Breadwoman & Other Tales are the collected recordings of a language arising. It is the sound and document of Anna Homler divining speech, lyrical fragments, and melody for music composed, mixed, and engineered by Steve Moshier. It's 1982 and Anna is driving an ocean blue classic Cadillac to meet renowned poet and playwright Deena Metzger in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles. Passing a non-descript desert patch where tall wheat and mustard flowers grow, Anna opens her mouth and sings in a salient stream of rhythmic, melodic sound.
Breadwoman is born, but not by immaculate conception. For Homler, performance art had recently become "a form big enough to contain everything happening" during her studies with Rachel Rosenthal at Otis College of Art and Design. As this performative freedom fed into the enchanted vocalese,the character of Breadwoman emerged. Homler tread the same multi-disciplinary waters where Steve Moshier and the Cartesian Reunion Memorial Orchestra (CRMO), a communal avant-garde urban chamber music ensemble formed in LA in 1979, floated. When their currents connected, it was clear Homler and Moshier were kin, crossing genres through intensely physical de-significations of music: quasi-theatrical, fully mythic, ritualistic performances.
Instead of confining Anna as "a vocalist," Moshier recognized Anna's voice as a sonic element. To accomplish the recordings of this collection, Moshier chose the least song-like material from Homler's handheld cassette transcriptions and composed music considerately. Anna would then record chants and song variations which Steve would tweak for final touches through his arsenal of analog equipment.
Although Breadwoman stands outside of time, she is is rich in the ingredients of 1980s Los Angeles performance art, renegade DIY punk, gallery culture, galvanized jazz, underground cassette-trading culture, drag extravaganzas, and esoteric meaning-making mysticism. Breadwoman is a storyteller - she's so very old she's turned into bread. Breadwoman says: If you don't try to understand, you will. She is the voice, and the voice is cosmic reality's musicality. Through Breadwoman & Other Tales, we hear material meet mythos.
Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett are unstoppable. The New York artists, collectively known as Beacon, have been on a productive hot streak since 2012, and their efforts continue to pay off. "When we weren't writing," Mullarney starts, "we hit the road and didn't really look back. We toured the US five times since The Ways We Separate came out, building this project the old-fashioned way." And Beacon's natural, time-tested process has brought us Escapements, their sophomore album for Ghostly. Whereas the duo's debut was more streamlined and defined, Escapements thrives on an amorphous, free-flowing nature. "We went into this feeling liberated," continues the singer/producer, and Gossett seems to echo his thought: "This record is in part our attempt to formulate what Beacon is going to look and sound like going forward."
North Carolina's Benji Hughes fronted a rock band in the nineties. He's written commercial jingle. He's made music for film and television (Walk Hard, Eastbound & Down). He released 2008's A Love Extreme, his excellent double-LP debut record. But these ventures aren't different hats Hughes wears. They're not different paths traveled. This is Hughes playing in different keys.
Now, for his first full-length on Merge, Benji Hughes is playing Songs in the Key of Animals. Recorded over two years mostly at Frisbie studios in New York, the record is 41 minutes of pop-music exploration. The album has a summertime immediacy but an evergreen resonance (see "Longshot"). It's clever but too deep for punchlines (check the excellent back and forth of "Picnic"). It is sincere ("Girls Love Shoes") yet heartbreaking ("Song for Nancy"). It's eccentric but never forced in its strangeness. It's the kind of record that reminds us music can be fun without being empty. It's an album full of peacocks and sharks and zebras and tigers, but ultimately, it's about us. "People are animals," Hughes says, "even if some people don't want to admit it." Songs in the Key of Animals taps into something beyond just intellect or trend or taste. It's all about the feel, the connection between the player, the music, and the listener.
The son of two classical musicians, Christopher was drawn so persuasively to indie and alternative music and playing in school bands as a teen that he added guitar, bass guitar and drums to his existing repertoire of viola and piano, studying all five instruments at the same time. His debut LP for FatCat is full of achingly personal songcraft that's been recognized by NME, BBC Music, The Gurardian, Stereogum and most recently nominated for the UK's Mercury Prize.
Architect showcases a huge breadth in Christopher Duncan's songwriting abilities. Lead singles 'Say' and 'For' are characterized by their gentleness and warmth, while 'Garden' is bright, sunny and irrepressible, while 'By' and 'Novices' draw more overtly from Christopher's interest in electronic music and modern composition. He references The Knife and Arvo Part as willingly as Burt Bacharach and The Carpenters. Add to that shades of Talk Talk, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, The Ink Spots and the classical and choral compositions of Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Faure, and a picture of the record collection that informs Christopher's music starts to become clear.
