Friday, June 03, 2016

Coachella and Stagecoach veterans display brilliance on new albums

My recent treks to the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals reminded me yet again about the never-ending joy of musical discovery. In this column I feature the latest albums from several artists I caught in Indio this year, as well as masterworks from Coachella 2012 headliner Radiohead and Stagecoach 2012 standout the Jayhawks.

Artist: Radiohead
Title: A Moon Shaped Pool (TBA)
You might like if you enjoy: Radiohead, Atoms for Peace
Tell me more: Any doubts about whether Radiohead remains rock's greatest contemporary artist were solidified with the release of the band's ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool on May 8, 2016. Listening to the 11-track release is to be immersed in a world blending acoustic, symphonic and electronic soundscapes adorned with intoxicating rhythms, sound effects and singer Thom Yorke's ethereal vocals. "Burn the Witch" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief" in particular benefit from the use of orchestra, while the more intimate "Daydreaming" evokes just as much power with a quiet intro anchored around Yorke's high-reaching vocals and a piano artfully layered with other sounds; after four minutes or so the song's dynamics explode into an orchestral eruption that is both beautiful and, ultimately, unsettling via some guttural noises. A fearless and masterful return. Although A Moon Shaped Pool was only released digitally on May 8, the album will be released on audio CD and vinyl on June 17. Information:

Artist: The Jayhawks
Title: Paging Mr. Proust (Sham)
You might like if you enjoy: Dawes, Neil Young, R.E.M.
Tell me more: Just as Radiohead was formed in 1985 and has served as a groundbreaking force in the alt rock universe since the early '90s, the Minneapolis-spawned Jayhawks also formed in 1985 and have proved to be an enduring and essential artist on the Americana and alternative country music scene. On the group's recently-issued ninth album Paging Mr. Proust, long-time band mates Gary Louris (lead vocals, guitar), Karen Grotberg (keyboards, vocals), Marc Perlman (bass), Tim O'Reagan (vocals, drums, percussion) and newcomer Kraig Johnson (electric guitar) deliver shimmering power-pop ("I'll Be Your Key," "Leaving the Monsters Behind"), baroque pop ("Pretty Roses in Your Hair," "Isabel's Daughter") and alt country ("The Devil Is In Her Eye"). Produced by Peter Buck (of R.E.M. fame), Tucker Martine and Louris, Paging Mr. Proust moves the Jayhawks forward while showcasing the impeccable song craft, amazing vocal harmonies and instrumental chops that have made the band an American treasure for three decades. Information:

Purchase 'Paging Mr. Proust' here

Artist: Pete Yorn
Title: ArrangingTime (Capitol)
You might like if you enjoy: Beck, Ron Sexsmith
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn turned in one of the strongest sets at Weekend #2 of Coachella, so it isn't all surprising that his latest studio disc ArrangingTime is such a joy. There is a hypnotic quality to the sound of the album overall, even while all the songs stand on their own and enjoy specific arcs. While the songs are accessible, there is an artistry that means the rich nuances of the songs reveal themselves more with each listen. My favorites include folk rocker "Halifax," the lush "She Was Weird" and irresistible "Tomorrow." Information:

Purchase 'ArrangingTime' here

Artist: The Heavy
Title: Hurt & The Merciless (Bad Son Recording Company)
You might like if you enjoy: Vintage Trouble
Tell me more: Thriving on heavy funky grooves and garage band rock 'n' roll, the Heavy's Hurt & The Merciless provides one catchy track after another. In-the-pocket rhythms, blasting horns, spirited vocals from Kelvin Swaby and rollicking arrangements fuel a dynamic album that is a blast from start to finish.  While uptempo burners are the rule (just listen to the pumping "Since You Been Gone" and rocking "What Happened to the Love?"), the Heavy's lovely Latin-flavored ballad "Nobody's Hero" and the retro "Miss California" are welcome detours. Information:

Buy 'Hurt & The Merciless' right here

Robert Kinsler

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