Thursday, September 15, 2011

Now Downloading: New Releases 09.13.11

With this week's abundant crop of releases, it's obvious that summer vacation is now officially over. It's harvest time, folks, and we have a cornucopia of riches to sample from, the likes and depths of which we haven't seen since March. Cream of the crop lies with the latest from S.F.'s Girls, the super(girl)group Wild Flag, St. Vincent and hip-hop comedians Das Racist. If that weren't enough, there's also new ones from Neon Indian, Blitzen Trapper, Grizzly Bear offshoot CANT, A.A. Bondy, Mates of State, Neil Finn's Pajama Club, Blind Pilot, Ladytron, Milagres, Laura Marling, Kevin Devine, Robbers on High Street, Trombone Shorty, The Kooks and EP from Toro y Moi, along with a parade of new ones from grizzled old vets like Primus, Nick Lowe, Lindsey Buckingham, Todd Rundgren, Blondie and The Human League. Whew! Oh, wait... there's more. Reissues of Superchunk (Foolish) and Queen (A LOT) to boot.

Playlist: New Releases 09.13.11

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Like many indie California artists with interesting backgrounds, Girls has quickly moved from the lo-fi aesthetics of its charming debut, Album, to a return to Hi Fidelity of the early 70s. Frontman Christopher Owens still has that child-like sincerity in his lyrics, but now on Father, Son, Holy Ghost*, his voice has softened to that of a honey-tinged Elliott Smith, occasionally backed here by gospel singers. The songs are stretched out to allow for an incredible attention to detail, begging to hear the album on vinyl on a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon. Owens has confessed that Album was recorded in a heroin daze and that he's cleaned up his act, so it should be less of a surprise the amount of focus put into FSHG, but as last year's excellent EP Broken Dreams Club hinted, Owens and partner JR White were working towards this all along. The first two singles, "Vomit" and opener "Honey Bunny," are the perfect representatives of the spectrum that FSHG runs, as the album starts with a burst of energy and then pulls back the pace and brings out the gospel singers. The whole thing climaxes with the epic ballad "Forgiveness," which at about the 5:20 mark moves into a Crazy Horse stoned out jam. Girls' progression through these three releases is so wondrous to behold it's tempting to think about what's coming with the fourth, but that might spoil the beauty currently in hand.

*In title, Father, Son, Holy Ghost references Catholicism, which is interesting in that Owens grew up in the Children of God cult -- it takes one cult to recognize another.

Free Download: "Vomit" [mp3]

Wild Flag - Wild Flag
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Wild Flag - Wild Flag
It's tempting to look at Wild Flag as a sort of Sleater-Kinney 2.0, given it's got 2/3 of that illustrious band's members in Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, but more than that, it's a celebration of music in general -- both the listening and the playing. With Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole (The Minders) rounding out the quartet, the band's sound is one of rollicking guitars, Brownstein leg kicks and smiles reaching from ear to ear. Wild Flag starts out strong with the album's default anthem, "Romance," thanks to a Brownstein-Timony shared chorus of "We love the sound/The sound is what found us/Sound is the blood between me and you." The tracks get kind of choppy after that, trading between the slack dissonance of Timony and Brownstein's chop melodic energy -- these songs are all fine by themselves, they just feel a bit incongruous. About midway, during "Short Version," the two parts begin to meld and the rest of the album sounds like the band has found their sound. It's like they tracked the album to represent the growth of the band, a process the listener gets to experience in the convenient length of an album. The climax comes on "Racehorse," with Brownstein singing "Well I'm a racehorse. yeah I'm a racehorse. you put your money on me," leading me to believe if there's a filly out there named Wild Flag, money is being put on it, no matter the odds.

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

St Vincent - Strange Mercy
Three albums into her solo career, after getting a nice start with artists Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, Annie Clark's St. Vincent project is at the apex of a sort of "Art for Public Consumption" movement that we're currently enjoying in popular music. Between Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective and St. Vincent, 'difficult music' that still aims to be palatable has rarely been better, and Strange Mercy comes at a time when it should bring Clark to a much larger audience -- even the prog jazz bass flourishes seem ripe for a comeback in her hands. Clark has never sounded so confident and comfortable in her own skin as on tracks like "Cruel" and, especially, on "Cheerleader," which feels like her declaration to once and for all be her own woman, not the beautiful young woman who was once part of Sufjuan Stevens' touring clan. "I don't know what good it serves / Pouring my purse in the dirt / But I-I-I-I-I don't wanna be your cheerleader no more."
Download "Surgeon" from this widget:

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Das Racist - Relax
Neon Indian - Ghost on the Canvas / Free AOL Album Stream
Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing / Free AOL Album Stream / "Love the Way You Walk Away" [mp3]
CANT - Dreams Come True
A.A. Bondy - Believers / Free AOL Album Stream
Mates of State - Mountaintop / Free AOL Album Stream / "Maracas" [mp3]
Toro y Moi - Freaking Out' EP
Pajama Club - Pajama Club / Free AOL Album Stream / "These Are Conditions," "From a Friend to a Friend" [mp3]
Blind Pilot - We Are the Tide / "We Are the Tide"
Gabriel Kahane - Where Are the Arms / Free AOL Album Stream
Primus - Green Naugahyde / Free AOL Album Stream
Ladytron - Gravity the Seducer / Free AOL Album Stream
Milagres - Glowing Mouth / Free AOL Album Stream / "Glowing Mouth," "Here to Stay" [mp3]
Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
Kevin Devine - Between the Concrete and Clouds / Free AOL Album Stream
Robbers on High Street - Hey There Golden Hair / Free AOL Album Stream
Trombone Shorty - For True
Nick Lowe - The Old Magic / Free AOL Album Stream
Lydia Loveless - Seeds We Sow / Free AOL Album Stream
Lindsey Buckingham - Seeds We Sow
Todd Rundgren - [re]Production
The Kooks - Junk of the Heart / Free AOL Album Stream
The Human League - Credo
Blondie - Panic of Girls / Free AOL Album Stream
The Gourds - Old Mad Joy
Katy B - For True
Mason Jennings - Minnesota / Free AOL Album Stream

Yo Gabba Gabba - Music is Awesome! Vol. 3

Superchunk - Foolish (REMASTERED)
Queen - A Night at the Opera (Bonus Tracks)
Queen - News of the World (Bonus Tracks)
Queen - Jazz (Bonus Tracks)
Queen - Flash Gordon (Bonus Tracks)
Queen - The Game (Bonus Tracks)
Jimi Hendrix - Hendrix in the West

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