On February 5, 2016, Merge will reissue the self-titled debut album by Crooked Fingers, the solo project of Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann. Originally released in 2000, Crooked Fingers - a.k.a. "the one with the swan on it" - will be pressed on vinyl for the first time and include a download of the entire record plus nine bonus tracks of demos and rarities.
To mark the occasion of the reissue, we asked Josh Modell of The A.V. Club to write new liner notes for the album. Here is an excerpt:
Not long after he recorded this debut, Eric told me that he wanted Crooked Fingers to constantly evolve - that every record would sound different, and every tour would feature different players and new arrangements. He's kept to that, releasing albums that constantly tug and question, restless but preternaturally consistent. What you're holding represents the first step, a big, quiet leap into the unknown - which ended up being a beautiful place.
On February 5, 2016, Merge will reissue Crooked Fingers' 2001 sophomore album Bring On the Snakes. On vinyl for the first time, the LP features an essay by The National's Matt Berninger. Also included is a download of the full album plus bonus demos of each track.
In his liner notes, Berninger writes:
I had been a fan of Eric Bachmann's songs since the first Archers of Loaf record, Icky Mettle, but here I felt he was after something different, something intimate and important. His writing was inspired. It sounded to me like Byron, drunk at a party, talking to some girl about a different girl that he was in love with. I remember thinking, This guy reads a lot more than I do. The vocal and guitar melodies were unbelievably lovely, and his lyrics careened from crushingly sad to self-lacerating to hilarious. The record achieves that strange, special magic: it's catchy, visceral, and emotionally devastating.
Is the Is Are, the highly-anticipated sophomore release from Brooklyn-based DIIV, is an album years and many personal struggles in the making for it's architect, Zachary Cole Smith. Recorded and mixed in various locations in Brooklyn, it showcases everything you know and love about DIIV, and many things you did not, all with an added nuance and depth. It is a 17-song, double-album statement intended to resonate with its audience in much the same way that Bad Moon Rising or Tago Mago has for Smith himself.
An extension and deepening of the musical ideas first expressed on 2012's critically-lauded Oshin, Is the Is Are yields a multiplicity of textures, lyrical themes, and moods. It is a more diverse world than Oshin, with different parameters and ideals. Dark and honest to a fault, the new songs are dynamic, loud, quiet, sad; they are songs that hiss and snarl; songs that, as Smith wrote recently, represent "the real me." Smith's vocals, too, are much closer to the foreground, layered legibly on top of tidal waves of shimmering guitar and melodic bass weaving in and out, leaving a distinct and indelible imprint.
Geidi Primes is Grimes' debut LP. Originally available as a free download, and a limited release of cassettes, it's now available worldwide on CD/LP/Digital.
It has a strange air of being created unconsciously while the artist herself was asleep. It is a vastly intriguing set of pop tunes highlighted by its amazing fifth and sixth songs: "Avi" and "Feyd Rautha Dark Heart", which are each frighteningly reminiscent of an unaccountable psychic experience you may have never had.
It seems like an album made for very tall people about what it's like to be very small. It calls to mind the glowering of a child king amidst the many vestments and decorations of his coronation. Listening to Geidi Primes is what its like to suddenly realize you are being watched while taking a cold shower... on the moon.
Tri Angle is excited to announce the release of Reducer, the debut album from Hanz, a.k.a 25-year old producer and multi instrumentalist Brandon Juhans, on vinyl for the first time.
With a penchant for the cinematic, the Georgia-born, Durham, North Carolina-based producer cuts blasted, abstract beats on post-punk textures, resulting in a sound that somehow manages to echo RZA, Rammellzee, This Heat and PIL, whilst carving out a unique identity all of his own. At a time when most hip hop production sounds as if it's stuck in preset mode, Reducer feels like a vital injection of creativity, harking back to a time in the past when no sample and no sound was off limits.
Opening track, 'The History of...', a dizzying collage of broken drum machine beats, white noise shards and glitchy dub, is a good place to start in trying to epitomize the energy of the record. From there on Hanz continues to take the listener on a trip into a dark, complex headspace where haunted patois vocals, industrial drums,harps, elastic bass-lines and dystopian hip hop beats collide. It's his capability of collapsing one sound world into another almost seamlessly, whilst retaining a distinctly raw punk energy throughout that sets Hanz aside. It makes for an unpredictable and thrilling listen.
