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Just in time for Earth Day,

Jack Johnson anD FriEnDs – BEst oF kokua FEstival. 13 track compilation of live performances with legendary musicians Willie nelson, Eddie vedder, Ben harper, Dave Matthews and more. Proceeds from album sales will benefit the kokua hawaii Foundation.

availaBlE aPril 17th

www.kokuahawaiifoundation.org


My Head Is An Animal

OF MONSTERS AND MEN “Meet your new Arcade Fire” – Rolling Stone “Nostalgia sets in as soon as you hear Of Monsters and Men” – Interview Magazine “"We’re predicting that Icelandic folkies…will have a breakout year in 2012.” – PASTE “Little Talks-Conjures Mind-Wiping Fantasy” – Wired.com “It’s hard to keep a smile off our face and not sing along” – Indie Shuffle

Includes “Little Talks” ofmonstersandmen.is

AVAILABLE APRIL 3rd


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photo by Autumn De Wilde


Protecting and Serving M. Ward can take care of himself—and his multiple projects—just fine M. Ward. It lacks only a pair of 19thcentury dates to resemble a name chiseled onto a weather-beaten tombstone. But with a blossoming solo career—the excellent new A Wasteland Companion (Merge) is his eighth album—and plenty more hot irons in the fire, the name has served Ward well as an indierock calling card. “That was a nickname a few friends had for me in San Luis Obispo,” explains the softspoken Ward. “And when it came time to make my first record, there was already somebody out there named Matthew Ward.” (To add a little mystery to his early solo shows, John Darnielle called himself the Mountain Goats. “If I called it ‘John Darnielle,’” he reasoned, “nobody would come.”) Matthew Stephen Ward grew up in the bucolic surroundings of Newbury Park, Calif., just over the mountain north of greater Los Angeles in Ventura County. It’s an area that was once the preseason training camp for the Dallas Cowboys in Thousand Oaks, but it’s also had its Twin Peaks moments. Altosax jazz legend Charlie Parker rehabbed from heroin addiction at Camarillo State Hospital in 1948. “Ventura County is a strange place,” says Ward. “It was a very quiet, peaceful existence, if not very challenging. But when you’re a kid, I think that’s good.” Ward found his creativity listening to famed L.A. radio station KROQ, whose Rodney Bingenheimer, the self-proclaimed “mayor of Sunset Strip,” spun many of his ’80s heroes, like the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. “I did go down to L.A. in high school, to the Anti Club to see all those SST bands, mainly fIREHOSE,” says Ward. “It was a real eye-opener to watch Mike Watt just destroy his bass.” Ward’s singing style, compared at times to the voice of an 80-year-old Delta bluesman, evolved out of necessity. “In high school, my main musical outlet was four-tracking late at night,” he says. “I didn’t want to wake anybody up, so I sang pretty quiet.” When he cut his debut record, Ward followed a path similar to that of Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle. Like Ward, Lytle had grown up at arm’s length from a major metropolis, in Modesto, 80 miles east of San Francisco. Both became protégés of indie-rock godfather Howe Gelb. “I did, still do and probably always will look upon Howe as a mentor,” says

Ward. “He took me on my very first tour of Europe.” It was the last time John Convertino and Joey Burns would play with Gelb as Giant Sand. “That was a great introduction to the world of playing live music,” says Ward, whose first album, Duet For Guitars #2, was released on Gelb’s Ow Om label in 2000. “It was inspiring to see Howe improvise every night, playing songs the way he was feeling that day, even if it was melancholy. He kept the musicians on their toes, too. It’s always more interesting if nobody knows what’s coming next.” Ward soon hooked up with Conor Oberst to open a series of shows for Bright Eyes. “That started a lifelong friendship with Conor,” says Ward. “Visiting Omaha for the first time, it was good to see how he’s nurtured such a creative environment for people there who might never have thought creativity was an option.” Oberst would introduce Ward to Jenny Lewis in San Diego on that first tour with Bright Eyes. Lewis’ band, Rilo Kiley, invited Ward to warm the house for them on the road, and Ward would produce Lewis’ first solo album, 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat. “It’s been a great education, having bands like Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket as my backing bands,” remarks Ward in typical, understated fashion. “Those guys can play.” Monsters Of Folk was Oberst’s baby, insists Ward. “Conor got invited to play this benefit at Carnegie Hall,” he says. “He suggested I check out the music of My Morning Jacket, and I loved it.” Oberst envisioned a quartet composed of Ward, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis and himself that had no real frontman. “We’re all different kinds of songwriters,” says Ward. “Conor planned a little tour between Omaha and New York City. It was a real collaboration, with everyone truly sharing the stage.” Recording their album, with four different schedules to accommodate, was more difficult. “But you always make time for the things you love to do,” says Ward. “My favorite albums have always been the ones where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, like the Beatles’ White Album.” With three different lead vocalists, Monsters Of Folk has a similar “wow” factor. In a career full of such things, Ward’s most fortuitous collaboration might be his teaming up with current “it” girl Zooey Deschanel as

superstar duo She & Him. “I was doing music for an indie film, The Go-Getter, and one of the stars of the movie was Zooey,” says Ward. “The director (Martin Hynes) thought at the end of the film I should do a duet with Zooey of ‘When I Get To The Border,’ a Richard and Linda Thompson song. Sounded like a great idea to me. I knew Zooey’s voice from Elf, and we had a great day in the studio. We talked about music and how we were mutual fans of each other’s work.” Deschanel mentioned she’d cut a lot of rough demos of songs she’d written with just vocals and keyboard. “I told her I would love to hear them,” says Ward. When Deschanel’s demos arrived at Ward’s Portland home, he was knocked out at the quality of the original material. “I was not expecting to be amazed, because she doesn’t write songs for a living,” he says. “She acts for a living.” Ward heard music that was influenced by some of the same revered auteurs who had guided his own musical vision—Phil Spector, for one. While there are undeniable, pocket-sized Spectorian flourishes on She & Him’s 2008 debut, Volume One, as well as a slinky honky-tonk cover of Lennon & McCartney’s “I Should Have Known Better,” the pair’s most recent release, A Very She & Him Christmas, has gone in a different, stripped-down direction. “Every Christmas album you ever hear is over-produced,” says Ward. “But there are so many songs we loved that could stand on their own without a giant orchestra, sleigh bells or a choir.” Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, Ward has just released A Wasteland Companion, a titular dual nod to Garrison Keillor’s popular NPR show A Prairie Home Companion and T.S. Eliot’s groundbreaking 1922 poem, “The Waste Land.” “I love T.S. Eliot, and I’ve also been reading Dante’s Inferno a lot over the past few years,” says Ward. “There are shadows and doppelgängers on the new album. It takes you through a dark place.” Whether a hellish wasteland or the heavenly vocals of She & Him, Ward’s Midas touch continues unabated. Even with Deschanel now starring in hit sitcom New Girl, Ward feels confident the magical duo will resurface soon. “Zooey has a great passion for work,” he says. “She’s constantly writing songs and tackling new acting jobs. This is not the end of She & Him.” —Jud Cost

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photo by d.l. Anderson


Two Birds, One Stone North Carolina’s Bowerbirds toast to a finished album, an unfinished home and each other Amid all of the natural imagery and gooseflesh melody that was to be expected on Phil Moore and Beth Tacular’s third LP, The Clearing (Dead Oceans), at least one thing comes as a surprise: Bowerbirds—the avian-loving, tree-hugging, neo-hippie folk band—has a drinking game. “We showed the songs to (contributors) Mark (Paulson) and Rachel (Rollins),” says Tacular. “And they were like, ‘There are a lot of oohs going on.’ We had this idea to have a game where you listen to the album and every time you hear an ooh, you have to take a drink.” Give it a shot, but you’ll be sloshed by side two. The Clearing opens with two of the more enchanting songs you’re likely to hear all year, blood alcohol content notwithstanding: “Tuck The Darkness In,” a retrospective intention of total contentment by Moore that swells to a wordless chorus of voices and strings, and “In The Yard,” Tacular’s twisting, turning tour de force through the rural North Carolina forest in which they make their home, its final 90 seconds a literal hoot. “That’s kind of how I write things—with oohs, I guess,” she says, laughing. “I didn’t realize I was doing it so much. Some of them became violins, because it was getting out of control. When we were sequencing the album, we had to make sure we didn’t put a song that ended with oohs next to one that begins with oohs. It still happens in one place.” (Bonus social: tracks three and four, “Walk The Furrows” and “Stitch The Hem.”) “Making a home” is no figure of speech for Moore and Tacular. An hour tangent from the Raleigh-Durham triangle, on a quiet plot of oak- and pine-canopied woodland still owned by the family of freed slaves, the onetime website architects are attempting the real deal: building a log cabin from the foundation up, using salvaged materials from Craigslist and the dismantled remnants of a tobacco barn as a frame. For nearly five years, the couple has sawed, hammered and sanded away at what will one day be a dream house. For now, it’s a blown deadline. “We started working on it right after we finished recording our first album (Hymns For A Dark Horse), in 2007,” says Tacular. “Then

we started touring, and we toured for three years almost. Our original plan was to build the whole house in six months. It’s been four or five years. We’re doing it all ourselves, and we had no idea how long it would take. We’re hoping that we’ll finish during this album, in between tours. We’re pretty close.” “Neither one of us had ever done that at all before,” says Moore. “So, we went to the library and to the internet and figured it out from scratch. I just really like to get ideas and make them happen. I hate repetitive tasks, hammering the sheeting onto a wall or something. That stuff is really boring. But I love the problem-solving. Web design definitely has that, and building a house has that. Songwriting, in a creative way, has that, too.” The band has had no shortage of problems thrown its way. In addition to the cabin’s never-ending two stories, there was the split following Upper Air, Bowerbirds’ sublime 2009 sophomore album, whose simple, insular love songs sound a whole lot sadder in context. “The breakup was this slow, painful process,” says Tacular. “We were on a threemonth tour, right on the back of recording. A lot of times it was just me, Phil and Mark, just the three of us living on top of each other without any space. We were struggling financially, and Phil and I felt a lot of pressure. We had a lot of tours where we were still singing love songs to each other, and it was very difficult. The moments onstage during that time were the happiest moments, because we were like, ‘Well, we have this. This still works.’” “Every time I listen to it—which is not very often these days—I’ll get a little saddened by what is coming through in our voices,” says Moore. “It feels a little rushed and a little lofi, which I love. But it makes me wonder, if we would’ve been communicating back then, how different it would’ve sounded.” They reconnected in the downtime between albums, building the cabin by day and making fires at night, and beginning work on iPhone-recorded demos of three songs that would find their way onto The Clearing: “Stitch The Hem,” “Brave World” and “Death Wish.” Then, in the dead of winter 2010, a more immediate, if mysterious, threat emerged. “I got sick,” says Tacular. “I had been over-

working myself. The weather was cold. I was getting ready to go on a trip with my brother, who won a free trip to Brazil. I got my series of shots, and I think I caught one of the diseases. No one could ever figure out what it was. I was super tired and anemic. I finally went to the doctor, and they were like, ‘How are you still alive? You have kidney and liver failure.’” Tacular was rushed to the hospital for blood transfusions. Barely able to walk for weeks, she could consume no alcohol, caffeine or aspirin for six months. “Which was actually kind of nice, a detox,” she jokes. “Phil was really scared. After that, I just started focusing on meditating and looking at the positive side of things. Both of us let the stress of things fall off our shoulders, and make everything as beautiful as we can. I think that came out on the album—taking more time with it and focusing on the details. Enjoying the process.” “It changed the course of the record,” says Moore. “Just to express our feelings in the most honest of ways. This is art, and it’s a snapshot of our lives. Not to be overly dramatic, but it could be our last. Let’s make sure that people get a window into our lives and see what it’s like.” That spirit lives in every phrase of The Clearing. Started at Bon Iver’s April Base studio in Fall Creek, Wisc.—where Bowerbirds hunkered down with engineer Brian Joseph for 10 days of around-the-clock sessions in April 2011—and finished in North Carolina, the album releases its energy in bursts, from the swift downhill turns of the opening his-andhers salvo to the gentle ascent of Moore’s two-part closer. “We thought we had forever/ And now we hurry on,” he sings at the end, his voice darting like Cat Stevens over a clipped guitar pattern and twinkling electronics. “And what we miss, we miss, we miss/And what we see is what we get.” “The last two are my favorite grouping of songs,” says Moore. “There’s a thread through the album, and I think ‘Now We Hurry On’ says it the most bluntly and most bittersweetly. And then, just the sounds, the little knee slaps and the crickets from our land that you barely, barely hear. I’m just really proud of those moments.” —Noah Bonaparte Pais

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! S I H T R E V O C DIS w Albums You Need… Four Ne

Miike Snow Happy To you

The Swedish indie-pop band Miike Snow, is back with a big, bold, bright, colourful album, Happy To You bristling with tunes and ideas. The album name derived from a mis-spelt phrase on a postcard from Thailand that stuck. Happy To You is the follow up to the band’s selftitled debut released in 2009, that won over tastemakers everywhere and gained much acclaim with the album and its single ‘animal’ being on many 2009 year end lists, including SpIN Magazine and Rolling Stone. Happy To You includes the singles ‘paddling out’ and ‘Devils Work.’

Available now

joel PlASkett SCRappy HappINESS

Inspired by the process of hit making in the ‘50s, Joel plaskett’s new album, Scrappy Happiness, is an attempt to recreate how records were made in a time gone by. Rather than follow the now common schedule of write, record, manufacture and release over a period of a year or so, Joel took the album out of the incubator, one song at a time. a song was conceptualized, written, recorded and shipped to radio all in the very same week, for ten straight weeks (January – March, 2012).

Available now

FReD LEaVING My EMpIRE “eveRy tRAck on oFFeR iS A joy to liSten to” - Hot PReSS HHHH “SPRAwling, AMbitiouS AnD intoxicAting” - iRiSH inDePenDent HHHH Just over a year ago FRED traveled to Montreal to start recording their most adventurous album to date. The recording duties were given to Howard Bilerman at his renown ‘Hotel2Tango’ studio. as well as recording and playing on arcade Fire’s breakthrough record Funeral, Howard has worked his magic with an array of great artists including Wolf parade and Handsome Furs, to name but a few. FRED mixed the record with Ben Hiller (Elbow, Blur, Editors) in London. Leaving My Empire is a testament to the band’s ability to write and produce songs that go from intimate to epic and back again. The first single ‘We are The City Now’ can be heard in the new T-Booth television commercial campaign which will air in Canada throughout 2012.

Available now

yukon blonDe TIGER TaLk

From having their debut album Polaris Music Prize listed to being talked about on the major uS Network television show How I Met your Mother, yukon Blonde has been turning heads for their retro blend of jangly riffs, sunny harmonies and tempo-driven rock songs. The band’s sophomore album, Tiger Talk, which was ranked in Exclaim! Magazine’s “Most Anticipated Albums of 2012,” represents the next adventurous step in yukon Blonde’s career. Its ten tracks are short and punchy, as the band trimmed the fat and packed hooks and brisk tempos into streamlined arrangements. Expect these tunes to become your anthems of spring/ summer 2012.

Available now


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photo by annabel Mehran


War of the Wordless Iconoclast instrumentalists Dirty Three clash from dusk ’til dawn It’s a beautiful summer afternoon Down Under, the longest day of the year, and violinist Warren Ellis has been awake for a couple of hours. He’s relaxing on Phillip Island, which he loves for its sharks, snakes, mutton birds, rocky coastline and harsh winds—all the nasty things that make it the “spiritual home” of Dirty Three, his longtime collaboration with guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Jim White. That’s what Ellis wants to talk about: the band’s first release in seven years. Not the breakup of Grinderman, his side project with Nick Cave, who walked offstage 10 days earlier, announcing, “That’s it for Grinderman. It’s over.” Not the title of the new Dirty Three CD, Toward The Low Sun (Drag City), other than, “I really like it as a metaphor for life.” And nothing about the album’s “overarching narrative,” except to say that it has one, and “You can work it out. I’m not going to ruin it for you.” No, he wants to talk about the sessions. “I like bringing in ideas that throw everybody into the deep end,” says Ellis, who also plays piano, organ and percussion on the album. “Sometimes an idea works, sometimes it doesn’t. The sessions are never particularly friendly, and quite often result in arguments. Actually, I seem to be attracted to sessions that are fraught with tension and frustration, and I really like the constraints of the studio, because having a limited amount of time forces us to make decisions. There’s not much conviviality, and the pressure creates a very conducive environment.” It does, and you can hear it. There’s a lot more dissonance than harmony in any Dirty Three performance—they’re not playing with each other, they’re playing against each other, pulling in opposite directions, tearing the music apart, and rarely attempting to put it back together again. In concert, Ellis delivers the full rock-star treatment, scratching out solos while lying on the stage, waving his violin back and forth for maximum feedback, and relishing introductions to songs like “Everything’s Fucked.” On the phone, just in case I’ve missed the point, he wants to emphasize

photo by Benjamin Bronk

that even though the songs are instrumentals, “we’ve never played background music. With each recording, we try to do something different from the last, and the only way we’ll release an album is if we feel we’ve gone somewhere new.” The last time Dirty Three attempted a recording was three years ago, when the band members met for a few days, laid down tracks for a handful of songs and decided none was worth keeping. So, they went back on the road, playing sets that were “incredibly violent and loud” before returning to their other gigs. Ellis recorded two albums with Grinderman, one with Cave’s Bad Seeds and three soundtracks with Cave, including The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. Turner released an album under his own name and painted neo-Fauvist pictures like the one on the cover of Toward The Low Sun, which features a white knight slaying a serpent who’s really red and really pissed. White toured with Bonnie Prince Billy and recorded with Cat Power, Marianne Faithfull, PJ Harvey, Nina Nastasia, Smog and White Magic. Every six months or so, they came back to Dirty Three, and before the end of last year, they recorded these nine instrumentals, which run from disturbingly quiet to numbingly cacophonous. Unlike 2005’s Cinder, which crammed 19 songs into 70 minutes, the songs on Toward The Low Sun average about five minutes apiece, long enough to introduce a motif, play the hell out of it and end without any resolution in sight. On one hand, Ellis thinks the album features “the simplest ideas we’ve ever had.” On the other, “It’s a lot more intricate than anything we’ve done before,” he says. “This one seems to be more imbued with the energy and the attitude we had early on,” says Ellis. “It’s more improvised than what we’ve done in the past, and a lot of it is first takes. The pieces feel very connected, and the way each song segues into the next, there’s a thread you can follow. When we first did it, I felt we’d succeeded in places

we never had before. And when we went back in for mixing, I knew we’d made a strong statement that we’re back. It’s an album, as opposed to little snippets of sound, and the fact that there are no lyrics doesn’t mean it’s not lyrical. It’s one of the most definitive things we’ve done in terms of what this band is about.” It’s as great an album as they’ve ever made, and on a song like “Ashen Snow,” it’s about the dead of winter, with Turner playing a slow, broken elegy on piano while Ellis and White fill in the missing pieces, playing in and out of sync. On “You Greet Her Ghost,” with Ellis scraping a low, whispering melody, it’s about longing, and when it’s White’s turn to take the lead, it shifts toward a pulse that starts and stops and starts again, insisting on its own beat. It’s about hope and despair, noise and silence, discord and dissonance, and three musicians recovering the pleasure of making painful music together. Turner brings the most fully formed ideas to the sessions; Ellis’ ideas are sketchier, though his strategy on Toward The Low Sun was clear from the start: provide as little structure as possible to give White the freedom to set the tone, the pace, the mood. “Jim is one of the most instinctive, intuitive drummers in the world, and what I wanted on these sessions was to give him the room to play,” says Ellis. “Mick constantly surprises me. To be honest, I think guitar is the most abused instrument in the world. It’s everywhere. And Mick manages to find this way of playing that’s both melodic and really heavy, where he just drops these bombs all over the place. “Between the three of us, we’re always inspired to push each other to take the music somewhere else, and I think it shows,” he continues. “Our aim has always been to find a balance between what seems genuinely confronting and genuinely engaging for us as players. And at the same time, record some drop-dead beautiful music.” —Kenny Berkowitz

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The Couple that Plays Together Time apart has kept Amadou & Mariam vital for nearly 40 years To not love and hold Amadou & Mariam in high regard is a crime. Born in Bamako several years apart, the married duo from Mali created music nearly from the start of their relationship—a meeting at the Institute for the Young Blind, where each would eventually teach. Though the pair made their joyful but decidedly bluesy noise known through a series of cassettes released strictly in their motherland (and, eventually, a first CD in 1998’s Sou Ni Tile), it was 2004’s Dimance à Bamako that announced their signature sound. The music of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia was (and is), to quote Tina Turner during her “Ike &” phase, nice and rough, a mixture of dark blue soul, twittering highlife and sweet swanky reggae with plaintive wailing vocals supplied by the singers, a pair who more often than not composed their own tracks separate from the other. Though once sparse (their first recordings are just voice and guitar), their recordings have blossomed to include Cuban brass notes, Syrian violins, Indian tabla and other brands of percussion. They’ve also taken on collaborators such as world-music maven Manu Chao (an occasional producer) and, on 2008’s Welcome To Mali, art-pop prince Damon Albarn, with whom they played 2007’s Africa Express party at Glastonbury. While Amadou & Mariam have made their own shows into events—2011’s Concerts In The Dark, where their European audiences stood in blackness— the rest of their year included the release of a biographical tome, Away From The Light Of Day, as well as their newest and boldest album, Folila (Because/Nonesuch), recorded with guest stars Santigold, TV On The Radio, Theophilus London and

