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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 »

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 »

La Roux, Trouble In Paradise

2014 | Label: Interscope/Cherrytree

“All along I’ve had feelings I can’t help, makes me want to kiss and not tell/ And all I want is to come right out of my shell, makes me want to kiss and not tell.” So sings Elly Jackson on “Kiss and Not Tell,” a glittery, perky, Eurodisco-inspired track from the singer’s second album, Trouble in Paradise. It’s been about five years since the first La Roux album, which feels like a decade accelerated by the fast-churn of the internet, and despite a Grammy Award, and features on two… more »

Dave Douglas & Uri Caine, Present Joys

2014 | Label: Greenleaf Music / Entertainment One Distribution

Dave Douglas’s 2012 quintet album Be Still focused on Protestant hymns his mother asked him to play at her memorial service. Present Joys feels something of a distillation and reaffirmation of that experience. It consists largely of spiritual music, solid as Shaker furniture and often as sober as a Quaker meeting, performed by two attuned virtuosos who have worked together in various configurations for more than 20 years.

Five of Present Joy‘s 10 pieces belong to the canon of a cappella shape-note singing, a simplified style of notation from the early… more »

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