Think Can or Faust all mashed up with the personal disco of Arthur Russell. Think of the electric organ of Terry Riley's Shri Camel, slowly morphing and perpetually in motion, but remaining in step with a guitar-less and Moroder-charged Sparks. And think of a more composed Dead C, where Michael Morley sings about Big Thunder Mountain while holding a beach ball in one hand and fending off the digital shards of musique concrète humming around his ears with the other. Alex Delivery have gleefully exposed their myriad gifts and influences with their debut full-length Star Destroyer, almost two years in the making. On it the New York-based quintet have demonstrated their penchant for the electro-organic, seamlessly blending the sharp and gentle, like a chain-gang draped in organza. You can hear the chattering of insects resonating from the inside of a kettle drum, and you can imagine this colossal robo-beast wobbling and waltzing down an abandoned carnival boardwalk. Sylphs soar across strings, occasionally descending to enjoy some wiggle-worthy poly-rhythms. These and many more colorful characters have climbed aboard the Star Destroyer.
Alex Delivery is Nik Bozic, Marika Kandelaki, Robert Lombardo, Colin Ryan, and Yegang Yoo. Star Destroyer was self-recorded and mixed by the band and mastered at West West Side with Alan Douches. The album artwork is taken from six oil paintings made by Kandelaki.
The descent into darkness is a trope we find time again across history, literature and film - a protagonist plunging further and further into the depths. But there is also an abyss above. There is a winding white staircase that goes ever upward into the great unknown - each step, each turn, requiring a greater boldness and confidence than the one before. This is the journey on which we find Angel Olsen.
Olsen’s flight is both upward and inward. Olsen's artistic beginnings as a collaborator shifted seamlessly to her magnificent, cryptic-to-cosmic solo work, and then she formed bands to play her songs, and her stages and audiences grew exponentially. But all along, Olsen was more concerned with a different kind of path, and on her vulnerable, Big Mood new album, All Mirrors, we can see her taking an introspective deep dive towards internal destinations and revelations. In the process of making this album, she found a new sound and voice, a blast of fury mixed with hard won self-acceptance.
"I guess you could say some bold and unexpected things have happened in my life" Olsen said. "It feels like part of my writing has come back from the past, and another part of it was waiting to exist."
All Mirrors gets its claws into you on both micro and macro levels. Of course, there’s that singular vibrato, always so very close - seemingly simple, cooed phrases expand into massive ideas about the inability to love and universal loneliness. And then suddenly - huge string arrangements and four horsemen bellowing synth swells emerge, propelling the apocalyptic tenor. Throughout All Mirrors, Angel fully lets in the goth tones that always lurked at the ends of her song craft.
"In every way - from the making of it, to the words, to how I feel moving forward - this record is about owning up to your darkest side," Olsen said. "Finding the capacity for new love and trusting change, even when you feel like a stranger. This is a record about facing yourself and learning to forgive what you see. It is about losing empathy, trust, love for destructive people. It is about walking away from the noise and realizing that you can have solitude and peace in your own thoughts, that your thoughts alone can be just as valid, if not more."
The first step of All Mirrors, was conceiving a back-to-basics solo record, which she recorded with producer Michael Harris in Anacortes, Washington. Soon after that was completed, a more ambitious version of the album began to percolate in her mind. This second, more maximalist version of All Mirrors evolved slowly with producer John Congleton, arranger Jherek Bischoff, Swiss Army Knife musician/arranger Ben Babbitt, and a 14 piece orchestra.
"I was determined to keep it bare bones in order to contrast with the not yet recorded full band record," Olsen said. "I wanted to have versions of these songs that are completely raw and real in the way some of my earlier recordings are, so that I could have the choice to play alone or with a band."
While remaking the album with full production and new collaborators, Olsen developed a new relationship with control. And in that process, she developed an even clearer vision of herself as artist.
"It’s scary to be your own compass, to trust new faces, to be a stranger - but sometimes that’s the only way forward," she said. "When you’ve been in a repetitive cycle so long it’s difficult for anyone to see you as someone who could come out of it. When you’ve made an example of yourself that people expect, some voices remind you of that example even when you know in your heart you’ve made changes."
