Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ex Machina

Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb), Oscar Isaac (Nathan), Alicia Vikander (Ava), Sonoya Mizuno (Kyoko)

Often, it seems that modern science fiction films are so focused on non-stop action that they fail to explore the human implications of the technology that is being presented. That is far from the case in Ex Machina.

In the film, Caleb, an employee for a large internet company wins a lottery to spend a week with the company's elusive founder, Nathan, at his remote estate. When he arrives, he discovers that Nathan has built a very advanced and human-seeming android; his job for the week is to test the machine and determine whether it passes the Turing test (does the machine converse and act as a human would). Over the course of the week, Caleb begins to learn some uncomfortable truths about Nathan's relationship with his creation and the true depth of his research and development.

Mini soundtrack:

Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark - "Enola Gay"
Oliver Cheatham - "Get Down Saturday Night"
Savages - "Husbands"

Sunday, May 24, 2015

New Music Tuesday - April 21, 2015

Be sure to view a list of upcoming releases here!

New Full-Length Albums

Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color

Alabama Shakes had a huge debut with Boys & Girls. There were some great tracks on the album, but as a whole it just fell somewhat flat for me. Still, I was excited for what a follow-up might bring. Thankfully, it means more of what was best about their sound; especially Brittany Howard's vocals and guitar works. The album is a much more solid bit of work from the young band, definitely an improvement on an already good debut.

Watch: "Sound & Color"
Watch: "Don’t Wanna Fight"

Built to Spill - Untethered Moon

Three years after this band's previous record, 2009's There Is No Enemy, they recorded and were getting ready to release a follow-up. After some line-up changes (their rhythm section left) and a bit of burn-out, the album was postponed. Another three years and we now have the longest gap between albums for the band. But perhaps a bit of rest and some changes were good for them; Untethered Moon is being hailed as possibly their best since the 1990s.

Watch: "Living Zoo"
Watch: "Never Be the Same"

Passion Pit - Kindred

The time following Michael Angelakos' second album was a difficult one for the performer. He suffers from bipolar disorder, and was hospitalized several times, forcing him to cancel shows. Rather than hide his illness, he was upfront about it and was honest with fans about the cancellations. But he also focused on getting better, something he's been able to achieve with the help of his wife. The album is largely dedicated to her and the songs reflect a kind of thankfulness to her role in his life.

Watch: "Lifted Up (1985)"
Watch: "Where the Sky Hangs"

Rocky Votolato - Hospital Handshakes

Death Cab for Cutie's guitarist and keyboardist, Chris Walla, recently left the band in order to focus on his production work. Already doing production work for a number of artists, he has wasted no time in jumping back into that side of the music world. He produced this latest album from singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato, who he has produced for in the past. Hospital Handshakes is Votolato's eighth album.

Watch: "The Hereafter"
Listen: "Hospital Handshakes"

Speedy Ortiz - Foil Deer

Speedy Ortiz burst onto the scene two years ago with Major Arcana, an album which garnered them a lot of praise. I started paying attention a bit later on, following the release of some incredible EPs and one-off singles; I love "Bigger Party," their single for the Adult Swim series. They easily live up to the quality of their previous work with this third album.

Watch: "The Graduates"
Listen: "Raising the Skate"

Other New Releases

50 Bands & a Cat for Indiana Equality

The passage of the Indiana RFRA bill was extremely unpopular, both without and within the state. A number of prominent independent record labels are based in the state, including Asthmatic Kitty, Secretly Canadian, and Joyful Noise. With the help of a number of bands, as well as Lil' Bub, the Bloomington-based cat phenomenon, Joyful Noise has released this compilation to support LGBT groups in the state and work to get the law repealed. The recordings are available for purchase for a few more days.

Listen: Thee Oh Sees - "The Ceiling"

The Alchemist & Oh No Present: Welcome to Los Santos

There's been a seemingly endless parade of music being released in conjunction with the latest Grand Theft Auto game. The latest collection was curated by producers The Alchemist and Oh No. The album, whose tracks can be heard on various radio stations within the game, include contributions from Phantogram, MNDR, and Wavves.

Listen: Gangrene - "Play it Cool" (featuring Samuel T. Herring & Earl Sweatshirt)
Listen: MNDR - "Lock & Load" (featuring Killer Mike)

D’Angelo - Brown Sugar Reissue

D'Angelo recently released his third studio album, his first in 14 years, but he made the long wait well worth it. Now, he's looking back to where he started and reissuing his very first album, which was originally released in 1995. The reissue celebrates the album's 20th anniversary.

