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Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson

God's Problem Child

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

The ageless wonder that is Willie Nelson. It’s difficult to imagine a figure like Nelson is even real. He has outlasted his sometimes cartoonish stoner reputation to remain a country music legend well into 2017 which, if you take the state of country music as an industry, is quite comical. He can do a song with Snoop Dogg, make a reggae album, and follow it up with a Ray Price tribute record years later like nothing happened. He can do covers, duets, fingerpick or just plain sing. Nelson has made over 100 albums, not all of them great, but that’s what makes him great. His new record, God’s Problem Child, is one of the truly exceptional ones.

You would be hard pressed to ever find a more self-aware 83-year-old. Willie knows even he is not immortal, an idea he explores rather bluntly on the new record. Over the last year, anytime Willie Nelson starts trending on the Internet, a virtual and collective gasp takes place as we nervously click to see what the news may be. More often than not, it’s usually just Willie being Willie. God’s Problem Child is vintage Willie. There is some modern production, but for the most part it’s a stripped back vehicle for some poignant lyrics, much like Red Headed Stranger or Shotgun Willie. After David Bowie and Leonard Cohen’s last albums, listeners may take liberty to listen deeper, to find darker meaning in the lyrics. Nelson toys with this concept with the jaunty track, "Still Not Dead," which is about checking the Internet and reading about his death, but in reality, NOPE - still not dead. Getting older is the main theme of the record, yet he’s never unhappy about it. Some of the album’s standouts like "Old Timer," his Merle-tribute "He Won’t Ever Be Gone" and "It Gets Easier" are about the pure beauty of old age.

Willie Nelson is the type of legend that can live off his name, but he continues to push forward, which is truly inspiring. God’s Problem Child may go back in time style-wise, but it is as modern a country record as you will find.

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Father John Misty

Father John Misty

Pure Comedy

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

Josh Tillman’s public profile has grown quite steadily since the release of his first album as Father John Misty. His debut, Fear Fun, was an outstanding California folk-rock record seeped in psychedelics, but was often times still billed as the “drummer from Fleet Foxes’ solo project.” By the time 2015’s I Love You Honeybear came around, people were hip to Josh Tillman for his music and his highly-quotable sense of humor. At this point in his career, his “persona” is as much of a talking point as is his third album, Pure Comedy. As the world continues to prove outrageous headlines get people fired up the most, blogs have used his antics as clickbait, rather than let people listen to his music and actually determine for themselves. As a result, a lot of folks immediately label him an arrogant, pretentious dick.

“Father John Misty” is used to generate clicks much the way Kanye West is. Anything he does or says is often turned into a full blog post and it has led him to, of course, toy with the audacity of it all. When he pens a line like, “bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the oculus rift,” he knows exactly the backlash that he will get on the internet. He saw what happened to Kanye West. But, for as many Father John Misty haters - and there are many - there is a growing number of adoring fans and apologists. One of the beautiful ironies of Pure Comedy, is the fact that he is using this media-driven phenomenon to promote an album about exactly these concepts.

The ironic messaging, although insanely vivid, is not always easy to translate in Tillman’s lyrics. Pure Comedy, however, makes no mistake of its intention: to differentiate the divide between art and entertainment. Most music serves the purpose to entertain. You put music on at a party. You dance to music, you smoke and drink and chat with music in the background. Art is something you have to actively engage in, interpret, discuss, or think about. For good reason, those are not elements all people want to delve into when they put on a record. Pure Comedy’s brilliance is in spite of its unwillingness to be easily-listenable, danceable or “entertaining.”

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Thundercat

Thundercat

Drunk

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

Thundercat is an absolute anomaly. His third album, Drunk, is a continuation of the trippy jazz fusion he has come to make a name for, but it delves even deeper into a space unknown. A man known for his collaborations with Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, Thundercat’s talent and ear allow him to call up legends like Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins to sing on a track and it is in no way out of place. A record with a Kenny Loggins track followed by a Kendrick verse has never sounded so seamless, nor will that statement ever sound normal.

Drunk is filled with two-minute sketches of songs, interludes, and full songs, all giving a glimpse into his entirely unique world. Lyrics include Nintendo references, blowing money on anime in Tokyo, beating his meat and getting sick off eating too much fish, but they never override the genuine musical feels of the record or even, “too much information.” You can simply brush them off and be thankful for the permission to escape, albeit briefly, into Thundercat’s brain. The themes are unapologetically funny, dry, sometimes absurd, but sung so smoothly with a buttery falsetto and thick bass lines, it’s damn near impossible to NOT drink it all up to intoxication.

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Nikki Lane

Nikki Lane

Highway Queen

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

Nikki Lane, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, figured if she could someday earn as many fans as people who live in her hometown, she’d be doing just fine. She guesstimated that number to be around 700,000 Rednecks (an endearing term). In reality, it’s actually 70,000, but… all for the sake of the song. Fatefully, she ended up in Nashville, whose population is actually far more accurate to the song title.

With as much talent as there is in Nashville, it takes someone special to rise to the top, and Nikki Lane has carved out her own world within her adopted hometown. Nikki owns her own vintage store in town called High Class Hillbilly, and while her true calling may have been in the fashion world, her music career seems to have come just as naturally. Her dream of owning her own line of jeans has taken a detour but she has found a way to grow her vintage business while touring her music. Lane has created the luxury of going antiquing and pillaging consignment shops all over the country before shows. The money she makes on tour goes to her shopping habits and by the time she gets back to Nashville, she has a van full of new inventory.

Between fashion and music, her network of talented friends stretches from Los Angeles to New York and everywhere in between. The new record title, Highway Queen, seems a far more literal nickname than however tongue-in-cheek it’s supposed to be. She’s hit the Jackpot with ten sharp, quick-witted country tunes that boast a vintage country pop production.

Her 2015 album, All Or Nothin’, produced by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys, The Arcs), was charmingly badass. For Highway Queen, she and boyfriend Jonathan Tyler took the producing reins giving her sound a slightly more stripped down feel, but with all the southern atmospheric punch as anything she’s ever done. The recording process even had her crew logging highway miles, taking her from Nashville to Texas to New York City at Electric Lady Studios.

One day she hopes the merch booth at her shows will essentially become pop-up shops for her vintage store. With her impressive catalog and many highway miles left in her, that’s another dream that may come to fruition.

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Spa & Spa

Spa & Spa

Soul Sick

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

Her 4th record, Soul Sick, feels like the real Sallie Ford. Her personal battles with anxiety and depression are documented and while music provides some outlet, sometimes you could sense some insecurities within it.

Sallie Ford’s debut, Dirty Radio, was a fantastic '50s doo-wop record that was vintage sounding but still pretty fresh. Her second record, Untamed Beast, was a straight forward rock 'n' roll album that was hard-nosed and gritty. At this point, her band, the Sound Outside, broke up and she appeared to be in musical limbo. Ford went “solo,” with Slap Back, which was a decent record, but it wasn’t really similar or different enough to her other material to truly stand out.

Soul Sick is introspective, confessional and accepting of personal issues. It sounds like an artist coming out of the proverbial shell. Sallie Ford has a very loyal and steady fan base in her adopted hometown of Portland, and folks will follow her journey regardless. It finally feels like Ford is accepting that fact and making music that although may be difficult to put together, sounds therapeutic and dare say, "fun."

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Ty Segall

Ty Segall

Ty Segall

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

When Ty Segall released Manipulator, it was because he set out to make a pure glam-rock record reminiscent of Bowie, Lou Reed and perhaps his biggest hero, Marc Bolan of T. Rex (note his T.Rex cover album, Ty Rex).

When Ty Segall released Emotional Mugger last year, it was essentially a concept record of a demented baby demanding candy with whirling fuzz and distorted guitar licks all over the place, fitting the mold of an unruly child.

When Ty Segall released his previous eight albums with scattered EPs and differently incarnated bands in between, each one had its own purpose. Segall is 29 and has already reinvented himself several times over, so when he announced he was releasing a new album, it came as no surprise. What made the self-titled Ty Segall so intriguing however, was what exactly would it sound like? He already has a self-titled collection to his name so for someone who churns out material as fervently as Segall, it could mean anything.

What we came to learn was that Ty Segall the artist and Ty Segall the record are one and the same. Sometimes a beautifully simplified songwriter, sometimes a spastic explosion of noise, each instance as passionate as the other. It’s an impressive feat to conjure up as much beauty as noise. What Ty Segall comes down to, is making the most of every inkling. It’s all over the place, yet totally cohesive. There’s a country lick followed by metal riffs, with a ten-minute jam sprinkled in. "Orange Color Queen" is as pretty a sunny day acoustic tune as you’ll hear just as "Thank You Mr. K" is an explosive one.

