TRAMPLED BY TURTLES OBERHOFER STARS AND SATELLITES TIME CAPSULES II (BANJODAD RECORDS/THIRTY TIGERS) (GLASSNOTE) What’s in a name? Not much or else Trampled By Turtles (IMHO) would have never made it out of their garage (or whathaveyou)… Which begs the next question: What do I know? Not much (apparently) as Trampled By Turtles claim to have sold-out 95% of all their shows in 2011 – not to mention their choice slots at big ass festivals like Coachella and Telluride. This was all while they were working their last album, Duluth, which the band happened to record on the road, trying different songs in different rooms with little regard to aural continuity. For their new album, Stars and Satellites, Trampled By Turtles thought they would take the opposite approach (or so says the Turtles’ own Dave Simonette): “We took our songs, along with engineer Tom Herbers and his tape machine, to Soleil Pines, a log home outside of Duluth and within the gravitational pull of Lake Superior. We moved the furniture, set up some mics, worked, slept, and ate all in the same space… I like to think Stars and Satellites is the result of us continuing the search for our own voice and a step in the growth of a band that, at the very least, still loves to play together.” I’m sure you (and your favorite beards) will agree. Emotion is kind of the thing that drives the psychedelic peppy pop created by the oft-effervescent Oberhofer. Like the brainchild of Brian Wilson and Descartes, he’s fixated on the idea of his philosophically minded, energetic melodic romps making people happymostly because it’s all he can bear to think about. Referring to his music in total as “a time capsule of exactly how I’m feeling at a given moment,” each song is a clear unrestrained look inside the Oberhofer vault. Between “Like Gold,” (a reflection on two magical weeks spent with a first love that inadvertently kicked off his current project) “Away From U,” (an upbeat goodbye whose commercial sync garnered enough money to move out of his addict-filled apartment) and “I Could Go,” (the interpretation of bidding a woman adieu while also saying goodbye to your old process of getting work done) Time Capsules II clearly indicates that Oberhofer’s heart is on his sleeve, on paper, and all over everything he creates. It’s messy but, like glitter, it will likely make you happy. Or crazy. Or both. APRIL 2012 CIVIL TWILIGHT TANLINES GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS HOLY WEATHER MIXED EMOTIONS NEW WILD EVERYWHERE (WIND-UP) (TRUE PANTHER SOUNDS) (NETTWERK) The road is a strange beast: It can change how you perceive the world and moments that inspire you. Cape Town, South Africa’s Civil Twilight (who you undoubtedly love / loathe thanks to a little song called “Letters From The Sky”) spent the better part of 2011 on tour, playing the likes of Bonnaroo and Voodoo Fest, opening for acts like Smashing Pumpkins and Florence & The Machine, and headlining their own shows across the country. When frontman Steven McKellar started writing songs for their follow-up album, Holy Weather, he used the most powerful tool at his disposal: Nostalgia. When you’re constantly in motion, you can’t sit down and spend hours looking at something — you don’t have time to really absorb what you’re going through so you absorb subconsciously and write about it later as you reflect on it. This new approach to songwriting proved more challenging. However, all three members agreed that they wanted to craft an album that was a real test to play. Put yourself into a Civil Twilight song and you’ll find yourself in a world where it’s not quite dark, yet not quite light, but exactly the place you want to be. Mixed Emotions is the debut album by Tanlines, a Brooklyn NY duo composed of Eric Emm (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Jesse Cohen (drums, keyboards, bass). Initially born as a production project based out of Emm’s Brooklyn-based Brothers Studio, Tanlines has evolved into a deeply personal, unique electronic pop group. Mixed Emotions is a testament to the benefits and pitfalls of life’s changes, getting older, and being pushed out of one’s comfort zone. The band that was born out of a studio suddenly found itself without a home base, forced to reevaluate everything. Emm honed his voice, a confident and tranquil baritone, and focused on lyricism, something he had not done seriously in the past. Many of the songs on Mixed Emotions began as simple songs written on a guitar, with the band later adding their palette of electronic and organic sounds afterwards. Emm sings stories about loss, the passage of time, and the lessons and warnings of accumulated knowledge gleaned by someone who has spent an entire lifetime in music. Perhaps that’s why Mixed Emotions feels so vivid — sometimes painful, sometimes transcendent, it’s a very precise labor of love. New Wild Everywhere is the follow-up to Great Lake Swimmers’ critically acclaimed, Polaris Music Prize shortlisted and Juno nominated 2009 album Lost