In Reducer Hanz has created something wildly ambitious which, doesn't sound like much else out there in 2015. The 'Reducer' LP will be produced in limited quantities.
King of New York by King Cyst is a 42-minute odyssey about the limits of carnal adventure in New York City. Songs weave together circuitous paths, dead-ends and social impasses; the humanism of its heroes and heroines is strained by their undying libidos. Seductive in the same way a disproportionate painting might be, King of New York is candid series of portraits.
Milk 'n' Cookies are the stuff of legends - or would be legends. Forming in the early 70s in Long Island, New York, this power pop group was originally signed to Island Records and seemed destined for greatness. Yet, through many cases of "wrong place, wrong time," the band never managed to break. The core line-up of the band was made up of Ian North, Justin Strauss, Sal Maida and Mike Ruiz and, in their time, they played classic NYC venues like CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. They shared bills with everyone from Talking Heads to The Ramones and have amassed a cult following, influencing the likes of Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Debbie Harry (Blondie).
After working extensively with the band members, Milk 'n' Cookies is a lavish reissue of the group's entire recorded output. Housed in a deluxe slipcase is the band's original legendary LP, a 2xLP featuring rare and unreleased tracks, as well as a book that chronicles the full history of the band's wild ride through the music biz - as told by the band themselves, through accounts from their many (in)famous admirers and through never-before-seen photographs.
Recorded live to tape, with no overdubs, on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, Nap Eyes' quietly contemplative sophomore record refines and elaborates their debut, offering an airier, more spacious second chapter, a bracing blast of bright oceanic sunshine after the moonlit alleys of Whine of the Mystic (PoB-20). But the briny, cold Atlantic roils beneath these exquisite, literate guitar pop songs, posing riddles about friendship, faith, mortality, and self-doubt.
For fans of The Only Ones/England's Glory, The Modern Lovers, The Clean, The Verlaines, The Go-Betweens, Bedhead, and all things Lou Reed. With lyrics, color inner sleeve, and download code.
Jersey-bred songwriter Alex Bleeker first started making solo music under the guise of Alex Bleeker & the Freaks, gathering together his friends and like-minded players to fill out his sometimes dreamy, sometimes heavy-hearted tunes. While splitting his time between writing solo songs and his duties as bass player in breezy indie band Real Estate, Bleeker eventually crafted two separate albums of material with his able-minded Freaks, a low-key self-titled release in 2009 and a more full-bodied 2013 record entitled "How Far Away".
The second album found Bleeker's deceptively passionate songwriting at the core of what came on as a rather unassuming collection of country-tinged rockers, with wispy vocal harmonies and burning organ leads wrapping around simple but unrelenting melodies. Informed by a deeply-studied fixation with audience-recorded tape trades, parking lot culture and the entire cannon of roots rock history, Alex Bleeker & the Freaks serves as both a continuation and an update to the road-ragged, hard working American party band.
Four Tet's brilliant 2012 collection finally available on vinyl.
Half-speed mastered for audiophile-quality reproduction.
Double LP packaged in a stunning heavyweight spot-color jacket.
When Explosions In The Sky's Mark T. Smith and Eluvium's Matthew Cooper united as Inventions last year, the expectation was a sound that married Smith's iconic, emotional compositions with Cooper's introspective, occasionally noisy ambiance. For the most part, their debut album delivered on that promise. However, their quick follow-up, Maze of Woods, exploded those sounds and smeared them into a rich, abstract space where comfort and confusion coexist. The duo's individual identities dissolved into a fluid, ever-changing landscape of mechanical rhythms, vocal samples, and indeterminate instrumentation. It was uniquely haunting, and brilliantly executed. Blanket Waves continues in the direction charted on Maze of Woods increasingly malleable, and even farther-reaching in its blurring of dream and reality. Composed of two 12-minute tracks, it encompasses the curiosity and craft that Smith and Cooper are renowned for, exemplified by their weaving of seemingly disparate pieces into a breathtaking pastiche that manages to evoke the same sense of wonder and blissful abandon that have made Explosions In The Sky and Eluvium so important to so many.
Klaus Johann Grobe continue to confound listeners who dare to pidgeonhole them as a "psych" band with their newest single for Chicago-based Trouble In Mind Records, "Baby lass uns Sein" b/w "Ich Bien nicht der Grund". "Baby Lass uns Sein" is a mainstay of the group's live repertoire, a tender ballad that - depending on the band's vibe opens or closes their set with it's mellow metronomic pulse, lilting organ chords & tinkling Moog sparkles. The flip side "Ich Bien nicht der grund" is classic a KJG dance-floor-filler; it's stark beat & thumping bass grounding stratosphear-arching organ drones and chorded keyboard musings. Landolt guides his Moog Prophet thru an array of effects, oscillating it toward new, and decidedly weirder places. The 7-inch single of "Baby Lass Uns Sein" is pressed on black vinyl, comes housed in the Trouble In Mind company sleeve & includes a download code.
