Lightning Dust: Fantasy
Lightning Dust's 3rd proper full length finds its inspiration in skeletal synth pop, modern R&B beats, the films of John Carpenter and -- in accordance with Lightning Dust's only longstanding rule -- absolute minimalism. The core of Fantasy lies as much in the songwriting as in its sonics, and begins with tools familiar to Webber and Wells: her acoustic guitar and his Wurlitzer piano. They worked to distill the arrangements to just the few key elements that were necessary to make the feel right, and through countless hours of labor in The Balloon Factory - their Vancouver studio - the songs found their way to a sonic palette more squarely electronic than either expected.
Foxygen: 'No Destruction' b/w 'Where's The Money?'
Featuring "No Destruction", a hot slice off the "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic" pie, and the ostensibly quizzical b-side, "Where's The Money?"
Small Black: Limits of Desire
The cover of Brooklyn-based Small Black's second LP, Limits of Desire, features a photo of a man and a woman embracing on either side of a ladder, completely naked, divided by its triangular arc. They're close, but they can't get any closer. It's a moving depiction of connectivity and interaction in the 21st century and it serves as a sort of source code for the record.
Limits of Desire is Small Black's most accomplished album yet. It's a crystalline realization of a sound they've been building toward since their self-titled EP in 2009. Now a full-time four piece, Josh Hayden Kolenik (keys, vocals), Ryan Heyner (guitar, keys, vocals), Juan Pieczanski (bass, guitar) and Jeff Curtin (drums, percussion), the band have moved way beyond the hazy home recorded sound of their previous releases toward a full-fledged, but still self-produced, clear approach. Where 2010?s New Chain was a lesson in maximalist pop, Limits of Desire finds the band trimming their sound to the essentials, yet hitting new and unexpected heights with the addition of live drums, electric guitar and trumpet to the existing Small Black palette. Tonally the songs sweep and glide over lush keys, bolstered by lyrics that illustrate the semi-abstract moments of lost opportunities and misread signs, hinted at by the cover image. The title track whirls softly, and channels luminaries Tears for Fears and The Blue Nile, anchored by Pieczanski's punchy bass as Kolenik sings: "Other lives droned/ far from the grass where I lay/ each eye stared out the opposite way." As much as the record is about looking for deeper connections, it's also about avoiding real life, if only for a moment?getting out of your own head just long enough to calm down and find perspective.
?Free At Dawn? and ?No Stranger? do what fans have come to love Small Black for, only better. They?re smart pop bangers tinged with a specific brand of melancholy that slowly build to night-affirming climaxes. While "Breathless? ups the tempo, over synth stabs, with lyrics that tackle apathy and uncertainty with catchy grace: "I'm standing in tomorrow's way/ future's fine/least it seems okay." It paints a concise portrait of a generation struggling with unlimited freedom and malaise.
The band builds on a rich history of synth pop by making a thoroughly modern album, on both the front and back end. One that seeks out cohesion, connection and calm in a world that won?t sit still. Limits of Desire doesn't attempt to provide any solutions, but coming to terms with not finding the answers feels infinitely more fruitful.
Wolf People: Fain
Recorded in an isolated house in the Yorkshire Dales, Fain is the sound of a band at the peak of their creative powers. It?s an honest and natural album that allows its stories and melodies to breathe. The album draws on more traditional English and Scottish folk melodies than anything they?ve done before, but not straying from the drop-out fuzz-rock route they?ve made their own.
The Besnard Lakes: Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO
With Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, The Besnard Lakes create a distinct and dreamy headspace, an enigmatic and somehow familiar placelessness. It happens in such a way that both the close and casual listener find themselves immersed in the generous sonic vision, one moment as timeless as the next.
Dinosaur Jr.: Now The Fall b/w Ricochet
The Cave Singers: Naomi
On Naomi, The Cave Singers have charted new territory for the band, both musically and spiritually, while remaining true to their distinctive brand of brushfired folk. After some time in the dark wealth of the unknown, they have returned to the light with a revitalized purpose.
Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars: Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars (Reissue)
Available for the first time on vinyl, Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars is Doiron's most critically acclaimed album, going so far as to win the 2000 Juno Award -- the Canadian equivalent to the Grammy -- for best independently released album of the year. Combining elements of rock and jazz a la Joni Mitchell's early '70s work, Julie and the Wooden Stars somehow translated the coldness of the Canadian winter into one of the warmest and most tender records to be produced in the Eastern province in years.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra: II
II builds on the break-beat, junk-shop charm the 32-year-old multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ruban Nielson came to be renowned for following Unknown Mortal Orchestra's self-titled 2011 debut, and signals the solidification of the band's position as an endlessly intriguing, brave psychedelic band. UMO is unafraid to dig deeper than the rest to lock into their intoxicating, opiate groove and bring rock?n?roll?s exaggerated myths to life. Written during a punishing, debauched touring schedule during which Nielson feared for both his sanity and health, II illustrates the emotional turmoil of life on the road, painting surrealist, cartoonish portraits of loneliness, love and despair.
Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is a precocious and cocksure joyride across California psychedelia with a burning, bursting punk rock engine. In the same year as Scott McKenzie the singer of "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)" leaves this mortal coil, Foxygen delivers unto us the dandy Glockenspiel-packing "San Francisco," which both circumvents and dissects McKenzie's tune and its many cousins of the era. "I left my love in San Francisco/(That's okay, I was bored anyway)/I left my love in a field/(That's okay, I was born in LA)" goes the lovely call-and-response chorus, slamming together the archetypal flower children of the 60s and the archetypal ADHD vapidity of our recent generations. Another highlight, "Shuggie," manages to fit all the light bounce of the song's namesake and the climbing choruses of ELO into it's 3 minutes while still filling the tune with imagery of "rhinoceros-shaped earrings" and haunted parlors. Every nook and cranny of the record is loaded with their unflappable, brazen personalities. Foxygen takes "swagger," that as-of-late misused adjective, back once and for all. It's flipping pyramids old and new upside down ? from the miracle demo hand-off to their Richard Pryor-as-Jagger live shows to their singular idiosynchratic vision of rock n' roll.