Channels. Their fifth album in just under a decade, this new collection of 12 tracks reveals a depth and maturity previously only hinted at by lead singer and songwriter Tony Dekker. Featuring the touring band from Lost Channels (with long-time collaborator Erik Arnesen on banjo and guitar, along with new addition Miranda Mulholland contributing backing vocals and violin, Bret Higgins on upright bass, and Lost Channels drummer Greg Millson), New Wild Everywhere thematically picks up where the previous album left off, exploring transcendence in the natural world to describe the universal themes of love, mortality and escape. Throughout New Wild Everywhere, there is an elemental energy that moves from physical to spiritual and from the immediate present to an all-encompassing future, all represented by Dekker’s ability to weave insightful lyrics into deceptively simple, hook-laden tunes. This is perhaps best exemplified by lead single “Easy Come Easy Go,” but you’d do well to just embrace the entirety of New Wild Everywhere and get lost in one of 2012’s most exciting albums (thus far). BONNIE RAITT ELISA SLIPSTREAM STEPPIN’ ON WATER (REDWING RECORDS) (DECCA) With the release of her nineteenth album, Slipstream, Bonnie Raitt is starting anew. The album marks her return to studio recording after seven years; it’s coming out as the launch of her own label, Redwing Records; and it delivers some of the most surprising and rewarding music of her remarkable career, thanks in part to some experimental sessions with celebrated producer (and professional career resuscitator) Joe Henry. The years before and after Raitt’s last album, 2005’s acclaimed Souls Alike, weren’t an easy time for her, with the passing of parents, her brother, and a best friend. So after some much deserved time off Raitt re-energized herself by keeping company with the aforementioned Mr. Henry and legendary guitarist Bill Frisell. Four of those songs made the cut for Slipstream (though we can expect more from that musical summit in the near future) and the remainder came from a slew of new songs that Raitt worked on with her backing band and lovely and talented Maia Sharp. Raitt retained Henry’s engineer, Ryan Freeland (Ray LaMontagne, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Aimee Mann), whom she loved working with, as a way to unify the project’s sound… So stop reading and crank it up. With the release of her seventh studio album, multiplatinum singersongwriter Elisa Toffoli is poised to win over American audiences with the passionate, piano-driven modern pop that has long enchanted fans in her homeland of Italy. Steppin’ On Water elegantly showcases the multi-instrumentalist’s tender yet formidable voice and penchant for quietly powerful melodies. Breezy and bold in equal measure, the record makes for a masterful follow-up to 2009’s Heart (the triple-platinum release featuring a breathtaking duet with Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons) and 2008’s Dancing (a chart-topping best-of collection whose title track won Elisa early acclaim in the U.S. after its appearance on “So You Think You Can Dance?”). Produced by Elisa herself, Steppin’ On Water shines sunny and bright on tracks like “Nostalgia” and “So Much of Me.” And before slipping into the carefree spirit of “Dancing,” Elisa serves up a rendition of Queens of the Stone Age’s “I Never Came” that’s stark and strikingly tender – just one of many pleasant surprises on this fantastic new album. Bella! APRIL 2012 WILLIS EARL BEAL TWIN ATLANTIC ACOUSMATIC SORCERY FREE ANOUSHKA SHANKAR TRAVELLER (XL) (RED BULL RECORDS) (DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON) It was during the late-night shifts as a hotel porter in Albuquerque, New Mexico that the 27-year-old musician from the south side of Chicago, Willis Earl Beal, found his voice and taught himself to make music. The recordings are a result of what one creative mind could do with a few found instruments and objects, a cassette-based karaoke machine and a $20 microphone. Somehow Beal managed to create warm, visceral and moving music seemingly out of nothing, just a little bit of imagination - it’s practically magic done without any fancy gadgetry, hence the name Acousmatic Sorcery. He made dozens of songs using whatever spare instruments and materials he could find in Albuquerque’s flea markets, thrift stores and alleyways; a red electric guitar, forgotten acoustic guitars, a lap harp, a makeshift drum kit created from pots and pans. Beal selected the songs for Acousmatic Sorcery because he feels they offer a look at his development as a musician – creativity vs. ability. “They represent my dreams as much as they represent my lack of real musical ability,” he says. Perhaps most importantly: “They represent my experience in Albuquerque. I was there. It happened.” You’ll have to listen for the whole story… So don’t delay. When Glasgow’s Twin Atlantic released their 2009 mini-album, Vivarium, it immediately found an awestruck audience. The