Music

Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for August

Matthew Fiander and Arnold Pan
Hi-Fi headphones and colorful disc. Image from Shutterstock.

Even as the record release schedule slows down with the dog days of summer, there are still plenty of albums worth paying attention to in August, from under-the-radar efforts to new work from critical faves.

As with most things in the dog days of summer, the record release schedule slows down a bit in August. But even if there aren’t as many albums from big-name acts this month, there are plenty of under-the-radar efforts that are certainly worth paying attention to, as our picks for August suggest. And that’s not say there aren’t more than a few albums by critical faves due this month, from acclaimed R&B darling The-Dream to cult heroes like Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and Dan Deacon.

 

Artist: Divine Fits

Album: A Thing Called Divine Fits

Label: Merge

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US Release Date: 2012-08-28

UK Release Date: 2012-08-27

Divine Fits
A Thing Called Divine Fits

If you were sad about the break-up of Handsome Furs or have been waiting for Britt Daniel to bring out some new post-Transference material, Divine Fits is a dream come true. Daniel and former Furs and Wolf Parade member Dan Boeckner -- along with New Bomb Turks' Sam Brown -- spend A Thing Called Divine Fits doing the ol' "you've got your peanut butter on my chocolate! No, you've got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" routine. They split frontman duties here, but their styles bleed over, so while Boekner's electro-Americana comes out guns-hot on "My Love is Real", we see Daniel's brittle soul guitars on "Flaggin' a Ride". Then things mesh, from "Salton Sea", where Daniel's staccato guitars get transformed into chilly synths, to the low-end thump worked into Broeckner's skronky mood-pop gem "Baby Get Worse". This is lean but ambitious, subtly pushing each artist to find new ground, even as it reminds us what we already loved about these guys. The best of the past, the promise of something new and exciting -- that's what Divine Fits offers, and it does so in catchy droves. Matthew Fiander

Divine Fits - “Would That Not Be Nice”

 

Artist: Bill Fay

Album: Life Is People

Label: Dead Oceans

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US Release Date: 2012-08-21

UK Release Date: 2012-08-20

Bill Fay
Life Is People

It's been over 40 years since we've heard a proper new full length from British folk troubadour Bill Fay, but once you hear Life Is People, you'll know it was worth the wait. For all his folk leanings, Fay was never spare, and this record is lush and brilliantly wide open throughout. There are shimmering guitars echoing out around Fay's hushed vocals on "There Is a Valley", shadowy organs over spare piano on the expansive "City of Dreams", and soaring strings and layered vocals on the sunny Jeff Tweedy-assisted "This World". Fay even does an aching piano take on Wilco's "Jesus, etc." and makes it his own. With Life Is People, Fay has provided a perfect follow-up to the cult-classic Time of the Last Persecution. It's got the same knack for layers and expanse, and sounds both of the present and utterly timeless. Fay puts his keen eye to the world around him and finds details both hopeful and devastating all over this album. With four decades between records, Fay clearly doesn't always have something to say, but when he does, he'll make you sit up and listen. Matthew Fiander

Bill Fay - “Be at Peace with Yourself”

 

Artist: OMBRE

Album: Believe You Me

Label: Asthmatic Kitty

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US Release Date: 2012-08-21

UK Release Date: Import

OMBRE
Believe You Me

Considering how intensely and uniquely personal an artist as Julianna Barwick, it can be hard to imagine how easily -- and how well -- she can work in a full-on collaboration. If her OMBRE project with Helado Negro (a.k.a. Roberto Carlos Lange) is any indication, Barwick can definitely play nice with others. Maybe OMBRE’s initial outing Believe You Me doesn’t shoot for transcendence and the sublime as Barwick’s solo efforts do, but the album brings out other qualities from her, particularly some more laid-back, chilled-out elements from her music. There’s a breezy summertime feel to much of Believe You Me, thanks to the give-and-take between Barwick’s atmospheric arrangements and Lange’s jazzy aesthetic. OMBRE’s low-key electro experimentation shows that revelations don’t have to be expressed in a mystical musical vocabulary, but can come in more easy-listening forms too. Arnold Pan

OMBRE - Cara Falsa from Asthmatic Kitty on Vimeo.

OMBRE - “Cara Falsa”

 

Artist: Six Organs of Admittance

Album: Ascent

Label: Drag City

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US Release Date: 2012-08-21

UK Release Date: 2012-08-20

Six Organs of Admittance
Ascent

Ben Chasny has made a career and name for himself by exploring the far reaches of psychedelia with Six Organs of Admittance, proving there’s variety and touch to a genre that can feel monolithic and even monotonous. The latest offering in his prolific discography, the aptly titled Ascent explores how broad and deep psych-rock’s styles can be, which Chasny makes clear by decisively breaking from the folkish, pastoral explorations of his recent works with the hyperdriven heavy-rock of the opening track “Waswasa”. Bolstered by working with his long-time cohorts Comets on Fire, the sci-fi-inspired Ascent is as intricate in its composition as it is viscerally overpowering. From the feedback-drenched guitar workouts “Close to the Sky” and “One Thousand Birds” to the sitar-entangled drone of “They Called You Near”, Ascent is all about expanding horizons, be they interstellar journeys or more inner-directed dimensions. Arnold Pan

