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
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
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
Ibeyi – Ibeyi
We’ve heard some snippets of their eponymous debut record in the lead up to its release. “Oya” smacks of Björk’s warped pop noises, with Ibeyi’s tangled harmonies battling a barrage of trippy percussion, and an uneasy sense of otherworldly malice lingering in the shadows. It’s smoother and more reticent than something like “Hyperballad”, but the progressive electro-folk-pop sentiment remains. “River” sees goofy piano steps bounce around doom-pop choirs, strutting preacher man snaps and off-kilter rhythm/language twists. It’s a tormented, volatile cut. Read the full review on Line of best fit
Steve Earle – Terraplane
Terraplane comes across as a mostly pleasant surprise. This is a blues album that opts to boogie rather than weep, celebrate not commiserate, as Earle pours himself into the genre’s tropes: pining for Ms. Wrong (“You’re the Best Lover That I Ever Had”); striking a deal down at the crossroads (“The Tennessee Kid”); and splitting a comical he-said, she-said duet with Eleanor Whitmore (“Baby’s Just as Mean as Me”). The real heroes of the album, though, are Earle’s backing band, The Dukes, who sound like a genuine blues outfit rather than a group trying to squeeze into the genre. Read the full Review on Consequence of Sound
Jose Gonzalez – Vestiges & Claws
Despite taking a smaller look at the universe, this is actually his densest solo work yet. Having been focused on his band Junip, it sounds like he’s become more comfortable with fuller instrumentation on his own. Alongside his trademark whispery voice and fingerpicked acoustic guitar, he employs guitar overdubs and more percussive elements. One of the highlights of coming to a new González record is marveling at his guitar virtuosity. Read the full review on Consequence of Sound
Father John Misty – I love you Honeybear
Honeybear is conflicted music that leaves me with conflicted feelings. Tillman is funny, but his humor is driven by meanness and self-loathing; he’s sweet, but he can’t manage to say anything nice without smothering it in jokes, like a dog compulsively trying to cover up its own shit. He opens the album by forecasting the apocalypse but most of the time comes off as the kind of mystic who gives up and embraces the debauchery, the patrician in some yoga sex ring, a bimbo Nero who fiddles while Los Angeles burns and occasionally gets sidetracked gloating about how hot his wife is. Yes, he gets high, but he never really leaves the dirty, dirty ground. Read the full review on Pitchfork
JD Mcphereson – Let the Good Times Roll
Little, crucial details open up McPherson’s sound on Let The Good Times Roll. His bassist and right-hand man, Jimmy Sutton, goes electric in the title track, giving the band a push in rave-up mode. In “It’s All Over But The Shouting,” McPherson and Neill play around with essential ’50s recording techniques like echo, making them weirder than before. “Bridgebuilder,” the ballad McPherson wrote with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, hearkens back to pre-rock pop and doo-wop. “The All-American” reminds McPherson’s fans that he’s only one man in a long lineage with its direct nod to the great post-punk rock band The Blasters. Read the full review on NPR
Ty Segall – Live in San Francisco
Ty Segall Band’s Live in San Francisco is the fifth installment in the series. This isn’t his first live record (that was 2011’s Live in Aisle Five) and it’s not even his first appearance in the series (his prog-loving side project, Fuzz, was also included), but it’s an important addition. Along with Castle Face co-founder John Dwyer and his band Thee Oh Sees, Segall was a defining voice in the city’s late ’00s garage rock bubble and he and Dwyer are also, arguably, its most popular exports. And while it’s clear that Segall is prolific—he’s put out a double LP and a singles collection just within the last six months—this record isn’t filler. Read the full review on Pitchfork
For those of you struggling to get your hands on the new Thom Yorke, previously only available via download and imported vinyl – your ship has arrived. We’ve got our hands on a handful of copies, come grab it today!
” It plays like a journey on a night bus with an edgy atmosphere of unpredictability, mixing melancholy, urban soul with some lurching monotony. Yorke’s alienated falsetto mumbles and whimpers over furtive dubsteppy beats that could be coming from the headphones of the passenger beside him. Tomorrow… deepens on repeated listening, with Yorke locating moments of beauty and calm in the eye of his anxiety” – Telegraph
Dengue Fever – The Deepest Lake
The album kicks off with “Tokay,” a song packed with a thumping bassline, an ancient-sounding keyboard and singer Chhom Nimol singing in Cambodian. As Dengue Fever slowly builds up the tension, adding percussion, a horn, and a string section, Nimol’s singing gets more impassioned. This was the song that caught me off guard, turning me on to their music. But it’s only the beginning.