reviews were uniformly ecstatic. Grand, sweeping and eloquent, it was a collection of songs with a heart and soul, crafted by passion and informed by staunch lyrical and musical frankness. It set Twin Atlantic on a rollercoaster – one that has led, now, to the release of their full debut, Free — an inspiring collection of songs full of ambition, pain, belief and soul. In a world of music dominated by talent show winners, mass-marketed bands and meaningless music, here, finally, is a band in which to invest your heart. Free’s stunning vision is built on intricate songwriting aimed at the emotional core of its listeners. In each track, in each guitar line or beat, each lyric or phrase, Free is an album in which the band’s hearts beat and their souls shimmer. You can hear such personality in even the simplest things. And homeboy’s badass brogue doesn’t hurt things either. Produced by Gil Norton (of Pixies and Foo Fighters fame) – so you know shit is gonna rock! Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar is one of the leading figures in World Music today. She is deeply rooted in Indian classical music, having studied exclusively with her father, the legendary Ravi Shankar, from the age of nine. Thriving as a composer, she has been exploring fertile ground in the crossover between Indian music and a variety of genres including flamenco, electronica, jazz and Western classical music. Twice-nominated for a Grammy Award, Anoushka was the first Indian musician to perform at the Grammy Awards in 2006 when she was nominated for Rise, soon after becoming the youngestever nominee and the first woman nominated in the World Music category, for her album Live at Carnegie Hall in 2002. She has made guest appearances on recordings by diverse artists, among them Herbie Hancock, Joshua Bell, Lenny Kravitz, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Thievery Corporation. Anoushka’s career reflects her aim to constantly stretch herself creatively. As multi-award winning musician Nitin Sawhney wrote in the sleeve-notes of her new album, Traveller, “no one embodies the spirit of innovation and experimentation more evidently than Anoushka Shankar.” She sorta looks like Norah Jones, too. RAY WYLIE HUBBARD HOLLY GOLIGHTLY THE GRIFTER’S HYMNAL LONG DISTANCE (BORDELLO RECORDS) (TRANSDREAMER) As a music lover of impeccable taste, odds are that you’re already looking forward to spending the better part of the next hour – and several more after that – getting rather obsessively familiar with this latest serving of song and groove from Ray Wylie Hubbard. Having no doubt played his last album, 2010’s A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C.), to digital bits – and committed to memory such earlier chestnuts as “Snake Farm,” “Growl,” “Eternal and Lowdown,” “Crusades of the Restless Knights,” and maybe even everything else going all the way back to that 1975 Cowboy Twinkies LP that Hubbard himself would rather you forget – you probably can’t wait to tuck into The Grifter’s Hymnal and leisurely savor it from end to end. The opening track of The Grifter’s Hymnal, “Coricidin Bottle,” tells you everything you need to know about Hubbard in just under two minutes. He’s the kind of scrapper poet with the devil-may-care wherewithal to write both lay down a groove like a monkey getting off and shakes the mortal coil round my amaranthine soul into the same song- and the lethal charm and chops to pull it off. You’ll enjoy the rest of the album, too. “After many requests to incorporate the best of the solo Holly Golightly songs into the live set, with top-notch backing provided by The Brokeoffs, I have picked some of my original band favourites and recorded this collection for old and new fans alike. The highlight for me was the chance to re-record ‘(You Ain’t) No Big Thing,’ the fantastic 1966 Sam and Dave classic that I first started performing live in 1995. It’s one of my all time top tunes, along with ‘My Love Is,’ the fabulous Little Willie John number, which we’ve given a wistful lone banjo accompaniment this time around. There is an even mix of cover songs and originals to revisit, all of them corkers in their own right and all of them especially dear to me. Long Distance is collection of my good-time-foot-tappers and sing-along-tear-jerkers. It’s my top ten tracks prepared from scratch and served up fresh.” – Holly Golightly APRIL 2012 SAID THE WHALE ADAM COHEN THE MARS VOLTA LITTLE MOUNTAIN LIKE A MAN NOCTOURNIQUET (HIDDEN PONY) (DECCA) (WB) This may be Said The Whale’s third LP but the Canadian indie-popsters are still educating the U.S. masses, and this album, Little Mountain, is a superb introduction. Said The Whale have been making their pretty music for some time, and in this past year were rewarded with the highest accolade available in their home land – a JUNO Award. The band snagged the crown for “New Group Of The Year” in 2011 and made their mark even bigger. Little Mountain finds the group defying rock conventions without sacrificing