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June is highlighted by highly anticipated new efforts from Kanye West and Boards of Canada, two releases that feel more like special events than albums. Even if he didn’t exactly need a way to generate more publicity, West cranked up the hype machine for his provocatively titled album Yeezus by rolling out provocatively titled tracks like “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” in ways as conspicuous as possible, previewing new music at the Met Ball and projecting the video for “New Slaves” on the sides of prominent buildings world wide. IDM mainstays Boards of Canada piqued interest in their latest work Tomorrow’s Harvest by getting followers to take part in what was basically a virtual scavenger hunt, which included cryptic messages, a fan selling a Record Store Day promo for over $5000, and a listening party at an abandoned water park in the Mojave Desert. For those who don’t need to be swayed by off-the-wall publicity campaigns, there are plenty of other eagerly awaited albums coming in June, among the most notable being a new Queens of the Stone Age offering, the welcome return of Camera Obscura, and Mavis Staples’ new disc.


 

 



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Camera Obscura

Desire Lines

(4AD; US: 4 Jun 2013; UK: 3 Jun 2013)

Review [4.Jun.2013]
Camera Obscura
Desire Lines


Camera Obscura still hasn’t left behind the sadness on Desire Lines, but that sadness has changed and developed over the band’s excellent career. Where once they sounded like shy youth with the words of embittered adults, Desire Lines continues with the more mature kind of irony that we heard on My Maudlin Career. The music itself is their most tight and assured. It may glide through “This is Love (Feels Alright)” or “William’s Heart”, but they also use glittering synths with the same earthen weight and feel of twanging guitars. They also tighten things up on “Troublemaker” or “Break It to You Gently”, or they can max-out their pop on standouts like “New Year’s Resolution” and “Every Weekend”. The songs comprise their most varied and well-executed set to date, but there’s also a shift in singer Tracyanne Campbell that makes Desire Lines great. She’s no longer playing coy here, and instead pushes back in more overt ways. On the first line of the album, she threatens, “I could have slapped you in the face.” She is the titular “Troublemaker”, not some boy. And while she tried, she admits she can’t do any more for the subject of “Break It to You Gently”, who seems to be the creator of his own misery. Where Campbell used to wink her way through her own regret, charmingly, now she’s mixing some hard-earned wisdom into that wit, and the combination is daring and perfectly executed here. Desire Lines is a pitch-perfect ode to young adulthood, to when you’re too young to shrug it all off, old enough to know better, and navigating the strange path between those two poles. Matthew Fiander


 

 



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Case Studies

This Is Another Life

(Sacred Bones; US: 11 Jun 2013; UK: 10 Jun 2013)

Review [12.Jun.2013]
Case Studies
This Is Another Life


Jesse Lortz, formerly of the Dutchess and the Duke, returns with his second album as Case Studies on This Is Another Life, and the title fits. While it may mirror the heartache and isolation and bittersweet sentimentality of The World Is Just a Shape to Fill the Night, this album moves away from that album’s spare darkness to a far more lush landscape of warm pianos, sweeping backing vocals, and Lortz’s high up in the mix, confessional keen. Opener “In a Suit Made of Ash” starts with just Lotrz and piano, but it stretches out with strings and hummed melodies and thumping bass. “Everything” opens up into expansive, fill-the-valley-below guitar solos, while “You Say to Me, You Never Have to Ask” moves into the more shadowy side of this space, taking up all the darkness where these other songs stretch for light. There’s plenty of talk of being held back, restrained, even shackled here, but Lortz gives us these tied down emotions in borderless yet eloquent bursts. “Villians”, his hushed duet with Marissa Nadler, is a perfect centerpiece to the record. Its space comes in the darkness around them, in carefully built vocals, but Nadler reminds us of something else in the darkness, of “a needle’s hole that’s shining like the sun.” In these dust-coated yet shimmering songs, Lortz gives us that dark, but it’s his ability to reach for the tiny bits of light, the end of that darkness, that makes This Is Another Life special, and Case Studies a surprising and wide-open project from a great songwriter. Matthew Fiander


