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Playlist, February 2012

February 1, 2012

Elvis Costello and the Imposters The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook!!! (Universal)
Costello actually cautions against buying his overpriced box: three discs of career-spanning tracks from his recent tour (where audience members spun a giant roulette wheel to pick songs), a souvenir book of photos, and a revealing tour diary. But for those who can''t help themselves, or who are sensible enough to wait for the later release of individual discs at a reasonable cost, this is the jackpot. In an interview for Mix, Costello said the difference between studio and live is “animal magnetism”; from “Mystery Dance” to “National Ransom,” this music has it.?
—Barbara Schultz

Canyons Keep Your Dreams (Modular)
Vocals that recall a hoarse Rick Astley, ''80s synths that simply drip Velveeta, frantic samples, and a tedious 4/4 beat, Keep Your Dreams will make you wish you''d kept your money. The Perth, Australia duo of Leo Thomson and Ryan Grieve eschew natural-sounding production—and that may be the point—but the sound is too prickly/retro to be taken seriously, and so plastic it will make your credit cards melt and form silvery globules like that crew-cut alien in Terminator 2.
—Ken Micallef

Nada SurfThe Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (Barsuk)
Blasting this super-smart, hyper-melodic album, it''s hard to believe Nada Surf started out as a sort of JV Weezer with their 1996 altena-nerd hit “Popular.” The new LP combines the band''s most intensely rocking performances with bandleader Matthew Caws'' heaviest songs—“The Moon Is Calling” and the culminating “The Future” powerfully reflect on time''s undertow pulling us inexorably toward the unknown, while “When I Was Young” erupts into a widescreen anthem, providing an elegiac centerpiece.
—Bud Scoppa

Bright MomentsNatives(Luaka Bop)
One can imagine that if Brian Wilson was in full control at his zaniest times, he could have come out with something this delightful and enjoyable. Kelly Pratt, trumpeter sideman to the likes of Arcade Fire and many others, shows great talent on his own. Recording in his home studio, the multi-instrumentalist crafts rich textures of chording electronica, shimmering horn accents, and layered vocals over pop-ish beats, all thoughtfully arranged and performed. No DIY musician should miss this kind of inspiration.
—Craig Dalton

Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters Underrated Silence(Bureau B)
Like jewels on some revolving wheel passing before your eyes, Underrated Silence presents a series of ambient vignettes, each one opalescent and refined, subliminally beat-less and nearly sleep-inducing. Inspired by such shoegazing masters as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Chapterhouse, Schnauss and Peters layer sound upon sound, each compressed into a frosty dessert that exudes somnambulant good cheer. Titles like “Amoxicillin” and “Rosen in Asphalt” only increase the album''s dreamlike beauty.
—Ken Micallef

Bhi BhimanBhiman (Boocoo)
Bhi Bhiman''s fusion of soul and folk has an anthemic quality that elevates his well-crafted blues story-songs so beautifully. Familiar acoustic instruments and ethnic pieces are combined for a big, elegant sound, and occasionally processed, to where steel drums sound like ringing bells and his elegant, soulful voice soars above it all. A singer who sounds this sweet, and has this much to say, is great alone with a guitar, but this record fills you up to the brim. 
—Barbara Schultz

Kathleen EdwardsVoyager(Rounder)
On her fourth album, Edwards dramatically breaks out of the alt-country cul-de-sac, armed with a brace of intensely personal songs crammed with guided-missile hooks. As Edwards and Bon Iver auteur Justin Vernon co-produced the record, they were falling in love, which no doubt accounts for the ecstatic vocal and instrumental performances throughout. The songs bear the wounds of Edwards'' breakup and divorce, and Vernon''s gorgeous arrangements enwrap her vulnerable vocals like a down comforter.
—Bud Scoppa

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