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Summer break is over for the record release schedule in August. After a bit of a lull in July, August wastes no time getting going with a full slate of releases that includes late-summer chart-toppers from Ariana Grande and Brad Paisley, long-awaited returns from electronic innovators like Basement Jaxx and the Bug, as well as anticipated new efforts by metal heavies, young (Pallbearer) and old (Opeth). And coinciding with back-to-school season, August is prime time for college rock premieres, be they from up-and-comers like Spider Bags and Connections or some of the genre’s most reliable mainstays, Spoon and the New Pornographers.


 
August 5

 



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EDJ

EDJ

(Easy Sound)

Review [5.Aug.2014]
EDJ
EDJ


Eric D. Johnson is doing a lot of things differently with his new project EDJ. After the end of his previous band, Fruit Bats, Johnson approached writing this new record differently. He set out to write an album’s worth of songs in just a few weeks, instead of laboring over months. But he also brought in a lot of friends from bands like Vetiver and Califone to record EDJ with him. The resulting album pulls off a tough feat. It sounds uniquely like Johnson’s work, but also redefines him as a songwriter. There’s something of the Fruit Bats’ shambling classic-rock haze here, but it’s twisted into something new on the dusty pop of “For the Boy Who Moved Away” or the spacey atmospherics of “Odd Love”. There’s a folk center to “A West Country Girl” and “Child in the Wild”, but both songs—and the album—are smudged with careful layers of guitar, piano, horns, and keys. EDJ has taken a bleary-eyed look back at his musical past, and managed to create a clarion clear present with it. This isn’t a Fruit Bats album masked as a solo effort, this is both natural progression and fresh start for a songwriter that has long had his own voice. Here, he’s just found a new and fresh context for it. Matthew Fiander


 

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The Rosebuds

Sand + Silence

(Western Vinyl)

Review [7.Aug.2014]
The Rosebuds
Sand + Silence


The Rosebuds, made up of duo Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, have been constantly evolving their sound since forming in 2001, but it may be their reimagined version of Sade’s Love Deluxe that informs the new, sultry sound of Sand + Silence. The new record, co-produced by Justin Vernon and featuring members of Bon Iver and Sylvan Esso, continues to mine the new-wave and pop influences that have always circled around the Rosebuds’ records, but there’s a shadowy groove to these tunes that feels both timeless and utterly new to the band. “In My Teeth” soars on airy keys but rumbles on low piano chords. “Give Me A Reason” has a lean, shuffling, and bittersweet pulse punctuated by cascading guitar rundowns. “Wait for a Minute” turns dust to glitter by coating acoustic strumming in flute-like atmospherics. Sand + Silence can be as spacious as its title implies, but it’s rarely desolate, and the band still mixes in its signature power-pop bursts in bright gems like “Blue Eyes” and the countrified “Death of an Old Bike”. For a band so open to change, it’s hard to know what to expect, but Sand + Silence remains, through and through, another great Rosebuds record. Which means it will both surprise you in some moments, and in others remind you how much you’ve missed them since 2011’s Loud Planes Fly Low. Matthew Fiander


 

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Spider Bags

Frozen Letter

(Merge)

Review [6.Aug.2014]
Spider Bags
Frozen Letter


Frozen Letter is Spider Bags’ first record for Merge, and it feels like a fresh new chapter. The album, recorded mostly live with engineer/producer Wesley Wolfe, shows Spider Bags as a solidified and potently volatile rock trio. After years of revolving players around frontman Dan McGee, the current line-up—McGee with drummer Rock Forbes and bassist Steve Oliva—came out of the recording of the band’s excellent 2011 record, Shake My Head. This album tightens up the bluesy, garage-rock energy of that record, but also blows it wide open into unexpected spaces. In recording live, the band could knock out lean hooks like on “Back with You Again in the World” or the blistering fuzz of “Chem Trails”. But the band could also stretch out into the weird, narcotic spaces of the bizarro-country tune “Coffin Car” or “We Got Problems”, a song so tangled up and chaotic with guitar shredding (including leads from Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan) it has no business being as infectious as it is. The album builds from short pop-rock tunes to these exploratory rock epics, and that progression allows Frozen Letter‘s overall power to sneak up on you. Every moment hits hard, but it’s the collective force of them—all those lean hooks and heady layers—that will finally floor you. Matthew Fiander


