Give the Gift of Music
CD: 4-panel wallet with 16 page booklet
There is always water.
In flowing rivers, in falling raindrops, in waves that will tear us to pieces, in ice cold glasses toasting the living and the dead. Water can carve away at mountainsides over eons, or come crashing over the city in an instant. Animals, fugitives, loners, and crumbling signs of life swim through the depths of the Mountain Goats’ Getting Into Knives, due October 23 via Merge. Like an eight-foot swell of blades, John Darnielle, Matt Douglas, Peter Hughes, and Jon Wurster ground the songs in the impermanence of permanence and the certainty of uncertainty, the casual and subtle threat that everything will come to an end.
4 panel wallet with 8-panel miniposter-style insert, matte coating on both
An explosive album of pain, rage and fear with some of the most direct and confrontational lyrics of his four-decade career. According to Bob, “This is the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting.”
In 2014, Dan Snaith aka Caribou released Our Love to overwhelming critical acclaim. Caribou returns now with his new studio album Suddenly, a warm, untamable, and constantly surprising record about family and the changes we go through as those relationships evolve. Most prominently, Suddenly refers to the moments of dramatic and unexpected change that occur at points in any life and within any family-universal themes that can catch you off guard and change your life in a heartbeat. Those dramatic moments are part of a slower process. These moments rear their heads, for good or bad, during the everyday flow of life. "There's a tension between those sudden things which blindside you and the more glacial, gradual day-to-day changes," he observes. "We are so caught up in the immediate-the details that require our attention every day-that we can be blind to the bigger forces shaping us. That's why so often when something drastic happens suddenly, it catalyzes all sorts of changes in our lives. Our perspective shifts." Suddenly is in the music, too. This is the most surprising and unpredictable Caribou album to date. Though it retains the trademark Caribou warmth and technicolor, this album is littered with swerves and left turns. "I wanted to balance the familiar-the sound that people associate with my music-against these moments of surprise," Snaith says. As his passion and joy in music-making remains as fresh as ever, Suddenly is the purest example of this yet.
In the five years since Will Butler released his debut album, Policy, he’s toured the world both solo and as a member of Arcade Fire, released the Friday Night live album, recorded and released Arcade Fire’s international #1 album Everything Now, earned his master’s degree in public policy from Harvard, hosted a series of touring town halls on local issues (police contracts, prison reform, municipal paid sick leave, voting rights), and spent time raising his three children.
He also found the time and inspiration to write and record a new album, Generations.
“My first record, Policy, was a book of short stories,” Butler says. “Generations is more of a novel—despairing, funny, a little bit epic… A big chunk of this record is asking: What’s my place in American history? What’s my place in America’s present? Both in general—as a participant, as we all are, in the shit that’s going down—but, also extremely particularly: me as Will Butler, rich person, white person, Mormon, Yankee, parent, musician of some sort, I guess. What do I do? What can I do? The record asks that question over and over, even if it’s not much for answers.”
While the songs on Generations contain their fair share of dread and regret, there is ultimately a lightness that shines through Butler’s music. That brightness is at its most intense when he and his solo band—Miles Francis, Sara Dobbs, and Julie and Jenny Shore—perform on stage. Their electricity is palpable throughout Generations, with the bulk of the new songs having been worked out live. Wild synth production—gnarly bass synths with live drums—and anthemic backing vocals as on first single “Surrender” are punctuated by intimate, direct moments: Butler’s voice cracking on “Fine” as he conjures his ancestors, and “Promised,” a meditation on friendship, how lives are built together, and how and why they drift apart.
Generations was recorded and produced by Butler in the basement of his home in Brooklyn. Tracking finished in March 2020, as New York closed down for the pandemic. Half the record was mixed in Montreal by longtime Arcade Fire engineer Mark Lawson, the other half by Brooklyn-based producer Shiftee (who is, incidentally, bandmate Julie Shore’s husband and Will’s brother-in-law).