 



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Alela Diane

About Farewell

(Rusted Blue; US: 25 Jun 2013; UK: 24 Jun 2013)

Review [24.Jun.2013]
Alela Diane
About Farewell


About Farewell is exactly the kind of album Alela Diane should release herself, on her own Rusted Blue label. As a follow-up to both her full-band album Alela Diane & Wild Divine and her high-water-mark solo record To Be Still, the new record borrows from both while striking out on its own new ground. There’s layers of dusty flourishes to “The Way We Fall” and an expansive thump to “Black Sheep”, but mostly these songs are stripped bare, songs as moments for Alela Diane to be herself, to tell her stories plainly. “Colorado Blue”, with her clear, untreated vocals and simple finger-picked guitar, feels like a revelation. The title track has a similar intimacy, shadowed by soft organs and ringing electric guitar. This isn’t the hazy pastoral feel of To Be Still, but rather something far more direct, a sound that can voice frustration (“There are four white walls in every damn hotel”) or regret (“Oh, the mess I’ve made”) or the power of memory (all of “Hazel Street”) all with the same subtle beauty. It’s a stark album—about things ending, about starting over, about what could come next if you settle your accounts right—but it’s never hopeless, never too bleak. Instead, where so many songs seek to approximate honesty, to represent an image of it, these songs sound like honesty itself, like our first crystal-clear picture of a great talent and great storyteller. And maybe this is just a different kind of image, a different kind of songwriting sleight of hand, but if it is, it’s the kind of illusion you want—not one that distracts, but rather one that illuminates. Matthew Fiander


 



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Eleanor Friedberger

Personal Record

(Merge; US: 4 Jun 2013; UK: 3 Jun 2013)

Review [3.Jun.2013]
Eleanor Friedberger
Personal Record


Eleanor Friedberger made a career of being a free spirit with the Fiery Furnaces, but it had gotten to the point where she and her brother Matthew were trying too hard to make sure everyone knew just how offbeat and weird their music was. While the double meaning of her latest solo outing Personal Record is par for the course when it comes to a wise-cracking wordsmith like Friedberger, it’s better to take the titular phrase in a descriptive sense: Personal Record feels like her, well, most personal record, still eccentric in a way that’s unique to her, but letting her guard down some with the almost singer-songwriterly feel of the effort. Building on her endearing debut Last Summer, the new album features sketches that are intimate and warm, whether or not they are autobiographical or fragments of her very vivid imagination. But, really, what’s most personal about Personal Record is how Friedberger’s natural cool just emanates from her detail-heavy songs, as with the boogie-ing indie rock of “When I Knew” and “Stare at the Sun” or mid-tempo charmers like “Echo or Encore” and “Other Boys”, at once tender and knowing. On deceptively complex pieces like “I Am the Past” and “She’s My Mirror”, orchestrated touches and changes in tempo creep in on you with a stream-of-consciousness approach that makes sense even when you’re not in Friedberger’s brain. But it’s “My Own World” that best expresses Friedberger’s very own outlook on Personal Record, an easy, jangly number that’s quirky enough to stay true to who he she is as a songwriter, while inviting you into her own world just a little bit more than ever before. Arnold Pan


 

 



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Jon Hopkins

Immunity

(Domino; US: 4 Jun 2013; UK: 3 Jun 2013)

