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draper   

I'll be right up front and say I really like TV on the Radio. I've been listening to Yeasayer and liking it, a lot.

In 2005 Luaka Bop released Shuggie Otis' great lost album Inspiration Information. Released in 1974 it's is a proto-electronic, soul masterpiece. It's best known song was Strawberry Letter 23. It gets played a lot around my house.

I have spent a significant chunk of the year revisiting older Soul Classics, the Stax-Volt and Motown catalogs have been getting a lot of play. Betty Lavette has 2 albums in my heavy rotation playlist. When I want to burn it out, I often reach for Swervedriver, or Curve or Ride.

Apollo Heights-White Music for Black People fits in with the weird world psychedelia that TVotR and Yeasayer put forth. It takes Shuggie Otis' funk soul hendrix electronic vibe and filters it through a shimmering wall of Cocteau Twins ( Robin Guthrie, produced four tracks on White Music for Black People.)

These are flavors that go together like Waffles and Peanut Butter, perhaps not self evident but add some syrup and a little butter and it is a sweet funky unorthodox treat.

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opus   

Here are a few things that I've been spinning on the iPod as of late:

Sambassadeur - Migration

Between releasing albums by The Radio Dept., The Mary Onettes, Club 8, and now Sambassadeur, I think that Labrador is my favorite new pop label. Migration is nothing revelatory -- you can hear snippets of countless great pop bands of yore in every song -- but it's still quite good, full of jangly guitars, breathy vocals, and catchy melodies. Which, on cold November days, is more than enough. You can listen to all of Migration here. (Labrador streams their releases, in their entirety, on Last.fm, another reason I love them so.)

Minikon - Hope

Cute, quirky electronic-laced pop that, at times, reminds me of Sufjan Stevens. At times, it's a little too twee, and there are plenty of atmospherics that I wish were explored more fully rather than heading off into bedroom electro-pop land, but there are still some lovely songs here and there. You can download the whole thing here.

Crepusculum - Sky Diaries EP

Alright, this isn't terribly new -- it actually came out last year. But it's so good that I feel ashamed for not saying more about it. Very beautiful acoustic guitar instrumentals mixed with field recordings of seas and gulls and other lonely sounds -- and it all works quite well. It's very short, so it goes by rather quickly, but I can't quite seem to get enough of it. Download it here.

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Kyle   
I think that Labrador is my favorite new pop label.

While we're giving it up for Labrador I have to mention Pelle Carlberg's new album In a Nutshell. For anyone who has spent any time with me knows I'm a sucker for twee, so if that's not your bag avoid this album like the plague. However, if you like jangly melodies, witty lyrics, and catchy hooks all with a taste of sachrine. This album is a great place to start. Download the track "I Love You, You Imbecile".

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Joel C   
Crepusculum - Sky Diaries EP

Alright, this isn't terribly new -- it actually came out last year. But it's so good that I feel ashamed for not saying more about it. Very beautiful acoustic guitar instrumentals mixed with field recordings of seas and gulls and other lonely sounds -- and it all works quite well. It's very short, so it goes by rather quickly, but I can't quite seem to get enough of it. Download it here.

I went and downloaded it, and am quite pleased. It's not a sound I get excited about, but one that I can really enjoy passively and quietly. It is quite impressively textured. I can say that I haven't been really bored by a song yet.

It makes me think of an acoustic, instrumental Midlake.

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opus   

Glad you liked the Crepusculum. I often put it on when I'm coding, to serve as a nice, calming aural wallpaper to keep me peaceful while dealing with bugs, etc.

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Kyle   
Sambassadeur - Migration

Between releasing albums by The Radio Dept., The Mary Onettes, Club 8, and now Sambassadeur, I think that Labrador is my favorite new pop label. Migration is nothing revelatory -- you can hear snippets of countless great pop bands of yore in every song -- but it's still quite good, full of jangly guitars, breathy vocals, and catchy melodies. Which, on cold November days, is more than enough. You can listen to all of Migration here. (Labrador streams their releases, in their entirety, on Last.fm, another reason I love them so.)

This is a great album BTW. Especially if you're into New Order inspired dance pop. Ditto for Club 8. I heartily add my recommendation. It's a great pick-up, especially for all you emusic junkies out there who are looking for an unexpectedly fun 8 or 9 song pick-up to round out your month's picks.

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opus   

Yeah, there's a definite New Order vibe to some of the songs on that Sambassadeur disc -- but while the influence is there, it's not nearly as obvious as it is on The Mary Onettes disc.