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Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters). Joke with them that they’re too young to have a biography penned about them and Bagayoko (through a translator) laughs about the recent text written about them: “The book was for our audience to better understand our work and inspirations.” As for their own writings, Amadou & Mariam choose to compose away from each other so to maintain a deliciously separatebut-equal identity. “Creating in an individual way makes our recorded endeavors richer,” says

Doumbia. There are differences to be found to be sure. Bagayoko approaches music and lyrics in a more indirect way, abstractly if you will. Doumbia has a much greater emphasis on the straightforward. “Direct and point, surely,” says Bagayoko of his wife’s songs. “Sans Toi” in particular finds Doumbia telling her husband how much she loves him. “It’s about how much he truly means to me,” she says. Opening themselves up to outside collaborators was always on their horizon. It is their way to portray music as a universal language, something heard through the whine and designed to enhance all levels of connection. Folila, in particular, has a greater base of connectivity into the Americas. Amadou & Mariam liked working with the eerie TV On The Radio because the band has its own universe before it. Santigold was a force of joyful conveyance. “There’s a wider picture with this (new) album, more feeling to be found,” says Bagayoko. “It is the same with these American musicians as it is our Malian collaborators. It is always emotional.” That why they named this album Folila. “It means that we came to play our music,” says Bagayoko. “We share the sound and bring happiness.” Sounds about right. —A.D. Amorosi

photo by Benoit Peverelli


Kids in The sTreeT includes the single

“Beekeeper’s daughter”

My Darkest Days

sick anD twisteD affair includes the first single

“casual sex”


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photo by Aylin Gungor


Mission: Inscrutable Black Dice defies convention—earthly and beyond—on Mr. Impossible Aaron Warren is going through a classic-rock phase: “Cheap Trick, the Ramones, Mötley Crüe.” Given Warren’s out-rock pedigree—he’s one-third of Brooklyn noise-punk outfit Black Dice—this is analogous to Lady Gaga publicly confessing a predilection for Whitehouse singles. From the lopsided hardcore of its early efforts to the deconstructed surf drones laying waste to psyches on 2003’s Beaches & Canyons, to samples smeared like water bugs, to tons of beats dissected and Gorilla-glued back together upside down since then, Black Dice has pursued a resolutely anti-music ethos that’s just next to uncategorizable: not IDM, not house, not drum ‘n’ bass, not rock, not drillcore, not noise, not pop, but rather some glorious, ipecac-saturated vomit puddle of all of those things with a Bomb Squad flexi floating on top. Black Dice has shared stages and collaborations with Exorcist-core cretins Wolf Eyes and psych-tweehouse climbers Animal Collective, but really doesn’t belong in either neighborhood; intriguingly, U.K. duo Autechre might be the only viable antecedent or corollary for this crew’s haunted Speak & Spell autopsies. “(Autechre are) a totally apt comparison; there’s a lot of similarities in approach, especially in terms of beat manipulation and sound processing,” Warren laughs from his home in Greenpoint, where he’s relaxing with his family. “Though I like the idea of that band more than their music.” As staging grounds for note evisceration, rhythm puree and deteriorating timbres, Black Dice songs invite a similar sort of criticism; the group’s 2005 EP is named Broken Ear Record, a title befitting almost every entry in the catalog of a band for whom a clear division of labor was difficult to discern until fairly recently. “Our records are dense; we’re always trying to pack as much stuff in as we can,” says Warren. “Live, I think we’ve become more and more minimal in terms of gear. There was a period where our live setup was kind of absurd—the amount of gear to make a single sound. We’ve been moving in a direction of making solid tunes that are reliable live rock songs.” To that end, each member now assumes a specific role onstage: Warren mans a sampler, Bjorn Copeland wields a guitar, and Eric Copeland plays “mixer feedback, or a mixer plugged into itself.” This metamorpho-

sis began with 2009’s Repo and continues with Mr. Impossible (Ribbon Music). The first aspect of the band’s new material that leaps out is how hard it hits, percussively—how firm, how concussive and how downright authoritative its bass-drum programming sounds, even via earbud headphones. (Mr. Impossible might not be the right platter for paranoia-inducing altered states.) The second? That Warren’s jones for rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t seem quite bizarre, given how Mr. Impossible foregoes a bit of the alien riddim logic that’s long been Black Dice’s stock-in-trade for something decidedly more terrestrial. Take opener “Pinball Wizard,” a brace of sashaying, dry-ice bass guitars, back-masked vocalisms and stippled-drum arms fire that suggests a cross between an interpretation of the James Bond theme and Oneida’s “Brownout In Lagos”—at least until an endless geyser of quizzical synthesizer foam snakes erupts midway through. “We started with a lot of different ingredients,” says Warren. “Bjorn went and made the beats using 1980s Yamaha and Casio keyboards. He’d lay those down as his rhythmic bed; his sense of rhythm is really weird. He had the guitar part. I started doing the weird vocals. We were working on it for a long-ass time, playing it live, then Eric figured out the James Bond bass line. It’s been sort of a challenge for us to make something that has segmented elements that still add up to a song.” An antecedent for the opening bass figure, he notes, is the opening coda to Pink Floyd’s “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.” Elsewhere, “Brunswick Sludge” teases a nyah-nyah come-hither hook through piles of spindled samples, drugged-tone driftwood and silverfish squirming under stones; it’s like a photo-negative, screwed ‘n’ chopped take on early Beck single “Truckdrivin’ Neighbors Downstairs.” “Carnitas” is an atom-smashing digital-drum clinic; “Rodriguez” should’ve actually been titled “Pinball Wizard,” provided that it’s possible to shove an all-cosmos highschool marching band into a Midway arcade cabinet. “Shithouse Drifter” sounds like a bugged-out sonic rendition of “the worm”; the early dark ambient drift of “Spy Vs. Spy” segues and blats into a no-man’s-land between deconstructed R&B, Standards-era Tortoise and the hypnotic, cyclical sway of an active clothes dryer. Last year, Gang Gang Dance

claimed that it was “everything time”; this year, Black Dice actually means it. And when these three find their way into even more immediate material—relatively speaking, of course—it packs a extra-large wallop. “Pigs,” an aerobic party-starter that’s distant kin to Matmos’ “Rainbow Flag,” flails with an unexpected glee, all pumping-piston neon keyboards, monster-mash glossolalia and kazoo-solo abandon; if you were leading a marauding crowd of cannibalistic zombies on a feed raid, “Pigs” is what you’d want blaring through loudspeakers. “It’s a super-fun song to play,” says Warren. “Eric came up with the guitar loops, he had all that. We were like, ‘Holy shit.’ I did the beat and figured out a structure that had movement, then we jammed out Bjorn’s bass part.” “The Jacker” goes further afield with a Transformers-esque effect implying the convulsions of an antique shutter camera, which gives way to a series of grizzly, ratchet-like guitar scales assisted by pedals; the more Black Dice tightens its industrial-sized bolts, the funkier and deeper its sideways jam gets. It’s one of the band’s most user-friendly moments yet, and if the song’s initial version had turned out to be its ultimate iteration, it wouldn’t have been a Black Dice song. “Bjorn had the sample and the riff, and I was like, ‘This sounds like Kid Rock to me in the worst possible way; this is like Limp Bizkit,’” says Warren. “It just felt funky, like RunDMC with Aerosmith. I said, ‘Let’s just go for it—let’s beef it up to this extreme level.’” So, Mr. Impossible winds up being that rare crossover record that doesn’t feel anything like a crossover record; you don’t leave with the sense that Black Dice is pandering for votes so much as that it has come up with new and innovative ways to bow-tie your synapses. The album’s title itself is a joke, a phrase the group bandied about while hammering the set’s songs into shape: “Is that Mr. Impossible?” “No, that’s not Mr. Impossible. That’s Mr. Impossible.” “Eric came up with that,” says Warren. “It’s like a concept record. It’s not even a joke; it’s a stupid thing, a tribute to the absurdity of how we do this band.” With each successive release, Warren admits, “we always think, ‘This is the one everyone is gonna get,’ but then it doesn’t pan out that way.” —Raymond Cummings

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photo by Cybele Malinowski


Get Serious Tim Fite is right to party—conscientiously—on Ain’t Ain’t Ain’t The road is where it started, the path Tim Sullivan took to becoming Tim Fite. The road isn’t some Robert Frost-type metaphor, either; it’s an actual place, located somewhere way the hell out in western New Jersey, where homes are hidden deep in the woods, away from civilization. “We had three TV channels in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees,” says Fite, sitting in a diner booth in his Brooklyn neighborhood. In order to entertain themselves, he and his brother had to leave the woods and go to the road. “It was the road or nothing,” says Fite. He began writing songs on that road. He, his brother and the only other two kids in a five-mile radius formed a band: Tim And The Dead Meats. “We had a pretty exciting repertoire,” says Fite with an impish chuckle. “Songs about going up to the road, being bad on the road, messing with cars on the road. We tried to curse as many different curses in a row as possible.” The road served him well. At Rutgers University, Fite and some friends formed the popular Little-T & One Track Mike, a group that wrote and performed “jokey rap songs.” They created enough of a buzz that after college, Atlantic Records offered them a big ol’ deal and funded a video for the song “Shaniqua,” which found its way into MTV’s rotation. “It was all very flashy, but not what I wanted to be doing,” says Fite, who was more interested in the black nationalist rhymes of De La Soul, Paris and X-Clan than the goofy fare he himself was churning out. On the side, he was making his own music. When the label yanked the contract, the band dissolved, and Fite decided to pursue his solo project in earnest. “I started really thinking about how many different sounds there were in the world,” he says. “Before that, I came at (music) as the kid who lives in the woods, mixed with, ‘I listen to rap music; let me find the most familiar loops and mess with those.’ So, I crammed those two (approaches) together and tried to kill some of the familiarity, because I tried shiny, and it got dull pretty fast.” Fite’s first two albums of lyrically rich, socially conscious, folksy hip-hop/twang tunes

(2005’s Gone Ain’t Gone and 2008’s Fair Ain’t Fair) used samples from dollar-bin records. But for the final installment of the trilogy, the new Ain’t Ain’t Ain’t (Anti-), Fite fell back on his fascination with everyday sounds. He and his band created and catalogued as many as they could, and Fite wrote the LP as a collage, using pieces of the massive library for his songs’ bewitching, groove-laden foundations. “All of the initial recording was done without any songs written; (we were) just collecting sounds,” says Fite. He and drummer Justin Riddle literally took sticks and hit things, including pipes, buckets, water bowls and traditional drums. “So, I have the beat, I have all the elements of the beat, and I can put it together,” says Fite, whose friends (including Osei Essed, Daniel Saks and Rob Badenoch) followed the same sort of procedure with various string instruments and pianos. But whereas other musicians would’ve been satisfied with the trove that had been amassed, Fite created heaps more unorthodox additions: clanging chains, fireworks, a lawnmower, nature recordings, a cork popgun, metal sculptures and a host of other bizarre entries. The album chugs, bangs, hums and rattles in a way that simultaneously recalls the industrial revolution and the streets of the South Bronx. “I would love it if I could record every sound that comes at me,” says Fite, whose library verges on one terabyte of memory. “I am greedy.” Maybe so, but he’s also known for giving stuff away. In 2007, Fite released Over The Counter Culture for free via his website. Critics from the L.A. Times and Chicago Sun-Times spewed accolades in his direction. He kept releasing albums and EPs for free, the latest of which was 2010’s Under The Table Tennis. In an age where there’s so little cash to be made from record sales, every little bit of coin counts. So, what the hell is this guy thinking? “I gotta give more away, which is what I’m thinking now,” he says with a chuckle. “In a lot of ways, those are my most successful records. I’m sure just as many people who downloaded those for free went and stole copies of the ones that I sold. As far as I’m concerned,

it isn’t necessarily wrong. The music business is a mess; nobody’s making money. We aren’t selling records; we’re selling T-shirts. Might as well be singing retail people at the Gap. I’d rather people listen to the songs than don’t.” Common sense aside, this is coming from a guy who has a strong activist spirit, who creates all of his material with a sense of the political in mind. Consumer excess has been a common theme throughout his trilogy, with a focus on economic inequality and the overall segregation of the human race. It’s crucial for Fite to speak out on such topics; though raised by his parents to know the difference between right and wrong, “I grew up around bigots,” he says of his hometown community. “If ever there was evidence of a white devil, I was surrounded by them.” At the heart of Ain’t Ain’t Ain’t is Fite’s wrestling with “that weird, emotional Gaza Strip” of the alienating adolescent years. Whether he’s drawling about insecurities on “We Are All Teenagers” or spitting warnings on “Bully,” Fite engages a perspective that forces listeners to see the bigger picture. “It might get worse than this,” he counsels the title character in “Girard,” “before it gets better and better and better.” Says Fite, “That was one of the songs that made me realize what the album was about. It gets at this kind of manic optimism that I have never had, but I’ve tried to make it such as of lately just so that I can continue.” A twinge of playful craziness lights up his eyes. “It’s gonna be better and better and better aaaaggghhhh!!” The album also allows Fite to return to a time in his life where he felt the least burdened. “When did I have no fear?” he asks. “When didn’t I give a fuck? I didn’t when I was a teenager. I gave a fuck about the right things, not about the dumb things.” He’s looking to get back there, hoping all the experience he’s amassed will help, rather than hinder him. “Ain’t Ain’t Ain’t is the triple negative; it wipes all the slates clean,” says Fite. “But you still see all the dust on the board. In all (the album’s) adolescent ideas, there’s a real old man writing those songs. I like that.” —Jeanne Fury

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A Love Supreme Teenage Fanclub’s Gerard Love sets sail with Lightships One of the finest things to come out of Glasgow—alongside the mighty Glasgow Celtic FC, peerless Victorian architecture and sarcasm as a spectator sport—is, undoubtedly, Gerard Love. Bass player and singer/songwriter with Teenage Fanclub (whose continuing existence simply makes the world a better place) and part-time Pastels member, he’s just completed his first solo project. It’s entitled Lightships, and it’s completely wonderful. If you’re a fan of the Fanclub, and if you’ve ever daydreamed about an entire album’s worth of Love’s patented brand of wistful, sun-dappled romanticism, look no further than Electric Cables (Domino). What’s more, it features some of Glasgow’s finest musicians in sparkling form throughout. Not that this was ever intended as some kind of Glaswegian supergroup. There were more practical aspects to take on board when it came to recording. “I didn’t really have a lot of time to rehearse the record,” says Love, “because I was busy

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with things like Teenage Fanclub and the Pastels, so I had to have people that had experience in the studio, ’cause sometimes you’ll get musicians who get the real red-light fever. You know, when it comes to the time to record, they freeze, so I needed people who could deal with that kind of pressure. It was easy, really, I just turned to people in Glasgow I knew socially, or musically, or both. “Like Brendan (O’Hare), the first drummer with the Fanclub. I mean, I love him, and I thought it would be great to get him involved, and Bob (Kildea), I knew from pubs and gigs in Glasgow, and he ended up with Belle And Sebastian. Then there’s Tom Crossley, who plays flute with the Pastels; he’s a good friend. And there’s Dave McGowan, who’s the multi-instrumentalist with Teenage Fanclub. And I got Jim McCulloch, who used to be in the Soup Dragons. I’ve known Jim since I was at school; I used to run about with his brother ... ” Electric Cables is, above all else, a beautiful-sounding album, a hazy, shimmering, slow burner of a record featuring gorgeous

harmonies, yearning melodies and a whole load of tremolo. It has the sound of summer written all over it. “Aye, it is quite twinkly,” laughs Love. As for musical influences, he’s quick to point out there was no real single defining direction for the LP. “I do listen to a lot of psychedelic music,” he says, “but I wouldn’t say there was any one band or style I was trying to push with this. I think it’s an amalgamation of 20 years’ worth of listening to all sorts. I suppose I was listening to a lot of Fred Neil, and a lot of the Tropicalia stuff, early Os Mutantes stuff. I do love that whole kind of Technicolor explosion thing, but I wouldn’t say I was working in one single dimension … It was exciting making it, and a wee bit scary, too, but I’m really, really satisfied with it.” And so should you be. It’s Gerry Love, one of the Glasgow scene’s genuine good guys at the absolute top of his game. Sit back, relax, and enjoy: You’re in the hands of a professional. —Neil Ferguson

photo by cat stevens


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Into the Unknown On Open Your Heart, NYC punks the Men ask for open minds, too

Don’t believe everything you read. Since last year’s Leave Home, the second album from Brooklyn foursome the Men, started making waves among rock critics, the band has been dubbed noise rock, heralded as the leader of a pigfuck resurgence and saddled with some heavy expectations for third album Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones). That doesn’t all sit well with guitarist Mark Perro. “I never liked the boundaries of being a ‘noise rock’ band or anything like that,” he says. “I’ve always just seen (us) as a band, plain and simple—a group of friends playing music together, and whatever that means, it means. If people expect something specific out of us, they are going to be severely disappointed.” Listen to Open Your Heart with an open mind, and the opposite is true. The Men set a compelling template for forceful (and yeah, hardcore-indebted) psych rock on the raging Immaculada and Leave Home records. But LP number three invites a surplus of new ideas. Take, for example, the title track (and the album’s first single), which promptly demol-

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ishes the sludge-caked mold with a ringing Buzzcocks-meets-Replacements pop blast. “Candy,” which immediately follows, ambles along with an acoustic-guitar strum and steelguitar smears for a country-rock groove. “We were definitely trying to create a warmer record,” says Perro. “Leave Home was very abrasive and loud and raw, which is cool. That’s what we were trying to do. But once you do that, it kind of sours the idea. You’ve done it, and if anything, it almost turned us off that idea completely. We wanted to make the completely opposite record— a record about warmth, and tone. Something a little more emotional and, honestly, with better songs. We put a much heavier emphasis on the songs themselves, rather than this noise wall.” In addition to the Men’s core quartet— Perro, Nick Chiericozzi (who, like Perro, sings and plays guitar), drummer Rich Samis and bassist Chris Hansell—Open Your Heart features ample contributions from producer Ben Greenberg (also of jazz-skronk aces Zs and noise-addled Black Flag-bearers Pygmy

Shrews). Greenberg joined the Men full-time when Hansell left earlier this year. The record also brings sometimes-roadie and steel-guitar player Kevin Faulkner to the fore. Not only did he add textures to songs like “Animal,” “Country Song” and “Candy,” he brought his own Americana influences into the band. And when it comes to taking influences, the Men aren’t shy. “I think it’s part of rock ‘n’ roll tradition—American music tradition,” says Perro. “Whether it’s the Byrds or the Hollies covering Dylan, or Spacemen 3 covering the MC5, whatever it is, it’s embracing what came before you, acknowledging that, and incorporating that into what you are doing.” That’s not to say the band’s feedbackfired fury has dissipated, though. On “Please Don’t Go Away,” the Men’s punk fury wakes up bleary dreampop; on “Cube,” it roars back to levels unseen since Immaculada. Perro says the goal isn’t to get away from the band’s punk roots; that would be futile. Instead, the aim of Open Your Heart was to expand upon what the Men could sound like. Clearly, it’s more than just noise rock. —Bryan C. Reed

photo by Kevin Faulkner


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Delirium Tremors The hype is worth believing when it comes to Alabama Shakes

First, a little context: There is no day more sacred or more beloved in Nashville than Record Store Day, the annual event celebrating all-things vinyl. Everybody from the mayor to your neighbor gets in on the festivities, packing out the city’s platter-pushers to grab limited-edition releases and catch free shows, with some even going so far as to camp out the night before so they can make sure to get everything they want. From industry insiders to Average Joe music lovers, Music City makes Record Store Day into a high holy day, with throngs of bands and fans paying tribute to the folks that keep our turntables spinning. It’s kind of a big deal. So, when a new band makes a big splash on Record Store Day, becomes the topic of mass texts and excited conversations amongst otherwise jaded folks typically preoccupied with keeping their beers full and arms crossed at the back of the crowd, you know you’ve found something special. The Alabama Shakes, from the North ’Bama town of Athens (just a hop,

photo by Autumn de Wilde

skip and a jump down the road from Muscle Shoals), are exactly that band. Their 20-minute show of barebones rock ‘n’ soul at the Groove was one of those “I’ve seen the future of rock ‘n’ roll and its name is ... ” moments. Or at least—and our inbox will attest—that’s what people told us, incessantly, for weeks. But the Shakes’ sudden rise—selling out shows nationally and internationally with only an EP to their name, their signing with the artist-friendly ATO label and appearing on Conan before debut album Boys & Girls even hits stores—is proof that our hyperbole-loving peers may just have been on to something. That their performance that afternoon would set off a chain of events that would propel them to such lofty heights is as much a surprise to them as it is to anybody. “That show at the Groove, it turned out bigger than anyone thought it would,” says drummer Steve Johnson. “It was a great show—we got to play with Hacienda, they had the little taco bus out there, I bought

some cool records, I had a great time—but it was just like any other show at the time. I didn’t really understand what the hype was about. We were basically playing in someone’s backyard.” Fortunately, it was a backyard full of movers and shakers, as this is exactly the kind of band—a band with grit and integrity, a band with fire in its belly and enough soul to set the world ablaze—that the Botox-lipped landscape of pop music in 2012 so desperately needs. The Alabama Shakes are a band without artifice, a band whose appeal is not carefully calculated in some corporate backroom, but rather springs forth from the very essence of its being. The Shakes are the sort of band primed to make a big impact, and it’s not because some suits pulled their name out of some cost-benefit analysis spreadsheet, but because they are a band that makes music for real, honest-to-god music fans. Which is, frankly, the only thing that matters on Record Store Day. —Sean L. Maloney

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Dream Girl

Shoegaze outfit Anne makes the most of all things post-

When you think of bands sticking to their roots while simultaneously upending them with extreme prejudice, there are few better examples than Portland, Ore.’s Anne. Veterans of hardcore outfit Physical Challenge, guitarist/vocalist David Lindell and keyboardist Brenton Salo took a 180-degree step away from rapid-fire barre-chord riffs, vein-bulging hollerin’ and moshpit workouts in creating their follow-up project. It starts with the gentility of their moniker and the clean-cut, youth crew aesthetic usurped by beards and thrift store duds, and continues with overt circle pit aggression being replaced with ethereal and spacious rock. “Brent and I had known each other from playing in Physical Challenge together,” says Lindell. “We got together in the winter of 2010, wrote our first demo and did a couple of tours with a different lineup. I have a small recording studio and recorded our current drummer and bass player’s other projects, and that’s how we got linked up with them.” He laughs. “It’s generally not a very interesting story. Basic-

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ally, we got done with one project and moved on to another one. Personally, I’ve always been interested in lots of different music, and any project I’ve done has the tendency to sound different than what I did previously. I also think a lot of it is getting older and getting interested in a wide variety of things, and wanting to do something a little more pop-oriented than what I’d done before.” Unlike Physical Challenge, which made no bones about its hardcore being, well, very hardcore, Anne blurs lines and shakes up worlds for both participant and listener. The best describer for what the band does on debut full-length Dream Punx (“The name is us just having fun and being cheeky,” says Lindell. “There will be people who will be like, ‘What the fuck?!’”) could be shoegaze, but its effects-heavy style is also informed by strains of noise rock and ’80s new wave, creating a unique sound that sears and grinds as much as it floats and soars, with songs straddling the line between structured composition and linear soundscape.

