by up-and-coming acts such as Iceage and the Grimes-collaborating Doldrums, as well as groups looking to take the next step, like Frightened Rabbit and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. And who knows, maybe some of these bands will be up for their own awards this time next year? (To read up on some of our other February picks, check out our “Listening Ahead” early 2013 preview.)


 

 


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Beach Fossils

Clash the Truth

(Captured Tracks; US: 19 Feb 2013; UK: 18 Feb 2013)

Review [20.Feb.2013]
Beach Fossils
Clash the Truth


On Clash the Truth, beach-pop sounds all grown-up, both musically and thematically. So even though Clash the Truth is awash in typically hazy melodies, there’s nothing particularly laid-back and easy-going about the sophomore full-length, as some of the unexpectedly existentialist songs suggest—the last words chanted on the title track are “Nothing real / Nothing true.” On singles “Careless” and “Generational Synthetic”, Beach Fossils mainman Dustin Payseur takes stock of himself and those around him, his introspection set to a dream-pop soundtrack that’s got just enough anxiously picked notes peeking through to convey a sense of dazed unease. But it’s musically speaking that Beach Fossils’ newfound maturity is most apparent, as Clash the Truth boasts a rounded-out sound that hints at the feedback-y depth of Yo La Tengo and melodic heft of honest-to-goodness shoegaze; just take a gander at the dissonant shimmer of “Ascension” and let it hold you over until that next My Bloody Valentine album finally comes out. Just as impressive is “In Vertigo”, where Payseur duets with Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino and proves that Beach Fossils are on their way to holding their own with the influences.


 

 


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Frightened Rabbit

Pedestrian Verse

(Canvasback/Atlantic; US: 5 Feb 2013; UK: 4 Feb 2013)

Review [6.Feb.2013]
Frightened Rabbit
Pedestrian Verse


Only the bands whose reach forever exceeds their grasp would say that the arena-rocking possibilities before Frightened Rabbit are a mixed blessing. That’s because the ever yearning Scottish outfit is making the most of the riches that come with being on a major label, creating a richly produced effort on Pedestrian Verse that finetunes what it did on 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks, Frightened Rabbit’s first on Atlantic. But before you can say Snow Patrol, rest assured that Frightened Rabbit is taking the bigger stage without sandblasting its charms and idiosyncrasies for the sake of creating melodramatic anthems—the jittery drive of “Holy” and the patiently surging “State Hospital” make that case pretty well. If anything, the panoramic rock works because of the quirky details, whether you’re talking about how Scott Hutchinson’s accented vocals and offbeat imagery give the mid-tempo burner “The Woodpile” a heart-on-sleeve personality all its own or the way gentle acoustic strumming, warm organ notes, and bittersweet tone create the immediate feel to “Late March, Death March”. And when Hutchinson plays at being a Glaswegian Springsteen on “Housing (In)”, it dawns on you that that comparison isn’t so far-fetched when Frightened Rabbit finds just the right medium between making grand rock statements and expressing a decidedly personal perspective.


 

 


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Iceage

You’re Nothing

(Matador; US: 19 Feb 2013; UK: 18 Feb 2013)

Iceage
You’re Nothing


What makes the difficult second album, um, difficult is that it’s not so easy for a young band to carry over what made it compelling in the first place while also forging new ground. But that’s exactly what Iceage has been able to achieve on You’re Nothing: Still young enough to bristle with an authentically pissed-off vibe, the Copenhagen post-post-punks have been able to advance their craft by channeling their energies into more complex structures and unexpectedly sneaky melodies. On its stunning new effort, Iceage has pushed itself by stretching the two-minute punch-outs of its debut New Brigade into more developed pieces like “Burning Hand” and, especially, “Morals”, an experimental punk epic that somehow counterbalances fuzz and minor-key piano, sludgy dynamics and martial drums. But none of what made Iceage a band to watch has been lost in the transition—just listen to “Wounded Hearts” and the self-explanatory “It Might Hit First”, and see if the aggro sound and approach have been attenuated at all. Rather, what you’ll notice is the same hard-hitting aesthetic, just with some tuneful touches that ultimately make the blows more devastating, instead of cushioning them. In short, You’re Nothing is really something.


