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Album Reviews | July 2016 Releases

By: Alex Wood

GØGGS- GØGGS [7/1]

The always-prolific garage-rocker Ty Segall returned this month with a mysterious new project, GOGGS. Working with Ex-Cults’ singer Chris Shaw and Fuzz bandmate Charles Moothart, the band is billed as Segall’s first true punk band. And for those that haven’t heard the music, punk is perhaps an understatement. GOGGS features 10 songs in 25 minutes, each equally bombastic, the band never slowing down for a breather throughout. Crashing drums, squealing, shredding guitar and aggressive, gritty vocals combine to make a collective noise that sounds like a bomb going off. It’s punk done the way it’s supposed to be: forceful, loud, and  absolutely rocking.

Bat For Lashes- The Bride  [7/1]

Natasha Khan has recorded under the name Bat For Lashes for nearly a decade, recording atmospheric art-rock that remains beautiful and engaging. The Bride continues this tradition, using atmospheric electronics with emotionally charged lyrics and vocals. It’s gorgeous music, the songs growing subtly to suck the listener in slowly. Dark and poignant, The Bride boasts a sound that few bands or musicians could tackle today, calculated but moving, and is a welcome addition to Khan’s discography.

Sara Watkins- Young In All The Wrong Ways [7/1]

Nickel Creek fiddler Sara Watkins has released a steady stream of music through a variety of bands and projects over the years, with her most recent falling under her own name. The record strays significantly from her original band’s bluegrass sound, and is all the better for it. While the songs seem to be linked by the subject matter of break-ups and heartbreak, the sound changes throughout, primarily utilizing both electric and acoustic guitars, though fiddle still appears regularly. With a sleek, layered production, the songs straddle the borderline of rock, folk, country and pop. Some songs are upbeat and catchy while others are emotional ballads, but all are connected by Watkins’ high quality, classically informed songwriting and distinctive, powerful voice. Young In All The Wrong Ways exemplifies exactly what songwriters have done forever following heartbreak, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. 

Upcoming Tour Dates: 9/21 @ Old Town School Of Folk Music

Thee Oh Sees- Live In San Francisco [7/1]

California’s Thee Oh Sees are known for their energetic live sets, and a home-state residency at a church-turned-venue in San Francisco was the perfect opportunity for their label to capture the notorious performers. Live In San Francisco features a set of 11 skuzzy freak-outs from the band, beating drums and distorted guitars creating a catastrophic, never-slowing sound throughout. A perfect mix of psychedelic and garage-rock, the record does an excellent job of explaining exactly why Thee Oh Sees’ fan-base is so endlessly dedicated to the band, more so than their studio albums ever could.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 11/19 @ Thalia Hall

Various Artists- Mojo Presents: Blonde On Blonde Revisited [7/1]

Mojo magazine celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dylan’s classic Blonde On Blonde with a covers album featuring an array of modern artists recreating the original songs, each in their own, creative way. Featuring Steve Gunn, Ryley Walker, Kevin Morby, Jim O’Rourke and more, the compilation taps into some of the most innovative artists today to create a kaleidoscopic tapestry of styles, each track anchored by the timeless songwriting of the 1966 album. From trippy, excessively produced songs to simple, acoustic folk covers, the record does the initial album’s legacy justice, and creates a fun listen even for those unfamiliar with its artists.

The Avalanches- Wildflower [7/8]

After spending 16 years dormant, sampling masterminds The Avalanches return this year with Wildflower. Following the same formula as 2000’s seminal Since I Left You, the new record is a splattering of samples, coming and going at a dizzying pace. The duo uses others’ music to create backdrops and textures entirely their own, to the extent that it’s easy to forget these are samples at all. With an impressive ability to stack countless layers atop one another, The Avalanches prove yet again to be better than the competition, even when bands like Girl Talk have long since monetized and ruined the genre of samples. The album’s flow is incredible, short sound samples and strange, recorded noise linking tracks together, only to lead to yet another hook and beat. The obscure samples are meticulously chosen and used, making the album intriguing yet accessible. This album isn’t just the return of one of the most important bands of the last two decades, but one this year’s best releases thus far.

