Rafter: 10 Songs
This pop gem has been buried in the rough since 1998, when Rafter put the finishing touches on his garage-built masterpiece and called it “10 Songs.” You can float along on top contemplating the slowed-up folk crunk of “My Friend the Crow,” improbably perched soundwise between Neil Young and M.I.A. (with a bit of Pascal Comelade thrown in for good measure), and thus forget that impulse to define and measure and relate everything down to it’s perceived place in the history of time. This is an album to lose your way in, headphones pumping and toes tapping and mind swimming in the rich environs authored by a persevering love-seeking dude.
Sufjan Stevens: A Sun Came (reissue)
Asthmatic Kitty announces a new edition of "A Sun Came," the 1999 debut album by Sufjan Stevens. Widely acclaimed for "Michigan" (2003), and "Seven Swans" (2004), singer/songwriter Sufjan Steven's first solo collection has been skillfully remastered, with two previously unreleased tracks and new art by Stephen Halker. Recorded on 4-track while still in college, "A Sun Came" first demonstrated Sufjan's eclectic instrumentalism- he plays over a dozen instruments here- noted production skills, and heartfelt songwriting. Though little known until listeners and reviewers discovered "Michigan" last year, "A Sun Came" foreshadows Sufjan's later work, and stands on it's own as an expression of his unique talents. A stunning blend of 60's psychedelic pop influences with middle-eastern and east Indian musical touches and a trace of experimental noise, "A Sun Came" grips the listener from the very first notes and doesn't let go until you've reached the end of Stevens' 72 minute opus.? -Opuszine
My Brightest Diamond: A Thousand Shark's Teeth
Two years after the world formally met her via her acclaimed debut, Bring Me the Workhorse, Brooklyn, NY’s My Brightest Diamond ? spearheaded by Shara Worden ? has been established as one of independent music’s most vibrant, creative and original voices. And with A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, Diamond’s incredible, breathtaking sophomore release, we are all instantly reminded once more of Shara Worden’s undeniable talent.
Charming, playful, daring, foreboding, graceful, eclectic, exciting and visceral: these are all the first words that come to mind after a full listen through A Thousand Shark’s Teeth. Originally meant to be a more classical, string quartet affair, the work slowly evolved and refined itself over a period of six years. The record, which was mixed by Husky Höskulds (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), was recorded in Berlin, Los Angeles and New York City, and features twenty different players all contributing little bits of musical magic. Influenced by artists such as Tricky, French composer Maurice Ravel and Tom Waits, in addition to the star exploration themes of Anslem Kiefer’s paintings, the imaginary landscapes of photographer Robert ParkeHarrison, films by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Alice in Wonderland, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth is a musical snowglobe that sparkles each time you touch it. The songs, whose themes broach intimacy, kisses by moonlight, laundry, lost friendship and more, marry vast instrumentation ? marimbas, harps, clarinets, French horns, rabid guitars, vibraphones to name a few ? to create an unequaled amalgamation of style and color. In simple terms: it’s beautiful, and there’s nothing else quite like it.
Sufjan Stevens: All Delighted People EP
The EP, All Delighted People, is built around two different versions of Sufjan?s long-form epic ballad "All Delighted People," a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon?s "Sounds of Silence." The song was originally workshopped on Sufjan?s previous tour in the fall of 2009. Other songs on the EP include the 17-minute guitar jam-for-single-mothers "Djohariah," and the gothic piano ballad "The Owl and the Tanager," a live-show mainstay.
My Brightest Diamond: All Things Will Unwind
All Things Will Unwind is the third, stunning offer from Detroit based experimental pop chanteuse-My Brightest Diamond, aka Shara Worden. Known for her many collaborations with indie rock royalty (Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, David Bryne, The Decemberists, and The National) as well as her extraordinary original material, Worden is coming into her own as an artist and human on this 11 song recording. At once accessible and intelligent, the songs were written exclusively for celebrated chamber ensemble yMusic (Bon Iver, Antony & the Johnsons, The New York Philharmonic & Rufus Wainwright) and they are featured on each track.
The range of influences on All Things Will Unwind are as eclectic as its? author, but listeners will recognize hints of Roberta Flack, Regina Specktor, Edith Piaf and Antony & The Johnsons throughout the album. Inspired by becoming a mother, chats with legendary performance artist Laurie Anderson, presidential addresses, and class warfare, Worden is metabolizing her influences as only she can- with playful, profound originality. All Things Will Unwind is a picture of an artist maturing; considering joy and pain, beauty and horror, yet bravely standing in the tension between the two- and singing about it.