Six Organs of Admittance - “Waswasa”

 

Artist: Matthew E. White

Album: Big Inner

Label: Spacebomb/Hometapes

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US Release Date: 2012-08-21

UK Release Date: Import

Matthew E. White
Big Inner

Credit Matthew E. White with the most perfectly descriptive album title of 2012. His first solo record is as expansive as pop records get with countless players filling up horn sections and string sections and choirs around White's soft-spoken vocals. He gets help from the likes of Karl Blau and Megafaun's Phil Cool, but make no mistake this is White's show. This is a moody, soulful record that sways from the faint, swampy guitar work of "One of These Days" to the funked-out jazzy onslaught of "Big Love" to the cascading layers of "Steady Pace", and so on. In all these hazy layers, nothing gets obscured, though, as the songs latch onto White's blistering, thorny guitar work and beautiful voice, a voice that is always deep in the mix but never buried. By the time you're hit with the nine-plus-minute closer "Brazos", you know you're in the hands of one of the biggest, most ambitious, and most purely satisfying pop records of the year. It's an album that does so much without seeming busy, and gets at big ideas, big emotions, and big sounds, without ever sound like it's working. White feels every note here, and so will you. Matthew Fiander

Matthew E. White - “One of These Days”

 

Artist: Wild Nothing

Album: Nocturne

Label: Captured Tracks

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US Release Date: 2012-08-28

UK Release Date: 2012-08-27

Wild Nothing
Nocturne

With Nocturne, Wild Nothing has delivered pretty much everything anyone could expect from a sophomore effort. On it, one-man-gang Jack Tatum succeeds where many others have failed, maintaining the profile he developed on his group’s 2010 debut Gemini, while pushing his imagination forward in new directions. You can’t help but notice that Tatum is stretching himself on Nocturne, whether it’s by embellishing Wild Nothing’s signature post-new-wave sound with rich string arrangements on the opener “Shadow” or by deftly mixing-and-matching lush atmospherics and gritty electronic textures on the title track. As a result, Tatum has moved beyond the at times rote ‘80s Anglophilia of his 2010 debut Gemini into creating a vision that’s more his own. Nocturne shows that Tatum is comfortable enough in his own skin to continue to grow as a songwriter. Arnold Pan

Wild Nothing - “Shadow”

 

Selected Releases for August 2012

August 7

Antibalas, Antibalas (Daptone)

Antony and the Johnsons, Cut the World (live) (Secretly Canadian)

Apache Dropout, Bubblegum Graveyard (Trouble in Mind)

Ape School, Junior Violence (Hometapes)

Archers of Loaf, All the Nation’s Airports (Deluxe Reissue) (Merge)

Archers of Loaf, White Trash Heroes (Deluxe Reissue) (Merge)

Balsam Range, Papertown (Mountain Home)

Blonds, The Bad Ones (Gluck)

DJ Kentaro, Contrast (Ninja Tune)

Colt Ford, Declaration of Independence (Average Joe’s)

Guano Padano, 2 (Ipecac)

Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielssen, and Jon Christensen, Sleeper: Tokyo, April 16, 1979 (ECM)

Kid Sampl, Escape Pod EP (Hush Hush)

Lianne La Havas, Is Your Love Big Enough? (Nonesuch)

Los Straitjackets, Jet Set (Yep Roc)

Low, The Curtain Hits the Cast (Reissue) (Plain)

David Lynch, Crazy Clown Time (Digital Deluxe Edition) (Sunday Best)

David Lynch, Eraserhead Original Soundtrack (Deluxe Vinyl Reissue) (Sacred Bones)

Branford Marsalis, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music)

Marcus Miller, Renaissance (Concord Jazz)

Niki and the Dove, Instinct (Sub Pop)

Nü Sensae, Sundowning (Suicide Squeeze)

Opossom, Electric Hawaii (Fire)

The Orwells, Remember When (Autumn Tone)

Permanent Collection, Nearly Wed Nearly Dead (Loglady)

Redd Kross, Researching the Blues (Merge)

Sixpence None the Richer, Lost in Transition (Sixpence)

Sweet Valley, Stay Calm (Tape) (Fool’s Gold)

Tidelands, We’ve Got a Map (Redgummy)

Turbonegro, Sexual Harrassment (Volcom)

Elle Varner, Perfectly Imperfect (RCA)

Willits + Sakamoto, Ancient Future (Ghostly International)

Rob Zombie, Mondo Sex Head (UME)

August 14

2 Chainz, Based on a T.R.U. Story (Def Jam)

Ash Borer, Cold of Ages (Profound Lore)

Dead Can Dance, Anastasis (PIAS America)

Dignan Porch, Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen (Captured Tracks)

The-Dream, Love IV MMXII (Def Jam)

