Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hey music lovers!  Thanks again for tuning in to this site.  The store has been open for little more than a month, and we've had wonderful response so far.  We are still trying to spread the word, as many of our former customers are still unaware about our move and name change, so we keep telling whoever we can.  Don't be surprised if we see you innocently walking down the street and decide to flag you down and pull over to tell you about our new location (this actually happened).  Also, we have been focusing on daily operations at the store (like paying our first bills--urgh!), so the blog was feeling a little neglected lately.  Now it's time to discuss some of our favorite records that have been released in 2013, mainly because we love talking about music we love, and we want you to know about the vast amazingness of music out there currently.

David Bowie has already been mentioned a few times (The Next Day), as well as the latest from Tegan & Sara (Heartthrob).  There have been DOZENS of great records since then.  You may want to consider adding some of them to your collections.


I have already mentioned what an amazing indie pop album this is.  Male/female vocals trade off on the Swedes' most accessible album yet, and while some songs are retro in the absolute best sense, things never devolve into pure pastiche.  A catchy song like "Illusions" is indicative of what makes this record great, and "Blue Ice" is one of those warm-like-a-summer-breeze songs that I could hear a million times and not get tired.  "14th of July" and "Chasing the Sinking Sun" dance with an energetic abandon, while "Walking in Your Footsteps" and "Circles" are overflowing with hooks.  Plus it's on Merge Records, one of the best indie labels around.  What more could you want?


Karen O and the guys have done it again with this incredible record.  Veering from punk-y thrash (title track) to near-gospel ("Sacrilege"),  this album features the most number of varied styles to be found on a single Yeah Yeah Yeah's album, and they do their best to nail about everything they attempt.  Closing track "Wedding Song" is sure to end up being the go-to anthem of summer weddings for hipsters who don't want to hire wedding DJs.  My personal favorite:  "Subway", which somehow captures the emotional distance and alienation of being surrounded by strangers on a journey by rail.


I keep coming back to the new Suede album.  It's their strongest effort in years, and while most reunion albums leave you feeling something has gone missing, this one has just enough references of their history with a kick so it doesn't feel so nostalgic.  Longtime producer Ed Buller did a fantastic job capturing the sound of what made Suede such a special band to begin with.  It's rare these days to find a first side of a record where each of the five opening songs is better than the previous one.  The cover art is fantastic as well.

THE KNIFE--Shaking the Habitual

Could this be their masterpiece?  What a sprawling record this is, spread across three vinyl LPs, including one side with a 20-minute ambient instrumental placed right in the middle.  The hot pink cover with its political messages about ending extreme wealth is provocative enough.  Then there's the music!  Rhythmic and tribal, "Tooth For an Eye" opens proceedings with Karin Dreijer-Andersson's tribal method of singing, followed by the slamming techno pulse of the near 10-minute "Full of Fire", shifting her vocals toward an  electronically treated aggression.  From there, sinewy sitars, choirs of recorders, and what sound like a whale wanting to be fed make sonic appearances throughout.  Most songs are over the five minute mark, and some are more than ten.  The brother-sister team hadn't made an album for eight years, and they have returned by smashing all expectations with this monstrous behemoth of an art project.

JOHN GRANT--Pale Green Ghosts

After winning Mojo magazine's award for the best album of 2010 with Queen of Denmark, John Grant has lived another life since then, travelling to Berlin, breaking up with his lover, contracting HIV, connecting with Gus Gus for musical collaboration and Sinead O'Connor doing backing vocals.  Now it seems as though someone stole his computer last week with all his stored material gone, and Grant pleading for its return.  Pale Green Ghosts is a special work, jumping from self-effacing jokes to anger over a breakup to absolute heartbreak.  His gift for direct and intimate lyrics is reflected in songs like "GMF", "It Doesn't Matter to Him", and "I Hate This Town", which marry Aimee Mann-bitterness with sunnier melodies.  The opening title-track has a dark electronic pulse, while the last song, "Glacier", is one of the most beautifully profound songs of self-empowerment I've heard in years.  It's a sprawling affair in a different sort of way than the Knife album is, but it feels like Grant's life in song, and isn't life sometimes messy?


After decades being separated, this duo reunited in a big way for 2010's History of Modern, and while that album was a commercial solidification of their career, their latest is a more experimental record, echoing their most daring past experiment, 1981's Dazzle Ships.  Ahead of its time, that album featured a few somewhat melodic tracks mixed with found sound experiments and audio collages that left their audience scratching its head.  EE is less out-there, and smartly rides a more moderate line with lots of tunes reminiscent of their favorite fouding-forefathers band, Kraftwerk (see "Metroland" and "Night Cafe").  Longtime designer Peter Saville contributed the glorious artwork.


Not as sprawling as the previous Embryonic, The Terror sees the Lips coming to terms with much inner band turmoil and their own mortality.  It's a dark, trippy ride, and is one of their recent best efforts.  The image of Flaming Lips today is really in contrast to what their music has been trying to convey, and this is no exception, as there is nothing as perky as their Yoshimi-period work.  Still, this record proves they continually succeed to find new inspiration for their music, and seem to be entering their third Renaissance period.

SAVAGES--Silence Yourself

If you ever thrilled to the chills produced by Siouxsie Sioux's icy vocals, the debut from this British female band inhabits that same space of early Banshee records mixed with a bit of Joy Division to boot.  It could all collapse under the weight of pretension and imitation were it not for a complete commitment to the cause and a unique method of arranging the material.  When Savages commit to a song, they COMMIT, making this project feel very visceral and real.  Their thrashy sound features shades of darker melancholy, alluding to future directions they may be able to take their sound palette.  It's electrifying!

