Wilco – The Whole Love
“The Whole Love,” a 12-song effort that’s way more “Summerteeth” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” than more recent efforts: The band is having fun not only with sound but with structure, without sacrificing catchiness. Nearly every song contains some tangential surprise, odd hook, sonic back flip or midsong redefinition. The first single, “I Might,” sounds like ? and the Mysterians covering Radiohead and is the closest thing to a simple rock song on the record (rivaled by “Dawned on Me,” which suggests Electric Light Orchestra). “Sunloathe” is a surreal, psychedelic piano ballad carried forward by Kotche’s miscellaneous noise and layers of intricate countermelodies. “Standing O” sounds stolen from Elvis Costello’s “This Year’s Model.” Read the full review on LA Times
Nirvana – Nevermind (Deluxe Edition)
Twenty years later, here I sit swamped again in that riotous cataloguing of disaffection and narcissism, thanks to Nevermind’s big-event two-disc reissue. First comes the original album, at once unchanged and alien. The choruses strike me as ridiculously effective: pop sing-alongs hidden in the outsider sneer of punk. That radioactive pop core can’t be contained – not by dank effects, fragmented lyrics or even a mocking self-awareness about underground rock bands making major-label debuts. Butch Vig’s radio-glossed production has taken its share of lashes – and certainly the faint echo on Kurt Cobain’s voice during ‘Breed’ seems silly now – but he brings out the crossover potential of these songs even when they’re infected by groggy angst and vague sentiments. Like those loping verses and ravenous choruses, Vig’s pro sheen is a roadworthy vehicle for Cobain’s musing-venting-musing streaks. Read the full review on the Vine
Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams
Dum Dum Girls in particular had a way of reminding you that there was more to it than that. They had fun with irony; artifice; and winking, revisionist takes on musical history (Kristin Gundred’s Ramones-nodding stage name Dee Dee; Richard “My Boyfriend’s Back” Gottehrer’s co-producing credit on both full-lengths) that reminded you of the simple, triumphant facts: these women were all pretty excellent pop songwriters, and this thing they were part of was the most visible all-female front in indie rock since the riot grrrl movement in the early 1990s. Read the full review on Pitchfork
Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestial Lineage
Casting themselves as warrior-monks chanting benedictions while honing their swords on blood-soaked whetstones, the Weavers wield “Permanent Changes In Consciousness” as a ghostly interlude—one that offers breathing space between “Thuja Magus Imperium” and “Subterranean Initiation,” two symphonic, multilayered epics that launch Lineage into cosmic orbit. But the disc stays tethered to terra firma; simultaneously earthen and unearthly, the closing track, “Prayer Of Transformation,” churns frantic dissonance, blackened ambience, and the choral aura of guest singer Jessika Kenney into a blur of ethereal sludge. Each shimmering chord is a crested wave; each blastbeat and bestial screech is administered with zealous conviction. Read the full review on AV Club
Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing
Last year, some speculated that the sixth album by Portland’s Blitzen Trapper might see the band enter some kind of cosmic-progressive phase. The logic, such as it was, went that their Queen-inspired miniature rock opera “Destroyer of the Void” was indicative of the group’s future plans, where the last album’s other songs were not. However, borrowing from a host of ‘70s influences is just what Blitzen Trapper does. Had they chosen another song from the last album, critics might just as well have predicted the band would become full-time Laurel Canyon folkies, don leather for hard rock, or disband altogether allowing frontman Eric Earley to transform permanently into Bob Dylan. Thankfully, none of those things happened. On American Goldwing Blitzen Trapper remains true to itself—still inspired by its heroes, still fusing old sounds with new, and still compelling. Read the full review at Pop Matters
Tori Amos – Night of Hunters
Using a technique taken from classical music, Amos has created a cycle of repeating musical themes with her latest solo work, “Night of Hunters,” a beautiful kaleidoscope of remembering and letting go. Tori fans will be delighted to find that “Hunters” marks the return of Amos’ piano, which has taken a back seat to the electronically produced fanciness she’s favored in the recent past. Here her voice is a crystal bell with only the ivory guiding her. Tori’s preteen daughter Natashya Hawley, her voice a rich earthy tone that vacillates between Sia-esque beauty and childlike curiosity, joins her mother for duets on four tracks, most notably on the wonderful “Job’s Coffin,” their vocals playing off of each other like two calling birds. Read the Full Review
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Revocation – Chaos of Forms
Exploding out of Boston, these thrashing tech-death masters have unleashed their third album (and second on Relapse) to the masses. Strewn with references to some of the gods in the pantheon of metal-dom, I have no doubt that this will be on many year-end best of lists. If you’ve got eyes, keep them fixed on these guys.
Check this out if you like Slayer, Necrophagist, and Evile
Architects – The Here and Now
With three albums under their belt, Architects have now come around with a fairly different sound. The Here and Now sees the use of less technical aspects and a bit of a push towards a more post-hardcore, poppy sound. They’re still searching for their exact niche, but it should only be a matter of time until they’ve found it.
