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    Glitterbug is a fitting title for the latest sugary synth-pop confection from British outfit the Wombats. The band brought catchy choruses and energetic verses on A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation and This Modern Glitch, but Glitterbug takes the glitz a step further with more electronic production and a clear aim to reach an audience of radio listeners.  – Exclaim

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    Tallest Man on Earth – Dark Bird is Home

    Where earlier Tallest Man on Earth albums harkened back to a ‘30s recording aesthetic,Dark Bird Is Home roosts comfortably in the ‘80s, an era that saw a number of songwriters reaching full maturity in an atmosphere of sonic experimentation. Consider the less-bombastic tracks on Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, the whole of Tunnel of Love, or of Don Henley’s Building the Perfect Beast and The End of Innocence albums. Comparing the fiercely independent Matsson to two of the pop behemoths of the ‘80s should not be as jarring an association as it might at first seem. There’s something of the naïve joy of discovery in Matsson’s working within a band structure that, to my ears, parallels some of the more adventurous studio enhancements of the neon decade. More importantly, Matsson shares an underlying melancholy with those artists, one that peeks out from behind even the warmest, most upbeat moments of this album. Read the full review on Pop Matters

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    Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind

    That album was a chance for Harris and Crowell to savor simply singing older songs together. For The Traveling Kind, they spent time co-writing, something they’ve only occasionally done together in the past, cultivating the intimately shared language that appears in the title track. “We don’t all die young to save our spark from the ravages of time,” they begin, softening their deliveries as they reach the verse’s lived-in conclusion: “But the first and last to leave their mark someday become the traveling kind.” Listen to the full album on NPR

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    Best Coast – California Nights

    With its catchy but distorted opening riffs, album-opener “Feeling Ok” may seem like an ode to takin’ it easy, except that when Cosentino sings the phrase, she doesn’t sound so convinced. The title track shimmers with jangle-distorted guitar that screams sunshine, until Cosentino delivers her lines: “I stay high all the time just to get by.” Still, she’s not the most lyrically dexterous writer. Most of her lines follow a similar sing-song cadence, and her rhymes often feel telegraphed. But she’s at expert at feel and exploring an emotion or idea while guitars swirl around it. Read the full review on L.A. Times

     

     

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    Blur – Magic Whip
    At its best, The Magic Whip has all the charm of Blur at their most mysterious, and little of the laddish triumphalism of Blur in headline slot mode. Fans craving the latter may well scratch their heads at songs such as Ghost Ship, a loose, reggae-ish funk that stars James’s bassline, an uncharacteristically laid-back Coxon, and the whistle of an emptying balloon. Read the full review on The Guardian

     

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    Weepies – Sirens
    Opener “River From the Sky” plays out as a straight-up heartbreaker of a song, with its keenly produced sound and minor chords evoking a sense of melancholic despair worthy of the band’s name. Yet the duo’s lyrics prove that there is more behind this love song: Lines like “Life is like a waterfall/ You have fallen like a doll/ Never think of me at all/ There isn’t time” are hauntingly delivered with Tannen and Talan’s echoing vocals. But the band doesn’t wallow for long, picking up the tempo with the hopeful “Learning to Fly,” in which Talan’s gentle, soaring vocals optimistically relate her journey toward remission: “Learning to fly/ But I ain’t got wings/ Coming down/ Is the hardest thing.” Read the full review on the USG

     

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    Mew – +/-
    This is a version of Mew that shies away from syncopation and dissonance. Instead, they’re straightforward: The lyrics are direct, the sound is fragile, the drumming is simple. Once the song breaks post-chorus, Bjerre’s quiet gasps pierce the background like he’s running to their own rhythm, chugging alongside the guitars. Bjerre is surrounded by the delicacies of pop songwriting and gentle mixing. His voice, at last, matches the mood completely. Read the full review on Consequence of Sound

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    Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
    Sound & Color starts with the ethereal title track, a slow drip of a tune that grows from chiming vibraphone notes to add a lush string arrangement, serving as the backdrop for Howard’s yearning, dreamy repetition of “sound and color.” It’s a statement-of-purpose sort of curveball, the band clearly asserting this album’s independence from its predecessor. Read the full review on AV Club

