Flying Lotus “You’re Dead!”
Every two years we’re going to be treated to a Flying Lotus album that changes the way we look at instrumental music. “You’re Dead!” finds Flying Lotus fully embracing the hip-hop rooted IDM sound and giving his take on what a jazz fusion album should sound like in 2014. “You’re Dead!” is an album that pays close attention to detail and asks that you pay it close attention in return to get the full experience. It’s hard telling where he’ll go next, but as his track record indicates, Lotus will build off his past experiences and flip everything on its head. “You’re Dead!” is arguably his most imposing album thus far. Now he’s put the pressure on himself to come back in two years and top it.
— Logan Smithson
Zola Jesus “Taiga”
Previously prolific, Zola Jesus (nee Nika Danilova) has slowed down in recent years. Less glitchy and gothically brooding than her last studio effort, 2011’s “Conatus,” “Taiga” is clearly aimed at the mainstream, a direct move up from the underground, shifting not only labels (Sacred Bones to Mute), but also overall mood and sonic tonalities, taking on the current crop of more dance-oriented pop fare. There have always been hints of a pop in her work as Zola Jesus (see “Night” for perhaps one of the better early examples), so it’s little surprise she would ultimately wind up here. What is surprising is how long it took her to get here and the work she produced on her way. All of this having been said, the release of “Taiga” should see her prospects as a performer open up to an entirely new demographic: a wider, more commercially-attuned audience not brought up on gothic darkness and underground noise.
— John Paul
Caribou “Our Love”
Dan Snaith’s work under the name Caribou has been some of the most intriguing and enjoyable dance music of the last 10 years. Caribou’s previous record, 2010’s “Swim,” was one of those compulsively listenable albums that you almost feel guilty about over playing. But I never did get tired of “Swim,” and repeated listening only made me curious about what Snaith would follow it up with. Now, four years later, he is offering us “Our Love” and it is everything we could have wanted it to be. “Our Love” somehow manages to take synth heavy, psychedelic electronic music and make it sound like the catchiest Lady Gaga song that you have ever heard. By tweaking the sound of his previous record, adding wisely chosen collaborators, and not trying to totally revolutionize what was already working quite well, Snaith has created one of the most enjoyable, crowd-pleasing records of the year.
— Benjamin Hedge Olson
Jackson Browne “Standing in the Breach”
The uber-troubadour. The archetypal sensitive singer/songwriter. The political firebrand and protest song torchbearer. In a career spanning over 40 years, Jackson Browne has been all these things and more. “Standing in the Breach,” Browne’s first collection of new material since 2008’s “Time the Conqueror,” has songs that touch all these bases. Though his commitment to exposing injustice and political and corporate corruption is still strong, at times it’s almost like he’s trying to convince himself as much as us that it’s all worth it. He’s not ready to throw in the towel just yet, though. The title song is a rallying cry, almost a pep talk, using an earthquake (perhaps the 2010 Haiti earthquake of the striking album cover photo) and its aftermath as a loose metaphor for the state of the world and the sometimes blind but necessary hope needed to improve things. “Standing in the Breach” is one of his most balanced, strongest works.
— Rob Caldwell
Other notable releases this week:
Doug Seegers “Going Down to the River”
Ry Cooder “Soundtracks”
Godflesh “A World Lit Only By Fire”
Bill Frisell “Guitar in the Space Age!”
Red Snapper “Hyena”
Iceage “Plowing Into the Field of Love”
Now hear this
Burnt Belief “Précis” (audio)
Following their 2012 self-titled debut, bassist Colin Edwin (of Porcupine Tree fame) and guitarist Jon Durant have teamed up once again as the progressive jazz duo called Burnt Belief. “Précis,” a track off of the duo’s forthcoming “Etymology” LP, is an inviting and knotty instrumental that displays a keen ear for melody and, most importantly, a nuanced understanding of groove and rhythm. A nocturnal, electro-jazzy number, “Précis” is an ideal taste of what’s to come on “Etymology.”
Lisa O’Neill “Apianana” (audio)
It’s not often that a songwriter writes a song about a particular instrument; but, then again, Lisa O’Neill isn’t the kind of songwriter that comes along all that often. O’Neill’s latest studio LP, “Some Cloth or Not,” displays her affinity for atypical lyrical and musical ideas. On “Apianana,” accompanied only by a solo piano, she sings things that invite the listener to decipher what she’s saying. The song’s unusual chord patterns draw the ear and mind even further in.
Arum Rae “Waving Wild” (audio)
Arum Rae (formerly known as White Dress) is set to release her new EP, entitled “Waving Wild,” following a year of waiting for its release while she was being courted by a major label. Recorded at Public Hi-Fi in Austin (the studio of Spoon drummer Jim Eno) and remixed/mastered by John Congleton (notable for his recent production credit on Swans’ “To Be Kind”), “Waving Wild” EP is a long-awaited solo release from an artist who has made a significant splash as a collaborator. Most memorably, she collaborated with John Paul White (of the Civil Wars fame) in writing “If I Didn’t Know Better,” the season one theme song for the smash hit program “Nashville.”
The Well “Separate Ways” (video)
The Well is a six-piece group of brothers and cousins that hails from Bergen, Norway. The band’s latest tune, “Separate Ways,” begins in a style reminiscent of a band whose music would fit quite well in Bergen’s chilly environs: the xx. But rather than go for the minimalist ethereal route of that UK duo, The Well takes the clean guitar lines in the opening and blows them up in an anthemic, endearing chorus. The song is equal parts triumphant and melancholy in its descriptions of two people going their “separate ways.”
Ménage “Love Song” (video)
The Toronto trio Ménage’s name suggests a certain sensuality about its music. But as attested by the band’s latest tune, “Love Song,” there’s also a tenderness and sadness to the music as well. “Love Song,” which is structured as a duet around a love that has since been lost, is an emotionally resonant number for anyone who has ever experienced heartbreak before.