Laddio Bolocko were a band from New York City in the mid-90's who toured the US and Europe relentlessly during their 4 year run. Pitchfork wrote in 2003 that the group, "effortlessly converged at the service of drive and trance, occasionally jutting out unpredictably into harsher realms. Live, they were a powerhouse, and though their recorded history is brief, it demonstrates a remarkable range of expression, precision and raw power." This set collects all unreleased material from the bands time living in a DUMBO (Brooklyn) rehearsal space and an abandoned ski lodge in the Catskill mountains, as well as live recordings from Slovenia. The DVD includes over 2 hours of footage shot on Super 8 film.
Lil BUB has had her paws in the music world for quite some time now. She's tight with Steve Albini, produced a single for Kelley Deal, worked closely with David Yow, collaborated with Andrew W.K., spearheaded 50 Bands and a Cat (she's the cat), been held by Jonathan Richman, has a song written for her by Kimya Dawson, was rapped about by Aesop Rock, enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with Murder by Death, appeared in The Foo Fighters' HBO Documentary, "Sonic Highways", was the July, 2014 cover story for SPIN Magazine, and famously appears on Run the Jewels' highly anticipated "Meow the Jewels" record made up entirely of cat sounds. And now she's finally ready to blow minds with the very first full length concept album written by a magical space cat, and it's darn good.
This is music made by a magical space cat. The songs on this album are the soundtrack to BUB's universal adventure, and a soundtrack to the universe itself. You'll feel transported by the music's stimulating spirit, and taken to places beyond your imagination's limits, all the while experiencing the sonic aura of BUB's loving and compassionate presence.
Mike Adams At His Honest Weight rounds out 2015 with Preparation Age, a new 5-song one-sided LP. It was recorded during the same sessions as a forthcoming 2016 full-length and serve as companion songs and a taste of what is to come. They build on the solidly crafted pop songs of 2014's The Best of Boiler Room Classics through sonic experimentation and take the band's sound into a hazier new territory combining influences from the synth-based rock of Wheat, Grandaddy, and Flaming Lips with Beach Boys inspired vocal harmonies. Throughout Preparation Age, Mike Adams manages to tell stories of forgotten friends and everyday people, turning fear and anxiety from the departed past into something pleasing and beautiful. In the more perfect universe next door, 2016 is the year for Mike and the boys' magnum opus crowning achievement that will earn them a well-deserved gold record. For 2015, in the here and now, it's Mike Adams At His Honest Weight's Preparation Age.
Preparation Age is presented in a limited vinyl-only release of 500 copies with the B-side featuring an etching and including a digital download code.
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In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of this iconic album, Jagjaguwar is proud to present the Black Sheep Boy 10th Anniversary Edition, a three-LP set combining the classic Black Sheep Boy album and its counterpart the Black Sheep Boy Appendix with an all new unreleased album entitled There Swims a Swan: full-band recordings made six months prior to the release of Black Sheep Boy which illuminate the album's roots in the traditional American songbook. Featuring beautiful, emotional readings of songs popularized by such artists as Washington Phillips, Lead Belly, the Louvin Brothers, and Roscoe Holcomb, There Swims a Swan takes the listener on a trip through the songs that inspired Sheff while composing Black Sheep Boy and reads like a run-through of that album's themes. Black Sheep Boy is celebrated for its album artwork as well as its music, and the Anniversary Edition collects that artwork in a meticulously reworked package, combining every previous element of William Schaff's imagery with a large new piece by Schaff depicting an updated Black Sheep Boy. The release also includes lengthy liner notes by Will Sheff walking the listener through the circumstances surrounding the album.
For Okkervil River fans (the most high-profile of whom was recently revealed to be President Barack Obama, who included "Down Down the Deep River" on his 2015 summer playlist), the Anniversary Edition is a loving, comprehensive, richly expanded presentation of a record many consider to be one of the band's best. For those new to the band, this might be the best place to start, the first step on a long road, the opening to a forest you can get lost in.
