Mount Eerie – Clear Moon
A lovely return to form for Phil Elverum’s second iteration of his band (which you might know better as The Microphones) and the first full record under the Mount Eerie name to really reach it’s potential. After the noisier ‘Wind’s Poem’ a few years ago, his attempt at making a more organic black metal (coined ‘Black Wooden’), this is a no less Earth-y but more focused and arresting record.
‘Through the Trees pt. 2’ kicks things off and sets the quiet, patient course for the rest of the record. In interviews this has been said to be a record about his home town and it paints a lovely picture of Ancortes, WA. There are a few instrumentals and experiments but they’re fewer and farther between than in some of his other records, this is primarily about mood and songwriting and it succeeds (though not to worry if you want more in the experimental vein from Phil, he has another record coming this year that is more in that vein)
The deliberate mood is one of the highlights and is seen well in highlights like ‘Lone Bell’, built around a slow building synth riff and the slightly ominous ‘The Place I Live’. The songs are given time to develop and bloom and it plays best, I think, as a full record (as I think most records ought to)
One of my favorite records of the year so far and a welcome return to form from an artist I’ve longer been enamored of.
Listen to it on bandcamp:
Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game
Expectations were heightened for some for this new record by perhaps the best known of Wainwright family of singer-songwriters when it was announced that Mark Ronson, producer of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back in Black’ and Adele’s ’19’ was working on the record. And the influence of that sound certainly shows. But overall the results are less than desirable.
I actually very much enjoy the title track, which opens and is the first single – it feels vibrant in a way that most of the other tracks on the record feel flat. It’s pure pop but it’s well mannered, well written pop and it’s a joy.
But yes, the rest of the record falls short. It feels overly produced and by the numbers in a way that it really ought not to. A disappointment.
The lovely video for the aforementioned title track, featuring Helena Bonham Carter:
Santigold – Master of Make Believe
Featuring guest appearances by Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O & Nick Zinner and boasting guest production from TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek this blends those indie dance influences with the hip hop sensibilities from Diplo and M.I.A. collaborator Switch into an interesting messy mesh.
Lead single ‘Big Mouth”s video took aim at Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and while Santigold avoids bubblegum, for the most part, the results of the record are similarly dance pop confections. The second single ‘Disparate Youth’ is probably the both the best and most complicated to pin down song on the record – it spins itself into what I’d describe a manner tizzy.
Much of this recalls a slightly less ambitious Janelle Monae and that’s nothing to scoff at. An interesting record and one well worth coming back to.
Coke Weed – Nice Dreams
Maine psych-rockers Coke Weed are better than their questionable name would perhaps imply (in looking at rival reviews I see I’m not the first one to point this out). Their sound recalls something akin to the classic 60s and 70s psych scene, recalling things as disparate as Jefferson Airplane and The Velvet Underground but also, in Nina D’s sultry vocals, sometimes a spacier Cat Power as well or in the boy/girl dynamics a (much) less restrained xx.
The highlights here, ‘Pure Pattern’, ‘Gangland’ and especially ‘Golden Apples’ build to a pure enjoyable, controlled mess. And if some songs never quite get off the ground (I don’t quite ever cotton to lead single ‘Magpie’) there’s never a moment that whole-y doesn’t work or any real lowlights.
An enjoyable record beginning to end that shows a band that has a lot of potential going forward. (But really guys, the name? C’mon.)
One of their videos:
To buy or download:
Spiritulized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
Jason Pierce returns after spending last year touring behind his now classic record ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space’ with a record that might just go on to challenge it as the height of his discography.
Recorded during a long, hazy health scare this is a fairly bi-polar record – it kicks some killer rock and pop notes but it’s nothing if not a bit of a downer, if you’re listening close. With names like ‘Life is a Problem’ and ‘Too Late’, perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise. But what is surprising is how well it rides both poles, giving you a chugging, propulsive rock record, which also inspiring big questions.
Another thing this record does well is wear it’s inspirations on it’s sleeve – ‘So Long You Pretty Things’ (the closer, a highlight) is obviously a direct reference to David Bowie’s ‘Oh You Pretty Things’ and yet it manages to have a life of it’s own. And lead single ‘Hey Jane’ directly references ‘Sweet Jane’ by The Velvet Underground, as the current of their influence hangs over not just the song but the record overall.
Another one of my favorites of the year – I’ve found it endlessly playable.
Here’s the short-film video for ‘Hey Jane’: