LUNA music essentials...
for the week of 17 MARCH 2017
In Mind is the fourth album from the NJ dream pop group, their first to feature Julian Lynch on guitar, and produced by Cole M.G.N. Long respected for their deft lyrical hand and gorgeous melodies, In Mind builds upon the Real Estate’s reputation for crafting perfect songs and carries them even deeper into the pantheon of great songwriters. Here they fine-tune the winsome songwriting and profound earnestness that made previous albums—Real Estate, Days, and Atlas—so beloved, and pushes their craft in compelling new directions. Written primarily by guitarist/vocalist Martin Courtney, In Mind offers a mild shifting of the gears, positing a band engaged in the push/pull of burgeoning adulthood. Reflecting a change in lineup, changes in geography, and a general desire to move forward without looking back, the record recasts the band in a new light—one that replaces the ennui of teen suburbia with an adult version.
“In a career that spans more than 20 years, Spoon has perfected a kind of ruthlessly airtight efficiency: Every few years, the Austin band returns with a new batch of perfectly compact three-minute pop-rock songs. As consistent as it is beloved, Spoon never fails to hit its mark — delivered forcefully, and with hooks for days. If the title track on the band’s ninth album Hot Thoughts is any indication, that impeccably chosen palette's got a few new colors. Thanks in part, no doubt, to Dave Fridmann joining the band as a co-producer, ‘Hot Thoughts’ has a rangy, swirly sparkle to it, portending an album that spreads out for a bit of a journey” – NPR. [Limited red color vinyl pressing also available.]
Spirit is the new album from Depeche Mode, and the band's 14th studio release. It marks the band's first collaboration with producer James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco (Foals, Florence & The Machine, Arctic Monkeys). “‘We're living in a time of real change,’ says Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan, a vision of intensity dressed head-to-toe in black. ‘As I get older, the things going on in the world affect me more. I think about my kids and what they're growing up into. My daughter, Rosie, was deeply affected by the election last year. ... She just sobbed, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ That sense of worry informed Gahan and his Depeche Mode bandmates while writing Spirit, as many of the LP’s 12 songs deal directly with the general Weltschmerz circulating the planet lately. The record's first single, the Gore-penned ‘Where's The Revolution?’ is a slow-building number which features fuzzy synths, and serves as a call-to-arms as Gahan sings, ‘The train is coming/Get on board,’ along with the title question. It's a mood that continues in another Spirit song ‘Backwards.’ It opens with Gahan singing, ‘We are the bigots/We have not allowed/We have no respect/We have lost control.’ It goes on to lambaste some people's ‘caveman mentality’ and how others ‘feel nothing inside,’ amid jabbing keyboards and pounding rhythms and complete with Gore's backing vocals. ‘If we want things to change, a revolution, we need to talk about it and about caring about what goes on in the world,’ Gahan says” – Rolling Stone. [CD is available in Regular and Deluxe editions. Deluxe adds a bonus disc of remixes. Double-vinyl LP edition features an etching on Side D.]
Live North America 2016 was recorded absolutely live, with no overdubs. What you hear is how it went down. The album includes all new and unreleased live recordings from Gary Clark Jr's 2016 tour in support of his internationally acclaimed The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim. It features several songs from that album, including “The Healing,” “Grinder,” “Our Love,” “Cold-Blooded,” and “Shake,” featuring Leon Bridges and his saxophonist Jeff Dazey. The set is characterized by raw soul and funk, classic solo and blues performances, and several lengthy, tour de force guitar jams. It includes two previously unreleased covers, Jimmy Reed's “Honest I Do” and Elmore James' “My Baby's Gone” as well as “You Saved Me” and “When My Train Pulls In” -- fan favorites from Clark's debut Blak And Blu. Much like the great blues, jazz, and soul legends of past, these recordings are lightening in a bottle - historical moments in time for an artist who is ever morphing and one of the truly great improvisers of his generation.
Salutations is a companion piece to 2016's lauded Ruminations. When Oberst wrote and recorded the songs on Ruminations, entirely solo—with just voice, piano, guitar and harmonica—he intended to ultimately record them with a full band. In the midst of putting together that band—upstate New York's The Felice Brothers plus the legendary drummer Jim Keltner (Neil Young, Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and many more)—the passionate responses Oberst was getting to those first solo recordings encouraged him to release the songs as-is, in their original sparse form. The Sunday Times of London called it “the rawest album yet from the forever troubled one-time voice of a generation” and “political and very, very personal,” saying Oberst is “one of the best songwriters around.” Salutations includes full-band versions of the ten songs from Ruminations, plus seven additional songs. Guest contributions come courtesy of Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M Ward, Gillian Welch, Gus Seyffert, Pearl Charles, Nathaniel Walcott, and Jonathan Wilson.
