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   May 23, 2013  
Dirty Beaches
Majical Cloudz
Daft Punk
Wild Nothing
Cleaners from Venus (4CD or 4LP)
The National
Mirror to the Soul (Various Artists)
Pye Corner Audio
Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle
Peter Jefferies
John Grant
Francoise Hardy
Gun Outfit
Sic Alps

C'est Chic (Various Artists)

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MAY Sun 26 Mon 27 Tues 28 Wed 29 Thurs 30 Fri 31 Sat 01

This upcoming installment of the Modern School of Film's ongoing series pairing popular and groundbreaking musicians with their favorite movies is not to be missed. Next Tuesday, May 28th, Laurie Anderson will be presenting a screening of Miracle in Milan, Vittorio De Sica's 1951 follow-up to The Bicycle Thief, followed by a discussion after the showing with this highly influential artist and performer. Other Music is giving away one pair of passes and you can enter for your chance to win by emailing enter@othermusic.com.

IFC CENTER: 323 Sixth Avenue at W. Third St. NYC

MAY Sun 26 Mon 27 Tues 28 Wed 29 Thurs 30 Fri 31 Sat 01

After a long hiatus, Jordan Jeffares a/k/a Snowden has returned with a new album, No One in Control, and will be performing two dates in New York City next week, Thursday, May 30th at the Mercury Lounge and then the following night (Friday, May 31st) in Williamsburg at Cameo. To enter for your chance at a pair of passes to one of these shows, email tickets@othermusic.com and make sure to list which night you'd like to see.

MERCURY LOUNGE: 217 E. Houston St. NYC

CAMEO: 93 N. 6th St. Williamsburg, BKLN

Other Music's summer Monday residency at New York City's Ace Hotel kicks off on June 3 and goes through to the end of August! During those months, you'll find a different member of our staff DJing their favorite records and countless varieties of music inside the gorgeous lobby bar every Monday evening from 8pm to midnight, and we hope you'll come and join us as we shake off those dog days that are just around the corner. So mark your calendar: Other Music's Summer DJ Residency at Ace Hotel, every Monday in June, July and August. Here's the full schedule:

6/03 - Gerald Hammill
6/10 - Ryan Naideau
6/17 - Chris Pappas
6/24 - Gerald Hammill
7/01 - Mikey IQ Jones
7/08 - Amanda Chouette
7/15 - Pam Garavano-Coolbaugh & Michael Stasiak
7/22 - Andreas Knutsen
7/29 - Scott Mou
8/05 - Amanda Chouette
8/12 - Chris Pappas
8/19 - Ryan Naideau
8/26- Pam Garavano-Coolbaugh & Michael Stasiak

ACE HOTEL: 20 W. 29th St. NYC
8:00pm to Midnight | Facebook Event Page





$13.99 CD
$22.99 LPx2


Drifters / Love Is the Devil
(Zoo Music)

"Night Walk"
"I Dream in Neon"

Alex Zhang Hungtai (a/k/a Dirty Beaches) returns with an ambitious sophomore full-length that is essentially two albums in one package; the first half of the set is titled Drifters and is a continuation of the dirty, loop-based roadhouse weirdobilly that first brought him attention on his Badlands debut. His muffled croon is propelled by rumbling bass, fuzzy organ riffs, clattering minimalist percussion, and warbling keyboards; it's altogether a more focused version of the greatness hinted at on Badlands and is well worth the price of admission alone, as he broadens his sound considerably via a more diverse palette of samples, while holding true to the shadowed mood and menace that made the debut so engrossing. But wait, there's more!! The second half of the set, entitled Love Is the Devil, is a lovely, haunting suite of predominantly ambient, filmic instrumentals that plays like a no wave version of Leyland Kirby's Caretaker project; keyboards drone and warble, organs oscillate slowly, and guitars quietly and solemnly chime and reverberate amidst desolate ghost town landscapes. It's absolutely gorgeous and shows a side of Hungtai's work that has been seldom emphasized. While it was perhaps not the best idea to combine both albums onto a single CD -- they each deserve the singular attention of the listener -- the vinyl is a 2LP set giving each of the 37-odd-minute albums the context they deserve. Either way, it's easily Dirty Beaches' finest, most consistent release to date, and proves that his vision is true and well worth your hard-earned cash. There's no sophomore slump here, folks; this one gets my highest recommendation! [IQ]




