Anand Wilder & Maxwell Kardon: Break Line The Musical
On a front porch in Philadelphia in early 2004, Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon sat with a guitar and a banjo and busily fingerpicked to keep their hands from freezing. After a few false starts they settled on a dirge in d-minor and began improvising lyrics about a labor conflict in a Western Pennsylvania coal town that their fathers had learned about from an old folk song taught in Quaker schools in the '50s. The principal heroes and villains of the story were lost to history and buried in mineshafts and unmarked graves, and the particulars of the outcome were primarily recorded on newspapers lost in warehouse fires and floods. Neither can believe that what started with just the two of them huddled on a cold porch would grow to involve a once-in-a-lifetime cast of collaborators. ? A decade after its conception, they are proud to present to the public their vision of a classic story of betrayal, pride and lost love.
Circulatory System: Mosaics Within Mosaics
Circulatory System are back with a new double album called "Mosaics within Mosaics". They are led by Will Cullen Hart, visual artist and one of the main songwriters of the psychedelic pop band The Olivia Tremor Control. Coinciding with a tour with old friends Neutral Milk Hotel, including an appearance at Pitchfork Music Festival, the album will be released June 24th, 2014. The album was culled together in the style in which Will has always worked, using recordings from his copious back catalog of home recordings spanning from twelve years ago to now. It was masterfully assembled by Derek Almstead (Faster Circuits) with overdubs by John Fernandes (Dream Boat, Jacob Morris, The New Sound of Numbers, Old Smokey), Heather McIntosh (The Instruments), AJ Griffin (Laminated Cat), Peter Erchick (Pipes You See, Pipes You Don't), and Jeff Mangum & Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel). The lyrics feature Will's unique observations and impressions of life - poetic and meaningful. The music is entrancing, sometimes flowing into long instrumental passages that set a very pleasant atmosphere. Since the mixes originated in Will's bedroom, they all have his signature deep-focus production style. He is very enamored with using the mixes of songs from the day they were recorded instead of trying to capture the same magic when re-recording them. It makes sense because the sound of the recordings have as much impact as the songs themselves in creating an enveloping world of words, melody, and texture. Available on limited edition vinyl (1000 copies), digital, and CD.
EULA: Orderly / Meadows
On June 24, Brooklyn's EULA will release their latest single "Orderly" b/w "Meadows" on Bloodmoss Records. Recorded by legendary producer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Swans), EULA's angular, aggressive sound has reached their grandest scale yet. The merging of Alyse Lamb's guttural wails with the band's clashing guitars, deep rumbling bass, and booming backbeat-heavy drums is as chaotic as it is meditative. Bisi's focus on layers and textures is apparent here as he pulls back Alyse's haunting vocals just enough for the grimy feedback to have as much of an impact in all the heaviness.
Landlady: Upright Behavior
"This is the part of the song when we come together." Adam Schatz's voice rings out in the flickering candlelight of Manhattan Inn. "There's no before. There's no after. There's only this." Schatz leads Landlady, the Brooklyn five-piece whose beautifully-packaged Hometapes debut boldly disrupts the notion of genre and reveals the soulful work of one of NYC's most prolific group of musicians and producers. "I've never heard music that hit my heart and my brain quite like this," said Hometapes co-founder Sara Padgett Heathcott, who discovered a kindred spirit in Schatz and a gateway to timelessness in Landlady's music. "Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Sly Stone, Frank Black - these are the names that echo around the canyon that Schatz walked me into last year." The release of Upright Behavior -? with a colored vinyl LP and a CD that includes a 14"x14" poster insert - is accompanied by national touring, including MusicFest NW, Hopscotch, and dates with Man Man and Rubblebucket.
"the band has an intimate urgency that uncrosses arms and impels involvement, and their sound invokes the Band if they had Dirty Projectors' skewed sense of song structure." - Pitchfork
"There are so many moving parts?but they come together to make one big, beautiful whole." -Stereogum
My Brightest Diamond: None More Than You
The more influences My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden absorbs from the world around her, the less she sounds like anybody else.
Still, It's worth noting the strange paths these five new tracks took on their way to None More than You, My Brightest Diamond's latest EP. The lullaby "Dreaming Awake" was originally performed as a duet with circular-breathing sax titan Colin Stetson. It opens this disc in a tense, minimal Son Lux Mix, but Lux's raw electronic treatment only draws more attention to Worden's achingly tender vocal performance. Meanwhile, the layered orchestral arrangement on the flipside's Mason Jar Mix was created for an improbable guerrilla recording session that brought the cops to a decaying power station in Yonkers - but this richly detailed accompaniment only brings out the raw urgency of her songwriting.