In the early days of Pinback, they were known mostly as two lauded musicians who spent their spare time away from their primary projects (Three Mile Pilot, Thingy, Heavy Vegetable) to hone their home recording skills while experimenting with ideas, tones, and instrumentation that didn't quite fit into those primary projects. Pinback hadn't yet become their day job; it hadn't yet become a well-oiled five-piece touring machine; and it had no idea where it was going to go. In retrospect, that earnest curiosity is what makes those early Pinback recordings so resonant and so unique, and what separated them from every indie rock band of this century. Every bit as powerful and expressive as their first two albums, the 1999 EP, Some Voices, and the 2003 EP, Offcell, famously bucked the perception of EPs as outtakes and toss-offs. What were ostensibly minor stopgaps between albums became massive fan favorites and staples of Pinback's live show. Having never been released on vinyl, it's only fitting that we revisit these poignant recordings - and take the opportunity to painstakingly remaster and repackage them into the full-length album that never was, the aptly named Some Offcell Voices.
Melbourne artist Gabriella Cohen's first solo full-length is the product of ten days and two microphones. Co-produced alongside close friend, bandmate, and engineer Kate 'Babyshakes' Dillon, the record is the result of what Cohen describes as the “ceremony” of reflecting on a relationship. The album's raw, personal side could be traced back to its place of birth at Dillon's parents' place in the country, or to the Brisbane streets the songs were composed in. The songs are soaked in the kind of aching nostalgia that is tinged with equal measures of sadness and triumph. On “I Don't Feel So Alive,” Cohen warns: “This could be the last time we get together,” and on one hand it's melancholy, but it's in the spirit of endings that are also beginnings. There are two sides to Cohen's coin though -- for every moment of raw, cutting emotion, there's one of otherworldly ethereality. It's what makes the record feel timeless, which doesn't mean old-fashioned -- it means that the vocoder on “Feelin' Fine” and the fuzzy, frenzied drums of “Alien Anthem” don't feel at odds with the dreamy, ambling melodies and old-school ethos at the heart of Cohen's songwriting.
Jarvis Cocker, former frontman of the famous Brit pop band Pulp and Canadian pianist/rapper/producer/composer Chilly Gonzales have teamed up for this exciting new project. Room 29 was initially conceived as a theatre piece about the legendary room 29 of Hollywood hotel Chateau Marmont. Cocker wrote the piece during his own stay there, inspired by one of the room’s more unusual features – a baby-grand piano – as a witness of all the countless dramas that must have taken place within. The tales from the Chateau have become so legendary that anyone with even a passing interest in rock 'n' roll – or any facet of the entertainment industry for that matter – will have heard a Hollywood story related to the Chateau. [Vinyl edition due March 31.]
Adult. is the Detroit duo Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller. Their seventh album (and first on Mute) Detroit House Guests became a reality after receiving a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant, and is based on the “visual” artist residency model but for musicians. Each musician would come for up to a three-week period with the parameter that we live, work, and collaborate together. The results -- a total anthropological sound experiment and a full-length album.
In September of 2016, Tedeschi Trucks Band set out for the West Coast to make a live album. After 10 shows, there was no shortage of great music to choose from, but for everyone on the tour, one night stood out from the rest: September 9th at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. Live From The Fox Oakland is a live double album that David Fricke calls “a new peak in the continuing story of a great American rock & roll family band.” The set is available as a Regular double-CD version as well as a Deluxe edition which adds your choice of a DVD or Blu-ray video of the show. In addition to the 15 blistering tracks, the film also features extensive behind the scenes footage, including Derek's recent visit to Marc Maron's garage for the WTF! Podcast, and an interview with Derek and Susan conducted by Rolling Stone critic David Fricke for SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Live From The Fox Oakland was mixed using a vintage Neve console to achieve an exquisitely immersive sound experience, and mastering guru Bob Ludwig added his craft to the full 5.1 surround sound mix and album audio. [Vinyl edition due April 14.]