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Jim James

Jim James

Eternally Even

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

"A happy ray of light," "eternal optimist," and "spread love" are all terms and phrases easily associated with Jim James. He is the wizard-like front man for My Morning Jacket. who are known for blending folky psychedelia with a heaviness only possessed by some metal bands. It’s smooth, loud, and pretty and can knock you off your feet. Jim James’ solo work has always had a different twist.

2013’s Regions Of Light And Sounds Of God, James’ first solo record, saw him dipping into electronics with an overall weirder approach he may not have been able to get away with in the band. It was a beautiful, atmospheric record with near-universal acclaim.

Jim James is back with LP2, titled Eternally Even. Though some of its material has been worked on over the last couple of years, it seems this particularly brutal election season has even affected the eternally positive folks like James. It is most certainly no coincidence that Eternally Even is being released mere days before the extremely polarizing presidential vote.

No one album can sway the vote, and that is not the point: Eternally Even is not a protest album but it does beg you to dig deep into yourself, mortality, and some sad realities, issues listeners are not used to hearing from James.

The mood is noticeably darker and dronier than Regions Of Light. James’s voice is lower and quicker. His signature buttery bellow is hard to find amongst the rhythmic bass and sonic backdrop. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; "True Nature" hits a soulful peak towards the end of the record, with vintage horns and jazzy R&B keyboards. "The World Is Smiling Now" is one of the prettiest and most "Jim James"-like songs in recent memory.

It seems that Eternally Even could either be call to arms or a challenge to humanity. Perhaps it’s both.

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Ultimate Painting

Ultimate Painting

Dusk

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

Jack Cooper and James Hoare were both on tour in separate bands when they met. They quickly realized they shared a lot in common musically, and anyone who has listened to the two of them make music can probably see why.

The two men from London not only write similarly, but sound similar as well. When the come together as Ultimate Painting, it truly is hard to tell whose part is whose. Dusk is the third album from the duo and although it may be easy to label them as “indie pop,” they have a clean musicality to them that makes for supremely easy listening.

As the name suggests, Dusk sounds good in dim lighting like a lot of good '60s pop records. It’s quiet, yet full of sound. It’s guitar pop, yet poetic.

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Dawes

Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

If you let fan comments on Facebook influence your thinking, which as a general rule of thumb, you should DEFINITELY NOT DO, you will think the new Dawes album, We’re All Gonna Die, is either pure perfection or the worst crime to music possibly committed. In today’s social media climate, sports and politics aren’t the only arenas where the word “fan” is nearly synonymous with “irrational” and “kneejerk.”

In reality, We're All Gonna Die is neither perfection, nor crime worthy. It IS, however, difficult to define and significantly different than anything Dawes has ever done. “Different” for a band means change, and we all know how people react to change. Fans are drawn to Dawes for many reasons. Some of the most vivid songwriting imaginable, California sunsets, sweeping guitars and nostalgia for the dusty Laurel Canyon days of the '70s are all peak Dawes.

We’re All Gonna Die has traces of all of these characteristics, but dives into something entirely new. Chunky basslines, pop choruses, spacey soundscapes, make for a new type of listening environment. When their fourth record, All Your Favorite Bands, came out, front man and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith pointed to wanting to get back to their live-band roots and giving a more live sound. It was heavy on ballads and guitar solos, which is straight out of a Dawes show. The new album is more of a headphone record. The songwriting still stands with the best of Dawes, when displayed with just Taylor and his guitar, but it seems as though the lyrics are not the main attraction anymore. They are still poignant and heavy, but Wylie Gelber’s bass, for example, is at the forefront in some songs, which would never have been the case in the past.

At one point Goldsmith and Blake Mills were bandmates in Simon Dawes, but that was before they went their separate routes and Mills became super-grammy-winning-producer for Alabama Shakes, Jim James and countless other bands. Mills and Goldsmith have collaborated on multiple projects over the years, but We're All Gonna Die is produced entirely by Mills.

Despite the mix of sounds, the album is cohesive and all fits together. When lead single, "When The Tequila Runs Out" dropped, people were up in arms about the direction of the band. The song probably is a good representation for the album. The fun part about a band like Dawes, who are on their way to legendary status, is that we can look back on the catalog when it’s all said and done and find out if We're All Gonna Die is a one-off in the discography or turning point where “Dawes” became Dawes.

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Cass McCombs

Cass McCombs

Mangy Love

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

Cass McCombs has been doing this a long time. He knows what he’s doing and he does not sit still. The Bay Area artist has been pumping out albums for a decade. He is an outstanding guitar player and songwriter, yet his style is always changing. His debut for Anti Records, Mangy Love, may be his best. Summer and Fall 2016 have been so good to us as music consumers.

Cass McCombs dropped Mangy Love in the middle of Frank Ocean hype and Angel Olsen’s instant-classic My Woman, but it deserves to be up there with both of those records. In this harshly political season, perhaps we can all listen to the words of McCombs and an album like Mangy Love. His wit and wry lyrics hit even deeper than normal and touch on everything including racist government, misogyny, California porn industry. Everything. It’s not a protest record or anything of the like, because you have to listen hard to pick up certain vibes, but that is never a chore on Mangy Love.

The music surrounding the messages is plain beautiful so it could be easy to get lost. Swirling guitars, horns flirting with soul tunes join blues and folk rock with a hint of '80s, but sometimes all at the same time, making it difficult to pin down, but very easy to enjoy.

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Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen

My Woman

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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner

My Woman is out and Angel Olsen is heading on tour with a six-piece band (Seattle show is 2/18 at the Neptune). The number of band members may sound like overkill for anyone who associates Olsen with the lo-fi songwriting tendencies of her previous albums. Turns out, the only overkill is the "lo-fi" descriptor itself still being applied to her.

Though there are lo-fi elements from time to time, My Woman is so far beyond that. It's a gorgeous rock 'n' roll record, with layers that grow upon each listen. The first five tracks set the tone with a controlled, raucous feel. Electric guitar, synths, and drums fill the soundscape with Angel Olsen’s voice in full command throughout. The last five tracks slow it down and stretch it out.

Where the first two singles, "Intern" and "Shut Up Kiss Me," demonstrate the direction Olsen is taking, there is a noticeable shift in the album at "Heart-Shaped Face," the sixth track. My Woman plays like a classic A-Side/B-Side record. The A-Side ROCKKSS and the B-Side BURNNSS. By the time album standout, "Sister" comes around, Olsen’s voice is steady at the forefront, rolling over Crazy Horse-styled guitar solos. It’s an eerie, lonesome type of beauty best found in classic '70s albums. My Woman packs plenty of punch, but the two seven-minute burners ("Sister" and "Woman") stick out most without isolating themselves from the bunch.

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Karl Blau

By Ian Bremner, Easy Street Records

As long as there is no ill intent or instinctual violence or anything, people usually react well to a good surprise. For example, some may look surprised if you were to tell them that one of the best country albums of the last year came from a gentleman relatively unknown outside of his hometown in Anacortes, Washington.

Karl Blau has been making albums since the late 1990s and has accumulated upwards of 40 LPs to his name. Why is his latest album titled Introducing Karl Blau, you ask? Perhaps it is as tongue-in-cheek as it is fitting.

Blau, a member of Anacortes’ Knw-Yr-Own/K Records collective is a musical scientist. He seems to never be quite finished experimenting with new sounds, styles and genres. This time he settled upon recording a collection of classic, somewhat underground, country covers. Introducing is not just a cover album however. Each song, whether it's "How I Got To Memphis," an original Tom T Hall song, or Link Wray’s "Fallin' Rain," Blau makes completely his own. Much like Sturgill Simpson’s "The Promise" and "In Bloom," when listening to the album, you are fully absorbed into Blau’s voice and words until you get the feeling, “I swear this sounds familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

One thing you can put your finger on, is the play button immediately after the album ends.

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Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis

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By Ian Bremner, Easy Street Records

Robert Ellis is not only a self-titled album, it has also been self-proclaimed, the most “Robert Ellis” album Robert Ellis and his band have ever done. Perhaps that is why it is hard to ignore the fact this new record is oozing with heartbreak, introspection, and realization.

When diving into a new record, sometimes it is a struggle to determine how much of its content is autobiographical and how much is role-play. Robert Ellis has always been great at blurring those lines.

The album starts with an observational song "Perfect Strangers," about how everything looks better in lower lighting and how easy it is to fall in love with something without being able to see below the surface. Soon, Ellis is proclaiming his love in the longing "How I Love You," before seemingly giving up and threatening to move to California with the only unbroken part of his heart. All of this turmoil goes down in the first three tracks.