"Dreams Don't Look Like" originated as silent movie music, an extract from Worden's score for The Balloonatic by Buster Keaton. "That Point When," a song Worden initially arranged to sing with the Orchestra for The Next Century, defies gravity too: musically and lyrically ambiguous, majestically lighter-than-air.
In fall of 2014, Asthmatic Kitty Records will release My Brightest Diamond's fourth full-length, This Is My Hand.
Nikki Sudden and the Jacobites: Texas
In a year when overproduced rock-fluff flooded radio waves, Texas - Sudden's 1986 solo debut for Creation - blasted through the saccharin for a damaged and masterful invocation at the imperfect alters of Chilton and Bolan, sonic influences the Brit bore proudly on his velvet sleeve throughout the course of his polarizing prolificacy. As the increasingly splintered Rolling Stones cultivated "Harlem Shuffle" cover cheese, the former Jacobite leader looked to the ragged Exile On Main St. and Sticky Fingers roots of his icons for a raw, 12-song predication melding tender jangle and staggering swagger. Widely considered Sudden's solo magnum opus, Texas is an exquisite mélange of the off-kilter sub-terrestrial songwriter. In founding Swell Maps, the post-punk prefacing Birmingham art-snots, Nikki Sudden and his drumming brother Epic Soundtracks charted new territory for racket and corrosive guitar. But after folding Swell Maps at the dawn of the '80s, Nikki Sudden plowed through another decade's worth of terrifically fertile ground. Drawing on his devotion to the Rolling Stones and T. Rex--alongside guitarist Dave Kusworth as Jacobites, plus a cheekily named cohort of British sidemen - Nikki Sudden cut a string of raw, inspired rock 'n' roll records, etched with double-edged travel melancholia and hard-bitten punk dejection.
United Nations: The Next Four Years
Originally conceived as a frenetic side-project founded by members of Thursday, Glassjaw and Converge, United Nations' membership and ideology have evolved into a full-time flagship for incendiary chaos. Their line-up overhauled to include members of acclaimed screamo group Pianos Become The Teeth, United Nations have become a perpetual lightning rod for controversy, confusion, and contempt ? in other words, they have become one of the most promising punk bands in North America. Now, the enigmatic supergroup have returned with the long-awaited follow-up to their self-titled 2008 debut - and their first new recordings since 2010's highly sought-after "Never Mind The Bombings, Here's Your Six Figures" 7" on Deathwish Inc. Featuring material recorded between the spring of 1981 and the fall of 2016, The Next Four Years picks up where "Never Mind The Bombings" left off, expanding on their already caustic sound with an even greater sense of urgency and aggression. It's a furious homage to the pioneers of punk, and a scorching critique on the current state of "punk." It is the most cathartic music of their mysterious career, and unquestionably some of the most vital heavy music released this year.
Various Artists: Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label
Fueled by the financial drippings of number runners and boosted by Hall-of-Fame running back Jim Brown, Cleveland, Ohio's Way Out Records offered asylum for a rising crop of rogue soul men, rust-belt vocal ensembles, and trial-by-fire producers. Helmed by a friendly consortium of hustlers, police officers, and gridiron giants, pet project beget obsession as Motown arrangers, gospel choirs, and the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra were all beckoned to the wrong side of the tracks to mint masterpieces for the Sensations, Volcanic Eruption, the Exceptional Three, and Bobby Wade, all beneath the mindful gaze of a wall-mounted shotgun. Reaching their peak in the late '60s, Eccentric Soul: The Way Out Label gathers the brightest moments from the quirky operation's eleven year bid.
The 3xLP configuration boasts a double gatefold with beautiful photos and ephemera from the label's low-flying promotional department. The 2xCD version boasts images unique to this format, plus the same great liner notes, clocking in at 7,000 words. For fans of group harmony, sweet soul, orchestral feats and lo-fi oddities, The Way Out Label is an excellent addition to our already popular and powerful Eccentric Soul series.
Woman's Hour: Conversations
Woman's Hour are not your average band. The first clue comes in the name of the London-based four-piece, taken from a beloved female-focused news and culture show on BBC Radio 4. The second is in their graphic, striking monochrome visuals, meticulously curated in collaboration with TATE and MOMA certified fine artists Oliver Chanarin and Adam Broomberg. These play with shape and texture, much like their powerful, iridescent music. On their excellent debut album 'Conversations', this has the intricate construction and intimacy of The xx and the iridescent shimmer of summer-defining indie pop. Pay attention now, or regret it later.
Xeno & Oaklander: Par Avion
This summer, Brooklyn duo Xeno and Oaklander are a minimal electronics girl/boy duo from Brooklyn , bring their minimal electronic sounds to Ghostly International with new album Par Avion, their first for the label. The album's title is a reference to postcards - it translates as "by plane", and was used to mark airmail sent from exotic places. The songs are postcards of love for a cold age - shimmering moments from the present, romantic messages from the past, and love mementos for the future. Together, they make up an album of contrasts - the songs move from upbeat to downbeat, slow to fast, light to dark.
