By Mandi Kimes
ANGEL OLSEN - "INTERN"
Angel Olsen returns with MY WOMAN, her new album in which she continues to reign over the land between pop personality and elliptical outsider with haunting obliqueness and sophisticated grace. Teased last week with the “Intern” Trailer, MY WOMAN, follows the release of Burn Your Fire for No Witness, one of the most praised albums of 2014, and is out September 2nd on Jagjaguwar. On previous releases, Olsen has presented reverb-shrouded poetic swoons, shadowy folk, grunge-pop band workouts and haunting, finger-picked epics. MY WOMAN is an exhilarating complement to her past work, and one for which Olsen recalibrated her writing/recording approach and methods to enter a new music-making phase. The album is put together as a proper A-side and a B-side, featuring the punchier, more pop/rock-oriented songs up front, and the longer, more reflective tracks towards the end. And because these new songs demanded a plurality of voices, Olsen sings in a much broader range of styles -- her disarming, timeless voice is even more front-and-center than before. Olsen wrote some songs on a piano, but later switched it out for synth and/or Mellotron, as on “Intern”. She worked with producer Justin Raisen (Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira, Santigold) and also opted to record live to tape at LA’s historic Vox Studios, bringing in guest guitarist Seth Kauffman to augment her regular band of bass player Emily Elhaj, drummer Joshua Jaeger and guitarist Stewart Bronaugh.
ALEX CAMERON - "TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS"
Sydney’s Alex Cameron will release his debut album, Jumping The Shark, on August 19th via Secretly Canadian. Cameron weaves intelligent, poignant lyricism with primitive 80s synths and seemingly minimalist arrangements recalling David Bowie and Ariel Pink, all under a Lynchian lense. His debut is a collection of four-minute tales written to provide you with insight into the inner workings of Cameron (who is always joined by his business partner and saxophonist Roy Molloy). No pretension, no filler, just brilliantly raw and confident. The very best way to get a feel for Cameron is to read his own words, watch his videos, and, most importantly, catch his one-of-a-kind live show. After returning from a European tours supporting Mac DeMarco, Kevin Morby and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Cameron will tour this fall supporting Angel Olsen. Check out “Business” from his upcoming album.
GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV - "MASTER & A HOUND"
The beauty of Gregory Alan Isakov’s latest album is realizing how much it surprises and rewards the listener. It burns slowly, not unlike a campfire that blazes one moment and then crackles the next. A song might begin with the barest of bones, with Isakov’s resonant voice closely synched to his acoustic guitar. But then the orchestral layers begin to pile up, transporting the songs to cinematic heights. Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony marks a milestone for the singer-songwriter, who’s beloved for the spectral intimacy of his recordings and live shows. Set for release on June 10th on Isakov’s own Suitcase Town Music label, the album finds Isakov cracking his catalog wide open to see what else he—and we—can learn about them. With orchestral arrangements by Tom Hagerman (DeVotchKa) and Jay Clifford (Jump Little Children) and with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra’s Scott O’Neil conducting nearly 70 classical musicians, these are older songs cast in new and revelatory hues.
CHOOK RACE - "SOMETIMES"
Melbourne, Australia’s Chook Race formed in 2010 as a scrappy, garage-surf band, but soon developed a greater pop sensibility, born of their love of Flying Nun bands and other bedroom favorites. After a string of tapes and 7-inches, Chook Race self-released their debut LP About Time in 2015. They now return with new album Around The House, set for a September 2nd release on Chicago's Trouble in Mind Records. Around The House is comprised of ten oddly withdrawn, yet highly personal tunes, performed by the band with a desperate urgency. Songs like the immediate and catchy “Sometimes” clang and clatter like chrome-plated pop earworms, insinuating themselves into your subconscious. Captured in a single day by Tom Hardisty (NUN, Woollen Kits) and mastered by Mikey Young (Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring), Around The House has a compelling sound defined by jangly guitars, boy-girl harmonies and lyrical observations of the everyday.
ADAM TORRES - "HIGH LONESOME"
Austin-based Adam Torres will release his second album Pearls To Swine on September 9th via Fat Possum. Lead track "High Lonesome" is a shimmering moonlit meditation. Pearls To Swine was recorded over eight days in January at Austin's Cacophony Recorders with co-producer and mixer Erik Wofford (Bill Callahan, Black Angels, M. Ward, Okkervil River). Laid directly to tape, there's a natural, warm, and almost magical realism atmosphere to the songs - like a high-stakes live show captured in a fantastical setting, each its own uniquely crafted cinematic soundscape. The core rhythm was captured live and augmented by a few overdubs, and Torres is joined on the album by the players in his band: Thor Harris (Swans), Aisha Burns, Dailey Toliver, Matthew Shepherd, and Rodolfo Villareal III. There's a persisting theme that threads through Torres' own story as well as Pearls To Swine. Within the cosmos of the album, characters experience a sort of misadventure and persevere, casting light on the way life can lead you down a path that's far from where you wanted to be. The album maps Torres' complicated history as a songwriter and musician: it's the sound of someone who discovered the value in his own devotion to music, and how writing and songs are extensions of his own journey. He embeds his own folklore within his high-lonesome sounding, deeply felt and moving brand of folk music.
