Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for February

PopMatters previews some of February's most eagerly awaited offerings.

February is the month when the record release schedule really comes out of hibernation and starts to heat up with the year’s first batch of anticipated albums. In addition to a list of notable releases for February, PopMatters previews some of the month’s eagerly awaited offerings.

Artist: Archers of Loaf

Album: Vee Vee (Remastered)

Label: Merge


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US Release Date: 2012-02-21

UK Release Date: Import

Archers of Loaf
Vee Vee (Remastered)

Nostalgia and absence have made the heart grow fonder for Archers of Loaf, thanks in large part to last year’s reissue of their cult favorite debut, Icky Mettle. But it’s the Archers’ 1995 outing Vee Vee that’s their indispensible contribution to the indie canon. The remastered Vee Vee gets revisionist history right, giving new life to the Archers’ boldest, most muscular anthems (“Harnessed in Slums”, “Fabricoh”) as well as their most endearing pieces (“Greatest of All Time”, “Underachievers March and Fight Song”). As is the case with these kinds of projects, the deluxe version offers a boatload of archival treats, including some hard-to-find non-album singles and pre-Vee Vee demos. Nonetheless, the main thing is that the main event still crackles and bristles after all the years.

Artist: Grimes

Album: Visions

Label: 4AD/Arbutus


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US Release Date: 2012-02-21

UK Release Date: Import


At first blush, Grimes’ Claire Boucher may seem like the latest in the line of recent underground divas, with a family resemblance to Zola Jesus’ Nika Danilova and Austra’s Katie Stelmanis. But don’t let first impressions or the scary cover art fool you, because Boucher differentiates herself just enough with a warmer and more spontaneous aesthetic that leavens her stylized, noir-ish soundscapes. On Grimes’ compelling debut Visions, Boucher shows a more pop-oriented side to her art-scarred compositions than most in her cohort, taking her cues as much from R&B and soul as electro-pop. So while there’s a palpably dark atmosphere that pervades Visions, it’s never overwrought or overwhelming, with bursts of absurd exuberance and Boucher’s quirky voice bringing in an element of surprise that keeps her songs from becoming too one-note.

Artist: Mouse on Mars

Album: Parastrophics

Label: Monkeytown


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US Release Date: 2012-02-28

UK Release Date: 2012-02-27

Mouse on Mars

Throughout its almost two-decade career, pioneering electronic act Mouse on Mars has stood out for its uncanny knack to coax subliminal grooves and head-nodding rhythms out of an abstract, chin-stroking musical framework. After an almost six-year hiatus, the duo of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma comes back with a return to form that doesn’t miss a single glitchy beat on Parastrophics. As whimsical as it is heady, Parastrophics possesses Mouse on Mars’ trademark qualities in spades, piling on intricate touches of squiggly rhythms, lilting samples, and buoyant synths to create compositions that are almost symphonic. So while Mouse on Mars always gives you something to think about, its sonic experimentation never feels cold or that it’s coming at the expense of a more visceral experience.

Mouse on Mars "Metrotopy" feat. Dodo Nkishi (MONKEYTOWN022) Out Feb 24 by Modeselektor

Artist: Sharon Van Etten

Album: Tramp

Label: Jagjaguwar


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US Release Date: 2012-02-07

UK Release Date: 2012-02-06

Sharon Van Etten

While 2010’s epic was a big step forward for Sharon Van Etten, it’s her much awaited follow-up effort Tramp that has a chance to be, well, epic. One sign that Van Etten has arrived is the caliber of collaborators guesting on Tramp, including Aaron Dessner of the National, Beirut’s Zach Condon, and Julianna Barwick. But what makes Tramp a big deal is Van Etten’s own vision, which is able to transform intimate strains of rootsy folk and confessional rock into something with size and scale. Even moreso than epic, Van Etten sounds comfortable in her own skin on Tramp, embellishing her introspective approach with resonant, sweeping flourishes in a way that’s completely organic and natural.

Artist: Various Artists

Album: We Are the Works in Progress

Label: Asa Wa Kuru


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US Release Date: 2012-02-07

Various Artists
We Are the Works in Progress

A benefit effort for those affected by last spring’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami, We Are the Works in Progress features a collection of tracks from a who’s who of artsy-fartsy indie and electronic acts, including Deerhunter, Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife, and Pantha du Prince. Put together by Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino, the compilation distinguishes itself by creating a sense of coherence and consistency out of contributions from acts with their own signature styles. Whether it’s the way Four Tet’s offering fades right into Andersson’s track or Liars seamlessly collaborating with Blonde Redhead, We Are the Works in Progress conveys a common purpose with a contemplative, calm-in-the-eye-of-the-storm tone that permeates all the pieces. And it bears repeating that We Are the Works in Progress is more than a compelling and complete musical project, but actually serves a good cause.

New Releases for February 2012

February 7

Air, Le Voyage de la Lune (Astralwerks)

Dierks Bentley, Home (Capitol Nashville)

Blondes, Blondes (RVNG Intl)

Die Antwoord, TEN$ION (Zef/Good Smile/Downtown/Co-op)

Dr. Dog, Be the Void (ANTI-)

Fucked Up, “Year of the Tiger” single (Matador)

Ben Kweller, Go Fly a Kite (The Noise Company)

Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral (4AD)

Lindstrøm, Six Cups of Rebel (Smalltown Supersound)

Paul McCartney, Kisses on the Bottom (Hear Music/Concord)

of Montreal, Paralytic Stalks (Polyvinyl)

A Place to Bury Strangers, Onwards to the Wall (Dead Oceans)

The Twilight Sad, No One Can Ever Know (FatCat)

Windy & Carl, We Will Always Be (Kranky)

Wire, Black Session: Paris 10 May 2011 (Pinkflag)

February 14

Anya Marina, Felony Flats (Copy Shop/Atlantic)

Earth, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II (Southern Lord)

Field Music, Plumb (Memphis Industries)

Islands, A Sleep & a Forgetting (ANTI-)

Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (Cash Money/Young Money)

Punch Brothers, Who’s Feeling Young Now? (Nonesuch)

Shearwater, Animal Joy (Sub Pop)

Tennis, Young and Old (Fat Possum)

February 21

Cursive, I Am Gemini (Saddle Creek)

Galactic, Carnivale Electricos (ANTI-)

Damien Jurado, Maraqopa (Secretly Canadian)

English Singles, Grey Skies USA (Slumberland)

Lambchop, Mr. M (Merge)

Sinead O’Connor, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? (One Little Indian)

Perfume Genius, Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador)

Princeton, Remembrance of Things to Come (Hit City USA/Easter)

Max Raabe, One Cannot Kiss Alone (Decca)

Frankie Rose, Interstellar (Slumberland)

Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror (Mom + Pop)

Tindersticks, The Something Rain (Constellation)

Dustin Wong, Dreams Say, View Create, Shadow Leads (Thrill Jockey)

February 28

Dirty Three, Toward the Low Sun (Drag City)

Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, and Yim Yames, New Multitudes (Rounder)

Hunx, Hairdresser Blues (Sub Pop)

Sophia Knapp, Into the Waves (Drag City)

Lyle Lovett, Release Me (Curb/Universal)

Memoryhouse, The Slideshow Effect (Sub Pop)

Pink Floyd, The Wall Immersion Edition (EMI)

Plants and Animals, The End of That (Secret City)

School of Seven Bells, Ghostory (Vagrant/Ghostly International)

Xray Eyeballs, Splendor Squalor (Kanine)

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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