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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Pale Flower

If chillwave sounded like warped copies of old soft-rock and synth-pop tapes, then Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s “Pale Flower” is the sound of a warped, nearly wrecked, copy of a chillwave tape. Or in the words of its creator; the music explores ways of “conveying memory in music without being sentimental”. Sentimental or not, “Pale Flower” is like trying to adjust the knobs on an old transistor radio broadcasting a memory of a memory of a memory of a song that probably never existed in the first place.

Mexican Summer, no strangers to forward-thinking nostalgia-obsessive music, is wisely releasing A Year With 13 Moons, the follow-up to 2010’s Love Is A Stream. Cantu-Ledesma has been releasing a steady stream of music since 1996, collaborating with Grouper’s Liz Harris, and also the founder of Root Strata, a record label that released music from Oneothrix Point Never amongst others. While I haven’t heard his previous work, “Pale Flower” is an invite to explore more from one of ambient music’s best kept secrets.

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Modest Mouse – Lampshades On Fire

Two decades into Modest Mouse’s career, it would be harsh to expect anything revolutionary. Their last album, 2007’s We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, saw them climbing to the number one spot on Billboard, but failed to produce any memorable music. Modest Mouse influence on post-millennial indie-rock should however not be taken lightly. Not only as stylistic authorities, but as a band that paved the way for other indie-rock bands to reach a level of commercial success that would’ve been unimaginable at the start of the last decade. So far we’ve only been given one taste of what’s coming, but new and surprisingly great single “Lampshades On Fire” sound a lot like a synthesis of “Float On” and “The World At Large”, two of the most memorable tracks on their decade old commercial breakthrough and Grammy nominated Good News For People Who Love Bad News. While Modest Mouse greatest (artistic) achievements will always be their pre-04 albums (two of them newly reissued via Glacial Pace), “Lampshades On Fire” is the best we’ve heard from the band in a decade. Watch for their new album Strangers To Ourselves, out March 3 via Epic.

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Vision Fortune – Dry Mouth

New single ”Dry Mouth” from Vision Future starts off with hypnotic, repeated metallic synth sounds underneath foreboding, almost chant-y, vocals that somehow reminds me of a distant cousin to the apocalyptic and often unsettling sound of Silver Mt.Zion, or even Swans. But the real treat is the entirely instrumental second half that stalks my ears with a quietly lurking bass line accompanied by spine-chilling synths dropping in and out. “Dry Mouth” is exceptionally multifaceted for such a short track, and makes me hope for great things from the London three-piece when their second full-length, Country Music, comes out on February 9 via ATP Recordings.