On The Turntable

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    Sandro Perri

    Sandro Perri :: Impossible Spaces

    Sandro Perri entered the new decade on an elevated plane of sound and vision. Impossible Spaces marked a massive departure from the languid, lo-fi, dusty folk of his previous records, lightspeed jumping into astral jazz-pop. With songs exceeding the ten-minute mark and often changing keys, tempos, and melodies without warning, Perri hasn’t stopped experimenting with and deconstructing his songwriting craft since.

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    Bill Callahan

    Bill Callahan :: Apocalypse

    At its root, the word apocalypse doesn’t signify a climactic ending so much as an uncovering or revealing. For Bill Callahan, those revelations play out in both wide open spaces and quiet moments. He paints monuments to both on Apocalypse, and in the details, he tugs at the concerts of our age. His loping “Drover”—the strong, silent type—winks at the deep shadows of this “wild wild country” as he passes through, and songs like “America” and “Riding for the Feeling” slyly forecast the nightmarish malaise that is always so close at hand in 2019. “Everyone’s allowed a past/They don’t care to mention,” he sings. Are they?

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    Radiohead :: A Moon Shaped Pool

    However reasonable or unreasonable it was (hint: it was very unreasonable), it seemed that expectations were a little more tempered for the future of Radiohead after The King of Limbs failed to change the world the way that In Rainbows did. But when A Moon Shaped Pool arrived, on Mother’s Day in 2016, it was immediately back to business as usual: Radiohead will save the Earth. Both a showcase of the band at its most restrained (“Daydreaming”) and in full Super Saiyan mode (“Ful Stop”), it’s one of the most stunning collections the band has ever put to tape, capturing everything about them that’s special while also pushing them somewhere new as well. No alarms and no surprises.

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    ANOHNI :: Hopelessness

    Poetry of the Anthropcean. How does one begin to reckon with the profound violence of drone warfare, environmental collapse, and worldwide torture? Perhaps like this, with music so heightened and overwhelmingly beautiful that it forces all attention toward it, rendering the listener unable to turn away. ANOHNI has always sung about the immensity of human experience, here she builds monumental epics to the idea of life itself being snuffed out. Over the blissful electronic swelling of the album’s final song, “Marrow,” she sings, she envisions humanity itself as a cancer afflicting the Earth. “We are, we are, all Americans now,” she intones, a quiet and terrifying admission of guilt and unfettered consumption.

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    Charlotte Gainsbourg

    Charlotte Gainsbourg :: Rest

    Sung mostly in her native French, and penning the majority of the album’s lyrics, Rest finds Charlotte Gainsbourg in top form throughout. While the album’s lyrical context and content are shadowed by the tragic 2013 death of her sister, they are coupled with the lush production of French producer/dj SebastiAn. Her fourth album in twenty years, Rest marks the multi-disciplinary artist’s best work to date.

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    Jim O’Rourke

    Jim O’Rourke :: Simple Songs

    The life and work of Jim O’Rourke has proven to be difficult to wrap your head around—and that’s likely by design, given that he’s rejected almost every traditional approach to having a career in music. (He’s gotta be the only post-’80s member of Sonic Youth who could likely stroll through a record store undetected.) Rourke has spent the last decade releasing a staggering number of dense experimental releases, but the appeal of Simple Songs is, well, simple. All candy-sweet melodies and impeccably engineered guitar squalls, it’s a breeze to listen to. But then he sings, “I’m hard figure out,” on “Friends With Benefits,” and we’re back where we started.

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    Ought :: Sun Coming Down

    Ought split ways last year, but not before leaving behind a small treasure trove of sound, namely its raw, kinetic and utterly consuming sophomore record, Sun Coming Down. With vox like the second coming of Mark E. Smith, the band brought a fierce urgency to the configuration of guitar/bass/drums. And they did so with style. An unmoored, yet controlled, display of the zeitgeist’s underlying atmosphere—one of ennui, frustration, and uncertainty—Sun Coming Down eschews logos for pathos. As vocalist Tim Darcy exclaims on the title track, “just like that it changes!,” and as stream of consciousness missives go, album highlight “Big Beautiful Blue Sky,” may encapsulate the latter half of the decade’s waning mood more than any other: “’I’m no longer afraid to dance tonight /Cause that is all that I have left.” Yes.

