Waxahatchee "Saint Cloud (Merge)"
From Merge Records:
Waxhatchee’s Saint Cloud is an unflinching self-examination whose raw, exposed narrative terrain is aided by a shift in sonic arrangements. While her last two records (Out in the Storm and Ivy Tripp) featured the kind of big guitars, well-honed noise, and battering sounds that characterized her Philadelphia scene and strongly influenced a burgeoning new class of singer-songwriters, Saint Cloudstrips back those layers to create space for Katie Crutchfield’s voice and lyrics. The result is a classic Americana sound with modern touches befitting an artist who has emerged as one of the signature storytellers of her time.
Check out “Lilacs.”
Libre Para Amar "Libre Para Amar (Names You Can Trust)"
From Names You Can Trust:
With their 2013 debut single “Vintage Voudou,” Conjunto Papa Upa cemented themselves as the torchbearers of a rare breed of Afro-Caribbean psychedelic soul, a clear delineation from the wonderful world of Venezuelan poly rhythms. That original song, named after the short lived but heavily influential Amsterdam brick and mortar record shop that band leader Alex Figueira founded, was a perfect clue into the deep exploration that Papa Upa would begin to take on their musical journey. Like the store itself, known for its solid connection to the musical footprints put down in relatively undiscovered places like Suriname, Curacao, Cabo Verde, Portugal and of course Figueira’s native Venezuela, Papa Upa has captured a sound that is entirely unique, a new concoction of influences that at once sound strange, yet totally familiar. Perhaps because Venezuela shared such a rich & diverse mix of sounds from the Atlantic, Caribbean & US, a kindred spirit to their neighboring country, Colombia, an equal in terms of their industry output from the 60’s & 70’s, yet not nearly as publicized and compiled in recent years. Like many places in the greater Afro-Caribbean nexus, they were musically ahead of their time.
This futuristic mélange of sounds is reflective of Papa Upa itself, made up of musicians from Venezuela, Uruguay, Cuba & The Netherlands, all living, practicing & recording at Figueira’s Amsterdam studio, Barracão Sound. With such a wide range of tropical influences, in a cosmopolitan and diverse city like Amsterdam, it’s no wonder that Papa Upa’s first long-player would find kinship in a collaboration with New York’s Names You Can Trust.
Check out “Libre Para Amar.”
Ian William Craig "Red Sun Through Smoke (Fat Cat)"
From Fat Cat:
Musically, ‘Red Sun Through Smoke’ moves from the sparse vocal take of opener ‘Random’; to the shifting, semi-occluded piano/ choral layering of ‘The Smokefallen’ or ‘Comma’; and the beauty of simple piano songs like ‘Supper’ or ‘Stories’. It’s not until ‘Condx QRN’ that the noise enters fully fledged and excoriating, but a patina of dust and decay is prevalent throughout. The use of smudged drones, occasional incursions of static, distortion and other noises eating away at the material’s edges offers a neat audio corollary to the smoke-filled environment or the progression of mental/physical deterioration. The drifting, untethered sections of overlaid piano/choral parts suggest some spectral unravelling or spiritual departure, whilst the naked simplicity of the piano and voice songs attest to a purity and directness of feeling. Indeed, despite the gathering detritus, ‘Red Sun…’ is perhaps the most stripped down, concise and direct that we’ve heard Ian. The LP ends as it starts, unadorned, “with a different reflection on coming to grips with the random nature of life and distilling everything down into only that which is necessary, without any of the raiment we usually cloak ourselves in.” Welling with emotion, ‘Stories’ is a stunning song and a heartbreaking final note.
Check out “Weight.”
Arbouretum "Let It All In (Thrill Jockey)"
From Thrill Jockey:
Arbouretum’s mystic folk-rock collapses a continuum of 20th century music into decidedly classic song structures. English folk, country blues, Americana and 70s psychedelia all serve as touchpoints in their singular and distinctive sound. The Baltimore-based band have perfected the craft of storytelling using the delicate interplay of melodies and prosaic lyrics to tell vivid stories that engage the listener and transport them the way an immersive novel would. Let It All In stands as their most accomplished and evocative album to date. Guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann’s melodies and solos still remain a central focus bolstered by the hypnotic rhythms of bassist Corey Allender and drummer Brian Carey and enhanced by Matthew Pierce’s substantial yet understated keyboard figures. Each song is a vivid scene or tale; meticulously detailed and crafted, transporting the listener to another world and time.
Check out “A Prism In Reverse.”