Aldous Harding – Designer
That visionary shimmer, goes a line in the title track of certified kiwi genius Aldous Harding’s third album. Three words which are about as good a description for this record as you’re going to get. Designer is a little more folksy, more of that twinkling acoustic guitar at work, occasionally with some shuffling percussion, but trying to explain it would be a losing battle. It’s deceptively sparse. Lyrically ambiguous, with some rather striking imagery. One paragraph is not enough to capture the essence so just stick with those three words for now: that visionary shimmer. This feels like an album that’ll unfold itself further with every listen whilst still remaining elusive. That’s high art right there.
Ty Segall & Freedom Band – Deforming Lobes
Why, why, why, o eternal force of love and light, has it taken so long for Ty Segall to put out a proper legit live album? Deforming Lobes is everything from the opening notes. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s… [furious guitar-based carnage]. Recorded by Steve Albini featuring cuts from a three-night stint at the Teragram Ballroom in LA, backed by his incomparable band of Mikal Cronin, Charles Mootheart, Ben Boye, and Emmett Kelly, this is thirty-nine minutes of aural depravity resplendent with fuzz and intensity and pure in-the-moment rock and roll immensity.
Garcia Peoples – Natural Facts
Their first album sounded almost eerily like The Grateful Dead. Makes sense for a group called Garcia Peoples… they even had their Bob Weir tracks too. It was a cool album with a much healthier relationship to their obvious influence than, say, Greta Van Fleet. But this second album cranks it up to a new level as Garcia Peoples begin to sound like themselves. These dudes play the hell out of their instruments and their live shows are already becoming legendary, with the songs to back it up (Total Yang is a total jam). Keep on truckin’.
Anderson .Paak – Ventura
Cheeky Andy’s back in his natural state of groovy R&B jams after the okay but still kinda disappointing Oxnard record. Bringing back those Malibu vibes and putting the fun back in funky, this is where Paak (and his typically excellent band) shines. He keeps it smooth on Make it Better. He gets real and he gets groovy on King James. And the duet with the late great Nate Dogg is so good it’s hard to believe he’s singing with a dead man. Paak is back, baby.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Ancestral Recall
Jazz has been on a resurgence lately thanks to folks like Kamasi Washington, Makaya McCraven, and Robert Glasper who take the form into new sonic territory with that modern hip hop influence. Christian Scott is absolutely in that top tier of revolutionaries. The Louisiana trumpeter’s self-title stretch music is all about pushing boundaries and exploring creativity. It’s the past, present, and future of jazz all in one expansive vision and his latest record keeps up that good work in a more slowly unfolding nature. Spend some time with it. Let it take you on a journey.
Priests – The Seduction of Kansas
Priests aren’t really a punk band, not enough guitar for that label, though their raw and abrasive energy definitely recalls a few of those bands coming outta New York in the mid-70s. But this trio are distinctly modern. Built upon some propulsive drumming, the band has churned out a toe-tapper of a record that’s got plenty to say about the age that we find ourselves in. There’s a real focus on the hooks here and a real ambition to expand their sound. Plus it doesn’t get much better than the chorus of Jesus’ Son... but you can listen to that one for yourself.
The Underground Youth – Montage Images of Lust and Fear
Led by the creative force of Craig Dyer, TUY have been serving up the goods for ages now but with their last couple records they’re really getting ambitious. At times the band sounds eerily like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, other times it’s a little more Leonard Cohen. Like those two totems, TUY have always been keen to mix the beauty with the darkness and the band knows how to rest in a groove (six of these nine tracks are over four minutes). Too Innocent to Be True and This Anaesthetised World are the standouts. Tempted to say this might be the band’s best effort yet.
Shana Cleveland – Night of the Worm
The lead singer of garage-pop-surf-rock maestras La Luz, Cleveland’s strips back the decorations for a cosmically explorative album that retains the hazy trip of her usual stuff but is, you know… quieter. Psychedelic folk feels instead of that twangy guitar. Night of the Worm is spooky and ethereal, a pretty sounding record that catches a mood that sounds like the solar eclipse it was recorded during. Hypnotic is another good word for it.
Quelle Chris – Guns
Not too many out there pull off a concept album as well as this bloke. Guns is all about America’s relationship to those most deadly of weapons, from the violence they cause to the fetishized culture around them and all points in between. It’s clever and powerful. Chris slips into characters and inhabits their truths and their lies… before turning introspective at the very end. Beats go great, instrumentals go the same way. All you need to know, really.
Wand – Laughing Matter
Somewhere along the way Wand chilled out a little. The guitars don’t churn as much as they did on their first few records and with Laughing Matter they’ve really embraced those weird atmospheric keys and electronics, giving things a bit of an early Radiohead feel mixed with, like, those 70s German fellas. Definitely experimental but also slow and melodic too. This is one of those bands that are always evolving and that kind of restless creativity is always rewarding. Evening Star and Scarecrow fall into the Jams For Days category. High Plains Drifter isn’t far behind.
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