Playlist, April 2013

Prolifically-talented My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James delivers songs both intimate and transportive on his debut solo album.
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Jim James
Regions of Light and Sound of God
Prolifically-talented My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James delivers songs both intimate and transportive on his debut solo album. Self-engineered with all instruments played by James (save for drums), he utilizes his much-documented love of reverb in new ways—enhancing simple lines of piano, bass, and drums with gentle exhales, subtle funk, and deep throbs. Unexpected guitar filigree, dusky saxophone samples, and intoxicating keyboard touches demonstrate James’ ability to conjure just the right sound at just the right time. Regions is where James’ sonic and personal atmospherics combine in a mysteriously soulful, hazily futuristic soundtrack.

Ellen Allien
BPitch Control boss, DJ, and fashion designer Ellen Allien conceived the ambient textures of LISm as a soundtrack to a dance performance, but its odd cadences and desolate spaces are more dead tech than fashion friendly. Allien coos the words “falling, falling, falling” during the opening of this 57-minute piece, a clue to LISm’s dislocated theme. At times a mysterious, deep-space rumination, later a frozen jazz beat dirge, the only constant in this Berlin dreamstate is its comforting sense of languor.

Exai = XI = the 11th full-length by Rob Brown and Sean Booth, which sees the fastidiously machined IDM mainstays sequencing rhythmically diverse, cohesively ominous patches that recall pressurized arrangements drawn from the duo’s catalog circa 1998-2005. FM percussion melds with beautifully ugly leads and squelchy bass, all DSP splattered with boxed-in room verbs, metallic flangers, and granular racketing. Most stylistically divergent are the spectral chords and melodic inflections of “jatevee C,” “T ess xi” and “bladelores.”

Dave Grohl
Sound City, Real to Reel
The soundtrack to the anti-digital recording documentary, Sound City, Real to Reel is a head-butting collection of rock-star vanity pieces, a chance for newbie director Dave Grohl to write and perform with his graying heroes. Exceptional tracks include Stevie Nicks crooning “You Can’t Fix This” and Rick Springfield fronting the Foos on the nerve-rattling “The Man That Never Was.” Unfortunately, Paul McCartney phones it in for “Cut Me Some Slack,” wheezing like the million-dollar senior citizen these artists are destined to become.

Jimi Hendrix
People, Hell and Angels
Amazing but true: ten previously unreleased Hendrix tracks! Made in 1968/69, these mindblowing blues/ funk jams feature performances by Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Billy Cox, and others. Co-producers and caretakers of the Hendrix legacy John McDermott, Eddie Kramer, and Janie Hendrix have gently polished these brilliant rarities from arguably the greatest guitarist ever; the tracks speak for themselves, but detailed liner notes include info about each session.

The Knife
Shaking the Habitual
Officially a follow-up to 2006’s Silent Shout, this fourth album by Swedish brother-sister duo Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer feels far more indebted to their industrial/ metamorphic side efforts (Oni Ayhun, collaborating with Mt. Sims & Planningtorock, Fever Ray). Featuring nearly 100 minutes across two discs or three platters, it often eschews melodic immediacy for disquieted percussion, ring modulation, and guttural collisions. Even the “conventionally” structured moments are more cacophonous braindance than pitchbent synthpop.

Billy Bragg
Tooth and Nail
Recorded live in five days by engineer Ryan Freeland in Joe Henry’s Garfield House studio, Tooth and Nail is the first album from Billy Bragg since his record with Wilco, Mermaid Avenue (2008). This has some of the warmest, sweetest vocals, and the most personal songs, we’ve heard from this great singer/songwriter, and inspired performances grow from Henry’s always sensitive, roomy production style. It’s clear that artist and producer put extra heart into this album.