Rafter: Animal Feelings
Following the pop-leaning lead of his last EP, Sweaty Magic, Rafter's latest longplayer, Animal Feelings, is a Technicolor pop blow-out that recalls Nintendo composer Koji Kondo leading a fantasy camp super-jam with Cody Chesnutt, Justin Timberlake, and the Tom Tom Club. Rafter's history and influences, his dreams and ambition, and his love for love, all come together as a sweet, fun, speaker-blowin', beat-busting ride into the inner-core of pop and R&B music. Ask him to drop names for his latest work and he'll say Justin Timberlake and Sublime Frequencies' Radio Phnom Penh without batting an eye. He'll tell you Animal Feelings is "a marriage record, a lust record, a death and sex record." Animal Feelings, his fourth LP for Asthmatic Kitty, is an idea-packed picnic of philosophies and fears, of affirmations and questions. Like all of his work, this record is a very personal piece of music and Rafter has a lot to tell you. Whether you choose to listen or not is the difference between you getting down on the dancefloor or simply standing outside the club, listening to the beats, muffled and gutless through the walls.?
Half-Handed Cloud: As Stowaways in Cabinets of Surf, We Live-out in Our Members a Kind of Rebirth
Asthmatic Kitty Records presents the fifth Half-handed Cloud full-length album: As Stowaways in Cabinets of Surf, We Live-out in Our Members a Kind of Rebirth, or Stowaways for short. Connected with the lyrical tradition of 19th Century American hymns such as ?Shall We Gather at the River?? ?Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?? and ?There Shall Be Showers of Blessing,? these tunes splash about in cavernous spaces opened up by irregularly measured rhythms and pocket-orchestra arrangements integrated with creaky pianos, sound-loops, a tugboat of a church organ, guitars, and billowing banjos.
Half-handed Cloud?s John Ringhofer recorded this album on his half-inch reel-to-reel tape machine in the sanctuary and custodial quarters of a church in Berkeley, California, where he?s lived and worked as a custodian for the past seven years. He played most of the parts himself, joined by friends on cello, clarinet, violin, trumpet, and flute. Brandon Buckner, one-third of Ringhofer?s former band, Wookieback, is behind the drum-kit for the duration of this record. The album was mixed with Daniel Smith (Danielson) at Familyre Studio in Clarksboro, New Jersey.
Helado Negro: Awe Owe
Drawing from a rich variety of influences from the cradle to his crate digging years, Lange cites influences such as Funkadelic, DJ Premiere, South American 60's pop, Arthur Russell, Ecuadorean ballad singer Julio Jaramillo, and Adrian Sherwoods's production style in the early ON-U Sound releases. But when asked about his contemporaries, Roberto references all the players on the album, adding the names of visual artists David Ellis and Christian Marclay, two artists who use elements of DJ culture in their work. This is apropos when listening to the record, which it seems as if the songs have been sculpted or painted.
My Brightest Diamond: Be Brave - Single
OMBRE: Believe You Me
A beautiful thing happened when Asthmatic Kitty artists Helado Negro and Julianna Barwick first met: they got to know each other. The result, a collaborative band, OMBRE, and a brand-new full-length record, Believe You Me.
Recorded as the newly acquainted pair were just becoming friends, OMBRE shows Barwick's clear, high harmonies and church choir sensibilities melding well with Helado Negro's rustic-Latin-psyche-folk meets big-city-summer-blockparty.
Tracks simmer with the mellow chording of nylon string guitars, bubbling electronics, and the comely pluck of harps; they rise high and mountainous with Miles Davis-y trumpet and then disappear altogether. There's a very old school jazzy soundtrack air to these sessions. (An inspiration to the sessions was Clu Gulager's 1969 film A Day With the Boys and Egberto Gismonti's fantastic late-'60s compositional jazz.) It has the feel of a hot summer day in Brooklyn, 1971, the sun through the tenements and everyone sitting in the shade watching the world drift by.
Believe You Me's 36:19 minute run is a quiet storm that never puts you in danger?just a beautiful, refreshing summer rain to watch from your front porch, sitting next to a good friend. A new friend? Yes. Perfect. Even better.
Bunky: Born to be a Motorcycle
Finally, after three years of legendary performances in their hometown of San Diego, the amazing Bunky- Emily Joyce, Rafter Roberts, who has been featured in Tape Op, and friends- unleash their debut album, “Born to be a Motorcycle." “Motorcycle” will surprise even those who think they’ve heard it all; this eclectic collection of weird pop bliss blends punk, art-pop, and ballads with chugging horns, absurdist humor and bulls-eye production by veteran musicians/engineers Roberts and Joyce. The result is an album as lively as an armful of eels; Bunky rocks and croons with equal skill, sometimes in the same song. Joined by a cast of San Diego all-stars (members of Rocket from the Crypt, Castanets, Pinback, and others), Bunky blazes from the underground full-grown and ready to burn up the road.