New Releases for February 8, 2019
Galactic – Already Ready Already CD (Tchoup-Zilla Records)
Galactic’s first new studio album in more than three years, Already Ready Already sees the renowned New Orleans-based instrumental outfit taking a distinctly contemporary approach towards their own progressive sound, interpolating modern rhythms and electronic instrumentation within the house-shaking framework of Crescent City funk pop ‘n’ roll. Produced by the band’s Robert Mercurio and Ben Ellman, the new LP finds Galactic once again enlisting a diverse array of vocal collaborators to assist in their musical exploration, each of whom lend lyrical flavor and individualistic personality to the band’s multi-faceted sonic grooves. Bookended by a high-powered pair of trademark Galactic instrumentals that give the album its title. The album is a short, sharp blast of undeniable creative muscle, from the stripped-down kick/snap verses of “Going Straight Crazy”, featuring New Orleans singer (and YouTube sensation) Princess Shaw, to punk cabaret artist Boyfriend’s quirky speed-rap on the breakneck “Dance At My Funeral”. As ever, Galactic’s omnivorous musical interests make easy classification difficult – Already Ready Already is as all-encompassing and universal as the band’s moniker established long ago.
Eric Gales – The Bookends CD/LP+MP3 (Provogue/Mascot Label Group)
Eric Gales returns with his brand-new album, The Bookends. The challenge of making The Bookends was for Gales to challenge himself. “As a guitar player it’s been established that I can play a little bit, just a little bit,” he says. But for this album he not only wanted to push himself as a musician, but also as a vocalist, to build up his vocal discography. “What spearheaded that was the artists that I have on the record,” he adds which includes B. Slade, Doyle Bramhall II and Beth Hart. If his previous album Middle Of The Road was the rebirth of Eric Gales, then The Bookends is him blurring boundaries and taking flight on a voyage of self-discovery.
Health – Vol. 4 Slaves Of Fear CD/LP (Loma Vista)
Few artists are better prepared to confront the confusion of life in 2019 than L.A.-based band Health. With their new album, Vol. 4: Slaves Of Fear, the trio has not only made the heaviest, most genre-obliterating record of its career; they’ve documented just how frightening it feels to be alive right now. From the sample-triggered thrash metal of “The Message” and “God Botherer”, to the bone-scraping sub-bass of “Feel Nothing”, and “Black Static”, this is Health at their most lacerating. With Lars Stalfors, they’ve upended their sound palette for our post-everything era: “NC-17” feels like Arabic bass music dragged through hell; “Rat Wars” groans with derelict, slow-rolling L.A. funk. In the lyrics, singer Jake Duzsik confronts death, isolation and hopelessness with an uncommon candor and intimacy. Album closer, “Decimation”, is the most radical move in the band’s catalog to date: a gorgeous guitar ballad, a plea for purpose and meaning in a time that makes both feel impossible.
Cass McCombs – Tip Of The Sphere CD/LP+MP3 (ANTI-)
Tip Of The Sphere follows 2016’s Mangy Love, which was named a “Best Rock Album Of The Year” by Pitchfork. While most of McCombs albums have been pieced together in different studios over an extended period, Tip Of The Sphere was recorded quickly and with a strong sense of purpose at Shahzad Ismaily’s Figure 8 Studios in Brooklyn. This new approach for McCombs brought his songs a raw immediacy and a special balance of compassion and experimentation with the intent of making a more consistent statement. The rock songs have more fervor, the ballads are more beautiful, the explorations more confident; the sounds of jazz and Latin music creep in through the back window. The thematic centerpiece, “Sleeping Volcanoes,” is a rousing, rock and roll number that uses a distinct lyrical approach to intensify the narrative. On the main refrain, a key phrase of the song is repeated continuously and taken through its possible meanings, almost like a jazz musician repeating a musical phrase through key and chord changes. As described by McCombs, “Sleeping Volcanoes” is about “people passing each other on the sidewalk unaware of the emotional volatility they are brushing past, like a sleeping volcano that could erupt at any moment.” [Deluxe LP comes in an embossed cover and features three bonus tracks, a poster and a ‘Castillo de la Esfera’ created by fellow Northern California artist and contemporary Tahiti Pehrson as an homage to Brion Gysin’s dream machine. When the ‘Castillo de la Esfera’ is placed on top of the record player, and as the record is played (with or without a lightbulb cantilevered in the center), thoughts are encouraged to wander.]