At the same time, Anne has maintained connections to the hardcore scene. First, via DIY tours, and second, having Dream Punx released by Baltimore’s A389 Records, a label more in tune with metallic hardcore purveyed by the likes of bands with handles like Full Of Hell, Rot In Hell, Integrity and Gehenna. “We had exchanged emails because I knew that (label boss) Dom (Romeo) really liked our Mixtapeone (release),” says Lindell. “At first, he was probably more hesitant than we were, for obvious reasons. But for us, I find it interesting because everyone in the band came up through punk and hardcore and we’re super-familiar with the stuff he puts out, so if anything, I enjoy the idea of being put in an unusual place. It helps and hurts, but there has been more positive response because, from my own experience, people into punk and hardcore listen to a wide variety of music and I think they see a band like us who relates to their aesthetic and mindset.” —Kevin Stewart-Panko

photo by Brenton Salo


on the record a conversation with the magnetic Fields’

Stephin Merritt Stephin Merritt lives a life of privilege. Not because he is or isn’t particularly wealthy. At 45, the wry composer of modern musicals, silent film scores and songs for longtime ensemble Magnetic Fields is cherished, vaunted for each lyrical twist and sonic decision he’s made since starting that band with Claudia Gonson in 1991. Every wordy work Merritt executes is happily awaited—funny when you consider the often dour nature of his writing. Yet Merritt, like Sondheim or Lynch, has crafted a moody, catty niche—an itch—that only he can scratch. In the last 15 months, Merritt’s been particular itchy and, in some ways, backward-looking. Along with participating in a documentary on his life, Strange Powers, he released an album of rarities (Obscurities), returned to the label that pushed his epic 69 Love Songs onto the world (Merge) and gathered his Magnetic Fields for their first synth-heavy enterprise in years, the short-song-filled Love At The Bottom Of The Sea. Having moved to Los Angeles several years ago, he caught up with MAGNET closer to his old stomping grounds—NYC’s Washington Square Park—where he talked about kids, synths, love and reality TV. Do you think as you’ve grown older you’ve become more sentimental, more willing to look backward with feeling? Nothing saccharine, mind you. I don’t think so. Actually, I think I’ve grown less sentimental. Why do you ask? In the last many months, you’re doing things—seemingly happily—in ways that you did previously. Since I don’t think of you as an artist who repeats himself or runs out of ideas, these moves could be misconstrued as backward-looking. Like working with Merge again. I’m not going to answer that part of the question because any possible answer will insult someone. I like to be nice to all people I work with. It’s better to keep business out of music. It’s like talking about your children. What you say could be potentially devastating.

of the new record aren’t so much synthesized as they are oscillators and noise generators. Are you a tech head? I’m not really a tech head per se. I just happen to buy things that other people don’t in order to make unconventional sounds. When I was growing up in the early ’80s, every record I loved had sounds I’d never heard before on them. I tried to do that as much as possible. Not to equate you with your lyrics, but looking at a new song of yours such as “The Machine In Your Hand,” you wouldn’t seem to be cheered by tech stuff. I tried to make that song a mash-up of Ultravox’s “I Want To Be A Machine” and the ABBA song “Dum Dum Diddle,” which is about wanting to be the violin that the antagonist plays.

If only we could devastate kids so easily just by just talking about them. We could always just throw them out of the airlock and stop worrying about them—just like at the end of Alien Resurrection.

And for each, I thank you. I don’t want to weigh so heavily on someone else here, but the people who made Strange Powers were in your life for some time filming. After all that time and all that recounting, did you glean anything about yourself? No. What I learned from the process is its artificiality.

How about working with sequencers and synthesizers again after a trilogy’s worth of un-synthetic stuff (i, Distortion, Realism)? I know the sounds and the equipment aren’t the same as in the past, but ... A lot of the noises you hear on the foreground

Did you think of it as one would reality television? I’ve never seen reality TV. I don’t have a television. Though I do think I saw Wife Swap with the sound down. Or Celebrity Wife Swap. They do show those programs in gay bars every so often.

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That’s some bar. Harsh, that. Cocktails help. I love short concerts and brief albums. Was creating songs of such brevity an experiment or just an organic thing—just how the songs came out? Honestly, it was just how the songs came out. I stopped trying to add extra choruses on the end of songs that were a respectable length. Now, I’m on a campaign to shorten song length to what it was in the 20th century. It used to be that songs longer than two minutes and 50 seconds didn’t get played on the radio. They wouldn’t fit on a 45 rpm record. “Andrew In Drag” is A-B-A-B-A-B-A while emphatically lacking a final chorus. But why would I need one after three choruses? Do you feel as if lyrically on a song such as “Andrew” and “Born For Love” that you’re looking for an economy of message to suit the bluntness of the song? Hmmm. I don’t know. I like economy. I like being terse. I send incomprehensively telegraphic emails. I’m into miniaturation. I drive a Mini Cooper. I own a Chihuahua. I’m five-foot-three. I live in a studio apartment in New York City and have, in Los Angeles, a bungalow that, though small, is, by New York City standards, huge. Not to play MTV Cribs with you, but do you live spartanly? Do you have a minimalist’s touch, or are you all splashy and decorative? Neither. Every space is covered with books, records, CDs and DVDs. Are you a fan of Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” short story? Much of the elegant feminine economy of the new album reminds me of that story. Hemingway’s short stories? When I read them, they all became one: “Kilimanjaro.” They’re all lessons in masculinity with a very Japanese sense of honor. How about Noël Coward? Are you a fan? I ask because the new album has a tune called “The Horrible Party” that feels so much like Coward’s “I Went To A Marvellous Party.” It has a similar lonely awful feel to it. I don’t think much of him as a songwriter. I love Blithe Spirit, though. His songs don’t resonate with me. His plays do. Then again, that awful party song is, subconsciously, part of a long history of terrible party songs such as Joni Mitchell’s “People’s Parties” from Court And Spark and Phil Ochs’ “The Party.”

photo by marcelo Krasilcic


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Soul Meets Body Nneka keeps it real on her most varied record yet

As music fans, we tend to project ourselves onto the art of others, extrapolating from personal and political connections that may or may not exist. It’s easy to imagine seeing eye-to-eye with an artist whose aesthetic you are completely enamored with. It’s easy to imagine that both of your life experiences are leading you down the same path with the same results, that you’ll always be on the same page. But more often than that, you lead divergent lives, go in different directions; your projections miss the mark and leave you disappointed. Basically, when you really love an artist and their art, you’re setting your self up for a letdown. Unless you’re talking about Nneka. The Nigerian singer, whose music—an infectious mélange of hip-hop rhythms, dub productions, Afrobeats, jazz and R&B of the classic-soul variety—is about as tough to describe as it is to deny, manages to exceed the expectations of her trans-global fan base with her latest album, Soul Is Heavy (Yo Mama’s

photo by Jens Boldt

Recordings/Decon). The follow-up to 2010’s criminally overlooked Concrete Jungle, Soul Is Heavy is a document of an artist who has crossed the transom from youthful, revolutionary fervor to hardened adult resolve to affect actual and lasting change. More nuanced—emotionally and musically—than her previous work, Soul Is Heavy makes the case that the most potent and cutting criticisms are often soft-spoken rather than shouted. “I didn’t think too much this time around,” says Nneka. “I didn’t want it to be the typical Nneka sound: heavy, rough, rebellious, the Nneka sounds from (previous albums) Victim Of Truth and No Longer At Ease. There’s another side of me that I had to let out. That’s something that I needed to able to grow, to let that person out, accept something new to receive something new ... I evolve, and I need that for my piece of mind. I don’t like to be put in a box.” And Soul Is Heavy is just that, an evolutionary step rather than a revolutionary one,

bringing the best moments of Nneka’s previous works and incorporating them into a smoother, stronger, more cohesive whole. Nneka doesn’t stay in the box that has critics referencing Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, but rather builds upon it, pushing her into a rarified position where comparisons to other artists are irrelevant. There may be moments that sound familiar—the hard-strummed folk of “Do You Love Me,” the martial riddim of “Camouflage,” the string-heavy boom-bap of “Stay”—but on Soul Is Heavy, those moments blur in such a way that there’s no question that you’re listening to artist of unique voice and vision. That those blurs are also what makes Soul her most accessible, pop-leaning album to date is incidental. “This is a natural thing; I’m not trying please anybody,” she says. “That’s like losing my soul. I wouldn’t do what people want to hear or what I think is going to sell. Nah, that would not add to me or give me anything.” —Sean L. Maloney

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What has changed most about your relationship to Claudia (Gonson) in the 20-plus years you’ve known her? Well, she had a baby, so the focus of her life is less about me and more about her child. Managing me is no longer paramount to her, and rightly so. Is that good or bad for you? I don’t know yet, as it’s only been a year and a half. It’s bad for me in the sense that when I went to reach Claudia, she was unreachable for a few months because she wasn’t getting much sleep. And a sleepless Claudia is an unhappy Claudia. Claudia’s child aside, do you like children? No comment. Not so long ago, you created a score for the silent 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, the 1916 version. I know you’re a silent film fan. How did that change the game? I go to silent film concerts in Los Angeles a

lot. There’s a great silent film theater there. I haven’t seen The Artist yet, though I know I should. And Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie doesn’t count as a silent movie. In regard to “All She Cares About Is Mariachi,” why do you care about mariachi? Well, I live in a Latin neighborhood, so I hear that music a lot. Spanish music is all you hear on the radio there. That said, I think about mariachi because I have a mariachi bass near my bed. It’s the first thing I see every morning. I look positively ridiculous holding it, it’s so huge. Do you feel as if you write lyrics behind the eyes of each character, as if you’re living through the character? Most songs aren’t long enough to develop a sense of character ... Well, that’s your fault. I think my characters are more like stick fig-

ures. Sketchy, really. Most of them are filled with aspects of me. The situation in “Your Girlfriend’s Face” really is my revenge fantasy. I haven’t had anyone killed. Especially on crystal meth. But I thought about it. Long and hard. It’s a songwriter’s prerogative to change one’s mind, but any time previously that I have interviewed you, it seemed as if your lyrics eschewed autobiography. My songs are mostly strings of clichés. I don’t need to eschew the autobiographical. I don’t know whether you are in one or not, but do you like being in a relationship when you are? I’m single at the moment and am not quite certain how I would go about being otherwise, especially now when I’ll be away from my home most of the year, running around the country, I think I’m becoming like John Waters: married to my work. —A.D. Amorosi

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/music

Here’s a sampling of some of the exclusive

Record Store Day releases.

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Christmas In April by Andrea Trace

Record Store Day

—the very best day of the year. Scads of high-quality releases made just for us by artists of the finest caliber. This is the day music junkies and collectors gather en masse at independent bricks-andmortar retail to grab the grooviest discs at the coolest shops. Before we go any further and start delving into the treats, let’s get this out of the way: Quantities Are Limited. Obviously, huh? Indie stores order what they know their customers want and then sit back and wait, hoping for delivery of the goods. It’s like a giant Easter egg hunt except the prizes are hidden in over 35 countries around the world. Everybody wants to walk away with the shiniest chocolate footballs. As retailers, we may not get everything we wish for, but we’ve never had a year when stores were not crammed full of amazing musical treats. (This year there’s even a t-shirt designed by Tom Waits. Sick.) Iggy Pop is the Record Store Day ambassador for RSD 2012 and he has plenty to say about working in records stores, hanging out in record stores, shopping in record stores, getting gigs (and chicks) through records stores, meeting people and hearing new music. Check out recordstoreday.com for all Iggy’s comments and a slew of other artist’s words of wisdom. For most musicians and fans, IGGY life happens in record stores and that is what we are celebrating. It’s what the big day is meant to preserve. So much for the higher purpose. The fun part is finding and scoring the treasures. Everybody has their wish list and the gems that they are hoping to score. (Me, I’m happy that Ryan Adams and The Flaming Lips have once again come forward with cool exclusive tracks. Also on my list: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Wilco, Arcade Fire, Phish, Joey Ramone, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith… it’s astounding what’s coming.) Every year sees more artists participating, more stores involved and a greater number of special releases. 2012 marks the 5th Anniversary of Record Store Day, building strongly on the successes of previous years. Founded in 2007, the brainchild of Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave

and Brian Poehner, Record Store Day has been so well received that it’s spread quickly across the globe, serving the interests of music fans around the world. The rapidly increasing level of interest is echoed by the accelerating participation of A-list musicians. It’s a testament to the importance of independent record stores in building a thriving music community. Top artists are eager to participate in Record Store Day and offer exclusive music to independent retailers. In 2011, 600 artists made in-store appearances on Record Store Day making it the largest music event of its kind in the world. The 182,000 bump in items sold for that week was one more card in the hand of those of us who believe in the viability of physical discs (vinyl and digital) and the enduring nature of the record store as social hub. As Iggy says: “A person should have a personality. You won’t get one dicking around on a computer. It helps to go somewhere where there are other persons. Persons who are interested in something you are. That’s how a record store or any shop that’s got some life to it should work. It’s not about selling shit. I got my name, my musical education and my personality all from working at a record store during my tender years. Small indie shops have always been a mix of theater and POP laboratory. In the 50’s and 60’s the teen kids used to gather after school at these places to listen free to the latest singles and see if they liked the beat.” Have a look at some of the personality on offer on Saturday April 21st at your favourite indie shop. There are so many titles and details, I can’t list it all here. It’s all posted to www.facebook. com/sunriserecords (The computer does offer some useful features, after all.)

It’s not about selling shit. I got my name, my musical education and my personality all from working at a record store during my tender years.

Record Store Day is managed by the Music Monitor Network and is organized in partnership with the Alliance of Independent Media Stores (AIMS), the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) and celebrates the culture of independent record stores by playing host to in-store events/performances, signings and special product releases on a global scale. needle

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A (somewhat) healthy Jason Pierce reaches to the heavens for Spiritualized’s latest opus. story by

Tom Lanham photos by

Steve Gullick

Film director Cecil B. DeMille once dubbed the act of creation as “a drug I can’t do without.” McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc saw creativity as merely a “highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.” And as trailblazing artist Antonin Artaud observed, “No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built or invented except literally to get out of hell.” And somewhere perfectly triangulated between these three aphorisms squarely sits Sweet Heart Sweet Light, the latest magnum opus from Jason Pierce and his amorphous outfit Spiritualized. In its own surreal stratosphere, equidistant from—and representative of—addictive opiate, elbow grease and destructive Ahab-vs.-Moby-Dick obsession.

And the shaggy-haired, whip-thin Pierce can’t wait to talk about this new self-produced Spiritualized set, released on adventurous Mississippi-based imprint Fat Possum. How it was recorded over two years in Wales, Los Angeles, even Reykjavik. Then painstakingly mixed for a full year at his home in England, employing a fully loaded laptop, giant sound-clarifying speakers and an engineer who dropped by for daily sessions. But there’s just one little problem: The 10-song advance sent out to press is not the final version of the album. Far from it. “I felt I had to finish mixing before I got to America,” Pierce explains of his Great White Whale, puttering around his hotel room in New York, where he’s flown in for a few days of press. “Otherwise I’d feel like some traveling medicine man, one of those quacks who’s trying to sell you a cure that I haven’t got. So, now I’ve got this unenviable position—you guys are listening to one record, and I’ve got a different record. Similar in shape, but a different record.”

The evidence on offer so far, however, is fairly compelling. “There’s 40 seconds more music that nobody’s heard,” Pierce cautions. But at this writing, what we have is this: Sweet Heart Sweet Light opens with 8:44 epic “Hey Jane,” with ching-chinging guitar, a wah-oohed chorus and a dissonant bridge that expands into swelling variations on the original motif. Next: four-plus minutes of “Little Girl,” a Phil Spector-symphonic shuffler with Pierce’s haunted murmur over mortality-laced lyrics like “Sometimes I wish that I was dead/’Cause only the living can feel the pain.” A vindictive “Get What You Deserve” follows, at 6:50, with a paisley mix swirling over skeletal percussion. Then, piano/orchestral waltz “Too Late” (with wry lyrical observations like “Don’t touch the flame and you’ll never find out/My mama said that’s what love’s all about”). On the fifth track, “Heading For The Top,” things start to shift, skew slightly off-kilter. It’s powered by a chugging riff with ornate, bee-buzzing filigrees sidewind-

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I had home medication, I think it’s called, when I was mixing the album. I had to have a course of chemo, and I figured the best place to do it was at home. While I was mixing. And mixing is hard enough anyway; it’s always a chore. So, I figured I’d get all of the chores out of the way in one go.

ing around it, underscored by barrelhouse keyboards. Pierce’s voice weaves in and out, hypnotically, as more and more instruments are tossed in, until he dials the fever back down with a delicate ballad, “Freedom,” and thoughts like “They’re pushing my life right over/Getting so tired and alone/And I’m living my life on a prayer now.” The sermon is punctuated by a chorus (“Freedom is yours if you want it”) that builds to a huge, rafter-rattling gospel crescendo. “I Am What I Am,” co-penned several years ago with Dr. John, follows, all rattlesnake rhythm,

