High Violet, the new full-length record by the National, is a nervy, melodic, explosive and beautiful set of songs that find the band at the height of their collaborative powers. The music is wide-ranging in its moods, by turns intimate and rough, expansive and spare, full of stark angles and atmosphere. Berninger's singing wild, half-broken, sly evokes a feeling of being haunted, by love, by paranoia, by something just out of reach. High Violet may be The National's most thematically twisted record to date but it somehow also manages to be their most infectious and immediate.
The National have worn a lot of hats since their 2001 debut, but they’ve never been able to shake the rural, book-smart, quiet malevolence of the Midwest. The Brooklyn-groomed, Ohio-bred indie rock quintet’s fifth full-length album navigates that lonely dirt road where swagger meets desperation like a seasoned tour guide, and while it may take a few songs to get going, there are treasures to be found for patient passengers. The National's profile rose considerably after 2007’s critically acclaimed The Boxer, and they have used that capital to craft a flawed gem of a record that highlights their strengths and weaknesses with copious amounts of red ink.
After expanding his intimate indie folk sound about as far as it could go on the last Iron & Wine album, Kiss Each Other Clean, Sam Beam (and trusty producer Brian Deck) take a step back on Ghost on Ghost and deliver something less suited for large arenas and more late-night jazz club-sized. The arrangements on that album were stuffed with instruments and seemed built to reach the back row; this time there are still plenty of horns, violins, and female backing vocals in the mix, but they are employed with a much lighter touch. Working with jazz drummer Brian Blade and a standup bass and mixing together elements of country, jazz, indie rock, and soft rock, the album has a much more intimate feel that suits Beam's quietly soulful vocals much more naturally.
Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (translated as "The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices") is a compilation album of modern arrangements of Bulgarian folk songs featuring, among others, the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir, with soloists Yanka Rupkina, Kalinka Valcheva and Stefka Sabotinova; and the Filip Kutev Ensemble.
The album was the result of fifteen years of work by Swiss ethnomusicologist and producer Marcel Cellier and was released in 1975 on his small Disques Cellier label. Some of the recordings he made himself; others were taken from the archives of Radio Sofia.
Laconic California indie minstrel M. Ward's fifth offering is a thrift shop photo album filled with histories that may or may not have been, dust bowl carnival rides, and slices of sunlit Western Americana so thick that you need a broom to sweep up the bits that fall off of the knife. Ward makes records that sound like he just wandered in off the street with a few friends and hit the record button, but what would feel lazy and unfocused in less confident hands comes off like a tutorial in old-school songwriting and performance that hearkens back to the days of Hank Williams and Leadbelly if they had had access to a modern-day studio.
Long before No Doubt brought back ska and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy resurrected swing, Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry were making music that recalled an earlier time. How early? Try the Renaissance. Everything old–really old–is new again on Aion, the band's fifth and arguably finest album.
The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices will release their first album of new studio recordings in over two decades on May 25th, 2018. Better known to many as Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (Grammy winner for “Best Traditional Folk Recording”), ‘BooCheeMish’ sees the esteemed Bulgarian choir performing together with erstwhile 4AD Records label mate Lisa Gerrard (co-founder of the duo Dead Can Dance) on several tracks, thereby uniting two of the most distinctive vocal acts working in music. Gerrard, who is also well known for her movie soundtrack work on films such as ‘Gladiator’ and ’The Insider’, has often spoken about the influence the choir exerted on her singing technique when she discovered their music in the early 1980’s.
Mal Waldron is accompanied by a trio of Japanese players for this fine album, recorded in Japan in 1982. As the title suggests, it's a look back, celebrating one of Waldron's key influences, Thelonious Monk. "Blue Monk" is given a relaxed and regal treatment, as Waldron's bedrock chording supports the higher register melody played in tandem on piano and sax. The set as a whole has a bluesy feel to it, with "I Can't Get Started" gliding along as gracefully as a solitary ice skater in a light snowfall. Waldron's varied discography has found him recording for numerous labels, especially in the '70s and '80s, and this date didn't find a U.S. release until eight years after it was recorded; however, it's well worth adding to any Waldron collection.