Check this out if you like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Bring Me the Horizon, and A Day to Remember
Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions
For over ten years now, Arch Enemy have been able to lay claim to arguably the most infamous female vocalist in metal. Fortunately, Angela Gossow’s pipes have been showing no signs of letting up and she still sounds as horrifying as she did way back on Wages of Sin. The rest of the band has also shown great resolve, with Khaos Legions being one of their best releases in years.
Check this out if you like In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and At the Gates
Das Racist – Relax
“Relax” is Das Racist’s first commercial release, yet it shares the dense sprawl and uncomfortable laughs of the group’s previous Internet mixtapes. First single “Michael Jackson” proves an earworm equal to Das Racist’s breakthrough 2008 blog hit, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” — as catchy as anything by Lil Wayne, but its postmodern absurdity actually seems intentional. “Booty in the Air” suggests an R&B strip-club anthem via someone too nerdy to have ever actually gotten a lap dance, while on “Shut Up, Man,” Kool A.D. bisects a buckshot spray of surrealist wordplay evoking Ghostface and MF Doom with an insightfully pointed query: “They say I act white but sound black/ But act black but sound white/ But what’s my sound bite supposed to sound like?” He’s clearly being hypothetical: It sounds a lot like Das Racist. Read the full review on LA Times Pop & Hiss Blog
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
The first listen to Father, Son, Holy Ghost brings with it an almost eerie sense of familiarity, like these are songs you’ve been hearing your whole life even when you can’t place them, and it’s sometimes startling just how specific the references can be. The opening “Honey Bunny” has a shuffling beat and riff that is close to Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome”; “Love Like a River” has a verse structure, chord changes, and tinkling piano arrangement almost identical to the Beatles’ “Oh! Darlin”, which was itself a direct rip of songs like “Blueberry Hill”. “Magic” has bouncy sunshine pop chords that bring to mind something from a Have a Nice Day comp, “Die” has almost the same melody as Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. Read the full review on Pitchfork
Can’t – Dreams Come True
Turns out dreams come true indeed – CANT is like fresh air from left field, brilliant and creative, indicative of Taylor’s versatility as a songwriter. Not many vestiges of the indie folk Taylor and his bandmates in Grizzly Bear engineer with such mastery are present here, nor are many sonic ties to the myriad groups Taylor has produced. Dreams Come True is humid and brooding and dark, constructed gracefully of layers of shuddering drum machine and dizzying bass riffs and drones (you’ll need headphones for this one). Read the full review on Pretty Much Amazing
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Mirror Traffic
Despite originally wanting to title the album L.A. Guns and putting the hard-rocking “Senator” forward as the first single, Malkmus largely lays off the Guitar Hero: The fretboard theatrics are used more sparingly and deployed to much greater effect on “Forever 28″ where a “Mr. Blue Sky” bounce is interrupted by Thin Lizzy runs, or in the thrilling summertime riff of “Stick Figures in Love”. Only three songs break the five-minute barrier, and these feel far less claustrophobic than the extended tracks on the last three Jicks records. “Share the Red”‘s shambolic waltz, for instance, goes down easier than the 10-minute-long interlocking duets of “Real Emotional Trash”. Read the full review on Pitchfork
Beirut – The Riptide
You see, “The Riptide” is a demonstration. It’s an explanation that, from here on out, the band know exactly what they’re doing; they have the style, they have the skills and they have the willpower. But “The Riptide” is not the full execution. It’s a map; an overview of what is to come.
It makes sense that this is the album to finally see a release of “East Harlem” – a song Condon originally wrote when he was seventeen. Though it appeared on the “Live in Williamsburg”, it was not in finished form. Condon has been tweaking this song for years, performing different variations of it live, adding and dropping things, changing what he had (I personally had the pleasure to hear this final version of the song live in June, and can testify to how surprised I was by their changes); but it was always recognisably the same song. Of course it’s “The Riptide” when he decides to set in stone the final version of the song. The album’s about Beirut growing up, and “East Harlem” is the perfect song to represent that. Most notably, Condon’s flat singing really finds its sense of place now – becoming a layer of the music rather than becoming an imposing lead. Read the full review on The Silver Tongue
Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
The album’s highlight, and an instant classic, is “Made in America,” a solid, slow-paced Frank Ocean-teamed jam about the American dream that reveals the main difference between West and Jay-Z: humility. Above a weirdly magnetic synthetic beat and dots of pretty piano clusters crafted by producer Sak Pace of the Jugganauts, Ocean begins by gently listing a string of saints — “sweet king Martin, sweet queen Coretta, sweet brother Malcolm … sweet baby Jesus” among them, and West offers a verse that starts off humble, but by the end he’s bragging about his power and slamming his critics — while Ocean sings “We made it in America.” Read the full Review on The LA Times