 

 


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Matmos

The Marriage of True Minds

(Thrill Jockey; US: 19 Feb 2013; UK: 18 Feb 2013)

Matmos
The Marriage of True Minds


It goes without saying that Matmos is a high-minded, high-art act—after all, the egg-headed duo, featuring Johns Hopkins prof Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt, made a name for itself with an album that incorporated plastic surgery samples into the mix (2001’s A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure). And certainly Matmos’ new effort The Marriage of True Minds serves up plenty of food for thought, full of head-scratching sounds and an out-there conceit about telepathy. But while The Marriage of True Minds isn’t exactly the most accessible album, it’s also not so over-your-head intimidating and impenetrable as Matmos’ reputation might suggest: Once you get into the album, there’s more than you’d think to grab onto, whether it’s the oddly warm modern classical tones of “Very Large Green Triangles”, the combo of free-jazz skronk and world-music polyrhythms on “Mental Radio”, or the interplay of glitchy beats and dubby bass on “Teen Paranormal Romance”. Most inviting of all, though, are the visceral ping-ponging melody of “Aetheric Vehicle” and the interstellar groove on the Dan Deacon-aided “Tunnel”, pieces that prove there’s no mind/body split going on with The Marriage of True Minds as they give you as much to boogie to as ponder over.


 

 


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Shout Out Louds

Optica

(Merge; US: 26 Feb 2013; UK: Import)

Review [7.Mar.2013]
Shout Out Louds
Optica


What stands out about the Shout Out Louds is the way they balance crafting sleek, shiny pop with letting what’s naturally warm and endearing about them shine through in their music. Both sides to the Swedish veterans are on full display on Optica, which shows off a polished, almost dance-poppy aesthetic that still retains indie’s organic and spontaneous feel. Part lush, part sparse, “Illusions” could well be a neo-new-wave redux of your favorite Abba song, as angular riffs and dancing-queen melodies not only find a way to coexist, but flourish together. The precise pop of “Burn” reminds you of the Shins, only more dressed up, while singer Adam Olenius exudes an alterna-Euro cool that could give Phoenix boys a run for their money on “Where You Come In”. But it’s “14th of July” that’s the focal point of Optica, as the Shout Out Louds milk every bit of jangly melody out of dance-punk riffs as Olenius cavorts in the south of France like a more sensitive Jarvis Cocker with better manners, but some of the same intentions. That’s the charm of the Shout Out Louds, coming of so nice and unassuming that you barely realize they’re putting the moves on.


 

Selected Releases for February 2013
(Release dates subject to change)


February 5
Airstrip, Willing (Holidays for Quince)
Amateur Best, No Thrill (Double Denim)
Broadway Calls, Comfort/Distraction (No Sleep)
The Bronx, IV (White Drugs/ATO)
Joe Budden, No Love Lost (eOne)
Terri Lyne Carrington, Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (GrooveJazz)
Coheed and Cambria, The Afterman: Descension (Hundred Handed/Everything Evil)
The Como Mamas, Get an Understanding (Daptone)
Companion, Companion (self-released)
Harry Connick, Jr., Smokey Mary (Sony)
Eels, Wonderful Glorious (E Works/Vagrant)
Feeding People, Island Universe (Innovative Leisure)
Funeral for a Friend, Conduit (The End)
Gloria Morti, Lateral Constraint (Metal Blade)
Grouper, Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill (Kranky)
Grouper, The Man Who Died in His Boat (Kranky)
Guards, In Guards We Trust (Black Bell)
Hayden, Us Alone (Arts & Crafts)
I Am Kloot, Let It All In (Shepherd Moon)
Jim James, Regions of Light and Sound of God (ATO)
Kris Kristofferson, Feeling Mortal (KK)
Lisa Loeb, No Fairy Tale (429)
The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Twilight of the Idols/Down Among the Deadmen Traveller (Metal Blade)
Madison, We’ve Been Nothing (G)
Tim McGraw, Two Lanes of Freedom (Big Machine)
Misfits, DEAD.ALIVE! (self-released)
Tom Morgan, Orange Syringe (Fire)
Night Beds, Country Sleep (Dead Oceans)
Pascal Pinon, Twosomeness (Morr Music)
Placebo, Once More with Feeling: Singles 1995-2004 (Xenon)
Matt Pond, The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand (BMG)
Ron Sexsmith, Forever Endeavour (Cooking Vinyl)
The Shilohs, So Wild (Light Organ)
Wayne Shorter, Without a Net (Blue Note)
Silverstein, This Is How the Wind Shifts (Hopeless)
Chris Stamey, Lovesick Blues (Yep Roc)
The SteelDrivers, Hammer Down (Rounder)
Summer Hours, Closer Still (La Pieta)
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, We the Common (Ribbon)
Richard Thompson, Electric (New West)
Tosca, Odeon (!K7)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II (Jagjaguwar)
Townes Van Zandt, Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions & Demos 1971-1972 (Omnivore)
Various Artists, Kitsune Parisien III (Kitsune)
Holly Williams, The Highway (Georgiana)
Zombified, Carnage Slaughter and Death (Metal Blade)


