Shop our Big Takeover store for back issues, t-shirts & CDs
Follow The Big Takeover
This top ten list includes recent releases I’ve been digging lately. Each one can be streamed in full using the links in the text below. Enjoy!
Arms & Sleepers – A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama EP (Expect Candy)
New England dreampop duo Max Lewis and Mirza Ramic have released a whopping 16 albums and EPs since forming in 2006, and toured relentlessly. Perhaps the tireless schedule has taken a toll, as the band announced they’re taking an indefinite hiatus, and played their last NYC show at Brooklyn’s Spike Hill on Sept. 1. Unlike their excellent 2009 LP Matador, this 5-track swansong doesn’t feature guest vocalists, but its combination of expansive synths, radiant piano, trippy beats, and jazzy ambience still makes for an absorbing listen.
Paul Brill – Breezy (Scarlet Shame)
Since his last two pop/rock LPs, 2006’s Harpooner and 2004’s New Pagan Love Song, Brooklyn singer/songwriter Brill has mostly been a film/TV/radio soundtrack composer, earning three Emmy awards for his work. (He recently scored the Ricki Stern/Annie Sundberg baseball documentary Knuckleball!) His fifth non-soundtrack LP lives up to its title. It’s more upbeat than his past albums, with a rollicking 12-piece band and horn-flecked, Belle & Sebastian-esque orchestration. I really like this!
Ceti Alpha – Pista Loca (Ceti Alpha)
Like their 2008 second album Telemetry, this Dartmouth, Nova Scotia outfit’s fourth LP has a loose, unstructured feel. They no longer remind me of Belle & Sebastian; in fact, guitarist/singer Nicholas Bevan-John’s anxious voice sounds more like Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley and The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan here than Stuart Murdoch. Their clamorous folk-rock is stark and shambolic, especially Michael Jackson’s (no, not that one) disorderly drumming. Yet once again, they sound oddly inviting and engaging.
Cinema Cinema – Manic Children and the Slow Aggression (The Lumiere Label)
Brooklyn guitar/drums duo Ev Gold and Paul Claro gave us a preview of this Don Zientara-produced second LP with 2011’s 3-song Shoot the Freak. I called that EP “feral and unrelenting,” and that holds true for this album (which includes the EP). The opening “UFO” introduces their thunderous yet melodic assault, with Gold’s caterwauling guitar explosions and fiery, exasperated vocals pushed to the brink by Claro’s pummeling stickwork. With no letup through 80 exhausting minutes, Manic Children is both grueling and gripping.
Exit Clov – “It’s a Cult” (Exit Clov)
This DC/NYC five-piece, led by literate, honey-voiced twin sisters Emily and Susan Hsu, made one of my favorite LPs of 2010 with their debut Memento Mori. That album was brimming with intricately layered, sonorous pop, but this buzzing, Metric-like first single from their forthcoming second album evokes the brisker, spunkier sound of their early EPs.
Father Murphy – Anyway, Your Children Will Deny It (Aagoo)
After their 2007 compilation Do the Sinister and 2010’s No Room for the Weak EP, this outlandish Italian experimental trio (Reverend Freddie Murphy, Chiarra Lee, and Vicar Vittorio Demarin) unleashes their fourth full-length. Their macabre, inharmonious dirges and frightening mantras are like a soundtrack to a nightmarish, hallucinogenic confinement in a desolate dungeon, yet one that’s steeped in an art-rock sensibility.
Hunters & Runners – Health & Respect EP (Hunters & Runners)
I liked this Brooklyn foursome’s 2010 debut Of Classic Renown, which introduced the band’s spirited swagger and the boisterous vocals of former college buddies Brady Oh and Liam Farrell. On this new 5-songer, bassist Zach Rubinfeld’s quick-fingered, springy licks give the faster numbers a ‘70s funk feel, but they also mix in a couple mellower tunes, like the reggae-flavored “Tally Run.” It’s another good record!
Leigh Marble – Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows (Laughing Stock)
I hadn’t kept up with this Portland, OR acoustic folk/blues troubadour since his 2004 debut Peep, so I missed his 2007 follow-up Red Tornado. Still, I was taken aback by his new direction on Knives, which veers into darker territory. Many tracks, like the epic 7-1/2 minute centerpiece “Nail” (featuring local Portlander Rachel Taylor Brown’s backing vocals; elsewhere, The Ascetic Junkies’ Matt Harmon and Kali Giaritta guest), employ slowly-building, snails-pace tempos, elegiac lyrics, and a spooky, desert-baked ambience that keep the LP tense and unsettling.
One Hand Free – Sweetbreads EP (One Hand Free)
On their follow-up to 2007 second LP Quadraphonic, this Portsmouth, NH foursome offer up another dose of Southern-fried, roadhouse blues-rock. On each of these five lengthy tunes (the final two of which are live), the band’s gritty, sweaty playing roams and rambles around Andrew Blowen’s guttural, whisky-doused bellow. They’ll inspire you to revisit those old Humble Pie, Foghat, and Deep Purple albums that had been gathering dust down in the basement.
Zelazowa – Love is Lunacy (Zelazowa)
For their third album, this Philadelphia foursome (named for the Poland birth city of famed composer Frédéric Chopin, and made up of two brothers and two cousins) have toned down some of the heavier metal-ish aspects of their 2009 Elephants on a Mousehunt. But as evidenced by Lunacy’s standout opener, “Spin That Trick,” which showcases lead singer Bryan Weber’s passionate, throaty wail, that doesn’t mean they’ve diluted any of their potent melodic power.
More in top-ten