Peter Stringer-Hye hails from Nashville, TN - a town that is no stranger to music. Having cut his teeth in local garage & psychedelic bands such as D. Watusi & (Trouble In Mind alums) The Paperhead, Stringer-Hye takes a side step, revealing a strong cache of solo material with his debut solo release, the "Sunday Girls" EP. Kicking off with the title track, "Sunday Girls" bops along familiar territory for Stringer-Hye, conjuring up whispers of UK popsike as well as late-Sixties folk & Americana, punctuated by a stinging guitar solo."When My Eyes Are Closed" ends the firstside; a wistful folk-rocker, whose jangling guitars hearken across decades of music from the late Sixties, thru the present day. Side B kicks off with "Girl With No Name",loping off the grooves with a sensitive grace, before Stringer-Hye launches into a solo worthy of the hottest of Nashville session players. The EP closes with "Throw Away The Day", a fitting ender & a jaunty country rocker with hope & yearning for the future & the possibilities it holds. Expect big things from Stringer-Hye in 2016.
The “Sunday Girls” EP is pressed in an edition of 500 copies,comes housed in a full-color picture sleeve & includes a download code.
Montreal's Sheer Agony started in late 2010, when Christian Simmons and Jackson Macintosh started amassing tape-based studio equipment in their apartment. Initially looking to fuse Sell Out-era Who with The Homosexuals and The Soft Boys, the two found compatriots in Markus Lake and Greg Napier and put their vision to tape, resulting in a few songs on Bandcamp that lead immediately to a now very much out-of-print 7" with the great Canadian label Fixture.
Several North American tours later, Sheer Agony have emerged with Masterpiece, their debut long player for Couple Skate. Heavy players in the sprawling, potent DIY scene of Montreal and Drones Club, which has produced too many great bands and labels to list, Sheer Agony perfectly channel the weird energy of their scene and aforementioned influences into a potent blend of neo-psych swirl and proto-punk succinctness.
Girl group greatness for your holiday soiree! Figuring it would take a Christmas miracle to break them out of rural Indiana, the Shades -- Cindi, Jannie, and Suzi -- traveled to Chicago's RCA Studios in 1966 to cut the yuletide classic, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". Backed with the original "Prancer's Got Some Red Spots" and released on Indiana's tiny Fujimo label, the 2015 reissue comes housed in a festive pic sleeve featuring the teen trio at their most merry.
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This sonic companion to Entertainment comes straight from the record collection of top-secret Neil Hamburger alter ego Gregg Turkington, an avid gatherer of privately pressed curios and the self-proclaimed #1 fan of Frank Sinatra Jr. Joining the Son of the Chairman of the Board on this limited edition LP is a cast of downtrodden personalities, including a emphatically Los Angeleno nun, an Italian-language folkie whose guitar laments the Vietnam war, and a Columbus, Ohio, civil rights activist and record man. Included are interstitial dialogue snippets, one of which lets co-star John C. Reilly supply a bizarre rendition of "Away In A Manger."
Deluxe White Vinyl 2XLP with 4 illustrated slipcovers and a gatefold jacket. Features Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire), I Walked Alone, and Shangri-La. Comes with an instant digital download.
Shangri-La, YACHT's second album for DFA Records and the follow-up to their critically acclaimed full-length, See Mystery Lights, is the duo's most thematically ambitious work to date, showcasing an exponential evolution in songwriting and sharp, surreal hooks. When the darkly anthemic track, "Dystopia (The Earth Is on Fire)" was released digitally in April, YACHT offered a window onto the new album. Members Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans described the track as an "apocalyptic fight song, a cautionary tale, a science-fiction story for our particular eco-sociopolitical landscape." These themes are echoed throughout the conceptually unified Shangri-La. In contrast to the meditative, mantra-esque quality of their debut, Shangri-La is a narrative work.
The album explores mankind's eternal pursuit of Utopia with a soundtrack comprised of compelling pop melodies, fiercely druggy grooves and an endlessly diverse canon of influences. The message here is that the future is a blank slate upon which anything can be imposed. Shangri-La is literally YACHT's idea of Utopia: a place made of songs. Never a band to stay in one place sonically, visually or philosophically, YACHT transformed themselves, taking advantage of a proper studio for the very first time and using more live instrumentation than ever before.
Recording in the West Texas desert without an engineer, the duo employed a kaleidoscope of genres-ranging from disco to psychedelia, from krautrock to punk-all culminating in pure pop. Shangri-La was performed, mixed, and recorded by Bechtolt and Evans themselves. The Utopian illustration featured in the album's encyclopedic cover design was painted by iconic science fiction illustrator Jim Burns, three-time Hugo Award-winner.