any of their pop smarts. Said The Whale enlisted the juggernaut production prowess of Tom Dobrzanski, and multiple Grammy Award winner Jack Joseph Puig, who mixed the 15-track collection. Their combined efforts steered the song suites to explode out of the speakers, as they shepherded the band’s signature sound to a new level. More diverse than previous albums, Little Mountain is a multi-stylistic tour-de-force that ventures into everything from soaring, horn-laden cabaret (“The Reason”) to jaggedly syncopated rock (“We Are 1980”) and effervescent guitar pop (“Loveless”). First single, “Heavy Ceiling,” is a dancefloor-ready ditty that reflects the confident and razor-sharp sound that dominates this LP. The son of the legendary Leonard Cohen, all his life Adam Cohen had sought an artistic space beyond the reach of his father’s looming shadow. But in January 2007, at the age of 34, Adam Cohen owned up to his legacy. After years of declining to sing in public so much as a single note written by his father or to participate in any tribute, on stage in Barcelona, Adam sang Leonard’s classic song “Take This Waltz” — in Spanish. “Barcelona in 2007 was the first time I ever played a Leonard Cohen song in public. Until then I hadn’t so much as learned one on guitar. It was cathartic. My son Cassius was only a few months from being born, and embracing fatherhood was on my mind — my father, and the father I was to be. Intimate, romantic yet shrewdly reflective, Adam’s songs on Like A Man evoke something of his father just as in any child you can discern the echo of the parent. But there is Adam’s own unique and distinct voice and perspective too — a plain-speaking style freighted with disarming candor. While Noctourniquet was, in typical Mars Volta fashion, written by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala and produced by Rodriguez-Lopez, the 13-track album explores musical territories previously uncharted in the duo’s 20 or so years of creating music together. The spectrum of musical and emotional textures conceived and created by Rodriguez-Lopez on Noctourniquet ranges from the opening bombast of “The Whip Hand” to the menacing crawl of “The Malkin Jewel” punctuated throughout by hypnotic melodies and borderline electroambient washes, most notably in the epic “In Absentia.“ The bold diversity of the new material combined with Rodriguez-Lopez’s assured producer’s hand guiding The Mars Volta’s most confident and refined performances to date make Noctourniquet an early contender for this year’s most challenging and rewarding listen. As with previous Mars Volta efforts, Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics trace a narrative journey with a defined protagonist, this time inspired by disparate elements including ‘80s UK alt-rockers The Godfathers, Superman comic nemesis Solomon Grundy and the Greek myth of Hyacinthus. You know, like a Mars Volta album. THE LUMINEERS COUNTING CROWS LOVEDRUG THE LUMINEERS UNDERWATER SUNSHINE WILD BLOOD (DUALTONE MUSIC) (COLLECTIVE SOUNDS) (STREET TALK MEDIA) The roots revival of the last few years has primed listeners for a new generation of rustic, heart-on-the-sleeve music—the kind that nods to tradition while setting off into uncharted territory. The Lumineers walk that line with an unerring gift for timeless melodies and soul-stirring lyrics. In 2011, an eponymous, self-recorded EP led to a self-booked tour, and before long The Lumineers started attracting devout fans, first across the Western US, then back in their old East Coast stamping grounds. Young, old and in-between, they’re drawn by songs like “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love,” Americana-inflected barnburners in the vein of the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons. Songs like “Slow It Down” and “Dead Sea,” — slow, sultry ballads that suggest the raw revelations of Jeff Buckley and Ryan Adams — draw them. They’re drawn by the live Lumineers experience — a coming-together in musical solidarity against isolation, adversity, and despair. Born out of sorrow, powered by passion, ripened by hard work, The Lumineers have found their sound when the world needs it most. When Counting Crows first came on the scene critics and fans were as quick in noting the band’s keen sense of musical history as they were the band’s emotionally wrung narratives. Underwater Sunshine is a testament of a band geek-obsessed with music. “There’s a million great songs written every day that you discover, and wish your friends could appreciate as much as you do,” says singer/songwriter Adam Duritz. “These songs come from bands young and old, stretching from the early 60s to last year. They’re all great and will hopefully be heard by a few more people now.” Produced by Counting Crows and Shawn Dealey, Underwater Sunshine features tracks written by artists such as Big Star, Gram Parsons, Tender Mercies, Kasey Anderson, and The Faces. Each rendition offers an entire spectrum of human emotion, delivered with the