Brian Eno--Reflection

Reflection is the latest work in a long series. It started (as far as record releases are concerned) with Discreet Music in 1975 ( - or did it start with the first Fripp and Eno album in 1973? Or did it start with the first original piece of music I ever made, at Ipswich Art School in 1965 - recordings of a metal lampshade slowed down to half and quarter speed, all overlaid?) Anyway, it’s the music that I later called ‘Ambient’. I don’t think I understand what that term stands for anymore - it seems to have swollen to accommodate some quite unexpected bedfellows - but I still use it to distinguish it from pieces of music that have fixed duration and rhythmically connected, locked together elements. The pedigree of this piece includes Thursday Afternoon, Neroli (whose subtitle is Thinking Music IV) and LUX. I’ve made a lot of thinking music, but most of it I’ve kept for myself. Now I notice that people are using some of those earlier records in the way that I use them - as provocative spaces for thinking - so I feel more inclined to make them public. Pieces like this have another name: they’re GENERATIVE. By that I mean they make themselves. My job as a composer is to set in place a group of sounds and phrases, and then some rules which decide what happens to them. I then set the whole system playing and see what it does, adjusting the sounds and the phrases and the rules until I get something I’m happy with. Because those rules are probabilistic ( - often taking the form ‘perform operation x, y percent of the time’) the piece unfolds differently every time it is activated. What you have here is a recording of one of those unfoldings.

~ Brian Eno


Japandroids-- Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

Minimalist traditionalists in an era of digital indulgence, Japandroids adhere to a very specific idea of rock & roll. The Canadian duo believe rock & roll is the music of youthful liberation, distilled freedom that retains the possibility of transcendence no matter how often the promise is repeated. Japandroids essayed this thesis on Celebration Rock, the 2012 album that turned them into something of a cause célèbre in certain quarters -- namely, any old rocker waiting for a new savior -- but instead of immediately exploiting their fame, the duo took an extended hiatus, taking five years to deliver Near to the Wild Heart of Life. If the band stockpiled songs during that half decade, it's impossible to tell from Near to the Wild Heart of Life because it lasts eight songs, just like the two other Japandroids albums and just like so many of the band's favorite records. Past is always present in their music, whether rose-colored memories of teenage rebellion or recycled components of classic rock and punk, which makes Near to the Wild Heart of Life an ideal soundtrack for those mourning their long-forgotten adolescence. That's intentional: Japandroids are nothing if not earnest, the kind of sincerity endemic to teenagers ready to break free of their small town. Such big-hearted rock means that Near to the Wild Heart of Life can sometimes seem overcooked lyrically, with Japandroids working furiously to puncture their purple prose through visceral anthems. Near to the Wild Heart of Life contains a few new production flourishes, particularly a hint of synthesizers, which means that it sounds even bigger than Celebration Rock, but that should've been expected, too, from these students of rock & roll. Bands usually swing for the fences on their third album and that's precisely what Japandroids do here. If they remain a little constrained by their formalism -- they're so determined to be part of a tradition they can often be swallowed by it -- it's nevertheless hard not to admire their ambition. ~Stephen Thomas Erlewine,

The Avalanches--Since I Left You reissue

Recently reissued on vinyl, the 2000 album Since I Left You by The Australian band The Avalanches has been selling like hotcakes. Why? What gives? Like recklessly riding your BMX or skipping rope after downing a sugar-laced pitcher of lemonade, the un-mawkish Since I Left You thrives on making you feel youthful and mighty. Its Utopian grove stand bric-a-brac of grooves, beats, flutters, whistles, oohs-and-yeahs, and sundry animal noises can alternately sound familiar and fresh. Some origins can be immediately placed, and those that can't trigger an impulse that you've heard it somewhere before. You're at least familiar with the tone as it relates to a long-lost feeling of childhood bliss -- whether it's staring at a clear blue sky from a fresh-cut lawn or the first time you heard "Rock the Bells." If you want stifling touchstones, they're there. Dunk the Beastie Boys of Paul's Boutique and Basement Jaxx into the fountain of youth; Sylvester meets Tweety; Mercury Rev links hands with the Bomb Squad for laps around the roller rink. It's no cloyed nostalgia trip, pieced together humbly by Aussies who are probably telling you the truth when they say they listen "to a little bit of everything." The unflinching mix offers plenty of tempo variety, knowing just when to change the pitch before hitting overkill. The second half features a subtle lull that builds up in time for "Live at Dominoes," possibly the strongest cut. There's little doubt to Since I Left You’s status as one of the most intimate and emotional dance records that isn't vocal-based.  ~Andy Kellman,