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    Passion Pit – Kindred
    Some of Kindred’s tracks number amongst the band’s best. Just try to deny the utterly euphoric rush of opener “Lifted Up (1985).” The album’s intention is right there in the opening salvo – this is music for uplift. Angelakos hosts a master class in power-pop over a brisk three and a half minutes, sprinkling strikingly high crystal-clear falsetto, a bouncing synth beat, and chirping guitar over a narrative of romantic redemption. Read the full review on Pretty Much Amazing

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    Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
    Dupuis, a recent MFA candidate in poetry at UMass Amherst, is among the most talented lyricists of her musical class. She writes vivid-yet-mysterious scenes that require interpretive work on the listeners’ behalf—such as “My Dead Girl”, a cryptic tale about living fast and risking becoming a missing face on a milk carton. But Dupuis’ greatest strength as a lyricist is her ability to turn her sour experiences into anthems about clawing back from self-doubt. Read the full review on Pitchfork

    The title refers to Stevens’ mother and stepfather, though the lyrics address the former more directly. She left Stevens and his siblings when he was a baby, and his memories of her stem mostly from summer visits to Oregon when he was a toddler and grade-schooler. He was with her when she died a few years ago, and his attempts to reconcile his feelings—of abandonment, love, resentment, confusion, self-loathing, nostalgia—are the sensitive tendons that resist and then go slack throughout these songs. Most feel like attempts to heal by way of quiet confrontation—call it primal whisper therapy. It’s tricky territory to navigate in these cynical times, and hardened hearts and ears might find it off-putting. But meet Carrie & Lowell on its terms and it’s revelatory. Read the full review on AV Club

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    As an aesthetic reservoir, the ’80s continue to feed an abundance of nostalgia, from the American highway fantasies of the War on Drugs to Twin Shadow’s boy-meets-girl melodramas. Inhabiting characters from the past can lend a singer a certain gravitas; unburdened by modern irony, big emotions play bigger on a decades-old frame. But few artists have seized that retrospection as an opportunity to flip the power dynamics that governed pop culture 30 years ago. For Lower Dens, a neon palette serves as fertile ground for subversion. Hunter absorbs the range of gendered feeling from Billy Idol to Bonnie Tyler, emerging as a bandleader capable of flipping effortlessly between extremes of masculine aggression and feminine yearning. Read the full review on Pitchfork


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    When last interviewed for this newspaper in 2013, Laura Marling talked about retiring from the music industry. She was 23 and her feet hadn’t touched the ground since her astonishingly self-possessed debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim, was released in 2008. Three albums later she was being hailed as the greatest songwriter of her generation. But she was exhausted and took off for America, where she did indeed give up music for a while. For two years she wandered and applied for jobs in coffee shops. She hung out with “mysterious, fleeting people”: cult members, addicts, hippies and professional vagrants.

    When Marling picked up her guitar again, the queen of the nu-folk scene channelled that strange and desperate energy by going electric. It’s a powerful evolution. It takes a rare rock guitarist to remind us that electricity is a potentially dangerous natural force but Marling’s new sound evokes the strange dark thrill of low skies before a storm. At times it sounds more like she’s plugged her guitar into a brooding thunder cloud than a man-made socket. Read the full review on The Telegraph

     

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    Will Butler – Policy
    ‘Policy’’s eight genre-hopping, multi-instrumental tracks clearly illustrate Will’s obvious talent and versatility as a songwriter. The upbeat, sing-as-though-your-life-depends-on-it guitar pop of ‘Take My Side’, ‘What I Want’ and gospel-esque closer ‘Witness’ is closest to what would be expected of him as a solo artist. But the deep, lamenting piano ballads, ‘Finish What I Started’ and ‘Sing To Me’, as well as the more experimental, 80s synth efforts, ‘Anna’ and ‘Something’s Coming’ reveal a very different, much darker side to the otherwise infectiously enthusiastic character he channels onstage. Read the full review on DIY Magazine

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    Broadcast – Entire Discography reissued on Vinyl
    Warp has announced plans to reissue the entire Broadcast discography including their four original albums: 2000’s The Noise Made By People, 2003’s Haha Sound, 2005’s Tender Buttons, and finally 2009’s Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age. In addition to those they will also release 1997’s Work And Non Work, which compiled all their early singles and EPs as well as 2006’s odds and sods double album, The Future Crayon. Read the full story on FACT

