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Alvvays, Alvvays

2014 | Label: Polyvinyl Records

“Indie pop” is a fuzzy descriptive musical term, but however you define it, Alvvays are the real deal. The Canadian group is directly in the lineage of Orange Juice, the Go-Betweens and Teenage Fanclub — starting with ’60s soul, surf and girl-group pop, reconfiguring with bookish, modernist takes on being sad and in love, recorded on the cheap. And while you might initially slot the Canadian band’s self-titled, Chad Van Gaalen-produced debut next to indie-pop revivalists like Veronica Falls, Hospitality or Camera Obscura, they play with urgency and grit often… more »

“Weird Al” Yankovic, Mandatory Fun

2014 | Label: RCA Records Label

The announcement came in the middle of June: Accordion-wielding parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic would be releasing an album, his first since 2011′s Alpocalypse, in about a month. Details were scant — the reveal itself was cryptic, just a picture of Yankovic in military garb with “JULY 15″ in a vaguely dictatorial font. In the weeks leading up to the album, details about what songs and artists would fall in Al’s friendly crosshairs were scant. The only bread crumbs offered were a title, Mandatory Fun, and a few dictator-themed teaser… more »

Sean Jones Quartet, Im•pro•vise (Never Before Seen)

2014 | Label: Mack Avenue / The Orchard

On Im•pro•vise (Never Before Seen), Sean Jones shows a phenomenal mid-career growth spurt as a trumpeter, composer and artist. He credits Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, who challenged him to become more of a leader during their Tribute to Miles tour in 2011, a year after Jones left a long stint as the lead trumpeter for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Jones hasn’t reinvented himself or his style — he’s just become a much better version of the musician he used to be, fueled by a calm but self-animating confidence.… more »

Monarch, Sabbracadaver

2014 | Label: Profound Lore / Revolver

French doom-metal band Monarch have been difficult for some metalheads, because their visual aesthetic often borders on “cutesy” or “twee.” The pentagrams and skulls on their earlier album covers weren’t intricately carved, but sketched with a childlike abandon. The band was never a joke, despite the lighthearted exterior, and over the last few albums Monarch have adopted a somewhat more traditionally “metal” image. Sabbracadaver, their seventh full-length, continues to be centered around vocalist Emilie “Eurogirl” Bresson, who does not conform to any one particular identity of a “female metal vocalist.”… more »

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