New Releases - 6/9/17

Ani DiFranco – Binary CD (Righteous Babe)
“Ani DiFranco records arrive like MoMA retrospectives. Ani on Heartbreak. Ani on Worker's Rights. Ani on Parenthood. Ani in Love. Each release is entirely immersive and seemingly exhaustive, not only because of the propulsive, intensely kinetic sound signature on the prolific singer-songwriter's past work, but because her attention to the subject at hand has been laser-focused. For her 20th studio album, Binary, the MoMA retrospective might be called Ani Exhales. DiFranco's voice has lowered and softened, her guitarwork has slowed down, she puts fewer lyrics in her songs, and her songwriter's skin has gotten thicker. Gone is the 18-year-old girl on the street in Manhattan, raging against ‘Our father/ who art in a penthouse.’ Now she's a woman at sea level, New Orleans in her blood, with a long view in every direction and a hard-won instinct for self-preservation. Where she used to favor immersion, DiFranco here favors integration. Binary isn't about one thing, or two things, or even three things. It's about everything.” – NP

Big Thief – Capacity CD (Saddle Creek)
The trails that Brooklyn's Big Thief - Adrianne Lenker (guitar, vocals), Buck Meek (guitar), Max Oleartchik (bass), and James Krivchenia (drums) - take us down on Capacity are overgrown with the wilderness of pumping souls. Lenker's songs introduce us to a gallery of multifaceted women and deal with the complicated matters of identity – at once dangerous and curious, though never unbelievable. Lenker shows us the gentle side of being ripped open. Tricked into love, done in and then witnessing the second act of pulling oneself back together to prepare for it to all happen again, but this time to a sturdier soul, one who is going to take the punches better than ever before and deal some jabs and roundhouses of their own. The album is thick with raw, un-doctored beauty: most of the songs on Capacity were played for the first time in the studio and were recorded the same day. “There is a darker darkness and a lighter light on this album,” Lenker explains. “The songs search for a deeper level of self-acceptance, to embrace the world within and without. I think Masterpiece began that process, as a reaction from inside the pain, whereas I feel Capacity examines the pain from the outside.

Chuck Berry – Chuck CD (Dualtone)
Chuck is the final album and first new recordings in nearly four decades by founding rock & roll legend Chuck Berry, who passed away on March 18, 2017 at the age of 90. Comprised of ten new recordings, eight of which were written by Berry, Chuck is his first new album since 1979's Rock It. Some of the songs on Chuck were originally conceived as far back as the 1980s, with Berry developing them in his home studio in St. Louis over many years during down time between tours. He worked on the album through 2014. When health concerns forced him to stop touring and recording in 2015, Berry continued to oversee production and planning for Chuck, enlisting his family and close friend Joe Edwards, the owner of Blueberry Hill, to fulfill his wishes that the album be completed and released. And from album highlight “Lady B. Goode,” a spiritual sequel to the iconic “Johnny B. Goode” featuring ripping solos from three generations of Berry guitarists, to the poignant country balladry of “Darlin',” a duet with his daughter Ingrid, Chuck truly is a family affair. Along with his children Charles Berry Jr. and Ingrid Berry, the album features guest performances from Gary Clark Jr., Tom Morello, and Nathaniel Rateliff.

Game Theory – 2 Steps From The Middle Ages [Reissue/1988] CD (Omnivore)
Game Theory’s final studio album – remastered and expanded. Following up 1987’s Lolita Nation would be no easy task for the power pop band. But, Scott Miller and company were certainly up for the task. Re-teaming with producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Marshall Crenshaw, Velvet Crush), 2 Steps From The Middle Ages was released in 1988, and showed the band had no shortage of energy, experimentation, and excellent material. This reissue contains the original 13 songs supplemented with 11 bonus tracks – demos, live performances and covers – all previously unissued. This is another opportunity to discover this brilliant, adventurous band who, if there was any justice in the world, should have been as big as R.E.M

Gov’t Mule – Revolution Come… Revolution Go CD/2xCD/2xLP+MP3 (Fantasy/Concord)
Preeminent rock band Gov't Mule return with their tenth studio effort. Steeped in the roots and mystique of rock, blues, soul, jazz and country, Revolution Come… Revolution Go enriches Gov't Mule's distinguished legacy with cleverly-crafted songs, intelligent and timely lyrical commentary, and downright incendiary playing. While there are some political observations on the album, there are also introspective ruminations on life and love, like the countrified road song “Traveling Tune,” the soaring “The Man I Want To Be” and the slow-burning, reflective “Easy Times.” Throughout the record Warren Haynes' dynamic vocals swing between rock ‘n' roll grit and soulful crooning. Legendary Don Was co-produced on the powerful and moving “Dreams & Songs” and the thought-provoking “Pressure Under Fire.” Jimmie Vaughan makes a sizzling cameo on the super-charged “Burning Point.” “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” is the reworking of the traditional blues instrumental originally recorded by Blind Willie Johnson to which Haynes added lyrics and the band turned into an epic gospel rock closer.

London Grammar – Truth Is A Beautiful Thing LP+MP3 (Columbia)
Second full-length album from the British trio.

Lupe Fiasco – Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool [Reissue/2007] 2xLP (Atlantic)
Double vinyl LP pressing of the sophomore album from the rapper.