Listen: "Brown Sugar"
Listen: "Cruisin’"

Mavis Staples - Your Good Fortune EP

With the help of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples has recently been extending the musical legacy of the Staples family. She released two albums produced by Tweedy and worked with him to complete and release her father's last album. Tweedy is not directly involved on this latest EP, but his influence on her music is still evident.

Watch: "Fight"
Listen: "Your Good Fortune"

Red House Painters - Red House Painters box set

Red House Painters were a indie rock band where Mark Kozelek (aka Sun Kil Moon) got his start. The band released six albums in the 12 years that they were together. This box set collects the band's coveted and rare first four albums.

Listen: "Katy Song"
Listen: "Have You Forgotten"

Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams: Live at Carnegie Hall

And he just keeps going. The latest in the ever-growing list of releases from Ryan Adam is this live album. The album was recorded at Carnegie Hall on November 15 and 17 of last year.

Listen: "Kim"
Listen: "How Much Light"

Azealia Banks - "Wallace"

It's a shame that Azealia Banks has become so well known for her beefs and twitter battles. The focus on that aspect of her persona diverts attention away from some amazing music and really cool music videos.

Recently, she released yet another amazing video for the track "Wallace," taken from her debut album. She's jumped onto the interactive video bandwagon. Like many interactive videos, this one makes use of the viewers camera to control Banks' movements on screen. It's just a simple yet stunning shot of her shoulders and face, and the result is really cool.

The interactive video can be viewed here.

Banks' long-delayed debut album, Broke with Expensive Taste, was finally released in November of last year.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

New Music Tuesday - April 14, 2015

Be sure to view a list of upcoming releases here!

New Full-Length Releases

Avid Dancer - 1st Bath

Jacob Summers of Avid Dancer has quite the backstory. Raised in a strict religious household with just about zero access to secular music, he joined the Marines as an adult. This would seem to lead to someone who, if he were in the music industry at all, would either be a country/western singer or in a Christian band. Instead, thanks in part to being able to explore music fully in his late teens, he creates upbeat, unique, indie pop. He follows in a now-established tradition of sheltered musicians growing to create incredible music.

Watch: "All Your Words Are Gone"
Listen: "I Want to See You Dance"

Bop English - Constant Bop

Bop English is the pseudonym of James Petralli, vocalist and guitarist for White Denim. Since his main band released sixth album, Corsicana Lemonade, in 2013, he has been readying his debut solo album. While many of his fellow White Denim band members help out on the record, the result is more diverse in style, incorporating country, soul and salsa (just to name a few).

Listen: "Sentimental Wilderness"
Listen: "Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control)"

Calexico - Edge of the Sun

Calexico is an established band who combine elements of Americana and Latin rock. They've become well-regarded for their own music, as well as their collaborations and contributions to soundtracks. The collaborations continue on their eighth studio album, with Neko Case, Ben Bridwell, and Sam Beam providing guest vocals.

Watch: "Falling from the Sky" (featuring Ben Bridwell)
Listen: "Cumbia de Donde"

John Andrews & The Yawns - Bit By the Fang

John Andrews is the keyboardist for the band Woods who, while boasting several talented members, has only seen one, Kevin Morby, with a very active solo career. Andrews is out to make sure he's not the only solo Woodsist. This is his first solo album with his backing band.

Listen: "I’ll Go to Your Funeral (If You Go to Mine)"
Listen: "Judy & Judy"

Kathryn Calder - Kathryn Calder

Unlike Woods, just about all of the members of The New Pornographers have had exceptionally active solo careers. Kathryn Calder is no exception; she released four albums with her former band Immaculate Machine and is now on her third solo record. While she may not stand out as much as her bandmates, her output is just as solid as what any of them are releasing.

Watch: "Take a Little Time"
Watch: "When You See My Blood"

Pale Blue - The Past We Leave Behind

The Past We Leave Behind may be the debut album from Mike Simonetti's Pale Blue, but it's far from his first foray into music. As a co-founder of the Italian's Do It Better record label, he helped to support the music created by Johnny Jewel, the label's other founder. He recently split from that label and created 2MR, a subsidiary of Captured Tracks; a move which allows him to focus on his own music.

