New Releases - 5/5/17

Afghan Whigs – In Spades CD/LP+MP3 (Sub Pop)
From its evocative cover art to the troubled spirits haunting its halls, In Spades casts a spell that challenges the listener to unpack its dark metaphors and spectral imagery. On the one hand, it is as quintessentially Afghan Whigs as anything the group has ever done – fulfilling its original mandate to explore the missing link between howling Midwestern punk like Die Kreuzen and Hüsker Dü, The Temptations’ psychedelic soul symphonies, and the expansive hard-rock tapestries of Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. At the same time, this new record continues to push beyond anything in the Whigs’ previous repertoire – another trademark, along with the explosive group dynamic captured on the recording. “This is the first time since Black Love [the Whigs’ 1996 noir masterpiece] that we’ve done a full-blown band album,” Greg Dulli says. The joys, sorrows, and upheavals of innocence and experience echo throughout In Spades: it powerfully documents where The Afghan Whigs have been, and where they might go next.

At The Drive-In – in·ter a·li·a CD (Rise)
“Ever had that feeling when introducing a friend to a band you love – the envy that they get to discover them for the first time, to hear it with fresh ears? Well, At The Drive In are making a comeback almost two decades after Relationship Of Command with in•ter a•li•a. It feels like in•ter a•li•a quite literally picks up where At The Drive In left off, with familiar chord attacks from Omar Rodriguez Lopez and the yelping emotion of Cedric Bixler. ‘No Wolf Like The Present’ and leading single ‘Governed By Contagions’ could have come directly from the band’s 2000 release, with the exception of the slightly more solid production. It’s still got the post-‘90s prog obsession, but it’s been cleaned up a bit. in•ter a•li•a does avoid being overly nostalgic with tracks like ‘Pendulum In A Peasant Dress’ and ‘Incurably Innocent’ which seem in turn to swing At The Drive In’s new release from one side to the other of their sonic spectrum. ‘Pendulum…’ takes the stuttering skat-like vocal performance of Bixler to an extreme, while ‘…Innocent’ seems closer to ‘I Brought You My Bullets…’ era My Chemical Romance – and no that’s not a bad thing, get over it” – Skateism. [Limited color vinyl pressing also available.]

Bad Brains – Build A Nation [Reissue/2007] LP (Megaforce)
2007's Build A Nation served as Bad Brains' first proper studio album in over a decade and featured all of the original members: HR, Darryl Jenifer, Dr. Know and Earl Hudson. Produced by long-time fan, Adam Yauch aka MCA of the Beastie Boys, Build A Nation was a rock-solid return to form for the band who helped define American punk and hardcore music.

Blondie – Pollinator CD/LP+MP3 (BMG)
Pollinator is Blondie’s 11th album. Alongside original band members Chris Stein, Debbie Harry and drummer Clem Burke, the album also features contributions from Johnny Marr, Sia, Dev Hynes, Charli XCX, Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio), Nick Valensi (The Strokes) and The Gregory Brothers. “Pollinator starts strong with four hook-driven tracks, each a unique pop offering accented by song-launching drumrolls, funk-inspired riffs, and plenty of synth for ears to swim in. Joan Jett duets with Debbie Harry on album opener ‘Doom Or Destiny,’ a fitting match that pairs the rough edge in Jett’s voice to Harry’s sweeter croon. She’s not the only guest, not by a long shot, and it’s the corollary talent that winds up making Pollinator such a success” – Consequence Of Sound. [Limited edition color vinyl pressing also available.]

Bonny ‘Prince’ Billy – Best Troubador LP (Drag City)
With Best Troubador, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy pays homage to a long-time and forever hero, the late Merle Haggard. A singer who, some 25 years previously, first performed in public by playing a Merle Haggard song, Bonny has often cited Merle's work in performance, on records and in conversation with anyone who was around, even talking to Merle himself for Filter magazine in 2009. The songs sung on Best Troubador are pulled from all over -- from Haggard's third album in 1967 through to his 47th in 2011 -- but this is no simple hits compilation. Capable only of occupying a shared space between himself and Merle Haggard, Bonny chose personal favorites, singing the songs he wanted to sing, to find Merle and himself together in the music. Only two of Hag's thirty-eight (!) country number ones are included, and only two others that charted at all. Seven of the sixteen songs are from his later period, after his long run at the top of the country charts had ended, but before encroaching mortality could finally cease the singular and indefatigable creativity of Merle Haggard.

