Mike Krol "Power Chords (Merge)"
Mike Krol is here to save rock and roll. Power Chords (Merge) sounds just like an album called power chords should. A little bit punk, a little bit ‘90s alternative, it’s a guitar-driven collection of the best influences. Ramones. Early Weezer. The Strokes. It is not a surprise that the thing all those bands have in common is a certain cheekiness. It’s not that Mike isn’t displaying real emotions via his songs here. There’s hearts both aching and breaking to be found, but the candy-coated melodies belie the seriousness of the message in only the way that the best rock and roll can. Check out the clap-a-long-able bounce of “I Wonder.”
MONO "Nowhere Now Here (Temporary Residence)"
Over 20 albums and 10 years, Japanese rock band MONO has turned into something monumental. Emotive, deserving of devout fanship, dramatic, beautiful, haunting, achingly sad… it’s easy to list word after word to describe this unparalleled band. Over the years they have expanded their original power quartet lineup to include an orchestra at times, and Nowhere Now Here (Temporary Residence) also throws electronic sounds into the mix. This record is as epic as anything they’ve ever done. There is good reason why this band has developed such a worldwide devout fandom as it has, there is no one else like them. Check out the heroic sounds of “After You Comes the Flood.”
Neil Hamburger "Still Dwelling (Drag City)"
Well, this album makes my job very, very easy. Imagine the saccharine-sweet orchestral pop of the ‘60s and ‘70s. A little lounge-y, lots of sweeping strings and groovy bass and choral hints. Now imagine some of the great songs of that time, like The Luckiest Man In This Room, Homeward Bound, Backwards Traveller. Now imagine all of that being “sung” by Neil Hamburger. Yup. Still Dwelling (Drag City) is that. Check out his “singular” interpretation of “Backwards Traveler.”
Sarah Louise "Nighttime Birds And Morning Stars (Thrill Jockey)"
I was not expecting Sarah Louise’s new LP to sound like it does, but I sure do love what it does sound like. I was very familiar with her last release, Deeper Woods, which was a gorgeous collection of folk and Americana-tinged tunes. And Nighttime Birds And Morning Stars (Thrill Jockey) has some of that, but it has so much more. Imagine the Fripp and Eno albums of the past, except if they were folk-leaning and included bird sounds. Yup. Somehow, this is like that. Mixed with her timeless melodies and gorgeous vocals are beds of ambiance, electronic noise, haunting guitar loops, and manipulation of sounds. For a prime example of this new sound, please check out the uplifting “Chitlin Fight.”