$13.99 CD
$17.99 LP+MP3



"This Is Magic"
"Silver Rings"

Over the course of the last few years, Devon Welsh has been paring back his music to the bare essentials. Beginning the Majical Cloudz project in 2010 as a solo artist (though frequently inviting his friend Claire Boucher a/k/a Grimes to sing with him), Welsh produced kaleidoscopic soundscapes where the shifting electronic textures often buried his mumbled vocals. After releasing a collection of the early recordings on his hometown Montreal hit factory Arbutus Records, Welsh brought in instrumentalist Matthew Otto and on the much-loved Turns Turns Turns EP issued in the fall of 2012, the duo showed a sharpened focus, with a spare production and Welsh's warm tenor pushed to the front and center. This peeling back of sound has continued on the new Majical Cloudz full-length for Matador, with a set of powerfully emotional songs that are starkly minimalist while still being heartfelt and open, a rare feat that makes this album something special. On stage these days, Welsh cuts a bold figure -- shaved head, plain white t-shirt, no gear, no mic stand even, just Otto off to his side triggering loops and hunching over his little keyboard, and a white-knuckle grip on that microphone, pouring his heart out into the crowd. The band is now almost entirely about Welsh's deep and truly beautiful voice, and his dark, sometimes harrowing songs, cleaning out his closets and staring down his personal demons. Musically you would have to call this an electronic record, but despite the loops and drones that make up the aural backdrop, it is far removed from any beat-driven or even ambient production I can think of -- this is a songwriter's showcase and a vocal spotlight that almost leaves the background music as just that -- background. He's been compared to Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, and there is a similarity in their swooning vocal delivery and thought-provoking lyrics, but Merritt -- this may sound absurd -- is much more lighthearted and silly. There are elements of mid-period Scott Walker, in his singing and that raw emotion. But in the end, Devon Walsh stands on his own as a powerful and original voice, both literally and figuratively. Totally inappropriate band name though... Gathering Clouds, maybe. [JM]




$15.99 LP


(Sacred Bones)


Pharmakon is the alias for Margaret Chardiet, a young Brooklynite who's been writing, recording, playing and hosting shows, and steadily building in scope and audience as part of NYC's larger noise/avant/electronic community for the past six or seven years. Abandon is her first LP for Sacred Bones and it truly does not disappoint. Pulling from the same playbook that Throbbing Gristle, Maurizio Bianchi, Esplendor Geometrico, and S.P.K. did decades earlier, Pharmakon is a much-needed interruption to the current, tired indie scene. The album opens with "Milkweed/It Hangs Heavy," a brick wall of harsh noise and buried screams accompanied by clanking chains and a submerged wallop. Later in the record, "Crawling on Bruised Knees" approaches, however slightly, standard song form, with Chardiet programming electronic thumps underneath shrill shrieks of feedback. However, it would do a disservice to the overall project to merely describe the album track by track; Abandon, and pretty much everything this reviewer has heard by Pharmakon, needs to be experienced as a whole. A set of tortured noise vignettes and tense, rattling, moody compositions, this is HARSH MUSIC, and the fact that Chardiet is garnering larger attention in 2013 might suggest that things are headed in a cool direction... [RN]




$13.99 CD


Random Access Memories

"Doin' It Right"
"Give Life Back to Music"

The media blitz surrounding Daft Punk's new full-length has been nearly unavoidable; from billboards and fly posters, teaser commercials on national TV, and a series of web videos, the duo managed to promote Random Access Memories in a way that hasn't really been seen in today's contemporary times, blending the pre-internet mentality of record promotion with many of the now-common tricks used in multi-platform communications. The album has seemingly caused a frenzy of hyperbolic critical response, with people either damning the record to no end or praising it with dramatic accolades.

In my opinion, Random Access Memories is more triumph than tragedy, more a grower than a shower (as funny as it may seem to label such a high-profile release as such), and displays a side of the band's talents that had essentially been only previously hinted upon. As a fan of Daft Punk over the years, I've always come to appreciate their embrace of pop kitsch; their particular ability to re-contextualize sonic ingredients or production touches which are often associated with novelty or perhaps carrying airs of "uncool" has always been a key strength, leading the group to build a fanbase that has managed to transcend genre lines, gaining approval from the dance, rap, indie, and even pop communities. Random Access Memories is essentially the summation of such feats, and sees the duo attempting to utilize their methods in an entirely new context; the album features next to no samples of other people's music, instead bringing together a massive roster of collaborators for a record that is pure pop in a way that pays homage to and strives to replicate an old, perhaps now-outdated methodology. Everything is performed by a crack team of session musicians accompanying the duo, and the pair's vocoder vocals are joined throughout by the contributions of folks like Pharrell Williams, Panda Bear, Giorgio Moroder, and Julian Casablancas.

