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This top ten list includes recent releases I’ve been digging lately. Each one can be streamed in full using the links in the text below. Enjoy!
Martin Carr – “The Santa Fe Skyway” (Tapete)
Formerly the guitarist/songwriter for 1988-99 UK greats The Boo Radleys, Carr has released six albums under the moniker bravecaptain. Following 2009’s Ye Gods (And Little Fishes), his second solo LP under his own name, The Breaks, is due in September. If it’s any indication from this suave and funky, speakers-filling, bursting-with-horns orchestral pop single from it, it could be one of his best. The LP will also feature fellow Big T scribe Corin Ashley on bass, whose own fantastic solo records are nothing to sneeze at!
Ceti Alpha – Pink Ukulele (Ceti Alpha)
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s odd-voiced Nicholas Bevan-John is currently at work on his fifth LP as Ceti Alpha. But this vault-emptying odds ‘n’ ends collection of unreleased recordings will whet our appetites until it arrives. Though it lacks the full production of the proper albums, these lo-fi, motley discards still abound with ear-tickling melodies, like on the whistling, shuffling psych of “Crystals and Posies,” the ghoulish indie-pop of “Twenty-First Century Jump,” and the briskly-strummed folk of “Goldmine.”
Daltonians – “Disappear” (Daltonians)
Here’s the new project from L.A. and Cannes-based French singer Julie Jay, who released the pretty 2009 LP Near the Sun under the name Julie Peel (she was based in NYC back then; I’ll bet she’s amassed a ton of frequent flier miles!). This first single from Daltonians’ upcoming Young and Tragic EP (due this summer) recalls Best Coast and Slowdive/Mojave 3’s Rachel Goswell (think “Coastline” from her 2004 solo LP Waves Are Universal). It’s got a buoyant, swooning melody that transfixes.
Doubtfire – “2D,” “Smother Me,” “Fire” (Doubtfire AUS)
Melbourne, AUS’s passionate-piped Samantha Lombardi released her hard-rocking 2005 solo debut Take Your Pic as a teen named Sam, and had a short-lived stint in an all-female combo named Baby Grand (not the now-defunct Sacramento, CA popsters) – I dug their buzzing, blasting single “Surrender.” But her new duo with BG bandmate Natalie Connolly mines danceable synth-pop. Though I hope Lombardi hasn’t totally “surrendered” her guitar-shredding roots, these three electronic tunes are bedazzling and hypnotic.
Goat – “Hide from the Sun” (Sub Pop)
Judging by the fab-sounding new songs this elusive, costumed Swedish seven-piece played at their Webster Hall show in June (see my review here), their upcoming LP Commune should be a worthy follow-up to their mind-blowing 2012 debut World Music. Included in that show’s setlist was this first single, a graceful, galloping, and groovy garage-psych romp punctuated with distorted guitar squalls, breakneck hand tom playing, and their two energetic female singers’ bewitching incantations.
Great Northern – “Skin of Our Teeth,” “Human” (Great Northern)
We’re still waiting for the third full-length from L.A.’s great Great Northern – formerly a quartet, now a duo of Solon Bixler and Rachel Stolte. But like they did with 2012’s “Holes,” they keep easing our withdrawals by leaking new songs on Bandcamp. The majestic, chugging “Skin of Our Teeth” and the thunderous, elevating “Human” continue GN’s patented brand of booming, anthemic alterna-rock, with Stolte’s soaring, breathy vocals hitting stratospheric heights on both.
The History of Apple Pie – “Tame,” “Don’t You Wanna Be Mine?” (Marshall Teller)
London shoegaze/pop quintet THoAP’s debut LP Out of View was one of 2013’s best albums, and the three sets I saw them do at last year’s CMJ Festival (two at Manhattan’s Pianos, one at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory) knocked me out – see a scorching live version of their “Before You Reach the End” from the Pianos show here. Based on these two new singles (the Lush-like “Tame” is the official lead one, though “Don’t You” came out last Fall) from their upcoming sophomore album Feel Something, that LP should be another doozy!
Matt Kollar & the Angry Mob – Beautiful Deathbed Blues EP (Matt Kollar & the Angry Mob)
I enjoyed Los Angeles folkie and film composer (he did the soundtrack for writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait’s 2012 God Bless America) Kollar’s vivacious 2008 debut Farewell Adventure!, a multi-layered orchestral LP recorded by his nine-piece ensemble. But this new EP is a much more stripped down affair. On it, Kollar blends Woody Guthrie-evoking acoustic folk/blues, whimsical Irish sea shanties, and old West-inspired campfire ballads/spirituals, all topped off with his deep sandpaper croon.
Jeff Litman – “Debutante,” “Go,” “Nothing” (Jeff Litman)
Following two splendid albums, 2009’s Postscript and 2012’s Outside, NYC’s former classical guitarist turned “purveyor of melodic rock ‘n’ roll” Litman releases three first-rate new singles. The scathing, Bowie-esque “Debutante” is his “first overtly political song,” inspired by Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan’s speech at the 2012 RNC. Arresting, piano-splashed beauties “Go” and “Nothing” expand upon his catchy power-pop framework, slowing down the tempos in favor of lush, layered arrangements and production.
Young Unknowns – Endless Landscapes EP (Diamond Dove)
This Brooklyn quartet’s second EP shifts gears from 2012’s You Are a Young Unknown. They slow down the tempos considerably, abandoning the first EP’s rock-based formula for minimalist, ambient and electronic touches. Meredith Meyer’s seductive, sensual, and spellbinding voice feels naked and vulnerable on tranquil tracks like the murky “I Want to Lose,” the effervescent title track (and its thumping, wheezy synth-pop remix), and the mesmerizing, softly percolating cover of The Cars’ 1984 #3 “Drive.”
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