Listen: "The Past We Leave Behind"
Listen: "The Math"

Stranger Cat - In the Wilderness

Cat Martino built up her career working with a number of prominent independent artists; she was a major presence in the recording and touring of Sufjan Stevens' The Age of Adz and All Delighted Peoples. She has also toured with Sharon van Etten, sung on Son Lux's Lanterns, and performed live with The Shins. Her own solo material has been scant, but she recently partnered up with multi-instrumentalist Sven Britt to form Stranger Cat. This is the duo's debut album.

Listen: "Sirens"
Listen: "Unzip Your Skin"

Stornoway - Bonxie

Stornoway is an Oxford-based band (of England, not Ohio) whose music shows a great appreciation for nature. It's fitting that their third album is named for the bonxie, a small but predatory seabird, also known as the great skua. I've listened to this band since their 2010 debut, Beachcomber's Windowsill, but it seems like every announcement of new music from them seems to elude me at first. They're ignored by my preferred sources of music news, but I always find a way to find out.

Watch: "Get Low"
Watch: "The Road You Didn’t Take"

Suuns & Jerusalem in My Heart - Suuns & Jerusalem in My Heart

Suuns is a Quebec-based band who became a favorite of mine following their incredible debut album, Zeroes QC. They followed that one up with another amazing release, Images du Futur. For their third, they have teamed up with Jerusalem in My Heart, a Montreal-based multimedia project with roots in the Beirut and Lebanese music scenes. It's a combination that brings together the best of Montreal experimentation while also introducing an international element.

Watch: "Gazelles in Flight"
Listen: "Leyla"

Trickfinger - Trickfinger

Trickfinger is just the latest project from John Frusciante and the debut self-titled album is just the latest in an incredible amount of solo work he's put out since parting ways with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2009. Since he's released a number of albums, EPs, and singles under his given name, it would be easy to assume that this latest is the work of a new group; it is a solo project, but with a very different sound. He's become known for his experimental rock, but this is his foray into acid house.

Listen: "After Below"
Listen: "Rainover"

Tyler, the Creator - Cherry Bomb

It's become trendy in the past year-and-a-half for hip hop and R&B musicians to release "surprise" albums. Drake and Earl Sweatshirt (sort of) have already done so this year; Kanye West and Chance The Rapper have also announced the intention of doing so (ruins the surprise a bit, but okay). Tyler, the Creator's latest album was indeed a surprise. It was only hinted at just days before its release. It also shows a Tyler in a continual state of growth as he continues to mature as a person and an artist.

Watch: "Fucking Young"
Listen: "Smuckers" (featuring Lil Wayne & Kanye West)

White Shadows - Secret of Life

There are some incredible music scenes in Australia, something that was reinforced in 2002 with the debut release from The Vines. The Vines has been the primary project for frontman Craig Nicholls for over 20 years, but this year he is branching out into new territories with the help of another Australian musician, Nick Littlemore of Empire of the Sun. With the input of the more off-kilter Littlemore, the end result is decidedly weirder than Nicholls current work.

Watch: "Give Up Give Out Give In"
Listen: "Everyday"

Other New Releases

Good People Rock

Good People Rock is a Yellow Bird Project compilation album. For almost ten years, the project has released music from a number of partner musicians to benefit various charitable organizations. This latest release has former collaborators covering the songs of other former collaborators.

Watch: Andrew Bird - "The Fake Headlines"

Sonic Youth - Bad Moon Rising Reissue

Bad Moon Rising was Sonic Youth's sophomore album, originally released in 1985. It may not have been their most commercially successful album, but has become one of their most critically regarded. All of the band's back catalog will be getting the reissue treatment over the coming months, each with their own batch of bonus tracks.

Listen: "Brave Men Run (In My Family)"
Listen: "I’m Insane"

The Strokes - Room on Fire Reissue

This might just be the week for sophomore album reissues. Rooms on Fire was released by The Strokes in 2003, a couple of years after the success of This Is It. It wasn't as successful as their debut, but was a worthy follow-up and, some would say, their last worthwhile album (though I personally loved First Impressions on Earth). This physical reissue is pressed on album on black and gold vinyl.

Listen: "Automatic Stop"
Listen: "Reptilia"

Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes / Under the Pink Deluxe Edition

Tori Amos is also reissuing her sophomore album this week, but is doing so along with her debut. Both are being released with a number of rarities and covers recorded towards the beginning of her solo career.

Listen: "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Listen: "Honey"

Wilsen - Magnolia EP Remixes

Wilsen is Tamsin Wilsen, a London dream pop singer, along with Johnny Simon Jr. and Drew Arndt. The band released their Magnolia EP in May of last year. Now, songs from that EP are getting the remix treatment, with contributions from Sun Glitters, White Hinterland, and Wye Oak.

