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Leon Russell
Life Journey - UME
FILTER Grade: 83%

By A.D. Amorosi on April 24, 2014

 

Leon Russell

Leon Russell is one of rock’s legends. Whether solo (slow, moody hits like “This Masquerade”) or paired with the likes of Joe Cocker and Elton John (Life Journey’s executive producer), Russell brings a touch of the old South to all he surveys. Same here. Though Russell uses his craggy, soulful caterwaul and playful piano stylings on classics like “Georgia on My Mind,” Russell-penned originals such as the jump-boogieing "Big Lips" and the swinging "Down in Dixieland" are this winning deck's aces.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Days of Abandon - YEBO
FILTER Grade: 74%

By Kyle Lemmon on April 24, 2014

 

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

“I think my mom will like this one more, and that’s how I usually evaluate songwriting,” The Pains of Being Pure at Heart songwriter Kip Berman recently told MTV about Days of Abandon. Berman’s quote is accurate. Despite some inspired guest contributions from A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s Jen Goma and Beirut’s Kelly Pratt, the raw guitar anthems from Belong are too often replaced by poppy fizz, toothless jangle and twee melancholia on Abandon. Please enjoy, moms. 

Conor Oberst
Upside Down Mountain - NONESUCH
FILTER Grade: 84%

By Kurt Orzeck on April 24, 2014

 

Conor Oberst

“Sometimes I get mistaken for this actor/I guess that I can see it from the side/Maybe no one really seems to be the person that they mean to be/I hope that I am forgotten when I die.” With lyrics like those, Oberst won’t be. The ever-loquacious monster of folk has a lot to say on his latest record (this one finds him particularly obsessed with time), but it’s his growing mastery of orchestration that muzos might appreciate the most. A tip of the cap to Jonathan Wilson, who curated the sound in Nashville—and a round of applause for Oberst. 

The Skull Defekts
Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown - THRILL JOCKEY
FILTER Grade: 81%

By Ken Scrudato on April 23, 2014

 

The Skull Defekts

For those who value their un-defective craniums, be warned that Swedish psych-metallers The Skull Defekts seem singularly intent on pounding said craniums into oblivion. The music on this explosive new album is as tightly coiled as early Sabbath, but their terrifyingly detuned guitars, brickbat rhythmic chaos and contributions from Lungfish’s Daniel Higgs imbue the proceedings with an overwhelming air of apocalyptic doom. Imagine Killing Joke without all that righteous fist-shaking, and you’re almost there. Keep out of reach of children. Really, just do. 

Kelis
Food - Ninja Tune
FILTER Grade: 80%

By Kathy Iandoli on April 23, 2014

 

Kelis

 

Kelis swaps the EDM rhythms from 2010’s Flesh Tone for a more soulful vibe on Food. It’s a veritable smorgasbord: The funky “Jerk Ribs” and “Cobbler” are paired with the intensely potent “Biscuits ‘n’ Gravy” and rock-infused “Fish Fry.” All culinary references aside, her sixth studio album houses a plethora of sounds that clearly displays the artist’s vocal range. Whether making us dance or encouraging us to think, Kelis is always out to fatten us up with her musical menu.

Owls
Two - POLYVINYL
FILTER Grade: 82%

By Jon Falcone on April 17, 2014

 

Owls

An Owls record really wasn’t expected, some 13 years after the Chicago legends’ debut. Born from the recent spat of reunion shows, in many ways an Owls album is a far sweeter end product than a Cap’n Jazz release, which would drown in expectation. Two rages in discord and arrhythmia; “Ancient Stars Seed” powers through rhythms whilst Tim Kinsella’s vocals fall apart with fidgety boredom. Two is more than a reminder—it’s a fresh thrash of emotion from a supremely talented, if dysfunctional, band.

Chet Faker
Built on Glass - DOWNTOWN/FUTURE CLASSIC
FILTER Grade: 81%

By Bailey Pennick on April 17, 2014

 

Chet Faker

Within the 12 tracks that make up his full-length debut, Chet Faker is the crooner (“Release Your Problems”), the DJ (“Cigarettes & Loneliness”), the innovator (“No Advice [Airport Version]”) and the best boyfriend you could possibly have (“Talk Is Cheap”). While the different factors might seem like Built on Glass is a broken pile of jagged shards, the album’s enthralling fusion of electronica and soul proves that Faker’s glass foundation is a prism showing his colorful range. 

Jessica Lea Mayfield
Make My Head Sing... - ATO
FILTER Grade: 81%

By Kyle Lemmon on April 17, 2014

 

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield’s third studio album follows 2011’s Tell Me, which—like several of her earlier efforts—was produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. Instead of building off the country-rock grandeur of previous outings, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter goes Auerbach-less and takes a fearless detour into electronic pop and ’90s alternative rock. While the lovelorn energy of Mayfield’s country ballads are often obfuscated by guitar fuzz, the new crunch fits her nicely.

Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks
Enter the Slasher House - DOMINO
FILTER Grade: 77%

By Breanna Murphy on April 16, 2014

 

Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks

An eerie ode to the supernatural sides of Carpenter and Craven, Animal Collective’s Avey Tare proudly presents his Slasher Flicks, joined by fellow East–West Coast transplants Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors) and Jeremy Hyman (Ponytail, Dan Deacon). A ghostly specter of their new LA neighbor (in name and, sometimes, style and sound) Ariel Pink, fans of Animal Collective may enter the Slasher House and revel in Tare’s fun-sized treats, but others might be too disappointed by the tricks, remaining contented with the Haunted Graffiti next door.

The Afghan Whigs
Do To the Beast - SUB POP
FILTER Grade: 81%

By Adam Pollock on April 16, 2014

 

The Afghan Whigs

Rock-and-roll timelines have turned in on themselves so completely since Little Richard kicked things off in the mid ’50s that it’s sometimes hard to remember what came first: Keith or the riff. That The Afghan Whigs are releasing a new album almost three decades since first forming seems unfathomable, yet here they are, and back on Sub Pop to boot. Longtime fans will relish the return as Greg Dulli’s voice—full of longing, sex and anger—has never sounded better; new listeners will marvel at the drama that was so prevalent in bands from the ’90s, and that can be so lacking now. 

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