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    Enslaved – In Times
    The opening seconds of “Thurisaz Dreaming” are possibly the fastest and most chaotic introduction to any album in Enslaved’s massive discography. While the opener of In Times progresses like most of their recent cuts, it eventually gives way to one of their most atmospheric and dreamlike outros to date. Even thirteen releases in, they’re not afraid to continue pushing the musical boundaries of progressive rock, psychedelia, and experimental music under an extreme metal backdrop. Recent releases have had varying amounts of black metal influence, but In Times subverts expectations by being their most varied and diverse release since 2001’s Monumension. Despite having arguably reached their peak with 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini, Enslaved continue to prove that progressing is more important than attempting to repeat past successes.Read the full review on Sputnik Music

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    Purity Ring – Another Eternity
    After creating Shrines across a geographic void, the duo actually sat in a room together to compose this opus, the back and forth between the two yielding a more clear-eyed sound and vision. This is the group’s singer-songwriter album (as much as an electronic duo can make a singer-songwriter record), personal but rooted in traditional song structures that build to big, distinct choruses. Where Shrines was an album built on rounded edges, Another Eternity is all right angles. Read the full review on Exclaim!

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    Tuxedo – Tuxedo
    Tuxedo is a duo comprised of modern soulster Mayer Hawthorne and hip-hop producer Jake One. The collaboration began with an exchange of mixtapes almost a decade ago. Realizing that they shared an affinity for the kind of string-laden R&B and disco artists such as Change, Kleer, and Chic favored in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Hawthorne and Jake One decided to create an album of original material under the Tuxedo moniker. Read the full review on No Echo

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    Brandi Carlisle – Firewatcher’s Daughter
    The album starts like a house afire: Carlile totally nails the vocal on the gospel influenced “Wherever is Your Heart,” and this one makes you realize just how good she is. When she sings, you’re a believer. She’ll have you singing along on the infectious “The Thing I Regret” with its chorus “Let them roll over me /let them roll over me.”

    One of the album’s highlights is “The Eye,” a song penned by Tim Hanseroth, which is very stripped down and nearly a cappella, featuring little more than acoustic guitar and the lovely harmonies of the trio. You can hear Brandi’s country music and Fleetwood Mac influences on this one. Carlile and company performed this one in The Current studio late last year, and Brandi declared, “It’s my favorite song on the album, probably my favorite song ever.” Read the full reivew on The Current

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    Dan Deacon – Gliss Ripper
    On record or in concert, Deacon offers escapism at its finest. As he explained before the release of America, Deacon uses music as a means to make sense of his surroundings. At the most basic level, he excites an unbridled dance party — even if only attended by one. Bodies react to “Sheathed Wings”, “Mind on Fire”, and “Learning to Relax” before minds can wrap themselves around the narratives contained within. That is the technique that Deacon has been so mindful of since he began instigating collective performances in clubs back in 2002. He understands that attention spans can be short, and if you want to get a message across, you’d better make the beat infectious. Read the full review on Consequence of Sound
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    JJ Grey – Ol Glory
    Like many of the group’s previous albums, “Ol’ Glory” is rooted in the Jacksonville area of northeast Florida, where the band got its start in the late 1990s. “I don’t venture too far away from home, or at least the spirit of home,” Grey says, though the songs he prizes the most have a universal feel. “I just want it to be as free as a conversation with someone and let it go where it will,” he says. Read the review on WSJ
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    Torche – Restarter
    But Restarter push Torche back toward the more punishing pole of its sound. The brief “Undone”, for instance, counts as one of the heaviest pieces in Torche’s catalog. Brooks leads multiple marching sections, but when he pauses, they slip into the sort of down-tuned, instrumental slogs that consumed multi-minute chunks of their early records. This allows Torche to be brutal while still moving, a trick they’ve rarely mastered. This doesn’t mean they’ve suddenly slid into doom or sludge metal. These 10 songs are actually no less memorable than those on Harmonicraft; “Minions”, “Blasted”, and “Undone” rank as new shoo-ins for any hypothetical best-of-Torche collection. Read the full review on Pitchfork