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squealing guitar and more gospel-grand backing vocals, topped off by a six-minute “Mary” (which gradually revs up to discordant cement-mixer velocity), then “Life Is A Problem” (with serious strings and Pierce’s humble, if awkward, plea “Jesus won’t you be my radio?/Broadcast directions where I gotta go”). The work closes with “So Long You Pretty Things,” which ratchets upward into another church-chiming climax over its 7:53 running time and sounds almost like a prayer: “Help me Lord, help me Jesus/’Cause I’m lonely and tired … I’ve got no reason to believe in anything.” And as it closes, Sweet Heart Sweet Light sates the listener as a fully satisfying experience, a record that can—and should—be listened to as a whole, from start to finish. The kind of effort that artists just don’t seem to be making anymore. Which is exactly the point of the whole exercise, according to Pierce, who recently performed Sweet Heart notefor-note in an unannounced concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, backed by 58 musicians, including 12 string players and a choir. The big plan, he says, was to compile his all-time favorite long-players—Captain Beefheart’s Clear Spot, Jukebox Babe by Suicide’s rockabilly-loving Alan Vega, Royal Trux’s Accelerator, the booming records Link Wray made in the ’70s, pre-Robert Gordon—and focus on the magical spark that set them in motion. “These weren’t albums claiming to be the greatest records ever made,” says Pierce. “All the great ones are made by kids, 19 to 24, who’ve got that arrogance and stupidity of youth and that certain singular vision. And as you get older, you soak up wisdom, whether you want to or not. So, the records I honed in on were the ones that had a bit of wisdom. I wanted to make a record like that, kind of befitting my age, if you like.” And that’s where obsession entered the picture. Ask Pierce about the sound effect opening “Life Is A Problem” (is it squeaky cart wheels or an unusually energetic songbird?), and he chuckles impishly, replying, “I don’t know— depends on whether you got the bird or the squeaky-cart mix!” And he’s only half-joking. Studios in Britain rent for upward of 400 pounds a day, he says, so he chose to do his own mixing at home. “And the engineer came and went as needed,” he says. “And he would be the first to admit that he was doing three-hour days some days, and sometimes three-hour weeks. So, we allowed time. If I was in a commercial studio, I’d be doing 12-hour days and trying to make use of the facilities—you work right ’til the end of the day, and then you go, ‘My ears are shot—let’s come back tomorrow.’ But your ears are still shot the next day if you’re working those kinds of hours.” The actual recording of Sweet Heart Sweet Light? No complaints, swears the ex-Spacemen 3 founder, who spun off with Spiritualized back in 1990. “But mixing is just the tough bit, because you can go anywhere,” he says. “All of my records can be the most glorious, the most beauti-


ful, the most far-reaching. But I want the most intimate, fragile, tiny details, and I want all of that in the same five seconds of mix. So, I always get, uh, kind of wrapped up in it, because it’s all about the mix, all about the balancing. Something’s either too bass, too treble, too loud or too quiet—it’s really simple, but it’s all in the way that that’s balanced and put together.” Friends have kidded the singer/guitarist about his fascination with sonic minutiae. “Even people that were involved with this record did,” he laughs. “But they have this idea that you make broad moves and put the track up on a desk, and then all the tiny moves I make at the end, in the last eight months, are just for me. But they’re the same tiny moves I make at the start. It’s just the difference in the way a slightly louder vocal makes you hear the rest of band in a different way, or the way a slightly louder drum anchors the whole thing. There are a ton of variations, a million ways to mix the stuff, and I kind of wanna pursue it all.” Compounding this were health issues. Nothing new for Pierce, who in 2005 contracted pneumonia, which went undiagnosed while he labored over his last Spiritualized epic, 2008’s Songs In A & E. “I’d lost 100 pounds,” he said at the time. “I came back from Barcelona—I was playing records in a club over there—and I was thinking, ‘Security is gonna pull me over here, because I’m not looking too good. I’m like the walking dead. I look pretty shocking.’ Some time around then, I thought, ‘Hmmm … something’s not right.’ And the doctor put me straight into the hospital; he said it was nothing to mess around with.” Indeed. Clinically, Pierce died twice during his lengthy stay there. Then he spent several bedridden months at home, recuperating. “It took a long time to get over, maybe a year, because I’d lost a lot of weight,” he recalls. “That’s why I thought ‘A&E,’ ‘Accident & Emergency,’ worked well for the title of that record—that’s kind of how I lived my life. Everything seems like an accident or an emergency; I don’t have any middle ground.” Ask Pierce how he’s doing right now, and he insists he’s fine, then waffles. It’s not getting lost in his own music that keeps him so wiry. “I think I have illnesses in between,” he says. “I go through them, then have periods of nursing in the hospital. So, it’s the hospital food, you see. You don’t pay for what you get there; you get what you’re given, and there’s a recession on, isn’t there?” Did the musician (whose Spiritualized website is divided into four medical-themed sections: Prescriptions, Admissions, Pharmacy and Outpatients) wind up in A&E again? “No, I had home medication, I think it’s called, when I was mixing the album,” he replies, cryptically. “I had to have a course of chemo, and I figured the best place to do it was at home. While I was mixing. And mixing is hard enough anyway; it’s always a chore. So, I figured I’d get all of the chores out of the way in one go.” Chemo?! Is Pierce kidding?

“It’d be a weird joke if I was, wouldn’t it?” he snickers. “But no, I didn’t have cancer. It’s just a load of … I’m not gonna talk about it because I don’t even know if it’s worked.” He pauses. “Well, I have already talked about it, I guess. But I’m not gonna go into any more detail, because I don’t know if I’m well yet. But I’m feeling all right. I feel great.” Pause. “It’s just another drug in there. There are no redeeming qualities I can tell you about with these kinds of drugs, so it’s just another one in there.” This revelation, of course, sheds new rose-windowed light on the Spiritualized disc, and begs a bevy of questions. Pierce is writing in Biblical vernacular and framing it against gospel backdrops. Has he suddenly had a religious conversion? Are some of these songs actual prayers? Having faced his own mortality, is he using his art to consider—even come to terms with—what happens after death? Did he believe that Sweet Heart Sweet Light might be the last album he might make in this lifetime? Pierce admits that he’s occasionally dropped by an American gospel chapel, and gotten caught up in their fervent services. And he appreciates religion itself—just not the soothsayers hawking it. So, no, he counters; he wasn’t suddenly struck by a radiant beam of holy light, although he understands that Sweet Heart is awash in scripture-speak. But for him, it was rooted more in classic doo-wop. “Which is filled with lines like, ‘I called to the Lord above/Heaven send me an angel,’” he elaborates. “So, as much as I love gospel, I suddenly realized that a lot of the (album’s) language had come from doo-wop. It’s a simplicity of ideas, where you can put across these really simple concepts without being over-wordy, like ‘I walk with Jesus’—it’s a really simple way to convey something. And once you have a conversation with Jesus, you’re talking about what it is to be fragile, what it is to be a man and to deal with morals.” And his final masterpiece? Something to outshine Spiritualized’s definitive space-rock classic from 1997, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space? Pierce confesses that he did sense that possibility. “But not in a romantic way, not in some kind of desperate rush,” he says. “I gave myself enough time to make it. And all I know is, I wanted to make this beautiful rock ‘n’ roll record, this beautiful pop record, and it will make sense to certain people the way my favorite records made massive sense to me.” In conclusion, Pierce likens the whole Sweet Heart process to a French soldier getting ready for war at the battle of Waterloo. Proudly, he dons his red tunic, white belt, feathered hat. “Thinking, ‘Yeah! This is gonna be great!’” he says. “But you forget what it’s like to have people firing cannons at you. Not to liken recording and mixing to a field of battle, but it really is just like, ‘Fuck! I’m back here again?!’ But I do get obsessed with it, because once you start it? It’s gotta be the single most important thing you’re doing.” M

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ames mercer’s rosebud is a beat-to-shit acoustic guitar he bought 10 years ago in a thrift store for the princely sum of $3. When he got it home, he took out a Sharpie and scrawled the words you’ll be dead across the top à la that iconic photo of Woody Guthrie holding up his guitar with this machine kills fascists written on it. Like all good Rosebuds, it’s hard to find. To get to it, you have to go to his home, located in a secure undisclosed location in Portland, Ore., unlock the high fence gate that rings the grassy knoll of his front yard, say hello to his lovely wife (who is weeding the flower beds that hug the contours of the front porch of the 120-year-old Queen Anne house he bought four years ago), walk past the two towering Doug Firs, past the rode-hard/put-up-wet maroon ’89 Ford touring van that Mercer holds onto for sentimental reasons despite 300,000 miles of wear and tear, cross the wide circular driveway that takes up most of his expansive backyard, go past the wishing well and into the once-dilapidated carriage house that’s been restored and converted into a recording studio-cum-guest house (you can see it in the new “Bait And Switch” video), climb the circular stairs to the second floor, turn to your right once you get to the top and find it leaning against the wall. Don’t touch it. This is the guitar with which Mercer has roughed out the rudiments of pretty much every Shins song, including the one that Natalie Portman insists will change your life. It certainly changed James Mercer’s life. That $3 guitar brought him everything he now has: Marisa, his beautiful wife (they met when she came to interview him for Spin), his two children (fouryear-old Sabine and two-year-old Odette), and the $1.3 million home (seven bedrooms, fourand-a-half bathrooms) they currently reside in, the home recording studio in the carriage house, the hundreds of thousands of Shins records sold and the invisible crown that sits askew atop his trademark widow’s peak, confirming his decade-long reign as the indie king of bearded pop. The phrase “you’ll be dead” originates from the cantina scene in Star Wars where Ponda Baba and Dr. Evazan, a couple of interplanetary space thugs, are trying to intimidate a young Luke Skywalker: (Ponda Baba gives Luke a rough shove and starts yelling at him in an alien language that he doesn’t understand) Dr. Evazan: He doesn’t like you. Luke: Sorry. Dr. Evazan: I don’t like you either. You 38

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just watch yourself. We’re wanted men. I have the death sentence on 12 systems. Luke: I’ll be careful. Dr. Evazan: You’ll be dead! Obi-Wan: This little one’s not worth the effort. Come, let me get you something. (Dr. Evazan shoves Luke across the room and pulls out a blaster) Bartender: No blasters! No blasters! (Obi-Wan ignites his lightsaber, severing Ponda Baba’s arm)

J

ames mercer—bookish, sensitive, shy and always undersized for his age—grew up with the distinct feeling that God had affixed a bull’s-eye on his back. His whole life has been some variation on the cantina scene. There was the time he went to a fair in Montana and got called “faggot” for the crime of wearing eyeglasses in public. There was the son of his piano teacher who bullied Mercer behind his mother’s back until he just stopped showing up for lessons. There were the middle-school stoners who thought he was too straight and the high-school jocks who thought he was too weird. But from the moment he started teaching himself how to bang out the power chords to “God Save The Queen” in his mid-teens, that guitar has been his lightsaber. And to hear him

tell it, you would be crazy to go through life without one. The fact that his cousin, Sherry Arnold, a beloved 43-year-old schoolteacher and mother of five, was kidnapped and murdered by strungout crackheads while jogging near her home in Sidney, Mont., earlier this year for no discernible reason other than they could, confirms his assertion that only a fool goes through life speaking softly without carrying a big stick. “Who are these fucking creatures, who are these fucking people who would want to do that?” he says. “I really don’t understand the bad side of humanity: the cruelty, the genocide, that whole thing. But they walk amongst us, and that’s the fucking thing that I do know: that you shake their hands once in a while, you see them on the subway. They’re people who would if they could, you know? And that’s the scary thing about all that shit—that whole thing has been an issue for me since I was a kid.” Mercer pauses to pop an unnamed pill he takes when his anxiety gets the better of him, then carries on. “It’s like that moment in 2001: A Space Odyssey when that early hominid invents the first weapon out of a bone,” he says. “The massive mathematical advantage of that thing just spreading these genes. Not only does he no


The

K in g Ja m es Version

James Mercer explains why he had to destroy the shins in order to save them. Also discussed: bombs, bullies, babies, murderous crackheads, Heath Ledger, Danger Mouse, David Lynch, kissing cousins, the Star Wars cantina scene and the history of violence. story by jonathan valania / photos by gene smirnov

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longer have to compete for who to have sex with; he can actually kill the other things that want to eat his food and want to fuck the other females. What a huge, tremendous reward for having the brains and the violent nature. So, we have violence in us, in such a deep way, and I think we need to understand it, and respect it for the dangerous thing that it is. And we don’t. We just don’t.”

A

nd then there was just one. Where once there had been four of them, standing tragicomically on a dock in that iconic band photo, dressed in orange life vests and butt-ugly Hawaiian swim trunks, looking like refugees from a Wes Anderson film, holding enough rope to hang themselves. And sure enough, nearly a decade later, prophecy would become destiny, and three out of four went in the drink. The only question was: Did they jump, or were they pushed? The sole survivor from that photo is sitting across from me right now, like a nervous graduate at a job interview or a man defending himself at his own murder trial. His only crime, he says, is “surviving the Shins,” which some would say is a bit like surviving the Donner Party. Not that he really expects anyone who wasn’t there to understand, but

James Mercer insists that he had to kill the Shins in order to save them. All of which raises a whole host of ancillary questions. What exactly constitutes a band? What is the difference between integral members and hired guns? How does the collapse of friendship alter such distinctions? Where exactly do you draw the line between actively writing a song and merely arranging it? How porous is the border between showbiz artifice and artistic authenticity? What does authenticity even mean in an era where Lana Del Rey is crucified for trying to reinvent herself as a sultry indie chanteuse, but nobody blinks when Bruce Springsteen, millionaire hundreds of times over, releases yet another collection of über-earnest, fist-pumping fanfares for the common man? Anybody who has never actually been in a rock band most likely holds romantic and unrealistic notions about its dicey interpersonal politics and pitiless power dynamics. Their idea of a band is the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night or the Monkees—a perfect democracy marked by wacky hijinks and perfectly pitched slapstick, where they all live together in a yellow submarine, sleep in bunk beds stacked four persons high, drive around in a badass, custom-made, candy-apple-red Pontiac GTO, invariably too busy singing to put anybody down. And the

Shins did some variation of that back in the late ’90s, all living under one roof in a band house at 1620 Silver Avenue in Albuquerque, N.M., the city of their origin. But time passes, people change, and life goes on. We all get older, but in those reruns the Monkees stay the same age. Because that’s not real life. mercer: All I knew is I didn’t want to make another Shins record. magnet: Why not? mercer: Because making music with the Shins was all tied and meshed with my friendships, and everything about that was too difficult to manage. magnet: So even though you are OK with those guys now, you weren’t then? mercer: No, I was still friends with those guys; it wasn’t like that. magnet: I’m not following you. I don’t really get what the problem was. mercer: That’s because I’m not telling you everything. magnet: Are you going to? mercer: No. I’ve probably already told you too much … Look, I know what you want to talk about. But I very much love and respect those guys. And I hope that I have done right by them. needle

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ames mercer was born in Honolulu on the day after Christmas, 1,970 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. His father was a munitions officer in the Air Force, a job that started in Vietnam where he strapped daisy cutters to the bottom of planes people like John McCain used to fly over Saigon. By the end of his military career, he was overseeing the safe storage and daily maintenance of nuclear bombs in the super-secret hollowed-out mountain redoubt on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque—a job so sensitive it required him to lie to his family about what exactly he did for a living. In between, the Mercers hopscotched across the globe, from Kansas to Alabama to Utah to Germany to New Mexico to England and then back to New Mexico, often with little or no advance warning. It was during this time, when the exact location of the place he called home was always in flux, that Mercer learned the ways of the world. It was a second cousin in Utah who would introduce him to the twin virtues of romance and songwriting. The first song he ever wrote was an ode to her called “Kerry.” “Her and her friend were a few years older than me, and they would take me into the tall grass, literally, hold me down and just make out with me,” says Mercer. “Which I never asked for, but it definitely had an effect on me. I became infatuated with her.” He was eight years old. By the age of 10, he was a confirmed atheist, despite his mother’s best efforts to bring him into the fold of the Catholic church. “There was a half-assed attempt to give me religion,” says Mercer. “They sent me to a Catholic Sunday school in Utah, and they showed me videos of the end of the world. Of people being burned to death by lava and of demons coming out of the Earth. It seemed like a comic book and Satan was just another villain, like Lex Luthor or something. It seemed totally preposterous. I remember them making me go to confession, and I fucking cried my eyes out. It was just like, ‘Go in there and tell him what you did wrong.’ I told the priest that I had stolen a dreidel from the kid down the street or something when I was, like, five. That was the one fucking sin I could remember that I had ever done in my life. So, I confessed that and was just fucking mortified and crying as I came out of the confessional. It left a bad fucking taste in my mouth, quite frankly.” He would have his first existential crisis, complete with a brief-yet-sustained contemplation of suicide, at the ripe old age of 11. It was the fall of 1982, and the family moved from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany to Albuquerque. The culture shock was disorienting and devastating. “I was thrust into this very adult scene at my new school,” he says. “You had kids smoking weed, you kids fucking, you had kids growing mustaches. And I was still just a kid; I couldn’t relate to, let alone participate in, any of that. Ev40

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erything I prized about being a kid had suddenly vanished. And it went on for a while. I remember when Christmas was coming up and I was still feeling depressed and thinking, ‘If Christmas is coming up, the greatest day in fucking kiddom, and I’m not excited, this is huge.’ “My mom didn’t know what to do. So, she sent me to counseling at school, which amounted to group therapy with juvenile delinquents. People saying shit like, ‘I smashed a chair over a teacher’s head! So fuckin’ what?’ And here I am—just like scared shitless of these people. And the counselor would say, ‘Now, James, do you want to share with us?’ and I’d be like, ‘No, no I don’t.’ And what happened was eventually

that depressive fog went away and I was suddenly one of the kids telling teachers to shut up and throwing rocks at windows and going to detention. I was one of the bad kids, but I felt a lot better. Finally I felt like I could engage with these kids by vandalizing with them. And that became who I was—I was skateboarding and breaking windows and spray-painting walls. I was just one of those kids. I had lost all faith in the structure of society. That went away and never came back, even to this day.” When his family relocated to Britain during his high-school years, Mercer had a distinct advantage: He was already an accomplished skateboarder, a rarity in England at the time,

My closest friends were the guys in the band and we had a much different and strained relationship. It had been altered by this fiscal fucking thing that had come between us in so many ways. They were this line of defense between me and the outer world, and that was falling apart. I remember thinking, “I am not fucking friends with anybody. I am not friends with anybody, except my wife.” } jame s me rc e r "


and an adept troublemaker. “Skateboarding was just beginning to encroach into pop culture in England at that time and so, you know, me being able to kickflip was like super awesome,” says Mercer. “It opened a lot of doors for me socially.” Life on a military base could be stifling for an aspiring rebel without a cause. “Picture a socialist hell,” he says. “Everything’s owned by the government and the cops are everywhere, and as a teenager you’re fucking pissed and you spray-paint the walls and break windows and all that. I remember one Halloween we thought it would be funny to give kids trick-or-treating little baggies full of dogshit.” It was during this time that his tastes in music became more sophisticated. Bands like the Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and the Smiths would replace the straight-up punk of the Sex Pistols and the Circle Jerks that scored his early days on the skateboarding scene. By this point, he’d picked up the guitar and was able to bang out basic power chords. His father would often moonlight as a country singer at local watering holes, and the first time Mercer performed publicly was backing up his dad on Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” at a retirement party for one of his father’s Air Force buddies. Mercer was bitten with the showbiz bug, but he knew his limitations. He couldn’t see himself as a frontman, but maybe he could be the keyboard player off to the side, of whom much less was expected. When the Mercer family moved back to Albuquerque at the tail end of his high-school years, he befriended a guy named Neal Langford, who invited him to join his band, Blue Dinner Special, a derivative hybrid of R.E.M. and the Replacements with a little Dino Jr and MBV thrown in. It was a during a Blue Dinner Special gig that Mercer met Marty Crandall, who was playing in another local group called Random. Along with Crandall and Langford, Mercer started a new band called Orange Little Cousins. Agreeing the moniker was too stupid to persist, they tried some other names. First was Earwig, which lasted all of one gig before they learned there was already an Earwig in the U.K. So, they changed the band name to Flake, until they learned there was already a Flake in Seattle. So, Flake became Flake Music and eventually self-released an album called When You Land Here, It’s Time To Return. The band’s sound was loud, noisy, punk-derived indie rock with some melodic pop underpinnings—underpinnings that Mercer would eventually gravitate toward, having grown tired of punk’s relentless aggressiveness. There was a song on the record called “The Shins” that would prove prophetic. Not only would it give Mercer the moniker for his next band—taking the last name from one of the characters in The Music Man, his father’s favorite musical—but a whole new sonic canvas to create on: pretty, lo-fi pop music he recorded in

his bedroom during his downtime from Flake Music. Eventually these recordings got into the hands of other musicians, including Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, which Flake Music once opened for at a sandwich shop in Chico, Calif., after which both bands became fast friends. Brock so liked what he heard that he passed the tape along to Sub Pop honcho Jonathan Poneman, who eventually signed the Shins to a three-album deal in 2000.

