New Releases — February 17, 2017

Ryan Adams – Prisoner CD/LP (Pax Am/Blue Note)
Ryan Adams mined an unexpected influence – hard rock icons AC/DC – for the sonic design of his 16th LP, Prisoner. “When I run, I listen to [an iPod] Nano that I have,” the singer/songwriter told Entertainment Weekly. “I put all the AC/DC records on from back to front, or I’ll listen to the best of stuff from the ’80s: Springsteen, or Hornsby, and I’ll listen to what is going on there. I was listening to AC/DC’s Fly On The Wall, and that’s when I realized what I had to do for the record.” Last fall, Adams told EW his next album would feature material inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town and the Smith’s Meat Is Murder. But he’s since added several disparate influences into the mix – including classic rock act Bachman-Turner Overdrive (“Takin’ Care Of Business,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”) and pop hit-makers Electric Light Orchestra, both of whom helped expand his guitar production expertise. “I was like, ‘Wow!’ I understand the multicolored guitar tone moments now,” he said. “You can layer stuff. I really just learned a lot.” “How do I make a real distinct record where anybody listens to it and says, ‘That’s the truth from beginning to end?’” he said. “So it’s like exercise. It sucks in the beginning. But then you get into it.” [Limited red color vinyl pressing also available.]

Big Sean – I Decided CD (Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music)
Fourth album from the Detroit rapper. Includes guest contributions from Eminem, Jeremih, Jhene Aiko, The Dream, Migos and others.

Molly Burch – Please Be Mine CD/LP+MP3 (Captured Tracks)
Molly Burch was exposed to the arts at an early age. Growing up in L.A. with a writer/producer father and a casting director mother, Burch’s childhood was filled with old Hollywood musicals and the sounds of Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. After finding her voice in adolescence, Burch packed up for the UNC in Asheville to study Jazz Vocal Performance. “I was always really interested in singing before songwriting. I didn’t always have the confidence to write,” Molly says, “Initially it was more about finding the right songs to complement my voice.” And that voice is the first thing you’ll notice on Burch’s debut album.

Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming CD/LP (Equal Vision)
I’m Only Dreaming is the Tyler, TX-based indie pop outfit’s fifth album, and was produced by Will Yip (Circa Survive, Balance & Composure, Lauryn Hill). Vocalist/guitarist Sherri DuPree-Bemis opened up about album single “You Are Mine” revealing, “This song is about loving someone deeply and the beauty and challenges that come with being in a long term, committed relationship. You’re going to argue, you’re going to rub each other wrong and disagree and drive each other absolutely crazy sometimes but at the end of the day you just want to be together. I’m Only Dreaming stays true to form of the band’s signature dreamy sound, with DuPree-Bemis elaborating, “Musically, you could say it’s classic Eisley, in the sense that it’s melodic, moody pop and is written from the heart. Lyrically, it’s very whimsical; it has a vibe that will take you into its own world and let you escape your normal life for a few minutes. I like to cloak things in a little mystery and romance; I think it’s part of what makes all of Eisley’s songs sound like they’re from the same world. Every record is like opening and reading a book in a series.”

Hanni El Khatib – Savage Times CD/3×10”+MP3 (Innovative Leisure)
Hanni El Khatib should be the next garage rock god. It doesn’t take much of a leap to see him headlining hockey arenas on the back of nothing but his scuzzy guitar and his monster hooks. His new release Savage Times is a compilation of a boatload of singles he released over 2016. His first idea for the Savage Times project was to do something he’d never done before. Instead, he ended up doing … well, everything he’d never done before. He’d be playing new instruments, writing in unfamiliar new ways, opening himself up to an unrelenting stream of ideas and dedicating himself totally to pure musical instinct—and then releasing songs instantly to the public, without waiting to tour or assemble an album or anything.

The Gibson Brothers – In The Ground CD (Rounder)
The Gibson Brothers’ brand of bluegrass is a visceral mix of heritage and soaring harmony, making them the premiere brother duet of the genre, following in the footsteps of legendary brother acts such as the Stanley Brothers, Jim & Jesse, and the Osborne Brothers. Their first-ever album of entirely original songs, In The Ground sees the Gibson Brothers taking on their own roots as the sixth generation of Gibsons to grow up on their family farm.

Grails – Chalice Hymnal CD/LP+MP3 (Temporary Residence)
Rather than pick up where they left off, Grails take the sky-high riff-based heaviness of their earlier albums and distill it into a nuanced, widescreen opus. The perennial influences of mid-20th century Western film scores, obscure library music, and psychedelic krautrock are indelibly imprinted, but Chalice Hymnal exudes an eerie patience in unfurling the many layers of its subtle details.

