Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for July 2014

Matthew Fiander and Arnold Pan

Get a sneak peek at some of July's most adventurous releases, including new efforts from Shabazz Palaces, Wolves in the Throne Room, and OOIOO.

No, there's not much of a summer break for the record release schedule in July, especially when it comes to the pop charts, with efforts from Common, Tom Petty, and Robin Thicke lined up. The month's most intriguing offering might just be the latest from Morrissey, with anticipation for it building up after his pre-release June tour was cancelled due to illness. And rest assured, there's also a good chance that July's slate of adventurous releases will end up producing a number of critical favorites that'll emerge on best-of lists at year's end, like some of our picks for the month below.


July 1

Artist: OOIOO

Album: Gamel

Label: Thrill Jockey


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Named Gamel, the new album by experimental rock collective OOIOO is built around the Indonesian musical practice of gamelan. Yet while gamelan provides the focus of attention on Gamel, manifesting itself most obviously on the album in xylophone-like percussion, it doesn't overshadow the distinctive identity Boredoms drummer Yoshimi has long instilled in OOIOO. Instead, gamelan forms accentuate Yoshimi's sometimes atonal, often arrhythmic, always idiosyncratic pieces, drawing out more from the different ingredients that go into OOIOO's composite sound. There are moments when gamelan helps distill the purest of melodies out of OOIOO's art-noise din, combining with the vocals on the epic opener "Don Ah" to create something akin to the Beach Boys island-hopping in the Indian Ocean. There's an element of surprise in how Yoshimi puts gamelan performance to use, keeping you on your toes even as OOIOO is putting you under its trance: At times, the gamelan playing crosses over from organic to synthetic, tapped with almost motorik-like precision on "Gamel Uma Umo". Or its true, pinging tones bring out a bolder sense of texture through contrast, working as a counterpoint to the trippy psych-rock soloing of "Jesso Testa" and the funk-and-dub rhythms of "Kecupat Aneh". Even though you can tell that Yoshimi pays proper reverence to gamelan traditions, instrumentation, and the performers collaborating with her, she never defers to them, making the most of her newfound knowledge to open up more possibilities for a musical imagination that was already full-to-the-brim before now. Arnold Pan


July 8

Artist: James Blackshaw

Album: Fantomas: Le Faux Magistrat

Label: Tompkins Square


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James Blackshaw
Fantomas: Le Faux Magistrat

James Blackshaw has long been an excellent guitar player, but over his career he's grown -- especially on records like All Is Falling and The Glass Bead Game -- into an equally impressive composer of rich, dynamic, multi-instrument movements. His latest record is a live performance of Blackshaw, with the help of Duane Pitre and Slowdive's Simon Scott, soundtracking a 1913 silent film by Louis Feuillade. The performance was commissioned by Yann Tiersen as one in a five-part series celebrating Feuillade. But if the night was about the filmmaker, the music is about Blackshaw's own excellence. This singular, 75-minute suite moves beautifully and with grand scope from noir-ish piano phrasings to haunting guitar work shadowed by dissonant percussion back to piano, and then into bizarre but fascinating electronic territory. The music faintly buzzes, and drums give the sound a temporarily firm foundation. The music stretches out, but seems to create spaces more than it fills them up. There's a story-like movement to the sound here, and you can feel the move from rising action to contemplative moments throughout. It may be Blackshaw's most ambitious work yet, and another variation on his ever expanding repertoire of talents. Matthew Fiander


Artist: Wolves in the Throne Room

Album: Celestite

Label: Artemisia


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Wolves in the Throne Room

Celestite is a curious follow-up to Wolves in the Throne Room's excellent, and excellently black, 2011 record, Celestial Lineage. This new album takes some of the atmospheric keys and programming on the outskirts of its predecessor and brings them to the forefront. There are no drums and no vocals here, just ever-expanding soundscapes. "Turning Ever Towards the Sun" eases us quietly into this world, with faint keyboards wafting in, only to be overtaken by negative space and a menacing yet subtle swirl of distortion. "Initiation at Neudeg Am" builds on a more shimmering and staccato base of keyboards that work a tidal movement through the first half of the track, building into the a white-capped crashing of fuzzed-out guitars. "Celestite Mirror", the longest track here at 14 minutes, weaves all the album's intricacies and eccentricities, all its complexities and power into one epic track, one that builds and builds but never quite crescendos. This is the kind of music we'd usually think of as ethereal or ambient, but in the hands of Wolves in the Throne Room, these compositions take on a bodily, physical weight. It's a surprising turn from the band, although it maintains the dark, tangled muscle at the heart of the band's sound. That it can do that and also shift gears so radically is what makes this album stand out. Matthew Fiander