Wendelbo's whispery vocals are sung in both French and English, calling to mind Jane Birkin and Françoise Hardy. Again, there's a contrast between dark and light - the alluring, tropical warmth of Wendelbo's vocals is juxtaposed against duo's signature icy cold, ultra-modern synth sounds. Those sounds have a new component for Par Avion - synth wizard Sean McBride uses an analogue Serge modular synth to create washes ofsound that recall '90s shoegaze. The result is an album that stimulates and fascinates throughout, a rich feast for all the senses, a world to get lost in again and again.
Jad Fair & Danielson: Solid Gold Heart
Anyone who ever had a Solid Gold Heart -- wouldn't they want to turn around and share it? Of course they would. Jad Fair and Danielson do. And their 11 tracks of sweet collaboration, collected under said title, sound like what you might expect: gleaming tunes of sincere sing-speak, resplendent with sparkling back-up vocals and warmly melodic, inventive instrumentation; a sunshine-bright outlook of positive encouragement to keep "rockin' on the side of goooood" -- because, after all, "We deserve chocolate cake/ We deserve apple pie/ Enjoy your life ..."
Strand of Oaks: HEAL
From the first bars of HEAL, the exhilarating melodic stomp of 'Goshen '97' puts you right into Tim Showalter's fervent teenage mindset. We find him in his family's basement den in Goshen, IN, feeling alienated but even at 15 years old, believing in the alchemy and power of music to heal your troubles. "The record is called HEAL, but it's not a soft, gentle healing, it's like scream therapy, a command, because I ripped out my subconscious, looked through it, and saw the worst parts. And that's how I got better." HEAL embodies that feeling of catharsis and rebirth, desperation and euphoria, confusion and clarity. It is deeply personal and unwittingly anthemic.
Showalter was on tour, walking home on a mild autumn night in Malmo, Sweden, when he first felt the weight of the personal crisis that would ignite him to write HEAL. "It was a culmination of pressure," Showalter recalls. "My marriage was suffering, I'd released a record I was disappointed in, I didn't like how I looked or acted?so I'd gone on tour, I was gone about two years! I didn't take time to think about failure, but I knew I was going deeper and deeper?I was thinking, I have this life, but it's not my life, I haven’t done it right?"
When Showalter returned, he wrote 30 songs in three weeks, a process that proved difficult, but cathartic and at times invigorating. Previous Strand Of Oaks records were more skeletal, raw examples of folk-rooted Americana with occasional rock and electronic currents, that have now come to the fore. HEAL is a bold new beginning, with a thrilling full-tilt sound that draws on Showalter's love of '70s, '80s and '90s rock and pop, with the singer and guitarist playing the intense valedictory confessor.
Crucial to HEAL's sound was the man who Showalter chose to mix the record, the stellar alt-rock icon John Congleton. Showalter also re-connected with Ben Vehorn, synth expert and studio engineer extraordinaire, and drummer Steve Clements, who provides HEAL's thunderous, sinewy drive. Songs such as 'Shut In', 'Plymouth' and 'Woke Up To The Light' have a classic construction and mood, recalling '70s power-pop/ballads and the yearning ache of Big Star's late, great Chris Bell. Many of the songs on HEAL reveal an electronic undercarriage and towering drums that push the album's wired dynamic to its stretching point, especially on 'For Me', which expertly bridges the album's twin decades of influences. And if 'Goshen '97' recalls the molten energy of Dinosaur Jr, that actually is J Mascis on lead guitar. Despite the initials, the album's smouldering 7-minute epic 'JM' is not a Mascis tribute, but to the late Jason Molina, about having his music as comfort no matter how bad things get.
Which brings us to another crisis, this time much more serious and immediate. HEAL was scheduled for mixing on Dec. 26, 2013. Driving on the freeway Christmas Day, Showalter and his wife were involved in a car accident with a semi-truck, and were fortunate to walk away with their lives. Showalter suffered a, "pretty severe," head trauma, "which affected me much more than I realized at the time." Fearing delays, Showalter didn't let Congelton know about it, so the mixing session went ahead. "Being on the verge of death, and my thoughts being so closely tied to that, changed the album's direction," Showalter claims. "Together, we pushed it toward a much more cathartic sound that forces the listener to where I was at that exact moment, somewhere between almost dying and being absolutely fearless." ?
HEAL is not just a saviour for its creator, but for anyone who needs reminding of music's ability to heal, or just thrill. Showalter is taking out a full band to play, and finally, the kid who wanted to be a rock star at 15 might get his chance. Finally, he and Strand Of Oaks have much to celebrate.