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he band’s first album, 2001’s Oh, Inverted World, is comprised of the six or seven songs from the demo that got the Shins signed, plus another four or five songs that Mercer had up his sleeve. “So, I was like bringing in the (Flake Music) dudes, ‘See if you can come up with a part for this or that,’ but I was really controlling and sometimes I would re-record parts and (be) kind of a producer about it, which was a new thing and an affront to them in a lot of ways,” says Mercer. “It was awkward in the beginning. Just because these guys were in the band, I wasn’t gonna let … ” Here he stops himself and chooses his words very carefully. “ … Flake Music was a collaborative effort, and the Shins was what I did in my bedroom,” he continues. “The thing is, they are good, so they come up with some cool shit. It was not always what I wanted or what I thought the song (needed), so then we’d talk about it. There are songs on there that are just me and some that aren’t. For instance, it was Neal who came up with the bass line for ‘Caring Is Creepy.’ Which led us to the question of how to define songwriting? We had extensive talks about that. (The other band members) got paid for the work they did on those songs, which is not traditionally how it works. I got a publishing advance, then I would pay each of them individually; I wrote up a separate contract for each member of the band laying out just what percentage of each song they deserved a piece of. Because of the longstanding relationship I had with these guys, how long I had played with those guys, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable saying, ‘I am the songwriter and I am going to own the publishing entirely.’ Now I do own it entirely, but I pay each of them according to the contracts we have with each other. “This is all very private stuff, but I am kind of proud of it, because it’s fair. Sub Pop advised us to do it this way. They said, ‘Don’t (be) like Archers Of Loaf, who broke up because of the frustration of the guy who wrote everything, but had to split everything up with the rest of the band.’” Oh, Inverted World’s title stems from something Mercer’s father said to him years prior when he asked how his Aunt Bonnie, his dad’s sister, had died back in the ’60s. “She moved out to San Francisco and was kind of a hippie, and she was in love with this guy, and he was fucking around on her, and she wound up jumping

off the Golden Gate Bridge,” says Mercer. “(My father) said that there’s this reverse logic with the way things work in the world, because his sister was very sensitive and intelligent and, he said, the most beautiful of all his sisters. For him, there was an inherent flaw in the logic of existence because the beautiful and sensitive creatures are most likely to be destroyed. It made suicide something very distasteful when I could see how much it still hurt my dad and my grandmother. I thought about it a lot and saw it as both selfish and narcissistic. I mean, I think it’s a pretty amazing thing, this being alive stuff, being a sentient being. Sometimes it can be hard to hold onto that sense of wonder because of the fucking horrible behavior of humanity. But I don’t know, I might wind up there one day—circumstances are always shifting.” Oh, Inverted World received largely good reviews, and while there were pockets of support around the country, critical mass was still a long ways off. The Shins toured the record a fair amount, but crowds were small. “I remember we came home with $2,000 to split four ways,” says Mercer. “Which was cool, because we had been touring for 10 years and never made any money, so this was definitely progress, but it wasn’t like we could live on it or anything. It was basically beer money.” To support himself during those early, lean years, Mercer took a number of low-paying/low-satisfaction temp jobs, including working in a lamp factory and manning the framing department at a hobby shop. The Shins’ early adopters may have been small in number, but they were a committed lot. One of those early true believers was Zach Braff, who was smitten with the “New Slang” single released by Sub Pop in advance of the band’s debut LP. Braff, who was making a name for himself as the star of bawdy hospital sitcom Scrubs, asked the band if he could use the song for a little indie movie he was working on called Garden State, a sweet-natured meditation on love, death and lithium in the post-teenage junglelands of Jersey. Sure, whatever, Mercer said. “I never met him and had never even seen Scrubs,” says Mercer. “We were given a treatment, and I don’t even remember the band’s name being in the script. We said OK, even though they didn’t have any money, so we weren’t getting paid. And then two years later we find out that Natalie Portman is in it. But it wasn’t until the movie came out that we found out she actually says, ‘The Shins.’” Mercer is being modest. What Portman actually says to Braff, her love interest in the film, is, “You gotta hear this one song—it will change your life, I swear.” The scene sure changed the Shins’ lives. By the time the film came out, the band was just wrapping up touring for Chutes Too Narrow, their 2003 follow-up to Oh, Inverted World. “We did OK, we did better than the last time,” says Mercer. “There was a little bit more people at the shows, and they were kind of into needle

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it a bit more. Suddenly we were getting offers from all these colleges to play big outdoor shows, and they were offering stupid money, so we had to go back on tour. That was the first time we could afford a tour bus—which costs $750 to $1,000 a day. And we pretty much stayed out for three years.” The Shins were officially the biggest thing to come out of Albuquerque since Glen Campbell.

B

y the time the shins got around to making 2007’s Wincing The Night Away, the project was pretty much the one-man band it started out as, with the exception of Dave Hernandez coming in to lay down the occasional guitar solo. It was not a good time for Mercer, and band morale and interpersonal relationships suffered as a result. “It was very difficult for me is all I can say as the Wincing tour wound down,” he says. “I was not happy on tour, feeling all this business pressure to keep working and keep the new material coming, but worst of all things were deteriorating between me and the rest of the band, and went from bad to worse. My attempt to be a charismatic leader was failing. I don’t know how it was perceived by those guys. I am sure that at times I must have come off like a controlling jerk, when I didn’t realize I was. And somewhat still desperately clinging to my control of this project that I had started in my bedroom. By the end of the tour I wanted out; I remember having a conversation with my manager and telling him, ‘I need to survive the Shins. I need to do something beyond the Shins.’” Further proof of the fucked-upedness of his relationship with his bandmates, he says, came in the most unlikeliest of places: a Los Angeles memorial for the late Heath Ledger. Mercer was friends with Ledger, an avowed Shins fan who allowed Mercer and his wife to stay at his Brooklyn brownstone during trips east. Ledger’s manager asked Mercer to perform Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold” at the star-studded affair, which included the likes of Tom Cruise and Jake Gyllenhaal. “Me and my manager are sitting in the audience waiting for me to sing the song and hearing all the things his manager and his friends said about him,” says Mercer. “I was very moved. It was very touching and … foreign. It really disturbed me, because I was thinking there is no way in hell that my closest friends would do this for me, because my closest friends were the guys in the band and we had a much different and strained relationship. It had been altered by this fiscal fucking thing that had come between us in so many ways, and I had to be the guy running this business and they were my employees. And they were this line of defense between me and the outer world, and that was falling apart. I remember thinking, ‘I am not fucking friends with anybody. I am not 42

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friends with anybody, except my wife.’ I came home and told my wife I felt like a ghost. Heath was just so brave, such an open person, letting people in and willing to go inside others. I needed to start engaging with people and stop being so cynical and closed off.” As a result, Mercer started saying yes to things he would have never agreed to in the past—such as an invitation from the Malloy brothers, a family of famous competitive surfers, to accompany them on a two-week hiking trip through the Patagonia region of southwest Chile. The trek was filmed and eventually turned into a documentary called 180° South, with the hope of focusing attention on a section of virgin wilderness threatened by impending industrial development. “Ordinarily I would have never in a million years said yes to this,” says Mercer. “They are strangers. I am going to be on my own without my friends in a strange place—all the codependent things. And I went, and it was an amazing experience. I realized that social anxiety was really dictating my life. I had gone out of my comfort zone, and it was OK.” The fact that he not only survived but thrived in this foray outside his comfort zone encouraged further exploration of territories beyond those borders. Then he got a call from Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton asking him to come to Los Angeles for a talk. Turns out Burton wanted to start a band with him. “I’m, like, apprehensive, but I say yes because that’s my new thing: Start saying yes!” Mercer says. The project was soon dubbed Broken Bells and resulted in a well-received self-titled debut in spring 2010, and a year of on-and-off touring to promote it. Concurrent with the Broken Bells project, Burton was working on a song cycle called Dark Night Of The Soul with director David Lynch and Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous that paired ambient musical beds with guest vocalists like Black Francis, Wayne Coyne and Iggy Pop. Burton invited Mercer to join. Long an admirer of all parties involved, Mercer jumped at the chance, resulting in a scabrous, aptly titled track called “Insane Lullaby.”

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mboldened by all these new collaborations and heretofore untried ways of creating, Mercer was finally ready to rip the Band-Aid off with the Shins. At the end of the tour for Wincing, he was pretty sure he was ready to leave the band, but somewhere along the way he decided that it was everyone else who had to go. The rest of the Shins begged to differ—drummer Jesse Sandoval did so at length in the pages of the Portland Mercury—as did the fans. Complained one online commenter, “I don’t get it, though. Why not just call it a new band? Since it is, pretty much, another band. Or just call it a solo project. I would think that, having played together for umpteen years, the moniker of ‘The Shins’

would carry more weight than being just ‘James Mercer And His Amazing Friends.’” It has been said that any lawyer defending himself in a court of law has a fool for a client. The verdict is still out in the court of public opinion. Mercer’s defense is further handicapped by his unwillingness to go public with all the mutually unflattering details that lead up to everything that went down between himself and his bandmates. Probably not coincidentally, the video for “Simple Song,” the first single from new album Port Of Morrow (Aural Apothecary/Columbia), features Mercer as a deceased Royal Tenenbaum-esque figure addressing his family—played by the latest version of the Shins, which includes singer/songwriter Richard Swift, Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer, Yuuki Matthews (Crystal Skulls) and Jessica Dobson—at the reading of his will via a videotape recorded before his death. “I know you all hate my guts,” he says at one point, and you can’t help but think that Mercer is indirectly addressing his falling out with his old bandmates. “Look, I wanted to do something different,” says Mercer. “I wanted to experience new things, I wanted to work with other artists; I wanted to do all of that, and doing it was very enjoyable. Going out and being around these people who are musicians and the relationship was about the music, you know? It wasn’t about, like, old friendships as much, and there wasn’t a lot of dealing with whatever that might entail, which is good and bad, you know? You’re not as close to these people, you know? But also you have that freshness of a new relationship.” Let’s face it, the Shins were always Mercer’s songs and Mercer’s voice; that’s what made the Shins the Shins. The rest of those guys— Hernandez, Crandall and Sandoval—more than earned their keeps as collaborators, fellow road warriors and, up until the very end, brothers in arms. But their friendship was the glue, and when that went away—for reasons only they could know, so there is no point taking sides—everyone was replaceable. Everyone but Mercer. The proof is in the pudding, and by just about every objective measure Port Of Morrow is, from beginning to end, a uniformly excellent specimen of vintage-modern popcraft. The worst you could say about it is that it’s at least as good as the three Shins albums that precede it. True story: A little while back, Mercer’s daughter Odette faced a life-threatening medical condition, the exact nature of which her father prefers not to disclose in deference to her privacy. But suffice it to say, it was touch and go there for a minute. In the end, she pulled through. Sometime after that, Mercer went up to the second floor of the carriage house with a Sharpie and grabbed his trusty old beat-to-shit acoustic guitar, and beneath the words you’ll be dead he wrote but you’re alive. M


Diamond Rugs p. 46

| Grand Duchy p. 48 | Ladyhawke p. 50 | The Mars Volta p. 52 | Toro Y Moi p. 53

Unto Himself A

Andrew Bird gets lonely with a lot of help from his friends

ndrew Bird has always had a highly developed sense

even refreshing, is that he is oddly traditional, at least when it comes to aesthetics. His songs are sumptuous, skilled and pretty; they just sound really nice. On “Hole In The Ocean Floor,” his violin weeps, and the Andrew Bird evocative wail connects him Shore” seems like one long, back through the centuries luxurious exhale. A lot of the of classical virtuosity. It feels tracks, like the dynamic, sumconsequential, and incredm om +pop mery “Danse Caribe,” build in ibly moving. (Of course it’s interesting and unexpected an established irony that ways—from dreamy ballad to the shattering of those iderhythmic palimpsest of violin, als can be just as arresting.) ragged electric guitar and sprightly whistling. Fortunately, there are also some delightTo get back to the beauty thing, one factor fully quirky touches on Break It Yourself. Bird that makes Bird’s music truly exceptional, has always had an interest in looping and

of beauty. His albums are packed to the brim with moments of tonal and melodic transcendence, whether he’s whistling a haunting tune or pushing his violin to strange, affecting places. His latest is no exception, despite the fact that the creative process was radically different. The album was recorded live in his barn in western Illinois with a cadre of trusted musical collaborators. Many of the songs were captured in only a few takes, and they were all recorded live—more like a jazz session than a typical studio confection. The result is a collection of tracks that feels more raw, more freewheeling and slightly riskier. On “Orpheo Looks Back,” Bird’s violin playing displays a previously unheard vintage snarl, while “Fatal

photo by Cameron Wittig

Break It Yourself

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reviews

layering sounds. He creates textures, punctured by emotional and sonic peaks and valleys. The melancholy, swelling intro to “Lazy Projector” seems like something overheard through a hotel room wall (in a good way), while instrumental “Behind The Barn” has a idiosyncratic, improvised quality as it builds from a low hum to an interplay of pizzicato and long, fluid violin strokes. As usual, Bird’s lyrics are a mix of cryptic imagery and clever metaphors. On “Danse Caribe,” he sings about “mistaking clouds for mountains,” and on the wonderful “Lusitania,” he talks about his lover “sinking all his ships” before admitting that “It don’t register as pain/’Til it finds a crooked vain/That should help us not remember the Maine.” Bird has said that he had islands on the brain when he was writing this record, and there certainly are a lot of seas, shores and solitary hearts. It’s ironic then that while exploring isolation, he embarked on such a communal music-making process. Yes, there are sad thoughts expressed and gloriously forlorn moments produced with instruments, but there is also a palpable feeling of joy on Break It Yourself—joy in making music with people you respect, joy in nailing it on the second take and joy in unleashing the creative process in the service of producing something that feels fresh. —Lee Stabert

AU

Both Lights Hometapes

We’d like to buy these vowels

The third LP by this Portland-based experimental-indie band—Luke Wyland and Dana Valatka are its core, but the door’s always been open to a rotating cast of musicians—starts off with a bang. Titled appropriately, “Epic” explodes with a frenetic blast of drums and Marnie Stern/Angus Young-esque electric-guitar finger-tapping until bass saxophonist Colin Stetson (Arcade Fire, National) interrupts the pandemonium with a stern, rhythmic bounce; ebullient strings converge as a post-rock swirl lifts the tune to chamber-pop glory. AU is often compared to Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective, but a more chiseled and nuanced compositional brain is at the helm. With unorthodox tempo changes, chaotic flourishes and colossal instrumentation, songs like “OJ” and “Solid Gold” uncompromisingly flirt with avant-gardism while remaining approachable and unpretentious. A sensational album by a band willing to take risks, Both Lights offers an exhilarating glimpse at pop music’s future. —Elliott Sharp

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Diamond In The Rough John McCauley’s latest joint venture goes gleefully off the rails

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f the supergroup game is over, nobody told

Diamond Rugs

Diamond Rugs John McCauley. The Deer Tick leader already has one collaboration under his belt, having partnered with partisan members of Dawes and Delta Spirit under the Middle Brother moniker last year. McCauley’s other new band, Diamond Rugs, finds the thistle-throated singer running with a more rowdy crowd. In addition to Deer Tick’s Robbie Crowell, Diamond Rugs features the Black Lips’ Ian St. Pé, Dead Confederate’s Hardy Morris, Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin and Six Finger Satellite’s Bryan Dufresne. With a lineup like that, you can imagine how the collective’s debut easily veers into several unhinged directions. Though lead-vocal duties are largely shared from song to song, McCauley’s moments in the spotlight tend to (unsurprisingly) dominate. On the horn-brightened “Gimme A Beer,” McCauley rattles off a list of earthly desires, culminating with the delightfully victorious proclamation of “I’ll sit down on the couch and say, ‘Damn, it feels good to be a gangster!’” Diamond Rugs’ strength comes from the musical diversity of its members. St. Pé’s leadoff “Hightail” ignites the set with a punchy rave-up. The Roy Orbison-like croon of producer Justin Collins on “Totally Lonely” floats above a Mexicali backdrop. “Tell Me Why” boasts skronky saxophones underscoring one of McCauley’s most seething deliveries. Diamond Rugs’ main flaw is its “too many cooks” ethos, making the LP a little scatterbrained. But the wonderfully penned yuletide lament of “Christmas In A Chinese Restaurant” wraps the album’s many ragged parts into a rocking and rollicking package. —Eric Schuman

photo by amie ledford


Beak

Eyrie

Someoddpilot

Metal without being metal. Or so they’d have you think.

These guys have one motherfucker of an identity crisis. Their back story/bio portrays them as arrogant, hoity-toity pricks who’ve come off their post-rock high horse to save metal from itself with their desire to not just “do metal.” We’ve got news for them: There are a ton of metal bands already not just “doing metal.” Beyond that, Beak’s swing from artistic noise rock and Pelican-like metalgaze to a vintage rollercoaster ride on the good ship Neurosis is a good thing. When it’s done well, with guitars diverging on the same riff, tracks like “Men At Arms” and “Angry Mother Of Bones” are heaps of morose fun. However, there’s a near-mook rock, nü-metal, trailer-trash element in other spots (“Hands Collide”) that had us scratching our heads and lunging for the “skip” button. Which is a lot less overt a negative reaction legions of “just metalhead” dudes are likely to have. —Kevin Stewart-Panko

Brendan Benson

What Kind Of World Readymade

Smiling on the outside

The ceiling for power-pop fame is low: The Nerves. Jellyfish. Ben Kweller. The Format. The genre’s mostly an acres-wide graveyard, with the notable exceptions of Weezer and the New Pornographers, whose stock rose more because of emo and indie, respectively, than anything earmarked by woo-hoo-hoos. So, the perpetually uncool Brendan Benson’s depressive new title is more than understandable: “I take it too hard/What kind of world?/You take me apart/Before I can start.” After all, if being in a band with Jack White didn’t expand his cult, what good could a fifth solo album do? Well, “it’s a symbol for motivation.” To make the perfect album, we suppose, that elusive thing that the beauteous hooks on “The Light Of Day” and “Met Your Match” certainly make strides toward. More likely, he concludes (literally, it’s the album’s final line), “I’ll probably die just sitting on this fence.” We wish him the best, and 40 percent more hooks. —Dan Weiss

Choir Of Young Believers

Rhine Gold

Ghostly International

The unhappiest place on earth

Back when Jannis Noya Makrigiannis began Choir Of Young Believers, the world had yet to accept an act like Bon Iver as big-time mate-

rial. Still, the forlorn-yet-restrained theater of Makrigiannis’ work found ready acceptance within his native Denmark, particularly “Hollow Talk,” which somehow ended up getting used on both a European cop show and a Kid Cudi track. Rhine Gold doesn’t sound like it’s trying to create another emo anthem, which gives its tracks a genuine, unaffected quality. Each song captures the same introspective and slightly wistful mood, so even when Makrigiannis toys around with different instrumental arrangements—robotik tempos on “Paralyse,” ’80s synth-pop balladry on “Patricia’s Thirst”—it all sounds like it was cut from the same cloth. If you can stand the idea of soft rock for the 21st century and replace its bland emotional reassurances with understated romantic dread, you’d do worse than to let Choir Of Young Believers provide the soundtrack to your next doomed attempt at love. —Justin Hampton

The Decemberists

We All Raise Our Voices To The Air (Live Songs 04.11-08.11) EMI

Castaways they’re not

And here we are in the odd vortex created when the Decemberists’ least characteristic album, The King Is Dead (stripped-down, unabashedly folksy and, well, different), meets the most mainstream love the band has ever received (Time claimed King could elevate the Decemberists to the level of “important American rock group”—as if Picaresque hadn’t already). In that context, We All Raise Our Voices—two discs, 20 tracks recorded over 12 dates of their 2011 tour—makes sense: Capitalize on King’s Grammy noms, introduce newbs to the old canon and make a little scratch to boot. Not that Voices is some cash grab; the band lives up to its rep as a tight live act across a set that reaches back to the 5 Songs EP (“Oceanside”), spans the incrementally precious years (“The Crane Wife 1, 2 & 3”!), includes “the very worst song” Colin Meloy ever wrote (“Dracula’s Daughter”) and mixes in a liberal dose of the new stuff. Is this essential Decemberists? Probably not. Will you regret owning it? Not even a little. —Brian Howard

Dr. John

Locked Down Nonesuch

Identity attack, minimal release

Iconic New Orleans personality Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) makes a new record produced by Dan Auerbach at the Black Keys guitarist’s studio in Nashville. Besides geographical differences, there’s a generation gap, but the prospect of Auerbach lending contemporary appeal to Rebennack’s image proved too tempting to resist. The result is sharp and well-recorded, but although Rebennack’s distinctive voice is

featured front and center, there’s a sacrifice of his artistry. Stronger tracks like “Ice Age” and “Ellegua” echo swampy styles identified with the old “Night Tripper,” but there’s an overt lack of N’Awlins “fonk,” and Auerbach’s solid rock structures make Rebennack sound like he’s fighting for control. The urgent grooves on “Getaway,” with its psychedelic flourishes, will sound good on the radio, but my concern is whether this record holds together. Rebennack dutifully dispenses world-weary wisdom on the closing cuts, but still sounds like he’s just along for the ride. —Mitch Myers

Justin Townes Earle

Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now Bloodshot

The cat’s out of the cradle

Barely into his 30s, Justin Townes Earle is already rivaling his famous father in terms of recorded prolificacy and general notoriety. On his fifth album in six years, Earle is regaining his strength as a performer, generally sticking with what he does best. While it might not be a major progression, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now is a welcome return after a year of arrest, rehab and reevaluation. These experiences give the songs a very intimate weight. “Look The Other Way” is a plea for patience, and on “Movin’ On,” Earle pretends to be ignorant to the cause of his illness. Most of the songs are presented with economically plucked guitars and brushed drums: familiar elements of Earle’s music. Only when he tries to escape his tuneful-yetlimited vocal range do the songs struggle (“Baby’s Got A Bad Idea,” parts of “Memphis In The Rain”). Earle’s reentry might take more time than expected, but it’s nonetheless good to have him back. —Eric Schuman

Aaron Freeman

Marvelous Clouds Partisan

No chance of storms

On his first solo album, Aaron Freeman sheds the Gene Ween persona and sets a baker’s dozen of Rod McKuen’s poems to music. At the boards is producer Ben Vaughan, of Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats— a touchstone that makes perfect sense from the opening notes of Marvelous Clouds, since this is a record pitched for (and from) the squishy center of the heart. Freeman’s in fine and mellow voice throughout. Of course, this is McKuen we’re talking about, and no approach can roughen the soft edges of that poet’s relentless, occasionally prosaic romanticism. Wisely, Freeman and Vaughan seem to have built Marvelous Clouds as an homage to 1970s troubadour records of the Jim Croce model, and only sometimes (mostly on “Pushing The Clouds” and “The