Cayetana - New Kind Of Normal LP (Plum)
Coupling expertly crafted, hooky pop songs like lead single “Mesa,” with sparse, dark, and deeply emotional synth-laden tracks like “World,” New Kind Of Normal is a record that captures quiet moments of crushing vulnerability and the hardened highs of personal strength with equal grace.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Betty’s Blends Volume 3: Self-Rising, Southern Blends 2xCD (Silver Arrow)
Chris Robinson Brotherhood's acclaimed live album series Betty's Blends returns with Volume 3: Self-Rising, Southern Blends. Recorded and mixed live from the soundboard by legendary Grateful Dead archivist and recording engineer Betty Cantor Jackson, this latest edition captures the CRB on a Southern swing through Atlanta, Raleigh and Charleston in November 2015. The set includes original staple CRB material like “Clear Blue Sky,” “Roan County Banjo” and “Oak Apple Day,” but focuses on the band's sprawling selection of cover material ranging from Allen Toussaint's “Get Out Of My Life Woman” to the Leiber/Stoller classic “I'm A Hog For You,” Bob Dylan's “She Belongs To Me” to the Slim Harpo rarity “The Music’s Hot.” It also marks the first release in the series with current CRB drummer, Tony Leone. In Robinson's own words, “With Betty, we trust her sonic sensibilities and give her the space and freedom to do what the woman does, and what she does is beautiful and unique. It’s the stuff rock ‘n' roll dreams and recordings are made of.”

Chris Stapleton – From A Room: Volume 1 CD/LP+MP3 (Mercury Nashville)
Chris Stapleton follows up his Grammy award-winning 2015 debut Traveller with not one but two albums in 2017. From A Room: Volume 1 is the first, while the second installment From A Room: Volume 2 will appear later in the year. “I'm real proud of this record,” Stapleton exclaimed at a record release party at RCA Studio A in Nashville, TN. “We made it right here in (RCA Studio A) like the last one. We camped out in here...and had a lot of fun recording things.” Produced by Dave Cobb and recorded live with Stapleton's band, the nine-track affair includes eight originals co-written by Stapleton and the lone cover “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning” which has been recorded by Willie Nelson. Chris' soulful vocals and understated guitar work are supported here by Cobb on acoustic guitar, Morgane Stapleton on harmony vocals, J.T. Cure on bass, Derek Mixon on drums, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Robby Turner on pedal steel, and Mike Webb on keys.

Descendents – Everything Sucks [Reissue/1996] LP+7” (Epitaph)
Deluxe 20th Anniversary edition of Descendents 1996 masterwork pressed on 180gm vinyl including a 7” with a pair of unreleased bonus tracks.

Grateful Dead - Cornell 5/8/77 3xCD/5xLP (Grateful Dead)
Cornell 5/8/77 was recorded live directly from the soundboards by Betty Cantor-Jackson. After several years the master tapes were seemingly lost for good, but that all changed at the end of 2016. The lost tapes, or lost “Betty boards” as they are commonly known, finally made their way back home to the Grateful Dead vault, making it possible to officially bring the world this legendary show just in time for its 40th Anniversary.

Hoops – Routines CD/LP (Fat Possum)
Bloomington, IN based four-piece band Hoops craft hyper-melodic songs, built around power-pop chords, deceptively complex drum patterns, and rock-anthem sentiments that hide some tellingly dark thoughts. Three of the four members write and sing, each a frontman and a sideman simultaneously. During a live show, the bandmates can be seen frequently swapping instruments and positions on stage. The setup isn't democratic so much as it is simply adaptable and committed: doing what the song demands, getting the sound just right. Hoops' full-length debut, Routines is a bittersweet and honest record that sounds both warmly familiar and jarringly distinctive.

Ho99o9 – United States Of Horror CD/2xLP+MP3
(Toys Have Powers/999 Deathkult) Originally from Newark and currently residing in LA, Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror) mix the ferocious sounds of hardcore and punk with politically charged hip-hop. “Ho99o9—theOGM (Jean) and Yeti Bones (Eaddy)—seem to have an innate understanding of punk iconography and why logos and imagery is so important for fans to connect with a band’s message on an emotional level. The visual side of their image feels fresh and authentic and they look like very modern rockstars. The sound of their new album United States Of Horror puts me in mind of the Boredoms, Skinny Puppy or Brainiac at their most abrasive and yes, Bad Brains, although I hasten to add that I say this because both bands are bone-crushingly intense, not because of anything necessarily ‘Afro punk’ related, although there is that, too, naturally” – Dangerous Minds. [Limited color vinyl pressed at 45rpm also available.]

Little Dragon – Season High CD (Loma Vista/Concord)
Gothenburg, Sweden Grammy-nominated electro-pop outfit Little Dragon follow-up their acclaimed 2014 album Nabuma Rubberband with Season High co-produced by James Ford who also mixed the record. Consequence Of Sound called lead single “High” a “warm slice of alternative R&B” while equally as captivating second single “Sweet” is a saccharine-induced dance floor number framed by lead singer Yukimi's lush vocals. Yukimi muses, “We want to exist in our own bubble where we can stay curious about sounds. The magic feeling that sounds can sprinkle over any boring day is what got us all hooked. That feeling of escapism...maybe because Gothenburg is a grey place for most of the year, our curse and blessing is that we never quite succeed.”

John Moreland – Big Bad Luv CD/LP (4AD)
Big Bad Love marks a change in Moreland's sound and outlook on life. With lyrics that are as intense and unfiltered as his earlier work, Moreland delves into finding peace within. He also branches out sonically, which is injected with a heavier dose of rock ‘n’ roll.

Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog CD/LP+MP3 (Captured Tracks)
Before you ancients out there turn your heads and scoff at the premise of a twenty-something rock-and-roll goofball calling himself an old-anything, consider this: said perpetrator, he who answers to the name Mac DeMarco, has spent the better part of his time thus far writing, recording, and releasing an album of his own music pretty much every calendar flip, and pretty much on his own. This Old Dog makes for his fifth in just over half a decade -- bringing the total to three LPs and two EPs. According to the DMV, MacBriare Samuel Lanyon DeMarco is 26. But in working-dog years, ol' Mac here could easily qualify for social security. To stay gold, turns out all he needed was some new tricks. [Limited edition white vinyl pressing also available.]

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Lovely Creatures: The Best Of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds (1984-2014) 2xCD/3xCD+DVD/3xLP (Mute)
Lovely Creatures was compiled by Nick Cave and founding member Mick Harvey, with help from the current Bad Seeds. Band members past and present raided their personal archives to provide previously unseen photos and memorabilia which have been collected into a beautiful hardcover book, along with a series of original essays. The book is available as part of the limited edition Super Deluxe album collection that also comes with a two-hour DVD containing rare and unseen archive footage. Lovely Creatures is available in four formats, all featuring personal and rare photographs of the band. “There are some people out there who just don’t know where to start with The Bad Seeds. Others know the catalogue better than I do! This release is designed to be a way into three decades of music making. That’s a lot of songs. The songs we have chosen are the ones that have stuck around, for whatever reason. Some songs are those that demand to be played live. Others are lesser songs that are personal favorites of ours. Others are just too big and have too much history to leave out. And there are those that didn’t make it, poor things. They are the ones you must discover by yourselves.” -- Nick Cave

Perfume Genius - No Shape LP+MP3 (Matador)
2014’s Too Bright showcased Mike Hadreas stepping out saucily onto a bigger stage, expressing, with the production help of Portishead’s Adrian Utley, emotions arranged all along the slippery continuum from rage to irony to love. Here in 13 new ferocious and sophisticated tracks, Mike Hadreas and his collaborators blow through church music, makeout music, an array of the gothier radio popular formats, rhythm and blues, art pop, krautrock, queer soul, the RCA Studio B sound, and then also collect some of the sounds that only exist inside Freddy Krueger. [Limited color vinyl pressing also available.]

Slowdive – Slowdive CD/LP+MP3 (Dead Oceans)
UK shoegaze pioneers Slowdive enter their second act and offer up a fourth studio opus, their first in 22 years. Self-titled with quiet confidence, Slowdive's stargazing alchemy is set to further entrance the faithful while beguiling a legion of fresh ears. Deftly swerving what co-vocalist/guitarist Rachel Goswell terms “a trip down memory lane,” these eight new tracks are simultaneously expansive and the sonic pathfinders' most direct material to date. “It's poppier than I thought it was going to be,” notes principal songwriter Neil Halstead, who was the primary architect of 1995's previous full-length transmission Pygmalion. This time out the group dynamic was all-important. "When you're in a band and you do three records, there's a continuous flow and a development. For us, that flow re-started with us playing live again and that has continued into the record.” “There's a different energy about it,” adds drummer Simon Scott. “It took ages to get back together and write songs and for it to click in the studio, but this album doesn't feel like a bolt-on -- it's got an energy that's as vibrant as Souvlaki and Just For A Day. It feels very relevant to now.” [Limited edition silver vinyl pressing also available.]

Sun Ra – Singles 2 3xLP+MP3 (Strut)
The second volume of definitive singles released by jazz maverick Sun Ra during his Earth years, spanning 1962 to 1991.

Taj Mahal + Keb’ Mo’ – TajMo LP (Concord)
TajMo is a collaboration between two generations of blues giants, converging their singular talents for the first time ever on an album of original songs and covers, featuring cameos from Bonnie Raitt, Joe Walsh, Sheila E., Lizz Wright, and many more. TajMo brings out the best in both artists, with the pair merging their distinctive voices, personalities and guitar styles to create vibrant, immediate music that's firmly rooted in tradition yet ruled by a playful sense of adventure. “Don't Leave Me Here” is a love letter to the south that sounds like an instant classic, and “Soul” interweaves world music with blues in a way that only Taj could pull off. Taj and Keb' put a soulful spin on Mayer's “Waiting On The World To Change,” on which Raitt lends her unmistakable vocals. The 11-song set also includes covers of John Mayer and The Who.

The Sword – Greetings From… CD/LP (Razor & Tie)
There's an unspoken edict handed down through the ages when it comes to rock bands: there are no rules. Austin, Texas metal luminaries The Sword – John Cronise (vocals, guitar), Kyle Shutt (guitar), Bryan Richie (bass), and Santiago Vela III (drums) – cut out boundaries since day one. Their style never stood predicated on a trend or a template. They always create what feels right and let the results speak for themselves. Greetings From... is a collection of nine live tracks spanning the band's career. From Age Of Winters to their latest, High Country, Greeting From... creates a seamlessly crafted cocktail showcasing the music of The Sword throughout the past decade.

U2 – 18 Singles [2006] 2xLP (Interscope)
18 Singles is U2's most recent greatest hits album. Originally released in 2006 and featuring two new songs, “The Saints Are Coming” (with Green Day) and “Window In The Skies.”