for the week of 03 MARCH 2017
“Chicano Batman has always exuded soulfulness in a broad sense of the term, but with Freedom Is Free, they're deliberately playing with '60s and '70s R&B influences. Ample credit goes to new collaborator Leon Michels, the Brooklyn-based soul producer who's worked with everyone from Lee Fields and the late Sharon Jones to the Black Keys and Wu-Tang's Raekwon. Together, he and Chicano Batman don't transform the group's sound so much as subtly expand it. Gabriel Villa's funky drumming becomes a more prominent anchor, especially on the album's outstanding, mid-tempo stepper, "Jealousy," while the title track still hums with dream-pop guitars, but now adds a boogie bounce on bass. As Freedom Is Free's title suggests, Chicano Batman is also making a statement on the current moment, a deliberate rejoinder to the militaristic bromide that ‘freedom is not free.’ I'm not sure Chicano Batman has ever cut a track as explicitly political as the album's penultimate song, ‘The Taker Story.’ Martinez, normally so languorous on vocals, brings a more forceful presence, like a latter-day Gil Scott-Heron or Eugene McDaniels, singing about the predatory nature of mankind and how it leads to ‘genocide and extinction, all the functions of civilization.’” – WUWM Milwaukee
Last Place, Grandaddy’s first new album since 2006, is a perfect addition to the band's celebrated, critically-acclaimed catalogue, that includes their breakthrough sophomore album, Sophtware Slump, and their debut, Under The Western Freeway. It's a symphonic swirl of lo-fi sonics and mile-high harmonies, found sounds and electronics-gone-awry mingling with perfect, power pop guitar tones. Lytle's voice sounds as warm and intimate as ever, giving graceful levity to the doomsday narratives that have dominated the Grandaddy output. “Grandaddy‘s comeback album finds Jason Lytle and crew picking up right where they left off over a decade ago. The band’s easygoing style, fuzzy guitars, arpeggiating synths and Lytle’s world-weary vocals, is ageless and Lytle’s lyrical themes of alienation in a world of creeping urban development and technological advances seem more pertinent than ever. It’s welcome return for fans and doesn’t make a bad entry point for the initiated” – Brooklyn Vegan. [Limited brown color vinyl pressing also available.]
On their sixth album VOIDS, Minus the Bear started with a blank slate, and inadvertently found themselves applying the same starting-from-scratch strategies that fueled their initial creative process. Album opener “Last Kiss” immediately establishes the band's renewed fervor. An appropriately dizzying guitar line plunges into a propulsive groove before the chorus unfolds into a multi-tiered pop chorus. From there the album flows into “Give & Take,” a tightly wound exercise in syncopation that recalls the celebratory pulse of early Bear classics like “Fine + 2 Pts” while exploring new textures and timbres. "Invisible" is arguably the catchiest song of the band's career, with Jake Snider's vocal melodies and Knudson's imaginative guitar work battling for the strongest hooks. “What About The Boat?” reminds us of the “math-rock” tag that followed the band in their early years, with understated instrumentation disguising an odd-time beat. “Erase,” recalls the merging of forlorn indie pop and electronica that the band dabbled with on their early EPs, but demonstrates the Bear's ongoing melodic sophistication and tonal exploration. By the time the band reaches album closer “Lighthouse,” they've traversed so much sonic territory that the only appropriate tactic left at their disposal is a climactic crescendo, driven at its peak by Cory Murchy's thunderous bass.
Brand new album from indie rocker Tim Kasher, best known as the frontman for Cursive and the Good Life. The follow up to 2013’s Adult Film, No Resolution finds Kasher employing lush arrangements of strings to color the indecision and despair of an engaged couple on the brink of a break-up.
Call them minimalist agit-rock, beat-based political punk, or…don’t, but what you can’t call Sleaford Mods is half-arsed. They’re aggressive, abrasive, and unabashed in their lyrical support for England’s working class and in railing against the oligarchs who deny people their basic human and civil rights. Vocalist Jason Wiliamson shouts against austerity-era Britain’s malaise and stagnation with plenty of profanity, but even more cleverness and wit; and while his lyrics specify conditions in his home country, his anger and call-to-arms can unite all of us who witness and work under a system that privileges the wealth of the few over the bare comfort, and even the survival, of the just-as-worthy many. With Andrew Fearn’s deceptively simple beats and melodies underpinning Williamson’s virtuosic vocal performances, this would be a fascinating record, message or no; but the drive, meaning, and compassion behind these catchy, and even dancefloor-ready tunes make this album as vital politically as it is artistically. Sleaford Mods are at their sneering, yowling best with English Tapas. [Limited red color vinyl pressing also available.]
