LUNA music essentials...
for the week of 26 AUGUST 2016
If Steely Dan backed Mac Demarco you'd arrive at Hoops. In a good way. This young band out of Bloomington, Indiana have packed serious chops and great hooks into an effortless, laid back '70s-California-via-chillwave sound. They've been blazing a chill trail the past year garnering praise from Gorilla v Bear, Fader, and the like, and playing with fellow indie dynamos like Whitney and Porches.
And The Anonymous Nobody is hip-hop trio De La Soul’s ninth album and first in four years. Guests/contributors include Snoop Dogg, Jill Scott, Usher, Justin Hawkins (The Darkness), Damon Albarn (of Blur/Gorillaz), 2 Chainz, Little Dragon, and David Byrne. True to the roots of hip-hop, And The Anonymous Nobody incorporates elements of jazz, funk, rock, country western and more sampled to create the tracks. Sampling is how De La has always made music but after spending a huge part of their career fighting off the "sample police," they decided to simply sample themselves. Over three years, they collaborated with some of L.A.'s finest studio musicians and recorded them in free-styled, unrehearsed, jam sessions. They played everything from banjo to upright bass, sometimes up to a dozen musicians at once; simply allowing sounds to integrate. “What we've done is created our own crates of records; album upon albums to mine and sample from. In our world, what we've created is freedom, freedom to make the art you believe in without having to compromise your vision. That's what we've always wanted most, that's what we've always believed in, that's what we've fought for...”
“McCombs is one of those artists who seem to blend into the tapestry of musical consciousness, lost in generic ‘coffee shop’ playlists—and unfairly so. He diligently, quietly puts out a record every year or two, and what sets him apart from other false prolifics is that his records are good. In the past, McComb’s slightly dusty-sounding folk rock was a little drowsy but in a thoughtful way, as if he were choosing each word and note carefully so as not to misspeak. In Mangy Love, it seems McCombs is emboldened, making intrepid musical choices and owning his lyrics. It’s an album that moves from earthy world music to capacious compositions that reveal McCombs’ internal grappling with substantial ideas about life and beyond. There are moments strewn throughout Mangy Love that suggest a sense of stepping into the light (such as the religious, choral intro to ‘It’), as if McCombs has been baptized and is re-introducing himself to the world. The album opens with ‘Bum Bum Bum,’ which is an onomatopoeia of a title, as McCombs ticks off many ‘bum bums’ as he sings. The tone of the track is a bit cynical, with the words ‘We’re all at war’ standing out subtly over the steady drums and electric guitar riffs” – Slug Magazine. [Limited color vinyl edition also available.]
“The success of Glass Animals’ 2014 debut album, Zaba, is, in the words of fellow British rocker Nigel Tufnel, a mystery that's ‘best to leave...unsolved.’ Through a curious blend of tribal percussion, casually psychedelic lyrics and a transverse connection to both modern rock and electronica, Glass Animals achieves an impressive sonic iconography. Its style is unique and recognizable, and with new album How To Be a Human Being, the band proves not to be a fluke. Rather than falling in line with the pop-washed and exhaustive appropriation of genres, Glass Animals combines a few unusual sublunary musical influences to create a sound that is primal and different. Beats ranging from glacial to urgent in tempo bait fluid synths and bewitching vocals. The result is an atmosphere of revelry, one that is trippy, green and playfully sordid.” – Westworld
Nearly twenty years into a career that has seen Jimmy LaValle exercising his creativity across the realms of film scoring, sound collage, and electronic/rock music, via instrumental and vocal-driven compositions alike, LaValle and The Album Leaf deliver yet another sonic triumph with Between Waves. Born out of a thorough reinvention of LaValle's creative process and approach, Between Waves is The Album Leaf’s first proper full-length record in over six years and the first to be recorded and produced as a complete band, and was written with greater emphasis on the group dynamic. From the moody evolution of “Glimmering Lights” to the wistful trip-hop stylings of “New Soul” and beyond, Between Waves is a gorgeous collection of euphoric melodies and emotionally charged multi-instrumental soundscapes.