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reviews

World I Used To Know”) does the sweet become truly cloying. Still, only a musician with Freeman’s peculiar attunement to sincerity and weirdness could have pulled Marvelous Clouds off at all, and when the record works, it’s inarguably charming. —Eric Waggoner

Great Lake Swimmers

New Wild Everywhere Nettwerk

Pleasant songs for greater appeal

There’s an easy likeability to Great Lake Swimmers’ latest release. Playing in the background or on a long drive, New Wild Everywhere’s strengths—catchy melodies and soothing vocals—both calm and entice. The band has moved away from its understated folk/pop roots a bit and thrown in country indicators to good effect. It’s only with a closer look that cracks appear. The facile sentiment and simplistic shape of “Easy Come Easy Go” and the title track show what happens when a band strains for greater exposure. Many songs don’t hold up on repeated listens, as GLS opts to trade the haunting quirkiness of past recordings for some straightforward accessibility. You can’t fault the band for looking to cash in on its sound, but discerning listeners will want to beware. This is pretty close to Jack Johnson territory. —Jill LaBrack

Sarah Jaffe

The Body Wins Kirtland

A new pop songstress arrives

“Whatever you put out/I’m gonna buy it,” sings Sarah Jaffe on the excellently titled “A Sucker For Your Marketing.” It’s a clever tune, one that insinuates that some of our romantic entanglements are just another form of rampant capitalism. A dysfunctional relationship is dissected on “Hooray For Love,” with Jaffe singing, “I’m looking up, but the sky is deceiving,” while strings portend probable doom for the couple. Moments like these abound on the very good The Body Wins. As her sound moves toward the pop spectrum, her lyrics stay strong and specific. There’s a nagging feeling that Florence + The Machine-like production (flourishing, epic) took precedence over getting some of the songs to sound truly completed, but that doesn’t get much in the way of noticing what stands out here: a skilled lyricist and a great, emotive voice. Jaffe deserves the wider audience she must be looking for. —Jill LaBrack

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The Old In And Out Grand Duchy’s pillow talk could use a little work

V

iolet Cl ark has this to say about

Grand Duchy’s second album: “If (first album) Petit Fours was missionary, then Let The People Speak needs to be doggy style.” Really? It Grand Duchy needs to be doggy style? We’re all for sex-related metaLet The People Speak phors ruffling the feathers of indie rock’s politically Sonic unyon/ correct asexuality, and it’s not uncommon knowledge cooking vinyl that Grand Duchy is comprised of Clark and her hubby/ position partner Black Francis, but the missionary/ doggy metaphor is in dire need of fleshing out. Clark says this record is more about “slamming it in,” but these ears hear little more than controlled and reserved stabs at Lower East Side new/no-wave of early Talking Heads, Social Climbers and Blondie driven by some uppity Britpop rhythms; not really the sort of thing that first comes to mind when slamming anything anywhere is on the table. The grooves driving “Illiterate Lovers” and “Silver Boys” have a certain slink to the way Clark fingers her bass, and her voice is smoky and sensual. However, “See-Thru You” and “White Out” are more starched shirt, ’80s synth rock, and it doesn’t sound as if the pair is teetering on the edge of about-to-blow. The songs are weaved together by Phoenix’s DJ Jonathan L, with his dusky delivery and fireside-chat style ironically being the warmest and most sensual-sounding elements of this record. His constant interjections are a bit off-putting at first, especially if you listen initially unaware of his contribution. But his smooth and dry delivery definitely doesn’t act as Let The People Speak’s coitus interruptus. —Kevin Stewart-Panko

La Sera

Sees The Light Hardly Art

Retro with an indie-pop edge

Ex-Vivian Girl Katy Goodman (a.k.a. Kickball Katy) returns with her second solo effort, another collection of songs about the bitter aftertaste of relationships gone wrong. The production is a bit more polished than it was

on Vivian Girls albums, but the innocence and joy of music making is intact. Like her former band, La Sera tips its bonnet to the long-gone AM-radio sound of ’60s girl groups, but with enough guitar noise and snarky attitude to remind you that it’s not the summer of love, to plagiarize a phrase. Goodman’s vocals float in and out of the mix with an indolent, almost carefree feel despite the often heartrending lyrics. Best bets: “I’m Alone” with its lush harmonies, the faux-Latin groove of “Real

photo by wesley curtis


Boy” and blistering pop/punk rave-up “Please Be My Third Eye,” featuring a ragged, chiming guitar hook from producer Rob Barbato. —j. poet

Mares Of Thrace

The Pilgrimage Sonic Unyon

Lost In The Trees

A Church That Fits Our Needs Anti-

Grieving and overachieving

“Classically trained” isn’t always an augury of success in rock ‘n’ roll, but Ari Picker, a Berklee School of Music grad, gets the balance right on the second Lost In The Trees full-length. A Church That Fits Our Needs is a serious album: Picker’s artist mother committed suicide in 2009, and the songs grapple with that. It’s a tribute, an elegy and, at times, a dirge. But although it has the hallmarks of pretension, it only occasionally succumbs to them. Church is chamber music on the one hand, built on violas, violins and cellos, both bowed and plucked, set to somber, stately tempos. But it also plays around with percussive rhythms backing grandly theatrical melodies, sparsely orchestrated, understated folk ballads and backing vocals that echo both doo-wop and opera. At times, it’s an accordion or two shy of a sounding like a Beirut album, especially given Picker’s tenor croon. Collectively, however, A Church That Fits Our Needs is a suite-like meditation that is emotionally expressive and impressively nuanced. —Steve Klinge

Lushlife

Plateau Vision Western Vinyl

Smaller guest list, bigger tracks for Philly rapper

Guest spots are commonplace in the rap world. But the roster of collaborators on Lushlife’s 2009 debut, Cassette City (Ariel Pink, Deerhoof, Vampire Weekend), were immediately enticing for the demographic that doesn’t listen to hip hop unless it’s appended with the odious term “backpacker.” If Philadelphia MC and producer Raj Haldar, the self-proclaimed music geek driving the ship, was downplaying his own strengths—and as close listening showed, dude is a formidable musical and lyrical talent—he comes into his own on Plateau Vision. The guest list is scaled back, allowing Haldar to take center stage from the glitch-soul opening of “Magnolia,” which smoothly loops a harp glissando over massive beats. Entering on the line “I never subscribed to crosstown beefs,” Haldar sounds confident and energized. “Still I Hear The Word Progress” is a masterpiece of Auto-Tune and arty pop deconstruction on par with anything out of Kanye or Khalifa, while “Anthem” dishes Midnight Marauders vibes with its bright horn and breezy pace. “This is rap for rap fans,” Haldar declares on the album’s stellar centerpiece, “Gymnopedie 1.2.” And while the scenesters are hopefully still paying attention, it’s true. —John Vettese

Rein in blood

The press release accompanying Mares Of Thrace’s sophomore effort takes care to note that guitarist/vocalist Thérèse Lanz wrote and recorded the album using a baritone axe custom-built for her by metallic-hardcore mainstay/Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. This tidbit actually reveals quite a bit about the avant snarl ‘n’ pummel awaiting listeners planning to take The Pilgrimage. If the duo’s 2010 “noise-doom” debut The Moulting set off an avalanche of comparisons to Neurosis and Unsane, its tighter, heavier follow-up is going to spawn (at least) a thousand invocations of Today Is The Day, Coalesce and, yep, Petitioning The Empty Sky/When Forever Comes Crashingera Converge. It is a welcome shift, honestly. The Pilgrimage is a much busier, more dynamic effort than its predecessor; one that never flails in its considerable ambition, but, rather, simply continues driving forward, all menace and swagger. Good luck putting these Mares out to pasture. —Shawn Macomber

Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s

Rot Gut, Domestic

Mariel Recording Co.

The importance of being Margot

I love this job because of bands like Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s. I crave the excitement, the unexpected connection you find only in new lovers and art—the excitement I felt when I first listened to the Indianapolis outfit’s latest release. Sure, the album seems nostalgic, variously recalling some of my favorite radio music of the ’90s—Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, the Lemonheads and even Nine Inch Nails—but nothing impresses me more in an art form (or person, for that matter) than sincerity. On Rot Gut, Domestic, Margot seems abundant in earnestness, pulling together hooky, shoegaze rifts (“Disease Tobacco Free”) with dulcet guitar tunes (“Frank”), Tim Kasher lyricism (“The Devil”) and a lonely piano ballad (“Christ”). Rot Gut might be inconsistent for some listeners, but so are lovers, and I’m this one until the next comes along. —Matthew Irwin

Orbital

Wonky

Label TBA

Keep ’em in the rotation

When techno made the jump from warehouses to arenas in the ‘90s, Orbital was there to usher in electronic dance music’s commercialization. Of all the crossover acts of the time, it was the one that felt most anchored to the style’s origins, and Live At Glastonbury

proved to a larger audience that improvisation was possible within a sound that otherwise struck many as cold and mechanical. Wonky is Phil and Paul Hartnoll’s first new album in eight years, and it finds the headlamped pair still hitting those marks, even if it isn’t quite as revelatory now. Opening track “One Big Moment” plucks some contemporary cues from chiptune’s aesthetic, which recurs throughout the album, mostly in the up-front melodies. But it’s those old allegiances to Kraftwerk that still serve as the bedrock. Orbital strays from that on tracks like “Beezlebub,” a dark, bass-driven thumper that betrays its better sense of trance-y nuance. Much better is the collaboration with Zola Jesus on “New France,” which makes explicit just how far the duo’s influence has quietly traveled. Doesn’t hurt that her voice is on it, either. —Matt Sullivan

Daniel Rossen

Silent Hour/Golden Mile Warp

Quietly riotous

Compared to the fruits of his other involvements, Daniel Rossen’s solo debut might as well be a Robert Johnson 78. Not that Silent Hour/Golden Mile seems rushed; the singer and multi-instrumentalist simply passes on Grizzly Bear and Department Of Eagles’ carefully manicured sprawl in favor of focus and immediacy. Hence, his few big production flourishes—the massed strings and tympani on cinematic campfire ballad “Up On High,” for instance—add flesh to compositions without depleting muscle mass. Though lyrically he pretty much bares his soul, ingenuity and timing are Rossen’s strong suits. His second-biggest stroke of genius resides in keeping the release at five songs rather than padding it with b-grade material or covers. His biggest? Tour de force closer “Golden Mile”; as Rossen’s acoustic guitar says “farewell” just past the four-minute mark, we can’t help but wish he’d bring the song back and work it ’til the moon hangs high. —Rod Smith

Alasdair Roberts & Mairi Morrison

Urstan

Drag City

Old songs, new friends Scottish singer/songwriter Alasdair Roberts started out in lo-fi land as Appendix Out, but he soon moved on to the traditional music of his native home. His past few albums have drawn from the huge wealth of Scots English-language ballads, renowned for their graphic lyrics and eerie, haunted vistas. They’ve  been sparse, lonely affairs anchored by his cracked and windswept vocals, but his new album is an exploration of the Scots Gaelic language and what feels like a lighter side to the old trad music. Urstan is a collaboration with native speaker Mairi Morrison, herself a respected traditional


reviews singer, and it features songs in both languages. The LP works, but just barely. Roberts is best with the dark folk music, and he doesn’t always mesh well with Morrison’s cheerful singing. Plus the backup musicians add very little to the mix. Honestly, he’d be best just by himself in a small room with his strangely detuned guitar, singing about murderous kings and tragic betrayals. —Devon Leger

Rusko

Songs

Mad Decent/Downtown

Rave ‘til a reasonable hour

Sure it’s de rigueur to mock dubstep, but we won’t be doing that. Why, you ask, when it’s so easy and so well-deserved, what with all the dayglo and penny-pupils and grown-ass adults running around with glowsticks like a third-grade slumber party? Mostly because that would make us hypocrites every time we talk about how great the “rave-y” parts—the chopped Amen breaks, the itched vocals, the pristine keyboard that bubbles between wobble bass and dancehall toasts—are on U.K. DJ/ producer Rusko’s sophomore album. We’re not afraid to admit that we’ve got some VapoRub-drenched skeletons in our closet, even if we should be—and even if they are 20 years old. Songs is a taut collection of tunes that pulls from dancing days gone by as much as it pushes the genre toward the future; it’s a vibrant, dubbed-out dance album that rises above the wobble-obsessed rabble. —Sean L. Maloney

Screaming Females

Ugly

Don Giovanni

The name says it all

I first fell in love with this New Brunswick, N.J., trio opening for Throwing Muses in Philadelphia right around the time that Sleater-Kinney broke up, and they wound up more than filling that gap. Five albums later, Screaming Females haven’t run out of steam, sounding poised to take over the world on their fifth release. Or at the very least the hearts of Girls Rock Camp students everywhere. Shredder queen Marissa Paternoster keeps the riffs economical enough for the basement, yet big enough to take on any rock dinosaur. With support from bassist King Mike and drummer Jarrett Dougherty, there’s never any lack of action or wasted wanking. The famous refrain from “Me And Bobby McGee” (“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”) seems to be the lyrical theme of songs like “It All Means Nothing,” “Extinction” and Biblical middle finger “Rotten Apple.” Paternoster invites you to get ugly and rotten with her like it’s a call to arms. And at the end, the Females turn down the volume (but not the power) on acoustic-guitar/ strings closer “It’s Nice.” —Sara Sherr

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Four Bars And A Cloud Of Dust Ladyhawke’s latest dance-rock opus blows minds from the onset

W

hile we’re sure it’s entirely unprofes-

sional of us to decide we love a record based on nothing more than, say, the first four bars of the first song, that’s how it goes sometimes. Yes, we should Ladyhawke Anxiety listen to the whole album and let it marinate before making a carefully considered decision as to our feelings about its qualmodular/Casablanca ity, but when a record with a track like Ladyhawke’s “Girls Like Me” comes around—with the round, bouncy bass, fuzz guitars and square-synths that we love—all professional considerations go out the window. Of course, when the album only gets better after those first four bars, unfurling into 10 tracks of undeniably catchy, ultra-fun dance rock, we don’t have to worry about secondguessing our initial impression. So it goes with Anxiety. The second album from New Zealand singer Phillipa Brown lands squarely in that longforgotten realm where dance music and rock music aren’t diametric opposites, where deep grooves and raging guitars are all part of the same equation. Unlike many of the pop stars who dabble in a little bit of dance and a little bit of rock in order get that top-40 sheen, often making a mockery of both forms, on tunes like “The Quick & The Dead,” “Vaccine” and the title track, Brown creates music that pops precisely because of her expert incorporation of the disparate elements. These are not tunes created with an eye on the top of the charts, but it only takes about four bars to realize that they should be up there. —Sean L. Maloney

Bruce Springsteen

Wrecking Ball Columbia

99% rock

A 2011 Onion article lovingly lampooned Bruce Springsteen in “reporting” that America’s long-standing poet laureate was set to release Red Dust: a sci-fi concept album “explor(ing) the everyday lives and struggles

of immigrant workers scraping by in the 23rdcentury carbonate mines on Mars.” While the promise of an album about rugged Martian colonists working side-by-side in an extraterrestrial labor colony to put food on the table for their embryonically harvested juvenile clones was satirical, Springsteen’s actual 17th studio LP does show the Boss in an adventurous state. Wrecking Ball brims with loops, beats and other modern electro-rock production aesthet-


Found Sound The reinvention of Deerhunter regular Lockett Pundt, sorta Lotus Plaza

L

THEESatisfaction

awE naturalE Sub Pop

istening to The Floodlight Collective,

Lotus Plaza’s 2009 debut, is like perusing a Where’s Waldo? picture book; the auteur’s in there somewhere, but good luck finding him. So Lockett Pundt’s wayward, Kranky in-triplicate vocals were the wan, creamy center of echo-saturated jams barely tethered to any concept of equilibrium, let alone a durable rhythm section. The ethereal, divine “What Grows?” aside, Collective was a sprawling, precocious mess, the halogen drone-pop equivalent of watching city lights from a moving car blasting My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless in the rain while sobbing uncontrollably; Collective mostly existed to give Deerhunter fans a reason to live while anticipating Logos and Halcyon Digest. Also-rans get no respect; just ask Tobin Sprout. The bad news about Spooky Action At A Distance is that Pundt steals beyond his peer group without reservation: “Jet Out Of The Tundra” is early fake Stereolab, while “Monoliths” is half Peter Gabriel, half Hole. The good news about Distance is that Pundt has figured out that songwriting is something more than simply burying oneself in effects-pedal scree; his voice is mixed higher, it’s easier to make out those babbling-brook chord changes (“Strangers”), hooks abound. The bummer-strum blues of “Black Buzz” is skeletally intimate; “White Galactic One” is devotional declamation disguised as laconic brain-freeze clodhopping. The even better news about Distance is that three years after Collective, joke’s on anybody who expected Bradford Cox to keep the frayed-pop flag flying; given the spot-free rinses doled out by Cox’s projects over the last little while, Pundt—surprise, surprise— emerges as the standard-bearer for a gnarly, No Age-with-balls aesthetic left, we thought, for dead. Original Distance isn’t, but it’s a great hang. —Raymond Cummings Spooky Action At A Distance

kering with other people’s music and release something meatier than the handful of singles and EPs that have boosted the Tanlines name to date. Being known as remix specialists/producers, as Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm are, can be a detriment when embarking upon your own material. The tendency to obsessively fiddle on songs for indeterminate amounts of time instead of going with first takes and what makes immediate impact is a real concern. This is, however, something the pair seems to have conquered with the dense simplicity of the panned percussion noises, angelic vocals and calypso breakdown of “All Of Me,” the Men Without Hats-discovering-Air “Green Grass” and its homage to the Joy Division/Depeche Mode school of sound and thought. We’re curious, though: Who’s going to be lining up to throw their own twists and turns on these songs? —Kevin Stewart-Panko

Queens of the stoned age

Though they’ve self-released EPs in the past, THEESatisfaction, the female duo of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, attracted worldwide attention by guesting on Black Up, the excellent LP from fellow Seattleites Shabazz Palaces. The record went on to become one of the most acclaimed albums of last year, landing the girls a deal with Sub Pop. Like Shabazz, THEESatisfaction’s full-length debut features the same lyrical spirit and disjointed soul rhythms as its now-labelmate, which returns the favor by appearing here. Amidst ’80s funk and stuttered Quiet Storm samples, Harris-White and Irons’ wordy flow ranges from America’s political climate (“Earthseed”) to upbeat life lessons (“Existinct”). On album highlight “QueenS,” the group echoes Daft Punk’s jazzier moments, enveloped with airy vocals and harmonized mantra “Whatever you do, don’t funk with my groove.” Whatever these folks are doing up in Seattle is working; hopefully, the hip-hop world takes notice. — Bryan Bierman

Sidi Touré

Koïma

Thrill Jockey

Blending comfortably into the backdrop

ics Springsteen has spent decades avoiding. While such a musical makeover takes away more than it adds to us-vs.-the-one-percent opening stadium stomper “We Take Care Of Our Own,” the 62-year-old Springsteen sounds every bit the angry, empathetic and impassioned social commentator he was on post-Y2K rockers like The Rising and Magic. And latter-career Boss standouts like longtime set-list staple “Land Of Hope And Dreams” and

Wrecking Ball’s title track finally get the studio treatment they deserve. —Adam Gold

Tanlines

Mixed Emotions True Panther Sounds

Closing the chop shop

Experimental pop’s remix wunderkinds have finally managed to stop tin-

Malian singer/guitarist Sidi Touré turned 50 the year that he made Sahel Folk, his Thrill Jockey debut. A record of sparse and soulful acoustic duets, it was so strong that it you have to wonder where he’d been for so long. But if you caught him on his first U.S. tour last fall, you’d have an idea what was up: Touré seemed more comfortable sharing the spotlight with his sidemen than hogging it. Likewise, on Koïma, he is part of an ensem-


of the form in David Byrne, better still. Veloso shared the stage with Byrne in spring 2004 at New York City’s Carnegie Hall during its Perspectives series, working each other’s songs acoustically with a chamber-like ambience provided by cellist Jaques Morelenbaum. Each man traffics in tales of grand scale filled with intimate characterizations, so to hear the strange samba of Veloso’s “O Leãozinho” stripped down to its sweetly eerie lilt of a voice and Byrne’s “She Only Sleeps” peeled back is absolutely charming. Better still is hearing Byrne’s mincing yelp and Veloso’s flickering vocals as one entity as it winds its way weirdly through the calm breezes of Talking Heads’ “Heaven” as well as a small bunch of flowery nu-Brazilian classics (“Um Canto De Afoxé Para O Bloco Do Ilê”) and cuts penned by both composers (“Dreamworld: Marco De Canaveses”). —A.D. Amorosi

