Is this record worth a spin? Should I buy it? Will it add to or detract
from my credibility? Should I care?
I wish someone could break it down for me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Alabama Shakes- Boys & Girls

On the heels of a pleasantly teasing 4 song EP comes the highly anticipated debut release from this Alabama foursome (hitting record shelves in April 2012). This is some serious deep south soul music with a dash of roots rock thrown in. Singer Brittany Howard is the real deal, she's got strong pipes, think of a cross between Betty Lavette and Janis Joplin, plays a mean guitar, and is gaining more confidence every time she steps on stage. The band is standard bar-backing musicians, but there's an obvious camaraderie between them and Howard that empowers her performances. Frankly, the sky's the limit for this young lady and I won't be surprised when she's performing duets with her icons at future Grammy award shows.

Buy this record so you can tell your friends that you heard her first.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Islands- A Sleep & A Forgetting

Official break-up record from the founder of The Unicorns. There are traces of the carnival organ that dotted previous Unicorn and Island releases, but this is a fairly stripped down, straight-forward affair. Inspired by a break-up and subsequent move from NYC to LA, Nick Thornburn sat down at his piano and banged out an album about lost love and lost apartments, maintaining his masterful pop edge in the process. The record was recorded in less than two weeks with minimal overdubs, the songs mid-tempo and subdued, a paean to more traditional rock music, almost devoid of the trademark quirkiness that defined Thornburn's sound with The Unicorns. Very much a mood record, but still catchy.

Buy this record for a Saturday night showing of Ordinary People with a box of kleenex.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Julia Holter- Ekstasis

A very mature sophomore release from this LA native. Ms. Holter doesn't try to make retro 80's dance music, she's not doing the doo-wop thing or attempting to recreate 60's garage rock, she's just making some good, understated fucking music. And she's turned to the very estimable RVNG Intl. label, out of NYC, to release it. The songs are ethereal, restrained, and electronically inclined, yet still rooted in pop music conventions. Holter has trained in classical music composition as well so cello, piano, and synthetic string sections are intermittently featured throughout. Lately, Holter has been working with Linda Perhacs, an unheralded but influential 70's folk artist, and it translates on Ekstasis. The opening song "Marienbad" wouldn't be out of place on Perhac's Parallelograms record, multi-layered vocals, both slightly psychedelic and tranquil, that ping pong in sing song fashion over a harpsichord melody. "Four Gardens' is the culmination of Holter's vocal ploy, a cascading swell of voices, over Cage-like saxophone squalls, serving as an instrument unto itself, alternating moods that emulate qualities from Indian Punjab to Arabic singing.  The tone of the album is somber but the synth lines add a warmth that creates an interesting juxtaposition in her music, call it hauntingly uplifting? Rush Limbaugh would be proud knowing that not only are women having lots of sex, they're also making lots of good music. This is one of the more rewarding releases I've heard in a while.

Buy this record if you're contemplating an omelette but are sure that you prefer toast to an english muffin.