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Kyle   
The Mary Onettes - Void EP

I love anything that smacks of shoegazer pop. Right behind that, though, is anything that smacks of early/mid 80s post-punk/synth-pop. You know what I'm talking about: The Smiths, The Cure, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, etc. And in that regard, Void is one of the best things I've heard all year. The influences are readily apparent, but the Swedish group embodies them so easily and gracefully, it sounds revolutionary all over again, especially when the singer's (whose name escapes me at the moment) voice arcs high overhead on the title track. You can listen to the entire EP here.

I finally got around to getting their self-titled LP and everything you said about the EP applies to the LP as well. Nothing original or groundbreaking but it sure sounds good if you're at all interested in anything related to mid 80's UK syth-pop. I'd also add a Jesus & Mary Chain influence as well. It's hard to hear "Explosions" without going directly to "Just Like Honey".

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opus   
The Mary Onettes - Void EP

I love anything that smacks of shoegazer pop. Right behind that, though, is anything that smacks of early/mid 80s post-punk/synth-pop. You know what I'm talking about: The Smiths, The Cure, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, etc. And in that regard, Void is one of the best things I've heard all year. The influences are readily apparent, but the Swedish group embodies them so easily and gracefully, it sounds revolutionary all over again, especially when the singer's (whose name escapes me at the moment) voice arcs high overhead on the title track. You can listen to the entire EP here.

I finally got around to getting their self-titled LP and everything you said about the EP applies to the LP as well. Nothing original or groundbreaking but it sure sounds good if you're at all interested in anything related to mid 80's UK syth-pop. I'd also add a Jesus & Mary Chain influence as well. It's hard to hear "Explosions" without going directly to "Just Like Honey".

Definitely. One of my co-workers also pointed out some similarities to A-Ha and Killing Joke. Even so, the music is still excellent. The LP was one of my fave albums from last year, and "Slow" was my fave song of 2007.

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Kyle   

I'm curious as to what you do finally make of them Thom. Their debut album seems to have a love it or hate it vibe. I've seen some stellar reviews and others describing it as an ungodly mess.

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Hugues   

How about that Shelby Lynne new one you mentionned the other day? Looks like a collection of covers, which doesn't sound much interesting to me. Is it worth it?

I quite liked her previous two albums.

oh, and are you the future reviewer of that Stone Country album by any chance? (you know, Steve Young's first band)

Edited by Hugues

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draper   

After downloading Jiggy Jiggy and listening, I think there may be something very wrong with me. The track is great but then have always liked the sound of very talented people playing simple music together. Remembering that simple doesn't mean easy, it is a pretty straight forward soul jazz groove,(great trombone solo btw), what I find intriguing is that the track seems to be leaking music. Is that a soprano sax? It sounds like a fax machine trying to make a connection in the middle of a very normal groove related track. Is this what Albert Ayler was saying "It's not about notes anymore, it's about feelings."?

I love noise! Those feelings give me comfort. This is why I suspect I may be damaged.

Which leads me to Stephin Merritt and Magnetic Fields. I don't always like what he does but the man can write. The new album is called Distortion. If nothing else, it is an intriguing collection of very poppy songs and it takes all of Merritt's talented misanthropy and wraps it up in a fuzzy bundle of Jesus and Mary Chain.

If you are familiar with the Smithsonian collection "Sounds of the Junk Yard" you will of course know all 6:04 of the track Alligator Shear. Imagine , large scissors, cutting sheet metal, mixed together with Phil Spector style pop songs filled with venom and despair. It really is more charming than it sounds.

Edited by mumbleypeg

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After more than a few people came out of the woodwork to declare their love of Stars In Our Bedroom After the War, I thought I would resurrect my thoughts about this album again because in many ways Stars and the Delgados (who featured Emma) are cut from the same cloth. I just think the Delgados do it better. I also think Emma's solo work is better that Stars new album. And even if you don't agree with me in the end, Emma Pollock is an artist with an album that is worth paying attention to if you love pristine and grand pop statements.

I'll echo this Kylequote from last year. I discovered her through the recent A&F mix exchange, and she's quite good. I don't have Watch the Fireworks yet, but the three tracks I've heard from it would've made it onto my Best of 2007 list if I had heard them earlier.

I'm currently digging the new British Sea Power song linked on this lame site today. I'm a casual fan of the band, but I might be driven further into fandom with stuff like this.

