Having just taken New York City’s CMJ festival by storm, singer-songwriter Garrett Borns (aka BØRNS) practically came out of nowhere with the release of his buzzworthy debut single, the glimmery infectious “10,000 Emerald Pools” and the release of his EP Candy, all of which was written in his treehouse home in Los Angeles. Leading off with “Electric Love”, the album mixes indie/synth pop with sugary sweet melodies blanketed in sunny West Coast ambience.
With a name like The Charlie Rogers Band, it sounds like these folks have been in the game for as long as The Charlie Daniels Band. But their style of country is more effervescent than a freshly popped bottle of Lone Star beer. By blending the rootsy accouterments of traditional country with a studied pop songwriting style, Rogers and company have created a balance that simultaneously sounds both classic and fresh. If you’ve ever watched the television series Nashville, it’s easy to wonder why this band has yet to appear on an episode.
Kicking out goofy, hook laden noise pop / emo jams, and sounding like a twisted mash up of Weezer and tongue-in-cheek punk poppers Reggie & The Full Effect, Santa Cruz trio Hiimyourmom, while seemingly a joke band, do display an uncanny knack for crafting crazy catchy, fractured pop gems. Whether it’s wildly ramshackle jangle and crunch, laced with trippy vocodered vocals and swirling synths, and sounding like E.L.O. playing the Warped Tour, or twisted covers, like their version of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”, which starts out straight, but soon splinters into a lurching emo-metal dirge, these guys run the risk of actually being taken seriously. Whether they like it or not.
The Portland duo of Stevie Floyd and Ashley Spungin, with production and contributions from Billy Anderson, delivered this terrifying doom nightmare, No/Thing, back in April, and it has been (rightfully) showing up on a lot of top ten lists of fans of heavy music. Dissonant guitars, heavy churn, and pounding drums set the foundation for devilish howls and haunting vocals. The atmosphere is pervaded simultaneously by a sense of foreboding and catharsis. “Increase Aloneness” is a great place to start. A drone/doom masterpiece!
D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah
D’Angelo returns after a 14 Year studio hiatus with his band, The Vanguard, to reveal Black Messiah, an offering of Soul, Funk, Rock, and R&B. Creating a sound reminiscent of his masterpiece, Voodoo, D experiments a little more, bringing rock guitar into the mix. Black Messiah plays almost like a jam session straight to 2-inch tape. The result feels like Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Kravitz, and Sly & the Family Stone were invited to a Soulquarians recording session and vibed out on the chaos of current events in Black America.
Bill Frisell – Guitar In The Space Age
Much like his 2011 John Lennon tribute All We Are Saying, legendary jazz guitarist Bill Frisell taps into nostalgia with the new release, Guitar In The Space Age, intertwining his jazz sensibility with popular rock and folk songs of the 1950s and 1960s, made in the wake of the birth of the Fender Telecaster guitar. Hits like “Turn, Turn, Turn”, “Surfer Girl”, “Telstar”, and The Kinks’ “Tired Of Waiting For You” are given an innovative, out of this world interpretation by Frisell and his collaborators Greg Leisz (pedal steel & electric guitar), Tony Scherr (acoustic and electric bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums and vibraphone).
Plenealo – En La Mia
On their 7th release, En La Mía, Puerto Rico’s Plenealo continue their trajectory as one of the most adept and skilled interpreters of the plena, a rhythm native to PR. But their true mastery lies in their ability to marry this tradition with a slew of contemporary musical influences, building a collection of songs that goes much further than the folkloric, fueled by arrangements that draw on diverse genres, such as Salsa, funk, ballads, and even EDM. The result is a highly accessible dance record that stays true to its roots without being an exclusive nod to purists.