Listen: "Sea to Sea" (Wye Oak remix)

Zero 7 - EP3

Zero 7 have been around for about 18 years and released EPs 1 and 2 way back in the year 2000. They've released other EPs since then, including last year's Simple Science, but they're just now getting around to the official EP3. After so much time together, the duo continues to challenge themselves, but do not stray from their tried and true collaborators.

Listen: "Last Light" (featuring Jose Gonzalez)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

New Music Tuesday - April 7, 2015

Be sure to view a list of upcoming releases here!

New Full-Length Releases

8:58 - 8:58

Paul Hartnoll is probably best known as half of the electronic duo Orbital. After the band's first break-up in 2004, he embarked on a solo career, releasing The Ideal Condition in 2007. The band reformed a few years later, but broke up again just last year. Now, Hartnoll is back with a new solo project, 8:58, and it's eponymous debut album. Meant to be a continuation on his work in Orbital, the album features some of his usual collaborators like Lianne Hall and Robert Smith.

Watch: "The Clock" (featuring Cillian Murphy)
Watch: "8:58"

American Wrestlers - American Wrestlers

No, this is not a band made up of US-born fighters, but the solo music project of a Scottish man who came to the US after getting married. Once stateside, he started recording on equipment purchased at a pawn shop, and somewhere along the way, got signed by Fat Possum (there's a profit step somewhere in there). He kept his identity secret when this debut album was first announced, but was later revealed to be established musician, Gary McClure.

Watch: "Kelly"
Watch: "I Can Do No Wrong"

East India Youth - Culture of Volume

East India Youth, electronic musician William Doyle, released his debut album, Total Strife Forever, to critical acclaim early last year. He wasted no time in recording a follow-up to the record, which takes its name from a Rick Holland poem.

Watch: "Carousel"
Watch: "Turn Away"

GABI - Sympathy

GABI, Gabrielle Herbst, is an early signee to the Daniel Lopatin's (of Oneohtrix Point Never fame) Software label. She makes experimental electronic name akin to that of her label's leader, with a bit of an operatic edge. Sympathy is her debut album.

Watch: "Falling"
Watch: "Fleece"

Kuroma - Kuromarama

Hank Sullivant has been a touring guitarist for the MGMT off and on since 2007. He's also been the frontman for Kuroma since the early part of the 2010s. He's released his third album with his psychedelic primary act. The band has grown more slowly than MGMT, but have garnered some flattering comparisons to the likes of Scissor Sisters and David Bowie.

Watch: "Simon’s in the Jungle"
Watch: "20+Centuries"

Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire

Lightning Bolt is a drums and guitar noise rock duo from Rhode Island. Founded in 1994, they served as a prototype for later duos like No Age and Japandroids; simple, but loud and fast. They've been a very active band, releasing seven albums and many singles since their debut in 1999. The two members have also made time for solo work; the most recent being drummer Brian Chippendale's collaborative album with Deerhoof's Greg Saunier.

Watch: "The Metal East"
Listen: "Over the River and Through the Woods"

Matt & Kim - New Glow

It seems like these two will forever be smiling. Matt & Kim are on their fifth album of high-energy, exurberant indie pop. Even after nine years, they're still one of the most fun bands to listen to or to watch (either live or in their videos). Theirs isn't usually the best music around, but makes for a great alternative to the usually somber tone of many of their contemporaries.

Watch: "Get It"
Watch: "Hey Now"

The Mountain Goats - Beat the Champ

If there was ever any doubt as to the writing abilities of The Mountain Goats' frontman John Darnielle, he laid them to rest with his debut novel, Wolf in White Van. He continues to make his talent clear with his band's latest record, a concept album about professional wrestling. I'm not usually a fan of concept albums, especially if they revolve around such a specific subject, but Darnielle is able to write and sing about it in a way that makes it just a little more relatable.

Listen: "Heel Turn 2"
Listen: "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero"

Say Lou Lou - Lucid Dreaming

This Swedish-Australian twin sister duo, Elektra and Miranda Kilbey, have had a long run up to their debut album. They started performing in 2012, releasing several singles over the last couple of years. Some of those singles would go on to be included on this record, the first being 2013's "Julian."

