New This Week: Matthew Dear, Swans, and more
Matthew Dear, Beams
Great stuff this week, the last week of the summer. My personal favorite is the Swans record, but I have a taste for the dark and the slightly perverse. Even if you don’t, however, there’s something in this week’s new arrivals you’ll probably be interested in.
Swans, The Seer -The most punishing, epic music Michael Gira has made with his Swans alias in years. Inspiring and fearsome. Andrew Parks has more:
Clearly the sound of someone who still doesnâ€™t give a goddamn what you think, The Seer isnâ€™t just a sprawling listen. Itâ€™s a record that just went off its meds, a striking, supremely challenging mix of manic melodies, endless experimentation, ritualistic drones and rigorous repetition. Amazing stuff, Â if you can make it to the other side without blowing your speakers.
Matthew Dear, Beams – Crisp, folded-napkin cyber-pop, shades of Eno and Gary Numan, from the former DJ who is slowly morphing into a shit-hot frontman. Andrew Parks, again, on the 1s and 2s:
At this point — Â 13 years, five albums, and several side projects into a preconception-skirting career as a producer/DJ/performer — Â it shouldnâ€™t be surprising to find Matthew Dear fully embracing his inner Eno, Bowie and Byrne. Beams is yet another step in Dearâ€™s welcome evolution as a songwriter. Not a party-rocker. Not a floor-filler. A songwriter. And since he started off as more of a club crawler, Dear isnâ€™t quite a pop star just yet. Heâ€™s getting there, though, as proven by the unparalleled perfection of this albumâ€™s lead-off single, â€œHer Fantasy.â€ A career standout, itâ€™s willfully wild and downright weird, from its Kenneth Anger-cribbing music video to its woozy rave whistle and incessant sampled chorus of â€œPump it!/ Pump the bass!â€
TEEN, In Limbo - Hazy, lazy, unhurried pop, like Fleetwood Mac if theyâ€™d spent a few too many hours baking under the desert sun. Truly hypnotic and lovely, with the harmonies to boot. Marc Hogan had this to say:
Mixed and produced by Spacemen 3â€²s Sonic Boom, and engineered by Here We Go Magicâ€™s Jen Turner, full-length debut In Limbo is a brainy, immersive and often-intriguing blend of pulsing krautrock drone and bouncy Phil Spector harmonies. The 11-track set has its share of reverby retro-pop gems, whether confidently thrumming â€œBetter,â€ lovesick space-prom waltz â€œCharlieâ€ or insistent, surf-flecked â€œElectric.â€
Holy Other, Held - Sumptuous, stunning apocalypse music from the always-reliable Tri Angle imprint. Philip Sherburne writes:
Holy Otherâ€™s debut album opens with a bang. Literally: Itâ€™s a long, drawn-out rumble that might be a thunderclap, or perhaps simply the sound of a needle dragging its way across a felt slip-mat, agonized and enervated. Itâ€™s a fitting kickoff for Held, which feels like the soundtrack to the end of the world. But the Manchester musicianâ€™s vision of the apocalypse is clearly the whimpering kind: Slow, sad, and sensually soporific, his music revels in mournful vocal samples, plaintive synthesizers and slow-motion beats.
Dan Deacon, America - The manic, all-systems-go, hyper-pop auteur returns with another album that bears a sober title but beneath it capers with the same cartoony spirit. Mike Powell writes:
Donâ€™t let the big, mature title distract you: America is still a Dan Deacon album, and Dan Deaconâ€™s music is, more or less, the same sublimely hyperactive stuff itâ€™s always been. The main difference between this album and his previous ones is that some of the synthesizers have been replaced by oboes, which tend to sound slightly less like laser beams. The albumâ€™s centerpiece is a four-part, 20-minute suite called â€œUSA.â€ Is it a coincidence that symphonies traditionally have four movements? Probably not. Deaconâ€™s showing off his ambition here.
The Flatlanders, The Odessa Tapes - Rare demo recordings from the legendary trio of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock, a bluegrass powerhouse that united for only one official album. Bill Murphy writes:
More a Legend Than a Band, the title of the Flatlandersâ€™ 1972 debut, speaks volumes about the bandâ€™s complicated history. For one thing, the three troubadours from Lubbock, Texas â€” Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock â€” almost immediately went their separate ways after making the album for Sun Records in Nashville. Each of them eventually found success as a solo artist, which piqued interest in the work theyâ€™d done together so many years before, and prompted a reunion thatâ€™s been going strong since the late â€™90s. That legend gets burnished yet again with The Odessa Tapes â€” the long-thought-lost studio demos that bought the Flatlanders their original ticket to Nashville. Tracked one night in late 1971 in Odessa, Texas, these 14 songs are remarkable not only for how pristine they sound after 40 years, but for how thoroughly they capture the bluesy, dusty-road essence of the band.
Poor Moon, S/T - Delicate, dewy acoustic fingerpicking and mountain-stream clear high harmonies. Lovely, simple: a cross between Laurel Canyon pop and high Appalachia. RIYL: Fleet Foxes, Phosphorescent.
Slaughterhouse Welcome To: Our House – This group of scowling, tough-guy rappers — Joell Ortiz, Royce da 5â€™9, Crooked I, and Joe Budden — have cultivated an alpha-male, real-hip-hop-only fanbase with their hyper-complex rhyme schemes and long, pyrotechnic verses. To me, theyâ€™ve always seemed like the hip-hop equivalent of one of those â€˜80s guitar-hero supergroups — Damn Yankees or Chickenfoot. But their faithful are 100-percent on board.
Casual, Respect Game Or Expect Flames - If weâ€™re going with super-complex, rapperâ€™s-rapper verses, this is more my speed. Oakland rapper Casual used to hang with the Hieroglyphics crew, and he combines insane dexterity with a light, nimble touch.
Beanie Sigel, This Time - The gritty Philly rapper, once a member of Jay-Zâ€™s Roc-A-Fella crew, issues his latest dispatch before he returns to prison, sadly, for a tax evasion charge. The music around him is somewhat diminished, but Beanie is still a powerhouse.
Nitty Scott, Boombox Diaries – Nice mellow SoulQuarian vibe to this record. Her rapping is closer to slam poetry than to hard rap. Kendrick Lamar swings by for a track.
Bondo Do Role, Tropicalbacanal – Brazilian cyber-funk outfit returns with their latest all-inclusive party. A ragtag group of guests swing through, including Das Racist, Poolside, and tropicalia eminence grise Caetano Veloso. A jubilantly mixed bag.
Tin Hat Trio, The Rain Is A Handsome Animal - Soulfully skewed modernist jazz/classical hybrid, with bent notes of klezmer and gypsy music snaking through the middle. Lovely, French-cafe-chanteuse vocals. A cool little cocktail with some surprising playing in it.
Minus The Bear, Infinity Overhead - Quirky prog-pop outfit from Seattle returns with their latest on Dangerbird, which continues their tack toward mainstream rock/pop.
Chilly Gonzalez, Solo Piano II – Lovely, placid, and tense minimalist solo piano burbles from the self-described â€œgeniusâ€ and classical/hip-hop crossover phenom. This is a straight classical release, of course, but do yourself a favor and read our interview with the man who calls himself Chilly Gonzalez and learn more about his admirably, looned-out ambitions.
Rosie Thomas and Sufjan Stevens, Hit and Run Vol. 1 - Bright, bubbling little techno-pop trifles from Michigan singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas and Sufjan, who continues to explore his fascination with the voice-warping technology of the Autotuner.