New This Week: Veronica Falls, Jim James, Eels & More
Veronica Falls, Waiting For Something To Happen Veronica Falls set the bar high with their 2011 debut, and on Waiting For Something To Happen they raise it. Produced by Rory Attwell (The Vaccines), the record is a confident and clear-eyed throwback to a time when strummy ’80s college rock ruled the underground. It confirms Victoria Falls as one of the best indie-pop bands going.
Jim James, Regions Of Light And Sound Of God As the lynchpin of My Morning Jacket, Jim James has made a name as the consummate crafter of spacey classic country, etched with psychedelic pop and soul. His solo debut is very different: these nine intimate songs nod towards everything from kosmiche blues to futuro-hip hop, to steal hearts in 38 impeccably judged minutes.
Eels, Wonderful, Glorious Mark Oliver Everett has always worn his misanthropy like a badge of honour; it’s telling that he counts Tom Waits as a fan. This caps a four-year burst of activity that yielded an autobiography, a documentary about his late father and a trilogy of concept albums, and what sets it apart is an overarching sense of optimism – a glorious development indeed.
Darkstar, News From Nowhere Darkstar’s sophomore album is a tricky one to grasp – placid on the surface, but built to make its intricacies emerge with patient listening. It is bound to take some getting used to for fans of the band’s early moody dubstep, but go in expecting a low-key sort of sunny euphoria, and it’ll feel like an intriguing new facet to their style.
FIDLAR, FIDLAR Los Angeles punks FIDLAR kick off their debut with a song called “Cheap Beer”, but there’s more subtlety here than meets the eye. If you slowed down “Max Can’t Surf” it would sound like a Buddy Holly ballad, while the rest hits a happy medium between the feral rush of The Black Lips and the hooks-first polish of early Green Day.
Grouper, The Man Who Died in his Boat This is the latest from Liz Harris aka Grouper; here she offers ethereal vocals blended with layers of moody electronic effects and strummed acoustic guitar. The grim title is inspired by a story as mysterious as her songs, in which an empty boat washed ashore in Oregon.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II In this psychedelia Venn diagram, the overlap is largely in the details: off-kilter production effects, wispy vocals, a sense of groove. Slight nods and tactful sonic cues rather than “hey man, far out!” indulgence. Working in this sweet spot, Ruban Nielson has produced a loose batch of great songs.
Prince, Screwdriver Definitely not inspired by a trip to B&Q, this double entendre-heavy release from the artist who doesn’t “do” albums any more sounds like vintage-era Prince, again.
Night Beds, Country Sleep – Rangy, lamplit alt-country graced with angelic, Jim James-style singing and lovely harmonies. A stunning late-night weeper of a record, with flecks of Ryan Adams surfacing. Lyndsey Field writes:
Country Sleep, the debut from Colorado expats Night Beds, is largely the product of 23-year-old frontman Winston Yellen, sprung from a trip Yellen took across America in a small hatchback Think Justin Vernon, but not for too long: As soon as Yellen’s voice starts sliding up to falsetto it flicks suddenly away, like candlelight in a night breeze.
Chris Stamey, Long Distance Mixing – The producer and singer/songwriter returns with another rough-cut jewel of an indie-rock record, one that recalls his time in jangle outfits like the DBs as well as pointing towards darker, more cinematic places. Holly George-Warren tells us:
An in-demand producer (Whiskeytown, Alejandro Escovedo), North Carolinian Chris Stamey infrequently releases solo work. So when his finely-crafted songs make their way to an album, it’s always a sonic surprise, rich with echoes of his myriad projects: sometimes jangly fare like his seminal power pop outfit the dB’s, other times unabashed rock like Yo La Tengo, with whom he cut 2005′s A Question of Temperature. The haunting Lovesick Blues, Stamey’s first solo offering in eight years, is darkly intimate chamber pop reminiscent of Big Star’s Third.
David T. Little, Soldier Songs – A mini-opera song cycle dealing soberly with the personal and emotional fallout of warfare, complete with sampled snippets of interviews with real veterans. Seth Colter-Walls writes:
“Every Town Has a Wall” and “Two Marines” are both driven by post-war reflections, and it’s in those songs that Little reaches for the complexity of mood that also made Phil Kline’s Zippo Songs a modern classic. Precisely because we may be prone to think we’ve moved past the “Global War on Terror” era (drone strikes to the side), Little’s songs feel important, even necessary.