Joseph is a bewitching trio of sisters from Portland, Oregon. Expect honest words and genetically perfected harmonies. For their ATO Records debut I'm Alone, No You're Not, the band teamed with producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Jenny Lewis, First Aid Kit) to record eleven original songs exploding with a mystical exuberance and heart-on-sleeve emotion. A masterclass in pristine three-part harmony, the album features golden, shimmering pop songs tucked next to the most delicate ballads: love lost and found, amplified by three unwavering voices. “On album single ‘Blood And Tears,’ a track the three women wrote together, they look ahead to the hardships that come with forging a life in music. Over inspirational strings, the sisters bear down and brace for the struggle ahead: ‘We’re gonna have to learn what hard is/ If it’ll be a fight regardless/ I only want the fight to be with you.’ ‘Blood And Tears’ is a song for being proud,’ the band states. ‘It’s tribute to how far you’ve come and a promise to keep going.’ If the HAIM-like harmonies on this track’s chorus are any indication, Joseph will certainly be able to keep that promise.” – Consequence Of Sound
for the week of 12 AUGUST 2016
New release from John Dwyer's Thee Oh Sees - the first studio recordings to capture the muscular rhythm section of twin drummers Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon with ringer bassist Tim Hellman cracking spines. The groove and bludgeon one has come to expect from the band's live shows is captured seamlessly here-they go from zero to head-splitter, and on the rare occasions they do let up on the gas a bit, you're treated to some locked-in hypnotizers, too. The guitar sounds more colossal and ethereal at the same time, riding roughshod over the vacuum-sealed rhythm section, spiraling skywards, and diving into the emerald depths so quick your guts tingle. Synths, strings and smoke-soaked things crawl behind the scenes to make an extra far-out party platter.
Innocence Reaches begins with a query. “How do you identify?” coos a robotic voice over a strikingly modern mix of bright synthpop and surging rave. The question too feels very of its time—as outdated ideas about gender and attraction are being overturned—but it's also a fair ask whenever of Montreal debuts an album. The project's 14th LP follows two full decades of mercurial creative mania: swallowing up '60s psych-pop, Prince-ly funk, and glammy prog in turn; morphing freely between full-band affair and cloistered confessional booth; comprising lyrics both painfully personal and absurdly fantastical; and recently drawing site-specific inspiration from culture capitals like San Francisco or New York City. The thread that runs through it all is Athens, GA's Kevin Barnes, and Innocence Reaches finds him at his most light-hearted in years, working a Parisian stint, Top 40 sounds, and his newfound single status into the kaleidoscopic swirl. Even as he continues to sift the sonic and emotional detritus of his past, Barnes sums up his current mood in the opener's title: “let's relate.” [Limited color vinyl also available.]
Los Angeles quintet Young the Giant continue to brave new sonic landscapes with their wildly adventurous third album Home Of The Strange. On this new release, the band explores their expansive musicianship with boldly eclectic arrangements anchored by a keen melodic presence. Thematically, Home Of The Strange builds from the opening track “Amerika,” a song inspired by Franz Kafka's posthumously published and unfinished novel of the same name. The members of Young The Giant are all the sons of immigrants, with a majority of the band being first generation Americans. They can relate to Kafka's story of Karl, a sixteen year old who flees Germany under uncertain circumstances. He becomes a stowaway on a ship headed to NY and the book tells the tale of a bizarre coming of age story of a boy caught between the cultures of two worlds, struggling to belong. To direct the band's continued evolution, they collaborated with producer Alex Salibian (Elle King, Mikky Ekko) and Executive Producer Jeff Bhaskar, 2016 Grammy winner for Producer of the Year.
“Fishing Blues has an inspired feeling to it, with elements of blues, gospel and funk all taking part in creating the overall sound. Boasting an 18-song track list with nothing under two minutes long, Atmosphere have offered enough music to satisfy after the two-year break following their previous album.” – Slug Magazine
“It's been nearly five years since the charming Portland folk-pop band Blind Pilot released its second and most recent album, We Are The Tide, and that record's roiling title track has only recently begun popping up in beer commercials. Given that the band used to tour up and down the West Coast via bicycle, it should come as no surprise that Blind Pilot is accustomed to taking its time. And Then Like Lions is band's third album and first new release for a big label. Its grower of an opening track, ‘Umpqua Rushing,’ points to a softer, dreamier direction for Blind Pilot. It's a hazy, quiet beauty that builds slowly but persistently — appropriate for a band that's long balanced rising-star status with the subtlety of a lifer with little to prove.” – WHRO/Virginia
– One Sock Missing [Reissue/1993] CD/LP (Fat Possum)
– Crappin’ You Negative [Reissue/1994] CD/LP (Fat Possum)
Originally coming together in 1990, the Grifters spent much of the following decade releasing four full-length albums (two for Memphis-based Shangri-La Records and two for Sub Pop) and touring the US and the world with bands such as Flaming Lips, Fugazi, Pavement, Guided By Voices, Jeff Buckley, Red Red Meat and many others. Certainly the most low-key (if not lo-fi) of the Grifters' early records, 1993's One Sock Missing is less noisy and aggressive than its immediate predecessor, So Happy Together, but that doesn't mean it's mellow. Among the best albums to come out of the '90s lo-fi D.I.Y. scene, Crappin' You Negative ebbs and flows on oceans of spliced-and-diced vocal melodies and noisy guitar effects. The band's songs are confessional and psychedelic in equal measure, though the clicks of a four-track recorder still cue changes from verse to chorus to bridge.