M. Ward

A Wasteland Companion Merge

Cute is what he aimed for

Life keeps looking up for Matt Ward. In the six years since Post-War, his best album, he’s hit paydirt as half of She & Him, toured the world with Monsters Of Folk and entered the mainstream with his indie cred still intact. So, you can’t blame him for being upbeat on A Wasteland Companion (well, you could), but you can blame him for losing his edge on songs like “Pure Joy” (about being in love), “Sweetheart” (ditto) and “Clean Slate” (about finding the truth, whatever that is). At his best, Ward’s always walked a fine line between eloquence and vagueness, hope and disappointment. It’s been a great source

Prior Restraint

of tension, and he does that about half the time here, in songwriting that’s too complex to summarize in a few short words, a moodily atmospheric production, heartbreaking vocals and genius finger-picking. Then on the next song, he gets mushy again, singing about the feeling of a kiss on his lips, and me, I just miss the old bittersweetness. I mean, who wouldn’t? —Kenny Berkowitz

We Are Serenades

Criminal Heaven Cherrytree

Not a Camden concept album

We Are Serenades hail from Stockholm, and the duo has clearly internalized the orchestral-pop swoon ABBA transformed into a juggernaut from the same home base in the ’70s, albeit run through a hazier, lowerfi prism. The chief difference being, when We Are Serenades scale back the keyboard flourishes, stacked, soaring harmonized vocals and electronic beats, they scale them way back. It’s like the Carpenters striding into the hippest Scandinavian discotheque wearing suicide vests and acoustic guitars, demanding everyone chill for an ethereal dreaminess interlude, then without warning ordering the party restarted, stat. Which is to say Criminal Heaven is an infectious, off-kilter, damn near perfect indie-pop album that manages to effortlessly cover a bizarrely large plot of musical territory—modern touchstones would include Soft Bulletinera Flaming Lips, Magnetic Fields and maybe a touch of early Crooked Fingers—without ever losing momentum or dissipating the band’s enchanting primal identity. —Shawn Macomber

Chaz Bundick’s early odds and ends nicely define Toro Y Moi

Xiu Xiu

J

Eyes wide xiut

ust a few years since he inadvertently helped

catalyze the insufferably titled subgenre of chillwave, Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi revisits his first steps as a musician on June 2009, a collection of 10 rarities and Toro Y Moi June 2009 previously unreleased tracks that predate first record Causers Of This by about a year. Comprised mostly of disparate carpark sketches from the time leading up to his celebrated debut, 2009 offers an intriguingly personal look at Bundick’s early career. “Tamalak” (a highlight off of Causers Of This) appears here in its original form, while others (“Warm Frames,” “Drive South”) recall that album’s wistful, oddly familiar nature. Though it’s but a collection of outtakes and rarities, June 2009 plays like much more than just that, making for a fitting precursor to Causers’ light, breezy textures and the grooving forest-lounge of this year’s Underneath The Pine. It also does well to highlight his distinct musical touches, audible in the coherence (the positively upbeat “Dead Pontoon”) and reliance on organic instrumentation (“New Loved Ones,” a surprisingly spare acoustic number) that separates Bundick’s music from that of his fellow chillwavers, who mostly prefer to work behind curtains of thick reverb and deal mostly in tripped-out analog bleeps. —Möhammad Choudhery

Always

Polyvinyl

Jamie Stewart has a thing for webcam sex sites. Not for the sex, which quickly becomes expensive and depressing, Stewart noted on his website in January. The Xiu Xiu frontman is more interested in details others might ignore: the pre-stripped clothes, the empty rooms. (His screen captures linger in memory like a seedy Sophie Calle photo booth.) It’s both in line and at odds with Xiu Xiu’s ninth LP in 10 years. Stewart’s shock-andaww dynamic could never be called predictable—not his words (“It’s no mean feat to fuck yourself in the ass”) or music (doses of bloodletting 16-bit synth-pop and piano-andstrings deliverance)—but it is dependable. So, we get a mix of ping-ponging bangers (“Hi,” “Born To Suffer”), touching presumed-true stories (“Joey’s Song,” “The Oldness”) and two skip-now shockers dedicated to monstrous worthlessness (“I Luv Abortion,” “Black Drum Machine”). —Noah Bonaparte Pais

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ble, weaving his voice and nimble finger-picking amongst those of others to make a rich, mainly acoustic fabric in a way that corresponds to his role as a commenter upon contemporary Malian society. Singing gently and insistently in the Songhaï tongue, he praises patrons, celebrates the spirits and challenges the powers that be to solve society’s problems. —Bill Meyer

Paul Van Dyk

Evolution Vandit

And the beat goes on

Yes, dudes like Kaskade and Swedish House Mafia get the love for it nowadays, but the formula for grafting minor-key, hands-in-the-air melodies onto 4/4 kick was pretty much pioneered by Paul Van Dyk. And while he’s been releasing artist albums since the ’90s, Evolution clearly sounds like he’s aiming for the sort of crossover action achieved by peers like David Guetta and Benny Benassi. Like those LPs, there’s tons of collabs here, mostly with up-and-comers like Austin Leeds; the only recognizable name outside of dance is Owl City’s Adam Young, who lends his schmoopy Twilight-friendly tenor to “Eternity.” While one has to admire his consistency, Van Dyk has always suffered from limited range. Unlike a deadmau5 or Skrillex, Van Dyk can only do his one style, and by the time the album is two-thirds over, you’re already ready for him to mix out. — Justin Hampton

Jozef van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch

Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity Important

They mean, like, Stargate, right?

Is Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity a vanity project à la Crazy Clown Time? Hardly. True, Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch are both famously music-loving filmmakers. But while neither is anybody’s dilettante, Jarmusch’s public history of hands-on playing stretches back to his stint as keyboardist/vocalist for no-wavers the Del-Byzanteens. Not to mention that the album isn’t a oneoff collaboration; Brooklyn-based, post-everything lutenist Jozef van Wissem first availed himself of Jarmusch’s guitar skills on last year’s The Joy That Never Ends. While the latter solos to great effect on “Continuation Of

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Blood In, Blood Out Six albums in, the Mars Volta is in danger of losing circulation

H

aving written entire albums on such

far-out fare as a rat poison-induced coma and the tale of a particularly malevolent Ouija The Mars Volta board gone wild, the Mars Volta has done plenty to warrant Noctourniquet its widely held status as the loudest, weirdest band in the warner bros. world. Lately, though, the band has leaned much more on the weird, dividing fans with 2009’s Octahedron, which saw the outfit drop the bizarro guise for a ponderous, curiously subdued effort that shed light on a certain range and attention to texture that was nearly imperceptible in its work to that point. While the Mars Volta doesn’t completely abandon that tack on Noctourniquet, there’s no mistaking the deliberate return to character that’s written all over the record from start (Deantoni Parks’ off-beat feral stomp on synth-driven opener “The Whip Hand“) to finish (the lurching, starry-eyed psychedelia of “Zed And Two Naughts”). But where Octahedron revealed the wonders the group could work when compelled to stretch its music to its outermost limits, Noctourniquet falls too often between retreading of the Mars Volta’s back catalog and expounding on the outlandish sonic experiments of bandleader Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s solo work, playing into the same old dynamic shifts and nowpredictable tropes that even casual fans of either have come to expect. Even album highlights “The Malkin Jewel” and the almost serene “Vedamalady” aren’t likely to do much more than appease the group’s most ardent fans. The moral of the story? Being the loudest and weirdest guys around doesn’t always cut it. —Möhammad Choudhery

The Last Judgement,” he mostly reprises his supporting role on Joy, spooling out considered feedback interjections that lend extra luster to van Wissem’s elegant constructs. (Cellist Lori Goldston’s work on the last couple Earth albums makes for a handy point of reference.) Each musician fills in exactly enough space to make the spaces they leave together glow like nebulae. —Rod Smith

Caetano Veloso And David Byrne

Live At Carnegie Hall Nonesuch

Friends are important

It’s not so strange when old pals make records together. If the best buddies happen to be Tropicalista Caetano Veloso and an acolyte

photo by b. cox


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/movies

It’s Been (Sur)Real

Play Time essay by

Stan Michna

Catapulted across the front seat and halfThe shows themselves aren’t easily exway out the passenger door when his plained to a modern audience. Shot on tape, crushable-as-a-soupcan Corvair slammed in black and white (the era’s standard), they into a utility pole, Ernie Kovacs may or are as far from traditional sitcoms as a bicycle may not have died instantly—eleven days from a Ferrari. Almost entirely silent (except shy of his 43rd birthday—on January 12, for eccentric musical accompaniment) and 1962. comprised of short (often surreal) visual gags What we know, from a photograph taken or blackouts, there is nonetheless something moments after the crash, is the configu- vaguely familiar about them even to contemration of the surreal deathscape. Like the porary viewers. melted clocks in Dali’s PersisIt’s this: from Sesame Street to Saturday Night Live; from every ittence Of Memory, the Corvair is bent into a horseshoe; and eration of The Tonight Show (Steve extended from Kovacs’s prone Allen, Jack Paar, Carson, Leno) to Laugh-In to Conan O’Brien to David body is his right arm, reaching for the unlit cigar that lay mere Letterman to Dean Martin to trippy inches from his outstretched YouTube videos of kittens playing fingers. pianos, Ernie Kovacs was both preYet if not for the tragic headcursor and progenitor, possessor of line, any intelligent adult of the television equivalent of Blakean that era might have mistaken fourfold vision, destroyer of Aristotthe photo for one of Kovacs’s Ernie Kovacs: The lean dramatic unities. ABC Specials will elaborate, ingenious—and yes, be available on True, many of his greatest creeven surreal—commercials for DVD April 17 from ations—lisping poet Percy DovetonEntertainment Dutch Masters Cigars, his long- One sils, for example, or (except for a brief time network sponsor at ABC. appearance) the Nairobi Trio—aren’t In death, Kovacs knew a good absurdist here. (For that, see the magnificent 6-disc Ersight gag even when he never saw it. nie Kovacs Collection.) But what remains With that death tableau in mind, more (including his Loony Toons/Buster Keaton than a little irony accompanies any viewmashup, “Eugene”) is sufficient to crave more ing of Ernie Kovacs: The ABC Specials, Kovacs. What sentient being with a sense of a compilation of the final five (of the orighumour wouldn’t want more from someone inal eight) monthly, half-hour specials who accompanies a series of blackouts with Kovacs produced in the last year of his an achingly beautiful tenor singing Mona life. Not only is the DVD’s bonus feature a Lisa and Tennessee Waltz—in Polish(!)? Who cluster of Dutch Masters commercials, but smokes a cigar underwater, and blows out so too, it can seem, are the specials, into milk? Or orchestrates the tension of a poker which the commercials are seamlessly game with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony? Kovacs was once described as “the Chapincorporated and every bit as inventive and funny. lin of television,” then considered the highest (In one, Kovacs—who “starred” in evcompliment imaginable. But that’s a misreadery commercial—attends a music recital ing of his genius. Instead, Kovacs should be and is prevented by a scowling audience accorded the even higher compliment: “the from lighting up a cigar, while on stage the Buster Keaton of television.” members of the string quartet smoke cigars. In another, an angry football referee Questions or comments? Email stan@sunriserecords.com breaks up a huddle only to discover all eleven players enjoying a cigar.) 56

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NEGLECTED

CRITERION

1967 / Director

Jacques Tati

Why It’s Neglected: Apple phone apps? Men’s pantyhose? Oxycontin addiction? Stupidity? The Theme: It’s about alienation and dislocation—from our past, from our values, from human contact and from ourselves. But it’s a comedy! Tati’s fourth M.Hulot film (Play Time would bankrupt him) is a bittersweet adieu both to human and civilizing verities, and to M. Hulot himself. (Though he would reprise the character in Trafic, here he is barely noticeable, another lost soul adrift in the antiseptic glass, steel and concrete towers of modern Paris.) The Story: M. Hulot (Tati) goes to visit a friend in Paris and encounters a dismayingly modern Paris built with every contingency in mind except its people. As usual, Tati loads his frames with sight gags galore, subtle—enduring landmarks like the Eiffel Tower are seen only as reflections on glass doors—and slapstick, whimsical and surreal, always without dialogue. Shot in 70 mm, mostly in mediumto-long shots, there is constantly something going on away from the central focus—including two nuns passing by in the background, the corners of their cornettes flapping like birds’ wings. A defeated Hulot finally leaves Paris, not so much sadder as more baffled. What You Get: One of the finest Criterions ever produced: from a breathtaking transfer (with commentary) to a second disc that includes a BBC documentary featuring Tati, a brief biography on his career and a 1967 Tati short. Above all, a great film.


/movies/new_releases

APRIL 3

2 Headed Shark Attack 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 3 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 4 Aakhari Decision Air Collision Air, Land and Sea Animals Airheads/Idiocracy Airplay: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio Alien Opponent Amazing World of Dinosaurs Angelina Ballerina: The Ultimate Dance Collection Around the World in 50 Years 3-D Ayn Rand & The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged Being Elmo Benda Bilili Beyblade: Fierce Battle Birds in Paradise Bloodlust Bob: The Complete Series Bugz: From a Bugz Eye View Bush Pilots: Denali Flyers Chasing Madoff Chicago by Boat Commander: Set 2 Corsican Brothers Danny Phantom: Season 2, Part 1 Del Shores: My Sordid Life Designing Women: The Complete Sixth Season Discovering North Carolina Discovering Ohio Dominatrix Story Double Hour Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete First Season Dysfunctional Friends Eagleheart: Season One Elvis Costello & The Imposters: The Revolver Tour – The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook Enter Nowhere Eyes of the Woods Fireman Sam: Rescue on the Water Frank Sinatra Film Collection Fresh Prince of Bel Air: The Complete First Season Full House: The Complete First Season Gilligan’s Island: The Complete Third Season Goobers Griefwalker Gustafer Yellowgold’s Year in the Day Gwyneth Paltrow Collection Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass Houston: Remember When Imax: Nature Collection In the Land of Blood and Honey Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch Ivory Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Peter Pan Returns JB Smoove: That’s How I Dooz It Jeff Healey Band: Live in Belgium Jo Koy: Lights Out

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John Wayne: An American Icon Just Us La Traviata Le Comte Ory Legends of Folk: Village Scene Madonna: Truth or Dare Mamma Mia/It’s Complicated Marvin Sapp: I Win Masterpiece Classic: Great Expectations Mayday! Air, Land and Sea Disasters Me, Myself & Irene/There’s Something About Mary Medal of Honor Midnight Disease Motto to Love-Ru: Complete Collection Nicole Kidman Collection Nip Nobody’s Perfect Orinoco Crocodile Our Gang Pokemon Heroes/Pokemon 4ever/Jirachi Wish Maker/ Destiny Deoxys Pokemon the Movie: Black/ Pokemon the Movie: White Polyphonica: Crimson S – Complete Collection Prince and the Showgirl Princess of Mars Proud Men Raggs: Sing Out Loud Regular Show: Slack Pack Renee Zellweger Collection Reno 911/Trapped in Paradise Roseanne: The Complete Fourth Season Roseanne: The Complete Third Season Sam Elliott Triple Feature Scotland Highlands Sesame Street: Big Elmo Fun/ Monster Hits Shallow Hal/Dodgeball Sky Is Falling Snow White and the Three Stooges/Soup to Nuts Space Dogs Stuck on You/The Ringer That 70s Show: Season 3 That 70s Show: Season 4 Three Branches of Government: How They Function Three Stooges: Commemorative Pack Titanic II Titanic: The 100th Anniversary Collection Titanoboa: Monster Snake Torchwood: Miracle Day Truth About Kerry Tyrannosaur UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem Undersea Venezuela Unsolved Untouched by Man Van Meegerens Faked Vermeers Venezuelan Birds: Breeding Venezuelan Birds: Diversity View From the Top Walton Legacy The Waltons: The Complete Fifth Season The Waltons: The Complete First Season The Waltons: The Complete Fourth Season

apr 3 We Bought a Zoo

Cameron Crowe fails to recover from 2005’s disastrous Elizabethtown with this wellintentioned animal acquisition dramedy, starring Matt Damon. [20th Century Fox]

The Waltons: The Complete Second Season The Waltons: The Complete Seventh Season The Waltons: The Complete Sixth Season The Waltons: The Complete Third Season War Horse We Bought a Zoo West Side Story Wind and the Long Black Scarf Wonders Made by Man World of Volcanoes: 20 Years of Assault Volcanoes World of Volcanoes: La Fournaise – A Volcano in the Sea World of Volcanoes: Lava Lakes Acid Lakes World of Volcanoes: Man Faced With Volcanoes World of Volcanoes: Mount Saint Helens Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: A Wuzzleburg Tale Zombie Apocalypse APRIL 10

Abba: Golden Greats – I Have a Dream Adam-12: The Final Season Aerial America: The Pacific Rim Air Assault Animals United Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous Back Pay Bane: An Experiment in Human Suffering Bedevilled Beverly Hillbillies (1993) Blessed Event Boy in Blue Bright Lights/The Reckless Hour: Dorothy Mackaill PreCode Double Feature Buster Keaton at MGM Triple Feature Car 54, Where Are You? The Complete Second Season

Cave of the Yellow Dog Charlotte Rampling: The Look Classic Drive-In Collection Conquest Cool, Dry Place Crash/Registered Nurse: PreCode Double Feature Dangerous Dark Shadows: Best of Barnabas Dark Shadows: Fan Favorites Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series Dark Watchers: The Women in Black Darkest Hour Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters Doctor Who: The Daemons Donald Glover: Weirdo – Live From New York Fast Workers Fix: The Ministry Movie From the Other Side Giant Tuna Adventures Goodnight for Justice Great Classic Western Collection Helicopter Gunships Helicopter War Hidden 3D I’m Dickens… He’s Fenster, Vol. 1 Imax: Earth Collection Into the Abyss Iron Lady IS: Infinite Stratos – Complete Collection Joe Satriani: Satchurated – Live in Montreal Justice League: Doom King of Devil’s Island Last of the Mohicans Laverne & Shirley: Seasons 1-5 Laverne & Shirley: The Fifth Season Lazarus Papers Led Zeppelin: Dazed & Confused Legend of the Gambler L’Inconorazionne Di Poppea Littlerock Logan’s Run: The Complete Series Mafia Kingpin Collection Man v. Food Nation Masters of Terror Collection Medevacs & Heavy Lifters Miss Representation Modern Problems Naruto Uncut: Box Set Vol. 10 National Geographic Video: Secrets of the Titanic Night Gallery: Season Three Night Song Nova: Ice Age Death Trap Nuns on the Run Oh! Edo Rocket! The Complete Series Olafur Arnalds: Living Room Songs One Night Stand One Tree Hill: The Complete Ninth Season Opeth: Lamentations – Live at Shepherd’s Bush 2003 Pick a Star Play Girl Portrait of Celestin Deliege: The Last Master of the Modernists PWR Uprising: The Complete First Season Racing With the Wild Boys


apr 24 Contraband

Like Shooter, here’s an underrated if somewhat boilerplate Mark Wahlberg actioner (also w/Kate Beckinsale), remade from a superior Icelandic original. [Universal]

Rat Scratch Fever Red Hot Chili Peppers: Inside the Music – The Ultimate Review Say it Isn’t So Sleeping Beauty Soldier’s Plaything Steel Trap Swing Fever/Playmates: Kay Kyser Double Feature Switchin’ the Script Terror Experiment Thirteen Women Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould Titanic: 100 Years Below Tomashefskys Trippin’ Trust the Man Truth About Cats and Dogs Untamed Veteran Waking the Titanic What Men Think When the Drums Is Beating Witches of Oz WWE: You Think You Know Me? The Story of Edge APRIL 17

100th Anniversary of Fenway Park 7 Below After the Banquet Alambrista America Revealed Best of Travel: Cuba Today Bill Moyers: Capitol Crimes Bling Ring Bob’s Burgers: The Complete First Season Born to Be Wild Chris Bohjalian’s Secrets of Eden Conan the Adventurer: Season Two Part Two

Crew 2 Crew Dark Crimes Dead or Alive 2 Delight of Turkish Steam Divide Domain Eight Is Enough: The Complete First Season Episode 50 Ernie Kovacs: The ABC Specials Flaw Frozen Planet: The Complete Series Garbo: The Spy Getting of Wisdom Girl Fight Grateful Dead: All the Years Combine – The DVD Collection Greatest Player Ever Harold and Maude Heaven’s Lost Property: Forte – The Complete Season 2 Hell’s Labyrinth High Road to China Hitler Chronicles Hypothermia Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Five Inside Nature’s Giants: Monster Python Inside Nature’s Giants: Sperm Whale Jerusalem Countdown Jodi Picoult’s Salem Falls Keeping Up With the Steins Last Rites of Joe May Malevolent Man Nobody Knew Man on the Train Man vs. Wild: Top 25 Man Moments Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol NHL: Road to Victory – The New York Rangers Story Nifty Fifties: 50 Movies Nowhere in Africa Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy, Vol. 2 Panda! Go, Panda! Paul Goodman Changed My Life Planet Egypt Presidents Prophecy & Hellraiser: Miramax Complete Collection Relation of Face, Mind and Love Robotropolis Roger Corman Cult Classics AllNight Marathon: The Nurses Collection Scotland Mountains Secret Life of Birds: The Complete 5-Part Series Secret War Secrets of the Manor House Shaun the Sheep: Sheer Madness Simply Ming: Cooking With Friends Someday’s Dreamers: Complete Collection Super Hero Squad Show: The Infinity Gauntlet Season 2 Vol. 3 Survivor Talk of Angels Treme: The Complete Second Season