 

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Spoon

They Want My Soul

(Loma Vista)

Review [4.Aug.2014]
Spoon
They Want My Soul


Spoon has become synonymous with consistency, the rare long-running act without signature moments that immediately leap out if only because its output has sustained such a high level from album to album, track to track. But the taken-for-granted quality of the group’s catalog can make it easy to mistake Spoon’s steadiness for artistic stasis, when that’s actually been anything but the case for an outfit that has developed and diversified its approach through the duration of its career. Indeed, Spoon has been able to find the sweet spot between maintaining its patented herky-jerky indie sound and trying out imaginative variations on that main theme, moving from straight-up alt-rock to R&B stylings, from skeletal post-punk to lush chamber-pop. That happy medium Spoon has always struck between staying the course and extending itself finds yet another form of expression on the Austin vets’ latest, They Want My Soul, as they supplement their tried-and-true aesthetic with more electronic textures. While that might seem like a bit of a departure for Spoon, pre-release teasers like the atmospheric “Inside Out” and the title track suggest it really isn’t, not with Britt Daniel’s clipped scat and undercover soul-man croon still holding court. And when you hear early singles like the strutting “Rent I Pay” and the yearning “Do You”, They Want My Soul makes a good case that the more things change for Spoon, the more they stay the same. Arnold Pan


 
August 19

 



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Connections

Into Sixes

(Anyway)

Review [21.Aug.2014]
Connections
Into Sixes


In his review of Connections’ Year One, Matthew Fiander points to the Columbus band’s promising future, suggesting that the 32-track summary of the group’s very productive first year gets you “ready for the next thing—the next shift in Connections’ sound”. That shift has come sooner than later on Connections’ Into Sixes, their third full-length in less than two years. While a lot of Connections’ appeal has to do with an instinctive knack for creating indie rock that brings to mind the genre’s classics without ever making you think there’s anything rote about their sound, that’s not to say they haven’t grown and developed their songwriting skills with Into Sixes—if anything, the songs here are tighter, their melodies more substantial and their sharp hooks snaggier. Thanks to more experience playing together as a band and the camaraderie that can go along with that, Connections find themselves with more earworming vocal lines and guitar leads than you and they know what to do with on Into Sixes. So just when opener “Ayliah”, with its ‘70s power-pop moves, takes hold, “Apt. by the Interstate” is already coming fast on its heels, with Connections going with the flow like Real Estate landlocked in the Midwest. And not long after appears the single “Bet the Sky”, which gives you an idea of what Weezer would’ve been like had they started out at as a lo-fi act that riffed off Dinosaur Jr. instead of the Pixies. That headlong, unceasing pursuit of ever catchier riffs and choruses has served Connections well on Into Sixes, as these under-the-radar contenders have already taken that next step now. Arnold Pan


 

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Jenny Hval and Susanna

Meshes of Voice

(SusannaSonata)

Review [22.Aug.2014]
Jenny Hval and Susanna
Meshes of Voice


Jenny Hval possesses one of the most versatile voices in experimental pop, one that’s as likely to freak you out as draw you in, to discomfit you as entrance you. Something of the same can be said for Hval’s Norwegian compatriot Susanna, whose voice conveys a more understated sense of drama in its richer tones. Yet while both are artists who are accustomed to drawing attention to their own strong musical profiles, their soon-to-be-released 2009 project Meshes of Voice is a study of how distinctive identities can complement one another to achieve a result where the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, the title really does sum up the spirit and experience of this recording, whether Hval and Susanna are fluidly taking turns with the lead or blending their singing seamlessly. And it’s not just the vocals that meld together so well, but also Hval’s and Susanna’s musical visions, which combine to create eerie, transfixing soundscapes that can be delicately organic with piano and zither as well as sublimely imposing when the electronics and effects kick in. The haunting “I Have Walked This Body” encapsulates how complete and engrossing Meshes of Voice as a whole can be: As Hval’s vocals are traced and chased by Susanna’s to heighten the drama, a deep drone creates a vast sense of space that’s meticulously but fully filled in as distorted effects reach a crescendo. It’s a prime example of how Meshes of Voice is its own unique, discrete entity, a truly collaborative effort with both artists subsuming their voices—literally and figuratively—for the greater good. Arnold Pan