for the week of 05 AUGUST 2016
“In an American political climate fraught with chaos and uncertainty, Dinosaur Jr.'s Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not is the warm, comforting blanket of Marshall-stack fuzz we need. The band has become the alt-rock equivalent of AC/DC or Motörhead: Their sound is formulaic, but frontman J. Mascis's guitar tone, his effectively no-frills songwriting, and the rhythm section's synergy is irresistibly familiar. The album barely even bothers tinkering with this familiar template; it has the least distinctive musical identity of any of the four albums that Dinosaur Jr. has released since the long-awaited reformation of their classic power-trio lineup in 2005. Not given over entirely to the atmospherics of Beyond, the heavy jamminess of Farm, or the poppiness of I Bet On Sky, Give A Glimpse instead combines all those stylistic elements into a package that is replete with all the welcome signatures of the band's sound” – Slant Magazine. [Limited purple color vinyl edition also available.]
Where 2014's Present Tense album found Wild Beasts in reflective mood, absorbing a fascination with online culture and electronic music, Boy King has them, as Tom Fleming puts it, “back to being pissed off.” The quartet’s ever-present knack for sensual melody via Hayden Thorpe and Fleming's dueting vocals, Ben Little's sinuous guitar groove and Chris Talbot's potent rhythm section carries in Boy King an aggressive, snarling and priapic beast that delves into the darker side of masculinity and Thorpe's own psyche. As Hayden himself says, “After five records there had to be an element of 'what the f*ck?’” A newfound creative friction between Thorpe and Fleming proved key to unleashing the unique pop sensibility of Boy King -- Fleming’s more visceral experimentation unlocking new dimensions in Thorpe’s own writing. Between the slide of prowling aggression and interior darkness, there are glorious, gorgeous moments. It is yet another incomparable Wild Beasts record; a visceral, sensual and jolting body of work that acts as a remarkable soundtrack to the early 21st century male malaise.
Jad and David Fair have made a lot of records — like, a whole lot — over the last 40+ years with cult band Half Japanese and other projects. [New album Shake Cackle And Squall] is back to basics for the Fairs, just drums, guitar and vocals. Still they manage to coax a lot of craziness from those building blocks (the LP title is fitting)…” – Brooklyn Vegan
“Wye Oak is a band that never seem to reveal too much. Despite the angelic vocals of Jenn Wasner, their music and its atmosphere do most of the talking. The Baltimore-bred duo of Andy Stack (drums, keyboards, vocals) and Wasner (vocals, guitar, bass) allow moody keyboards, slashing guitar riffs and tumbling drum fills to really paint the picture. Their last full-length album, Shriek, was released two years ago, and if I’m to correctly decipher a recent cryptic press release, Tween is more of a stopgap than a ‘proper’ album. Wye Oak’s label made references to albums like R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office and the The Who’s Odds & Sods for comparison, so with that in mind, this is obviously some sort of an outtakes/rarities collection. For a collection such as this, it holds together remarkably well. Wye Oak are in many ways a forward-thinking band, but their influences are definitely steeped in ‘80s bands like the Cocteau Twins, the Sundays, the Jesus and Mary Chain and, on a less abrasive scale, shoegazers like My Bloody Valentine. ‘On Luxury’ is one of their more blatant nods to the ‘80s, as vocal figures are casually tossed off while a robotic keyboard bed provides a retro guilty pleasure. A highly syncopated, unanticipated percussion breakdown is a small, unexpected delight, building up to the song’s finale.” – Pop Matters
The E-Mu Systems SP-1200 drum machine and sampler was the first electronic instrument Jay Dee worked with while crafting the incomparable styles and sounds which defined the early stages of his legendary production. The SP-1200 was his primary tool of choice at the inception of his career. During this period, he created classics for early Slum Village, The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, among many others. After careful study and curation, this collection compiles the well-deserved documentation of Jay Dee's early musical masterpiece -- 40 tracks from Jay Dee's Beats Batch series created using his SP-1200.
The crowd at the Wilbur Theatre gives Tig Notaro the standing ovation she both intimates and deserves. The audience's roaring laughter ends Tig's one-hour set in Boston as it's taped and recorded for her HBO special, and, sure enough, concertgoers rise and applaud, an example of Tig's ability to connect to her fans through a sharp, dry wit and the hilarious payoff of her deadpan jokes. The special, now available as Boyish Girl Interrupted is the follow up to her Grammy nominated second album, Live. Over the course of the show, Notaro tells stories about a number of subjects, including: performing in Las Vegas; the search for the perfect Santa Claus; her favorite laugh noises; bringing her wife to meet her Mississippi family; TSA screening; flying in small planes; unusual public signs; and - again - standing ovations; and much more.
The B-52’s’ second official live album, recorded at The Berklee Center in Boston, Massachusetts, before the release of their second album, Wild Planet. [Vinyl edition was issued last November as a Black Friday Record Store Day release.]