The final words sung on the sixth album by Why? are an apt place to begin: “Hold on, what's going on?” Because while there's much familiar about the oddly named Moh Lhean -- mastermind Yoni Wolf's sour-sweet croon, his deadpan poet's drawl and ear for stunningly fluid psych-pop-folk-whatever arrangement -- a great deal has changed in the four years that've passed since 2012's Mumps, Etc., an LP that honed the band's orchestral precision and self-deprecating swagger to a fine point. It's significant that this is the first fully home-recorded Why? album since the project's 2003 debut. Made mostly in Wolf's studio and co-produced by his brother Josiah, the result is obsessive, of course, but also intimate, and flush with warmth and looseness. [Limited color vinyl pressing also available.]
Methyl Ethel’s new album was co-produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals), in collaboration with the Perth trio’s frontman Jake Webb. Written and recorded by Webb, Everything Is Forgotten finds Methyl Ethel refining sounds and rendering them in 3D, thanks in part to London-based James Ford, who has been working with Webb on the follow-up to debut album Oh Inhuman Spectacle. The pair’s collaboration across the coming release has infused their shoegaze dream-pop palate with electronic flourishes, further evolving Methyl Ethel’s sound from initial EPs Guts and Teeth.
“As half of the experimental electronic duo F--- Buttons, Benjamin John Power has spent most of his musical career pushing toward extremes. His solo affair Blanck Mass has been a little more subtle; while never shying away from overload, Blanck Mass' instrumental vistas have been less blinding and more illuminating—to the point where ‘Sundowner,’ a track from the project's 2011 debut, was rerecorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and played during the 2012 Olympics. It was a perfect fit, seeing as how Power's edgier, noisier impulses mask a symphonic scope of veritable Vangelis proportions. Those two sides of his aesthetic don't vie for dominance as much as strike a nervy balance on Blanck Mass' third full-length, World Eater.” – WUWM Milwaukee
Fronted by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine is a clash of African and electronic elements inspired in equal measure by the golden era of West African funk, disco, modern post-punk, and electro. The album title Uyai means “beauty” in Ibibio language and refers to the strength and free spirit of women in general and, in particular, the courage of the women in Eno’s family, to whom she often refers in her writing. “It is a continuation of Ibibio Sound Machine’s story in which the worlds of West African highlife and electronic London collide via the storytelling lyrical thread of frontwoman Eno Williams’ vocals in the Ibibio language of Nigeria,” the band explains. “There is a darker, edgier quality to the sound that maybe reflects the difficult journey the band took from making the first album to completing the second one. The songs are based more around themes of empowerment, freedom, and the liberation of dance for women, and people in general.” The songs of Uyai tackle the stories of life—both large and small. Weird and wonderful folk stories, recounted to Eno by her family as a child in her mother’s Ibibio tongue, form the creative fabric from which the band’s unique musical tapestry is woven. Evocative poetic imagery and empowering messages set against an edgy, Afro-Electro soundscape give the band a unique space within the current wave of modern Afrocentric sounds sweeping across the globe. [Limited blue color vinyl pressing also available.]
Ed’s third studio album – is on course to become one of the most significant global album releases of 2017 and sees the 25-year-old Suffolk native in his finest form yet. The genre-defying LP is the result of an artist who consistently pushes himself in new directions, uncovering fresh musical ground using a seemingly limitless musical vocabulary. Drawing inspiration from a host of personal experiences and subjects, Ed takes you through a hugely personal journey; be that reflecting on past relationships, family memories, his musical career or his time off travelling the world in 2016. Musically ÷ (Divide) is an array of beautifully orchestrated and emotive ballads, impassioned raps laid over hip-hop beats, timeless acoustic guitar masterpieces and innovative, idiosyncratic pop music. Ed’s record-breaking dual comeback singles perfectly highlight one of the distinct divides in his musical spectrum with “Castle On The Hill” (an ode to his hometown of Framlingham, Suffolk) positioning itself towards a stadium-ready, rockier sound and “Shape Of You” dismantling and rebuilding modern-pop using little more than a loop pedal. The album reveal everything in-between whilst showcasing Ed’s impeccable guitar playing, peerless lyricism, boundless musical palate and jarringly-honest, and often autobiographical, storytelling. [CD is available in Regular and Deluxe editions. Deluxe adds four bonus tracks. Vinyl edition is 180gm mastered at 45RPM.]