Things keep getting added as the album progresses: on “No Sudden Moves,” for example, Nimol bursts into a rap before segueing into a twangy guitar solo, layers of horns, and a bassline worthy of Jah Wobble. Meanwhile, on “Ghost Voice”, they go for a mellower 60s pop sound, with a twirling guitar line, strings and David Ralicke’s low-rumbling saxophone. Read the full review on Bearded Gentlemen Music
Punch Bros – The Phosphorescent Blues
Whether or not these Punch Brothers still feel young now, only they can say. But they certainly sound young. Though each group member has been involved with music since childhood, none of their compositional energy and creativity has diminished whatsoever. The same can be said for The Phosphorescent Blues, the band’s fourth full-length. Like its predecessor, the album finds these lads continuing to push themselves compositionally, all the while maintaining that crucial balance between the cerebral and emotional aspects of their music. Read the full review on Glide Magazine
Gov’t Mule – Sco-mule
Sco-Mule isn’t a jazz album by any standard definition; it rocks way too hard for that. Still, with Scofield’s intuitive way of taking the music ever so slightly out, only to bring it back in again with the kind of effortless aplomb he’s developed in a career now entering its fifth decade as the guitarist moves into his mid- sixties, Sco-Mule ain’t your typical jam band album either. Instead, it sits somewhere in-between, with everyone forgetting about artificial delineation. Sco- Mule is, quite simply, great songs played by a terrific group that may have been performing live for the first time, but was already imbued with a profound connection that went deeper and broader than any one genre. Read the full review on All About Jazz
Belle & Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime want to Dance
Now after almost twenty years of recording, Belle & Sebastian have made the biggest stylistic leap of their career. Forget all the descriptors you previously associated with the Glaswegian six-piece. Their ninth album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, doesn’t so much re-invent them, it practically serves as a reboot.
Opening with ‘Nobody’s Empire’, easily the most personal song bandleader Stuart Murdoch has ever written, it brings the Belle & Sebastian story to its origin, detailing Murdoch’s struggle with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome). For almost seven years he was unable to work and has stated that this isolating experience was the key factor in encouraging him to pursue a career as a songwriter. Melodies came to Murdoch, characterised here as “a girl who sang like the chime of a bell / she touched me when I was in hell.” Music became his focus and ultimately, along with faith, saved him from a fate that – lyrically at least – he compares to death. Read the full review on the 405
Dememberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
Things begin with “The Singer Addresses His Audience”, an acoustic ballad/metacommentary on the expectations and experiences of the Decemberists. Similar to how Panic! at the Disco begins Pretty. Odd. with “We’re So Sorry”, this piece finds Meloy literally speaking of the changes the band has gone through over the years. With his typical tinge of melancholy, he reflects, “We know, we know, we belong to ya / We know you grew your arms around us / In the hopes we wouldn’t change / But we had to change some / You know, to belong to you.” Strings and vocal accompaniment soon complement his self-aware lament, and by the end percussion and various dissonant sounds combine with a luscious chant, creating an anthemic encasing as only the Decemberists can provide. In short, it’s a phenomenal way to begin. Read the full review on Pop Matters
Viet Cong – Viet Cong
Viet Cong count two members of Calgary-based ex-band Women among their number. Band in “emerging from other band’s ashes” shocker, etc. Of course, this is not a piece of information that should direct any anticipation towards receipt of Viet Cong’s debut album, and nor would they likely appreciate a fairly detailed examination of why it’s a Very Exciting Thing that this album exists, but here we are. Women were a very fine band that didn’t work for two main reasons: one was a notorious, slappy mid-show bust-up between brothers Matt and Pat Flegel which signaled the personal demise of the band; the other was the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer in 2012, which signaled the ultimate demise. Both of the albums that Women succeeded in making before those circumstances overtook them, especially 2010’s Public Strain, were perfectly diseased gems of invention, works of surf-pop breeze tuned down and flawlessly emaciated, leaving only the barest shards of loveable pop for a listener to dangle from. Read the full review on the Quietus
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
No Cities to Love represents a union of Sleater-Kinney’s past, a fiery rebirth from riot grrrl ashes. Every S-K album is represented here — the early roar, the eventual popcraft, and ultimately, the technical virtuosity. Tucker and Brownstein’s lyrics make this connection explicit, with No Cities being, foremost, a reflexive celebration of their return to music making (see, for example, the one-two punch of “A New Wave” and “No Anthems”). The personal (“Hey Darling”) and the political (“Price Tag”) find their way in, but No Cities is more interested in the professional (which, in this hall of mirrors, also consists of the personal and political). Winking references come in rapid-fire succession, keeping the album’s thematic scope from being much more than a self-conscious comeback. Still, what a breathless — and breathtaking — comeback it is. Read the full review on Pretty Much Amazing
frankie cosmos - quick songs adumbrative of the mundane, this quick album will leave its listener with a quiet reverence of toothpaste and family life. // Greta Kline is keeping the punk ethos alive in the bedroom with kitschy freak folk.
parkay quarts - sunbathing animal Meandering and meaningless, it turns me on! // 1974, met lou reed in china town book store, flipping through anna karenina, frowning, he said to me: peasants grow a garden, pedants ruin a book. jealously I cracked: took nine hundred pages to reach that emotional depth, lou. this album knows where its influences lie. nyc cool, druggy and scenic.