Where fellow songwriter Jason Isbell referenced the “elephant in the room” in his beautiful 2013 song about a cancer-ridden friend, Ellis pays homage to the large African animal/metaphorical idiom with a regretful, jealous-heart confessional song packed with tension. Throughout the 11-song album, the listener is constantly questioning whether Ellis is addressing a past, present, or future lover.

Despite some lyrical heaviness, the musical maturation is glaring. Though most would consider Robert Ellis a country album, it is so much more. With pop melodies and rootsy R&B, there was an obvious amount of time spent on the arrangements and song flow of the album that many modern day “country albums” don’t seem to prioritize as much as the SONG. There are flowing strings and slow guitar picking paired with piano and vivid storytelling throughout. Only Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes can get away with as many syllables and words per verse as Robert Ellis does, but it never seems crowded.

No one can claim to be mistake free and whether Robert Ellis is singing from his own experiences or not, he is certainly singing from his heart. A heart full of newfound wisdom, but perhaps still on the mend.

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Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby

Singing Saw

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By Ian Bremner, Easy Street Records

Leaving the artistic hotbed of New York city can sometimes draw different forms of inspiration, and a bit of California air can do the body and mind good. When Kevin Morby moved westbound to the hills outside of Los Angeles, a piano from the previous tenants greeted him. Though a beginner at the piano, Morby quickly picked up some essential chords and thus, began the initial foundation for his beautiful new album, Singing Saw.

Morby, who has played bass with WOODS, and founded the band Babies, is one of the purest songwriters in recent memory. His third solo album, Singing Saw, is as smooth of a record as you could ask for. The nine-track record flows beautifully with sparse, but lush, natural sounds with enough acoustic and electric guitar with sweet piano to bring it all together. At the forefront however, remains the voice and words of Kevin Morby.

The west coast breeze, sun-covered hills and city lights of Los Angeles in the background almost become real life to the listener, but he makes it apparent that not all sunny days are happy days. Beneath the beauty of the arrangements, there is a present darkness to the lyrics. Singing Saw manages to bring the gritty New York alleyways to the bright greenery of California. A clearing in the fog. A hole in the clouds.

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Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson

A Sailor's Guide To Earth

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By Ian Bremner, Easy Street Records

With a voice like Sturgill Simpson, a lot of people would willingly listen to him sing the alphabet for 30 minutes. Thankfully, for those of us who have come to adore everything Sturgill Simpson in the last 2-3 years, there are an awful lot of stories that come with that southern croon.

The 37-year old Kentucky native came from making waves as an underground country singer with High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, to navigating real waves with his third album, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. Reaching this level of success in his “later years,” as far as the music industry is concerned, has allowed him to view his music and newfound celebrity with gratitude and a unique perspective. Sturgill has been ignored by Music Row in Nashville because he found a way to reach the masses without their help. He has spent decades playing in smoky bars to empty rooms with his band, Sunday Valley. He has worked on the railroad. He has been in the Navy. He has literal Sea Stories.

Signing with a major label has its pros and cons and undoubtedly sparks skepticism from longtime fans. Sturgill Simpson proves, however, that with a creative brain and “take no bullshit” attitude, a bigger budget just opens up more opportunities to let your pipe-dream ideas come to life. You want horns on the record? Get the Dap-Kings! You want to do a Nirvana song? Do it.

Most people love to label him as the acid-taking cowboy or the savior to “outlaw country,” but comparing him to any contemporaries or country legends is a slope as slippery as the bow of a battleship. He may as well be the Kendrick Lamar of country music. Throw out any preconceived notions, prepare to be surprised and trust that they know what they’re doing.

Conceptually an ode to his newborn child, A Sailors Guide To Earth was written in short, poetry-format on the road during the seemingly endless Metamodern tours. This record is the first without cohort/super-producer Dave Cobb and Sturgill took over the reins. He knew what he wanted to say with each song and how he wanted it to sound. It was now a matter of pulling it all together. Turns out, 4 days is all he needed. The album plays like a life lesson to his now 2-year old son. The first track, Welcome To Earth (Pollywog), quite literally could be the first words spoken to him, “hello my son.”

The 9-track, 39 minute album is a sonic trek through life: starting with a young child, growing into angsty teenager (cue the Nirvana), and ending with a roaring Call To Arms against the anti-war, anti-conformity, anti-bullshit that plagues the news cycles in 2016. Appropriately, the transitions of seagulls and buoy dings between songs only add to the listening voyage. Though the lush production of strings and horns may catch the ear of his young son now, it might take a while for the overall sentiment to sink in.

Like most “guides,” A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, lays out some rules for the road, some tips for the trade and wise advice from someone who’s been through it all. Interpreting the map is a different ballgame, and one to be learned on your own. As Sturgill claims in Keep Between The Lines, “do as I say, don’t do as I’ve done, it don’t have to be like father like son.”

Fans looking for a Metamodern II will be forced to keep looking, just as they’ll be waiting around a long time for Sailors Guide II. He made his country record. He made his psychedelic record. Now, here lies his tide-riding soul record. For Sturgill Simpson, life moves on, the ship sails and we can only hope to keep riding whatever wave he is on.

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Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop

Post Pop Depression

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By Ian Bremner, Easy Street Records

Iggy Pop and Josh Homme have teamed up to create an LP that draws from what the both of them do best. A little punk, a little desert guitar, a little Detroit grit and some brief longing for the Berlin days.

Unofficially dubbed as the sequel to the 1977’s Lust For Life, Iggy is as angsty as ever. It is not too surprising given his music retirement comments, but the production of Homme lifts it up enough to prevent the weight becoming too heavy. The rant against modern culture on the last song, "Paraguay," may be heard as the typical “pissed off old guy,” but the rock icon deserves to do what he damn well pleases and be heard. In a time where his legendary colleagues like Lou Reed and David Bowie aren’t around anymore, Iggy is the one guy who bridges so many generations. Josh Homme dubbed him the “last of the one and onlys.”

There are happy moments of course. There is a beautiful string section towards the end of "Sunday," and "Gardenia" is technically a love song.

Josh Homme recruited his Queens Of The Stone Age comrade, Dean Fertita and Artic Monkeys’ drummer, Matt Helders to round out the group and will head out on tour. Whether it is truly Iggy’s last remains to be seen, but for the time being, the actual “post-iggy pop-depression” can be held off until further notice.

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Shearwater

Shearwater

Jet Plane And Oxbow

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By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

When I press play on an opening track like “Prime,” the change is almost instant. The music I hear is so appealing it changes my life. The ordinary life becomes the extraordinary life just by virtue of the music, if only for a few minutes. Ironically, I don’t really even know what Jonathan Meiburg is singing about. I can’t easily understand all the lyrics, but it doesn’t matter. In this case it’s all about the music and the feeling. And to me, music like this feels amazing. But why? It’s that electronic hook mainly. It lights up something inside me - some kind of internal recognition receptor turns on and just, like, glows. It’s like something was out there, or maybe it was inside me, and I knew it was there but I couldn’t find it, so I couldn't say it, but I can recognize it when I hear the band play it.

And that’s just the first song.

And no, they’re not all like that. Musicians can’t be magicians every time. But in the case of Jet Plane And Oxbow, the power of Shearwater’s opening trick is strong enough to light a path all the way to the end of the album for both the band and their listeners.

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The I Don't Cares

By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

The last time I listened to Paul Westerberg it was 1992 and the songs were “Waiting for Somebody” and “Dyslexic Heart" on the Singles soundtrack. The last time I listened closely to anything Julianna Hatfield has done was 1993 and the album was Become What You Are. After hearing these two together as The I Don’t Cares on Wild Stab, I think I may just have to rewind and pay more attention to their output of the past 20-odd years.

This is simply a great rock and roll collaboration record with something for everyone, and it’s brought to you by a couple of seasoned musicians who still have star power and who really know what they’re doing.

“Back” kicks it off by getting all indie rock pensive and poignant, but its follow-up “Wear Me Out Loud” brings on the hooky rock-a-tude right away. Enjoy a little gimmicky humor with a song about having to pee (“1/2 2P") before “Sorry for Tomorrow Night” busts out the fiddles around some lovable loser lyrics. On "Dance to the Fight,” Julianna Hatfield takes the lead and sweetly rocks out on sour lyrics like “drunken, flunkin' out, I’m on my hands and knees on a Friday night.” This is followed by just a wee bit of a contrast with the slow down and cuddle up vibe on “Kissing Break” (a song that’s ready for some rom-com movie montage).