Generations opens a dialogue with the world. It posits answers—and deals with those answers being refuted. Ultimately, it navigates the conversation as a way to find the truth… or at least a way forward.
Trinidad marks the Merge debut of this mighty sextet from Austin, TX. The songs are stripped down yet more intricate than ever before. It's a pop record made by punk rockers-sonically happy but lyrically bitter. Lustful, sassy, and passionate. Touting inspirations as varied as Prince, T. Rex, William Onyeabor, ABBA, Roy Orbison, Shintaro Sakamoto, Francoise Hardy, and Robyn, Sweet Spirit have created an album that pulsates with more LinnDrum and synth than guitar. From the opening riff of "Behold," Sabrina, Andrew, Danny, Josh, Jon, and Jake establish their slightly cynical world of fantasy, hard truths, and all manner of longing. "No Dancing" bemoans the lack of magic in the club, while live favorite "Fingerprints" sets out to "get you away from your lover."
Narratively, H.C. McEntire’s Eno Axis is about finding direction in the natural world, and following love. Sonically, it’s an album shaped enormously by the atmosphere it was recorded in—the crew’s synergy and positivity, the proximity and presence of a band in a room playing with intention. Structurally, it’s a group of songs inspired by the colors and tones of open tunings, by the sacrality of space and instinct. Stylistically, it’s folk-rock leaning into its curious experimental side and moved by the spiritual rawness of classic soul and the simplicity of earnest pop. Eno Axis feels like a confident and mature step forward from her debut album LIONHEART—in tone, arrangement, production, and spirit.
It takes an extraordinary artist to re-imagine some of the most beloved songs of the 20th century and make them completely their own. And that's precisely what James Taylor has accomplished with his brand-new album, American Standard. Recalling the best of James' early work, he infuses new sounds and fresh meaning into these timeless works of art. While these 14 carefully chosen interpretations naturally feature James' warm, one-of-a-kind vocal ability and incomparable musicianship, what makes this collection so unique is the inventive way James and his fellow co-producers, longtime collaborator Dave O'Donnell and famed musician John Pizzarelli, approached the project. Unlike most who have tackled similar material, American Standard's beautifully simple, stripped-down arrangements are based on James' skillful acoustic guitar work rather than piano and the affect is mesmerizing.
Recorded October 16, 2019, Tanya Tucker Live From The Troubadour features a cache of her #1 hits, like Tucker's smash first single "Delta Dawn" plus "Strong Enough To Bend," "What's Your Mama's Name," and "Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)". With sublime medley of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" & Cash's "Ring of Fire" and tracks from GRAMMY-winning Country Album Of The Year, While I'm Livin', like "Mustang Ridge," "The Wheels of Laredo," "Hard Luck," and the poignant title track.
Free Love thrives on collaborative frisson—two people pushing one another into new territories with the shared assurance of knowing they’re in good company, a sort of trust fall in reverse. Yes, these 10 songs are some of Sylvan Esso’s most direct. And most delicate. And most intricate. And most urgent. Free Love carries the confidence of two people delighted to be all those things, together, at once.
In 2018, Margo Price claimed her rock star status at the Mother Church of Country Music. She was headlining the Ryman Auditorium for the first time ever, in a sold-out run of three nights that she had admittedly spent more time planning than her wedding. Now, Margo revisits the career-changing residency with the release of a new live album, Perfectly Imperfect at The Ryman. With special guest appearances from Jack White, Emmylou Harris and Sturgill Simpson!
Nathaniel Rateliff has written and recorded his first solo record since the explosive debut of his work together with The Night Sweats. And It's Still Alright, is an intensely personal 10-song album of vibrant country-blues, badland ballads, ornate Americana and jazz-inflected R&B. Rateliff's warm baritone, ranging from gently hushed to a guttural howl, imbues these superbly drawn character studies with raw, naked emotion.