Haxxan – Loch Ness Rising CD (Hell’s Headbangers)
Although “new” in name, Haxxan features underground legend Killjoy DeSade (Necrophagia, The Ravenous, Wurdulak, et. al.) on vocals and synth. Spread over 10 tracks, Haxxan’s Loch Ness Rising is conceptually based on Aleister Crowley, as Killjoy has been a life-long Crowley enthusiast. Recorded at Thelema Studios and mixed/mastered by Grzegorz Kulawiak at Sin Mix Studios, Loch Ness Rising richly resonates with a pure (and purely eerie/uneasy) tone that lends these songs a unique character: undoubtedly heavy in a manner not unlike To Mega Therion-era Celtic Frost, there’s likewise a ghostly aspect to its conversely crushing stomp.

Jethro Tull – Stand Up [Reissue/1969] CD/LP (Rhino)
Steven Wilson’s new stereo mixes of the original album plus the original stereo and mono single mixes of “Living In The Past” and “Driving Song.” Jethro Tull’s second album, Stand Up, marked an early turning point for the band with the addition of guitarist Martin Barre along with Ian Anderson s introduction of folk-rock influences to the group’s blues-based sound.

Kool Keith – Sex Style [20th Anniversary Limited Edition] 2xCD (Threshold)
He comes in many forms and many incarnations, but his style is distinctly his own. Just as there’s no mistaking his smooth lyrical delivery and searing hip-hop prose with its underlying edgy beats, there’s no denying the incredible force that is Kool Keith. Whether as a founding member of the legendary Ultramagnetic MCs, or in the guises of his renegade rap personas Dr. Octagon and Dr. Dooom, Keith has established himself as an innovative lyricist whose erudite raps push the envelope to the limit. When Keith Teams up with KutMasta Kurt on the production, they arguably create the best albums in his catalog. This expanded reissue of his 1997 album adds a bonus disc of instrumental versions.

Alison Krauss – Windy City CD/LP (Capitol)
Alison Krauss, the most awarded female artist in Grammy history (27 awards including Album of the Year in 2009), releases a beautifully curated collection of classic songs produced by Nashville Veteran Buddy Cannon. While they span different eras and musical genres, there is a unifying sensibility. Some of the songs on Windy City are familiar, like “Gentle On My Mind,” a signature song of Glen Campbell’s, and “You Don’t Know Me” which was a hit for Eddy Arnold and Ray Charles. Others are lesser known, like Willie Nelson’s “I Never Cared For You” and “All Alone Am I,” originally recorded by Brenda Lee. “Like the nine other tracks on Windy City, ‘River In The Rain’ is a previously recorded song that’s given new life thanks to Krauss’ Americana/bluegrass stylings. The tune, written and originally sung by beloved Nashville singer/songwriter Roger Miller, is melancholy and introspective, about the destruction and rebirth that can come from winding rivers and ceaseless rain.” – The Boot

Nikki Lane – Highway Queen CD/LP+MP3/Cassette (New West)
Nikki Lane’s third album Highway Queen sees the young Nashville rebel emerge as one of country and rock’s most gifted songwriters. Produced by Lane and fellow singer/songwriter Jonathan Tyler, and recorded in Denton, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee, Highway Queen is an emotional tour-de-force. Blending potent lyrics, unbridled blues guitars and vintage ‘60s country-pop swagger, Lane’s new music will resonate as easily with Black Keys and Lana Del Rey fans as those of Neil Young and Tom Petty. Highway Queen starts with the whiskey-soaked restlessness of “700,000 Rednecks,” a rowdy call to action, and ends on the profoundly raw “Forever Lasts Forever,” where Lane belts freely, mourning a failed marriage – the “lighter shade of skin” left behind from her wedding ring.

Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now CD/LP+MP3 (Secretly Canadian)
Jens Lekman describes his new record, Life Will See You Now, playfully, but also honestly, as “a midlife-crisis disco album; it’s an existentialist record, about seeing the consequences of your choices”. It’s a typical Lekman album in several ways: sly humor is key to its heartfelt nature; it inverts pop’s writing norm by making songs with sad concerns sound happy and songs with a happy subject sound sad; and it plays with notions of identity and the self. But, as the title suggests, it also represents a significant move forward, as if across a threshold. It’s the more expansive, upbeat sound of a revitalized Lekman, who is just one of many characters in his new stories about the magic and messiness of different kinds of relationships. [Limited orange vinyl pressing also available.]

The Orwells – Terrible Human Beings CD/LP+MP3 (Canvasback Music/Atlantic)
You know the kind of song that makes you feel uneasy, but excited? Maybe you felt it the first time you heard The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” or The Pixies “Monkey Gone To Heaven” — creepy yet catchy songs that are ominous and playful at the same time. It’s a category that now welcomes The Orwells’ raucous third album, Terrible Human Beings, the Chicago band’s most dynamic and engrossing collection to date. “Not too far back we sat down to write what we call mutilated pop songs,” explains guitarist Matt O’Keefe.” “We wanted to make songs that at their core are catchy and pretty, then slash them up,” adds singer Mario Cuomo. “After two misfires we landed on something that felt right.”

Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Got Soul CD/LP+MP3 (SME Masterworks)
Pedal-steel virtuoso Robert Randolph returns with his new album, Got Soul. The album takes stock of Randolph’s past as a church musician as it pushes the band forward into new places., with songs that run the gamut from gospel numbers to deep, funky grooves to incendiary rock-and-soul jams. The hauntingly exquisite “Heaven’s Calling” features Randolph on solo steel while guest vocalists Darius Rucker and Anthony Hamilton lend their golden voices to “Love Do What It Do” and “She Got Soul” respectively. “I Thank You,” the ‘60s Sam & Dave R&B smash, is completely re-imagined in the hands of the Family Band and Snarky Puppy’s Cory Henry.

Maggie Rogers – Now That The Light Is Fading CDEP (Capitol)
Maggie Rogers grew up playing banjo on a working farm in rural Maryland and first came to the public’s attention when she appeared in a video posted on YouTube of Grammy Award-winning producer Pharrell Williams teaching a Masterclass at The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where Rogers was a student. In the clip, Rogers plays an unfinished recording of “Alaska” and the song earned slew of media attention. SPIN declared that the song “blends folk, electronic, and pop music sensibilities to form an entirely new hybridized sound,” while Paste called it “hauntingly beautiful.”  Rogers’ debut EP, Now That The Light Is Fading, features five original songs written, produced and performed by the 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist, including the aforementioned single “Alaska.”

Son Volt – Notes Of Blue CD/LP (Transmit Sound)
The 10 songs on Notes Of Blue are inspired by the spirit of the blues, but not the standard blues as most know it. The unique and haunting tunings of Mississippi Fred McDowell, Skip James and Nick Drake were all points of exploration for Son Volt’s Jay Farrar for the new collection. The album opens with the country soul of “Promise The World,” followed by “Back Against The Wall,” a song that could stand alongside the great Son Volt songs of their early albums. However, Notes Of Blue reflects the blues as it resides in the folk tradition, but heavily amplified. The primal stomp of Cherokee St, the frenetic guitar on “Static” and the raw slide in “Sinking Down” exude grit and attitude. Conversely, tracks such as “The Storm” and “Cairo And Southern” seamlessly meld blues with hypnotic melodies that add a unique balance to the album.

Strand Of Oaks – Hard Love CD/LP (Dead Oceans)
Tim Showalter’s latest release as Strand Of Oaks, Hard Love, emanates an unabashed, raw, and manic energy that embodies both the songs and the songwriter behind them. “For me, there are always two forces at work: the side that’s constantly on the hunt for the perfect song, and the side that’s naked in the desert screaming at the moon. It’s about finding a place where neither side is compromised, only elevated.”

Tall Tall Trees – Freedays CD/LP (Joyful Noise)
Although it’s often hard to imagine, most of the sounds on Freedays are experiments with the banjo, and they all reflect the innovative musings of one of the freshest sounds to come out of the Appalachians in decades.

Otis Taylor – Fantasizing About Being Black CD (Trance Blues)
Blues music visionary Otis Taylor reflects on the African American experience on this timely release. Fantasizing About Being Black is Otis Taylor’s poetic musical exploration from the voyages of slave ships to the Mississippi Delta with a raw and haunting multi-instrumental blend that reveals the connection of history to modern day events; features musical guests Jerry Douglas, Brandon Niederauer and Ron Miles.

Charlie Wilson – In It To Win It CD (RCA)
Seventh solo album from the R&B legend. Guests include T.I., Pitbull, Wiz Khalifa, Robin Thicke, Lalah Hathaway, and Snoop Dogg.

This Week’s Vinyl Exclusives:

3 Doors Down – The Better Life [2000] 2xLP (Republic)
Featuring their breakthrough anthem “Kryptonite,” The Better Life is the debut album from rock band 3 Doors Down. Available for the first time on vinyl.

Parquet Courts – Captive Of The Sun 12” (Rough Trade)
When Parquet Courts made their second television appearance supporting 2016’s brilliant Human Performance LP, they were joined on Late Night with Stephen Colbert by a very special surprise guest, rapper Bun B (of UGK), who added a verse to the album’s percussive, lyrically-dense “Captive of the Sun.” What fans of both artists may not know, is that Bun B, a huge fan of Parquet Courts (whose Austin Brown, a Houston rap acolyte, is himself a Bun B and UGK superfan), already had a studio version of the track featuring his guest verse in the works. This brilliant meeting of the minds is now available on a club-ready 12”, with a B-side featuring the track as remixed by two more legendary Houstonians, DJ Candlestick & OG Ron C, whose “Chopped Not Slopped” edition brings plenty of purple codeine haze to the party.

The SteelDrivers – The SteelDrivers [2007] LP (Rounder)
Available for the first time on vinyl, The SteelDrivers’ critically and commercially successful 2008 self-titled debut firmly established the Nashville five-piece as a force to be reckoned with. With singer/songwriter Chris Stapleton at the helm, The SteelDrivers has been praised for its contemporary mix of blues, Americana and country.

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