And technically the record’s not even half over yet. I’ll save the second half for you to experience without any spoiler clues, but I will say this:

Give this record a chance to be heard on something good. No ear buds, okay? No tiny bluetooth speakers in a noisy room, alright? You should break out some good headphones, preferably the kind that have ear pads of some kind. I speak from experience. For this one I started on my iPad streaming to a cheap little Amazon Basic bluetooth speaker while I was distracted doing something else, and it was nothing special. But when I put on the good headphones and paid attention it all came alive and it was great. Get to know this record on something good before you let it get shortchanged on something convenient.

So far I can’t decide which half of Wild Stab I like more. This is a very good problem to have. And when my favorite song is the last song on the album, I think that’s a very good sign. This is a Record with a capital R and as music appreciators we’re lucky to have it.

The I Don't Cares
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Grizfolk

Grizfolk

Waking Up The Giants

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By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

Who are these guys? I like them. I like them a lot. They have a big, polished, radio-friendly sound and for now I won't hold that against them. It's a pleasure to press play on the debut album of a band I've never heard of and to be so pleasantly surprised.

And this is one of those rare albums where I find myself waiting in vain for all the good songs to be over. Where is the filler here? It all sounds so good I almost don’t trust it. If I wanted to be critical I guess I could say nothing really challenges the listener here. Musically speaking, if Grizfolk is picking the listener up for a date, they don’t sit in the car and honk the horn and then brood mysteriously when you get in. No, Grizfolk comes to the door and walks you to the car. They’ve got flowers for you and all that. They make it easy to like them - if you’re not too jaded that is.

With a name like Grizfolk I expected more guitars I guess. Maybe more of an acoustic flavored folk rock sound. Not so much here. Yes, the guitars are there but there are no big guitar solos and and overall sound of the band seems more keyboards and drums driven. Much of the album is dipped in a poppy, electronic coating that candies everything up nicely. Hooks abound, and you may find yourself singing along pretty quickly. There are multiple moments that sound tailor-made for big crowd concert singalongs.

Speaking of concerts, after listening to Waking Up The Giants I found myself wanting to know more about Grizfolk. Who are the band members, where are they from, what are they like, and what do these guys sound like live? Holden Caulfield said certain books make you "wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it” I say that certain albums make you wish the band was from your hometown and you could go see them live and in concert whenever you felt like it. Waking Up the Giants by Grizfolk is one of those albums. PS, Grizfolk will be at the Crocodile on 1/26!

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Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves

Pageant Material

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By Andrew Lee
6/26/15

I listened to this album all the way through without knowing a thing about Kacey Musgraves and I’m pleased to report that I enjoyed the whole darn thing. Albums like this are rare for me and they remind me of an apple pie I once ate. So many people rave about apple pie and so often I enjoy parts of it but not the whole thing and the apples make me feel too full. One day my friend came home from his bakery job with an apple pie with a streusel crumb topping and the apples were all finely diced and well blended into the filling and every last bite was delightful. Still not sure if it was Dutch Apple Pie or French Apple Pie but that pie had my attention and interest to the last bite, as did this new album by Kacey Musgraves.

Less pie, more music you say? Here are three reasons to buy Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves:

1. These songs are full of clever lyrics, rhymes and turns of phrase (which is sort of a tradition in a lot of country music). When these kinds of things are done right - i.e. they appear naturally in the song and are sung earnestly and without trying too hard - they can be like memorable little gems the listener can easily remember and take away with them when the song is over. “I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t.” “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” “They own too much wicker and drink too much liquor.” - the list goes on and on and it can be kind of fun to pick these out. With Musgraves’ laid-back presentation I’m willing to eat this stuff instead of sending it back to the kitchen.

2. There is an easy-going confidence wrapped in a sort of cool retro-country vibe throughout, making this all go down like a cold, sepia-colored drink on a warm country day. Notice how the album cover evokes a classic 1960’s feeling. Notice the prettiest songs with the longest phrasing beginning and ending the album and playing their natural part in the storytelling. Notice the surprise uncredited guest vocals after the silence at the end of the album - they appear as almost a sort of confirmation - “if you’ve been listening to this thinking this girl’s an easygoing natural who knows what she’s doing, well, you’re right."

3. For all the self-empowerment, life-lessons, and daily affirmation nuggets in these songs there is also a nod to self-questioning and doubt, and with the album ending with the words “are you sure this is where you want to be?” I was left feeling that I'd been listening to an album that was maybe sort of sad and beautiful instead of just plain cute and twangy.

Kacey Musgraves
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Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

First Comes The Night

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By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

I just realized it has been thirty years since Chris Isaak released his first studio album, Silvertone. Reagan was president, Springsteen was riding high on Born In The USA, and Miami Vice was the hottest new show on television. How is it that a man who is this damn handsome, who sings this beautifully, and who exudes such effortless cool hasn’t become more of a household name at some point over all these years?

First Comes The Night is yet another reliable entry in the Chris Isaak catalog and the familiar ingredients are all present. The Elvis meets Orbison golden vocals, the songs of heartache and breakup, the buckets of reverb, the shots of slide and Spanish guitar - and through it all that feeling that each song seems made for night driving, the beach, or the block party.

But there are some less common flavors here too, and they keep Isaak’s music interesting. I don’t know if he has ever started a song with the chorus like he does on “Reverie” - and that chorus repeats and repeats until it wears a groove in your mind. “Baby What You Want Me to Do” keeps building until it’s spinning around the room with mascara running down its cheeks like a bad carnival dream. The rock and roll piano of “Running Down the Road” is a welcome breath of fresh air from the typical guitar dominance, and it makes a brief return a few tracks later during “Keep Hanging On." “Every Night I Miss You More” is a straight up old school country song with a huge helping of twang, immediately followed by “The Girl That Broke My Heart” which sounds like something John might have sung on an early Beatles record. This is all just really good stuff.

Chris Isaak’s last release was a critically acclaimed double covers album of Sun Studio classics and Sun Studio/Sun Records founder Sam Phillips was oft-quoted around the release as having said;

“I have always listened to Chris Isaak. He’s very talented and his music is so damn honest. It’s incredible.”

I agree. I’ve felt the same way ever since hearing “Wicked Game” in seventh grade. I’m an adult now. And after hearing First Comes The Night it feels good to know there are still some musical artists I can count on.

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Electric Light Orchestra
Known as one of the most iconic forces in music history, ELO delivers the new album, 'Jeff Lynne s ELO Alone In The Universe , which will be the first new ELO music in a decade. As with ELO's previous chart-topping albums, Jeff Lynne continues to serve as ELO s producer, songwriter, arranger, lead singer and guitarist. Jeff Lynne was the creative genius behind ELO which sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, had more than 20 Top 40 Hits across the U.S. and the U.K. and received countless awards and accolades. At the time of ELO's formation, Lynne had said the goal was to create modern rock and pop songs. A goal that remains true some 30 years later with the creation of this new material.
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Bob Dylan

By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

Bob’s back. Can you dig it, man? There’s a lot to dig into on this release, whether you go with the two-disc “Best of” version or the six-disc deluxe edition. The sound is great and has a sort of up close and personal feel to it (as it should!). It’s interesting to hear these classic songs as they evolve and change. Most versions included on the deluxe six-disc set seem to be different or good enough that they are worth listening to. However the two-disc “Best of” version may provide the more accessible, traditional, and enjoyable listening experience from beginning to end. It all depends on how deep you wanna go man, and as Joan Baez said in the film No Direction Home:

"There are no veils, curtains, doors, walls, anything between what pours out of Bob's hand onto the page and what is somehow available to the core of people who are believers in him. "There's some people who'd say... you know, not interested. But if you're interested, he goes way, way deep."

What a great opportunity to step back in time and hear these seminal songs of the ‘60s as they could have been vs. how they were released. The Cutting Edge gives some insight to Dylan’s process during the peak of his powers in ’65-’66 and serves to increase the perception that his was a one-time only comet streak of musical inspiration that arguably burned brightest during the nearly two-year period represented in these recordings.

A particular highlight for this reviewer was "Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence," which I missed the first time it came out (Bootleg Series 1-3). This song rocks. The guitar work stings and runs you over. Dylan yells. He sings some different lyrics. Words from "Tom Thumb's Blues" make an appearance. And Dylan picks his guitar player over a woman -  "She's good alright but she ain't as good as this guitar player I got right now." A fitting tribute to the singular guitar work of Mike Bloomfield.

The hardbound book accompanying the deluxe issue is called Bob Dylan Mixing Up The Medicine 1965-1966 and it is almost entirely made up of photographs with not much in the way of text. It’s fun to see all these pictures, especially the pictures of lyric sheets with handwritten changes and of newspaper articles from the time period. I also like the section titled “Articles from Around the Globe” that includes magazine and album covers and assorted Dylan-related oddities of the time from other countries. The set's extensive liner notes (54 pages including pictures) are packaged with the discs, which are designed to look like mini-LPs in a gatefold style.