And It's Still Alright was produced by Rateliff, Night Sweats' drummer Patrick Meese and James Barone of the indie band, Beach House and primarily recorded at National Freedom in Cottage Grove, Oregon, the studio formerly owned by the late Richard Swift (who produced both Night Sweats recordings). While Rateliff, Meese and Barone handled much of the album's instrumentation, several friends make contributions including Night Sweats' guitarist Luke Mossman; bassist Elijah Thomson (of the indie band Everest); keyboardist Daniel Creamer (of The Texas Gentlemen); steel guitarist Eric Swanson (touring musician for Israel Nash) and renowned string arranger Tom Hagerman (of the instrumental vocal ensemble DeVotchKa), whose delicate orchestrations beautifully complement the album's deep emotional terrain.
And It's Still Alright's many highlights include album opener ''What A Drag,'' which sketches a vivid portrait of a disconnected relationship, ''Tonight #2,'' a haunting, end-of-the-world waltz, ''Time Stands,'' detailing an epic, desperate struggle for love and the elegiac ''Rush On,'' a heart-breaking requiem for Swift.
Unguarded and unflinchingly real, Nathaniel Rateliff's And It's Still Alright expands on the sounds and styles he's used to great affect across both his band and solo careers. It's a commanding next step in Nathaniel's evolution into one of America's most vital and essential songwriters.
As chaos envelopes the world, Manson penned the perfect prescription. The aptly titled WE ARE CHAOS was written/produced by Manson & Shooter Jennings. Rock & roll icon and painter, Manson continues to infiltrate fashion, film, and music, leaving his fingerprints on modern culture. "Making this record, I had to think to myself: Tame your crazy, stitch your suit, try to pretend that you are not an animal. But I knew that mankind is the worst of them all.”
The Third Gleam marks a return to the Avett Brothers’ roots, both sonically and with Seth & Scott playing as a trio with longtime bassist Bob Crawford. The eight tracks capture their personal experiences and perspectives on undeniably timely, universal themes: isolation, gun violence, incarceration, historical prejudice, mortality, resilience, love, hope, redemption. 12 years in the making, this is the third installment of the brothers’ ongoing Gleam series.
2020 release. "Change is inevitable if you're lucky," says guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins while talking about Atlas Vending, the fourth full-length album by Toronto's METZ. "Our goal is to remain in flux, to grow in a natural and gradual way. We've always been wary to not overthink or intellectualize the music we love but also not satisfied until we've accomplished something that pushes us forward." The music made by Edkins and his compatriots Hayden Menzies (drums) and Chris Slorach (bass) has always been a little difficult to pin down. Their earliest recordings contained nods to the teeming energy of early '90s DIY hardcore, the aggravated angularities of This Heat, and the noisy riffing of AmRep's quintessential guitar manglers, but there was never a moment where METZ sounded like they were paying tribute to the heroes of their youth.
In the horror genre, sequels are perfunctory. As the insufferable film bro Randy explains in Scream 2, “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate—more blood, more gore. Carnage candy. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.” Last Halloween, Los Angeles experimental rap mainstays Clipping ended their three-year silence with the horrorcore-inspired album There Existed an Addiction to Blood. This October, rapper Daveed Diggs, and producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson return with an even higher body count, more elaborate kills, and monsters that just won’t stay dead.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned is less a sequel than it is the second half of a planned diptych. It turns out, Clipping took to the thematic material of horrorcore like vampires to grave soil. Before the release of There Existed an Addiction to Blood, Clipping and Sub Pop Records divided the material up into two albums, designed to be released only months apart. However, a global pandemic and multiple canceled tours pushed the release of the project’s “part two” until the following Halloween season.
