When Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox arrived on the scene in the mid 2000s, the public eye didn't quite know what to make of him, his candor often misunderstood, and his gifts perhaps not fully realized beneath the band's noise. Soon after though, he'd share a variety of solo wanderings and more personal sentiments as Atlas Sound, both in album format and as an immense Bedroom Databank of demos through his own blog. Deerhunter would sonically evolve, letting prettier, more ambient inclinations flourish. Multiple releases later, the prolific Cox is now considered one of the most innovative and compelling songwriters of his time. Parallax, his third Atlas record, is the kind of culmination you'd hope for in this timeline; confident, progressive, still isolated with his peculiar, far-away charm, yet warmer than ever before. It has hits: the spiraling, vocally-rich "Te Amo", and the classic guitar/harmonica hop-along "Mona Lisa" (which features MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden on piano and backing harmonies), and it has trademark, dream-tinkered stretches. And like all his work to date, it's best taken as a whole.
On the topic of prolific songwriters in their creative prime, this is Cass McCombs's second full-length in 2011. And given the six months between WIT'S END and Humor Risk, it's natural to compare the two releases. Opener "Love Thine Enemy" establishes Risk as a more upbeat, guitar-driven album, and for the most part that holds up. "They're friends but they're different. WIT'S END is like a stew; Humor Risk is the raw food diet," the elusive McCombs recently told Pitchfork. And while there isn't anything as moody or affecting as "County Line" on Risk, there's plenty to grasp lyrically, which is really, his specialty. These are stories, each well-crafted and exceptionally produced.
Ultimate surrealist noir filmmaker and all around strange guy David Lynch has more than dabbled in music over the years, as the role of audio is crucial to any of his films, not to mention his now-praised curation/composition for the cheeky Twin Peaks soundtrack. Crazy Clown Time does mark the first time however that Lynch has fashioned himself as a frontman—he's starring in nearly all songs, even if distorted into a spectrum of characters. The eeriness of this record should surprise no one familiar with Lynch, but the bag of electronic tricks he's pulling from might. Enter this hour plus listen at your own risk; it's, of course, odd and varied.
Excluding the usual chart-toppers, pop albums with true larger-than-life intentions are a rarity these days. Iron-voiced Brit Florence Welch should be (and is being) applauded for her massive vision on Ceremonials—a record that lives and dies by its sheer grandiosity. Her 2009 debut Lungs grew in scale as she took it on the road, and now this follow-up feels like that inevitable expansion was considered from the start. Some nuances might have been overlooked with the main stage in mind, but if an anthem like "Shake It Out" is your kind of thing, than you're not likely to sweat that small stuff.
Highly-regarded in the Brooklyn electronic community, Daniel Lopatin already had a deep OPN discography prior to Replica, but this studio effort is a real breakout. Using his trusty old Roland Juno-60 synthesizer (still on borrow from his father) Lopatin weaves cosmic dronescapes and sampled 1980s commercials into one enchanting journey. As an instrumental release well within the trending psychedelic electronica realm, it might be easy to dismiss this one as another installment of zone-y new age, but spend some time in the complex tunnels of Replica (with headphones) and it will prove worth all the fuss.
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