Tsubasa: Ova Collection Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns: Season 5 Uncaged Yanni: Live in El Morro Puerto Rico Yo Gabba Gabba: Super Spies Young Justice: Season 1 Vols. 1-3 APRIL 24

11-11-11 1900 Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 4 Albatross Ancient Alien Agenda: Aliens Artist Avenging Eagle/Blood Brothers Badge 373 Ben 10 Classic: Four Arms Billboard’s Best Hip-Hop: Lil Wayne and Black Eye Peas Blind Turn Buccaneer Carry On Camping/Carry On Again Doctor Celebrity Bowling: Bowling for Laughs Cheap Trick: Live Broadcast Archives China: In the Shadow of Mr. Kong Cinema Verite Contraband Contradictions of the Heart Crime After Crime Crimson Petal and the White Dark Tide Death and Cremation Dogs Lie Duel of Fists Empire Records Remix Fetish Dolls Die Laughing Fields First Beautiful Thing Flor De Muertos Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Collection One Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos Fushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play – Suzaku Box Season 1 Girl on a Motorcycle Golden Swallow/Killer Clans Golgo 13: Collection 3 Great American Landmarks Great Native American Warrior Chiefs Hairspray Hedwig & The Angry Inch Hellcats Hit! Hollis Frampton Odyssey I Was a Spy Indemnity: Rage of a Jealous Vampire Innkeepers Iron Man: The Complete Animated Series Jayhawkers Joe Jackson: Rockpalast Jyu Oh Sei: Planet of the Beast King: The Complete Series Karate Girl Keepin the Faith Double Feature: Higher Ground/Lookin’ for Mr. Right Krush Groove Lassiter Late Rounders

Let the Bullets Fly Lidia Celebrates America: Weddings – Something Borrowed, Something new Long Day’s Journey Into Night Los Heroes Del Norte Lovers and Friends Mad Race to Cote X’Azur Marquis De Sade’s Justine Marvel Animated Features 3-Movie Collection Masterpiece Classic: Birdsong McMillan & Wife: Downshift to Danger/The Game of Survival Meat Loaf: Live in Sydney Merry Wives of Windsor Mother’s Love Ms. Cannibal Holocaust National Geographic: Ultimate Nature Collection Vol. 2 Nazis at the Center of the Earth Night of Guitars Night Wolf Of Dolls and Murder Organizer Our Town Paranormal Case Files: Ghost Pariah Patton Oswalt: Finest Hour Pearls of the Czech New Wave Perils of Pauline Planet of the Vampire Women Pony Express Power Primitive London/London in the Raw Purple Rain Rett: There Is Hope Return Reuniting the Rubins Rock Star Saving the Titanic Scherherazade, Tell Me a Story Sista’s of R&B: Hip-Hop Soul Vol. 2 Some Days Are Better Than Others Spot and His Grandparents Go to the Carnival Steve Murray: Pet Energy Healing Step by Step Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records Stronger Than Blood Sword Masters: Swordsman and Enchantress Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny Tested Theatre Bizarre Time That Remains Titanic Tom Palazzolo’s Chicago UFC 142: Aldo vs. Medes Ultimate Avengers Movie Collection Unauthorized: The Story of RockN-Roll Comics Van Halen: Bottoms Up White Knuckles Wicker Tree Wild Thornberrys: Season 2, Part 2 Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music X-Men: The Complete Series Young Goethe in Love

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/music/new_releases APRIL 3

Piano Music for Moms 10 Great Songs Skylight Both Lights Mischievous Moon Acousmatic Sorcery I Love You, It’s Cool Legacy: Best Of Beyond Terror Beyond… Nadir Bola Volume 7 Breton Other People’s Problems Chris Cagle 10 Great Songs Kate Campbell 1000 Pound Machine Candlebox Love Stories & … Musings Johnny Cash Bootleg Vol. IV: Soul of Truth Ceu Caravana Sereia Bloom Clark Iradelphic Adam Cohen Like a Man E Costello & Impos… Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook Culture Club 10 Great Songs Cynic The Portal Tapes Dallas Don Burnet Cancel My Disappointment Doris Day With a Smile and a Song De La Soul’s Plug 1 … First Serve Paco De Lucia En Vivo Dr. John Locked Down Simone Felice Simone Felice Firehose Lowflows: Columbia Anth. First Aid Kit The Big Black & The Blue The Funk Ark High Noon The Gadabouts Look Out Now Great Lake Swimmers New Wild Everywhere Jeff Healey Band Live in Belgium CD/DVD High on Fire De Vermis Mysteriis The Hollies 10 Great Songs Ben Howard Every Kingdom Ice Cube 10 Great Songs Al Jardine Postcard From California Jethro Tull’s Ian An… Thick as a Brick 2 Jezabels Prisoner Les Momies De Pal… Brulez Ce Coeur Lightships Electric Cable Lonewolf Army of the Damned Lonewolf The Dark Crusade Love on a Real Train Love on a Real Train The Lumineers The Lumineers Mad Gregs Relatives McEuen Sessions For All the Good Messy Marv Presents: Shots Fired Nicki Minaj Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded MXPX Plans Within Plans Smokie Norful Once in a Lifetime Of Monsters and Men My Head Is an Animal Morgan Page In the Air Photek Photek DJ Kicks Quantic and A Russell Look Around the Corner Rascal Flatts Changed Rough Guide African Roots Revival Rough Guide New Orleans David Sylvian Victim of Stars 1982-2012 Obie Trice Bottoms Up UB40 10 Great Songs UV Pop No Songs Tomorrow Paul Van Dyk Evolution The Ventures 10 Great Songs Will.I.Am Lost Change: 10th Anniv. Anita Wilson Worship Soul Wilson Phillips Dedicatged Wishbone Ash Live Dates II Denison Witmer The Ones Who Wait Yppah Eighty One Zammuto Zammuto B Adair & Friends Trace Adkins Atoma Au Jill Barber Willis Earl Beal Bear in Heaven Tab Benoit

APRIL 10

8Ball Accept Alabama Shakes Jon Allen Amadou & Mariam Amberfern

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Life’s Quest Stalingrad Boys & Girls Sweet Defeat Foila Distant Horizons:

Florence & the Machine apr 10

MTV Unplugged Nine gorgeously rendered Florence originals are compiled here, but even more exciting is Welch’s duet of country staple “Jackson” with QOTSA’s Josh Homme [Republic]

Mediterranean Nordland 2011 The Enemy Inside Attaloss Betcha by Golly Wow Vava Voom Mr. Impossible Feel the Burn Underrated X-posed Roll On Ejection Cardiff 1988 Sweeten the Distance Unseen Cash Thick as Thieves Closure Unlocked: Live From the Georgia Theater Alice Cooper No More Mr. Nice Guy Live Counting Crows Underwater Sunshine The Damned Damned 35th Anniversary Darkthrone Plaguewielder Oliver Dawson Saxon Motorbike Dead Sara Dead Sara Demon Hunter True Defiance Destroy All Monsters Hungry Dirge Within There Will Be Blood Dodheimsgard Supervillain Outcast Drummerboy Youngest in Charge Duane Eddy Rocks Kat Edmonson Way Down Low Eight and a Half Eight and a Half Electric Family Ice Cream Phoenix Emmure Slave to the Game Enid Munsalvaesche Enthroned Obsidium Wayne Escoffery The Only Son of One Evenoire Vitriol Evil Army Evil Army Exhumed All Guts, No Glory Deluxe Exumer Fire & Damnation Fastway Eat Dog Eat Bryan Fenkhart Simple & Grey Florence + Machine MTV Unplugged Finbar Furey Colours Kenny Garrett Seeds From the Underground Gehenna Murder Giant Panda Guerilla … In These Times Donald Glover Weirdo Nanci Griffith Intersection Guo Gan Scented Maiden Halestorm The Strange Cast of Jim Hanft Weddings or Funerals George Harrison The Lowdown Hellvetron Death Scroll of Seven Hells and Its Infernal Majesties Hipower Ent Presents Streets Are Mine Howl Howl Ignitor Year of the Metal Tiger Imaginary Cities Temporary Resident Inverloch Dusk Subside Joe Jackson Live at Rockpalast Bert Jansch Sweet Sweet Music Job for a Cowboy Demonocracy Apoptose Arctic Plateau Attaloss Bob Baldwin Bassnectar Black Dice Blackburner Bow Wow Michael Buble J.J. Burner Robert Calvert Neal Casal Johnny Cash Cavo Andy Collins Conspirator

Joyride Are You Fer It Keb’ Mo’ X2 (Keb’ Mo’/Keep It Simple) Killerfix Bridge of Disorder Dayna Kurtz American Standard Dayna Kurtz Secret Canon Vol. 1 Latimore All About the Rhythm Latimore Back ‘Atcha Latimore Live in Vienna Felix Lehrmann Rimjob Lil C H-Town Chronic 6 Monica Lionheart Indian Summer Liquid Crystal Project Liquid Crystal Project 3 Little Feat The Last Record Album Jeff Loomis Plains of Oblivion Lullacry Where Angels Fear The Mastersons Birds Fly South Gwen McCrae Sings Kate McGarry Girl Talk Alan Menken Mirror Mirror Soundtrack Bette Midler Live at Last Jack Millman California Jazz M Only & Ayatollah Bridges Monica New Life Patrick Moraz Pianissimoraz Mpire of Evil Hell to the Holy Mr. Criminal Young, Brown and Dangerous Municipal Waste The Fatal Feast Murder Bay Never Was an Angel Mustangs Shaman and the Monk Nadiwrath/Hexen… Raze the Cosmic Inexistence Norman Nardini Bone a Fide Nashville Pussy From Hell to Texas N-Coded Music Jazz Party Boxset Willie Nelson Willie Nelson and Don Cherry L Nelson & Promise … Wasted John Oates The Bluesville Sessions Daniel O’Donnell Ultimate Collection OHMphrey Posthaste Opeth Blackwater Park (Legacy Ed.) Opeth Damnation Opeth Deliverance Original Cast One Tin Soldier Aruan Ortiz Santiarican Blues Suite Kid Ory Songs of the Wanderer Outcast Awaken the Reason Papaslide What Are We Livin’ For Prince Royce Phase II Profanatica Sickened by the Holy Host Prophecy Into the Light Bonnie Raitt Slipstream Rattleshake Rattleshake Wade Ray Idaho Red Marty Raybon Southern Roots & Branches Steve Roach Back to Life Roachford Live at Rockpalast Todd Rundgren Live at Hammersmith ‘75 The Safety Fire Grind the Ocean Curtis Salgado Soul Shot Joe Satriani Satchurated: Live in Montreal Say Hello … Angels Break Your Sword Scars on 45 Scars on 45 Claudia Schmidt Bend in the River: Collected … Schwarzer Engel Traume Eine Nacht Secrets of the Moon Seven Bells Red Simpson Hello, I’m Red Simpson Sleepy Sun Spine Hits Joan Soriano La Familia Soriano Steep Canyon Rangers Nobody Knows You Svartsyn The True Legend Switchblade Symphony The Three Calamities Dudley Taft Left for Dead Taproot The Episodes J. Teal Band Cooks Trampled by Turtles Stars and Satellites Treperquattropiuuno Vintage Lissy Trullie Lissy Trullie Ulverheim Nar Dimman Lattar Upon a Burning Body Red White Green Vanilla Ice Ice Is Back! Hip-Hop Classics Derniere Volonte Ne Te Reto M. Ward A Wasteland Companion Emily Wells Mama Whisper in the Noise To Forget White Car Everyday Grace Steven Wilson Insurgents/RMXS Alex Winston King Gon World Party Arkeology Elliott Yamin Let’s Get to What’s Real Young Hines Give Me My Change


Slingshot Black Mesa Then Sings My Soul: Best of Awoken Broken 3 and 3 Quarters Anyone in Love With You (Already Knows) Ruby Fray Pith Pete Seeger Bowdoin College Concert Shine 2009 Realism Sixo Free Floating Rationales Spiritualized Sweet Heart Sweet Light Sting Driven Thing Live on the Foxtrot Tour Susanna & Roomates 16 Reasons and More SWV I Missed Us Ebo Taylor Appia Kwa Bridge Yann Tiersen Skyline Tomat 01-06 June Sidi Toure Koima Train California 37 Luther Vandross Hidden Gems Various Artists Sun 60th Anniversary Loudon Wainwright III Older Than My Old Man Now The Wave Pictures Long Black Cars We Are Serenades Criminal Heaven Weird Dreams Choreography Dar Williams In the Time of Gods Hank Williams III Long Daddy Gone Rebecca Pidgeon Jon Porras The Priests Primal Rock Rebellio Radio Moscow Rainer Maria

Jack White apr 24

Blunderbuss No Insane Clown Posse collaborations are immortalized on this debut solo effort from the White Stripes/Raconteurs/ Dead Weather shredder. [Third Man]

APRIL 17

Talk Like Blood The Bridge The Great Communicators Eleven Eleven Live Heart It Races Dross Glop Love Comet to Life Sons of the North Volume (CD/DVD) Nothing to Do Essential Blue Oyster Cult Impressions Movie Music Vol. Two The Essential Brooks & Dunn Occapella Powerplay DJ Kicks Hit Singles A’s & B’s The Nomad Series The Essential Donovan The Power Within Shallow Bed Everybody Left Pluto Grinderman 2 RMX A Beautiful Soul Survive Live: Moody Theater Kill Them With Kindness Poor Moon Cynic’s New Year Moving Up Living Down My Fair, My Dark The Essential Alan Jackson Impressions of C Mayfield Intelligent Design of Joan … Jack Johnson & Friends The Pearl Sessions Beyond the Crossroads Moving On Equal Opportunity Offender The Best of Lisa Lampanelli Ramsey Lewis Funky Serenity/Salongo Daniel Licht Silent Hill: Book of Memories Gordon Lightfoot All Live Little Richard Here’s Little Richard Little Willie John Hit Singles A’s & B’s Lushlife Plateau Vision Maps & Atlases Beware and Be Grateful Bob Marley & Wailers Marley Sounatrack Mates of State Our Constant Concern J.D. McPherson Signs & Signifiers John Moore … Trio Roll Your Activator Vol. 1 Jason Mraz Love Is a Four Letter Word Neon Trees Picture Show New Build Yesterday Was Lived and Lost Of Montreal An Eludian Instance Chris Olley A Streetcar Named Disaster Our Lady Peace Curve Doug Paisley Golden Embers Pinetop Perkins Heaven Phantom Blues Band Inside Out 31 Knots Aeges Aloha Dave Alvin Arch. in Helsinki Battles Big Daddy Weave Black Spiders Black Spiders Bleeding Knees Club Blue Oyster Cult Chris Botti Braid Brooks & Dunn Jon Cleary Billy Cobham Maya Jane Coles Cowboy Copas Cowboy Junkies Donovan Dragonforce Dry the River The Forecast Future Grinderman D Haddon Pres. Voi… G Hawk w Sly & Ro… Warren Haynes Band Headlights Hiss Golden Mess… Horse Feathers Eric Hutchinson Ida Alan Jackson Jazz Soul Seven Joan of Arc Jack Johnson Janis Joplin P Karp & Sue Foley K’Jon Lisa Lampanelli

APRIL 24

10 Ft. Ganja Plant 10 Deadly Shots Vol. II 16 Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds The 69 Eyes Motor City Resurrection 7 Horns 7 Eyes Throes of Absolution Josh Abbott Band Small Town Family Dream Acephalix Deathless Master B Adair & Friends Jazz and the Movies B Adair & Friends Jazz for the Road The Beegie Adair Trio The Real Thing Live Adair, Brickman, … Piano Music for Weddings Alio Die Deconsecrated and Pure Anathema Weather Systems Ancient Wisdom A Godlike Inferno Bill Anderson From This Pen/Get While the Gettin’s Good Theresa Andersson Street Parade Trombone Shorty T. Shorty’s Swingin’ Gate Anguish Through the Archdemon’s Head R Arbo & D Mayhem Some Bright Morning Ashanti Braveheart Prashant Aswani Visions Atriarch Forever the End Author & Punisher Ursus Americanus Mickey Avalon Loaded Omer Avital Suite of the East Bad Veins The Mess We’ve Made Light John Baldry Everything Stops for Tea Light John Baldry It Ain’t Easy Count Basie The Centennial Anthology Battleme Battleme Brendan Benson What Kind of World Bereft Leichenhaus Beyond Terror Beyond… Our Ashes Built Mountains Brad United We Stand Jeff Bradshaw Bone Appetit Lee Brice Hard 2 Love Busy Signal Reggae Music Again Cabinet Eleven Cam’ron More Gunz Less Butta Cancer Bats Dead Set on Living Al Casey Six Swinging Strings Joe Chambers Moving Pictures Orchestra Prague Philharmonic… Music From the Twilight Saga Claim the Throne Trijmph and Beyond Romain Collin The Calling Crazy Lixx Riot Avenue Celia Cruz Anthology Crystal Fighters Star of Love Crystal Viper Crimen Excepta The Dandy Warhols This Machine The Darlings The New Escape Death by Stereo Black Sheep of the … Dream Death Grips The Money Store Deathhammer Onward to the Pits Deep Purple Total Abandon Deuce Nine Lives

Diamond Rugs Mondo Embryonic Devourment Fear of Reality Craig Erickson Galactic Roadhouse Eve 6 Speak in Code Fair Warning Best and More Fania All Stars Live in Puerto Rico 1994 Fleshrot Traumatic Reconfiguration Float Face Down Exitum Verum W Fontana & Mindb… Eric, Rick, Wayne, Bob Plus For the Foxes The Revolution Frames In Via Daniel Freedman Bamako by Bus Peter Gabriel New Blood Live Gemini Five Babylon Rockets A Genuine Freakshow Oftentimes Gory Blister Earthsick Gowan Great Dirty World (Special Ed.) Groundation Buillding an Ark Bonnie Guitar:Intimate Sessions Harlem 6 Revelation 14:1 Carrie Hassler The Distance Haste the Day Best of the Best Hawkwind Weird Tapes Vols. 5 & 6 Hideous Divinity Obeisance Rising High Duchess Wanderlust Hillsong Kids Crazy Noise Hipower Ent Presents Team Hipower Horisont Second Coming Human Don’t Be Angry Human Don’t Be Angry Huoratron Cryptocracy Hurt The Crux Sarah Jaffe The Body Wins Jamiroquai Rock Dust Light Star Jan & Dean Surf’s Up Davy Jones The Bell Recordings George Jones The Great Lost Hits Kasra Fabriclive 62 Carole King The Legendary Demos King Crimson 21st Century Bundle Kissin’ Dynamite Money, Sex & Power Lil Keke Album Before the Album II Lionheart Undisputed Loquat We Could Be Arsonists Loyal to the Grave Against the Odds Loretta Lynn All Time Gospel Favorites Maccabees Given to the Wild Magic Wands Aloha Moon Barry Manilow Live in London Many Arms Many Arms Roy D. Mercer Ultimate Fits Messy Marv Cake and Ice Cream V. 3 Byron Metcalf The Shaman’s Heart II Ministry Relapse The Monkees Pool It! The Deluxe Edition Wally Montpellier Montpellier Kip Moore Up All Night Necronomicon Invictus O’Brien Party of 7 Reincarnation Paradise Lost Tragic Idol Luis Perdomo Universal Mind Pigeon Toe The First Perception Prong Carved Into Stone Prozak Paranormal Tito Puente Anthology Putumayo Presents African Blues Rasputina How We Quit the Forest Redeemer First Degree Eric Reed The Baddest Monk Rocky Loves Emily Secrets Don’t Make Friends Running Wild Shadowmaker Samech Quachatta Peggy Seeger Live The Sheds Self/Doubt Sinister Legacy of Ashes Curtis Stigers Let’s Go Out Tonight Jef Stott Arcane Struck by Lightning True Predation Marty Stuart Nashville Vol. 1 Teramaze Anhedonia Terror No Regrets No Shame Third World Love Songs and Portraits B.J. Thomas Complete Sceptor Singles Tiesto Club Life Vol 2 Miami Toro Y Moi Jun-09 Trixter New Audio Machine Walter Trout Blues for the Modern Daze Tyketto Dig in Deep Unleashed Odalheim Jack White Blunderbuss

Diamond Rugs Electric Guest

needle

61


return with their wicked new album

De Vermis Mysteriis AVAILABLE APRIL 3RD

ALSO AVAILABLE SAUKRATES Season One

MICKEY AVALON Loaded

DEATH BY STEREO

WOODS OF YPRES

GOWAN

Black Sheep Of The American Dream

Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

Great Dirty World (25TH Anniversary Edition)

RICKY J

PUTUMAYO PRESENTS

MOKA ONLY & AYATOLLAH

Paint the Town

Marketed & Distributed in Canada by Entertainment One Canada

African Blues

Bridges


AVAILABLE NOW


April Needle