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    Richard Thompson – Still

    Though Thompson’s music has always been rooted in England’s deepest folk traditions, beginning with his teenage days in Fairport Convention during the ’60s, he has consistently wedded that respect to a modernist’s quest for surprise and the unconventional chord, the dissonant phrase, the oblique path. Just days after the death of Ornette Coleman, another improviser who absorbed the work of the greats that came before him and then remade the music to suit his own idiosyncratic vision, Thompson’s new album arrives as another example of how a mature artist can continue to innovate. read the full review on Chicago Tribune 

    front_GUIDE5Desaparecidos – Payola

    Payola is a discovery of their inner Sex Pistols: more cynical, more in character, taking advantage of no-win, no-future situations to create potent, punk rock theater. Up against institutions too big to fail but also too big to defend themselves, Desaparecidos provide heavy ammo for cathartic finger-pointing and maximum collateral damage. read the full review on Pitchfork

    2GRE_CD_1042_D3011MDave Douglas + High Risk Feat. Sigeto 

    It represents the lastest musical twist in an intriguing journey filled with them for Dave Douglas, whose roving creativity has already led him to an early association with John Zorn but also the Trisha Brown Dance Company, to covering Mary Lou Williams but also exploring Balkan improvisations with his own Tiny Bell Trio, to referencing Rufus Wainwright, Bjork and Thom Yorke but also playing with Bill Frisell and Lee Konitz. Read the full review on Something Else

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    “[…]a blend of 21st-century pop science and 1970s intuition and experiment. There’s a lot of Stevie Nicks in Ms. Weaver: a promising commercial strategy, particularly since “The Fool” arrives between albums by Haim, which has flourished with its own Fleetwood Mac update. Ms. Weaver’s voice takes on some of Ms. Nicks’s particular smoky quaver as her fervor rises toward her choruses. She also has Ms. Nicks’s fondness for myth and extended (and sometimes mixed) metaphors, flaunting them in songs like “The Fool”: “So I curse my stars for a fair game/While you nurse my scars and the old flame.”  – Read More on The New York Times

    CD $10.99

    LP $22.97

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    Hudson Mohawke – Lantern

    The album’s more ambitiously orchestrated sections are a rewarding new look for the producer. The widescreen majesty of “Kettles” and “Scud Books” fully realize a sound Mohawke hinted at years ago with cuts like “Shower Melody”, off his 2009 Warp Recordsdebut Butter. “Kettles” abandons the idea that Mohawke needs to make electronic music at all, opting for heart-swelling neoclassical instead, before “Scud Books” takes everything he tried on the previous song and crams it back into a trap cut. “Lil Djembe” picks up Eastern instruments and drops a conventional approach to melody for a two-and-a-half minute excursion that presents one of the few times here Mohawke’s ideas come off better on paper than in execution. Read the full review on Pitchfork

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    James Taylor – Before This

    James Taylor embodies that type of artist you can rely on. His troubles and motifs have been different over the years, but he has mostly mined the same mellow gold since his rise in the late 1960s as a leading light of the singer-songwriter movement. Unlike his contemporaries Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, Taylor almost always colors within the lines. Consider it a compliment, then, that his new album sounds very much like . . . well, like James Taylor. That’s all you need to know to decide whether you’ll enjoy “Before This World,” which will be released on Tuesday. Read the full review on Boston Globe

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    Yonder Mtn. String Band – Black Sheep

    Full of new material, save one cover (a typically awesome choice of Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen In Love”), the album finds the trademark, time-tested YMSB drive spiced with the fresh contributions of the new members. Kral’s fiddle has innumerable places to flitter among the structure of the songs. She and Jolliff catalyze intense instrumental breakdowns in the straightforward, chugging “Insult And An Elbow” and the thrumming “Black Sheep”. The band’s omnipresent wry humor is featured as well. “Annalee” is a lyrical game of chicken, with the singer heading towards obvious rhymes before dodging them at the last second. Read the full review on Glide Magazine

