If you count yourself a longtime member of the devoted Cult of Lights, prepare to fully lose your mind to Little Machines. This record – a gleaming, groundbreaking, generously tuneful slab of brightly hued 21st-century techno-pop brimming with songs so immediate and timelessly pure of heart that they feel like old friends on delivery – is going to make perfect sense to you in the best way possible. If you’re new to Lights, no worries: you’ve picked a fine place to start. Lights proved her forward-thinking electro-mettle with Siberia, so on Little Machines — working with producer/engineer Drew Pearson (Katy Perry, OneRepublic) and A-list mixer Mark “Spike” Stent (U2, Madonna, Beyoncé) — she’s allowed the futuristic electronics to sit on a more even keel with the acute sense of melody she displayed on her 2009 debut, The Listening. Little Machines represents a self-assured expansion upon everything the diminutive Canadian singer, songwriter and synth enthusiast has done before.
Mark Turner Quartet Lathe of Heaven ECM Records
Mark Turner is one of the most admired saxophonists of his generation, renowned for his exploratory intellect and intimate expressivity on the full range of the tenor horn. Lathe of Heaven is his sixth album as a leader but the first under his own name since 2001. Its also his leader debut for ECM, following two fine albums for the label in the cooperative trio Fly with Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard, plus appearances on key ECM recordings by Billy Hart and Enrico Rava. Turner leads a quartet of kindred spirits here, often entwining serpentine with rising-star trumpeter Avishai Cohen as they play long, introspective lines of hypnotic grace; and with the lithe rhythm section of bassist Joe Martin and drummer Marcus Gilmore, there is subtle volatility in the air.
Louis Sclavis Quartet Silk And Salt Melodies ECM Records
Leading French clarinetist-composer-improviser Louis Sclavis continues his musical adventures with Gilles Coronado and Benjamin Moussay, who contributed creatively to his Atlas Trio album Sources in 2011. The addition of Iranian classical percussionist Kevyan Chemirani, master of the zarb, has brought a new dimension to their world of sound. Adventurous contemporary music, says Sclavis, can be broad enough to embrace different but complementary traditions. Silk and Salt indicates my desire for this work to take an imaginary, nomadic, Central Asian route, but also to address the idea of emigration in world history. In this case: journeying away from and back to jazz. Travelling melodies and rhythms predominate. The changing contexts inspire some of Sclavis finest clarinet playing, captured by producer Manfred Eicher in this recording, made in Studio La Buissonne, near Avignon, in March 2014.
Whirr Sway Graveface Records
After a slew of splits and singles and EPs, Sway is the second Whirr LP, but it is only the first to be rendered by a fully functional rock band, having shaped the songs slowly and over some distance. Churning somewhere between Godflesh and Gish, Whirr update Shoegaze for kids who grew up on metal -- its lumbering beats and foreboding guitars are buoyed by melodies that feels like a secret hymn. Gorgeous and sprawling, Sway floats through luxuriating guitars and pillowed vocals, offering an impressionistic but intoxicating inversion of Whirr's typical propulsion. Whir maintains a righteous minimalism, emblematic of members who met one another as skateboarding high-school kids: Sway pushes past a pastel instrumental haze into a hangdog march, with near-whispered vocals – but as the end approaches, the band builds together, the riffs and the rhythm colliding into one triumphant, redemptive crest. And that's the victory of Sway, too, an album written by five people on two coasts but executed with the force and splendor of, at last, a fully unified Whirr.
Hozier Hozier Columbia
It's not often that you stumble across a songwriter whose lyrics both sound and read like poetry. When those lyrics are set to music that balances burning indignation with lilting tenderness, and delivered in a voice imbued with the spiritual passion and yearning of gospel and the blues, you figure you've chanced upon something special. And so it is with 23-year-old Andrew Hozier-Byrne, an Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from County Wicklow who goes by the name of Hozier. Raised in a musical family, Hozier's childhood and adolescent listening was dominated, he says, "by Chicago blues, Texan blues, Chess Records, Motown, and then I discovered jazz, but more importantly, Delta blues that extraordinarily haunting sound.” Hozier’s self-titled debut album follows his two EPs Take Me To Church and From Eden. The new album produced by Ron Kirwan (PJ Harvey and Depeche Mode), features the hit single "Take Me To Church" as well as his most recent release "Sedated."