ronald paris - ronald paris [split tape] The very first telegraph beeped Morse, "what has Aaron Maine wrought?" As a singer/songwriter, this pliable talent has recorded deeply depressing, yet hauntingly beautiful music. His penchant for distressing his listeners hasn't been lost under the new moniker, but has been cloaked under an urban aesthetic. Think carnival rather than funeral. Through this character, one learns that there is nothing more depressing than the pursuit of happiness. // In some sense, A.M. has pulled a Father John Misty on us. In both projects the deep toned, masculine archetypes of romanticism abandoned their attempts at melodrama to shed light on Generation Y's self-indulgent self-loathing by personifying this very phenomenon. Our trivial pursuits, our hypocrisies, our steadfast ironic pretense are brought to light as these men trudge through the surreal to find out exactly what is real anymore. The difference is that "Ronal Par-ee" has accomplished this in three songs, whereas F.J.M. has become a parody of himself.
ty segall - manipulator ...and on the seventh album the melodies had shined forth from the fuzz, and it was good. //
BOYTOY - BOYTOY Although this one kinda flew under the radar, BOYTOY is definitely a band to watch. They are like if Nirvana had a baby with Bikini Kill, but it was raised by the Ramones. Or in other words, they are grunge/riot grrrls by nature, but a pop-punk blitzkrieg by nurture. The songs reflect a deep maturity in craftsmanship, while still being childlike and carefree in execution. From start to finish this album kicks ass. // This album has enough electricity to power a prius.
DGK is a student of philosophy here in Vermont.
Charlie Shatters loves lists almost as much as he loves shitty esoteric music.
Nicholas Allbrook – Ganough, Wallis & Fatuna
Spoon – They Want My Soul
Bass Drum of Death – Rip This
Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
The Dead Milkmen – Pretty Music For Pretty People
BANKS – Goddess
Julian Casablancas & The Voidz – Tyranny (it’s like, abysmal… but also enchanting)
Sun Kil Moon - Benji Everyone likes to hate on Mark Kozelek, but regardless of the stupid shit he said about The War on Drugs, he still produced one of the best albums of the year, not to mention of his career.
Perfume Genius - Too Bright In which Mike Hadreas turns himself inside out and reveals something slinky, mean and glamorous.
Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness Raw and sprawling, imperfect and full of deeply kept secrets. A Late night, dancing/crying on your own sort of thing.
Mac Demarco - Salad Days Summer jams for the slanted and enchanted.
Grouper - Ruins Liz Harris strips her sound down to the basics of her voice, a piano, some drums, and the frogs, birds, and space around her. Enchanting.
I’m a long time Pure Pop employee and freelance web developer. I live north of wherever you live.
White Suns - Totem Dark, powerful, and crawling with terrifying nuance. Riffs you didn't even know were riffs dragging you further down into hell with each listen. Lots of negative space to freak you out in the meantime. These guys are well adept at harshing everyone's mellow with cacophonous panache. Fuck yeah.
Antemasque - Antemasque This one was kind of a sleeper hit this year, and it sounds like the record that should have been made after the dissolution of At the Drive-In. Cedric and Omar are at their best here - however you feel about Mars Volta, these tunes are tasty and Antemasque is a no-brainer for fans of classic ATDI.
Psalm Zero - The Drain One part Charlie Looker (Extra Life), one part Andrew Hock (Castevet, Feast of the Epiphany), this stuff is hypnotic, medieval, and HEAVY. Atypically brutal with some really memorable hooks. Nothing else really sounds like this.
Sun Kil Moon - Benji Forget all the bullshit surrounding his beef with The War on Drugs. Focus on the tunes and this stuff is golden. Incredibly evocative acoustic storytelling with Mark Kozelek's classic rambling approach. Tried and true SKM themes of death, loss, melancholia, childhood, with a real sense of place (in this case, Ohio). This one might actually be his best. For a softy, he's pretty damn hard.
Kayo Dot - Coffins on Io The best thing I heard this year comes from Kayo Dot, under-the-radar veterans of NYC's ''Brutal Prog Collective.'' Individually, these guys have mountains of material under the belts, and Kayo Dot has always been at the scene's center. Coffins on Io was born out of weekly karaoke meetups and is kind of a wacky turn from their previous releases informed by harsher realms of the metal world. These songs show incredible restraint and masterful composition, each with the feel of a send-up to forgotten 70's prog and fringe pop music. Each listen reveals new layers, especially if one is familiar with these guys' typical M.O. of fucking with the listener's comfort at almost every turn. Don't sleep on this.
I’m a Vermont native with a deep respect and admiration for Pure Pop Records. Currently living in San Francisco, listening to as much weird shit as possible and keeping my ear to the ground. I deeply believe in the power of close listening and the preservation of physical media. Keep buying records and supporting local!
Thee Oh Sees - Drop Groovy, man.
Shellac - Dude Incredible Apes hunting, mating, and fighting OR drunken frat guys out on the town? Either way, holy shit.
Ty Segall - Manipulator I like double albums, Ty Segall, and this song.
Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal I probably listened to "Instant Disassembly" more than any other song this year.
Swans - To Be Kind It's just huge, fantastic, intense, and beautiful. It's amazing that it even exists.
The other day I saw a copy of KISS Alive! at FYE for $60. What the fuck is going on?