While the album is a bit overlong and could use a touch of editing, it's rather surprising just how well it works; the biggest, most jarring change for many will likely be the live instrumentation and overall sonic landscape, which is more akin to the golden California sound of 1970s or early 1980s radio. Blending elements of blue-eyed soul, breezy disco pop, some epic progressive rock exploration, and lots of in-the-pocket groove, Random Access Memories is at first listen a massive retro throwback; there are catchy, radio-ready staples and more patience-testing "deep cuts" that forgo any easy payoff, and the vintage-sounding production gets subtly tweaked by modern technology. If you're a fan of the group's past triumphs, it's honestly difficult to say whether or not you'll get down with this; it's more akin to Steely Dan than Munich Machine, more Hall & Oates than Ralf & Florian. I applaud the duo for taking every opportunity to use their popularity to be able to push the envelope in a manner perhaps unexpected, though it really shouldn't be a surprise that they've decided to flex their cultural muscle in such a way. Discovery was just as much a pop record, but made on a much, much smaller budget and for a smaller audience; thinking about what the duo has already achieved over the years, and where they'd perhaps want to go next, would you honestly want them to simply make more tracks built upon loops and clipped vocoder phrases the same way that they had before, only with strings attached (both literally and figuratively)?

While I may not particularly enjoy every cut fully, overall this is a great album, one that will take a bit of work for some to warm to, and that may rub others the wrong way. Cheers to Daft Punk for not playing it safe, and for making a record that while sounding somewhat light and playful on the surface, is actually a rather dark comment on where we have been, where we are going, and what we have lost. This fleeting grasp at a past we can't all revisit is a true achievement for a talented artist, regardless of the context or circumstances. [IQ]




$14.99 CD Deluxe Version $11.99 12"


Empty Estate EP
(Captured Tracks)

"Data World"

On Empty Estate, Wild Nothing's follow-up EP to last year's gorgeous Nocturne, Jack Tatum turns up the synthesizers on his nostalgic, hazy dreamscapes. While Wild Nothing often draws comparisons to the C86 bands of the 1980s, Empty Estate's polished effects embrace a glitzier aspect of the decade. The record bursts open on the sunny "The Body in Rainfall," with Tatum's gentle vocals washing effortlessly over driving pop guitars. But "Ocean Repeating (Big-Eyed Girl)," with its dramatic use of synth and layers of echo-y vocal manipulations, feels darker, evocative of haunt-rockers like Kate Bush or Echo and the Bunnymen, as Tatum sings, "I'm not trying to catch her/Or to carry her weight/I only wanted to chase her/Through the empty estate." "A Dancing Shell" is hypnotic as it swirls with jangly guitars and reggae rhythms. The spoken-word delivery of "I'm not a human/I'm just a body/Just a dancing shell/Here to make you happy" feels like a tongue-in-cheek response to the Human League's top 40 classic "Human." Tatum also tries his hand at a couple of lovely instrumental tracks, most notable the trance-y closer "Hachiko." Tatum admits he's taken some cues from new wave artists like Brian Eno and Talking Heads on the EP, but as he's done so well before, he manages to incorporate his influences without losing his own vision. [KB]




CD x4
$64.99 LPx4


Volume 2
(Captured Tracks)

"Julie Profumo"
"Johnny the Moondog is Dead"

Though he's been releasing music for decades under his own name and various incarnations to a small but fiercely loyal group of fans, 2012 was a very good year for Martin Newell, thanks to Captured Tracks' Cleaners from Venus boxed set which compiled the first three albums by the UK psych-pop eccentric's all-but-forgotten band from the early-to-mid '80s. This set not only introduced the overlooked pop genius to a whole new generation of listeners, it was also a godsend to old fans who had worn out their original cassettes years ago. Now comes the promised second volume, which includes three albums originally released between 1983 and '85 and all nicely remastered, as well as a bonus record featuring previously unreleased gems. These lo-fi treasures are some of the greatest, yet wonderfully unconventional, pop songs you'll ever hear, coming across as if you're listening through a tin-can telephone to Ray Davies breaking every music rule in the book.

