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Antony and the Johnsons, Turning

2014 | Label: Secretly Canadian / SC Distribution

In 2006, Antony and the Johnsons were arguably at the peak of their powers, and certainly at the peak of their commercial impact. They were riding high on their breakthrough (and only Gold-certified) album, 2005′s I Am a Bird Now, which won the Mercury Prize — with a little controversy, as they were based in New York rather than the U.K.

That record instantly vaulted them into the canons of indie- and art-music fans alike by blending chamber opera and cabaret around Antony’s charismatic persona. That focal… more »

Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Rhythm

2014 | Label: The Leaf Label / state51

After meeting at the Gothenburg’s Academy of Music and Drama, Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin began making music that flouted the conventions of formal musical training. On 2007′s Heartcore, the duo’s first release as Wildbirds & Peacedrums, they pounded away on hand drums and plucked zithers to create vigorous, undisciplined sounds. At base, they’re still the same band they were then — their music consists almost entirely of Werliin’s brisk drumming and Wallentin’s muscular vocals, her tics and ululations providing the thrust of spontaneity that’s earned… more »

Grouper, Ruins

2014 | Label: kranky / The Orchard

On a succession of variously veiled and murky albums since 2005, Grouper, aka the Oregon-based artist Liz Harris, has made mystery one of her main instruments. Often her favored sound is intensely earthy and ethereal, layered and faded and delivered with a bit of aural messiness. For Ruins, which was apparently inspired by contemplative walks during a residency at a small Portual arts center, she pared down recording on a 4-track with just an upright piano and a microphone to capture the enchanting plainness of her homespun voice.… more »