The Magpie Salute – The Magpie Salute CD/2xLP (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
The Magpie Salute is a new band bringing together former Black Crowes members Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien. Their eponymous debut album was recorded live in front of a small audience at Applehead Recording in Woodstock, New York apart from opening track “Omission” which is a full studio recording. The Magpie Salute has added significance as it marks the last recorded work by the late Eddie Harsch, former Black Crowes keyboard player who passed away in November 2016. The album is a mix of Black Crowes songs, new tracks and cover versions, which reflect the band's wide-ranging roots. With half of the songs coming in at over seven minutes long, there is a musical freedom to the album enabling all the musicians to shine.

Phoenix – Ti Amo CD/LP (Glassnote)
Ti Amo is Grammy-winning band Phoenix's first album since 2013's critically lauded Bankrupt!. Produced by the band and recorded at La Gaîté Lyrique (Paris) with the help of longtime collaborator Pierrick Devin, the band describes Ti Amo as “an album about simple pure emotions: love, desire, lust and innocence, it's also a record about our European, Latin roots, a fantasized version of Italy: a lost paradise made of eternal Roman summers (hyper-light, hyper-clarity, pistachio gelato), juke-boxes on the beach, Monica Vitti and Marcello Mastroiani, fearless desire and Antique marble statues.” The New York Times calls Ti Amo “the band's most unabashedly romantic record yet” and it's ushered in by lead single “J-Boy,” a brilliant, shimmering explosion.

Rancid – Trouble Maker CD/LP+MP3/LP+7”+MP3 (Epitaph)
East Bay pop punk veterans Rancid are going on nearly 25 years together, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. New album Trouble Maker spans 19 tracks produced by Bad Religion frontman Brett Guerwitz, who is also the founder of Epitaph. Born in the midst of the post-Reagan economic downturn in the San Francisco Bay Area, the East Bay region specifically, Rancid came to light as Armstrong and Freeman were moving forward after the first band they founded, Operation Ivy, reached a friendly demise. As Rancid, the band took up the torch of social commentary and the examination of the local scene and instantly inflamed the newly revived punk community, setting the stage for what was to come. After having seen the American dream dwindle and fade within their country, community and homes, Rancid put their description of its aftermath into their songs.

Secret Sisters – You Don’t Own Me Anymore CD/LP+MP3 (New West)
There are two ways of handling a dangerous, raging river: you can surrender and let it carry you away, or you can swim against the flow. For The Secret Sisters, there was a point after the release of their last record when they could have chosen to do neither – instead, sinking to the bottom as the weight of the world washed away their dreams. They went from touring with Bob Dylan to losing their label, purging their team, filing bankruptcy and almost permanently trading harmonies for housecleaning. But there's a mythical pull to music that kept sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers moving forward, and they came out with a biting and beautiful third LP, produced by Brandi Carlile, You Don't Own Me Anymore. The album is a document of hardship and redemption, of pushing forward when it would be so much easier to drown in grief. And it's a story about how passion and pure artistry can be the strongest sort of salvation – how art is left, like perfect grains of sand, when everything else has washed away. The resulting songs of You Don't Own Me Anymore are about life when everything you think defines you is stripped away.

Slow Dancer – In A Mood CD/LP (ATO)
Simon Okely is lost in time. Or at least, his songs sound that way: warm, near-whispered indie-rock love letters to the ‘60s and ‘70s rhythm and blues records his parents would play on family car rides down Australia's winding west coast, heavy on nostalgia and even heavier on imagination. With his new album, In A Mood, Okely is aiming even higher on his new material, featuring a “more expansive, more ambitious” sound that's “less about the stories we tell ourselves when in love and more about the moods that can come creeping over a relationship” at any time. “It's a little more tasteful, involving new instruments, like drum machines and strings,” says the 31-year-old, whose lush tales of new romance, awkward courting and 'scraggly, mangy love that's fading and waning' have been striking a chord with fans of Mac DeMarco, Tobias Jesso Jr, Connan Mockasin and more.

Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind 20th Anniversary [Reissue/1997] 3xLP (Elektra)
Special digitally remastered and expanded 20th Anniversary Edition of Third Eye Blind's eponymous debut album, which features the hits “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper,” “How’s It Going To Be.”

Various Artists – Music From The American Epic Sessions 2xCD (Columbia/Sony)
Airing June 6, 2017 on PBS in the United States, The American Epic Sessions, directed by Bernard MacMahon, is a feature-length film showcasing an all-star roster of contemporary artists, led by Jack White and T Bone Burnett, replicating a 1920s recording session and paying tribute to the great artists of the past. For the film, The American Epic team reassembled the very first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s, which consists of a single microphone, a towering six-foot amplifier rack, and a live record-cutting lathe powered by a weight-driven pulley system of clockwork gears. All the musical performances for the film were recorded live, and the soundtrack features many additional live performances, including those by: Alabama Shakes, The Americans, Ana Gabriel, Ashley Monroe, The Avett Brothers, Beck, Bettye LaVette, Bobby Ingano, Elton John, Frank Fairfield, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton, Los Lobos, Stephen Stills, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Nas, Pokey LaFarge, Christine Pizzuti, Raphael Saadiq, Rhiannon Giddens, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Taj Mahal, Jack White, and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.