So then, which version is for you? Perhaps I can help…

- The two-disc version contains 36 of the 111 tracks on the six-disc version.

- It appears the two-disc version contains two tracks that are slightly shorter than their counterparts on the six-disc version. There may be others with very minor differences of a few seconds as well.

- The two-disc version contains just two versions of “Like a Rolling Stone” whereas the six-disc version devotes the entirety of disc four's 20 tracks to the song. I’ve read this is the full sessions for this particular song, but I'm not sure if that is accurate.

The two-disc version contains the following number of tracks off each disc of the six-disc version:

- 10 out of the 23 tracks on disc 1
- 8 out of the 19 tracks on disc 2
- 2 out of the 20 tracks on disc 3
- 7 out of the 19 tracks on disc 4
- 4 out of the 15 tracks on disc 5
- 5 out of the 15 tracks on disc 6

How many songs (regardless of take or version) that appear on the six-disc set do not appear on the two-disc set?  Answer = 12

Those songs are:

- "It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue"
- "It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)"
- "From a Buick 6"
- "Ballad of a Thin Man"
- "Jet Pilot"
- "I Wanna Be Your Lover"
- "Unknown Instrumental"
- "4th Time Around"
- "Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way (and I’ll Go Mine)"
- "Temporary Like Achilles"
- "Obviously 5 Believers"
- "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"

Bob Dylan
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Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell

By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

I woke up this morning singing "The trouble with the straight and the narrow is it’s so thin I keep sliding off to the side."

And I can’t get it out of my head for some reason.

I can relate to that song and I can relate to the way Ben Bridwell sings it. He seems like the right man for the job - he takes his time and he sounds like the kind of character that knows what he’s singing about. And he keeps up the good vs. evil motif with “Am I a Good Man?” a few tracks later.

And speaking of being a man, in looking at Bridwell’s whole contribution here, it appears that in some sense he plays the man part of this collaborative covers album and Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) plays the woman part. The two singers trade off tracks, with half of the total tracks going to each of them. Bridwell sings “Am I a Good Man?" by the obscure sixties soul duo Them Two, while Beam takes on “Bonnie Raitt’s “Any Day Woman.” Half of Beam’s tracks on the album are by female singer/songwriters. All of Bridwell's are by dudes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as they say on Seinfeld, and actually this kind of balancing act of musical sensibilities is one reason Sing Into My Mouth works well. Bridwell plays the rough-hewn vagabond with the more rustic vocals, singing about stuff like insecurity and isolation and loss, while evoking a sense of having been around the block a number of times and not being much better for the trips. Beam plays the sensitive and bearded hippie with the gentler vocals, singing about love and feelings, and he seems to get the lion’s share of the studio effects on his tracks.

Ironically, I normally prefer just the opposite with these two guys, in the sense that Ben Bridwell sounds better with the type of reverb and studio effects that were dripping from his first three Band Of Horses albums, while Beam sounds best alone with an acoustic guitar and a cassette recorder in his bedroom.

Some may lament the lack of original songs and signature sounds from these two bands. I think I did at first. But take this one for what it is - a fun little collaborative covers album between two musical friends letting their hair down together, so to speak.

If you’re already familiar with any of these songs though, you may be at a disadvantage. You may end up suffering from what I'll call the "musical comparison conundrum," where one struggles to overcome one’s predisposition to prefer whichever version of a song one hears first. But being the ignorant musical twit that I am, I hadn’t heard a single one of these songs before. I was able to enjoy these versions for what they are, and then listen to the originals later, which enhanced my appreciation of the songs. But of course I think I preferred Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell's versions on every one - meaning that in the end, the above-described conundrum may have gotten me after all.

And basically, my dear music appreciators, what I’m trying to say with all of this blather is that Sing Into My Mouth is a groovy, laid-back listening experience that’s worth repeating again and again. Buy it, and perhaps you’ll get some lyrics stuck in your head like I did.

Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell
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Alan Jackson

By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

Alan Jackson is a name I’ve heard a lot over the years, but somehow I'd never knowingly listened to one of his songs until I pressed play on Angels And Alcohol, and it didn’t take long to know this guy is a master at what he does. Listen to just the first minute and thirteen seconds of opening track “You Can Always Come Home” and see if you know what I mean. It’s a pure genre song to be sure, but it’s done so well it transcends the genre and goes down as not just a great country song, but a great song, period. I’ve always been sort of a sucker for a slow, stripped down intro that suddenly morphs into a full-voiced, uptempo, emotional pick-me-up. No matter how bad it gets “you can always come home” - I mean, what warm-blooded human being doesn’t want to hear that, right, especially when it’s delivered in the warm and seasoned country superstar singing voice of someone like Alan Jackson?

Unfortunately there isn’t another song like this one on the album, but fortunately it seems Alan Jackson didn’t get to where he is for nothing, as the man knows how to fill his listeners' cups all the way up.

“You Never Know” is the kind of country rocker where everyone and their brother gets a solo (including the piano player, my favorite), and suddenly the warm father figure from the first song is singing about a “curvy little bottom like a roller coaster ride.” “Angels and Alcohol” features some appropriately woozy pedal steel work while addressing one of country music’s favorite subjects - drinkin’ - and it's notable for the double meaning of the word "angels" as well as the narrator’s apparent lack of apology or regret.

And perhaps it’s a certain lack of apology or regret through the entire album that effectively conveys Jackson’s veteran country confidence and makes this music worth listening to. Sure, some of it gets a little corny at times (“Flaws,” “When God Paints”) but when you’re as justifiably confident as Alan Jackson even corny can seem kind of cool.

Alan Jackson
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Jason Isbell

By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

If music were clothing then Jason Isbell’s latest album would be like one of those favorite shirts. You know, the one you reach for more than the others, the one that fits right and feels good - the one that doesn’t go out of style. Something More Than Free is a comfortable, well-made album that deserves some heavy rotation in the playlists of singer-songwriter appreciators everywhere.

Opening track “If It Takes a Lifetime” would not sound too out of place on a late 70’s Kenny Rogers album - and if you don’t think that’s a compliment then I don’t know what to do with you. “Hudson Commodore” could have been a hit for Eagles in their heyday. “Speed Trap Town” evokes the best of Nebraska-era Springsteen.

Don’t put this one on to rock out. Don’t put this one on to dance. Put this album on to think and reflect and question, to come to terms and plan and move forward somehow. This music is good for staying up late, driving around, learning lyrics and singing along. There’s a lot of acoustic, mid-tempo shuffling stuff and the electric guitar flavors are used sparingly but to great effect on songs like “24 Frames,” "Children of Children,” and “Palmetto Rose.”

A strong sense of memory and character and story abounds on these songs, and there’s plenty of conflict and regret, but there’s also a feeling of purpose and potential for good. Isbell asks questions (“The Life You Chose”) and he offers answers (“24 Frames”) and he sings about work like the grown-ass man that he is (“If It Takes a Lifetime,” “Something More than Free”). Recently my 12-year-old nephew declared that I didn’t like the same kind of music he did because he was into “singer-songwriter.” He offered 17-year-old internet discovery Shawn Mendes as an example of a singer-songwriter he was into. I’ve got nothing against Shawn Mendes, nephew, but hopefully someday you’ll learn to think of someone like Jason Isbell instead, because Something More Than Free is what real man singing and songwriting is all about.

Jason Isbell
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Veruca Salt

Veruca Salt

Ghost Notes

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By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

Why is this a great album that you should buy right now? Because this is a half-female half-male band playing alternative rock with pop appeal and punk attitude, and playing it well. Yes, they sound like the '90s sometimes and yes this is the band’s first album in like ten years and maybe there has been some breakup drama in the past or whatever, but maybe none of that really matters all that much if you think about it. All that stuff is just filler.

On Ghost Notes you’ll find heavy riffs, Ann Wilson-esque wailing, and in-your-face attitude vs. gentle guitar, hushed vocals, and even some touches of vulnerability, despite the “it’s gonna get loud, it’s gonna get heavy” forewarning on the opening track. “Empty Bottle” displays the band’s full range of powers and dynamics and it’s good to find such a strong song anchoring the middle of the record instead of weighing down the front end. And there are plenty more strong songs to be found on Ghost Notes, all studded with memorable moments. Notice how the meandering slow intro to “Black and Blonde” morphs into a heavy, room-shaking riff. Notice the triple rhymes and rapid fire wordplay of “Laughing in the Sugar Bowl.” See if you can spot the subtle tribute to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecelia” on “The Museum of Broken Relationships.” Try and find a song that isn’t interesting in some way. Maybe you can do it but I couldn’t.