Watch: "Games for Girls"
Watch: "Nothing But a Heartbeat"

Shlohmo - Dark Red

Shlohmo is the stage name of Los Angeles producer and musician Henry Laufer. He has been a collaborator to artists like BANKS and How to Dress Well, but has also been releasing music under his own name since 2011. His sophomore album sees him exploring dark concepts, inspired partially by metal music, contrasting to his funky and melodic debut album.

Watch: "Beams"
Watch: "Buried"

This Is the Kit - Bashed Out

This Matt Barrick- (The Walkmen) and Dessner brothers- (The National) approved musician goes by the name of Kate Stables when she's not performing. On her latest album, she's enlisted an impressive list collaborators, which includes the names above, as well as members of Morning Star and Beirut. With the help and attention of some of indie rocks biggest names, her third album may just be where she breaks out.

Watch: "Bashed Out"
Listen: "Misunderstanding"

Toro Y Moi - What For?

While it's only been two years since Toro Y Moi, real name Chaz Bundick, released his last studio album, Anything in Return, it feels like it's been a longer break from this main project. The years in between saw him releasing music under side projects Les Sins and Sides of Chaz, as well as guesting on Chromeo's "Come Alive." He's quickly returned to his bread and butter, with the fourth album from the project.

Watch: "Empty Nesters"
Watch: "Lilly"

The Very Best - Makes a King

If you're going to have such a lofty name, you really need to deliver. Fortunately, that's exactly what this Euro-African group does. The varied backgrounds of the band's members shows itself in their music, with elements of Western pop, hip-hop, and traditional Malawian music. For their fifth album, they make things even more diverse with American (Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio), Senegalese (Baaba Maal) and British (Seye) musicians.

Watch: "Hear Me"
Watch: "Let Go"

Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp

Katie Crutchfield takes the name for her band from a creek near her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. With a name taken from nature, it would be easy to expect her to make traditional bluegrass or folk, but instead her sound is a sort of pop punk reminiscent of the nineties. Her sophomore album, Cerulean Salt, earned her many accolades, including being named as one of the best albums of the decade (so far) by Pitchfork. She may just match that praise on her follow-up.

Watch: "Under a Rock"
Listen: "Air"

Young Fathers - White Men Are Black Men Too

Young Fathers is yet another band seeking to duplicate former praise on a new record. The Scottish hip hop trio released their debut album, Dead, last year and saw it become one of the best reviewed albums of the year, and win a coveted Mercury Prize. On their sophomore effort, also seeing high praise, they continue to challenge the traditions of hip hop by incorporating distinctively European styles (krautrock, avant garde) into their music.

Watch: "Shame"
Listen: "Rain or Shine"

Other New Releases

Frank Black & The Catholics - Frank Black & The Catholics: The Complete Recordings

When people think of Frank Black (aka Black Francis), his classic alternative rock band Pixies usually comes to mind first. But he has also has performed with The Catholics, a solo project which formed in 1997, and with which he would record seven albums. More than a decade after ending the project, the albums are being collected into this box set.

Listen: "Dog in the Sand"
Listen: "All My Ghosts"

Jamie T - Magnolia Melancholia EP

After a long wait, Jamie T released his third studio album, Carry on the Grudge, last year. He's quickly followed that up with this EP. While it's anchored by a track, "Don't You Find," which is already on the record, it also includes five new songs from the young man.

Watch: "Don’t You Find"
Listen: "Marilyn Monroe"

Linda Ronstadt - Sausalito 73

On November 18, 1973, singer-songwriter Linda Ronstadt gave a live radio performance in Sausalito, California. It was still early in her career, so the collection provides an excellent view of where she started.

Listen: "Rock Me on the Water"

Lindstrøm - "Home Tonight"

It's been three years since the release of Hans-Peter Lindstrøm's fifth album, Smalhans. In the meantime, he's been less active as a performer and has focused on providing production work for other musicians (including a track from Say Lou Lou's debut). He's back to his own work, though, with a new single featuring Grace Hall.

Listen: "Home Tonight" (featuring Grace Hall)

St. Vincent - "Teenage Talk"

St. Vincent released an incredible album last year, and we already got some more new tracks from her with its re-release earlier this year. Now, we're getting one more from her. The song was initially intended to be included on her self-titled album, but didn't make the cut. The song was used in an episode of Girls, and is now being released on its own.

Listen: "Teenage Talk"

Tom Waits - A Small Affair in Ohio

Also releasing an old radio broadcast this week is Tom Waits, who performed live at the Angora Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio in 1977. The performance was broadcast live over the radio and showcased much of his earlier work.