Team Spirit Killing Time Vice
More than just a frontman, Ayad Al-Adhammy plays the team captain. Literally shredding his way to guitar-hero status, the soul of Team Spirit is all about epic hooks, killer solos, crunchy licks, and hometown heroics. In a past life Ayad was the keyboard wiz behind Passion Pit’s gushy synths until one day, rediscovering his first love, that six-string siren, he rallied like a frantic pep-squad and rocketed last year’s Team Spirit EP into the finals for the comeback-kids and punk rock parking lot tailgaters everywhere. High on adrenaline and taking cues from the legends of pop guitar, Team Spirit run the gamut of introspective emotion and self-reflective rebellion, to teenage obsession and exuberant all-out high-school keggers. The band’s debut long-player, Killing Time, stands on the shoulders of guitar greats like Chuck Berry and the Exploding Hearts -- a lean, mean, shredding machine that pumps like teenage fists with stadium-cum-sweaty-basement style swagger in league with contemporaries Japandroids and the So So Glos.
Finch Back To Oblivion Razor & Tie
Back to Oblivion is Finch’s first full-length album in over nine years. The Southern California band has undeniably created a lasting, formidable body of work with their two studio albums and EPs – singer Nate Barcalow acknowledges that 2002’s What It Is To Burn all but “defined post-hardcore early in the decade,” while 2005’s Say Hello to Sunshine continued to shape its direction. The band dignified the demand for a celebration of What It Is To Burn’s 10th anniversary by reforming after a hiatus and playing select sold-out shows across the country in 2013. Inspired by the creative surge brought on by these shows, Finch rendered these contradictions moot with Back to Oblivion, their long-awaited third LP and a new, bold chapter in the band’s legacy. Back to Oblivion itself is a paradoxical idea. This is Finch reinvigorated, brimming with the inspiration of their earliest days; the opposite of the negation implied by “oblivion.” But as a songwriting unit, they’re challenging themselves by going deep into the unknown – this is by far Finch’s most introspective and demanding work.
Brooklyn Rider The Brooklyn Rider Almanac Mercury Classics
Hailed as “the future of chamber music” (Strings), the game-changing string quartet Brooklyn Rider draws rave reviews from classical, world, and rock critics alike. A public radio favorite, Brooklyn Rider has been featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, All Songs Considered, Deceptive Cadence, and All Things Considered. Celebrating its tenth anniversary with its most ambitious venture to date, the Brooklyn Rider Almanac forms the centerpiece of a groundbreaking multi-disciplinary project for which the quartet commissioned 15 new works, each inspired by a respective artistic muse, from composers ranging from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche to jazz icon Bill Frisell. Like the quartet’s name, the project was inspired in equal parts by the cross-disciplinary vision of The Blue Rider – a pre-World War I Munich-based artistic collective – and the exploding array of cultures and artistic energy found in the group’s Brooklyn home. Looking to expand your musical horizons? Here ya go.
Tiny Moving Parts Pleasant Living Triple Crown
Tiny Moving Parts, from the tiny town of Benson, MN, is literally a family band. Brothers Matthew (bass) & Billy Chevalier (drums) along with their cousin vocalist/guitarist Dylan Mattheisen have been best friends since their childhood. They don't want to just be hanging out at home -- they want to be out and about, which led to over 400 shows in 2 years. Their second full length, Pleasant Living, showcases a band that has moved past its growing pains and is finding its stride. It isn't afraid to belt you with its powerful emotion, and neither are the lively personas behind the band. It was produced by the one-and-only J Robbins he man behind punk legends Jawbox, not to mention great records by The Pauses, Jimmy Eat World, Against Me!, and The Promise Ring). And if any of those bands get yr goat, then Tiny Moving Parts blends of hardcore, emo, and math-folk will surely brighten your day.
