Flaming Lips’ fans love them for many reasons: their riotous arrangements, their playful subject matter, the inner-cranium fantasy that inhabits their productions. That final quality is the jumping-off point for Oczy Mlody, which twirls and spins like a mirror ball drifting through hyperspace. An album of clinky programmed drum beats, humming keyboards, and swirling synthesizers and guitars, Oczy Mlody is also a thing of forlorn ambient beauty. Even when the rock groove of “Nigdy Nie (Never No)” kicks in over strobing synths, it’s brief departure from the album’s somnambulant vocals and twinkling sonic architecture. Dreaming is good, total immersion is even better.
Sallie Ford, who recently split with her band The Sound Outside, calls this a “confessional album… about insecurity, anxiety, and depression.” Certainly, the lyric feel is painful, and more personal than Ford’s band recordings. I mean, she banshee-wails, “Just hold me!” in a song called “Unraveling.” However, as they say in sports, ownage is ownage, and Ford owns these feelings, she owns her fabulous retro ’60s-thrash sound, and she owns such a strong voice that the misery she pours into this record comes back as power.
In Greek mythology, Daedalus built the Labyrinth to contain the Minotaur. SoCal beat deconstructionist Daedelus built his Labyrinths to release the beast. The retrofuturist nomad collages fidgety chimes, low-end shudders, and melodic clusters, inspiring you to get down and level up. Like a bespoke video game where BPM-agnostic stages and styles branch between gleeful subversion and blissful equilibrium, Labyrinths scrolls through sequencing and jazzinformed instrumentation, portamento and arpeggiators, vocal collaborators, and bassbin conditioning.
THE LE BOEUF BROTHERS
Le Boeuf brothers Pascal (piano) and Remy (saxphone) join with contemporary classical ensemble JACK Quartet for an impressive album that frames chamber jazz in swooning tone poems, dexterous musicianship, spoken word, and Franz Kafka. “Imaginist” refers to the early 20th-century Russian poetry movement characterized by striking images and metaphors. From that, the Le Bouef Brothers conjure lofty compositions with smoky jazz interludes, ultimately finding fruition in Kafka’s “A Dream,” a narrated piece as dramatic as it is fanciful.
BURN SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL
Co-produced by Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (the Minus 5), Escovedo’s latest bursts with the joy and edge that the former Nuns and Rank & File member has always brought to his wonderful singer/songwriter/punk albums. “Heartbeat Smile” charms with cowpunk guitars and harmonies that evoke Rank & File, while the darker rhythms of “Beauty of Your Smile” and “Luna de Miel” are closer to hardcore. This is pure pleasure from an artist who gets that punk and melody are friends.
LIFE WITHOUT SOUND
Workshopped with bandmates for more than a year and recorded in three weeks, Dylan Baldi’s fourth album as Cloud Nothings is a less amphetamine, no less cathartic set of fiercely catchy power-pop melodies. While drums don’t hit like the rabbit punches they were throughout the lo-fi confessional bedlam of 2014’s Here and Nowhere, these nine tracks still kick your heart in the ass. Vocals find parity with ringing chords, amplifying the singalong properties.
NO FURTHER AHEAD THAN TODAY
Schnauss’ synthesizer manipulations give a pad-y twist to the noodly experimentations that define early IDM (“Intelligent” Dance Music). This characteristic is at the center of his latest album, which marks a return to Schnauss’ early works with atmospheric washes and string-y sounding keys, exemplified on the Midnight Express score-like “Thoughtless Motion.” Otherworldly and immersive, No Further suits Schnauss’ latest appointment as a member of original electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream.