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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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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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Video: Angel Olsen – Windows

As mentioned, Angel Olsen is releasing a deluxe version of her stunning Burn Your Fire For No Witness today featuring five previously unheard songs, all of them worth giving a few spins. To mark the occasion, she also premiered the video for “Windows” – the gorgeous closing track on the original release. In the video, Olsen is getting her face painted in an old house by two children before suddenly appearing clothed in full Elizabethan costume.

You can read our review of Burn Your Fire Fore No Witness here.

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Angel Olsen – May As Well / All Right Now

Burn Your Fire For No Witness wasn’t so much a complete overhaul of Angel Olsen’s sound as an expansion of it. While most probably remember it for the rawer and riff-heavier songs like “Forgiven/Forgotten”, “Stars” and “Hi-Five”, there were a handful of fragile, sparsely arranged moments that – as I already mention in the review – made the record such a magnificent grower. These emotionally draining and complex slow-burners somehow felt denser and more rugged (and still no less intimate) than much of her earlier efforts.

Jagjaguwar is conveniently reissuing a deluxe version of Burn Your Fire For No Witness on November 18 – just in time for Christmas shoppings and the yearly wrap ups – and will contain five bonus tracks including “All Right Now” and “May As Well”, both of them now available for streaming above and below. Sound wise, the pair takes of where these above mentioned somber, slower-paced beauties like “Iota” and “Enemy” left us. And similarly, there is a sense of directness and candor to these arrangements that sound raw, bleeding and open-hearted – all at once. The cynic in me might not be the biggest fan of deluxe reissues – least of all the very same year – but as long as more people get a chance to discover (or re-discover) the beauty of this album, who am I to disagree.

 

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Viet Cong – Continental Shelf

One of the most talked about track this week is “Continental Shelf”. Deservedly so since Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace have under their relatively new moniker Viet Cong crafted a stunning new twist on the grainy, lo-fi sound that made their former band Women such a success. Compared to their first release – last year’s Cassette – the quality here is elevated in every possible way; just listen to how the magnificent lead guitar is buried deep in an ocean of grainy noise. And the vocals are just sublime.

Viet Cong’s self-titled debut album is well under way, and will be issued via Jagjaguwar sometime in the beginning of next year. Based on this track , as well as Flegel / Wallace musical history, this album should kick start the next year in an exciting way.

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Video: Foxygen – Coulda Been My Love

Foxygen’s newly released …And Star Power might be messy, severely inconsistent and about ten tracks to long, but it has its moments of brilliance (mostly on the A-side). One was its undervalued first single “How Can You Really” and heard/seen above is “Coulda Been My Love”, another moment when all of Foxygen’s shameless retro pastiche is subdued to a backbone of strong songwriting and blissful harmonies.

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Foxygen – Cosmic Vibrations

I believe We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic lacked the playfulness I’m hearing in Foxygen’s new material. Or at least, it seems like the duo’s knack for retro-rock pastiche is a bit more honest and vibrant this time around. Latest single, “Cosmic Vibrations” doesn’t carry the sweetness or the warmth of their former single “How Can You Really” (coincidently one of my favorite songs the past few weeks/months); you barely know what the heck is going on most of the time, but it is mostly clever and charming.

Foxygen has a new, 24 track and 82 minutes long album approaching. It’s titled …And Star Power, and arrives October 14 via Jagjaguwar.

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Sharon Van Etten – Your Love Is Killing Me

Once in a while, a piece of music comes at me with so much force that it leaves me completely speechless. Such was the case yesterday when Sharon Van Etten premiered “Your Love Is Killing”, the third track to be lifted of her upcoming album Are We There.  I don’t even know how to begin expressing just how dam good I think this new song of hers is. Obviously, I’ve swallowed everything she has teased off Are We There, but there is an added element of intensity and force to “Your Love Is Killing Me” that I think surpasses everything she’s done up to this point. And then there’s that unbelievable and very singular voice of hers. She delivers the words with such power that the beautiful instruments surrounding her pales in comparison. It’s impossible not to pay attention to her vocals, and just as on “Every Time The Sun Comes Up”, her words jump right at you; “Break my leg so I can’t walk to you/ Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you/ Burn my skin so I can’t feel you/ Stab my eyes so I can’t see.” It’s a dark, bleak comedy of a love song, filled with violent imagery that take sharp and repeated stabs at your heart. By the time she reaches the magnificent chorus and trembles “Your love is killing me”, you can almost feel her bleeding heart pumping right out of the strength of her voice. All this while the beautiful droning instrumentation slowly builds into knee-trembling euphoria.

During a year, there comes only about a handful of moments like this. And if I already stated “Taking Chances” as a sort of career-defining moment for Van Etten, then I don’t know what the heck to call this. Maybe it’s enough to write what I truly feel; that  a more memorable and impressive moment in music can not be found so far this year.

Are We There I out May 27 via Jagjaguwar.