"As I see it, in order for an artist to survive some kind of change, change needs to be a constant. For myself that constant change means having some kind of epiphany or clarity expressed in song. I don’t know if it’s something I inspire or attract, or if it’s just in the way I’m looking at my surroundings, but drama is something that surrounds my world and always has. I’m at least happy that I've learned to write it down."
How do you best describe Angel Olsen? From the lo-fi, sparse folk-melancholy of her 2010 EP, Strange Cacti, to the electrified, polished rock 'n' roll bursting from 2016's beloved and acclaimed MY WOMAN, Olsen has refused to succumb to a single genre, expectation, or vision. Impossible to pin down, Olsen navigates the world with her remarkable, symphonic voice and a propensity for narrative, her music growing into whatever shape best fits to tell the story. Phases is a collection of Olsen's work culled from the past several years, including a number of never-before-released tracks. "Fly On Your Wall," previously contributed to the Bandcamp-only, anti-Trump fundraiser Our First 100 Days, opens Phases, before seamlessly slipping into "Special," a brand new song from the MY WOMAN recording sessions. Both "How Many Disasters" and "Sans" are first-time listens: home-recorded demos that have never been released, leaning heavily on Olsen's arresting croon and lonesome guitar.The b-sides compilation is both a testament to Olsen's enormous musical range and a tidy compilation of tracks that have previously been elusive in one way or another. Balancing tenacity and tenderness, Phases acts as a deep-dive for longtime fans, as well as a fitting introduction to Olsen's sprawling sonics for the uninitiated.
Anyone reckless enough to have typecast Angel Olsen according to 2013's Burn Your Fire For No Witness is in for a rethink with her third album, MY WOMAN. The crunchier, blown-out production of the former is gone, but that fire is now burning wilder. Her disarming, timeless voice is even more front-and-center. Yet, the strange, raw power and slowly unspooling incantations of her previous efforts remain.
Over two previous albums, she gave us reverb-shrouded poetic swoons, shadowy folk, grunge-pop band workouts and haunting, finger-picked epics. MY WOMAN is an exhilarating complement to her past work, and one for which Olsen recalibrated her writing/recording approach and methods to enter a new music-making phase.
As the record evolves, one gets the sense that the "MY WOMAN" of the title is Olsen herself, absolutely in command but also willing to bend with the influence of collaborators and circumstances. An intuitively smart, warmly communicative and fearlessly generous record, MY WOMAN speaks to everyone. That it might confound expectation is just another of its strengths.
On her newest LP, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, Angel Olsen sings with full-throated exultation, admonition, and bold, expressive melody. With the help of producer John Congleton, her music now crackles with a churning, rumbling low end and a brighter energy.
Angel Olsen began singing as a young girl in St. Louis. Her self-released debut EP, Strange Cacti, belied both that early period of discovery and her Midwestern roots. Olsen then went further on Half Way Home, her first full-length album (released on Bathetic Records), which mined essential themes while showcasing a more developed voice. Olsen dared to be more personal.
After extensive touring, Olsen eventually settled for a time in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, where she created "a collection of songs grown in a year of heartbreak, travel, and transformation," that would become Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Many of them remain essentially unchanged from their bare beginnings. In leaving them so intact, a more self-assured Olsen allows us to be in the room with her at the very genesis of these songs. Our reward for entering this room is many a head-turning moment and the powerful, unsettling recognition of ourselves in the weave of her songs.
After a summer spent listening to grimy hip hop beats and hooks, supporting the re-release of Sugar and Feathered, and making 4 track demos, Aspera converged at Tonearm Studios to begin work on their third album. Oh Fantastica continues a darkly thematic tradition established with Sugar and Feathered and the follow up Birds Fly EP (Suicide Squeeze) but strays from both records overwrought psychedelia (oft compared to Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev). Oh Fantastica is full of minimal yet memorable melodies driven by Drew Mills’ most upfront and un-effected vocal performance to date. The beats are intentionally raw—composed of deep, 808 / 909 textures and laced with gated, acoustic percussion takes and dirty synth bass lines. On Oh Fantastica, Aspera ride a dream-like wave enjoying and sharing the fruit of parallel universes—where the epic ‘80s pop production (as heard in early work of Simple Minds and Tears for Fears) exist side by side with hip-hop’s old school (Afrika Bambaataa) and new school (Swizz Beats, Anti-Pop Consortium, Missy Elliott & Timbaland, and producers the Neptunes), and, perhaps most-notably, electronic music's contemporary experimentalists (Boards of Canada) as well as its early trailblazers (such as the pop soundscapes of Another Green World-era Brian Eno; Giorgio Moroder’s militant electro; and the early-80’s tech-adventurism of musical veterans as manifested in Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock and Paul McCartney’s McCartney II).
Destroyer is structured around that first time behind the wheel of a hot rod. The fat, charging “Living After Midnight” riffs of opener “Future Shade” is, according to McBean, “Straight outta the gates. FM radio cranked.” He ain’t kidding. The song, and all of Destroyer for that matter, seems to exist at that crucial nexus of the early-to-mid 80s Los Angeles when a war between punk and hair metal was waged. Black Flag’s My War tried and failed to keep the peace. But in the trenches, some hybrid ghoul was beginning to form in bands like Jane’s Addiction and White Zombie. The heavy extended player “Horns Arising,” with its Night Rider vocals and golden, climbing Blade Runner synths, is a fill-up at a desert gas station just in time to see a UFO hovering near a mesa. Other songs, like the serpentine “Boogie Lover,” are a cruise down the Sunset Strip. You pull into The Rainbow Bar & Grill to take the edge off - doesn’t matter what year it is, Lemmy’s there in flesh or spirit. To continue the teenage theme, there’s also a sense of youthful discovery to these cuts — “High Rise” is a foray into Japanese psych, rounding the bend to a careening, while “Closer to the Edge” feels like falling in love with Yes (Remember how good they were for a minute there in your youth?). “Licensed to Drive” would easily be the most exhilaratingand dangerous ripper on a titular film’s soundtrack, a dose of heavy right before the muscle car’s wheels fly off going 100 mph on the freeway.
Shacked up in his rehearsal space, McBean found an old chair in an alley, spray painted Producer on the back and pressed record. Friends from the endless rock’n’roll highway were invited over and 22 songs were brought to life. While some were laid back into shallow graves to dig up once again at a later date, the remaining skeletons were left above ground — given organs, skin, eyes, and the opportunity to grow their hair real long and greasy. Some of these zombie hesher jams were sent on a journey to Canada where longtime band member Jeremy Schmidt, slipping on the Official Collaborator satin jacket, had at them with his legendary synth arsenal. As he added long flowing robes, sunglasses, driving gloves and medallions, the undead songs began to transform into the new breathing creatures that make up Destroyer. Schmidt’s work with these songs turned out to be the transformative glue for this new era of Black Mountain.
The rock canon has many anti-heroes, Black Mountain being the latest. In the past, Can's Tago Mago established that the only rule in rock and roll is that there are no rules. Pink Floyd's prodigious output in the 70s showed us that architecture can be cool, while delinquent proto-metallers Black Sabbath demonstrated that you can make a lot from not that much. Now Black Mountain teach us that you don't have to be afraid of the past to move bravely into the future, defining what it is to be a classic rock band in the new millennium. Today, they announce IV, an unapologetically ambitious record made by a group of musicians who are at the peak of their powers.
Available in limited edition Grey Vinyl. Black Mountain's self-titled debut album is a new classic rock, with reference points arcane and clear, its sound fresh, unfamiliar and irresistible. Savor the compact, spacey brilliance of this cosmic, heavy and subtle album, expanded now with a raft of delicious bonus tracks scavenged from the Black Mountain Army archives.