 

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Pallbearer

Foundations of Burden

(Profound Lore)

Review [19.Aug.2014]
Pallbearer
Foundations of Burden


Little Rock, Arkansas’ Pallbearer made a huge impact with its debut album, Sorrow and Extinction. That album, as grand as it was, dug its claws into the turf while Brett Campbell’s arena-sized voice rose out of the clods of thrown dirt and clouds of dust. The band’s new album, Foundations of Burden, sprouts wings from those clawed arms and soars. There’s still a dark rumble to these songs, make no mistake, but the hooks from “Worlds Apart” hold up Campbell’s high-in-the-mix vocals before they swoop down into moody phrasings in the song’s middle. “The Ghost I Used to Be” starts with mountains of bass and guitar and drums, before scraping out valleys of sound for Campbell’s vocals to echo in. Closer “Vanished” takes both of those poles to delightfully dark extremes, while its predecessor—the brief “Ashes”—revels in and brings to light the subtle, overcast hues that complicate and inform the punishing muscle of these songs. Foundations of Burden is an amazing achievement for a band so young, and it makes you wonder if a new release can be considered classic rock. It’s not that the band is already set to rub shoulders with Sabbath, but they’ve managed to create something both timeless and immediate, and maybe even essential. Time will tell on that last one, but the songs on this album aren’t likely to lose their impact in the interim. Matthew Fiander


 
August 26

 



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J Mascis

Tied to a Star

(Sub Pop)

Review [4.Sep.2014]
J Mascis
Tied to a Star


Since reforming its original lineup, Dinosaur Jr. has been on a tear, both on stage and on record. But J Mascis has kept busy in lots of other ways, playing on others’ records, recording side projects, and continuing his solo career. Since his last solo effort Several Shades of Why was a quiet, mostly acoustic affair, it didn’t get quite the same recognition his main band has. But that album was an undersold gem, and Tied to a Star expands on that album’s soft musical vision. These songs are acoustic at their base, but to hear the treated vocals and wafting keys that stretch out on opener “Me Again” is to hear Mascis breaking new ground. His often creaking voice smoothes out into beautiful fragility at times here as well, softening the churning drive of “Every Morning” or adding an extra aching layer to “And Then”. He also stretches out into bluesy plucking on “Drifter” and stately, finger-plucked folk on “Wide Awake”. These are spare songs built out into lush compositions, and they present a vulnerable, bittersweet counterpoint to the guitar heroics we hear in Dinosaur Jr. It’s not a departure for Mascis so much as it is an inversion, and to turn down the volume and turn up the melancholic harmonies, he’s created yet another great solo record, one that builds on the past rather than repeating it. Matthew Fiander


 

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Ty Segall

Manipulator

(Drag City)

Review [28.Aug.2014]
Ty Segall
Manipulator


It has only been a year since Ty Segall released his last album, but that duration feels a lot longer when measured in Ty Segall years, since we’re used to the prolifically productive garage rock artist coming up with multiple albums—even projects—annually. The long wait, relatively speaking, is over with Manipulator, and it’s clear that Segall has made the most of the extra time he’s had with it. All the tools Segall has availed himself of in the past are put to good use here, it’s just that what he’s crafted this time around feels bigger and more potent. On Manipulator, more really is more: It’s an album that’s at once heftier and more subtle, more down-and-dirty bluesy and more pristinely poppy, more primal and more composed—sometimes on a single track. More than anything, the eclectic, eccentric qualities of Manipulator seem to speak to the tone and approach of the project: Coming off last year’s Sleeper, a serious and more personal effort on which Segall got more autobiographical than ever, Manipulator gets across a playfulness here that has always been essential to his musical personality, evidenced by the hijinks on the album trailer below. With the organs sounding more carnivalesque and the Mikal Cronin-arranged strings packing more zing, Segall’s sense of musical mischief-making feels as vibrant and imaginative as ever, offering maybe the most vivid picture of who he is as an artist yet. Arnold Pan