When I was younger I had a roommate from Uruguay, and whenever he encountered an American food he wasn’t familiar with, before trying it he would ask me “is this a sweet or a salt?” If he was here to ask me that question about Veruca Salt’s new album, I would tell him “it’s both.” Yes, my Uruguayan roommate, despite her name, this Veruca is both sweet and salty, and that quality, that contrast between the soft and loud, light and heavy, pretty and pained, is just one of many reasons why Ghost Notes is such a satisfying listen. Now get me a Snickers bar, beeyotch

Veruca Salt
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Joy Williams

Joy Williams

Venus

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By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

Until this album I knew Joy Williams only as the female half of the Civil Wars, an Americana duo known for having their own little wars between themselves. Interesting that she should mark her return to a solo career with an opening track that samples Robert Frost, one of the great “Americana” poets of the twentieth century, a man who was probably no stranger to conflict, who has the words “I had a lover's quarrel with the world” engraved on his gravestone.

Notice the album cover - the photograph suggests a woman exposed, surrounded by darkness, and if I remember anything from my film study classes, when a character is covered with those horizontal shadow lines from the venetian blinds, they might be feeling internally divided or conflicted.

Notice the album title - Venus - the Goddess of Love, the brightest star in the sky - and a fun coincidence that the planet Venus completed a rare double star conjunction with Jupiter on the evening of June 30th, the release date for this album in North America.

Conflict, poetry, planetary conjunction coincidences - it’s all very well and good, but what about the music on this album? Well it’s more poppy and electronic and produced than the Civil Wars, but some of that trademark rootsiness and rusticity is still there. The music and vocals are beautiful and tasteful and thoughtful throughout, though at times a sort of earth mother “I’m gonna put a spell on you” kind of dark intensity creeps in. "I am woman, hear me roar" and all that.

In multiple interviews Joy Williams has discussed the album's themes in relation to being a woman and has quoted the line "I am a universe wrapped in skin" as one of her favorites. And it's this kind of exploration of the interplay between darkness and light that stamps this album as a memorable work worthy of repeated listening - though it's pretty enough for mass audiences, Venus is no puff piece designed to blow away and be forgotten. Hopefully other women, and all lovers of great music, will be listening for a long time.

Joy Williams
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Matt Pond Pa
Matt Pond PA are one of indie rock's most unique and prolific bands, with nine full length albums, ten EPs and innumerable tours as well as features on The O.C. and in a long-running Starbucks holiday commercial. They couldn't be more excited to do it all again with their brand new album, The State Of Gold.
Matt Pond Pa
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Leon Bridges

Leon Bridges

Coming Home

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By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ve listened to Leon Bridges' new album, Coming Home, several times now and I’ve come to the following conclusions:

- Leon Bridges is a pretty smooth dude. His vocal phrasings are nicely toasted to the low burning embers of the music - no marshmallows catch fire on this album if you know what I mean - and I was continually left wanting s’more of Leon's sound. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing - maybe Leon is a little too nicely toasted at times. Maybe it would be nice to hear him really let loose and catch fire - he certainly has the voice for it. Perhaps he lets things hang out a little more in his live shows - some artists are great on record but even better live.

- I like soul. I need more of it in my life and in my music collection. I go through life with a damper on my feelings most of the time and it can be liberating to listen to a honey-throated heartbreaker sing it with feeling (whatever “it” may be). If I was a singer I think I’d want to be the soulful kind who could sing those “Baby, baby, baby’s” and “Whoa girl’s" like Leon, in a way to make the ladies lean forward and listen.

- “Coming Home” is far and away the best song on the album, which is probably why it is the title track and why it was also the demo song that got him significant radio airplay and attention from major labels, leading to a deal with Columbia. Unfortunately, “Coming Home” is also the first track on the album, which could make it a downhill trip from there for some listeners. I’m here to tell you to hang in there and keep listening. “Better Man,” “Smooth Sailin’,” "Lisa Sawyer,” “Pull Away,” and “River” are also standout tracks that deserve attention. Leon’s music has what I call “instant atmosphere” and by virtue of his velvety vocals and smooth, retro style he can make any room and any person in that room feel instantly cooler with the sound of any of the tracks on this album.

- I’ve seen names like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye written in connection with Leon’s. I hear the similarities, though his voice doesn’t have the same kind of grit or power or passion of any of these, but of course not and so what? He’s awfully close, but I don’t really want him to be any of these guys anyway. I want him to be himself, and on the strength of this, his debut album in what surely could be a long and successful career, he is succeeding wildly at doing just that.

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Marc Minkowski

Marc Minkowski

Still

New CD: $16.98 Buy

By Andrew Lee for Easy Street Records

If you don’t know who Richard Thompson is for some reason, then I’ll start by saying this - if you’re looking for pretty vocals you might want to look elsewhere. For pretty vocals from a singer/songwriter with the last name Thompson, look up Teddy Thompson, Richard Thompson’s son, who sometimes plays and records with his dad and is an accomplished singer/songwriter in his own right. Teddy is the type of singer whose voice is familiar with the adjective “golden.” His father, Richard, is a much more, shall I say, "human” singer. Fortunately Richard is a guitar wizard and a first-rate songwriter. He is also a witty and wizened old folkie from the sixties, who is now in HIS sixties, but who remains in full command of his guitar playing and songwriting powers on this, his 42nd album, titled Still.

About half of this album had to grow on me, and about half was instantly appealing, which is actually a nice balance. Enough low hanging fruit to attract me to the tree and keep me there long enough to notice something desirable is also growing in the upper branches.

And now, without further ado, I present: ANDREW’S ALBUM OPINION AWARDS for Still by Richard Thompson

Most quickly addictive guitar hook = “Long John Silver”, though "Beatnik Walking” and “No Peace, No End” are pretty great too...

Prettiest acoustic guitar work = “Josephine"

Least likably sung word = the word “doll” on “Broken Doll”, (nearly a tie with the word “hand” on “Dungeons for Eyes”)

Best autobiographical story song = “Guitar Heroes"

Greatest variety of musical styles in one song = “Guitar Heroes"

Song most likely to be skipped over by me = “Dungeons for Eyes"

Song I initially didn’t care for that began to grow on me the most = “Where’s Your Heart"

Music that most reminded me of music from another song by another artist = opening guitar on “Beatnik Walking” / “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel

Most noteworthy guitar soloing = “Patty Don’t You Put Me Down” for the tumbling and trips and bends. Well, let’s call it a tie with “She’s All Buttoned Up.” Wait, what about “Pony in the Stable?” And what about the epic, unravelling chimey-ness of “She Never Could Resist a Winding Road?” Oh man, “Long John Silver is really cool too - how that electric guitar digs low and then sprouts another personality about 3/4 through...

Best singing with a British accent = “She Never Could Resist a Winding Road” I didn’t like it at first, but this is nice to hear actually - so many singers don’t sing with much trace of their native accent, as if they’re playing the part of an American pop singer…or maybe it has something to do with how the mouth works singing vs. talking - I don’t know - whatever the reason, it feels true and authentic to hear some accent in there...

I imagine fans of Richard Thompson will find plenty to enjoy on Still, and for those who may be new to his world, if you like folk, rock, virtuoso guitar work (both acoustic and electric), acerbic wit, failed relationships, English nostalgia and romance, songs about pirate con men...and 1960’s recording artists who have influenced hordes of contemporary musicians and who've still got it after all these years, then this latest offering from Richard Thompson might just be your cup of tea.

Psst...Wilco fans, this one's produced by Jeff Tweedy.