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    Julien Gasc

    Julien Gasc :: Kiss Me You Fool!

    Largely known outside of Europe through his involvement with Stereolab and Aquaserge, Toulouse troubadour Julien Gasc released a savvy pair of solo records mid-decade via the Paris based Born Bad Records. The second of these, Kiss Me You Fool!, expands on the venn diagram of influences outlined on his debut, ably juxtaposing orchestral pop, folk and subtle flourishes of psychedelia. It’s a rakish affair elegantly flanked by guests Laëtitia Sadier, John Linger and Cathy Lucas. Nous sommes excités pour plus!

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Sam Wilkes :: Live on the Green

Though he’s fully capable of unrolling long, bejeweled runs on his instrument, Wilkes uses Live on the Green to showcase his skills as an arranger and producer. He tends to use his bass the way Lonnie Liston Smith used his piano in Pharoah Sanders’ group, announcing the changes and providing a safe space from which his fellow players can launch, while also perfuming the atmosphere

Bob Dylan (featuring Johnny Cash) :: Travelin’ Thru, 1967 – 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15

Compared to some recent Dylan archive releases, the 15th volume of The Bootleg Series looks a little slim – just three discs! But if you think of Travelin’ Thru as a prequel to 2013’s Another Self Portrait, it brings us to a total of six discs dealing with Bob’s late 1960s/early 1970s period. Set entirely in Nashville, Vol. 15 isn’t quite as revelatory as Another Self Portrait – but it’s plenty revelatory.

Miles Davis :: In A Silent Way

In a year loaded with albums turning fifty, few have retained the genre-defying staying power and influence of In A Silent Way. Recorded during a single three-hour session in July 1969 with producer Teo Macero, the album marked a decisive and definitive turn for both Miles Davis and the future of jazz. Meditative, moody and minimal in approach, this was the calm before the storm as the following year would witness yet another reinvention of Davis with the release of Bitches Brew.

Moon Duo :: Stars Are The Light

Over the course of the past decade, San Francisco’s Moon Duo has drifted among the clouds, emitting bursts of spacey shoegaze and mellow psych. The duo’s latest, Stars Are the Light finds them headed toward an icy disco party somewhere further out than previously traveled. Parkas required.

Simon Joyner :: Pocket Moon

Working in tandem with producer/guitarist Michael Krassner, Pocket Moon features ace contributions from drummer Ryan Jewell, multi-instrumentalist Joshua Hill and guitarist Max Knouse, among others. Together, the ensemble creates an easygoing but rich tapestry, subtly and sensitively boosting the roughhewn melodies and ruminations. The overall result is one 2019’s best LPs – and a career highlight for Joyner.

Transmissions Podcast :: Whitney/Don Slepian/Nick Cave’s Ghosteen: A Discussion

Boys and girls, All Hallows’ Eve is here, and you’re tuned into the October edition of the Transmissions podcast. The veil is thin and we’re back with another round of discussions and digressions. In this episode, Chicago’s Whitney discusses Forever Turned Around, the group’s sophomore lp. Then, New Age pioneer Don Slepian takes us back to the early ’80s. And to close out, a long ramble about Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ haunted instant classic, Ghosteen.

Aquarium Drunkard :: Decade / 2010-19

Well, that was fast. Decade is just about over, and as it draws to a close, its highs look awfully high in the rearview. Presented here, an unranked sprawl of 100 records that stuck with us, managing to break through the noise of an increasingly distracting age, and stick around in our heads.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse :: Colorado

So we didn’t exactly get Year of the Horse, part II in 2019. But we did get another Neil Young and Crazy Horse album, Colorado, released a little over 50 years after Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere introduced the world to this extraordinary pairing. Amazingly, three out of the four musicians who made that epochal 1969 LP are still onboard – and together they still sound like no one else….