Jose Gonzalez "Local Valley (Mute)"
“Local Valley” is unmistakably a Gonzales album, but there are a number of changes in this one: It’s his first solo album to use computerized rhythms rather than the subtle percussion of his past efforts, and it’s the first to include lyrics in all three of the languages he speaks (English, Spanish and Swedish). But it’s also arguably his most energetic solo album, with many of the hushed Nick Drake-isms of his past work giving way to a sound that is less a fundamental change — it’s still mostly him and his guitar — than a livelier take on his format. There are more multi-tracked vocals, more guitars and many of the songs are more direct. And although a couple of the African-influenced songs get a little candle-and-incense-boutique, the penultimate track, a cover of Iranian-Swedish artist Laleh’s “En Stund Pa Jorden” (“A Moment on Earth”) is so beautiful it’s practically a hymn.
With Honor "Heart Means Everything (2021 Remaster) (Pure Noise)"
Blunt Bangs "Proper Smoker (Rough Trade Publishing)"
Proper Smoker, the debut LP from indie-supergroup Blunt Bangs, is proof that power pop remains perennial. Boasting a lineup that includes Reggie Youngblood (Black Kids) on guitar and vocals, Christian “Smokey” DeRoeck (Woods, Deep State, Meneguar, Little Gold) on guitar and vocals, and Cash Carter (Tracy Shedd, The Cadets) on drums, Blunt Bangs’ debut melds the canon of 90s indie rock with a spark of optimism for these uncertain times.
Real Friends "Torn In Two (Pure Noise)"
Real Friends‘ Torn In Two was produced by Andrew Wade, who has worked on albums for punk bands A DAY TO REMEMBER and NECK DEEP, as well as Mike Green, who has co-written and produced on projects for SUM 41, NEW FOUND GLORY, and THE ACES. This new EP incorporates a recurring motif of the torn-ness and separation we have recently experienced in our everyday lives, as vocalist Cody Muraro elaborates. “I really liked how we were able to incorporate the Torn In Two theme throughout. The album artwork being people separated. The five main songs on one side and five alternates on the other. I think the past year has left a lot of us feeling torn, scrambling to reconnect with a sense of familiarity.”