Dry Cleaning -- New Long Leg

Working with producer John Parish, the band Dry Cleaning polishes their style like a blade on their debut album New Long Leg, and they contrast Shaw's understated delivery and their fired-up playing more sharply. When it comes to deadpan yet nuanced vocalists, Shaw rivals Kim Gordon and Laurie Anderson. With the way she casts a critical eye on the world with erudite confidence, it only makes sense that she has a background as a university lecturer, and as she subverts the usual expectations of female vocalists to be emotive or decorative, her profound, mundane, and odd observations unite in a surreal blur. As distinctive as her style is, it never feels like Shaw is trying too hard, in large part because the rest of Dry Cleaning punctuates her musings expertly. They color her deadpan tones, giving them a tough, introspective, or regretful cast from song to song. The band's music feels like a conversation between its members, full of rejoinders like Lewis Maynard's nagging, Wire-ish bass line on "Leafy" or the transporting solos guitarist Tom Dowse contributes to almost every track. And while Dry Cleaning downplays pop music's most familiar techniques -- easily identifiable verses, choruses, and vocal melodies -- New Long Leg never really feels alienating, even when the band takes tension and release to extremes on "Every Day Carry." They know exactly what they're doing, and the risks they take result in a debut album that brings a fresh energy to post-punk that's equally challenging and rewarding. ~Heather Phares, allmusic.com

 

Lord Huron--Long Lost

Lord Huron's fourth full-length effort and the follow-up to 2018's Vide Noir, the aptly named Long Lost sounds trapped in amber -- nostalgia has always been a topical and stylistic throughline for the Los Angeles-based/Michigan-bred indie-folk group. A fever dream of Baroque pop and country-western twang, the 16-track set commences with the first of several interstitial pieces before launching into the opulent single "Mine Forever." Outfitted with plenty of open road imagery, lush vistas, and wet, Morricone-inspired guitar stabs, it's unabashedly retro, stunningly beautiful, and generally indicative of what follows. Peppered with interludes that run the gamut from gang vocal callbacks to spectral radio emissions, Long Lost aims for total immersion, and when consumed in a single sitting, it is undeniably transportive. The sonic touchstones of past outings remain prominent -- the snappy "Not Dead Yet" bears the hallmarks of a Lindsey Buckingham production, and the title cut is awash in dense Fleet Foxes harmonies -- but for the most part, the band's verdant, Midwestern splendor has been consumed by rolling tumbleweeds and open prairies. Except for the jocular "At Sea," an exercise in Nilsson-esque Tiki Torch exotica, Long Lost feels like it was conceived and constructed in the alternate reality of an Old West version of the Moody Blues. Agreeable yet melancholic and peppered with moments of cinematic Lynch-ian weirdness, it's the purest and most satisfying distillation of Lord Huron's pastoral folk-pop to date, and the perfect soundtrack for a road trip to nowhere.~James Christopher Monger, allmusic.com

Manchester Orchestra-- The Million Masks of God

With its epic dramatic arc, Manchester Orchestra's sixth album is a cinematic experience exploring themes of birth, death, and what lies beyond. Since debuting with 2006's I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child, Manchester Orchestra have expanded their muscular post-hardcore sound, weaving in acoustic guitars, strings, and some electronic elements. Million Masks continues this maturation with a sound that weaves together warm vocal harmonies and extended prog rock arrangements. Helping them achieve this nuanced aesthetic is producer Catherine Marks (Foals, Wolf Alice), with whom they recorded Black Mile. They also worked with producer Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers, Perfume Genius), who added keyboard, guitar, and percussion. Once again at the core of the band's sound is lead singer and songwriter Andy Hull, whose rich tenor grounds all of their anthemic, deeply emotive songs. His soaring style is particularly suited to the group's increasingly conceptual, character- and story-driven material. There's a feeling on Million Masks that the band are pushing themselves to move beyond the more traditional aspects of their rock sound, stretching their melodic and lyrical ideas. There's also an unexpected flow to the album, with the more robust, high-energy tracks appearing earlier and the more subdued, introspective ones coming later; all of which beautifully reflects the ebb and flow of life. The Million Masks of God captures this flow, taking you on a theatrical journey that's often as moving and poignant as it is aurally engaging. ~Matt Collar, allmusic.com

 