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Kyle   

I spent a good deal of the mid to late 90's listening to second wave emo (don't judge). Braid and Rainer Maria were the bees-knees. Consequently I found myself quite drawn to Polyvinyl Records who specialized in such melodic, hardcore influenced agnst to out of key vocals. Since then I've always, more or less, thought of them as an emo label. But suddenly, I had a realization: they're no longer a second wave emo label. Heck they've released some of my favorite albums by the definitely not-emo Of Montreal, Ida, and Mates of State. They've quietly become a solid indie-rock label that consistently puts out more than solid records. Two new albums of 2008 prove it:

Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping

I have to admit this came out at the perfect time. I've been scouring my cd collection looking for some music that had a tone and feel of Oh, Inverted World without the emphasis on the singles. I wanted a short pop record that was the lazy glow of late summer evenings when everything began to slow down but it was still summer. Headlights have produced that type of album. It clocks in a just over thirty minutes and the 10 short pop numbers ebb and flow into one another beneath the faint fuzz and keyboard that hold it all together. Highly recommended.

Ida - Lover's Prayer

In a full confession, I love Ida. I always have. It's hard to believe they've been making albums for over 14 years now. For the uniniated Ida emerged out the slowcore scene of the mid 90's with bands such as Low and the Secret Stars. They've made a career of making quietly intense albums featuring gorgeous boy/girl harmony vocals. Yet behind the quiet power of this there has been a Richard and Linda Thompson vibe that kept Ida straddled on the slowcore/singer-songwriter line. On Lover's Prayer they've fallen fully into the potentially dreaded world of adult-contemporary singer-songwriter fair. Whereas their previous albums were meticulous in composition and execution, Lover's Prayer is loose, often recorded live. As a result their compositins are given a chance to breath and sound more precious, intimate, and human. It's one of their strongest albums to date. Perhaps it's only major flaw, and this is consistent with Ida's whole catalouge, is that it is too long. It could have eliminated three songs and not been worse for the wear. However the highs are high enough and well spread out in order to make it never become too bogged down or cumbersome.

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I spent a good deal of the mid to late 90's listening to second wave emo (don't judge). Braid and Rainer Maria were the bees-knees. Consequently I found myself quite drawn to Polyvinyl Records who specialized in such melodic, hardcore influenced agnst to out of key vocals. Since then I've always, more or less, thought of them as an emo label. But suddenly, I had a realization: they're no longer a second wave emo label. Heck they've released some of my favorite albums by the definitely not-emo Of Montreal, Ida, and Mates of State. They've quietly become a solid indie-rock label that consistently puts out more than solid records. Two new albums of 2008 prove it:

Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping

I have to admit this came out at the perfect time. I've been scouring my cd collection looking for some music that had a tone and feel of Oh, Inverted World without the emphasis on the singles. I wanted a short pop record that was the lazy glow of late summer evenings when everything began to slow down but it was still summer. Headlights have produced that type of album. It clocks in a just over thirty minutes and the 10 short pop numbers ebb and flow into one another beneath the faint fuzz and keyboard that hold it all together. Highly recommended.

Ida - Lover's Prayer

In a full confession, I love Ida. I always have. It's hard to believe they've been making albums for over 14 years now. For the uniniated Ida emerged out the slowcore scene of the mid 90's with bands such as Low and the Secret Stars. They've made a career of making quietly intense albums featuring gorgeous boy/girl harmony vocals. Yet behind the quiet power of this there has been a Richard and Linda Thompson vibe that kept Ida straddled on the slowcore/singer-songwriter line. On Lover's Prayer they've fallen fully into the potentially dreaded world of adult-contemporary singer-songwriter fair. Whereas their previous albums were meticulous in composition and execution, Lover's Prayer is loose, often recorded live. As a result their compositins are given a chance to breath and sound more precious, intimate, and human. It's one of their strongest albums to date. Perhaps it's only major flaw, and this is consistent with Ida's whole catalouge, is that it is too long. It could have eliminated three songs and not been worse for the wear. However the highs are high enough and well spread out in order to make it never become too bogged down or cumbersome.

The newest Ida album is okay, but I found it slightly disappointing compared to the previous few. "Loose" is right. "Underreheared" and "half-assed" (not to be confused with Sam Gamgee's uncle Halfast; hey, you can look it up. That Tolkien had a sly sense of humor) might be even closer to the mark. The songs are lovely, and Daniel Littleton's and Elizabeth Mitchell's vocals really do suggest a rustic version of Richard and Linda Thompson. But some of these songs are ponderously slow, and never really go anywhere, and all of them could have benefited from some tighter playing, in my opinion.

That Headlights album, though, is really, really fine. Again we have the boy/girl vocal dynamics (Tristian Wright and Erin Fein), but the results are far more satisfying for me. The opener, "Get Yer Head Around It," is the perfect three-minute pop song, complete with airy harmonies, a great guitar hook, and glockenspiels. I can see why you'd make The Shins comparison. The album bogs down a bit toward the end, but the first five or six songs are as memorable as anything I've heard so far this year.