July 15

Artist: Reigning Sound

Album: Shattered

Label: Merge


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Reigning Sound

While it's tempting to simply chalk up Reigning Sound's sound to nostalgia, its vintage forms and instrumentation feel more timeless than an homage to yesteryear, too vibrant and vivid to just be rewinding back to rock's golden olden days. Indeed, the comfortable, worn-in feel of Reigning Sound's latest work Shattered is hardly the stuff of hand-me-down retro, but, rather, the result of painstaking craftsmanship and hard-won experience, as mainman Greg Cartwright squeezes every little drop of know-how that he's learned and earned as an underground lifer. A triumph of time-tested rock values, Shattered stands out for a rich, resonant aesthetic that's multifaceted and versatile, with Memphis-bred Cartwright showing he's equally adept with rough-housing rompers, weepy torch songs, and classic R&B-inflected pop. There's a cadence to the resounding single "Falling Rain" that veers towards the archetypal sounds of, say, "American Pie" or Creedence, only till Cartwright redirects the arrangement into something poppier and more orchestrated, buoyed by an organ-led melody. More poignant is the sentimental charmer "Never Coming Home", its yearning strings giving a glimpse of what Belle and Sebastian might be like with some Americana roots. All this makes Shattered the best kind of stroll down memory lane, one that's not so much about remembrances of things past, but about creating new memories. Arnold Pan


July 29

Artist: Shabazz Palaces

Album: Lese Majesty

Label: Sub Pop


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Shabazz Palaces
Lese Majesty

On 2011's Black Up, Shabazz Palaces created their own hip-hop planet. It was an album that represented all the vital elements of hip-hop culture, but also threw them all into question and twisted them into new, fascinating sounds. With the follow-up Lese Majesty, Palaceer Lazaro and Fly Guy 'Dai have pushed even further, and now they've got their own hip-hop solar system. This ambitious record, which moves as much in suites as it does in individual songs, expands on the group's sound, casting longer shadows on access roads and thicker layers of star dust on astral planes. They can skitter and wobble through a track like "They Come in Gold" or sway through a spaced-out track like "Harem Aria". The percussion here is full of holes, spaces to let keyboards and samples get cut up and echo out into. Lazaro is our spiritual leader here -- part George Clinton, part Sun Ra -- and his lyrics are as intricate and incisive as ever. Shabazz Palaces is still a challenge to hip-hop, and true music in general, as much as it is a celebration of it. These songs are as filled with love and connection as they are with frustration over false constructions and false speak. But for all its ideas, both musical and cultural, Lese Majesty is overall a thrilling exploration of music. It's a record interesting in exciting discovery and the feeling true music can evoke. The album's 45 minutes weave together into a whole, but there's still room for single stompers like "Ishmael" and "Motion Sickness". Shabazz Palaces made one of the most important hip-hop records, as in ever, in Black Up. The follow-up matches it in every way by continuing its innovations. Matthew Fiander


Selected Releases for July 2014

(Release dates subject to change)

July 1

7evenThirty, The Problem (Mello Music Group)

Beverly (with Frankie Rose), Careers (Kanine)

Cabaret Voltaire, #7885: Electropunk to Technopop 1978-1985 compilation (Mute)

Brian Eno and Karl Hyde, High Life (Warp)

Every Time I Die, From Parts Unknown (Epitaph)

I Am an Island, Crown Jewel EP

Jalilah's Raks Sharki, Stagecuts (Piranha Musik)

The Jayhawks, Sound of Lies, Smile, Rainy Day Music Deluxe Editions (UMe)