 

Selected Releases for August 2014
(Release dates subject to change)


8/5
Adult Jazz, Gist Is (Spare Thought)
Stephon Alexander & Rioux, Here Comes Now (Co-nnect)
Nicholas Altobelli, Mesocyclone EP (Dalton)
Amanda X, Amnesia (Siltbreeze)
Amp Live, Headphone Concerto (Plug Research)
Bear in Heaven, Time Is Over One Day Old (Dead Oceans/Hometapes)
Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)
Chrome, Feel It Like a Scientist (King of Spades)
Columns, Please Explode (Relapse)
Christopher Denny, If the Roses Don’t Kill Us (Partisan)
The Empty Hearts, The Empty Hearts (429)
Brigitte Fontaine, Brigitte Fontaine reissue (Superior Viaduct)
FKA Twigs, LP1 (Young Turks)
Heldon, Allez-Tela reissue (Superior Viaduct)
Rowland S. Howard, Pop Crimes (Fat Possum)
Devonte Hynes (Blood Orange), Palo Alto original soundtrack (Domino)
The Interrupters, The Interrupters (Hellcat)
Interstatic, Arise (Rare Noise)
Al Jarreau, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke (Concord)
Katie Kate, Nation
David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights, End Times Undone (Merge)
Ladada, Ladada EP (Gold Robot)
The Life and Times, Lost Bees (Slimstyle)
Lil Silva, Mabel EP (True Panther/Good Years)
Nils Lofgren, Face the Music 10-disc box set (Fantasy)
Moon Duo, Live in Ravenna (Sacred Bones)
Mozart’s Sister, Being (Asthmatic Kitty)
The Murder City Devils, The White Ghost Has Blood on Its Hands Again
Naomi Punk, Television Man (Captured Tracks)
The Number Ones, The Number Ones (Deranged)
Sinead O’Connor, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss (Nettwerk)
Owl John, Owl John (Canvasback/Atlantic)
Elvis Presley, Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (RCA/Legacy)
The Psycho Sisters, Up on the Chair, Beatrice (Rock Beat)
Roses (ex- Abe Vigoda), Dreamlover EP (Group Tightener)
Billy Joe Shaver, Long in the Tooth (Lightning Rod)
Shines, Shines EP (Color Station)
Somi, The Lagos Music Salon (OKeh)
Bob Stewart, Connections: Mind the Gap (Sunnyside)
Sticky Fingers, Land of Pleasure (Sureshaker)
Angus & Julia Stone, Angus & Julia Stone (American/Republic)
Tank, Stronger (Atlantic)
Teenage Fanclub, Man-Made and Shadows reissues (Merge)
Tuatara, Underworld (Sunyata)
Twin Peaks, Wild Onion (Grand Jury)
Twista, Dark Horse (Universal)
Cuong Vu & Richard Karpen, Indigo Mist (RareNoise)
Wildcat! Wildcat!, No Moon at All (Downtown)
Wovenwar, Wovenwar (Metal Blade)