‘i,i’ is Bon Iver’s most expansive, joyful and generous album to date. If 'For Emma, Forever Ago’ was the crisp, heart-strung isolation of a northern Winter; ‘Bon Iver’ the rise and whirr of burgeoning Spring; and '22, A Million', a blistering, "crazy energy" Summer record, ‘i,i’ completes the cycle: a fall record; Autumn-colored, ruminative, steeped. The autumn of Bon Iver is a celebration of self acceptance and gratitude, bolstered by community and delivering the bounty of an infinite American music.
The sales and accolades are well-known - multiple Gold albums, multiple Grammys, chart-topping collaborations and festival headlines. But even more significantly, with each release Bon Iver quietly shifts the state of modern music. From the boundaries of folk, to the rules of autotune, to production work for others, Bon Iver’s fingerprint finds its way across the mainstream every time. Vernon has always been a master collaborator, and on ‘i,i’ that desire becomes maximal, with guests ranging from Moses Sumney and Bruce Hornsby to Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Here, the music - and band, and themes, and creative space - are bigger than ever.
22, A Million is part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for self-understanding like a religion. And the inner-resolution of maybe never finding that understanding. The album's 10 poly-fi recordings are a collection of sacred moments, love's torment and salvation, contexts of intense memories, signs that you can pin meaning onto or disregard as coincidence. If Bon Iver, Bon Iver built a habitat rooted in physical spaces, then 22, A Million is the letting go of that attachment to a place.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver is Justin Vernon returning to former haunts with a new spirit. The reprises are there – solitude, quietude, hope and desperation compressed – but always a rhythm arises, a pulse vivified by gratitude and grace notes. The winter, the legend, has faded to just that, and this is the new momentary present. The icicles have dropped, rising up again as grass.
The four song Blood Bank collection continues down the path forged by 2008's critically acclaimed For Emma, Forever Ago.From the title track's remembrance of the winter warmth we seek, to the summer love tribute of b-side gem "Babys," Bon Iver's snow-blanketed harmonies live across the seasons. Both expansive and intimate, these four songs explore the darker and lighter natures of the seasons and what they signify, and offer a dynamic glimpse into the natural energy and refined craftsmanship that characterize Justin Vernon's music.
We are thrilled to release Bon Iver's debut full-length "For Emma, Forever Ago". Bon Iver (pronounced: bohn eevair; French for "good winter" and spelled wrong on purpose) is a greeting, a celebration and a sentiment. It is a new statement of an artist moving on and establishing the groundwork for a lasting career. For Emma, Forever Ago is the debut of this lineage of songs. As a whole, the record is entirely cohesive throughout and remains centered around a particular aesthetic, prompted by the time and place for which it was recorded. Justin Vernon, the primary force behind Bon Iver, seems to have tested his boundaries to the maximum, and in doing so has managed to break free from any pre-cursing or finished forms.
There is something unforgettable about great love songs, and Briana Marela's Call It Love wraps its welcoming arms around the subject, invoking all its complexity. Before writing the songs that would become Call It Love, Briana Marela was guided first and foremost by her instincts as a producer & engineer. Marela's original vision for this album was to dig into the two poles of her songwriting styles: her ambient, ethereal side and her brighter, beat-driven pop leanings. She enlisted the production help of Juan Pieczanski & Ryan Heyner of the band Small Black upon hearing their most recent self-produced album.
On this album, Briana Marela has made her proverbial giant leap, deepening her songwriting and expanding her palette to explore the sounds of love in beautiful, striking new ways. "Give Me Your Love" explores what Marela calls "love's immature, silly & selfish side." "Quit", the deep, dramatic centerpiece of Call It Love, was originally penned about a breakup with a longtime partner and written with the idea that she could give the song away to another artist. Instead, "Quit" is powerful and revealing in Briana's own hands. And, if "Be In Love" is the sound of falling in love, "Farthest Shore" is the sound of looking inward, of reckoning with and without ourselves. It is an intricate, cavernous song, setting a deceptively pretty melody over ominous drones and skittering percussion. And here, again, the contradictory becomes complementary.