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Kyle   
The newest Ida album is okay, but I found it slightly disappointing compared to the previous few. "Loose" is right. "Underreheared" and "half-assed" (not to be confused with Sam Gamgee's uncle Halfast; hey, you can look it up. That Tolkien had a sly sense of humor) might be even closer to the mark. The songs are lovely, and Daniel Littleton's and Elizabeth Mitchell's vocals really do suggest a rustic version of Richard and Linda Thompson. But some of these songs are ponderously slow, and never really go anywhere, and all of them could have benefited from some tighter playing, in my opinion.

I'm not going to disagree with you too much on this one. After reading a number of reviews I seem to be the only one that really likes it. However, I do think it is a major step up from their last album Heart Like a River, which I found to be a bloated big dud. True, I doubt they'll ever reach their creative peak of Will You Find Me? and Ten Small Paces, that later of which is their best balance of structure/execution and looseness - sporting Neil Young and Brian Eno covers its easily their most playful album.

One of the reasons I like their "loose" playing is that it reminds me of their remarkable live shows. Perahps to most it doesn't work recorded to tape, but for me it does. When I listen to this album I'm taken to an intimate living room and am watching them play. The drawbacks are outweighed by the benefits.

While they can also be accused of being far too slow, the songs "Lover's Prayer", "Worried Mind Blues", "For the Shame of Doing Wrong", and "the Killers" are some of my favorites and givie the album a great anchor. Plus, "The Killers" features the lyric "And you punched Ronald Reagon right in the face/before the goons dragged you off and the screen went black." It makes me laugh every time.

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draper   

Gary Louris- Vagabonds. I didn't know it was out until I was searching Amazon for the Jesus of Cool and saw that Gary Louris had a solo album out.

I've been listening to it for the past week, off and on. It is a good sign that the melodies are starting to sneak up on me whenever my mind has time to wander.

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Greg P   

Technically a few months old, but "new" to me. Tyler Ramsey's (Band of Horses)A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea. Soft folkie, Harvest-era Neil Young sounding stuff, stirred up in a SoCal 1970's ballad stew. It won't grab you by the throat, but it just might make your Monday morning commute a little sweeter. At the top of my playlist this week.

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opus   

Asthmatic Kitty has just announced 6 new musical additions to their label, and you can listen to songs by all of them right here. Of the 6, I'm most excited by Shannon Stephens -- who previously fronted the band Marzuki with Sufjan Stevens -- and Welcome Wagon -- who have a skewed pop sensibility not all that dissimilar to Danielson's.

You can also download all of the tracks, as well as some artwork from illustrator Laura Park (who also joins the label's roster), right here.

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Some recent and upcoming favorites:

Barry Adamson-- Back to the Cat (Thom nailed this one)

Emmylou Harris-- All I Intend to Be

My Morning Jacket-- Evil Urges

Shearwater-- Rook

Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band-- Seasons of Changes (Another tip of the hat to Jurek)

My Brightest Diamond-- A Thousand Shark's Teeth

Islands-- Arm's Way

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yank_eh   

If you like Animal Collective or wish you did but can't, you will probably like Au (pronounced Ay-You, like the letters). I heard their song "Rr vs. D" on All Songs Considered recently and loved it. A couple phrases quoted from their label's site: "rickety yet elated melodies," "folk with the discipline of classical music and the nagging howls of new, weird Americana."

Some will inevitably write them off as an Animal Collective knock-off, and they do sound a lot like them but what I've heard so far (their second album comes out in June) is a little less experimental. One of the songs sounds a little like Grizzly Bear too.

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opus   

I've been listening to bits and pieces of Cut Copy's latest, In Ghost Colours. And as much as I enjoy M83's shameless appropriation of '80s new wave/synth-pop on their latest album, Cut Copy outdoes them at every single turn.

But this isn't some mere retread. Listening to the songs on In Ghost Colours is like catching a glimpse of an alternate future, one where groups like Depeche Mode, Erasure, Thompson Twins, The Yaz, and (of course) New Order live on eternally in cybernetic bodies, continually polishing their craft to the nth degree.

You can hear several track on their MySpace page. All in all, probably some of the funnest music I've heard all year. It's not necessarily the kind of music that sticks with you once you're done with the disc. But while you're listening to it, you think you listen to it forever.

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stu   

This is a friend of mine, but I really think it's worth a listen: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fusea...endid=360716152

The song 'deadmeat' is like Josh Pearson channeled through Vashti Bunyan. It's a disturbing mix of imagery - butchery, self-harm, cannablism and the eucharist - but the lyrics in the last verse are very, very well written, in my entirely biased opinion.

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