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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!
The 667s – Monodons of the World Unite EP (Modern Peasant)
If you couldn’t get enough of this Ellensburg, WA quartet’s roaring, Saints/Radio Birdman-ish 2012 self-titled debut (see my review in issue 72), this equally storming five-song follow-up will soothe your withdrawals. Bassist Justin Gibbens and drummer Clay Arango provide churning rhythms, while hoarse-throated vocalist Nathan Hill and Tim Pollock counter with swirling twin-guitar blizzards. They ensure songs like the herky-jerky “Wash My Dishes in Blood” and the bracing “Good Morning Sorrow” bristle with excitement.
Arts & Leisure – Choose Your Adventure (Test Pattern)
Sacramento, CA pretty-pop Baby Grand’s excellent 2012 Arts & Leisure was sadly their last LP. But don’t pout: That album’s title is now this new foursome’s moniker, and 75% of A&L are former Baby Granders. Adventure packs a harder punch than BG’s lighthearted pop, yet keeps the bubblegum-catchiness quotient intact — see the infectious first single “Wolf Pack.” Best, sumptuous singer Gerri White’s sighing coo is now paired with equally exquisite co-vocalist Becky Cale. They just toured the UK and Belgium; any chance for a NYC show?
Colour – “Dreamland Skies” (The Blurry World)
Although I enjoyed this art/noise trio’s 2010 fourth LP Noise and Beauty, I missed last year’s follow up The Ice March and 2013’s best-of comp The Chronological Happenings (and they’ve also moved, from Princeton, NJ to Staten Island, NY). But this brand-new single shows they’re still mining that “blissful yet blistering wall-of-sound” territory: “Skies” packs a sinister, industrial-strength, Jesus & Mary Chain-meets-Spacemen 3 punch.
Dangerous Ponies – “Tenderheart” 7” EP (Dangerous Ponies)
Wouldn’t you know it? This Philadelphia seven-piece (formed by engaging singer Chrissy Tashjian) follows up their promising 2011 self-titled debut LP with a terrific digital-only tune (“Gave Up”) and this equally fabulous four-songer – and then they go and break up! Drat! The 7” marries their loose, fuzzy playing with Shins-like, stick-in-your-head melodies – especially the uplifting standout “California.” A final show is in the works; perhaps we can beg them to reconsider?
Dani Elliott – “Make Me Love You” (Dani Elliott)
Nashville-by-way-of-NYC’s Elliott has released a couple of EPs since her self-titled 2007 debut mini-LP, each one of high quality. (And as I discovered at her intimate solo piano show at Rockwood Music Hall last year, she delivers the goods live, too.) This irresistible new single from an upcoming EP balances smooth soul, funky ‘70s R&B/Motown, and jazz-inflected pop. It’s topped off with Elliott’s vivacious, velvety vocals and enhanced by Jesse Singer’s crisp production and backing (he plays bass, guitar, and drums!).
The Foil Swans – “Cover My Section” (Kiam)
Angelic-voiced Brooklynite Amy Bezunartea hasn’t released much since her pretty 2010 debut Restaurant & Bars (and her rare opening set at Williamsburg’s Union Pool on 3/4/12 was one of last year’s most heavenly half-hours!). So her new duo with Jim Andralis (ex-Isotoners) is welcome. Single #1 features Kiam label head Jennifer O’Connor on guitar, and it’s a lovely lap steel-flecked lament of waitress woes (“No IRA, no dental plan, no paid vacation…”) that’ll leave you wanting more.
The Jelly Project – “Worthy” (Funk It)
I called this Minneapolis quartet’s 2012 debut Ugly Dirty “primal and punishing,” but this follow-up single is their most explosive, thunderous song yet! On it, impetuous, powderkeg singer Angelica “Jelly” Thomas fluctuates from heavy-breathing whisper, to Grace Slick-like croon, to ravenous, deranged bellow. Her muscular bandmates back her with a merciless assault that sounds like 1000 torpedoes being fired at once. With Thomas loose from the asylum, no one is safe!
Seth Knappen – Time Machines, Living Dead (Seth Knappen)
I compared this East Moline, IL experimentalist’s 2003 debut Leaving Sound to Low and Red House Painters, finding its minimalistic synth/piano tunes “dreamy and soothing.” But Knappen expands his palette on Time Machines, delving into Bowie/Eno/Talking Heads-inspired art-rock, spacey ambient, and jazz-tinged electro-funk. Singing in a David Byrne-like semi-monotone, his music reveals more on each listen; even ten-minute opuses like the title track and “Spirit Machine” manage to draw you in.
Pheroze – Ennui EP (Pheroze)
London-born, Brooklyn-based Pheroze Karai’s follow-up EP to 2011’s Crows Into Swine once again features his trademark throaty baying and vigorous grunge/metal-influenced hard rock. But while Swine occasionally meandered, Ennui feels more streamlined, focused, and driving – Karai’s admitted efforts to tighten up on production and to give his forceful backing band more free reign have paid off handsomely. In short, Ennui left me anything but bored.
Tiny Little Blackouts – “Carry in Tow”; Cameron Ember – “Trying to Get to Somebody” (Robot123)
I’d wondered what happened to this dreamy, ethereal San Francisco group, having dug their 2009 debut Images of Alice. (Turns out I missed their 2011 Daly City EP, oops!) “Carry” is a new TLB tune, featuring leader Cameron Ember’s evocative, heavenly trill, and backed by resounding piano and noodly synths. The acoustic “Trying,” billed as Ember solo, is similarly moody, meditative, and melancholic. Though missing the debut’s layered guitar fuzz, these two compositions are no less captivating.
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