Unknow Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

Ruban Nielson’s psych-soul project Unknown Mortal Orchestra never stood out as pioneering, but in-terms of putting catchy lo-fi tunes with dense and gripping lyrical topics on the table, both previous albums are strong arguments for why Nielson and co are one of the true masters of contemporary lo-fi music.

On new single and title track from upcoming album, “Multi-Love”, Nielson ditches the guitars that occupied a lot of frequency space on II’s (few) weaker moments and trades them for warm, home-built, synthesizers. And the result is probably the warmest and coziest this band has ever sounded. Even lyrically, it’s all a bit more positive; where II confronted dark but powerful themes of depression and isolation, “Multi-Love” ponders on the challenges of loving multiple people at once. It’s a great track – one of my favorites from this project –  and I look forward hearing more on May 26 when Jagjaguwar will release Multi-Love.


Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker The Berry

Never one to be outdone, just as the Grammy’s discussion on social media was being overtaken with Kanye-related memes of his usual antics (albeit it was hilarious). Kendrick, who won Best Rap Song the night before froze everyone in their tracks with his latest track ‘The Blacker The Berry.’ With a tone distinctly opposite of his lead single ‘I’ Kendrick continues to parade around peace, despite attempting to reel in the hard-nosed listeners who loved him for his gritty, aggressive rhymes, which is exactly what we get here. With help on the boards from Boi-1da, with some mean drums to capitalize off of, Kendrick critiques the normalized trends of black America, comparing it with the history books of old showing the hypocrisy’s of everyone involved. The grand statements promote peace while criticizing those who rallied against the current race war yet have been involved in black-on-black crime. It’s a powerful statement for a single, and one we do not yet know if it’ll make it to his album. The chorus boasts Assassin, reggae star previously featured on Yeezus’ ‘I’m In It,’ which could finally push reggae over into becoming the next trend in Hip-Hop. A spiritual, mysterious instrumental outro that’s packed with soul sneaks in to end a brilliantly produced track.


Cannibal Ox – Iron Rose (Ft. MF DOOM)

It may have been 14 years since their debut album, the only one they’ve released, The Cold Vein, but Cannibal Ox have finally returned to take storm on the underground. On March 3rd the Hip-Hop community will get Blade Of The Ronin, and today they received their first taste in ‘Iron Rose,’ with help from the ever-elusive, yet slowly coming out of his shell, MF DOOM. Rather than returning after a decade delay with a washed out, rusty taste that’s hindered many groups’ returns (talking to you Pixies) the duo of Vast Aire and Vorgul Mega come in full throttle off an engaging beat that plays up on the two’s instinctual ability to rhyme their asses off. The gritty, underground New York sound hasn’t changed one bit, which benefits the group, for long-time fans can return to that era while new heads can relish in the ever-lasting sound of gritty street raps. It doesn’t hurt Cannibal Ox’s notoriety leading up to this album including MF DOOM into the fold of their single, turning in yet another stellar verse to add to his recent repertoire.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.