Maximo Park – The National Health (Daylighting/Straight to the Sun)
Straight up, their 4th full-length is the best thing they’ve done since their excellent debut A Certain Trigger back in 2005. The formula (slightly new-wavey and heavily influenced by The Wedding Present and the like with Paul Smith‘s mannered, heavily accented vocals and lovelorn lyrics) hasn’t changed an iota (except for perhaps the political concern of the title track) since those days, but while I enjoyed 2007’s Our Earthly Pleasures and 2009’s Quicken the Heart, this one just feels more vital, energetic and blasting than those efforts. Just check out the superb title track or the interestingly-titled “This is What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” (an answer song to the 1966 Jimmy Ruffin oldies staple covered by The dB’s in recent years) for proof. The album is also bookended by two moodier, quiet pieces (unusual for them) called “When I Was Wild” and “Waves of Fear” (not the Lou Reed song from 1982’s great The Blue Mask, my favorite solo record of his).
Goodnight Lights – As Far as the Moon (self-released)
This Collingswood, NJ band’s 3rd full-length album was just released a few weeks ago, but it’s the first record of theirs that I’ve had a chance to hear. Judging by what I hear on this effort, though, I’m gonna need to give their earlier releases a chance because I really like this. Of the 9 songs found here, “Broken” and “Wreck” remind me a bit of The Arcade Fire (how could they not with the backup/gang choruses/shouts at the end of “Broken”, for example) and several other songs remind me a little of Spoon in the guitar work, but otherwise I have a difficult time pinning down the sound (that’s a good thing). Go here to hear it.
Guided by Voices – Class Clown Spots a UFO (Fire)
The 2nd post-reunion Guided by Voices album is a more consistent effort than Let’s Go Eat the Factory, its predecessor that was released back in January. However, there’s nothing here as instantly classic and memorable as “The Unsinkable Fats Domino“ or “Doughnut for a Snowman”. Still, songs like “Jon the Croc” come really close and though this may not have the peaks of Let’s, it also doesn’t have its valleys as Tobin Sprout‘s vocals sound more like his Kermit the Frog-ish self and less processed/treated with vocoders as on their previous effort. Now for post-reunion album #3 (amazingly already finished)!
Radiohead with Caribou – Susquehanna Bank Center (Camden, NJ) – June 13, 2012
Please see my full review here.
Kelly Hogan – I Like Keeping Myself in Pain (Anti)
This is probably the finest alt-country album you’ll hear all year unless her friend and collaborator Neko Case makes a record soon (and it’s been a while since 2009’s Middle Cyclone, so hopefully that will happen soon). For this album, Hogan got songwriters like M. Ward, Andrew Bird, Robyn Hitchcock, the late Vic Chesnutt and Stephin Merritt to write songs for her first solo album since 2001’s Because It Feels Good and the result is a fantastic, beautiful, sometimes touching and at times darkly humorous album highlighted by Hogan’s huge, affecting voice. Recommended.
Gil Scott-Heron – Pieces of a Man (Flying Dutchman)
Simply put, though I like many of the late Scott-Heron’s other Lps, this 1971 full-length is his masterpice. Dig beyond his most well-known track (“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”) and find the heart of this soul-searching, socially-conscious effort in songs like “Lady Day and John Coltrane“ as well as the heart-wrenching title track.
Manburger Surgical – Snippets ‘n Snausages (self-released)
When I lived in New York, I would sometimes shop at the still-going Other Music. They used to have a section for “out” music and surely if that still exists, this EP would be a prime candidate for this designation as this is some far-out exploration for sure. Think of the freakiest, most psychedelic ’70s prog and you’ll be somewhere close to where this band’s heart is. This is the project of Brooklyn-based musician Colin Gilbert Sanderson and the EP features previously unreleased and live stuff. You can listen to it here.
Robyn Hitchcock – Phantom 45 2012 (Yep Roc)
The latest in Hitchcock’s “Phantom 45” series (in which he releases digital singles of non-album tracks that are given away for free via his website) is another gem in a 35(!)-year career full of them. The “A-Side” “There Goes the Ice” features KT Tunstall (an odd match, but it really works here) and its B-side “Twitch the Sound Surfer” sounds like it was recorded live.
Superchunk – “This Summer” EP (Merge)
Here’s a case where the B-side totally outclasses the A-side. The titular A-side is fine, but no match for anything on 2010’s superb Majesty Shredding and thus a bit of a disappointment. The B-side, on the other hand, is a scorching cover of Bananarama‘s “Cruel Summer” and yes, it sounds like one would expect. The 7” comes with a digital download code that has an extra track (an acoustic version of the A-side).
Ignition – Complete Services (Dischord)
Ignition were one of the leading lights in the incredible mid to late ’80s DC post-hardcore scene that also included Dischord labelmates Dag Nasty, Swiz, later Government Issue and short-lived but great immediate predecessors like Rites of Spring, Gray Matter (before their brief reunion in the early ’90s) and Embrace. In 1994, Dischord reissued their entire catalog on this CD and unexpectedly since they seem to now focus on (wonderful) vinyl remasters of their catalog now, this CD was recently remastered and just came out again after being out of print for years. It’s good to see it back in circulation as this is some of the best stuff DC ever produced.