Review [11.Jun.2013]
Jon Hopkins
Immunity


On Immunity, Jon Hopkins’ compositions are studies in contrasts, whether he’s exploring the big distinctions between bold electronic components and the fine details of his organic orchestrations, or tinkering with small variations in tone and tempo. Versatility and diversity are defining characteristics that have made the classically trained Hopkins a sought-after collaborator who’s worked on projects from the largest of scale to the most intimate, from contributing on Coldplay’s Viva La Vida to becoming Brian Eno’s confidante to supplying painstakingly atmospheric settings for prolific singer-songwriter King Creosote. Through the course of Immunity, Hopkins shows off his deft hand with all the musical vernaculars he’s got a grip on—and oftentimes on a single track. Opener “We Disappear”, for starters, throbs with radiating bass yet leaves room for fragile synth arrangements to let themselves be heard, while “Abandon Window” matches still art-music piano with vaguely threatening abstract noise that rolls in on the horizon. But the centerpiece of Immunity is the majestic “Open Eye Signal”, which lets pulsing bass, crisp percussion, and bounding effects each develop at its own pace, only to have them slip and slide thrillingly when placed next to one another. So while it’s the regularity and precision of the rhythmic elements that brings you into the thrall of “Open Eye Signal”, it’s those instants when the cycles fall out of phase that catch your attention. Indeed, “Open Eye Signal” is representative of Immunity as a whole, a testament to Hopkins’ conceptual vision to see how all the pieces fit together in a way where the whole is even greater than the sum of its many parts. Arnold Pan


 

 



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Overseas

Overseas

(Undertow; US: 11 Jun 2013; UK: 11 Jun 2013)

Overseas
Overseas


On the surface, bands like Centro-matic, Pedro the Lion, and Bedhead don’t have much in common sonically. But as it turns out, when you put players from those bands together, you get something excellent, something they call Overseas. Will Johnson and David Bazan teamed up with brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane for this record and created songs that ring and crunch heftily, but also created affecting holes in their structures. Johnson pulls his voice over a tense shuffle on the anticipatory “Ghost to Be”, which sets up the chugging waltz of Bazan’s “Redback Strike”. Bazan’s lean, teenage nostalgia rabbit-hole “Old Love” crashes us headlong into the moody negative space of “HELLP”, which gets at the trapped feeling “Old Love” tries to hide. It’s an album that both illuminates regret and redemption while also giving us the quotidian clutter we hide both behind. It’s an album of surfaces, the roiling stuff concealed underneath. “You may not be happy now / Neither am I,” Johnson sings on “The Sound of Giving Way”, not with resignation, rather with the feeling that now is short-lived, that now may have drained him, scraped out his bones, but soon it could be then. The songs here stretch out into empty space without overextending, breaking foundations only so they’ll knit together stronger. These songs can bury you in the overcast, heavy heat of southern Augusts, but they’ll also give you—every once in a while—a cool breeze of relief. They can also chill you, only to give you just that faintest ray of warm sun. The back and forth of Bazan and Johnson has these kind of swings by degrees, which is excellent, but this isn’t about two songwriters: it’s about a great, airtight band that, hopefully, is no quick-fire side-project, because they sound like a main event. Matthew Fiander


Overseas “Ghost To Be” from Undertow on Vimeo.


 

 



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Smith Westerns

Soft Will

(Mom+Pop; US: 25 Jun 2013; UK: 24 Jun 2013)

Review [26.Jun.2013]
Smith Westerns
Soft Will


Now three albums into their career, Smith Westerns can no longer be considered as just a pack of precocious kids with an intuitive knack for creating rich, where’d-I-hear-that-before? harmonies. While their sophomore breakthrough Dye It Blonde was a pleasant surprise because of how quickly and nicely Smith Westerns cleaned themselves up, it shouldn’t come as a shock at this point that they’ve continued to hone their craft on their third outing Soft Will. Except that it’s still a little unexpected how smooth and refined Soft Will is, a polished production that’s more reminiscent of classic rock—and alt-rock that’s more or less classic rock—than what their peer-group contemporaries are coming up with. While the Chicago group made its name as a rock band with pop sensibilities, Smith Westerns turn that formula on its head with Soft Will, letting their unabashed sweet tooth for melodies shine through this time around. “Glossed” sounds just like its title suggests, sun-kissed pop-rock with a touch of twang, while the cool yearning of “Best Friend” pays homage to post-grunge Teenage Fanclub, a well-executed tribute that’s well-deserved. And there are more than enough moments on Soft Will when Smith Westerns show they can fill the void left by former tourmates Girls, just without the baggage and drama, especially on “Idol” and the single “Varsity”, indie-pop nuggets embellished with just enough easy orchestration to make them feel bigger than they are. At the rate they’re going on Soft Will, Smith Westerns are on the fast track to joining some of the influences they’ve been looking up to. Arnold Pan