Mercury Rev – Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited CD/LP (Partisan)
Mercury Rev’s tribute To Bobbie Gentry’s 1968 album, The Dela Sweete, features guest contributions by Hope Sandoval, Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), Phoebe Bridgers, Margo Price, Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Beth Orton, Marissa Nadler, Vashti Bunyan, Kaela Sinclair, Susanne Sundfør & Carice van Houten. In October, 1967, while Gentry’s debut album Ode To Billie Joe was still in the Top Five, she began recording The Delta Sweete, a connected set of a dozen songs that extended the narrative dynamics of that single with personal reflection and set her folk-siren charisma in a richer frame of dream-state orchestration, swamp-rock guitars and big-city-R&B horns. But the album – released in March 1968, only three months after Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and right as The Byrds came to Nashville to cut Sweetheart Of The Rodeo – was too soon in its precedence. The Delta Sweete, the first country-rock opera, was ignored on arrival, not even cracking Billboard’s Top 100. It was as if Billie Joe had risen out of the Tallahatchie River and thrown that record off the bridge instead. This reimagined version of Delta Sweete is her long-delayed justice – Mercury Rev’s committed and an affectionate resurrection of an album that anticipated by three decades their own pivotal expedition through transcendental America, 1998’s Deserter’s Songs.
Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock CD/LP+MP3 (Merge)
Ever-evolving artist Bob Mould – whose face belongs on the Mount Rushmore of alternative music – decided to “write to the sunshine,” as he describes it, not because he likes the current administration. It comes from a more personal place – a place found in Berlin, Germany, where he’s spent most of the last three years. Here, Mould would draw inspiration from the new environments. “‘Sunshine Rock’ was such a bright, optimistic song, and once that came together, I knew that would be the title track, and that really set the tone for the direction of the album,” Mould says. The theme, the cathartic vocals, and the strings on Sunshine Rock all amount to his catchiest album since Copper Blue, the acclaimed 1992 debut of his trio Sugar. Back then, Mould’s work in Hüsker Dü, as a solo artist, and in Sugar, helped define the sound of guitar rock in the alternative age. Sunshine Rock finds him doing it again for an era that has ostensibly eschewed rock. [Limited indie-exclusive vinyl pressing also available.]
Panda Bear – Buoys CD/LP+MP3 (Domino)
From the opening minutes of Buoys, Noah Lennox’s sixth solo album as Panda Bear resembles something both wholly new and intimately familiar to fans and followers of the musician and Animal Collective member’s body of work. Lennox’s bright, sincere voice is still front-and-center, along with his beatific approach to melodic structure and vocal phrasing – but there’s miles of space surrounding it, a guitar and a few textured samples here and there fleshing out Buoys’ dubby sparseness. The off-white loveliness of his 2011 LP Tomboy is recalled, as well as the sampledelia of 2007’s landmark Person Pitch – but Buoys otherwise represents a surprising and intimately pleasurable new direction for an artist who’s embraced not repeating oneself as its own creative ethos.
Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs CD/LP (Mexican Summer)
Jessica Pratt is not a loud performer. She does not have to be. In a club of a few hundred, even the bar staff are known to go quiet while she’s on stage. Her third album, Quiet Signs, feels like a distillation of this power. The album leads off with “Opening Night”, a nod to Gena Rowlands’ harrowing, brilliant performance in the John Cassavetes film of the same name. It’s also an emblem of where this spare, mysterious collection of songs falls in the course of Pratt’s career. Her first album fully recorded in a professional studio setting, Quiet Signs finds Pratt’s songwriting and accompanying guitar work refined – more distinct and direct. Songs like “Fare Thee Well” and “Poly Blue” retain glimmers of Oyola’s hazy day afternoon spells, yet delicate flute, strings sustained by organ arrangements, and rehearsal room piano now gesture towards the lush chamber pop and longing of The Left Banke. On the album’s first single, “This Time Around”, Pratt hits on a profound, late-night clarity over just a couple of deep chords, evoking Caetano Veloso’s casual seaside brilliance. And before the curtain drops on Quiet Signs, Pratt provides a show-stopping closer, “Aeroplane”. [Limited indie-exclusive vinyl pressing also available.]
Mavis Staples – Live In London CD/2xLP+MP3 (ANTI-)
Recorded at London’s Union Chapel (which Mavis Staples calls “the best place in the world to sing”) and produced by the singer herself, Live In London reveals that Mavis retains astonishing power after seventy years as a performer, and that while her repertoire continues to expand, her philosophy is unchanged since her days in the groundbreaking family group, the Staple Singers.
For this project, Staples – who is still on the road almost 200 nights a year – welcomed the spontaneity and vulnerability of recording live. The album captures the spirit and energy, the commitment and intensity, that she brings to the stage every night. Ironically, her last live record – 2008’s Hope At The Hideout – was cut against the background of her fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama’s historic election, while the new album inevitably addresses the horrors of the Donald Trump era. Mixed in with these new songs (and “Let’s Do It Again”, which she notes is “the only secular song that the Staple Singers ever recorded”) are a few selections chosen just to bring the funk – Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That” and “Slippery People” by Talking Heads.
Yak – The Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness CD/LP (Third Man)
Few albums in rock ‘n’ roll history have seen its creator’s obsession veer so close to self-destruction, as London trio Yak’s The Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness. For singer, guitarist and driving force Oli Burslem, making his band’s second album became about pursuing his artistic vision at the expense of all else, including his own financial security and mental health. Who else these days invests every single penny available to them into recording, to the point where they become homeless? The result is a rare white-knuckle ride of an album in which his extreme commitment pulsates through every moment – much like Spiritualized’s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space and Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker, both of whose creators had a part to play in its genesis – ranging from the gonzo-fuzz chaos of tracks like “Blinded By The Lies” through to the Roy Orbison-inspired heartbreak of “Words Fail Me”. [Limited indie-exclusive vinyl pressing also available.]
Y La Bamba – Mujeres CD/LP (Tender Loving Empire)
Y La Bamba has been many things, but at the heart of it is singer-songwriter Luz Elena Mendoza’s inquisitive sense of self. Their fifth record, Mujeres, carries on the Portland-based band’s affinity for spiritual contemplation, but goes a step further in telling a story with a full emotional spectrum. Mendoza forges new narratives from old stories of heritage and family, tracing history while forging modern Chicana feminism. The raw honesty of Mujeres is in fact the raw honesty of Mendoza. Armed with the emotionality of traditional música Mexicana and the storytelling of American folk, Y La Bamba’s artistry is not just their musical ability but Mendoza’s search for unadulterated truth. It is in an ancestral journey in which Mendoza comes to terms with the influence and limitations of her upbringing. While there is a celebration of the Mexican creativity that has informed Mendoza’s life, there is a darker side to reconcile with.
Emarosa – Peach Club CD/LP+MP3 (Hopeless)
Sixth studio album from the Lexington-based alternative rockers – their most pop-laden and personal album to date.
Prince – Musicology [Reissue/2004] CD/2xLP (Sony Legacy)
Prince – 3121 [Reissue/2006] CD/2xLP (Sony Legacy)
Prince – Planet Earth [Reissue/2006] CD/2xLP (Sony Legacy)
Digitally remastered CD and limited purple vinyl reissues now available. Musicology was the first album in five years that Prince released through a major label, having previously broken from WB and settling on his own NPG Records imprint.