February 12
Deni Bonet, It’s All Good (M*r2)
Day, Land Of 1000 Chances (Piecelock)
Darwin Deez, Songs for Imaginative People (Lucky Number)
Dog Bite, Velvet Changes (Carpark)
Fear of Men, Early Fragments (Kanine)
The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, The Jazz Age (BMG)
Foals, Holy Fire (Warner/Transgressive)
Jacco Gardner, Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble in Mind)
Lisa Germano, no elephants (Badman)
Tim Green, Songs from This Season (True Melody)
Merle Haggard, The Complete ‘60s Capitol Singles (Capitol/Omnivore)
Christian Howes with Richard Galliano, Southern Exposure (Resonance)
Roger Knox and PVC, Stranger in My Land (Bloodshot)
The Little Ones, The Dawn Sang Along (Branches Recording Collective)
Loveskills, Multiplicity (No Shame)
LL Cool J, Authentic Hip-Hop (Connect)
The March Divide, Music For Film (Dead Letter)
Maston, Shadows (Trouble in Mind)
Mazes, Ores & Minerals (Fatcat)
Sandra McCracken, Desire Like Dynamite (NoiseTrade)
Pat Metheny, The Orchestrion Project (Nonesuch)
Millionyoung, Variable (Rix/Old Flame)
Mother Mother, The Sticks (Last Gang)
Nhiti, Ghosts and Versions 12” (lo bit landscapes)
Pinnick Gales Pridgen, Pinnick Gales Pridgen (Magna Carta)
Pissed Jeans, Honeys (Sub Pop)
Psychic Friend, My Rocks Are Dreams (Dangerbird)
PVT, Homosapien (Felte)
Ulrich Schnauss, A Long Way to Fall (Domino)
Omar Sosa, Eggun: The Afri-Lectric Experience (Ta)
The Stone Foxes, Small Fires (INgrooves Fontana)
Texas Is the Reason, Do You Know Who You Are?: The Complete Collection (Revelation)
Otis Taylor, My World Is Gone (Telarc)
Veronica Falls, Waiting for Something to Happen (Slumberland)
Dustin Welch, Tijuana Bible (Super Rooster)
Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, Cheater’s Game (Thirty Tigers)
The Wonder Years, Sleeping on Trash: A Collection of Songs Recorded 2005-2010 (No Sleep)