Eric Krasno- Blood From A Stone [7/8]

Soulive and Lettuce guitarist Eric Krasno has ventured into solo territory with Blood From A Stone, a record that embraces the funkiness of his other bands while also heading a new direction. As a whole, the record has a smooth, layered feel, with guitar riffs and solos falling atop a funky rhythm section. Though his vocals aren’t outstanding, they give a gruff, emotional delivery that fits the songs’ simplicity and overall vibe well. With guest spots from Derek Trucks as well as Lettuce and Soulive members, Blood From A Stone is an easy recommendation to rock, funk and jam-band fans alike.

The Motet- Totem [7/8]

Within seconds of hearing Denver’s The Motet, one can appreciate the whole funk tradition mashed into a single sound. Based primarily in funk, the band uses a full horn section, electronic keys and thumping, mobile bass lines to create a sound that’s straight up fun, classically influenced but modern in sound. Totem has definite jam-band vibes, especially in the layered vocals, keyboards and guitars. Exactly as funk should be, Totem is fun, groovy and energetic, inevitably leading listeners to the dance floor with each upbeat number, the band refusing to slow down throughout.

Jeff Beck- Loud Hailer [7/15]

At age 72, Jeff Beck seems to be attempting to remain stylistically contemporary with Loud Hailer. With his guitar sounding especially heavy and run through a cluster of effects pedals and the production clean and aggressive, the sound itself leaves his fusion days behind in favor of hard-rock. Lyrically, Beck attempts to cover a number of political topics, but the real highlight is, of course, the music. As always, the guitar solos shred, and the riffs are notable for being a new direction for the artist. His band is competent as ever, with a female vocalist embracing the new sound with grit. This isn’t Beck at his best, by any means, but anything coming from the guitarist is worth hearing, if solely for legacy alone.

Lotus- Eat The Light [7/15]

Though Lotus have long been a staple in the jam-band scene for their blend of electronics, funk and rock, Eat The Light marks a new chapter in the band’s existence. Instead of simply building on instrumentals like on past albums, Lotus is now using guest vocalists to add lyrics to songs, giving the tracks an accessible glimmer that didn’t exist prior. The electronic breakdowns and guitar solos still exist, but often wait patiently for the singer to finish. The vocals themselves are accessible, leaning on pop and funk to create catchy, melodic verses and choruses, pushed to the front of the mix as the band jams beneath. It’s a fun record and a new direction for the band, and difficult, as a whole, not to enjoy.

Michael Kiwanuka- Love & Hate [7/15]

British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka specializes in music the captures a classic sound, combining acoustic folk music with the likes of Bill Withers and Isaac Hayes. Layers of soulful guitars, keys and strings build a massive backdrop beneath the singer’s gorgeous, moving vocals. Yet despite the countless influences apparent in the music, Kiwanuka blends them in a way to make the sound entirely his own. The production is clean and spacious, despite the endless layers of instrumentation, and his voice remains the focus throughout. Love & Hate is a must-hear modern-day soul record, and a tough one to find problems with.

Upcoming Tour Dates: 12/3 @ Park West

Con Brio- Paradise [7/15]

Seven-piece funk band Con Brio is a breathe of fresh air in an oversaturated funk scene. The band combines a psychedelic-leaning rock sound with traditional funk to create a sound that can switch from abrasive to smooth on a dime. The band’s sophomore release, Paradise, may have perfected their sound. Musically, the album is upbeat, with groovy bass lines under horn-driven melodies, upbeat drumbeats and rhythm guitar keeping the songs moving at a danceable pace. Vocally, the singer combines the soulfulness of Stax Records artists with the smooth accessibility of Michael Jackson, with uplifting lyrics matching the music beneath it. Paradise is a mature release from an up-and-coming group, and should absolutely be on your radar.

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