Kestrels, The Moon Is Shining Our Way EP (Sonic Unyon)

Mark Kozelek, Live at Biko (Caldo Verde)

Jim Lauderdale, I'm a Song (Sky Crunch)

Bob Marley, Legend 30th Anniversary Edition (UMe)

My Fictions, Stranger Songs (Topshelf)

Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy (ATO)

Pink Floyd, The Division Bell 20th anniversary boxset (Warner)

Pinnick Gales Pridgen, PGP2 (Magna Carta)

Sigh, Easy to Forget EP

Robin Thicke, Paula (Interscope)

Trey Songz, Trigga (Atlantic)

Turn to Crime, Can't Love (Mugg & Bopp/Old Flame)

Vacant Lots, Departure (Sonic Cathedral)

Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek), All I Do Is Lie (Roaring Girl)

Zvuloon Dub System, Anbessa Dub

July 8

Charlie Apicella and Iron City, Big Boss (Zoho)

Braid, No Coast (Topshelf)

Bright Light Bright Light, Life Is Easy (Self Raising /Megaforce)

Charlie and the Foxtrots, Golden

Chicago, Now Chicago XXXVI (Frontiers)

Chicks on Speed, Artstravaganza (Chicks on Speed)

Cloud Boat, Model of You (Apollo)

Cold Beat, Over Me (Crime on the Moon)

Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket, In a Dutch Haze (Outer Battery / Roadburn)

French Style Furs, Is Exotic Bait (Frenchkiss)

Ruthann Friedman, Chinatown (Wolfgang)

Gene the Southern Child, Southern Meridian (Adult Swim)

Goldfrapp, Tales of Us Deluxe Edition (Mute)

Half Waif, Kotekan

I Draw Slow, White Wave Chapel (Pinecastle)

Leela James, Fall for You (BMG)

Judas Priest, Redeemer of Souls Deluxe Edition (Epic)

Matt Kivel, Days of Being Wild (Woodsist)

La Roux, Trouble in Paradise (Polydor)

Leon Else, River Full of Liquor (Skitzophonic)

Lightfoils, Hierarchy

Moebius Story Leidecker, Snowghost Pieces (Bureau B)

Mortals, Cursed to See the Future (Relapse)

My Iron Lung, Relief (Pure Noise)

Nightmare And The Cat, Simple (Capitol)

Beth Orton, Central Reservation 2-CD reissue (3 Loop)

Vanessa Perea, Soulful Days (Zoho)

Duane Pitre and Cory Allen, The Seeker and the Healer (Students of Decay)

The Proper Ornaments, Wooden Head (Slumberland/Fortuna POP!)

Gustavo Santaolalla, Camino (Sony Masterworks)

Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear (RCA)

The Skygreen Leopards, Family Crimes (Woodsist)

UltraMantis Black, UltraMantis Black (Relapse)

Various Artists, Childhood soundtrack (Nonesuch)

Viet Cong, Cassette EP (Mexican Summer)

July 15

The Acid, Liminal (Mute)

Army Navy, The Wilderness Inside

Bleachers, Strange Desire (RCA)

The Clean, Anthology reissue (Merge)

The Collection, Ars Moriendi (Missing Piece)

Cowboy Jack Clement, For Once and for All (IRS)

Dirty Lungs, Dirty Lungs (Communicating Vessels)

Executive Slacks, Executive Slacks EP reissue (Dark Entries)

Fink, Hard Believer (R'Couped)

John Hiatt, Terms of My Surrender (New West)

Peter Himmelman, The Boat That Carries Us

The Homeless Gospel Choir, I Used to Be So Young (A-F)

Honeyblood, Honeyblood (Fatcat)

Illuminate Me, I Have Become a Corpse (Tragic Hero)

JPNSGRLS, Circulation (Light Organ)

Landlady, Upright Behavior (Hometapes)

Late Guest at the Party, Repeater

Lazer/Wulf, The Beast of Left and Right (Retro Futurist)

Metled Toys, Melted Toys (Underwater Peoples)

Morrissey, World Peace Is None of Your Business (Harvest)