8/12
Adebisi Shank, This Is the Third Album by a Band Named Adebisi Shank (Sargent House)
Steve Aoki, Neon Future I (Ultra)
Ark Life, The Dream of You & Me (Greater Than Collective)
Willis Ear Beal, Experiments in Time (CD Baby)
Black Wine, Yell Boss (Don Giovanni)
Botanist, VI: Flora (The Flenser)
Childhood, Lacuna (House Anxiety/Marathon Artists)
Chrome, Feel It Like a Scientist (King of Spades)
Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, & Craig Taborn, Farmers by Nature (AUM Fidelity)
Cold World, How the Gods Chill (Deathwish Inc.)
Dama/Libra (Joel RL Phelps and G. Stuart Dahlquist), Claw (Northern Spy)
Dilated Peoples, Directors of Photography (Rhymesayers)
Duo Vow, Make Me Yours EP (The Native Sound)
Evil United, Honored by Fire (MVD Entertainment)
Fatty DL, In the Wild (Ninja Tune)
He Is Legend, Heavy Fruit (Tragic Hero)
islander, Violence and Desturction (Victory)
Jay Willie Blues Band, Rumblin’ and Slidin’ (Zoho)
Mick Jenkins, The Water[s] mixtape (Cinematic)
Darius Jones & Matthew Shipp, The Darkseid Recital (AUM Fidelity)
Lucero, Live from Atlanta (INgrooves)
The Pharmacy, Spells (Old Flame)
Prawn, Kingfisher (Topshelf)
Steve Richman and Harmonie Ensemble, Music for Peter Gunn (Harmonia Mundi)
Rivergazer, Random Nostalgia (Father/Daughter)
Porter Robinson, Worlds (Astralwerks)
Soja, Amid the Noise and Haste (ATO)
Tre Mission, Stigmata (Big Dada)
Mirel Wagner, When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day (Sub Pop)
Walking Bicycles, To Him That Wills the Way (Highwheel)
Walter Salas-Humara (The Silos), Curve & Shake (The Orchard)
Worth Taking, Art Imitates Art


8/19
Accept, Blind Rage (Nuclear Blast)
AroarA, In the Pines (Club Roll)
Bahamas, Bahamas is Afie (Brushfire)
Liam Bailey, Definitely Now (Flying Buddha/Sony Masterworks)
Beach Day, Native Echoes (Kanine)
Bishop Allen, Lights Out (Dead Oceans)
Black State Highway, Black State Highway (HNE)
Black Trip, Goin’ Under (Prosthetic)
Benjamin Booker, Benjamin Booker (ATO)
Cory Branan, The No-Hit Wonder (Bloodshot)
Buddy, Last Call for the Quiet Life (Stove Punchin’)
Bob Carpenter, Silent Passage reissue (No Quarter)
Castanets, Decimation Blues (Asthmatic Kitty)
Celebration, Albumin (Bella Union)
Cinema Cinema, Night at the Fights (Lumiere)
Crime, Murder by Guitar reissue (Superior Viaduct)
Smoke Dawson, Fiddle (Tompkins Square)
The Dead C, The Twelfth Spectacle 4x Live LP (Ba Da Bing!)
Dead Fingers, Big Black Dog (Communicating Vessels)
Desertshore, Migrations of Glass (Darkhan)
Tashi Dorji, Tashi Dorji (Hermit Hut)
Dr. John, Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit of Satch (Concord)
Jordan Dykstra, Audition (Marriage)
Electric Würms (Flaming Lips side project), Musik, die Scwher zu Twerk (Warner Bros.)
Emily & the Complexes, Dirty Southern Love EP
Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate),You Will Eventually Be Forgotten (Count Your Lucky Stars/Topshelf)
The Fat White Family, Champagne Holocaust (Fat Possum)
Orenda Fink, Blue Dream (Saddle Creek)
Ruthie Foster, Promise of a Brand New Day (Blue Corn)
Roddy Frame (Aztec Camera), Seven Dials (AED)
The Gaslight Anthem, Get Hurt (Island)
Otis Gibbs, Souvenirs of Misspent Youth
Bebel Gilberto, Tudo (Sony Masterworks)
Gruppo d’improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, Gruppo d’improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza reissue (Superior Viaduct)
Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas, Secret Evil (Instant)
Tom Heyman, That Cool Blue Feeling
Julia Holter, Tragedy reissue, (Domino)
Sarah Jaffe, Don’t Disconnect (Kirtland)
Peter Jeffries, Electricity reissue (Superior Viaduct)
JJ, V (Secretly Canadian/Sincerely Yours)
JOY, Under the Spell of Joy (Tee Pee)
Kimbra, The Golden Echo (Warner Bros.)
Lenguas Largas, Come On In (Recess)
Literature, Chorus (Slumberland)
Michelle-Ann, Heavy Load
MoeTar, Entropy of the Century (Magna Carta)
Museum of Love, Museum of Love (DFA)
Music Go Music, Impressions (Thousand Tongues)
Israel Nash, Rain Plans (Loose/Thirty Tigers)
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore)
David Poe, God and the Girl (Charming Martyr)
Smokey Robinson, Smokey & Friends (Verve)
Caroline Rose, I Will Not Be Afraid (Little Hi!)
The Soil & the Sun, Meridian (Audiotree)
Paul Thorn, Too Blessed To Be Stressed
Randy Travis, Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am
Midge Ure, Fragile (eOne)
Various Artists, Total 14 (Kompakt)
Various Artists, Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited (Sony Masterworks)
Wire, Document & Eyewitness 1978-1980 (swim~)
Wiz Khalifa, Blacc Hollywood (Rostrum/Atlantic)
Zebrina, Hamidbar Medaeber (The Desert Speaks) (Tzadik)