Chrissie Hynde sneers "I like being alone" on the title track and opening song on Alone, the first Pretenders album since 2006's Break Up the Concrete. That much is true. She may have revived the Pretenders name for Alone, the follow-up to her belated 2014 solo debut, Stockholm, but, just like in 2006, Martin Chambers isn't in the studio. Instead, Hynde is collaborating with Black Key Dan Auerbach, who brings in half of his side project the Arcs to help him play the instruments on Alone. Unsurprisingly, this studio incarnation of the Pretenders shares some '60s AM aesthetics with the Arcs, sometimes cooking along with the cool grace of Memphis soul and sometimes feeling as thick as rockers cranked out in a greasy garage. The latter is familiar territory for Hynde but the former is a new wrinkle for her, so one of the pleasures of Alone is hearing her laying back in a slow, soulful groove. "Roadie Man" simmers like classic Booker T. & the MG's, "Never Be Together" feels like a dispatch from an alternate Stax, while "One More Day" trades in a bit of bossa nova, a bit of rhythmic flair that illustrates how often Hynde and Auerbach play with forgotten '60s pop sounds. This gives Alone a supple, attractive feel, but Auerbach also encourages Hynde to lean into her tough side so that Alone swaggers like a classic Pretenders album. Attitude counts for a lot with Chrissie Hynde, but the true appeal of Alone is how it marries solid songwriting with a sympathetic, surprising production, all of which amounts to a very satisfying Pretenders album. ~Thomas Erlewine,


Tall Tall Trees--Freedays

There’s a mystical quality to the opening track on Tall Tall Trees’ newest record Freedays, and it instantly enchants you and draws you in. Titled “Backroads”, it has that pastoral quality of 1970s folk pop, like a new age Cat Stevens with dreamy harmonies. Tall Tall Trees, the solo project of Mike Savino, recorded Freedays in rural Georgia, and the magic of that solitude seeps through every note of the record. It is introspective and scenic, with a hint of a twang.

                  Savino’s voice is glossy and serene, and his arrangements range from sparse folk to soaring, multi-layered synth orchestrations. “Lost in Time” shows this off best, with its pockets of quiet followed by moments of blissful enormity. Even when the sound grows on Freedays, though, there’s still softness to what Savino creates. His melodies seem to glide and float, majestic but contained. Freedays feels like a piece of art created in the wild. The magnificent “The Riverbend” grows unruly and tangled like a mess of vines, dark and prickly. “SeagullxEagle” is as flighty and grand as the winged creatures of its title, with Savino’s fiery banjo blending magically with quick, tight violin notes.

Freedays shimmers from start to finish. It is imaginative and totally original folk music for a modern world. ~Maeri Ferguson, No Depression

Run The Jewels -- RTJ3

Whereas RTJ2 was the sound of multiple slugs to the chest, RTJ3 is as streamlined and focused as a laser blast between the eyes. Furious and hungry -- with endlessly quotable lyrical zingers to spare -- RTJ3's potency isn't as immediate as RTJ2. However, once it digs its claws in, RTJ3 reveals itself as their best work to date. The interplay between Mike and El remains the main draw, their chemistry elevating them above most contemporaries as they bounce back and forth on agile verses packed with enough outrageous boasts to fill a how-to guide on making more prudish listeners blush. The familiar RTJ sound is once again provided by the production team of El-P, Little Shalimar, and Wilder Zoby, with BOOTS making his return on a pair of album highlights. Following Mike's time on the political campaign trail and the United States' tumultuous 2016, RTJ3 pulls no punches in addressing police brutality and social unrest. "Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)" features TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe and strategic Martin Luther King, Jr. speech samples concerning rioting. Brought together by BOOTS' guitar stabs and digital clang, "2100" protracts the fear and uncertainty of "Thieves!" with more atmospheric dread. Zack de la Rocha follows his standout appearance on RTJ2's "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" with an explosive turn on the second part of album-closer "A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters." A call to arms, the track distills all their rage and frustration, as they declare themselves the "gladiators that oppose all Caesars." While "Shareholders/Masters" is the fiery political centerpiece of the album, standout moment "Thursday in the Danger Room" is the heart of RTJ3. An ode to a pair of fallen friends, "Danger Room" is a powerful moment of grieving and forgiveness. Kamasi Washington's saxophone adds warmth and gravitas, a bittersweet requiem that hits as effectively as Donny McCaslin's work on Bowie's Blackstar. In short, RTJ3 is near perfect in its execution. They're so good at this that it seems almost unfair in its effortlessness. ~Neil Yeung,


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