 

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


June 4


Brent Amaker & the Rodeo, Year of the Dragon (Fin)
Barenaked Ladies, Grinning Streak (Vanguard)
Ben Folds Five, Live (Sony/Legacy)
Big Deal, June Gloom (Mute)
Chthonic, Bú-Tik (Spinefarm)
City and Colour, The Hurry and the Harm (10 Spot)
Dead Stars, High Gain EP (Uninhabitable Mansions)
Aïsha Devi, Aura 4 Everyone (Danse Noire)
Disclosure, Settle (Cherrytree/Interscope)
Ell V Gore, Sex Static EP (Bad Actors)
Melissa Ferrick, the truth is (MPress)
Filter, The Sun Comes Out Tonight (Wind-Up/Spinefarm)
GRMLN, Empire (Carpark)
Hollagramz, Hollagramz (Small Plates)
Hooverphonic, The Night Before (Sony)
Laura Imbruglia, What a Treat (Ready Freddie/MGM)
Joy Kills Sorrow, Wide Awake EP (Signature Sounds)
Killing Joke, The Singles Collection, 1979-2012 (Spinefarm/Universal)
Julian Lennon, Everything Changes (Music from Another Room)
Lonestar, Life as We Know It (4 Star)
The Maine, Forever Halloween (self-released)
Mayors of Miyazaki, Holy Cop (We Be)
Megadeth, Super Collider (Ume)
NAAM, Vow (Tee Pee)
Sean Nelson (Harvey Danger), Make Good Choices (Really)
Oblivians, Desperation (In the Red)
The Olms (Pete Yorn and J.D. King), The Olms (Harvest)
Patchy, Illuminations (Manual)
Portugal. The Man, Evil Friends (Atlantic)
Quadron, Avalanche (Vested in Culture/Epic)
Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork (Matador)
The Idan Raichel Project, Quarter to Six (Cumbancha)
Charlie Robison, Live at Billy Bob’s Texas (Smith Music Group)
Rogue Wave, Nightingale Floors (Vagrant)
The Roys, Gypsy Runaway Train (Rural Rhythm)
Mando Saenz, Studebaker (Carnival)
Nick Sanders Trio, Nameless Neighbors (Sunnyside)
Savoir Adore, Our Nature (Nettwerk)
Set and Setting, Equanimity (Science of Science of Silence)
Slobber Pup, Black Aces (Rare Noise)
Splashh, Comfort (Kanine)
James Lee Stanley & John Batdorf, All Wood & Stones II (Beachwood)
Thundercat, Apocalypse (Brainfeeder)
Trilok Gurtu, Spellbound (Sunnyside)
UBT, Ego Orientation (Psychic Handshake)
Various Artists, The Beautiful Old:  Turn of the Century Songs (Doubloon)
Various Artists, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (from Stephen King, John Mellencamp, T. Bone Burnett written musical) (Hear/Concord)
Scott Walker, Scott Walker: The Collection (UK-only boxset of first five albums) (Universal)
The Young Things, Hello Love/Goodbye Sexual (Battle Worldwide/Frenchkiss)