Visions of Bodies Being Burned contains sixteen more scary stories disguised as rap songs, incorporating as much influence from Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker, and Shirley Jackson as it does from Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Clipping’s angular, shattered interpretations of existing musical styles are always deferential, driven by fandom for the object of study rather than disdain for it. Clipping reimagine horrorcore—the purposely absurdist hip-hop subgenre that flourished in the 1990s—the way Jordan Peele does horror cinema: by twisting beloved tropes to make explicit their own radical politics of monstrosity, fear, and the uncanny.
The album features a host of collaborators: Inglewood’s Cam & China, fellow noise-rap pioneers Ho99o9, Tortoise guitar genius Jeff Parker, and experimental LA drummer Ted Byrnes. The final track, “Secret Piece,” is a performance of a Yoko Ono text score from 1953 that instructs the players to “Decide on one note that you want to play/Play it with the following accompaniment: the woods from 5am to 8am in summer,” and features nearly all of the musicians who appeared on both albums.
Since their last album, Daveed Diggs—the group’s Tony and Grammy Award-winning rapper—has starred in the TNT science fiction series, Snowpiercer, voiced a character in Pixar’s Soul, and portrayed Frederick Douglass in Showtime’s The Good Lord Bird. Writer Rivers Solomon’s novella based on Clipping’s Hugo-nominated song “The Deep” has been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards, and won the Lambda Literary Award for best LGBTQ SF/Fantasy/Horror novel. Clipping’s song “Chapter 319”—a tribute to George Floyd (AKA Big Floyd) the former DJ-Screw affiliated rapper who was murdered by police officers in May of 2020—was released on Bandcamp on June 19th and raised over $20,000 for racial justice charities. A clip of the song also became a popular meme on TikTok, generating over 50,000 videos in which teenagers rapped the song’s lyrics (“Donald Trump is a white supremacist, full stop...”) directly into the frowning faces of their conservative parents. The band also contributed a Skinny Puppy-esque rework of J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” to Save Stereogum: An ‘00s Covers Comp.
SUGAREGG roars from the speakers and jumpstarts both heart and mind. Like My Bloody Valentine after three double espressos, opener "Add It On" zooms heavenward within seconds, epitomizing band leader Alicia Bognanno's newfound clarity of purpose, while the bass-driven melodies and propulsive beats of "Where to Start" and "Let You" are the musical equivalents of the sun piercing through a perpetually cloudy sky. A very old saying goes that no one saves us but ourselves. Recognizing and breaking free from the patterns impeding our forward progress can be transformative. Indeed, the third Bully album, SUGAREGG, may not ever have come to fruition had Bognanno not navigated every kind of upheaval imaginable and completely overhauled her working process along the way. The artist admits that finding the proper treatment for bipolar 2 disorder radically altered her mindset, freeing her from a cycle of paranoia and insecurity about her work. "Being able to finally navigate that opened the door for me to write about it," she says, pointing to the sweet, swirly "Like Fire" and slower, more contemplative songs such as "Prism" and "Come Down" as having been born of this new headspace. Even small changes like listening to music instead of the news first thing in the morning "made me want to write and bring that pleasure to other people." An unexpected foray into the film world also helped set the table for SUGAREGG when Bognanno was asked to write songs for the 2019 movie Her Smell, starring Elisabeth Moss as the frontwoman of the fictional rock band Something She. The experience was cathartic, infusing Bognanno with new energy for songwriting, and she dove into making the new album. Having engineered both previous Bully albums herself, Bognanno freed herself to focus on the songs by handing production and engineering duties to Grammy-winning producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Sleater-Kinney, The War on Drugs, Modest Mouse), and who worked with her on SUGAREGG at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls in Bognanno's home state of Minnesota. (Nirvana's In Utero, PJ Harvey's Rid of Me and Superchunk's Foolish were recorded at Pachyderm.) With contributions from longtime touring drummer Wesley Mitchell and bassist Zach Dawes (Sharon Van Etten and Lana Del Rey), and two additional songs recorded at Palace Studios in Toronto with Graham Walsh (Alvvays, METZ, !!!), SUGAREGG was finally complete. Ultimately, SUGAREGG is a testament that profound change can yield profound results - in this case, the most expressive and powerful music of Bognanno's career. "This is me longing to see the bigger picture, motivated and eager for contentment in the best way," she says. "I hope the happy go lucky/f***-it-all attitude shines through some of these songs because I really did feel like I was reentering a place I hadn't been to in a while and was excited to be back there."