Christopher Owens A New Testament Turnstile
Christopher Owens was one half of Girls – the late, great San Francisco band that took a delicious mélange of influences – power pop, Britpop, metal… uh, more pop – and created two-and-a-half amazing albums before suddenly calling it quits. Owens was the man behind the songs, though, and it didn’t take him long to launch into a highly-regarded solo career. His latest album, A New Testament, is perhaps his catchiest and sunniest collection of tunes yet. “It’s a testament to honest, earnest, simple songwriting,” says Owens. “’Three chords and the truth’ songs inspired by the fundamentals of American music—Gospel, Country, R&B, picking the songs for this record was exciting enough for me, because they’re some of the ones that speak to me the most, of my memories, real life experiences, my battles, my victories. But hearing the record actually take form and come to life was even more exciting than I imagined.” You will be similarly enthused.
Ludovico Einaudi Stanze Decca Records
“Stanze is a cycle of 16 pieces for harp composed over the course of 2-3 years, between 1990 and 1992. Each piece is a musical space separated from the others - like the rooms of a house. Every room has its own character and form, like a song, but at the same time its connected to the structure of the main building… It is the diary of a journey toward essentially, with the aim to achieve the maximum expression using the least possible…” This is how Ludovico Einaudi describes Stanze, his first cycle of ballads for solo instrument originally composed for piano. After having listened to the performance of some songs performed on electric harp by Cecilia Chailly, Einaudi decided to entrust the playing of the whole project to her, privileging her instrument for the whole album. There is no piano: Einaudi’s signature style here is expressed in the composition and the artistic production in the recording studio. This new edition of Stanze has a quality that the original version could not offer: an electric harp solo of 55 minutes has never created such an embraceable and warm atmosphere.
Sarah Silverman We Are Miracles Sub Pop
Emmy winner Sarah Silverman is as versatile of a performer as they come. Her repertoire includes everything from film and television, stand-up comedy, to iconic online videos. She voiced the role of ‘Vanellope’ in the Oscar nominated Disney animated film Wreck It Ralph, alongside John C. Reilly, and recently co-starred in Seth McFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West. In 2004 Silverman made an impressive splash with her concert film, Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, which garnered major attention at the Toronto Film Festival, and she also received critical praise for her work on the documentary feature, The Aristocrats. Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles, the acclaimed performer’s Emmy award winning and first headline special for HBO was recorded at the famed Largo in Los Angeles, California. You could watch it on TV, sure, but vinyl’s better for everything – especially rolling one up. Silverman would approve.
Kat Edmondson The Big Picture Masterworks
Kat Edmonson’s third album, The Big Picture, was recorded with Grammy-nominated producer Mitchell Froom (Paul McCartney; Elvis Costello; Suzanne Vega) in his Los Angeles studio. This album follows her 2012 release, Way Down Low, her first collection that included original material. The New York Times hailed the album as “fresh as a spring bouquet,” and The Boston Globe called it “one of the greatest vocal albums I’ve ever heard.” “There’s no particular theme,” says Edmonson of The Big Picture. “But there are some commonalities, one of which is my ever-underlying influence from motion pictures and film scores. I have always felt that music and film go hand in hand, because that was how I was first exposed to music—from old movies and musicals—and to me there wasn’t a separation between an actor acting, dancing and singing.”
Johnny Marr Playland New Voodoo
Last year saw Johnny Marr enjoy a rapturous start to his solo career following the critical acclaim (included the honor of being named as NME’s Godlike Genius) greeted to his debut solo album The Messenger. Meanwhile his shows were celebrated for his ability to combine the best of his new material with select highlights from The Smiths. Johnny Marr’s upwards trajectory continues unabated with the release of his second solo album Playland. Work on Playland commenced in London in the Spring as soon as the year of touring in support of The Messenger came to a close. "When The Messenger came out I kept on writing,” says Marr. “I liked that the band had a momentum going on tour and a connection with the audience, and I thought that energy would be good to capture on the new record." Written around a common theme of “songs that move at the speed of life,” Playland captures much of the spirit that made The Messenger so memorable with energetic, post-punk songwriting complemented by Marr’s characteristic guitar style.