NEW ORDER--Lost Sirens

Still only an import release, New Order's latest took seven years to release, as they had recorded this music during the sessions for their previous album, 2006's Waiting for the Sirens' Call.  Bassist Peter Hook was still a member of the band then, before his more recent acrimonious fallout.  Fittingly, Lost Sirens then ends up being so much more than a collection of leftovers, as the eight songs are arguably better than the last album, and still manage to represent the band in the best way.  It's the kind of record that is reminiscent of past records like Power, Corruption and Lies and Low-Life.  On tour this summer.

STROKES--Comedown Machine

The Strokes' latest is just as experimental and full of variety as the previous Angles, but is pulled together in a more direct and assured way.  Yes, there are more keyboards than you'll find on Is This It?, but songs like "One Way Trigger" and "Happy Ending" are catchy and engaging, with a couple songs like "All The Time" and "50/50" thrown in for Strokes-ian good measure.  This is the sound of a band a decade on after being through some rough times only to find their new realm of self-assurance and confidence.  A solid effort.


What would the French be without Phoenix?  Hooky, buzzy, fizzy, and fun, Bankrupt! is akin to Phoenix strolling across the finish line.  It's hard to believe these guys were best friends with Daft Punk at one time long ago (although they may sound MORE electronic than Daft Punk at the moment).  This is sort of a no-brainer, really.  I mean, there's a song called "Drakkar Noir"!

MARY ONETTES--Hit the Waves

This great Swedish band evoke memories of groups like the Cure without ever sounding like a copy.  They have evolved from one album to the next very organically, now adding more keyboard textures to the mix.  Some of their songs are nostalgia referencing without sounding like copies either, with song titles like "Don't Forget (to Forget About Me)".  Produced by Swedish mastermind Dan Lissvik, Hit the Waves may be their most catchy album yet.

YOUNG GALAXY--Ultramarine

Another Dan Lissvik production, albeit with more keyboards and fewer guitars, Canadian band Young Galaxy is led by married couple Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless.  Her voice takes center stage for the entire album for the first time, and recalls the soul of singers like Annie Lennox.  The band actually traveled to Sweden to record this after their last record (which Lissvik also produced) had been done by computer and Skype communication alone.  Ultramarine is the sound of a band from the north searching for warmer climates with songs like "New Summer", and romance with "Fall For You" and "Pretty Boy".


For those with poppier tendencies who like a good Madonna or Kylie song once in a while, the new Little Boots album is one to get your feet going while simultaneously feeding your mind.  Opening song "Motorway" in particular is hauntingly seductive, landing in the same territory Saint Etienne trudges so well.  Much of the rest of this self-financed, self-released record is more clubby or upbeat, with closing track "Satellites" one of the most euphoric songs of the year.  This is how REAL electro-pop should be made, so take note female popstrels.

DEPECHE MODE--Delta Machine

Thirty years into an amazing career and Depeche Mode are just as dour as ever, yet they've gone further into the blues with this release.  They have also continued to use more vintage analog synths to get those abstract and unique sounds they are known for.  New single, "Soothe My Soul", is straight from the "Personal Jesus" school of blues-y stompers, while "Angel" and "Secret to the End" employ interesting rhythmic and synth textures to create something just edgy enough without alienating what their fans want from them.  "Broken" is an interesting song, channeling "My Secret Garden"-era arrangements, while opener "Welcome to My World" and closer "Goodbye" are two of the best songs here for the unexpected directions they take as songs.  Longtime cohort Flood (Songs of Faith & Devotion) lended a hand on the mix, giving the record a rootsy analog sound.  Another great record in a long line of great records.

I'm also feeling the love for a lot of other things right now, but there just isn't enough time in the day to talk about them all now.  Here is a smattering:

JOHNNY MARR--Messenger
Former Smiths/The The/Electronic/Modest Mouse/Cribs guitarist makes a great solo record, FINALLY!
Thom Yorke makes a Radiohead side project that sounds a lot like...Radiohead!  Still pretty good though.
FOXYGEN--We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
I feel giddy when I hear this record, since it feels like I've heard much of it before, but in different ways.
WAVVES--Afraid of Heights
Like Nirvana and the Beatles had a baby.  Interested?
Lush modern R&B with smooth male vocals that sound strangely feminine in a good way.
KARL BARTOS--Off the Record
Ertswhile Kraftwerk member releases first solo material in ages.  If you know Kraftwerk, you know this.
SHE & HIM--Volume 3
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward come up with their most beguiling album yet.  Adorkable!
Foster the People fans take note.  A great mix of pop and rock with a little Australian touch thrown in.
FITZ & THE TANTRUMS--More Than Just a Dream
They took some chances on record 2, with mild electronic touches, placing them in Hall & Oates territory.
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS--Push the Sky Away
What else can be said about one of the best albums of the year?  There's NO-ONE like Nick Cave.
VAMPIRE WEEKEND--Modern Vampires of the City
Excellent latest effort with a bit more depth and darker tendencies.  Everything in it's right place.
THE NATIONAL--Trouble Will Find Me
Simply one of the most special and glorious albums of the year.  Can the National get much better than this?
DAFT PUNK--Random Access Memories
Giorgio Moroder.  Nile Rodgers.  Paul Williams(!).  Enough said.

While there are a few more great 2013 records (actually several), and some coming up soon, hopefully this rounds up some things worthy of your time and attention now.  We've got them all in stock, so come check 'em out!  We'd like to see and hear from you!