June 11


Airhead, For Years (R&S)
Aoki Takamasa, RV8 (Raster-Noton)
Beach Day, Trip Trap Attack (Kanine)
Beady Eye, BE (UK release) (Columbia)
Beans on Toast, Fishing for a Thank You (Xtra Mile)
George Benson, Inspiration: Nat King Cole (Concord)
Chris Berry, King of Me (Kanaga System Krush)
The Black Dahlia Murder, Everblack (Metal Blade)
Black Sabbath, 13 (Universal)
Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)
Alex Burkat, Tarot 12” (100% Silk)
Dennis Callaci (of Refrigerator) & Simon Joyner, New Secrets (Shrimper)
Close, Getting Closer (!K7)
Coma Cinema, Posthumous Release (Fork & Spoon/Orchid Tapes)
Davell Crawford, My Gift to You (Basin Street)
CSS, Planta (SQE)
The Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia expanded) (Capitol)
Date Palms, The Dusted Sessions (Thrill Jockey)
Deafheaven, Sunbather, (Deathwish Inc.)
Dfalt, Helsinki Beat Tape (Part One) (Daylight Curfew)
Emika, DVA (Ninja Tune)
Future Bible Heroes, Partygoing (Merge)
Global Noize, SLY Reimagined: The Music of Sly & the Family Stone (Zoho)
Gold Panda, Half of Where You Live (Ghostly International)
Goo Goo Dolls, Magnetic (Warner Bros.)
Mick Harvey, Four (Acts of Love) (Mute)
Heliotropes, A Constant Sea (Manimal)
Jason Isbell, Southeastern (Southeastern/Thirty Tigers)
Jimmy Eat World, Damage (RCA)
Joey Bada$$, Summer Knights mixtape (self-released)
Mathew Jonson, Her Blurry Pictures (Crosstown Rebels)
Roger Kellaway & Eddie Daniels, Duke at the Roadhouse Live in Santa Fe (IPO)
Lace Curtain, Falling/Running 12” (Mexican Summer)
The Lonely Island, The Wack Album (Republic)
Lovelife, Stateless EP (self-released)
Lust for Youth, Perfect View (Sacred Bones)
Matrimony, Montibello Drive EP (Columbia)
Mixhell, Spaces (Last Gang)
Alison Moyet, the minutes (Metropolis)
Mumakil, Flies Will Starve (Relapse)
The Orb & Lee “Scratch” Perry, More Tales From the Orbservatory (The End)
Gary Peacock & Marilyn Crispell, Azure (ECM)
Polysick, Under Construction 12” (100% Silk)
Queensrÿche, Frequency Unknown (Deadline)
The Rempis Percussion Quartet, Phalanx (Aerophonic)
Rodeo Ruby Love, The Pits (Pentimento)
Safety Scissors, In A Manner of Sleeping (BPitch Control)
Secret Colors, Days Off (Group Tightener)
Silkworm, Libertine deluxe reissue (Comedy Minus One)
Sonny & the Sunsets, Antennas to the Afterworld (Polyvinyl)
Carmen Souza, Kachupada (Galileo)
Stellar OM Source, Joy One Mile (RVNG Intl.)
Surfer Blood, Pythons (Warner Bros./Kanine)
These New Puritans, Field of Reeds (UK release) (Infectious)
Various Artists, Ed Rec Vol. X (Ed Banger)
Various Artists, Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center (CD/DVD) (Legacy)
The Welch Boys, Bring Back the Fight (Sailor’s Grave)
Emily Wells, Mama Acoustic Recordings (Partisan)
Jan St. Werner (Mouse on Mars), Blaze Colour Burn (Thrill Jockey)
Western Lows, Glacial (Jaxart)
Wheelhouse, Boss of the Plains (Aerophonic)
Wrekmeister Harmonies, You’ve Always Meant So Much to Me (Thrill Jockey)
Eri Yamamoto Trio, Firefly (AUM Fidelity)
Youn Sun Nah, Lento (HUB/ACT)
Young Hunting, Hazel (Gold Robot)


