The splangly, jangly guitars, the close-knit harmonies jelling atop songs of love and expectation—Teenage Fanclub is back! On Here, their first release in six years, the clever Scottish quintet still expresses songwriting majesty and vocal beauty. Guitars swoon over buoyant beats in grooving Byrdsian opener “Thin Air,” shimmering “The First Sight,” and Nick Drake-worthy “Steady State.” Founding members Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley, and Gerard Love have lost none of their ability to suspend time and evoke wondrous moments past, and those yet to come.
A DAY FOR THE HUNTER, A DAY FOR THE PREY
JAZZ VILLAGE/HARMONIA MUNDI
Former Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist Leyla McCalla self-produced her latest album, an inspired collection of poignant, lush traditional and original folksongs influenced by the sounds of Haiti and New Orleans. Mc-Calla is supported by a marvelous ensemble of other string players, as well as guest appearances by vocalist (and fellow Chocolate Drop) Rhiannon Giddens, extraordinary guitarist Marc Ribot, and more. McCalla’s sweet voice and gentle style add up to music of immense, delicate beauty.
GIVE A GLIMPSE OF WHAT YER NOT
Now boasting four albums as a post-reunion trio, the original lineup Dinosaur Jr. has squealed more records into existence than in the band’s initial ’80s run. And all without a drop-off in quality. If anything, there is heightened cohesion to be found between the fuzztain sweeps of J Mascis’ guitar, the husky chords and frenetic glissando of Lou Barlow’s bass, and resolute thawk of Murph’s drums. Nobody dials in sludgy power-pop’s peak response better.
The follow-up to Since I Left You stays true to that album’s crackly, lo-fi, cut-and-paste ethos. Who would think to put a calliope sample of The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things” under the rhymes of MF Doom and Danny Brown? Emcees are a new addition for Wildflower, whose snippet-like songs sound like they are either being played backward or stuck between radio frequencies. Pillaging of everything from the Bee Gees to the Beach Boys is as shocking as it is admirable.
After demoing songs with acoustic guitar, MIDI, and percussion, Look Park is as gorgeous and melancholy as you’d expect from the brilliant Fountains of Wayne songwriter and vocalist. Blissed-out Mellotron infuses texture-filled compositions with dark beauty, as in the Bacharach-bent “Breezy,” head-in-theclouds “Stars of New York,” autumnal “Minor Is The Lonely Key,” and the McCartney-in-1970 sound-alike “Crash That Piano.” Produced by Mitchell Froom and accompanied by bassist Davey Faragher and drummer Michael Urbano, Look Park is pure, understated splendor.
DANCE MUSIC SYMPHONY
X5 MUSIC GROUP
Eighteen tracks arranged in three suites, this “DJ mix for orchestras” shows Scandinavian conductor Hans Ek refracting EDM through a 20thcentury classical lens. Taking works by Swedish House Mafia, The Knife, Faithless, Aphex Twin, deadmau5, Avicii and Daft Punk, among others, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic plays with articulation and accents, breaking rhythmic energy into cells, rebuilding motifs, navigating diatonic progressions and showcasing dance music’s staccato, pizzicato, portamento tendencies. It’s a pagan ritual, undulating and impressionistic.
CIRCLE ROUND THE SIG NS
High-test cowpunk from Chicago: When listeners hear feet stomping, a banjo jangle, and the rising bluegrass singing, they may think, “Avetts,” but this music is tougher than most popular altfolk groups. Scorch is a sensational songwriter, too, bringing raw simplicity to work songs, ballads, and stories of addiction: “That tiny little bottle feels big, empty, and hollow; when I get to the bottom I am incomplete” (“Want One”). Here's hoping awesome songs like this are not autobiographical, and there's lots more to come from Scorch.