Haitus Kaiyote--Mood Valiant

Hiatus Kaiyote's newest Mood Valiant is intimate and romantic more than anything else. Frontperson Nai Palm more often applies her nature and science references to loved-up fantasies. In "Chivalry Is Not Dead," after likening herself to a series of amorous creatures, she goes into overdrive with "Electrons in the air on fire, lightning kissing metal/Whisper to the tiny hairs, battery on my tongue." Palm gets straight to the point elsewhere, like in the frictional percussion masterstroke "Rose Water," where "All of my heart, it wants to hold you" shoots forth. The band's playing is as taut as ever, their abrupt changes in key and tempo, and pattering and jittery polyrhythms, further intensifying Palm's aflutter poetry. They whip up a tempestuous racket for "All the Words We Don't Say," containing Palm's most time-seizing performance. The kinks are flattened just enough for "Get Sun," a rolling and strutting number befitting early-'70s Marvin Gaye with an arrangement from elusive Brazilian wiz Arthur Verocai. Just as crucially, "Stone or Lavender" is left to just strings and piano framing Palm's reassurance that "We will get over, only if we wanna." The surface of the whole set sounds slightly scuffed, which has a way of making the material seem a little weathered and even more personal. That peaks with Palm's aching rasp on the chorus of "Red Room," a self-preservation soul ballad on the level of Georgia Anne Muldrow's "Roses." It's as if the singer is scratching an itch on the soul of the listener. ~Andy Kellman, allmusic.com

Red Fang-- Arrows

It’s been five years since Red Fang released 2016’s Only Ghosts — a veritable hiatus for the heavy rockers from Portland.  Sadly, few bands can replace Red Fang’s irresistible blend of sludge, comedic timing, and monster riffage. Their absence left a void in the stoner metal scene, but we’re glad to have them back. Even Red Fang themselves didn’t anticipate such a long wait between albums. Their fifth full-length effort, Arrows, was recorded in 2019 with longtime producer Chris Funk. But because of the pandemic, the release was delayed and eventually pushed back to 2021. Thankfully, that gave the quartet ample time to cook up some more hilarious music videos — a Red Fang staple — and put the finishing touches on their mighty fifth LP. Red Fang were right to compare Arrows to the acclaimed Murder the Mountains. It’s their best album since their debut, capturing an energy that was lacking on previous efforts. The songs here are simply more memorable and diverse, brimming with riffs and adventurous vocals. It’s safe to assume the band accumulated plenty of ideas in the years between records, and it sounds like they sifted the strongest material into Arrows, an excellent return that’s been worth the wait. ~Jon Hadusek, consequence.net


The Weather Station- Ignorance

 As she challenges complacency and fear, The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman gets out of her own comfort zone with Ignorance's music. Instead of the acoustic backdrops of her early releases or the rock flourishes of The Weather Station, this time Lindeman drapes her uncomfortable truths in downright luxurious sounds. Combining the silkiness of late-'70s/early-'80s Roxy Music and Fleetwood Mac with the exploratory spirit of jazz, Ignorance's sophistication feels conspicuous but also precious, as though she's buffed her nuggets of truth to a mirrorlike sheen. Though she's previously shied away from theatricality, there's no denying how powerfully she uses it on the album's opening track, "Robber." Over slinky yet uneasy synths and strings, Lindeman meditates on how the privileged steal resources in a croon embodying the seductiveness of the status quo. The silvery highs of Lindeman's voice still resemble Joni Mitchell, as do the cleverly captured details of Ignorance's lyrics. There's even a song called "Parking Lot" that shares the exuberant poignancy of Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," though Lindeman sets her contemplation of the world around her ("You know it just kills me when I see some bird fly/It just kills me/And I don't know why") to perky disco strings. She brilliantly uses pop's familiar structures and steady tempos to underscore the album's feeling of disconnection, whether she emphasizes the loneliness on "Loss" with mantra-like repetition or magnifies the tiny cuts on "Separated" into chasms with crisp verses and choruses. Lindeman's words and music may dazzle, but she's always compassionate as she examines the warning signs in a relationship with a person or a planet. Musically and emotionally, there's so much going on that it's sometimes hard to keep up, but Ignorance is a major statement that never feels oversimplified. While she's growing so much with each album that it seems risky to call this Lindeman's best, it's safe to say this is another outstanding achievement from the Weather Station. ~Heather Phares, allmusic.com

 

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