From the first haunting chords of Pat Grossi's early tracks last year--ones which would blossom into the Curtis Lane EP--it was clear that this project was like nothing else out there. A former choirboy, Grossi directs his ultra-pure pipes at the heavens. They're his second most distinct instrument, behind the harp, which can ride a synth-line to atmospheric levels perhaps not seen since M83. You Are All I See is a sonically rich and well-sculpted (and How To Dress Well featuring) full length debut, worthy of the hype.
Greatest hits compilations are a tricky beast; they can be an antithesis to the album-artist, and all too often just a money-making device, but the ones personally supervised by the artist tend to accomplish the most. And that's the case with Outside of Society, where the legendary punk rock poet and cultural pioneer has handpicked, and added booklet commentary for, every track. Judging by the success her 2010 autobiography Just Kids (now being adapted to the big screen), talking about her past is something she's very good at. From groundbreaking Horses to that stripped-down "Smells Like Teen Spirit" cover, this is a true celebration of an uncompromising career that spans four decades.
It's a natural shift in 2011 for those psychedelic lo-fi acts of 08'/09' to clean up the production a bit. Whether it's due to growing up or just having more recording options, a band like Ganglians--whose fun, jangly melodies and sharp, sunny harmonies have always shined through to some extent--greatly benefits from this added clarity. The Sacramento trio took their time with Still Living, breaking a two year silence with this double LP that runs a solid and pleasant hour. Taking center stage are the band's vocals, and some of that is probably thanks to the touch of Robby Moncrieff, who worked on The Dirty Projectors' 2009 epic Bitte Orca.
Mature and adventurous, quirky and cool, Mirror Traffic tries everything a Malkmus fan might hope for (short of new Pavement material). Produced by Beck, who seems less hands-on here than in his recent work with Thurston Moore, this 5th Jicks album is both a return to form and an artistic step forward, balancing witty rock hooks, and more sincere, slowed-down sentiment. Not without a few odd turns, it all comes across free-wheeling, nostalgic, and real—just how we like our aging indie icons.
With six of its eight tracks approaching ten minute territory, Ancient Romans is not outward pop but rather inward, unrestrained head music. The same can be said for most of Sun Araw's discography. Even "Horse Steppin'", the four minute pysch surfer off Beach Head which, for many, served as introduction to Cameron Stallones' temple of space age hypnosis, back in 2008. On Romans, his 5th album, the usual ingredients (mystic dub, blissed guitar, ritual drums, canyon shouts) see cleaner production, and some horn-based expansion—no question, stoner album of the year.