Ava Luna: Electric Balloon
After years of writing and performing, Ava Luna has refined their doo-wop soul meets punk-as-fuck aesthetic into something bold and glaringly defiant in today's indie music landscape. Following the release of their critically lauded first proper full-length Ice Level, the band spent an intense 2-week period writing and recording in upstate New York. Unlike previous efforts that were meticulously mapped out, the songs that would become Electric Balloon were "?a family effort." according to frontman Carlos Hernandez. For the new album, former Columbia composition student Hernandez relinquished the reins a bit, opting for a more organic approach to writing the material for what would become Electric Balloon.
In the wake of Ice Level, Ava Luna's sharp edges have melted away just enough, making it easier to connect with their no-wave grooves and soaring harmonies. Distilling everything from James Chance and ESG to contemporaries like Dirty Projectors and Of Montreal, Ava Luna have landed on an aggressively unique sound that still manages to be accessible.
Axxa/Abraxas is the music and art project of Ben Asbury, a 23 year old from outside Atlanta, GA. His experiences as a record collector and music obsessive from a very young age are easily evident in his debut release. Going full circle from being introduced to 60's pop as a kid, through his foray into punk rock at an early age, into post-rock and Elephant Six indie, right back into 60's Psychedelia, Ben has honed his influences (Neil Young, Television Personalities), into a cohesive blend to adapt his own take on psych-influenced art-pop.The label enlisted Jarvis Taveniere (Woods) to record and produce what would become Axxa/Abraxas debut. It's the artistic culmination of prodigious young songwriter putting it all together in an erudite way despite his tendency to write lyrics which are "...generally directed at myself, often criticizing my shortcomings..." No matter how he criticizes himself, one need only listen to the record to see he's quite confident in his music.
Carla Bozulich: Boy
Carla Bozulich, an art-punk heroine with almost three decades of exceptional, iconoclastic musical activity under her belt, returns with the third record of her storied career to be issued in her own name. Boy is Carla's self-proclaimed "pop record" and is a refreshing and much-needed reminder of what pop can mean in the hands of a ferociously commanding singer/lyricist who has cut her teeth on genre-bending, genre?blending, and DIY production for 25 years. Boy is unmistakably a pop-influenced album by way of punk, avant rock and lo/mid-fi; a batch of ten songs that clock in at 3-5 minutes each, mostly hewing to recognizable structures of verse, chorus and bridge, but full of destabilizing accents and strategies. The songs are replete with hooks and melodies, delivered chiefly by the singing itself, with the underlying instrumentation and arrangements always in the service of Carla's voice and lyrics.
Boy is without doubt the sharpest, supplest, most satisfying and most generous album that Bozulich has made in recent years, and also happens to be one of her most immediately accessible. It is a definitive expression ? and should serve as a welcome reminder ? of Bozulich's unique tastes, talents and trajectories.
Linda Perhacs: The Soul of All Natural Things
Linda Perhacs? Parallelograms was created in the heart of hippy country, LA?s Topanga Canyon, by a dental hygienist who was inspired by nature and by the cultural revolution going on around her. When Parallelograms was finished, it sounded like a masterpiece, but the label had pressed it so poorly, sales were non-existent. Obscurity beckoned.
But in the internet age obscurity can be discreetly transformed into a kind of niche immortality. By 2003, Parallelograms had become a cult album.
And slowly, Perhacs began making music again. In 2010, she connected with a new generation of LA musicians attuned to her vision, including Fernando Perdomo and Chris Price, both accomplished musicians and producers in their own right. The trio began recording the eclipse song, ?River Of God?, and what became a new album?s title track, The Soul Of All Natural Things.
The Soul Of All Natural Things, for all its apparent serenity, is also a subtly polemical album, full of exhortations to take a step out of our frantic everyday lives. ?We get too far out of balance and we must find a way to get back to our polestar,? Perhacs says. ?I have a deeper purpose. My soul is giving itself to the people; I want them to be helped, I want them to be lifted.?
Lushes: What Am I Doing
Lushes are a band born of tensions - between art and math, order and chaos, planning and chance. You can hear it in their songs - taut, twitching art-punk that balance anxiety and elation, often within the space of a few bars. Album opener "Harsh" glides along slowly, feeling like a moody and measured art-rock meditation until you zero in on the words in the chorus: "Harsh on my ears, that's the way I like it." This is push-pull music, songs that temper the jagged fitfulness of groups like June of 44 and Slint with the soft-focus sweetness and open-ended song structures of The Sea & Cake and The Notwist.
That moods so diametrically opposed can peacefully coexist is part of Lushes mystery and allure. That duality extends to the group's background. and musical backgrounds were different: James grew up on bands like Nirvana, Wu-Tang Clan and Fugazi. Joel was formally trained, loving classical music but almost completely oblivious to rock and pop. The fusion of their disparate influences is what animates Lushes - the anarchy of punk and hardcore colliding with the precision of classical to create music that is marvelously ordered while still feeling seconds away from detonation. That tension pulses throughout What Am I Doing, the group's warring influences making for music that feels brittle and vital.
Stone Jack Jones: Ancestor
Based in Nashville, but raised in a coal miner?s company house on the banks of Buffalo Creek, WV, Stone Jack Jones is the descendant of four generations of coal miners. After being rejected from military service in Vietnam due to epilepsy, and discouraged from pursuing the coal mining business, Jack decided to start wandering. By the time he landed in Nashville, where he met Roger Moutenot, Patty Griffin, and Kurt Wagner, Jack had worked as a carny, an escape artist, a ballet dancer, a professional lute player, and even owned a strip club.
Ancestor was produced in collaboration with Roger Moutenot (known for his work with Yo La Tengo, Sleater Kinney, and many others), and features contributions by Patty Griffin, and Lambchop members Ryan Norris, Scott Martin, and Kurt Wagner. Intensely meditative, the album patiently explores the hardness of the coal mines, the mystery of suicide, the comfort of a dog's love and acceptance, the idea that forgetting all you know can be the first step towards hearing and reconnecting with your muse, and one man's gratitude for the love he's been given and the life he's had the chance to live.
The Men: Tomorrow's Hits
The Men's new LP for Sacred Bones is the tongue-in-cheek-but-still-auspiciously-titled Tomorrow's Hits. This is their first album recorded in a high-end studio and, appropriately, the result is their most high fidelity album to date. That being said, it is still an incredibly straightforward record. Tomorrow's Hits is a concise collection of songs that nonetheless expands the band's ever-evolving musical palette. It's an album full of genre-bending risks, but it reinforces the overarching theme that has come to define its makers: The Men are a great rock band.