Said The Whale – Cascadia CD/LP+MP3 (Arts & Crafts)
The Vancouver trio’s sixth album is a big-hearted blend of indie rock and atmospheric folk.
Cosey Fanni Tutti – Tutti CD/LP (Conspiracy International)
Tutti is comprised of eight soundscapes: an audio self-portrait comprising of manipulated sound recordings from Cosey’s life, music and art: “It’s the only album I’ve made that is an all-encompassing statement expressing the totality of my being. A sense of the past in relation to the present and everything in between.”
Jozef Van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch – An Attempt To Draw Aside The Veil CD/LP (Sacred Bones)
Experimental lute player Jozef Van Wissem and acclaimed film director and musician Jim Jarmusch have a working relationship that dates back to 2006, when they ran into each other on the street in New York City and quickly struck up a friendship. The mostly instrumental An Attempt To Draw Aside The Veil finds much of its power in minimalism. Van Wissem’s unadorned lute traces the outlines of subdued electronics and ominous guitar drones laid down by Jarmusch. It’s a subtle album, and repeat listens reveal vast depths in its dark corners. [Limited brown colored vinyl pressing also available.]
Xiu Xiu – Girl With A Basket Of Fruit CD/LP+MP3 (Polyvinyl)
“Xiu Xiu’s new album is imbued with the agitation, tension, sorrow and anger that has permeated the daily lives of so many over the last few years. ‘Scisssssssors’ charges back into the band’s eccentric discomfort. The drums move frenzied and tribal over frontman Jamie Stewart’s possessed mutterings. It all sounds like a dark, experimental ritual.” – Stereogum. [Limited 180gm colored vinyl LP pressing also available.]
Exclusively on Vinyl This Week:
Band Of Horses – Acoustic At The Ryman [Reissue/2014] LP+MP3 (Brown)
A 10-song virtual greatest hits set of acoustic renditions of songs from across the BOH catalog, recorded at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium over two magical nights in April 2013. Repressed on 180gm vinyl.
John Carpenter – Halloween [Original Soundtrack/Reissue/1979] LP (Sacred Bones)
For the first time, Sacred Bones Records is making the formerly mail-order exclusive art edition of John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies’s Halloween soundtrack available to indie retail. This edition features deluxe packaging with unique art by Chris Bilheimer, as well as a massive foldout poster and is pressed on ‘blood puddle’ colored vinyl (clear vinyl with inset red puddle).
Kid Rock – Greatest Hits You Never Saw Coming 2xLP (WB)
Released last September on CD – now available on vinyl. Comprised of fifteen remastered tracks, all recorded since 1998, Greatest Hits You Never Saw Coming reflects 20 years of cross-genre hits from the superstar during his Warner Music Group era. The tracklist plays out like the ultimate Kid Rock set, reflecting his indelible imprint on rock, country, pop, and hip-hop.
LCD Soundsystem – Electric Lady Sessions 2xLP (Sony)
Recorded at the famed Electric Lady Studios in NYC’s Greenwich Village, Electric Lady Sessions is a live collection featuring classic LCD Soundsystem songs, three covers, and newer material from their 2017 album American Dream.
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody [Soundtrack] 2xLP (Hollywood)
Released last October on CD – now available on vinyl. Audio tracks from Queen’s legendary performance at Live Aid are included as part of the soundtrack album to the Grammy-nominated biopic. Recorded at the historic Wembley concert in July 1985, these Live Aid songs are among the rare gems and unheard versions from the band’s rich catalogue. Alongside the show-stopping Live Aid performances of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Radio Ga Ga”, “Hammer To Fall” and “We Are The Champions”, the album features other rare live tracks spanning Queen’s entire career, new versions of old favorites, and a choice selection of the band’s finest studio recordings, among them some of Queen’s biggest hits.