April 10th, 2012
Amadou & Mariam – Folila
The blind duo from Mali are back after a few years of relative silence. Their 2008, Welcome to Mali, brought them critical acclaim and, to be real, may have kickstarted the new interest in African rhythms and instruments in indie rock music. Over the course of their fourth, fifth, and this, their sixth LP, they’ve started working with more and more fans (who are also musicians). First it was Manu Chao, the french Spaniard who can sing in like eight languages, who was eager to write some songs with the duo. Then they welcomed guests like K’Naan, Keziah Johnes, -M-, and Juan Rozoff. But on this newest one, their guest game got stepped up: Santigold, Tunde and Kyp from TV On The Radio, Bertrand Cantat (of Noir Desir), Jakes Shears from the Scissor Sisters, Ebony Bones and Theophilus London. And nowhere along the way does the Malian tradition and culture get co-opted or highjacked.
M. Ward – A Wasteland Companion
The 38-year-old from California via Portland, gives us his seventh studio full-length here, and that damn Zooey Daschanel’s only on two tracks. The man is a music-making machine and not just in his own context. Yes, he is constantly putting out his own solo LPs, but in between he’s touring, producing, and writing with beautiful women: Feist, Zooey, Jenny Lewis, or those dudes in Monsters of Folk. He’s always consistent; his raspy, beautifully delicate voice is alluring and rich. His brand of folk isn’t radical or groundbreaking, but artists like him rarely give us anything short of solid and listenable.
Black Dice – Mr. Impossible
This is some wild stuff. Their sixth LP is on a new label (they used to be with Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks) and it’s as trippy, weird and challenging as ever. The electronic trio based in Brooklyn’s been at it for over 15 years with their DFA debut, Beaches & Canyons in 2002, marking their arrival to a rich experimental era of electronic music. They’re making rhythms that feel like trances, chopping up sounds and arranging them in mysterious ways, and playing with our minds about what songs should sound like. Generally, what sounds like disparate elements of sound and rhythm find their way to each other in a way that sounds miraculously meticulous. For fans of finding beauty in chaos, this is their record of the spring.
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
The full-length debut of the Athens, Alabama-based quartet is a strong and fiery blend of blues rock and Americana soul. Brittany Howard’s powerful vocals tend to suck you in while the cacophony of supporting vocals, impassioned guitar strums and catchy percussion builds around her dynamic voice. They sold out a World Cafe set last night and Dan DeLuca interviewed Ms. Howard at Stubb’s in Austin for SXSW. They’re young, talented, and picking up buzz for their endearing blend of Alabama soul, downhome blues and southern rock. Get on the Shakes train now.
Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream
The reigning queen of red-headed slide-guitar-playin’ blues is now 62 years young and giving us her sixteenth solo album of her career (and first batch of new songs since 2005). She’s obviously not changing any directions here or giving a new genre a try. Hell, she’s not even welcoming any guests. Her voice sounds healthy, full, and maybe not as delicate as her smash hits Nick of Time (1989) and Luck of the Draw (1991), but those were twenty years ago. This is probably for fans of hers already, or at least, new fans should take advantage of the huge catalogue of hers that’s on Spotify, too.
Alex Winston – King Con
Alexandra Winston is a young up-and-comer from Michigan who is opera-trained and parent-supported from a young age. She was playing guitar with her dad in their basement and snuck out of school by her mom to go to the Motown Museum. She’s a multi-instrumentalist, too, so she’s not just a voice. Her brand of quirky, filled-out pop rock is charming, no doubt. She came to New York to work with The Knocks, and sounds like the lovechild of PJ Harvey and Cults, with a couple dashes of Oh Land and Florence + the Machine. She’ll be someone to watch.
Choir of Young Believers – Rhine Gold
This is mainly the project of Danish guitarist/writer/singer Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, a Danish/Greek/Indonesian blend of influences who’d been leading a band called Lake Placid, is an inspiring talent with a big voice. His rotating cast of support helps him fill out his nuanced, hushed but grandiose indie pop fantasies. The band earned a Best New Act at the 2009 Danish Music Awards. The opening track, “The Third Time,” is a 7-minute affair with multiple tempos and moods. The record sounds like a mix of Beck’s Sea Changes, Fleet Foxes’ vocal melodies and Sigur Ros’ experimental flourishes.