FASCINATIONS GRAND CHORUS - "I DON'T WANNA FALL IN LOVE"
Fascinations Grand Chorus, formed by rival songwriters Andrew Pierce and Stephanie Cupo, have shared their track "I Don't Wanna Fall In Love." The duo describes the track as an "anti-love love song" and comes from their upcoming EP out soon on Silent Stereo Records. Despite their many differences, Cupo and Pierce are brought together by their love of The Misfits, 1910 Fruitgum Company and certain antiquated arcade games. They joined together in part for the competition of writing against each other and to navigate through the waters of the current, lackluster music scene. Each release is a competition, often going further than a friendly challenge, but all for the greater good of pushing various boundaries of songwriting, producing and arranging.
THE HEAD & THE HEART - "ALL WE EVER KNEW"
In 2014, exhausted after four years of non-stop touring, the six members of The Head And The Heart pointed their individual compasses to new cities, new relationships and new adventures. When they regrouped last summer to start writing together again, "it almost felt like we were a new band, trying things we hadn't tried," Zasche recalls. "We stayed at a bungalow on the beach. We'd wake up, have coffee and go boogie boarding. We were ready and excited to be back together." That renewed sense of purpose can be felt throughout Signs Of Light, the group's first release for Warner Bros. Records. Recorded in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage The Elephant), Signs Of Light, crackles with the upbeat, sing-a-long energy of the Head And The Heart's finest work. Lead single "All We Ever Knew," which was written during the "Let's Be Still" era but never captured to the band's satisfaction until now, is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Throughout, the colors are brighter, the electric guitars are louder and the musical touchstones more universal.
ODDITY - "SETTLE DOWN"
“Wind me up, push me around // Just don’t tell me to settle down.” That’s the sound of singer Oscar Baker’s voice as it pulsates through the title track of Chicago-based alt-rock trio ODDITY’s debut album, Settle Down. Guided by the prolific producer Steve Albini, who steers the band’s sound in line with his own masterful résumé, he pieces together the band’s understanding of their own history, while giving them space to envisage on their own where that history might lead them. With squalling guitar riffs that recall the clang and electricity of Queens of the Stone Age and a collection of jammy nods to 70s classics by bands like Led Zeppelin, ODDITY brings a full armory of noise which pours from the fingers and voices of all three members, creating a mesmeric rock cacophony. ODDITY initially formed around January of 2012 under the name Fletcher and released two EP’s, Open Arms and Thundersteps, which helped to establish their serrated rock credibility with audiences and critics across the U.S. In the opening months of 2016, the trio decided to go in a different direction artistically, and this change in approach eventually prompted the name change. “We changed our name because we are reinventing our sound, so we’d thought we should reinvent ourselves,” frontman Oscar Baker elaborated.
MORGXN - "LOVE YOU WITH THE LIGHTS ON"
Born and raised in Nashville but but living between Los Angeles and New York, wxnderlost recordings artist morgxn was bitten by the singing bug at an early age. His grandfather, a Vaudeville singer in the same circuit as Eddie Cantor, was instrumental in instilling a deep love of music, singing, and songwriting. "Love You With The Lights On" is morgxn's euphoric debut single brimming with smoky sensuality. The late night confession single showcases morgxn's vocal range as he effortlessly slides into the cinematic chorus singing "I wanna love you with the lights on // I wanna love you after dark." Think of his voice as part Troye Sivan, part Jack Garratt, full of yearning and latent with lyrical passion. The song sounds like an ode to the beautiful stranger you locked eyes with from across the room, but for morgxn, the lyrics are even more personal.
FIELD MOUSE - "THE MIRROR"
If 2014's Hold Still Life was the fruition of Field Mouse's evolution from a fiery two-piece into a fully-fledged band, then new album Episodic, out August 5th on Topshelf Records, is the letting go; the abandonment of past persuasions for something altogether more untamed. Where the band's initial work was self-recorded by founding members Rachel Browne and Andrew Futral, the new record signifies the first time that the quintet has composed an album together from start-to-finish - and the result is a record that feels altogether more defined. Recorded in Philadelphia with Hop Along's Joe Reinhart, and written through a twelve-month period which delivered sudden family illness and a deteriorating relationship, Episodic is fashioned from ten feverish bouts of guitar-pop; led by Browne's fearsome and fearless vocal and informed by an instrumental backing that underpins the entire record with a vibrant concoction of guitar, drums and keys. Featuring guest turns from Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz), Allison Crutchfield (Swearin', Waxahatchee) and Joseph D'Agostino (Cymbals Eat Guitars), Episodic is the sound of a fully-realized band truly coming in to their own; honest, direct and immensely powerful.