Other Music curates selections of vinyl and CDs for Ace Hotel New York, and this is their latest collection. You can come check it out for yourself — everything’s for sale on the wall just to the right of the taxidermy birds. If you want something good to play in your room and take home with you, just call the front desk and they’ll send some things up.
KURT VILE — SMOKE RING FOR MY HALO
Philadelphia native Kurt Vile has been hailed as the next Petty, Seger or Springsteen, and with Smoke Ring for My Halo all these comparisons are more accurate than ever. This is a sincere, no-punches-pulled showcase for a towering talent, and the arrangements and care that went into Childish Prodigy effectively meet the songwriter who we met on his earlier releases, on his own terms. Those familiar with Mr. Vile’s body of work won’t be surprised at the very depth of emotion summoned here, belied by his deadpan vocals; these are songs of isolation and general unease, rendered beautiful by (and sometimes even despite) the certainty in his voice and actions.
VARIOUS ARTISTS — THOSE SHOCKING SHAKING DAYS
Those Shocking Shaking Days is as warped as a hash pipe run over by a moped; equal parts King Crimson and James Brown, this set of twenty stomping, stormy fuzzballs is packed with danceable beats, heavy riffs, and most importantly, hummable, memorable TUNES, not to mention some totally cracked vocals (often backed by angelic harmonies), and some heavy-hitting raw production. Several of the artists also infuse a heavy sociopolitical context into their songs; like many of the world’s most fertile music scenes, this one also flourished during heavily-censored dictatorship. Not only is the song selection flawless and the notes fathoms deep, but the tracks have all been properly licensed and thoroughly annotated in the massive booklet inside.
RAINBOW ARABIA — BOYS AND DIAMONDS
This is a fully realized and truly amazing album from L.A.-based husband and wife duo Rainbow Arabia with the production sheen that one would expect from a Kompakt record; yes, the legendary techno label has scooped up Rainbow Arabia, and Boys and Diamonds is the rare pop album that actually makes sense in this context. The duo work with elements of Indian, Arabic and African music, and new wave, disco, and modern electronic production stylings too, but always with a natural organic tone. With Matthew Preston’s spot-on production instinct, and Tiffany Preston’s dynamic vocals, shifting from an M.I.A. chant/rap to a Karin Dreijer Andersson howl at the flick of a switch, you have analbum that is much more than the sum of its parts.
PURO — HEADBANGERS IN ECSTASY
Young guns Skylar and Piper, aged 16 and 23 who make up Puro Instinct stay true to form on their full-length debut, Headbangers in Ecstasy, fittingly out on Brooklyn’s Mexican Summer, home to the similarly sandy Washed Out and Real Estate. Mining territory akin to recent tourmate and collaborator Ariel Pink, here Puro Instinct fashion their own brand of seriously frothy dream pop. Chock full of ebullient guitar lines that slink and swirl around the girls’ glossy, reverb-laden vocals, it’s easy to spot the influences the band draws from: the shimmering shoegaze of seminal acts like Lush mix with the softer rock overtones of groups like Fleetwood Mac and traces of Ariel Pink’s distinctive variety of pop. What’s not to love? Blended together, it’s a winning combination, pulled off with an air of giddy ease.
PAPERCUTS — FADING PARADE
Fading Parade is the fourth album from Jason Quever’s Papercuts, and on this album Mr. Quever has perfected a strain of melancholy indie pop, with lyrics delivered like secrets whispered in the dark. Produced by Thom Monahan (Vetiver, Pernice Brothers, Devendra Banhart), the sound is wispy, dreamy, light as a feather and often hard to grasp on to, but Quever’s nuanced songwriting and the band’s subtle interplay give the album the ballast it needs. While there is a certain sameness to Fading Parade, like there is a sameness to a Galaxie 500 record, it’s one that I’ve found incredibly comfortable, addictive and rewarding over the last few weeks.
LYKKE LI — WOUNDED RHYMES
Swedish pop phenom Lykke Li returns with her eagerly awaited second album, and anyone with worries of a sophomore slump can wipe their brow and exhale, because damn, this record is GREAT. Again produced by Bjorn Yttling, on Wounded Rhymes Li speaks up, her voice sounding full and yes, wounded, but it’s clear in these ten songs that she’s exorcising her demons with ringing, chiming guitars, thumping, primal beats, and an eerie early 4AD ambience. She’s spoken in recent interviews of her experiences writing this album in Los Angeles, trying to romanticize the city’s evil mystery and scouring the hills for the likes of Leonard Cohen and David Lynch — no surprise then that Lynch’s atmospheres and landscapes are definitely audible in these tracks, notably in the guitar sounds and the stark reverberations of the drums.
CHARLES BRADLEY — NO TIME FOR DREAMING
You can hear the long, roundabout path 62-year-old Charles Bradley took to the release of his stunning debut album, No Time for Dreaming, in every note. Born in Brooklyn, Bradley has been making music, and moreover making a hardscrabble living any way he could in every corner of the country, since his teen years. But back in his hometown, he fell in with the Daptone Records scene a few years ago when Gabe Roth stumbled across Bradley doing his James Brown routine under the stage name of Black Velvet in a Bed-Stuy bar. Bradley’s voice evokes Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, a raspy, painfully soulful drawl that is swimming in raw emotion and pathos, and he has penned a batch of songs that do honor to his emotive instrument, musing on love, loss, and the hard, bad world he came up in.
GIL SCOTT-HERON & JAMIE XX — WE’RE NEW HERE
The resulting re-workings of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here with xx’s noted beat maker and producer, Jamie xx are respectable and lovely — not a track-by-track redux, per se, Jamie digs deeper into the GSH catalogue breathing new life into some of his personal favorites. While he doesn’t simply give the songs the xx once-over, his trademark aesthetic is ever-present. Bridging the old school with the new can sometimes be an awkward train wreck, but Jamie treats the vocals with care and finesse, and across 13 tracks, Scott-Heron’s poetic text is tastefully accompanied by elements of hip-hop, trip-hop, dub-step, drum-n-bass and soul. Filled with rich synth textures and lots of beats and breaks, the album introduces Gil Scott-Heron to a whole new generation of listeners and paints a very real portrait of a wise auditor, elder statesmen and musician who struggles with life, love, fear and addiction.