Briana's lyrics are forceful, and throughout her second album, All Around Us, traditional song structure gives way to plainspoken declarations that pull back the record's shroud. Her first single,"Surrender" is musically delicate at first, with flickering blips and chords that float into earshot like fireflies. "Take Care of Me" is the album's brightest and most immediate song, a buoyant celebration of friendship with a skittering beat and a warm, sweet melody. And title track "All Around Us" is a stark but inspiring beauty, built on the memory of a family member of Briana's who passed away, and the sadness of not being able to say "goodbye" or "I love you" one last time. It is the balance of the abstract and the intimate that makes Briana Marela and All Around Us so special.
Max Clarke has a knack for conjuring up warmth in his music, like endless summer or ageless youth. The 27-year-old's debut LP, Hollow Ground, crackles with the heat of a love-struck nostalgia, woven together with a palpable Everly Brothers' influence and retro sound. It reaches back into decades of plainspoken, unfussy, and squarely American storytelling and pulls it forth into 2018.
Some of Hollow Ground bloomed from that same period of driven creativity that yielded EP Alien Sunset; both "Like Going Down Sideways" and "Don’t Want To Say Good-Bye" find new life on the LP.
The rest is new. There's "Till Tomorrow Goes Away," a sheepish love song, thrumming with twangy guitar and a two-step rhythm. "Cash For Gold" channels buoyancy; a doo-wop effect on the sleepy backing vocals build out the dreaminess of Clarke's own affecting croon.
Hollow Ground strikes the balance between cerebral and simplicity in his storytelling. His lyrics explore the raw realm of youth, its weightlessness and possibilities, but channeled through a lens of restraint. Someone who's old enough to know better but still gets drawn back in to the romanticism of teenage feelings - and knows how to take the listener along, too.
"Alien Sunset" is a collection of home-recorded "demos" from Max Clarke's time living in Chicago (Side A) and New York City (Side B). Each track has a sturdy, four-legged American quality, but also contains a gentleness and sense of stolen privacy. The arrangements are both dense and airy, decadent without sacrificing an ounce of effervescence. Something about this EP looks back over time’s shoulder, but it isn't really "retro" music, it just glitters in a way you don’t often hear these days.
If this collection can be said to have any sort through-line, a whiff of motif, it revolves around the obvious delight Max takes in singing his heart out, despite variegated agony. The lyrical work moves from simple, diary-like musings, self-consciousness on the dance floor and general lust problems, to illuminated text. As a lyricist, Max draws upon the Romantics and Symbolists of the rock and roll poet tradition; "Song of the Highest Tower" was written the day Lou Reed died and is an adaptation of a poem from Rimbaud. The project itself, Cut Worms, borrows its striking and ambiguous imagery from the William Blake poem, "Proverbs from Hell": The cut worm forgives the plow.
After a string of well-received 7" releases on labels like Suicide Squeeze and Die Slaughterhaus, Dasher songs new and old have finally been smelted down into their debut album, Sodium. Dasher knifes out the chop-crunch guitar of latterday post-punk with a seething screech echoing the hardest horizons of the early 90’s underground.
DIANA are an enigmatic foursome from Toronto, where they must be putting something in the water with the number of great bands hailing from there. Consisting of Joseph Shabason, Kieran and singer Carmen Elle, with Paul Mathew recently joining the live line up, Shabason and Adams met while studying jazz at music college where they played extensively together. Having lent their skills (saxophone and drums, respectively) to many bands, including Bonjay, The Hidden Cameras and Shabason's recent contributions to Destroyer's excellent Kaputt, it was a leap of faith to make their own full-length. But the time had come.