The Mother Hips, Chronicle Man

Motofighter (ex-Expensive Looks), Pacific Post Highway

Painted Zeros, Svalbard EP (Black Bell)

Richard Reed Parry, Music for Heart and Breath (Deutsche Grammophon)

Puss N Boots (Sasha Dobson, Norah Jones & Catherine Popper), No Fun (Blue Note)

The Ramona Flowers, Dismantle and Reload (Distiller)

The Revelers (Red Stick Ramblers and the Pine Leaf Boys), Play the Swamp Pop Classics EP

Rise Against, The Black Market (DGC/Interscope)

Severed Heads, Dead Eyes Open reissue (Dark Entries)

Slow Club, Complete Surrender (Wichita)

Tessela, Rough 2 (R+S)

Tyburn Saints, With the Night in Our Eyes EP (Balaclava)

Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon, Break Line, the Musical (Secretly Canadian)

Woman's Hour, Conversations (Secretly Canadian)

Wunder Wunder, Everything Infinite (Dovecote)

Xeno & Oaklander, Par Avion (Ghostly International)

Xymox, Subsequent Pleasures reissue (Dark Entries)

Weird Al Yankovic, Mandatory Fun (RCA)

York Factory Complaint, Lost in the Spectacle (Accidental Guest)

You Blew It!, You Blue It EP (Weezer covers) (Topshelf)

Zackey Force Funk, Money Green Viper (Hit + Run)

July 22

5 Seconds of Summer, 5 Seconds of Summer (Capitol)

Alvvays, Alvvays (Polyvinyl)

The Amazing Snakeheads, Amphetamine Ballads (Domino)

Liam Betson, The Cover of Hunter (Double Double Whammy)

The Black Angels, Clear Lake Forest (Blue Horizon)

Colony House, When I Was Younger (Descendant)

Common, Nobody Smiling (ARTium/Def Jam)

Crown the Empire, The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways (Rise)

Cut Copy, Free Your Mind Deluxe Edition (Loma Vista)

Freeman (Gene Ween), Freeman (Partisan)

Got a Girl, I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now

Hook & Anchor, Hook & Anchor (Jealous Butcher/Woodphone)

Joyce Manor, Never Hungover Again (Epitaph)

Kid Vishis, Timing Is Everything

Mutilation Rites, Harbinger (Prosthetic)

Nightmare and the Cat, Simple (Capitol)

Nona, Through the Head (6131)

OBN III, Live from San Francisco (Castle Face)

PS I Love You, For Those Who Stay (Paper Bag)

Johanna Samuels, Double Bind

Setting Sun, Be There When You Get There

To Roccoco Rot, Instrument

Various Artists, Hyperdub 10.2 (Hyperdub)

White Fence, For the Recently Found Innocent (Drag City)

Yes, Heaven & Earth (Frontiers)

Matthew Young, Recurring Dreams (Drag City/Yoga)

July 29

Amoureux, Never as Young as Tonight EP (Neurotic Yell)

Marc Broussard, A Life Worth Living (Vanguard)

Eric Clapton & Friends, The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale) (Bushbranch/Surfdog)

Dupletika, The Sound of My Name (Kinsella)

The Holy Coast, The Holy Coast EP (Common Wall Media)

Hooray for Earth, Racy (Dovecote)

Sara Jackson-Holman, River Queen

Anton Kellner and the Lone Stars, You Were the Fire

Land Observations, The Grand Tour (Mute)

Jenny Lewis, The Voyager (Warner)

Alison May, Loved/Dark (Misery Loves Co.)

The Muffs, Whoop Dee Doo (Burger)

New God, Firework (Yellow K)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Hypnotic Eye (Warner Bros.)

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, Cold World (Daptone)

Soft Walls, No Time (Trouble in Mind)

Sondorgo: Tamburocket , Hungarian Fireworks (Riverboat)

Jim E. Stack, Tell Me I Belong (Innovative Leisure)

The Tins, Young Blame EP

Loudon Wainwright III, Haven't Got the Blues (Yet) (Proper)

Wildest Dreams (DJ Harvey), Wildest Dreams (Smalltown Supersound)

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