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    Sharon Van Etten – I Don’t Want to Let You Down
    The title track’s self-conscious desire to please her partner drifts into “Just Like Blood”s dark underbelly of said partner firing Van Etten up and leaving her out to dry: “you set me off just like a gun / then you run just like blood”. “I Always Fall Apart” and “Pay My Debts” are respective sonic cousins to Are We There’s “I Love You But I’m Lost” and “You Know Me Well”, Van Etten unabashedly admitting her shortcomings, coolly and confidently proclaiming “I know myself better than you do” in the latter, the EP’s simmering highlight. Read the full review on Line of Best Fit

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    Franz Ferdinand & Sparks – Self Titled
    With FFS, the collective debut they’ll release June 9, the sextet achieve more than the sum of their considerable parts while steering clear of supergroup bloat. It launches with the same florid Ron Mael piano chords that have defined Sparks since they last reinvented themselves as a classical rock duo with 2002’s Lil’ Beethoven. But it’s Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos who sings first on “Johnny Delusional.” He’s tentative but tightly focused on a beguiling female who – as is almost always the case in Sparksland – is way out of his league. On the third line, singer Russell Mael takes over at the bottom of his range before ascending to his renowned falsetto-enabled tenor as his brother and Franz swing into full force. Read the full review and listen on NPR

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    Of Monsters & Men – Beneath the Skin
    ‘Beneath The Skin’s’ lyrics may focus on reflections and the insular but the musical soundscapes that weave throughout the record soar without inhibition. The sparse rumble of ‘Thousand Eyes’ soon grows into a grand, noisy flourish, soaked in atmospheric dread and crushing realisations while the gentle ‘I Of The Storm’ devastates with nothing more than an insistent beat. Read the full review on DIY

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    Jamie xx – In Colour
    A key idea embedded in the notion of rave is it had something for everyone. Though rave was at one point very fashionable, it was also, early on and at its best, egalitarian. The platonic ideal of the dancefloor, which is obviously never quite fulfilled, is that the dancers meet as equals. Everyone is on their own journey and there is no judgement, and the right drugs at the right time have helped to bring this starry-eyed vision to life. Jamie xx’s music captures some of this spirit by being terribly hip and of-the-moment but also deeply emotional. It’s “cool” music designed to make you feel, and the mechanism is vulnerability. Read the full review on Pitchfork
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    Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes
    Does Universal Themes tend to ramble? Yes. This is easily Sun Kil Moon’s most demanding album, with song structures that match the ballsy tangentiality of the lyrics. Every track abruptly switches gears at some point, usually into a Spanish-guitar coda a la Admiral Fell Promises, or, even more frequently, a lengthy spoken-word section where Kozelek ponders on what all of the seemingly inconsequential details say about life as a whole. In “The Possum”, for instance, the marsupial’s death gets pushed aside for the majority of the song, only to come back during a closing monologue where Kozelek realizes that the animal’s demise is as beautiful, valid, and honorable as Godflesh working through their righteous fury onstage. Read the full review on Consequence of Sound
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    Florence & The Machine – How Big How Blue
    How Big How Blue How Beautiful pivots toward accessibility, they say. It’s Florence Welch’s first serious attempt to conquer the mainstream charts. This narrative of a commercial reboot is, for the most part, overstated. True, Welch’s latest work is her most earthbound and human, one that explores a breakup and its boozy aftermath. How Big How Blue How Beautiful also ditches the witchy ways of Ceremonials. Gone are the descending harp glissandos and forays through graveyards. Producer Markus Dravs labors to refashion billowing sonic robes into a clean pop-rock silhouette. And his herculean efforts pay off, at least on the surface. But Florence’s fundamental aesthetic (gargantuan is good, monumental is best) well withstands Dravs’ scissors. Read the full review on Pretty Much Amazing

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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

    cd $12.49

    lp $19.97

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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

    $12.49 CD

    $14.99 Vinyl