After a songwriting sabbatical in the Canadian countryside, Shabason and Adams went into the studio with engineer and co-producer Roger Leavens. They asked Toronto musician and vocalist Carmen Elle to sing on a track, as both Kieran and Joseph knew her from her work with other bands such as the much feted but short-lived Spiral Beach, all of whose members have since gone on to play in various successful Canadian bands from Austra to Doldrums. The pair thought her voice might add something special, this turned out to be a huge understatement. Even though Shabason and Adams wrote the songs, the lyrics and melodies belonged to Elle the moment they escaped her mouth, each nuance of phrasing and melody deepening the sentiments. With this last dazzling piece of the puzzle in place, DIANA was born. Right from the first note we’re reeled into DIANA’s intimate world, with the dense, ambient swell that begins album opener ‘Foreign Installation’. A heady mix of drums, electric guitar and lush production, all sewn together and lifted by Carmen’s soothing vocal, their sound is addictive from the off. The pace is picked up with ‘That Feeling’, the detached refrain "We were blind to all the ways we sat and watched it fade away…" echoing through a mist of synths layered over insistent drums and bass. It is future music with an undeniable pop sensibility, though never overwhelming, the glossy yet sparse production always leaving just enough room for the imagination.Album highlight ‘Perpetual Surrender’ boasts an impressive travelling bassline, with Carmen’s gorgeous vocal repeating “I need saving from myself” over blown beats and perhaps the year’s best indie sax solo, all coming together to create well over four minutes of eerie, blissed-out ambience. Though there are glances to music past and kinship with music present, there is a progressive and contemporary feel to the record. DIANA comparisons traverse eras and genres; from the soft-focus soft rock and pop of Roxy Music to the dreamy production of jj and Chromatics, topped off with the Balearic disco swirl of Studio. While referencing so many, Carmen’s unique vocal brings them their own voice. For DIANA, the point is to push things forward, summed up with the embryonic bliss of instrumental closer ‘Curtains’, a startling piece of atmospheric production that stays with you long after the last sound has echoed into the ether.
Let's face facts - in 2016 it is remarkable that there's a new Dinosuar Jr album to go ape over. After all, the original line-up of the band (J Mascis, Lou Barlow & Murph) only recorded three full albums during their initial run in the 1980s. Everyone was gob-smacked when they reunited in 2005. Even more so when they opted to stay together, as they have for 11 years now (on and off). And with the release of Give a Glimpse Of What Yer Not, this trio redivisus has released more albums in the 21st Century than they did in the 20th. It's enough to make a man take a long, thoughtful slug of maple-flavored bourbon and count some lucky stars.
I Bet on Sky is the third Dinosaur Jr. album since the original trio – J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph – reformed in 2005. And, crazily, it marks the band’s 10th studio album since their debut on Homestead Records in 1985. Back in the ‘80s, if anyone has suggested that these guys would be performing and recording at such a high level 27 years later, they would have been laughed out of the tree fort.
The trio has taken everything they’ve learned from the various projects they tackled over the years, and poured it directly into their current mix. J’s guitar approaches some of its most unhinged playing here, but there’s a sense of instrumental control that matches the sweet murk of his vocals (not that he always remembers to exercise control on stage, but that’s another milieu). This is head-bobbing riff-romance at the apex. Lou’s basswork shows a lot more melodicism now as well, although his two songs on I Bet on Sky retain the jagged rhythmic edge that has so often marked his work. And Murph…well, he still pounds the drums as hard and as strong as a pro wrestler, with deceptively simple structures that manage to interweave themselves perfectly with his bandmates’ melodic explosions.
After submerging myself in I Bet on Sky, it’s clear that the album is a true and worthy addition to the Dinosaur Jr. discography. It hews close enough to rock formalism to please the squares. Yet it is brilliantly imprinted with the trio’s magical equation, which is a gift to the rest of us. For a combo that began as anomalous fusion of hardcore punk and pop influences, Dinosaur Jr. have proven themselves to be unlikely masters of the long game.
Jagjaguwar is honored to reissue the band's first three albums, Dinosaur, You're Living All Over Me & Bug, on vinyl this October. Originally released on the venerable Homestead and SST labels in the 1980's, the reissues stay true to form and include the cardinal track lists.
Jagjaguwar is honored to reissue the band's first three albums, Dinosaur, You're Living All Over Me & Bug, on vinyl this October. Originally released on the venerable Homestead and SST labels in the 1980's, the reissues stay true to form and include the cardinal track lists.