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Shamir - RatchetShamir – Ratchet

Shamir has been the next big thing in dance pop for a minute now, going from unknown to releasing a single on small NYC label Godmode to signing with indie titan XL Recordings in the blink of an eye.  Happily, Ratchet is a worthy capstone to such a meteoric rise.  Largely made up of very of the moment synth and drum machine sounds, but highlighted by Shamir’s contralto vocals, Ratchet is sexy, smooth, laid back fun.  In other words, it’s summer party music at its finest.

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The Tallest Man on Earth - Dark Bird is HomeThe Tallest Man on Earth – Dark Bird is Home

Swede Kristian Matsson has been making singer/songwriter folk as The Tallest Man on Earth since 2006, but Dark Bird is Home is easily his grandest.  Featuring a full band for the first time, including horns and even some electronics, Matsson has added a richness and depth to his music that often puts the album more in the vein of The Decemberists than his usual comparison of Bon Iver.  His true strength, however, remains as a poet, and the album is chock full of wordplay like “And I’ve already grown up here, here I might as well grow down” (from “Little Nowhere Towns”).  This combination of orchestration and lyrics makes Dark Bird is Home an absolute gem.

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Metz - IIMetz – II

The sophomore release from Toronto noise rock/hardcore punk band Metz, II picks up right where their self titled album left off.  It’s an Amphetamine Reptile-like mix of punk, grunge, and shoegaze with loud, fuzzed out guitars, crushing drums and bass, and emotive vocals.  Basically II is the epitome of what Robert Christgau derisively calls pigfuck.  As with most bands tarred (gifted?) with that label, however, there’s a melodicism to Metz that produces a true depth to their sound.  It’s not music to be played around the campfire, but II is perfect for anyone who likes their rock music with a whole lot of bite.

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1

May

2015

Review: Still by M. Ostermeier

By David Smith. Posted in Ambient, Reviews | 2 Comments »
Still

M. Ostermeier – Still

 

The Tench label is definitely about quality more than quantity, with a mere seven releases over the last five years. All are worth attention. The last before the current release was Porya Hatami’s Shallow, over a year ago. The latest is from label head M. Ostermeier, and its title, Still, succinctly yet accurately captures its mood.

Listening to this album the first half dozen times I found myself having to repeatedly reorient my horizon of expectation despite the apparent consistency of its palette. The album opens with an oscillating hum, over which a slow piano meditation begins, soon accompanied by a background of small creaks and rustles. The sound put me in mind of the intimacy of Nils Frahm’s Felt, in which the creakings of the piano itself are an important presence that adds to the emotional intimacy.

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Towkio - .WAV TheoryTowkio – .WAV Theory

Earlier this month, Towkio released the Chance the Rapper featuring “Heaven Only Knows” as a lead single to .WAV Theory.  The fantastic track was chock full of jazzy sounds, finger snaps/claps, and a gospel choir, but it was a statement from Chance at the end of the track that got people’s attention.  Just before the track ends, Chance says .WAV Theory would be the hottest mixtape of 2015, and anticipation for the tape skyrocketed.  Thankfully, we now know he wasn’t wrong.  With help from The Social Experiment, Vic Mensa, Kaytranda, and others, Towkio has created a tape that beautifully merges the disparate threads of Chicago rap into a cohesive (if experimental and maybe a little overstuffed) whole, that is most certainly the tape of the year so far.  Download it for free here.

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Speedy Ortiz - Foil DeerSpeedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

Coming out of Massachusetts’ prolific fuzzy, noise pop scene, Speedy Ortiz’s previous releases were enjoyable, especially the cryptic lyrics of frontwoman Sadie Dupuis, but lacked the hooks to take the band to the next level.  Foil Deer does not have that deficiency.  Instead, there are hooks as far as the eye can see in addition to the great lyrics (“I was the best at being second place/But now I’m just the runner up” is a contender for best line of the year).  Dupuis’ voice and the album’s guitar tones bring to mind 90s artists like Liz Phair and Veruca Salt, so the album is particularly recommended for fans of those artists, but really if you like guitar pop at all, Foil Deer (especially “Puffer” and lead single “Raising the Skate”) is for you.

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Waxahatchee - Ivy TrippWaxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Philadelphia’s, by way of Birmingham, AL, Waxahatchee is the solo project of Katie Crutchfield, who makes DIY singer/songwriter, punk.  Ivy Tripp is Waxahatchee’s fantastic third full length album, first for the like minded Merge Records, and continues Crutchfield’s exploration of feminist ideas that goes back to her pre-Waxahatchee bands P.S. Eliot and The Ackleys.  Ivy Tripp‘s lyrics use Crutchfield’s experiences, or more specifically her mistakes, to demonstrate how a strong, independent woman is formed in today’s society, but it’s clear she’s just an example and makes no claim at creating a road map.  Even if you aren’t interested in the lyrics, though, (and really, whether you’re male or female, liberal or conservative, you should be interested) there is a lot to enjoy on Ivy Tripp.

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Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & LowellSufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

If there were questions as to the direction Sufjan Stevens would take after the departure from the norm that was Age of Adz, naming his new album after his mother and stepfather (his first album since his mother’s passing, mind you) answered those questions load and clear: Sufjan Stevens is looking back, which means a return to lovely, gentle indie folk.  Carrie & Lowell strips away both the electronics of Adz and the lush orchestration of Come on Feel the Illinoise, putting the focus squarely on Sufjan’s lyrics, which come heavily from his life.  This album is going inspire a lot of reminiscing, particularly amongst those who have lost parents, and is going to cause a lot of tears.  They’ll be happy tears, though, so it’s unlikely people will be complaining.

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Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just SitCourtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett is part singer/songwriter storytelling and part punk ethos, which combine to form a fascinating whole appealing to fans of both clever lyrics and visceral noise.  Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is just her first full length (following her Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas), but following 8 shows last week at SXSW and features with seemingly every major music website in the last few weeks, it already has her poised on the verge of stardom.  Thankfully, Sometimes I Sit… stands up to the hype.  The guitars still cut, Barnett still sings like a slacker, and the lyrics remain charming, creating yet another entry on the already long list of great 2015 albums.

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Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a ButterflyKendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Much to the surprise of everyone (including his management at TDE), King Kendrick’s new album is out in the world a week early.  There is a lot that can, will, and should be said about To Pimp a Butterfly, but it all boils down to one thing: This album is an absolute monster.  To Pimp a Butterfly is essentially (and on “Mortal Man”, literally) a funked up conversation between Kendrick and his fore bearers.  It is also a simultaneous declaration of being a proud black man and a declaration of war against the socio-economic situation so many face in American society.  It’s the most daringly political album in some time, and it is jawdroppingly amazing.

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