Jenny Hval & Susanna
Meshes of Voices
Inspired by bestiaries; the architecture of Antoni Gaudí; and Maya Deren’s experimental 1943 film, Meshes of the Afternoon, Norway’s Jenny Hval and Susanna explore piano, effects, guitar, noise, electric harmonium, drums, zither, and most evocatively, their unique voices, in this wonderfully bizarre collaborative effort. “Black Lake” combines plaintive vocals and searing noise into the sound of a gaping black hole ready to swallow. “I Have Walked This Body” exercises Hval’s creaky groan against sirens, a roaring sea, and nightmarish lunar crunching. “Medusa” matches calliope with scary, inhaling sounds.
Old Crow Medicine Show
Old Crow Medicine Show’s aggressive approach to picking stems from the players’ equal love of punk and folk. This makes their producer, Ted Hutt (Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Lucero, Dropkick Murphys) a perfect match, and the band and producer’s third project together, Remedy, benefits from their likemindedness with great attack and a friendly easiness. What’s the difference between punkabilly and true mountain music? Well, for one thing, a traditional bluegrass band wouldn’t title a song “Sh*t Creek.”
Never Get Lost
An ambitiously beautiful and bittersweet album that conjures Nick Drake singing over a glitch-filled terrain created by Massive Attack, Never Get Lost soars with sweetness, held earthbound by its alien electronic heart. Expressing tenderness and anxiety, Duologue’s fragile vocals are framed by pulsing blips and bumping bleeps, but the total effect is more soothing than scientific—ethereal, ghostly harmonies buffeted by weird tones, acoustic piano, and occasional guitar.
The Budos Band
Burnt Offering, the fourth album by 10-piece act The Budos Band, is a caper, a careening 10-part circuit through streetwise funk and psychedelic haze. It’s an early ’70s supernatural grindhouse film culminating at a séance of prog and hard rock, navigating a crux when Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, and The Groundhogs conjured ritualistic grooves. Darting horns, churning organ, and fuzz-spooked bass rain acid over Rick Rubin-weight breakbeats, recorded live to tape for maximum possession.
The debut release from Wray caught my attention when it was revealed they are touring with the awesome Southern futro surf band known as Man… or Astro-man?. Wray’s bent is darker, echoing the emo ’80s synth rock of groups like Echo and the Bunnymen, but their music is fused uniquely with fuzzed-out surf rhythms and delicate guitarnoir riffs, a la their namesake. There’s loud and beautiful guitar inspiration here for rock ‘n’ roll purists as well as for the black eyeliner set.
Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes
From nine-piece soul band Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes’ drawling tones, you would never peg them as Aussies, instead expecting Deep South origins. Following their debut album with the four-track Love Cliques EP, a wealth of emotions is packed into this compact package. Whether it’s on the threatening, high-octane “Jenny” or against the dreamy strings and come-hither horns of “No Fear,” a big jazz sensibility and immense soul roots are pervasive.
The Juan Maclean
In a Dream
The Juan Maclean has filtered perfectly paced out-of-step movement for a decade. Emulsifying the sizzle and throb of tech-house, deep house, post-punk, robofunk, cosmic disco, Italo, and Chicago house, producer/DJ John MacLean and singer/keyboardist Nancy Whang infuse new emotion into dance music’s celestial arpeggio, Motorik shuffle, percolating bass, baritone melody, piano stab, phased fill, and vocal delay tropes. Never beholden to one era or scene, these spacious arrangements gel into the chaotic bliss of dancing the pain away.