Marc Minkowski
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Ben Frost

Ben Frost

A U R O R A

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$9.99

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5th album from Ben Frost, performed by Ben Frost with Greg Fox (ex-Liturgy), Shahzad Ismaily and Thor Harris (SWANS) and largely written in Eastern DR Congo, A U R O R A aims directly, through its monolithic construction, at blinding luminescent alchemy; not with benign heavenly beauty but through decimating magnetic force.
Ben Frost
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Frightened Rabbit
Frightened Rabbit is among the most acclaimed bands of the 2000's, earning wide-ranging critical applause and a fervent international fan following with their emotionally exhilarating melodies and scathingly frank lyricism.
Frightened Rabbit
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Mellowhype

Mellowhype

Numbers

MP3 Album:

$13.99

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Free Stuff
2012 album from Odd Future members & assorted guests including Frank Ocean & Mike G
Mellowhype
Free Stuff
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Brother Ali
Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color finds Brother Ali reborn and rejuvenated. On his fourth full length studio album Ali teams up with seasoned producer Jake One (50 Cent, De La Soul, T.I., Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa) to tell a very different American story as he addresses the plights of our nation. This is Brother Ali as you've never heard him before.
Brother Ali
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Godspeed You! Black Emperor
We think Godspeed has made a record that maintains if not exceeds the standards of their previous work a high bar, many would agree.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
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Nick Waterhouse
Nick Waterhouse is the New Breed - An R&B fanatic who combines an uncanny old-school sensibility and with a charged, contemporary style. Having just turned 25, he joins the ranks of similar acts and producers of recent times - Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones, Mayer Hawthorne, Aloe Blacc et al -- that are all moving forward into the past, yet all quite different. For Waterhouse, his muse is the over-modulated sound of vintage '50s R&B and Rebel Rock n' Roll. His take on such a time-honored tradition evokes the back-alley thrill of New Orleans, Detroit and Memphis in their heyday. He combines an astute attention to detail recording on all vintage equipment with an honest desire to match the emotional impact of the music that inspires him.
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Chosen Effect
Originating from Hamilton, New Zealand, Kimbra has been performing her jazz-inflected pop since she was 14. Her Australian debut, Vows, has spawned three hit singles, is certified platinum, earned her a "one to watch" rave from Rolling Stone Australia and won Kimbra the ARIA (Australian Grammy) for Best Female Artist. Several of the songs on Vows are included on her US EP Settle Down, which was released in October 2011. Kimbra is also featured on Gotye's smash hit "Somebody That I Used To Know."
Chosen Effect
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Beach House

Beach House

Bloom

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Like all great sequels, Bloom takes what worked before and intensifies it, lining up humming synthesizers, luminous guitar tones, and intricate human and digital percussion to create an even more alluring package.
Beach House
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Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin

Eleven Eleven

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Dave Alvin turns it up. The intensity, the focus, the volume. On Alvin's new album Eleven Eleven, the man who many credit with pioneering what has come to be known as 'roots rock,' revisits the burning, guitar-centered blues rock that initially defined his career along with his band The Blasters in the late 1970s.
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Neil Young International Harvesters
The 12-track live album, A Treasure includes songs - 5 of which are previously unreleased - recorded during Young's 1984 and 1985 U.S. tours without the support of an album, or Young's then record label due to unique and unusual circumstances. Among those, "Grey Riders" will be the first track serviced to radio.
Neil Young International Harvesters
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Battles

Battles

Gloss Drop

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It is true that Gloss Drop is a bewitching, entrancing album that defies both categorization and easy analysis.
Battles
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Vetiver

Vetiver

Errant Charm

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5th album from San Francisco's Vetiver is a superb soundtrack for an afternoon idyll featuring some of Vetiver's most unabashed pop songs to date.
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Raphael Saadiq
Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter and record producer Raphael Saadiq is back with his fifth studio album Stone Rollin .
Raphael Saadiq
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Kurt Vile
Philadelphia singer/songwriter Kurt Vile returns with his second proper album (2008's Childish Prodigy was a compendium of sorts). Smoke Ring For My Halo is a gorgeously layered record.
Kurt Vile
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Flying Lotus
Composed, according to FlyLo, as ''a collage of mystical states, dreams, sleep and lullabies'', Until the Quiet Comes has the distinct feel of this nocturnal trip.
Flying Lotus
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First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

Lion's Roar

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First Aid Kit is Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg. The first single and title track to their sophomore album, ''The Lion's Roar'', was recorded with producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, Jenny Lewis) in Omaha, NE. The record sees the band exploring a bigger sound and more instrumentation than on their debut album ''The Big Black and the Blue'', but maintains the signature storytelling and harmonies they have become renowned for.
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El-P

El-P

Cancer 4 Cure

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2012 album from the independent Rap icon. Cancer For Cure marks his first full length rap album since 2007's critically acclaimed I'll Sleep When Your Dead. The album takes another huge leap forward from the production work of his 2010 instrumental album. Weareallgoingtoburninhellmeggamixxx with a bombastic collision of synths, bottomless bass tones, live instrumentation, ear-worming melody, and tightly coiled drum patterns, setting the standard for hip hop production higher than ever. The obvious diversion from the previous album is the presence of EL-P's ever-developing vocal style, continuing to raise the bar on his already highly verbose flow that swiftly and muscularly navigates a rapid fire explosion of syllabic conundrums and quick-witted elocutions full of heart, purpose, style, and grit. Rounded out by feature appearances by a host of high profile guests including Killer Mike, Danny Brown, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, Paul Banks, and more this will easily be one of the year's most talked about albums.
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Youth Lagoon

Youth Lagoon

Year Of Hibernation

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Twenty-two year old Trevor Powers, whose musical venture is called Youth Lagoon, has had a long year. Not because he's been endlessly touring or pursuing some wild dream, but because of life the life of a kid going to college, being in love, dealing with heartache, and just living. 'Youth Lagoon isn't me.' says Powers. 'It's merely a part of me.
Youth Lagoon
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Blaudzun

Blaudzun

Heavy Flowers

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Heavy Flowers was released in The Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia earlier this year and hit #4 on the Dutch Top 100 Album Charts in the first week (#1 on iTunes). Critics and music fans have labeled his third record as a stunning and incredible successor.
Blaudzun
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Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara

Heartthrob

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Heartthrob, the highly anticipated follow-up to Sainthood, gives us Tegan and Sara in their superhero tights and capes, ready to conquer the pop universe, and the new outfits suit them just as well as their old-school jeans and T-shirts.
Tegan and Sara
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Widowspeak

Widowspeak

Almanac

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On their second album, Almanac, the duo explores denser arrangements and new sonic territory, from Saharan rhythms to Appalachian-inspired melodies, all delivered with stoic, wistful restraint.
Widowspeak
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Gary Allan

Gary Allan

Set You Free

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Gary Allan's new album Set You Free is a perfectly named, well-conceived album that embodies his own evolution toward personal, creative freedom. The album, sequenced with a storyline in which a man breaks the restraints of a failed relationship and conquers the loneliness of its aftermath, is the result of Allan's own journey as a man and as an artist.
Gary Allan
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The Joy Formidable
Wolf's Law is an unashamedly intricate record. Lyrically, the record touches politics of both the personal and global type, "The Leopard And The Lung" focusing on Kenyan environmental activist (Wangari Maathai) while "Tendons" is, according to Ritzy, "the closest we have ever got to a love song, albeit a very peculiar, f***ing love song. "
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The Tenors

The Tenors

Lead With Your Heart

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LEAD WITH YOUR HEART is The Tenors' first album in over two years, following the international release of their debut album and an extensive touring schedule. Over the past few years, The Tenors have performed worldwide, sharing the stage with legendary artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion (on The Oprah Show), Sting and Paul McCartney.
The Tenors
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Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville

My True Story

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With MY TRUE STORY, one of the world's finest singers is revisiting the music he grew up with, and adding a few new spins along the way. Neville's first release for Blue Note Records is a collection of twelve classic doo-wop numbers, performed in his utterly inimitable vocal style, and co-produced by Blue Note President Don Was and Keith Richards.
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The Lone Bellow
Featuring lead singer and principal songwriter Zach Williams, singer and mandolin player Kanene Pipkin and singer-guitarist Brian Elmquist, The Lone Bellow isn't just a group of musicians; they are an "urban tribe," a family away from family.
The Lone Bellow
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Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo

Fade

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Fade is the most direct, personal and cohesive album of Yo La Tengo's career to date. Recorded with John McEntire at Soma Studios in Chicago, it recalls the sonic innovation and lush cohesion of career high points like 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. The album is a tapestry of fine melody and elegant noise, rhythmic shadowplay and shy-eyed orchestral beauty, songfulness and experimentation.
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Green Day

Green Day

Dos!