2020 release. Washed Out is Atlanta-based producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Ernest Greene. Over three enchanting, critically-lauded albums and an EP, his music has proved both transportive and visual, each release inviting listeners into immersive, self-contained universes. With Purple Noon, his fourth album, and his return to Sub Pop, he delivers the most accessible Washed Out creation to date. For Purple Noon, Greene again wrote, recorded, and produced the entirety of the album, with mixing handled by frequent collaborator Ben H. Allen (Paracosm, Within and Without). Production of the album followed a brief stint of writing for other artists (most notably Sudan Archives) which enabled Greene to explore genres like R&B and modern pop. These brighter, more robust sounds made their way into the songs of Purple Noon and mark a new chapter for Greene as a producer and songwriter. The vocals are front and center, tempos are slower, beats bolder, and there's a more comprehensive depth of dynamics. Capism of Washed Out's oeuvre, taking the music to dazzling new heights.
After years spent looking out at landscapes and loved ones and an increasingly unstable world, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have turned their gaze inward, to their individual pasts and the places that inform them, on their second full-length, Sideways to New Italy. Led by singer-songwriter-guitarists Tom Russo, Joe White and Fran Keaney, the guitar-pop five-piece returned home to Australia after the relentless touring schedule that came following their critically regarded 2018 debut Hope Downs. Feeling the literal and metaphorical ground under their feet had shifted, the band began grasping for something reliable. For Keaney, that translated into writing "pure romantic fiction" and consciously avoiding the temptation of angsty break-up songs, while Russo looked north to a "bizarre place" that captured the feeling of manufacturing a sense of home when his own had disappeared. The New Italy of the new album’s title is a village near New South Wales’ Northern Rivers – the area drummer Marcel Tussie is from. A blink-and-you'll-miss-it pit-stop of a place with fewer than 200 residents, it was founded by Venetian immigrants in the late-1800s and now serves as something of a living monument to Italians' contribution to Australia, with replica Roman statues dotted like alien souvenirs on the otherwise rural landscape. The parallels to the way the band attempted to maintain connections and create familiarity during their disorienting time on the road was apparent to Russo. "These are the expressions of people trying to find a home somewhere alien: trying to create a utopia in a turbulent and imperfect world." The record's geographic identity emerged from the band losing their grip on their own, whether that was through the pressure of touring, the dissolution of relationships, a frustrating distance from their daily lives – or some combination of all three – that came from being slingshotted all over the world, playing sold-out headline tours and festivals including Coachella, Governors Ball, Primavera Sound, All Points East, and Pitchfork Music Festival. The notion of crafting, in Russo’s words, “a utopia of where your heart’s from,” permeates Sideways to New Italy, in which early attempts at writing big, high-concept songs about The State of the World were abandoned in favor of love songs, and familiar voices and characters filter in and out, grounding the band's stories in their personal histories. There’s something comforting, too, in knowing the next time they’re buffeted from stage to stage around the world, they’ll be taking the voices of their loved ones with them, building a new totem of home no matter where they end up.
For the entirety of her nearly three-decade-long career, globally acclaimed singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb has been exploring a variety of styles of music, moving seamlessly between creating family-friendly albums, including her 2018 Grammy-winning Feel What U Feel, and adult-focused studio albums like Tails, Firecracker, and The Way It Really Is. It is her latest release, her fifteenth record to date, A Simple Trick To Happiness, that finds Loeb putting forth her most poignant and profoundly personal album in an exceptional body of work.