New This Week: MGMT, Nightmares on Wax, Claude VonStroke, Crystal Stilts, and Bill Callahan

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MGMT - MGMT: Welcome back to the weird world of Goldwasser and VanWyngarden. In a way these guys remind me of Deerhunter, always reinventing their sound and never submitting to the mainstream (at least not intentionally). We knew their third effort wasn’t going to be the long-awaited sequel to Oracular Spectacular, but MGMT isn't any Congratulations neither. No, this album is something all its own, and funnily enough, it’s self-titled. Are we to believe that this is the true MGMT?! Who knows. What we do know is that MGMT is a solid work of psychedelic synth-rock. The sounds, though beautifully simplistic, manage to evoke enigmatic imagery. Imagine a clan of hyper civilized gnomes emerging from their foxholes to board their tiny spaceships and fly around your head. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but that’s “Alien Days” in a nutshell. The instrumentation is bare bones and guitars are rare. Most of the songs have repetitive drum tracks beneath some swirling synth lick. Peculiar sounds abound as if some child is in the studio pressing all the buttons and the studio is actually Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. MGMT also gives us some insight into the band’s personal record collections. The Fain Jade cover “Introspection” is an obvious example, but nods to Pink Floyd are common throughout the album. “Plenty of Girls in the Sea” sounds like what might happen if Brian Wilson made electronic music. SHILL

Recommended Tracks: “Alien Days”, “Mystery Disease”, “Cool Song No. 2

RIYL: Pond, Flaming Lips, The Nice

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Nightmares on Wax - Feelin’ Good: I’ll be honest with you, at first glance Feeling Good resembles the type of album you would likely disregard without much after thought. The tacky cover art is graced with a heinous color scheme to go along with the words “Feeling Good” inscribed in bubble lettering reminiscent of the early 2000’s. However, whether or not George Evelyn intended his latest album to resemble the infamous “NOW that’s what I call music” album series is a little irrelevant once you pop this bad boy in. Quite immediately you are transported into a world filled with a groovy funk/soul ambiance, eclectic rhythmic sections, reggae chants and a range of vocal talent. It is incredibly hard to pin this album down to any single genre as it spans a plethora of musical realms. Yet, it all seems to fit together almost flawlessly, as if Evelyn intended every detail for a master plan of some kind. If you can get past the threatening cover art, this is definitely an album to check out. ABOSEIF

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Claude VonStroke - Urban Animal: Dirtybird’s commander-in-chief returns with his first long-player since 2009. From what I’ve heard of VonStroke’s previous work, he seems to be a massive proponent of thick, sleazy basslines that recall the time you really shouldn’t have taken those pills at that warehouse party. Although he’s best when he’s playing around in a relentless 4/4 house groove, Urban Animal sees VonStroke making several experimental forays into other strains of electronic music. Some of these hit harder than others: the skittering syncopation of the title track appropriates UK bass tropes to hypnotizing effect, while the glitchy FlyLo-inspired “Plasma Jelly” fails to develop its thin ideas into anything substantial. Ultimately, the best moments here are when VonStroke clings tightly to the house grid. Closer “Can’t Wait” is a standout – it’s an elegiac and subtle 8-minute piece that restlessly builds until its mournful piano strikes become triumphant and affirming. It’s the work of a mature talent who constructs and manipulates his ideas with efficiency and grace. ZN

 Recommended Tracks"Can't Wait", "Oakland Rope", "Urban Animal"

 

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Crystal Stilts - Nature NoirTen years after their formation, Crystal Stiltsguide us into the eerie underworld with their third album released by Sacred Bones. They’re not churning out something new and groundbreaking, but they’re throwing us back to the period of 80s post-punk. Brad Hargett’s solemn, low pitch resonates through charming off-beat riffs. The dark rhythm guitar incorporates waves of fuzzy, 60s reverb and several tracks are strewn with beautiful strings. It is clear that the Brooklyn band draws heavy influence from the likes of Joy DivisionTelevision Personalities, and My Bloody Valentine. The album is an experience to be had with starkly different airs. For instance, compare the mega tripped out “Darken the Door” (the last minute of it is in reverse and it’s awesome) and the upbeat “Sticks and Stones.” Also, you should look into seeing them at The Echo’s Part Time Punks night on Sunday, October 20th for just 10 bucks wowow! Also also, off topic, but can we take a moment to remember the events of last Sunday’sBreaking Bad? Vince, well done you. My breathing is still irregular. ARI

Recommended Tracks: “Star Crawl”, “Future Folklore”, “Memory Room”

RIYL: No Age, Ty Segall

 

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Bill Callahan - Dream River: A master painter masquerading as a motel portrait artist: all of the evident elegance and experience, but often colloquial or exaggerated subject matter. Meet Bill Callahan: a man who’s lyrics would either lead you to believe him to be a long forgotten contemporary of Neil Young and The Eagles (Rodriguez?), or the clever guise of an actual high-profile performer (Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines). As this was my first experience listening to Mr. Callahan, I was listening in constant anticipation of Ashton Kuthcher’s arrival (I felt I was indeed being “Punk’d”). I was impressed by the gorgeous and believable southern soundscapes that I was experiencing, yet could not get past the fact that this record opens with the line “drinking while sleeping, strangers unknowingly keep me company... at the hotel bar”, followed by “Looking out a window that isn’t there, looking at the carpet and the chairs”. But it was at this point I conceded to something: Bill Callahan does not take himself seriously, and neither should I. This is a record built upon simple observations and that is precisely what makes it wonderful. Callahan has crafted a masterpiece with but a box of crayons, reminding his audience that it is often the most basic things in life that are most beautiful and rewarding.  

   Santana-like guitar leads and Jethro Tull jazz (pronounced “yaz”) flute handle the majority of the freestyled melodies strung throughout the record. Brushed snares, fingertapped bongos, and rhythmic claves create the illusion of an entire drumset’s worth of backbeats, yet maintain the sparse and flowing nature that this record floats upon.

    At it’s core, Bill Callahan is an earnest and authentic songwriter. Like Neil Young’s “Comes A Time”, these songs almost certainly began as one-man arrangements that could make up an equally formidable (though admittedly bare) set of compositions. The layers of electric pianos, fiddles, and other traditional Americana instruments are merely filters to create the audio equivalent of a gas-station postcard; familiar, fundamental, honest. 

   This is a record that could coax the burliest lumberjack into a deep sleep. That is not to say, however, that Callahan is boring (he is just the opposite!). “Dream River” is a docile beast of a new breed. It has brought together the classic sound and ideals of America’s great Country roots, and seamlessly intertwined it with a modern groove and low-energy pacing that is often ineffectively executed or forgotten entirely. I dub thee “Americana Chillwave”... “Chillmericana”. NICK

Recommended tracks: “Javelin Unlanding”, “Spring”, “Summer Painter”

Youtube (HILARIOUS): "America!"

 

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