Fozzy, Sin and Bones (RED)

Global Gangsters, Rhyme or Crime (Act Like It)

Height with Friends, Rock and Roll (Friends/Cold Rhymes)

Kiss, Destroyer and Resurrected (Remixed) (Mercury)

Kottonmouth Kings, Mile High (12th Street)

Kreayshawn, Something ‘Bout Kreay (Sony)

Lorelei, Enterprising Sidewalks (Slumberland)

Master, The New Elite (Pulverised)

Nguzunguzu, Warm Pulse (Hippos in Tanks)

Nude Beach, II (Other Music)

Mike Oldfield, Platinum, Qe2, Two Sides: The Very Best of Mike Oldfield (Hip-O)

Slightly Stoopid, Top of the World (Stoopid)

Spider Bags, Shake My Head (Odessa)

Such Gold, Misadventures (Razor & Tie)

Ben Taylor, Listening (Sun Pedal)

Texas Hippie Coalition, Peacemaker (EMI)

This Is Cinema, Cycles EP (Whistler)

Steve Vai, The Story of Light (Favored Nations)

Various Artists, Just Tell Me That You Want Me Fleetwood Mac tribute (Hear Music/Concord)

Various Artists, The Music City Sessions, Volume 1: Richmond Experience (Omnivore)

Vybz Cartel, Kingston Story: Deluxe Edition (Vice)

WHY?, Sod in the Seed (Anticon)

Robin and Linda Williams, These Old Dark Hills (Red House)

Xibalba, Hasta La Muerte (Southern Lord)

Yellowcard, Southern Air (Hopeless)

August 21

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes (4AD)

Bloc Party, Four (Frenchkiss)

Careful, Because I Am Always Talking (self-released)

Ry Cooder, Election Special (Nonesuch)

The Darkness, Hot Cakes (Wind-Up)

DJ Khaled, Kiss the Ring (Republic)

Dysrhythmia, Test of Submission (Profound Lore)

Four Tet, Pink (Text)

Hallock Hill, The Union / A Hem of Evening (2xLP) (Mie)

Happy New Year, Happy New Year (Crikey!)

The Heavy, The Glorious Dead (Counter/Ninja Tune)

J.T. Hodges, J.T. Hodges (Show Dog/Universal)

JJ Doom, Key to the Kuffs (Lex)

The Kinks, At the BBC Boxset (Sanctuary)

Dylan LeBlanc, Cast the Same Old Shadow (Rough Trade)

Cate Le Bon CYRK II EP (The Control Group)

Dustin Lynch, Dustin Lynch (Broken Bow)

Taj Mahal, The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal, 1969-1973 (Legacy)

Mungolian Jet Set, Mungodelics (Smalltown Supersound)

Owl City, The Midsummer Station (Universal)

Gregory Pepper and His Problems, Escape from Crystal Skull Mountain (Fake Four Inc.)

The Prodigy, More Music for the Jilted Generation (Reissue) (XL)

Adrian Sherwood, Survival & Resistance (On-U Sound)

Slim Twig, Sof’ Sike (Paper Bag)

Teengirl Fantasy, Tracer (True Panther)

Trey Songz, Chapter V (Atlantic)

VCMG (Vince Clarke and Martin Gore), EP3/Aftermaths (Mute)

Yeasayer, Fragrant World (Secretly Canadian)

Young Fresh Fellows, Tiempo De Lujo (Yep Roc)

August 28

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Lawless (Original Soundtrack) (Sony)

Circa Survive, Violent Waves (Circa Survive)

Robert Cray, Nothing But Love (Mascot)

Dan Deacon, America (Domino)

Matthew Dear, Beams (Ghostly International)

Eagle Twin, Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (Southern Lord)

The Flatlanders, The Odessa Tapes (New West)

Flobots, The Circle in the Square (Shanachie)

Gillian & Iommi, Who Cares (Eagle Rock)

Richard Hawley, Standing at Sky’s Edge (Mute)

Holy Other, Held (Tri Angle)

Rickie Lee Jones, The Devil You Know (Concord)

Meek Mill, Dreams and Nightmares (Warner)

Minus the Bear, Infinity Overhead (Dangerbird)

Alanis Morissette, Havoc and Bright Lights (Collective Sounds)

Morning Glory, Poets Were My Heroes (Fat Wreck Chords)

Obey the Brave, Young Blood (Epitaph)

The Orb, featuring Lee Scratch Perry, THE ORBSERVER in the star house (The End)

Poor Moon, Poor Moon (Sub Pop)

David Ramirez, Apologies (Sweetworld)

The Rippingtons, Built to Last (Entertainment One)

Roxy Music, Roxy Music: The Complete Studio Recordings (EMI)

Sean Rowe, The Salesman and the Shark (ANTI-)

Saga, 20/20 (Eagle Rock)

Swans, The Seer (Young God)

TEEN, In Limbo (Carpark)

Jessie Ware, Devotion (Island UK)

Wiz Khalifa, O.N.I.F.C. (Atlantic)

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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