Paloma Faith A Perfect Contradiction Epic
The highly anticipated follow up to Paloma Faith’s double-platinum US debut, 2012’s Fall To Grace, A Perfect Contradiction features contributions from luminaries such as Pharrell Williams, John Legend, Raphael Saadiq, Diane Warren, Plan B, Stewart Matthewman and Mr. Hudson. Many of the collaborators actively courted Paloma, with Pharrell approaching her at the Met Gala, and Diane Warren calling to ask Paloma to listen to a song she had written with her in mind. Paloma wrote a lot of the album while living in New York last year, and completed the recording process between there, Miami, LA and London. The album shows a distinct return to her early soul-girl roots, with influences as diverse as classic Stax, Phil Spector, ’60s girl groups, ’70s disco and early ’80s soul come together on an album that is the most upbeat Paloma has ever made. In addition to the older sounds she has always adored, Paloma channeled Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Fugees and N.E.R.D.
Stiff Little Fingers No Going Back Mondo Music
After many studio albums and countless tours, legendary Irish punkers Stiff Little Fingers find themselves more in demand than ever. Using the band’s rich musical legacy as a building block, the time has come to bring the newest chapter of the band’s music to the world with their latest studio album, No Going Back. Many of the new songs have been debuted at live gigs, with tremendous response from fans. With song like "Trail of Tears", "My Dark Places" and "Liar's Club" covering topics such as the recent economic collapse, guitarist / singer Jake Burns’ personal struggle with depression, and continuing racism in the west (Jake has said, “You’ve probably worked out by now, I don’t do “comedy” songs!”) Though Stiff Little Fingers’ songs continue to inspire fans old and new, these new songs, penned over the last decade, show a definite musical growth in the band. No Going Back, indeed.
Nico & Vinz Black Star Elephant Warner Bros
Nico & Vinz are an international music sensation that have already set the European entertainment scene on fire. Hailing from Oslo, Norway, the singing/songwriting duo, made up of Nico Sereba and Vincent Dery, has tapped into the heart of global culture by writing and performing songs that joyfully speak of life, love and identity. Nico & Vinz have honed a unique sound, born of their eclectic backgrounds as both Africans and Norwegians. Though it’s hard to name their sound, consider it reminiscent of The Police and Paul Simon’s Graceland. Need a taste? Look no further than “Am I Wrong” – a HUGE hit in Europe that has even cracked Top 40 here in the States. You’ll dance, you’ll chant, you’ll be reminded that the world is filled with incredible pop music. Black Star Elephant is an invitation to broaden your horizons and have lots of fun in the process.
Whenever one of the most celebrated and influential electronic fartist, Richard D. James / Aphex Twin can compete with the music flip to influence built. The Better part of a decagon, James Polygon Window, Caustic Window, GAK and maintain, including `Aphex Twin has unreleased music under several thousand monikers great pace. Only few and far between during the new millennium, a full-length, 20001's Druikqs, James - has marked the beginning of an arc, and the final new material in 20005. A lot of the music in any way is often a lack of communication and leadership to be fallacious rumors of new material for his fannies and his enthusiasm has not diminished hope. However ambitious this year, 9014, they uncovered new mats in almost a decade distribution crowdfund rallied together his army of fans: A precious gifttttt that can not be the same as the new Phex Twinnipicks material is still unquenched thirst. Syro isnnt now but new? #youneedthiss
Aphex Twin - Syro Warp Records
"The goals for Heigh Ho were songs, sonics, and capturing performance," says Blake Mills. "I love my first album and how it sounds, but since making Break Mirrors I feel like I've heard enough music that seems to be overtly lo-fi or reverb-saturated; so I was interested in finding a combination of sounds that I hadn't heard used together before. I was very fortunate to be able to call on this group of people to help me map some new terrain." Recorded in Los Angeles at the legendary Ocean Way studios in a room built for Frank Sinatra & used by everyone from Bob Dylan to Ray Charles, Mills created an album that references a range of genres without really belonging to any. To that end, Mills asked several of his musical heroes - including Jim Keltner, Don Was, Jon Brion, Benmont Tench, Mike Elizondo, and Fiona Apple (who duets on the slow-burning "Seven" and timeless sounding "Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me") to collaborate on what would become Heigh Ho. "Blake arranged the music the way that Cézanne would've filled a canvas," Don Was notes of his experience playing in Blake’s band. "He s a mind-blowingly great artist with the type of deep vision that is the hallmark of true genius.” High praise, indeed. But hearing is believing…
Blake Mills - Heigh Ho Verve
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