conviction and intense honesty the band is known for. As the band’s first independently release, it was the right time for the Counting Crows to make this album. “If you wonder why we didn’t just write our own record, it s simply because we wanted to do THIS one,’ says Duritz, We now have the creative freedom to release albums like this and offer our fans more music than ever.” Good on ‘em… And for you. Dig it. Lovedrug have been around for a good decade or so and, like many bands left scratching their head at the oblique digital future, they found themselves answering an increasingly all-too-common question: “How the hell do we do this?!?” Smartly, Lovedrug have reckoned the past with the future by funding a record that was recorded live to 2” tape by reaching out to its most devoted fans via the Internet. Those fans heeded the band’s call and, now, you have Lovedrug’s most accessible – if not best – album in your grasp. Wild Blood finds Lovedrug stripping back the layered approach of it’s past efforts and aiming straight for your heart with songs that are heartfelt and anthemic. The songs manage to be both intimate and huge, combining a MOR rock aesthetic with Edge-like guitars that echo skyward. But whether in you’re in a club, a stadium, or your car, Wild Blood’s intimate touch will always leave you feeling special. NANCI GRIFFITH RED WANTING BLUE IMAGINARY CITIES INTERSECTION FROM THE VANISHING POINT TEMPORARY RESIDENT (HELL NO RECORDS) (FANATIC) (ATL) Intersection is not an album of resolution or closure; it’s an album about difficulties, about anger, about things that slip away and things that explode. “I’ve had a hard life, and I write it down,” Patti Griffith sings on the title track, and that line serves as a statement of fact and purpose. Intersection is an examination of a particularly difficult time for Griffith, fraught with personal bust-ups, with family turmoil, with hard miles and tears and habits to break. A small group of musicians banded together at Griffith’s Nashville home for the making of Intersection. Multi-instrumentalist Pete Kennedy drove his recording equipment down from New York City, and he, Griffith, singer-songwriter Maura Kennedy and percussionist Pat McInerney set about creating the album in an environment devoid of studio clocks. It is those crossroads, those intersections, that are at the center of Griffith’s latest work. Twenty albums now, and only one like this, but it’s funny what happens with songs. Sometimes making the best is doing the worst to yourself, but sometimes making the best is singing your truth, even if it makes your heart pound. Led by singer-songwriter Scott Terry, Red Wanting Blue is proudly based in Columbus, Ohio, but might as well be America’s local band. For years, the group had been hiding in plain sight as Terry went about logging thousands of miles on the road throughout the nation’s heartland, making fans the hard way – one at a time. With only the aid of word of mouth, hard work and perseverance, Red Wanting Blue has established an exceedingly loyal following in and around the Midwest where the band regularly fills clubs normally reserved for bigger names. From The Vanishing Point is a coming-of-age album for the band and its first to be recorded for a label after several self-released records. Picking up where its autobiographical previous release These Magnificent Miles left off, From The Vanishing Point is the answer to those whose heads have been turning to ask, “Who is this band?” The album sheds some of Red Wanting Blue’s small-town sensibilities as it evolves into the world-class rock n’ roll outfit that audiences have believed in for years and marks an official move to the national stage for a band that will always remember where it’s from. Imaginary Cities’ debut album, Temporary Resident, is so fully realized – exuberant and anthemic at times, moody and soulful at others – that it’s surprising to learn that happenstance first brought primary songwriters Marti Sarbit and Rusty Matyas together in Winnipeg’s small, but fertile music scene. It was Marti Sarbit’s voice that immediately captured multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Rusty Matyas’s attention at the Cavern, a Winnipeg bar where Sarbit was fronting a Motown cover band and Matyas had come to mix the sound. Matyas, a major label veteran via his band The Waking Eyes and a touring member of Canadian indie rock stalwarts The Weakerthans, knew he wanted to write something for — or with — this innately gifted young singer if only to commit her voice to tape and hear what the results might be. The instantly compelling “Say You” was the song they soon whipped up, and one quick listen to what is now Imaginary Cities’ dramatic album opener clearly demonstrates what caught Matyas’s ear – not to mention the ears of Ra Ra Riot, Besnard Lakes, and the Pixies (who had them open every show of the legendary band’s last U.S. tour). You’ll be equally blown away.
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