Upcoming Music Releases – April 2012

3-April-2012:

Great Lake Swimmers return with a new album entitled New Wild Everywhere.  This record, like all of GLS’s albums, should hit the spot as you’re sitting around a campfire roasting some wieners this summer.  Like a less-choral Fleet Foxes or a less-weird Bon Iver, GLS write songs that are wistful and windswept but still tuneful and interesting.  Here’s hoping that New Wild Everywhere builds on the residual momentum of 2009’s excellent Lost Channels.

10-April-2012:

Malian musicians Amadou & Mariam return with a new album called Folila.  Their infectiously melodic music has crossed over into wider circles thanks to Western pop benefactors like Damon Albarn. Folila reportedly began as two separate albums – one with more traditional African guests and one with a selection of their new Western friends.  But instead of splitting the finished songs into two separate albums, Amadou & Mariam bravely elected to pick the best results from all of the recordings and combined them into a single release.  Guests like TV on the Radio, Santigold, and Jake Shears (of Scissor Sisters) made the cut, and the results should be interesting to hear.  Integrating ‘world music’ with Western pop can be a treacherous path, but when executed properly (think Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel) the results can be greater than the sum of the parts.

Portland’s M. Ward follows up 2009’s well-received Hold Time with a new album called A Wasteland Companion.  Like Amadou & Mariam, this album was recorded with a laundry list of musicians (including frequent collaborator Zooey Deschanel), but that’s likely where the comparisons end.  M. Ward’s music tends to be rooted in a certain kind of Americana, one where shapes and textures are just as important as melodies and rhythms.

17-April-2012:

The new Spiritualized album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, which was released in the UK back in March gets a North American release.  Although if you’re internet-savvy and a fan of J. Spaceman’s alternative, reflective, interstellar dream-pop, you’ve probably found a way to acquire this record by now.

24-April-2012:

Jack White finally cuts the cords to his various other projects (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) and puts out an album under his own nom de plume.  Hopefully White takes some chances with Blunderbuss and pushes himself in new musical directions.  It would be cool if some twisted echoes of his Nashville neighbours made it into the mix.  But if the songs skew more toward the fully-formed melodic rock of The Raconteurs instead of the hyperactive riffs and underdeveloped musical ideas of a White Stripes record, so much the better.

The Dandy Warhols continue to try to undo the damage done to their careers by 2008’s uneven Earth to the Dandy Warhols and 2005’s frankly terrible Odditorium or Warlords of Mars.  Early word is that This Machine is a somewhat schizophrenic affair, flirting with the Dandy’s usual touchstones (psychedelic rock, grungey alt-rock) and new textures (electronic music).  Could be brilliant, or could be crap.  As a wise man once said, “It’s a fine line between stupid and clever”.

Record Store Day!

On Saturday, April 21st, the fifth annual Record Store Day will finally be upon us!  Get out and support your local merchant, whose business is more than likely hanging on by its fingernails these days.  Without local record shops catering to music fans that like something a little different, your brick & mortar music consumerism would be reduced to choosing between Rihanna and Maroon 5 down at the ever-shrinking Best Buy CD rack.

Many prominent musical acts are helping to promote RSD 2012 with a bevy of new releases.  On Saturday the 21st, look for limited quantities of these gems in your local shop:

Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (12″)
Brendan Benson – What Kind of World (7″)
The Black Keys – El Camino (2 x 45 rpm 12″)
Blitzen Trapper – Hey Joe (7″)
The Civil Wars – Billie Jean (7″)
The Clash – London Calling 2012 (7″)
Coldplay – Up With The Birds / UFO (7″)
Fun. – The Ghost That You Are To Me (10″ gold gear-shaped picture disc)
The Hives – Go Right Ahead (7″)
Paul Simon – Graceland re-release (12″)
Pete Townshend – Quadrophenia Demos part 2 (10″)
Uncle Tupelo – the seven-inch singles box set (4 x 7″)
Uncle Tupelo – No Depression, Still Feel Gone, and March 16-20 1992 re-releases (12″)

As usual, Wilco are getting into the act with a very limited release of a deluxe LP box set for The Whole Love.  Big deal – I already have it! But the limited-edition turntable slip-mat looks pretty cool.

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#5 – Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio

Label:  Interscope

Released:  12-Apr-2011

Artist’s Website:  www.tvontheradio.com

Brooklynites pull up pegs, move to LA, and still sound like no one else in soul-infused modern alterna-rock.

The gentlemen from the band TV on the Radio have been keeping busy since the critical and commercial breakthrough of their previous record, 2008’s Dear Science.  Kyp Malone worked on a side project called Rain Machine, and Malone and Tunde Adebimpe contributed to Tinariwen’s multi-faceted Tassili record.  Most crucially, Dave Sitek relocated to Los Angeles, produced a side project under the moniker Maximum Balloon, and contributed his producing and arranging talents to a wide range of projects (most notably albums by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Jane’s Addiction).

The La-La-Land influence seems to feature prominently in the new TV on the Radio record.  Dear Science wowed listeners with its densely-packed, tightly-wound funk rhythms, James Brown revue guitar lines, blasts of saxophone, spoken-word vocals and modern disco beats.  Three years ago, Sitek set out to compress as much sound into the recordings as possible.  This time out, the recordings typically have more sonic space and breathe more freely.  Chalk it up to California dreaming instead of a Brooklyn state of mind.

The lead-off track is cheekily titled “Second Song”.  Most of the TVOTR sonic calling cards are still present – soulful vocals, falsetto counter-vocals, funky bass, punchy drums and snatches of guitars.  Unlike previous releases, the overall effect is widescreen and open; not quite romantic, but more soulful than tense and anxious.

“Keep Your Heart” and “You” continue in a similar mode, with laid-back rhythms and muted loops of programming.  Despite its name, “Killer Crane” is a beautiful slow-building song built around piano, keyboards, and acoustic guitar.  It’s a definite departure from the songs the band is known for, but gorgeous all the same.

This is not to say that TVOTR have completely abandoned their nihilistic, hip-shaking alterna-rock-funk roots.  “No Future Shock” pounds out of the speakers with staccato rhythms, walls of guitars and bass, and multi-tracked vocals.  The lyrics are an existential take on our 21st-century recessional malaise:

Burned up all your credit on a family of kids
who pop your pills and smoke your pipe
And after the war, broke your piggy bank
The bastards broke the world this time

“Will Do” starts out with a jewelry box melody but evolves into a multi-layered soul-pop gem that turns on the phrase “Any time will do, my love… no choice of words will break me from this groove”.  “New Cannonball Blues” is built around a heavy, fuzzy synth bass line that’s easy to imagine oozing out of the speakers of a black Mercedes on the Sunset Strip.

The last quarter of Nine Types of Light is highlighted by two alt-rock tracks that would have fit in nicely on Dear Science“Repitition” starts out with a tidy little guitar riff, but builds and builds until exploding in a firestorm of repetitive vocals.  On “Caffeinated Consciousness”, the band sounds like they’re playing a soul number after shot-gunning double espressos.  The trebly, fluid bass is way up in the mix and leads the band through constantly shifting rhythms, resolving the anxiety of the verses with the free grooves of the chorus.

On first listen, the fans that gravitated toward Return to Cookie Mountain and Dear Science might find the new TV on the Radio album a strange departure.  But by replacing some of the post-millennial angst with more emotional and reflective elements, the glittering Angelino lights may have finally released the true soul of the band.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXLpXu9T7j0

RIP Gerard Smith, 1974 – 2011