Audio

Ryley Walker – Primrose Green

I never could find the time to review Ryley Walker’s debut LP All Kinds of You; a beautiful, pastoral, penitent set of acoustic tunes that anyone with fondness of singer and guitar legends like John Martyn, John Fahey, Bert Jansch or more recently, William Tyler and Steve Gunn, should find it easy to fall in love with (just watch his full live performance on KEXP to see what I mean). Walker is only 24, and I’m pretty sure that the influences he’s so perceptibly wears will become more nuanced over time. But even so, his music is never mere pastiche, it’s genuine and full of warmth; a jazz and blues-fuelled journey that produced one of last year’s most consistent albums – a no brainer to include on our favorite albums of the year list.

“Primrose Green”, the title track from his upcoming new album released via Dead Oceans (Phosphorescent, The Tallest Man on Earth) , finds Walker diving deeper into piano-driven, lushly orchestrated, jazz-folk. No matter in which direction Walker pulls in, a certain unmistakable, wheeling, groove is starting to shape in place. “Primrose Green” is a brilliant introduction for those who haven’t yet heard this young guitar wizard, and the type of track that is sure to grow even more in the context of an album. Primrose Green is set for a March 31 release.

Audio

Waxahatchee – Air

The voice behind Waxahatchee, that of Katie Crutchfield, spreads far and wide. Coming off her celebrated 2013 release Cerulean Salt, the announcement of his third LP, Ivy Tripp, set to release this April, was met with the album’s lead single “Air”. Obvious influences are met, down to the Kim Deal comparisons, with The Pixies, a stark, naked, reinterpretation of their radiant sound. Crutchfield’s voice is defiant and forthcoming, unashamed of his mistreatment to a lost love. “I left you out like a carton of milk” she declares as she reminisces of the past. Where the production, featuring riddled guitar riffs, rapidly segmented drum loops, and swelling keyboards, draws the listener in off first listen, it’s Crutchfield’s vocalization that lulls them to its completion, with dashes of lyrical poetry thrown in for good measure. It’s a brilliant blend of calming melodies, honest interpretations of nostalgic events, and emotional highs to match that make “Air” a memorable track. If it’s anything to go by, Ivy Tripp should be too.

Audio

BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – “Ray Gun” (Feat. DOOM)

The highly anticipated collaboration between Hip-Hop/Jazz crossover instrumentalists BadBadNotGood & street legend Ghostface Killah is soon to hit store shelves, giving us our first proper look at how rappers would sound on BBNG’s Hip-Hop-centric, but equally inventive production style. The album titled Sour Soul has already been given its due presence with three previous singles, but the fourth installment of the album’s rollout, “Ray Gun”, features one of rap’s most mysterious figures; DOOM.

The history of Ghostface Killah and MF DOOM has long been etched in stone, with their often-delayed DOOMSTARKS record sitting on the back-burner. But here, we’re shown their near full potential with the help of the nostalgic-doused live instrumentalists gearing away behind them. As per usual when these two come together, the superhero contained with GFK comes out in full force, declaring his excellency and rite of passage to the league of extraordinary. DOOM, as has been witnessed on Flying Lotus’ ‘Masquatch,’ has been doing his thing lately, revitalizing his often-lazy rapping flow for a flash-to-the-past of what once was. At the end of the day though it is still a BBNG record, and, possibly more than anyone showcased here, they show off their talents to the fullest, with a James Bond-esque finale that explosively enters, lingers with blaring horns and shady percussion, before dissipating in the dust. Sour Soul is scheduled for release February 24th.

Audio

Viet Cong – Silhouettes

A few days ago, Calgary band Viet Cong shared the second single off their highly anticipated upcoming self-titled LP. Former single “Continental Shelf” easily made it into our Favorite Tracks of 2014 list and “Silhouettes” continues to take their melodious and energetic lo-fi post-punk to heights few bands are able to reach. Like the music of Flegel and Wallace’s former band Women, or Viet Cong’s great debut Cassette, “Silhouette” never outwears its welcome, and I find myself keep hitting the repeat button over and over again. But Viet Cong is in no way simply an “ex-Women” band; members Munro and Christiansen adds plenty to a sound that manages to combine a sort of visceral, urban energy with infectious and intuitive riffs. The band’s sound is very much rooted in early Factory Record releases, in particular Joy Division, but it’s also very much the sound of a band toying with textures, arrangements and pushing a drained genre into interesting directions.

Audio

Of Montreal – Empyrean Abattoir

In retrospect, Of Montreal ‘s 12th and previous album, 2012’s lousy with sylvianbriar, is my favorite album in recent years from Kevin Barnes prolific and capricious band, and the two tracks so far premiered of their upcoming album Aureate Gloom doesn’t make me doubt that Barnes and his quartet are on a psychedelic hot-streak at the moment; comfortably channeling the spirit and legacy of San Francisco, the city he decamped to before recording the previous album. “Bassem Sabry”, a track we featured a while back, was a bracing retreat to psych-funk, and new track “Empyrean Abattoir” is Barnes doing his best Syd Barrett impression. Of Montreal is a revitalized band nowadays, and it’s due time to pay attention to their music again. Look for Aureate Gloom on March 3 via Polyvinyl.

Audio

Summer Heart – Thinkin Of U

As I and everyone else often points out, it’s almost impossible to listen to David Alexander’s music without imagining a tropical sunset with a frozen margarita in hand. The always immensely catchy tunes are armored in warm, washed-out synths that pass on mixed emotions of joy and longing. His latest “Thinkin Of U” is typical of his Summer Heart moniker, and in essence typical Swedish Balearic dance-pop bands like Air France, and later Korallreven, have put on a larger map. “Thinkin Of U” is sentimental, danceable and easily my favorite from Summer Heart since “Beat of Your Heart”, the track that made me tune in to his music in the first place.

Audio

Twerps – I Don’t Mind

Twerps always knew how to write a catchy tune; just listen to one of the best guitar-pop tunes of 2012 in “Work It Out”, but on their newest single “I Don’t Mind” the Melbourne quartet seems to have evolved past initial comparisons to Real Estate, or any number of jangly pop bands from the early days of this decade. “I Don’t Mind” is still very much based around rolling melodies and simple guitar licks, but it’s also more nuanced and fully formed, easily detected in the interplay and tone of each instrument, as well as in the subtle, idiosyncratic shifts between Marty Frawley’s dragging lethargic verses and the wonderful chorus sung by Julia Macfarlane. As already mentioned, the band recently signed to Merge Records and will be releasing a new LP titled Range Anxiety in the end of January.