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Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty

2014 | Label: Sub Pop Records

Ishmael Butler, the vocal force behind Shabazz Palaces, traffics in a strain of Afrofuturism that refuses to jettison the past or charge headlong into tomorrow. A quiet survivor who first gained acclaim as a member of the ’90s hip-hop trio Digable Planets, Butler is too grounded and skeptical to be utopian, yet too self-assured for dystopia, and Lese Majesty is the clearest statement yet from abstract hip-hop’s calmest bomber. The album has all the heady info-overload you’d expect from something debuted at the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome, but it… more »

Wildest Dreams, Wildest Dreams

2014 | Label: Smalltown Supersound / Redeye

West Coast psych rock has undergone a bit of a revival lately, having been rediscovered and reconfigured by the likes of Tame Impala, Pond and Black Bananas. But DJ Harvey (last name Bassett) isn’t riding any wave; nor is he seeking out the cutting edge. With Wildest Dreams, the surfing émigré who brought NYC house and disco sounds back to the U.K. after a spell in the States in the mid ’80s is doing what comes naturally. This debut is every bit as at ease with its references as you… more »

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Hypnotic Eye

2014 | Label: Reprise

Tom Petty’s half-swallow, half-yowl singing voice has been part of the American rock landscape for nearly four decades. Classic-rock staples like “Refugee” comingle in the collective pop consciousness with MTV-era smashes like “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “Free Fallin’.” His weathered voice and his band’s smooth professionalism have made the world-weary aspects of his music go down more smoothly — think of the “rebel without a clue” depicted in “Into the Great Wide Open,” or how “American Girl”s second verse, depicting despondent loneliness, undercuts the anthemic brio.

On Hypnotic… more »

Jenny Lewis, The Voyager

2014 | Label: Warner Bros.

“I’ve been wearing all black since the day it started/ When I stopped and looked back as my mind departed,” sings Jenny Lewis in the beginning of The Voyager‘s opening song “Head Underwater.” The first line refers to the death of her father and the end of her band band Rilo Kiley, both of which occurred early in this album’s protracted and sometimes difficult three-year creation. The second hints poetically at how she reacted to these developments. “I’m not the same woman that you were used to,” she warns. If… more »

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