June 18


Austra, Olympia (Domino)
Kenny Barron, Kenny Barron & the Brazilian Knights (Sunnyside)
Born Cages, The Sidelines EP (Razor & Tie)
bree, bree (Werewolf Tunes)
BWB, Human Nature (Heads Up)
Donna the Buffalo, Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday (Sugar Hill)
Eddie Spaghetti (of the Supersuckers), The Value of Nothing (Bloodshot)
Empire of the Sun, Ice on the Dune (Astralwerks)
June Feeney, Clocks (mittens)
Bill Frisell, Big Sur (OKeh)
Steve Gunn, Time Off (Paradise of Bachelors)
Hanson, Anthem (3CG)
Holy Folk, Motioning (Silver Side)
Hospital Ships, Destruction in Your Soul (Graveface)
The Impossible Girl, The Sky Is Calling (self-released)
Hatty Keane, TroubleMaker (self-released)
Kodaline, In a Perfect World (UK release) (B-Unique/RCA)
Lemuria, The Distance Is So Big (Bridge Nine)
The Mantles, Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)
Delbert McClinton & Glen Clark, Blind, Crippled, and Crazy (New West)
Rachel Musson / Mark Sanders / Liam Noble, Tatterdemalion (Babel Label)
Primal Scream, More Light (U.S. release) (First National)
Public Image Ltd., First Issue (Light in the Attic)
The Purrs, The Boy with Astronaut Eyes (Fin)
Quasimoto, Yessir Whatever (Stones Throw)
Kelly Rowland, Talk a Good Game (Republic)
Royal Trux, 3-Song EP reissue (Drag City)
Rusty Truck, Kicker Town (Crosseyed)
Polly Scattergood, Arrows (Mute)
Spectrals, Sob Story (Slumberland)
Stripmall Architecture, Suburban Reverb (self-released)
Sublime, 3 Ring Circus: Live at the Palace (Universal)
Tripwires, Spacehopper (Frenchkiss)
Tuung, Turbines (Full Time Hobby)
Two Inch Astronaut, Bad Brothers (Exploding in Sound)
Vacation, Candy Waves (Don Giovanni)
Kanye West, Yeezus (Def Jam)
Jack Wilson, Spare Key (self-released)
Anton Zap, Water (Apollo)
Zomby, With Love (2-CD) (4AD)


June 25


µ-Ziq, Chewed Corners (Planet Mu)
Matias Aguayo, The Visitor (Comeme)
Jay Arner, Jay Arner (Mint)
Baby Alpaca, Baby Alpaca EP (Atlas Chair)
William Basinksi, Nocturnes (2062)
Bass Drum of Death, Bass Drum of Death (Innovative of Leisure)
Bomb the Bass, In the Sun (O Solo)
Bronze Radio Return, Up, On & Over (self-released)
Congo Natty, Jungle Revolution (Big Dada)
Death Valley High, Positive Euth (Minus Head)
Alela Diane, About Farewell (Rusted Blue)
Dinky, Dimension D (Visionquest)
The-Drum, Contact (Audragrint)
Steve Earle, The Warner Bros. Years (Shout! Factory)
Elway, Leave Taking (Red Scare)
Stone Gossard, Moonlander (Monkeywrench)
Hausu, Total (Hardly Art)
Hero & Leander, Tumble (Tapete)
L.A.M.P, Shades of Green (Peng)
John Legend, Love in the Future (Columbia/GOOD)
Frank Lenz, Water Tiger (Velvet Blue)
Light Heat, Light Heat (Ribbon Music)
Lightning Dust, Fantasy (Jagjaguwar)
Little Lonely, Little Lonely (self-released)
Locrian, Return to Annihilation (Relapse)
Emi Meyer, Galaxy’s Skirt (Silver Side)
Mixtapes, Ordinary Silence (No Sleep)
Cheyenne Mize, Among the Grey (Yep Roc)
Mood Rings, VPI Harmony (Mexican Summer)
Willie Nile, American Ride (Loud & Proud)
Palms, Palms (Ipecac)
Pity Sex, Feast of Love (Run for Cover)
Rose Windows, The Sun Dogs (Sub Pop)
Royal Canoe, Today We’re Believers (Roll Call)
Selebrities, Lovely Things (Cascine)
Sigur Ros, Kveikur (XL)
Mavis Staples, One True Vine (ANTI-)
Transplants, In the Warzone (Epitaph)
Treetop Flyers, The Mountain Moves (Partisan)
Wale, Bad (Atlantic)
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Get Thy Bearings (Royal Potato Family)
Susan Werner, Hayseed (Sleeve Dog/Thirty Tigers)
Wise Blood, id (Dovecote)
Daniel Wohl, Corps Exquis (New Amsterdam)
Yellowjackets, A Rise in the Road (Mack Avenue)
Nate Young, Blinding Confusion (NNA Tapes)
James Younger, Feelin’ American (Light Organ)

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