Neal Francis "Changes (Colemine/Rough Trade Publishing)"
Changes (Colemine/Rough Trade Publishing), the debut LP from Neal Francis, is as singular a debut as we’ve ever heard. An exciting combination of retro New Orleans soul, Chicago R&B, ’70s rock, gospel music–all delivered with Neal’s easy Toussaint-y baritone vocals. If ever you’ve heard a record that simultaneously sounded like it would as be appropriate to play in a room with shag carpet as it would with like some eco-friendly cork flooring-well please let us know. But until that happens (it won’t) please get down to the funky and fresh Dr. John-y “How Have I Lived.”
M83 "Digital Shades Vol. 2 (Mute)"
Anthony Gonzalez and the rest of the M83ers wanted a place to release music as M83, but not get the hopes up of the pop-loving section of their fan base. So they created the Digital Shades series of releases. Meant to stand alone from their discography while also existing within it, this is where they are able to indulge their nostalgic fantasies of Dungeons & Dragons, video games, and more. For Digital Shades Vol. 2 they basically made video game music for retro games that don’t exist. Performed and recorded entirely on analog equipment, the whole this is a glorious nod to days past. The whole affair reminds me of early ‘80s fantasy/sci-fi movies, some of the lesser-known releases by Mike Oldfield, and of course-retro video game music. Simultaneously cinematic in scope and as intimate as a record you fall asleep to can be-this very well might stand as underground a classic as can exist for a band as popular as M83. So dust of your NES controllers, call your Mom and ask if she threw your D&D rulebooks away yet, and maybe buy a van with a wizard painted on the side of it. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the triumphant “Hell Riders.”
Hiss Golden Messenger "Terms Of Surrender (Merge)"
The songs M.C. Taylor wrote for the latest Hiss Golden Messenger record Terms Of Surrender (Merge) were not originally written for a record. They were written for himself. A catharsis of sorts. It was only after he started writing these songs and playing them with other people that he realized that maybe they were too good to keep to himself. We are thankful he felt that way because we think they are too good for us to never hear, that’s for sure. For a record that started out as a personal collection of songs, there is a through-line on this record as strong as anything, and that through line is love. So if you are the kind of person that doesn’t love love then… well… this record is the least of your problems. Featuring the likes of Phil Cook, Jenny Lewis, and other guests, this is one Americana-tinged, rocking good time. Check out the joyous first track “I Need A Teacher.”
Long Beard "Means To Me (Double Double Whammy)"
Means To Me (Double Double Whammy), the sophomore release by Long Beard, is a “dreamlike space that weaves between shoegaze-tinged guitars and upbeat, jangly pop” (and allow me to thank Double Double Whammy for not only releasing this beauty of an LP but also making my job a little easier by writing in the PR so succinctly what I was attempting to put into words right then). Leslie Bear (who IS Long Beard) moved back to her hometown while making this record (shout out Jersey pride!)–that examines what it is to call a place “home.” (For me, it’s wherever Hazel barks at the door of the balcony protecting us from any dog she can hear anywhere in Hoboken – thanks Hazel….). Co-produced by Craig Hendrix of Japanese Breakfast, this is a haunting, dreamy shimmer of an album. Check out “Getting By.”