February 19
Anders & Kendall, Wild Chorus (Nine Mile)
Apparat, Krieg und Frieden (Music for Theatre) (Mute)
Atlas Genius, When It Was Now (Warner Bros.)
Baptists, Bushcraft (Southern Lord)
Beat Mark, Howls of Joy (Ample Play)
Bentcousin, Everybody’s Got One (Team Love)
The Black Twig Pickers, Rough Carpenters (Thrill Jockey)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed)
Devourment, Conceived in Sewage (Relapse)
Dobie, We Will Not Harm You (Big Dada)
Eat Skull, III (Woodsist)
Yelena Eckemoff Trio, Glass Song (L&H Production)
Dan Friel, Total Folklore (Thrill Jockey)
Inc., No World (4AD)
Susan James, Driving Toward the Sun (self-released)
Mark Kozalek, Like Rats (Caldo Verde)
Mark Kozalek, Live at Phoenix Public House Melbourne (Caldo Verde)
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Ripely Pine (BaDaBing!)
Jamie Lidell, Jamie Lidell (Warp)
Bobby Long, Wishbone (ATO)
Lotus, Build (Sci Fidelity)
Lusine, The Waiting Room (Ghostly International)
Mano Le Tough, Changing Days (Permanent Vacation)
Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, In a World of Mallets (Basin Street)
Maxmillion Dunbar, House of Woo (RVNG Intl.)
Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, What the Brothers Sang (Drag City)
Misfit Mod, Islands & Islands (Stars & Letters)
Mitzi, Truly Alive (Future Classic)
Any Moura, Desfado (Decca)
My Gold Mask, Leave Me Midnight (Goldy Tapes)
Parenthetical Girls, Privilege (Slender Means Society/Marriage)
Psychic Ills, One Track Mind (Sacred Bones)
Puscifer, Donkey Punch the Night EP (self-released)
Sin Fang, Flowers (Morr Music)
The Soft Hills, Chromatisms (Tapete)
STRFKR, Miracle Mile (Polyvinyl)
Team Ghost, Rituals (Wsphere)
Toy Love, Toy Love reissue (Flying Nun/Captured Tracks)
Useless Eaters, Hypertension (Jeffery Drag)
Various Artists, Son of Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys (Anti-)
The View, Cheeky for a Reason (429)


February 26
Nicholas Altobelli, Without a Home (Dalton)
Joan Armatrading, Starlight (429)
Atoms for Peace, AMOK (XL)
Autre Ne Veut, Anxiety (Mexican Summer)
Bilal, A Love Surreal (eOne)
Centurian, Contra Ratione (Listenable)
Concrete Knives, Be Your Own King (Bella Union/Cooperative Music)
Jesse Dee, On My Mind/In My Heart (Alligator)
Doldrums, Lesser Evil (Arbutus)
El Sportivo and the Blooz, Nights and Weekends (White Iris)
The Embassy, Sweet Sensation (International)
Gold Fields, Black SunAstralwerks
Golden Grrrls Golden Grrrls (Slumberland)
Grave Babies, Crusher (Hardly Art)
Benny Green, Magic Beans (Sunnyside)
Wayne Hancock, Ride (Bloodshot)
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Old Yellow Moon (Nonesuch)
Steafan Harvey, Nuclear Family (Honeyworks)
Justin Hayward, Spirits of the Western Sky (Eagle Rock)
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Good Light (Magnolia)
Idiot Glee, Life Without Jazz EP (Hop Hop)
Nuru Kane, Exile (Riverboat)
Lotte Kestner, The Bluebird of Happiness (Saint Marie)
KMFDM, Kunst (Metropolis)
The Lions, This Generation (Stones Throw)
Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran, Hagar’s Song (ECM)
The Lovely Bad Things, The Late Great Whatever (Volcom)
Johnny Marr, The Messenger (Sire/ADA)
The Mavericks, In Time (Valory)
Mister Lies, Mowgli (Lefse)
Mount Moriah, Miracle Temple (Merge)
Mozart’s Sister, Hello EP (Merok)
NEXT Collective, Coverart (Concord Jazz)
Popstrangers, Antipodes (Carpark)
R We Who R We, R We Who R We (New Focus)
Ruins, Place of No Pity (Listenable)
Bobby Rush, Down In Louisiana (Deep Rush/Thirty Tigers)
Sally Shapiro, Somewhere Else (Paper Bag)
Sunshine, Sunshine (self-released)
Various Cruelties, If It Wasn’t for You (Almanac)
Steve Wilson, The Raven That Refused to Sing (Kscope)
Woodpigeon, Thumbtacks + Glue (Fierce Panda/Boompa)
Zucchero, La Sesion Cubana (Decca)

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