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Albums Of The Month

 March

 

1. White Denim – Stiff

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There’s an overlying theme of fun and feistiness that permeates White Denim’s new record, Stiff. The Austin, Texas quartet sound determined to shake off whatever hangover is still lingering from their recent line-up change, and come out revamped and refocused on their rollicking new batch of tunes. Frontman James Petralli and bassist Steve Terebecki have regrouped in another tight unit to continue the band’s streak of southern-fried garage rock, soul, psychedelia, and funk. Eschewing the soulful psychedelia of 2011’s D and brazen classic rock of the Jeff Tweedy-assisted Corsicana Lemonade two years later, the band’s seventh LP breaks from the progressive R&B of the past for their hookiest niche of Southern rock yet. The sinuous guitar licks of “There’s a Brain in My Head” and bravado swing to “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)” echo the lively churn of the Allman Brothers, Both tracks boisterously anchor the front half of the record, while also setting the upbeat, buoyant mood that courses through the entire album. The group let their foot off the gas ever so briefly at the midway point, with the slow-burning charm of “Take It Easy (Ever After Lasting Love)” channels the honey-sweet croon of Al Green, But things quickly pick back up on the rambunctious second half with the noisy “Mirrored in Reverse” and “Had 2 Know (Personal)”, that mirrors the raucous energy of Grand Funk Railroad. White Denim realizes a sound truly its own on Stiff, shaking off whatever nerves that may have lingered after significant line-up change.

2.  Damien Jurado – Visions Of Us On The Land

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Trilogies, by their very nature, make for uneven listens when taken as a whole. Usually produced over lengthy periods, with ideas only ever taking form over the gestation and sometimes frittering away, the purity of the initial concept can get lost, with the water muddied as the work progresses.   This is not a problem that appears to have troubled Damien Jurado. On his 12th album, taking in a sprawling 17 tracks, he picks up where 2014’s Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son left off. Both sonically, and thematically, it feels a snug fit, a warm companion piece.  Working again with label mate Richard Swift, Jurado’s sound is once more pitched perfectly and squarely between the intimate and the epic. He takes the listener from fireside confessional to Cocteau Twins-esque glimmer in the space of only two tracks – the aural scope really is as broad as is imaginable.  But the warmth across each and every track is palpable. Walrus is a loping, 70s rock crasher, but it’s soon completely out classed with one of the record’s most tear-jerking moments, in the melodic gift of Cinco De Tomorrow, which sounds effortless, graceful and concise.   If there is one constant, it’s Jurado’s unique voice – a fluted, barrel-round, gruff intonation that can scale the peaks not normally associated with such a friendly fireside tone. “We’re aiming for wherever the sun is,” he offers at one of countless smart lyrical snapshots across Visions…, and it seems as good a mission statement as any.

3. Steve Mason – Meet The Humans

 

 STEVEMASON

 

The former Beta Band and King Biscuit Time maestro uncorks a set of pop songs that stand proudly as independent pieces, yet make for an even greater whole. the purity of Steve Mason’s songwriting has never before sounded so beautifully at peace, buoyed by the weightlessness of emotional resolution.  Meet the Humans manages to distill Mason’s lush melancholia and maverick pop acumen into 11 strong tracks that refer to his two decades of recording while delivering something new  Fans of any of Mason’s earlier projects will find something to love on what is easily the gifted popsmith’s best solo effort to date.

4. Snowboy + The Latin Section

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New album by Snowboy & The Latin Section celebrating the 30th Year since their first record.  A glorious Afro-Cuban jazz extravaganza, which captures the block party feel of 1970s latin jazz and early salsa. The title track is a cover of the classic Richie Cole/ Eddie Jefferson ‘New York Afternoon. This pleasant take features Marc Evans on vocals. ‘Tres Tambores’ is a typical Snowboy Mambo – fast furious and infectious. ‘Echalo Ya’ is another fast Latin groove. ‘Ole Mambo’ is relatively slowish tune. ‘The Triple Bluff’ is a powerful groove with fine Hammond. There are two vocal tunes featuring Jen Kearney ‘Better’ and ‘Oxen Free’. A Strong album as always from Snowboy.

5. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

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Post Pop Depression arrived two months after Bowie’s death, and was completed before his health problems became common knowledge. And more than anything, this music evokes the sound and feel of Pop’s first two solo albums.  Post Pop Depression is smart and thoughtful, intelligent without being pretentious, and full of bold but introspective thinking. With Josh Homme, a skilled musician who challenges Pop in a way many of his previous producers have not.   Pop has suggested that Post Pop Depression may be his last album, and if that’s true, it wraps up his career with a strong and atypical work. It tips its hat to Bowie, but also to the freedom and creative possibilities Pop discovered in their collaborative work. It confirms that Pop has never lost the ability to surprise and upend expectations.

 

6. BITCHIN BAJAS + BONNIE ‘PRINCE’ BILLY – EPIC JAMMERS & FORTUNATE LITTLE DITTIES

This collaboration between vintage equipment loving ambient experimentalists Bitchin Bajas and alt.country deity Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is one of the most immersive albums since The KLF’s Chill Out. Bitchin Bajas’ style of incorporating old analogue synths with acoustic instruments is there in all its disorienting glory. Meanwhile, Oldham’s voice is a perfect accompaniment, slotting over the top of the music in way that helps it become more enthralling, almost like a mantra.

 

7. KENDRICK LAMAR – UNTITLED UNMASTERED

Untitled Unmastered can’t be considered completely realized since there are tell-tale signs to the contrary, such as the live demoing of “Untitled 04” toward the end. Nevertheless, these overt aims at artful truth in a world of edits result in a near-classic in their own right. Kendrick Lamar does an impeccable job of wrapping up the entire Butterfly process in a tidy bow.

8. RAY LaMONTAGNE – OUROBOROS

Is this Ray LaMontagne’s finest album? Probably. It’s so different from the majority of his previous output that it might take some time to truly get to grips with. The coherence of the whole record is a joy. It would be too easy to dismiss this fine album. Don’t do that. Instead enjoy one of 2016’s most ambitious and fully-realised efforts from a singer-songwriter.

9. HERON OBLIVION – S/T

On their debut album, they strike a balance between delicate, pastoral folk and heavy, loud space rock, with Meg Baird’s fragile, wispy vocals sharing the stage with Noel von Harmonson and Charlie Saufley’s crushing guitar solos. Baird also doubles as the group’s drummer, pounding steady rhythms locked into the groove with Evan Miller’s fluid yet powerful bass playing.

10. POLICA – UNITED CRUSHERS

Compared to the current glut of mannered, coming of age-themed electronica, this feels far more substantial. It’s warmer, more expansive and up tempo – a slightly weird knitted jumper of an album. Unlike on previous outings, Channy Leaneagh’s vocals are no longer distorted as default, and heard alone, they sound slightly as if delivered while fighting back tears. It all adds up to a record that bristles with mournfulness and melodious joy. Older, wiser, but far from jaded.

 

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FULL LIST OF OUR TOP 100 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2015 CLICK HERE.  ALSO CHECK OUT UNDER AOTY2015 FOR OUR TOP 20 REISSUES, COMPILATION AND STAFF LISTS.

 

 

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