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Free Stuff
Dos! is the second installment of Green Day's album trilogy Uno!, Dos!, Tre!.
Green Day
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Neil Young with Crazy Horse
The first album of original music from Neil Young and Crazy Horse in almost a decade, including over 85 minutes of music. Psychedelic Pill pokes down pathways that have been hinted at before in this teaming, but never fully explored. New textures emerge in the music, new landscapes in the lyrics. In many ways, Psychedelic Pill rounds out an array of probing works with prominent autobiographical threads.
Neil Young with Crazy Horse
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Mika

Mika

Origin Of Love

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Completely self-created and self-imagined, this album has been a two-year DIY labor of love for Mika who has put together everything on the record himself.
Mika
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Tame Impala

Tame Impala

Lonerism

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Cocooned away inside walls of psychedelic fuzz in Western Australia they re-created their preferred period one song at a time with the aid of gear and production techniques that sounded like they hadn't been dusted off since 1968.
Tame Impala
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The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers

Carpenter

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Video Free Stuff
The twelve songs on The Carpenter continue the band’s exploration of the human condition. They will pull at your heart and make you stop and think. One moment filled with sunshine and happiness, the next sorrow and regret, they are always beautiful, always honest. Poetry from the soul.
The Avett Brothers
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Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

Tempest

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Featuring ten new and original Bob Dylan songs, the release of Tempest coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the artist's eponymous debut album, which was released by Columbia in 1962. The new album, produced by Jack Frost, is the 35th studio set from Bob Dylan, and follows 2009's worldwide best-seller, Together Through Life.
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Father John Misty

Father John Misty

Fear Fun

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Father John Misty is the nom-de-plume of Josh Tillman, who has been releasing solo albums since 2003 and who left Seattle's Fleet Foxes after playing drums from 2008-2011.
Father John Misty
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The Gaslight Anthem
HANDWRITTEN, The Gaslight Anthem s first album on Mercury Records, was produced by two-time Grammy Award winner Brendan O Brien, known for his work with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Incubus, and many others. Prior to HANDWRITTEN, The Gaslight Anthem released three full-length indie albums to date, Sink Or Swim, The 59 Sound and American Slang. With tons of critical raves, The Gaslight Anthem has won strong and loyal followings across the U.S., Japan, and especially in the UK.
The Gaslight Anthem
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Purity Ring

Purity Ring

Shrines

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Shrines is the debut album by Purity Ring, a Halifax/Montreal-based duo comprised of Corin Roddick and Megan James. Purity Ring make lullabies for the club, drawing equally from airy 90's R&B, lush dream pop, and the powerful, bone-rattling immediacy of modern hip hop.
Purity Ring
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Adele

Adele

21

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21 is the eagerly awaited sophomore album from British singer-songwriter Adele. It’s the follow up to Adele’s critically acclaimed, Grammy award winning debut album 19 (both named after her age at the time the songs were written).
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Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

Promise

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"Darkness was my 'samurai' record," Springsteen writes, "stripped to the frame and ready to rumble. But the music that got left behind was substantial."
Bruce Springsteen
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Cee-Lo Green

Cee-Lo Green

Lady Killer

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Elektra recording artist Cee-Lo Green's first solo work in more than six years, sees the endlessly inventive singer/writer/rapper/producer continuing to push hip-hop and soul's creative envelope, this time working with a star-studded cast of producers that includes Salaam Remi (Nas, Amy Winehouse), Jack Splash (Alicia Keys, Missy Elliot, Jamie Foxx), and Fraser T. Smith (Nelly Furtado, James Morrison, Ellie Goulding).
Cee-Lo Green
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El-P
As the album title implies, EL-P creates a dark, dystopian sonic universe filled with ominous basslines and thumping, punishing drums.
El-P
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The National

The National

High Violet

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High Violet is a nervy, melodic, explosive and beautiful set of songs that finds the band at the height of their collaborative powers. Berninger's singing - wild, half-broken, sly - evokes a feeling of being haunted, by love, by paranoia, by something just out of reach.
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Big Boi
Big Boi has no shortage of friends, so it's only right that on his new solo album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, the Big Boi is joined by a slew of guests. On the production side, Scott Storch (who helmed "Shutterbug"), Salaam Remi (Nas, Fugees), Organize Noise, the rapper's own Boom Boom Room producers and Boi-1da (perhaps best known for his work on Drake's "Best I Ever Had") contribute to the set.
Big Boi
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Paul Weller

Paul Weller

Wake Up The Nation

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After an unparalleled career, characterized by constant musical experimentation, we should be used to Paul Weller's relentless desire to chop and change his sound. But after the triumphant, Brit Award-bagging success of 22 Dreams (his third solo number one in the UK), his new album Wake Up the Nation sees one of rock's most iconic songwriters expand and evolve once more. A departure stylistically from the more pastoral sounds of his last album, Wake Up is lean, mean and as uncompromisingly focused as its maker. It also brings Paul Weller full circle: twenty-eight years on from The Jam's split, two tracks feature the former bassist Bruce Foxton. The album also sees contributions from My Bloody Valentine guitar alchemist Kevin Shields, ELO's Bev Bevan and legendary session drummer Clem Cattini.
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Johnny Cash
American VI: Ain't No Grave is the sixth and final installment of Johnny Cash's critically-acclaimed American Recordings album series. As with the previous five albums in the American Recordings series, American VI was produced by Rick Rubin. American VI is deeply elegiac and spiritual, with each song its own piece of the puzzle of life's mysteries and challenges - the pursuit of salvation, the importance of friendships, the dream of peace, the power of faith, and the joys and adversities that entail simple survival. It is an achingly personal and intimate statement, as from the end of the line, Johnny Cash looks back on a most extraordinary life.
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The Black Keys

The Black Keys

Brothers

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The maturation of the Black Keys as record makers and performers has been both subtle and startling. With their 2008 Nonesuch release 'Attack & Release' - the fifth album of their eight-year career which doubled the sales of their previous album and Nonesuch debut 'Magic Potion' - guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney illustrated the durability of their few-frills sound, a mysterious and heavy brew of seventies-vintage rock, classic R&B and timeless, downhearted blues. Producer and pal Danger Mouse, their first outside collaborator, didn't try to reinvent their sound but further isolated its essence with the help of a few carefully chosen guest players and some retro-modern electronic gear. It didn't need to get slicker to get better, or, as the Boston Globe put it, ''Attack & Release' proves that cleaning up the boys still won't stop them from tracking mud all over the house.'
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Deftones

Deftones

Diamond Eyes

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'Diamond Eyes' works the way good records used to; each song carries you a little further away from your bad day until finally, you've been transported to a place that feels a whole lot better than where you started. There's also a newfound sense of purpose that makes Deftones' sixth album stand out.
Deftones
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The Rolling Stones
Regarded as one of the greatest albums in rock 'n' roll history and one of the most defining of the Stones' catalogue. Upon its release more than three decades ago, 'Exile on Main Street' innovatively wove varying musical genres, instruments and even artists into a compelling rhythmic masterpiece. The original 18-track double-album was recorded in various stages at multiple locations, including Olympic Studios in London, Keith Richard's mansion Nellcote in France, and in Los Angeles where the literal "Main Street" influenced the album title. These atypical circumstances surrounding the recording process greatly affected the album's outcome which was highly reflective and influenced by the sociopolitical turbulence that marked the late `60s and early `70s. The Stones nixed the influences of a flower-child era and directed their creative process with the edgier, excessive, "more is more" approach of the `70s. Exile reveals a sprawling mix of genres with undertones of blues, country, R&B and gospel mixed with lyrics that fervently demand for release and liberation. The 2-CD version is a 3-panel digi-pak, 2xCDs with a 12 page booklet. The Digipak is printed in reverse board double white to keep an 'uncoated' feel like the original LP release. The 2nd disc features 10 tracks originally recorded during the Exile era including 'Plundered My Soul', 'Dancing in the Light', 'Following the River' and 'Pass The Wine' plus alternate versions of 'Soul Survivor' and 'Loving Cup'.
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Stone Temple Pilots
Atlantic recording group Stone Temple Pilots has announced the upcoming release of their hugely anticipated new album. 'STONE TEMPLE PILOTS' - the Grammy Award-winning band's first all-new collection in close to a decade - will arrive in stores and at all online retailers around the globe on May 25th. Produced by Stone Temple Pilots and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge (Green Day, Dave Matthews Band, My Chemical Romance), 'STONE TEMPLE PILOTS' sees one of rock's biggest bands continuing to explore their enduring approach to music - melding big rock riffs, classic pop hooks, and the restless experimentalism of glam, punk, and psychedelia. Stone Temple Pilots - Scott Weiland, Dean DeLeo, Robert DeLeo, and Eric Kretz - will introduce fans to the new album at their first live date of 2010, performing as part of the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas. The show - slated for Thursday, March 18th at the famed Austin Music Hall, and presented by StubHub, the world's largest ticket marketplace - kicks off an extensive worldwide 2010 schedule for STP, with U.S. dates, radio festivals, and a European tour slated to follow. A full-scale North American summer tour will also be announced in the coming weeks.
Stone Temple Pilots
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Autechre

Autechre

Oversteps

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Autechre release their 10th studio album, Oversteps. One of the most distinctive and revered electronic groups of all time, they've previously been commissioned to remix the likes of Stereolab, Tortoise and Surgeon, and have notably been feted by Thom Yorke, with the Radiohead front man stating on his official website that their 2001 album Confield ''made my head spin'', and citing Booth and Brown's work as an influence on his own Kid A and Amnesiac (of course Autechre themselves admit indifference to this). Their latest work, still very much an Autechre record, shows an oft-overlooked playfulness and a rarely mentioned musicality that comes to the fore-front, in what could be described as their most accessible work to date. Between the layers of cold digital pings and fuzzed out tones, there are true chord changes and warm soundscapes being built from the ground up.
Autechre