8/26
Alma Construct, Alma Construct EP (R&S)
Along Came a Spider, Resurgence (Standby)
Johnny Aries (The Drums), Unbloomed (Frenchkiss)
Ashrae Fax, Never Really Been into It (Mexican Summer)
The Bad Plus, Inevitable Western (Sony)
Banofee, Banofee EP (Two Bright Lakes/Remote Control)
Basement Jaxx, Junto (Atlantic Jaxx/PIAS)
Chlopcy Kontra Basia, Oj Tak! (Riverboat)
Battle Trance, Battle Trance (New Amsterdam)
Doley Bernays, Bond Place Hotel EP
Bitchin’ Bajas, Bitchin’ Bajas (Drag City)
Stefano Bollani, Joy in Spite of Everything (ECM)
The Bug, Angels & Devils (Ninja Tune)
Cassie Ramone (ex-Vivian Girls), The Time Has Come (Loglady)
Cold Specks, Neuroplasticity (Mute)
Cymbals Eat Guitars, LOSE (Barsuk)
Dry the River, Alarms in the Heart (Transgressive)
El May, The Other Person Is You (Rose Quartz)
Elephant Stone, Three Poisons (Hidden Pony)
Evy Jane, Closer EP (Ninja Tune)
Fenech-Soler, Rituals (SO Recordings/Caroline)
Floating Action, Body Questions (New West)
Frnkiero and the Cellabration, Stomachaches (Staple)
Full Force, With Love from Our Friends (Legacy)
Girls’ Tears, Tension (Sinderlyn)
Ariana Grande, My Everything (Republic)
The Griswolds, Be Impressive (Wind-Up)
Heaven’s Jail, Ace Called Zero (Heart Break)
Robyn Hitchcock, The Man Upstairs (Yep Roc)
il sogno del marinaio, canto secondo (clenchedwrench)
John Cowan, Sixty (Compass)
Liturgy, Renihilation reissue (Thrill Jockey)
Rüdiger Lorenz, Invisible Voices (Anthology)
M83, M83, Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts, Before the Dawn Heals Us reissues (Mute)
Tom Maxwell Tom Maxwell & the Minor Drag
Merchandise, After the End (4AD)
Musee Mechanique, From the Shores of Sleep (Tender Loving Empire)
Music Blues (Stephen Tanner of Harvey Milk), Things Haven’t Gone Well (Thrill Jockey)
The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers (Matador)
Opeth, Pale Communication (Roadrunner)
Brad Paisley , Moonshine in the Trunk (Arista Nashville)
Pelican, Arktika (Live in St. Petersburg) (Self-Released)
Gemma Ray, Milk for Your Motors (Bronze Rat)
The Rentals, Lost in Alphaville (Polyvinyl)
Royal Blood, Royal Blood (Warner Bros)
Rubblebucket, Survival Sounds (Communion)
Rustie, Green Language (Warp)
Shovels & Rope, Swimmin Time (Dualtone)
Roni Size, Take Control (Mansion Sounds)
The Stroke Band, Green & Yellow (Anthology)
Underpass, Assimilation EP (Desire)
Walter TV, Appetite (Sinderlyn)
Wand, Ganglion Reef (God?)
White Hills, Glitter Glamor Atrocity (Thrill Jockey)
The Wytches, Annabel Dream Reader (Partisan)
The Young, Chrome Cactus (Matador)


* * *


Photo: Composition of headphones. Image via Shutterstock.

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