Ought – Sun Coming Down

There is a certain beauty just to being alive, and Ought make it their mission to find it through raw rock n’ roll that veers seamlessly between upbeat post-punk, meditative feedback drones, dramatic ballads, and cathartic guitar freak outs.

Recommended for fans of post-punk that blends the moodiness of Joy Division, Iceage, and Television with the experimentation and noisiness of This Heat and No Wave.

Black Ox Orkestar – Ver Tanzt? Yeah

These impassioned, and often mournful, renditions of klezmer folk songs (both traditional and original) are infused with elements of free jazz, drone, and chamber music to create something both rooted and urgently modern (Even 15 years after its release). The mostly acoustic band features violinist Jessica Moss (also of Silver Mt. Zion) and upright bassist Thierry Amar (asmz, GY!BE) in addition to singer/multi-instrumentalist Scott Levine Gilmore and Clarinetist/Guitarist Gabe Levine.

Magnolia Electric Co. – What Comes After the Blues

“Human hearts and pain should never be separate, then they wouldn’t tear themselves apart both trying to fit”. The first album under the Magnolia Electric Co. name touches on the loneliness and depression of much of Jason Molina’s work, but it also contains a fair amount of the hope, light, and perseverance one needs in times of struggle. The musicians here were recorded live in a room by the great Steve Albini, featuring slide guitar, fiddle, and beautiful vocal harmonies from Molina’s band members. With its mix of melancholy Americana, country-tinged rock, and stripped back folk, What Comes After the Blues feels like a continuation of Neil Young’s great ditch trilogy.

Ryley Walker – Golden Sings that have been Sung (Deep Cuts Edition)

Ryley Walker’s virtuosic fingerpicking and intricate folk-rock songwriting vibe heavily with a backing band of Chicagoan jazz musicians, including upright bass, drums, Rhodes and electric guitar. The first LP of this release is a studio album of jazzy folk rock songs for fans of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks or Tim Buckley’s Happy Sad, while the Bonus Lp of this “Deep Cuts edition” is a 40 min live improvisation on one of the album cuts that probably beats anything on the studio LP. It’s rad to be able hear both the concise, song-centric studio side and the loose jammy side of this exciting artist in the same release.

Exuma – Exuma

Exuma’s first album is a powerful and ritualistic masterpiece of spiritual folk from the Bahamas. Exuma, the Obeah Man, is a master storyteller and preacher, sharing visions, myths, and prayers. His expressive, soulful voice takes on many tones as he delivers his musical sermons, from smooth to raspy, soft to confident. A group of singers, percussionists, whistlers, and toads join him and his acoustic guitar, making me imagine them all circled around a large fire in communal worship and grateful that they let us listeners in on it.

Dirty Three – Horse Stories

The third album from the Melbourne (Au) violin/guitar/drum trio consists of loose, drifting instrumentals that conjure images of vast, open plains. Though the music here is often melancholic and lethargic, it is occasionally swept up with bursts of passionate energy and possessed by cathartic longing (especially the pleading and utterly beautiful violin solo on “Warren’s Lament”). All three instrumentalists have very individual styles that complement and dialogue with each other in refreshingly unique ways.

Keiji Haino, Jim O’Rourke, & Oren Ambarchi – This Dazzling, Genuine “Difference” Now Where Shall It Go?

Released in 2017 on Black Truffle Records Recorded live on October 28, 2014 at SuperDeluxe Tokyo by Masahide Ando Format: … More

Young Jesus – The Whole Thing is Just There

The Whole Thing is Just There is another beautiful and life-affirming release from Young Jesus, the second with the current L.A. iteration of the band. Their inter-band chemistry seems stronger than ever, with telepathic improvisations, symbiotic catharses, and a mutual love for each other that is easily felt from a listener’s perspective. The lyrics deal with self-exploration and one’s relationship with the world around them, finding solace in spirituality, existentialism, literature, and the ethos of free jazz. Stylistically the music seems rooted in late-90’s indie rock and emo, with seamless but adventurous detours into post-rock, noisy post-hardcore, and free improvisation. Excited to see where these guys go next.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

On this mournful offering, Cave’s poetic reflections on loss, longing, and loneliness slowly float down a river of gloomy synth drones, somber strings, and sparse piano. While not exactly uplifting, the album has a sense of peace and beauty that continues up through the repeating final refrain, “and it’s alright now”.

Irreversible Entanglements – Irreversible Entanglements

“Four relentless bouts of inspired fire music forged from the true spirit of free jazz, driven by searing poetic narrations of Black trauma, survival and power” (from press release)

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Poliça – United Crushers

Poliça’s brooding, atmospheric trip-hop/synth pop consists of the passionately dynamic vocals (from co-leader/lyricist Channy Leaneagh), prominent, groovy basslines, driving double drums, and occasional string and horn arrangements all run through effects and mapped into intricate, quantized webs of programmed beats and synthesizers by co-leader/producer Ryan Olsen. Lyrically, the album centers around themes of isolation, fading love, and even addressing on police violence on “Wedding”.

For fans of Portishead, The Knife

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

Kamasi Washington and his band The Next Step, pick up where their forefathers and mothers left off by making spiritual jazz that respects the jazz canon without getting stuck in the past. This album ranges from free to groovy to melodic without losing sight of its mission. The inclusion of such a large band, an orchestra, a choir, and even a turntablist allows an infinite, colorful array of tonal and dynamic possibilities. 

Shakti – Shakti with John McLaughlin

Shakti means “Creative Intelligence, Beauty & Power” and trust me, these are all in abundance on these devotional jazz ragas. Featuring John McLaughlin joined by a quartet of Indian master musicians, this album is a blissfully uplifting and meditative release.

Shakti – Natural Elements

In this energizing exploration of Hindustani classical music from a jazz perspective, John McLaughlin joins a virtuosic trio of Indian musicians who inspire some of the most impassioned and impressive playing of his career. His acoustic guitar shredding veers close to the bendy sounds of the sitar and fits nicely with the dense web of percussion created by Vikku Vinayakram and Zakir Hussain. Violinist Lakshiminarayana Shankar’s emotive themes and fiery solos make him a perfect foil to McLaughlin.

Charlie Haden – Liberation Music Orchestra

“The music in this album is dedicated to creating a better world; a world without war and killing, without racism, without poverty and exploitation; a world where men of all governments realize the vital importance of life and strive to protect it rather than destroy it. We hope to see a new society of enlightenment and wisdom where creative thought becomes the dominant force in all people’s lives” – Charlie Haden

Tim Buckley – Blue Afternoon

Blue Afternoon continues the flowing jazz-folk of Tim’s previous release (Happy Sad) while starting to detour into the avant-garde atmospheres that would manifest more fully on his next two albums, Lorca and Starsailor. The songs and lyrics refuse to be boxed into one category as “joyful” or “lonely” or “sad” and instead reflect the intangible multi-dimensionality of feeling.