The first disc of this set, 1983's In the Golden Autumn, is my personal favorite, filled with lots of jangly ditties, spacey synths and lo-fi sound bytes, as Newell continues his ongoing exploration of psychedelic rock, dub and reggae-pop. His gently sarcastic wit and crooning voice on some tracks reminds me of Paul McCartney's so-called 'granny music' that John Lennon detested, and it's all captured here in delightfully varied lo-fidelity, possessing lots of processed charm and verve, and all in all is a great alternative to what Newell called the "idiot pop stars."

The title of the following year's Under Wartime Conditions could quite possibly have been inspired by Newell's childhood moving around the UK and Far East as the son of an army man. Highlights here include "Hand of Stone" (think of an English Bo Diddley gone dub and you're partway there), the TVP-esque "Song for Syd Barrett," and the flanged-guitar and primitive drum-machine propelled "Johnny the Moondog Is Dead," which opens with the robot voice of what sounds like an old, malfunctioning Speak & Spell.

Songs for a Fallow Land was actually a solo release from Newell and carries a nostalgic tone, with Newell reflecting on the notion of being more of an artist than an entrepreneur, with no aspirations to perfection or success. When it was reissued a few years back in a small pressing on the Fixed Identity label, we wrote: Songs for a Fallow Land, a collection of highly personal, acid-damaged tracks from 1985, is perhaps the best of them all. The mood is psychedelic and the means are limited, but as the saying goes, sometimes the biggest pop songs are made on the tiniest 4-tracks. To put things in a more modern context, it's remarkable how many of these songs sound like a blueprint for records by Ariel Pink and his buddy John Maus.

Lastly, Dawn Chorus is an eye-opening compilation of mostly unreleased tracks lovingly selected from the vast Cleaners archives. The album begins with a spoken piece from Newell introducing a very early, muffled recording made shortly after he got his first acoustic guitar, jamming with a friend and his brother who was banging on a makeshift drum set of egg crates and biscuit tins. To quote Newell: "It's where all British pop starts, in the garage." Also included in the dozen tracks are recordings by Newell's Stray Trolleys moniker and two cuts from 1980's Young Jobless 7". Unearthed, these songs sound better than ever and rounded out by liner notes from the Wild Man of Wivenhoe himself, Captured Tracks has issued another absolutely essential document from one of pop music's most unheralded talents. [ACo]

The 4-LP box set includes a button and poster. Other Music will also be carrying individual vinyl pressings of each of these featured albums next week.




$13.99 CD
$23.99 LP+MP3

Trouble Will Find Me

"I Should Live in Salt"

We'd all like to think we keep improving with age, but when it comes to rock and roll, that is very rarely the case -- there are precious few artists who are making the best music of their lives six albums and a dozen years into a career in the spotlight; the National, however, are that rare exception. Consistent and studied without being rote or boring, this is not a band who will reinvent themselves with each new record, yet Trouble Will Find Me continues the refinement and focus that the group has been bringing to their recordings since the gloomy alt-country of their 2001 debut, and in many ways this may be their most enjoyable release to date. The formula is not really that different from the last few, and though it may be a bit more streamlined compared to the relentlessly ambitious High Violet, the elements are the same: subtle mid-tempo rockers that are meticulously arranged to be airtight and inescapable; unfussy chords and always-inventive rhythms, the Dessner brother's twin guitars played so simply they leave room for their equally subtle orchestrations; and of course, on top of all this, Matt Berninger's lush yet downcast and tense baritone, a voice that gives his intimate yet universal fears and frustrations room to breathe. If there is a trick here, it is how the wonderful musicianship of these guys is consistently underplayed; the songs sometimes feel like the work of one strummed guitar and a crooning vocal, but as you are drawn continually deeper into the universe of this record the surprising logic of Bryan Devendorf's unconventional drumming, the subtle chord inversions and unexpected arrangements start to sink in, and, as with Berninger's lyrics, it becomes clear that there is much more going un under the surface than you first realized. It's a melancholy and beautiful album from a band that continues to grow and surprise, despite the doubters and despite the odds. [JM]




$23.99 LPx2


Eleven:Eleven - Deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition


For the past decade or so, people have been saying a lot of things about rock music being "back" or being "dead" or what have you, depending on whether they have some skin in the game regarding that statement, or if they just heard something that fits (or violates) their taste profile with loud electric guitars in it. Nothing -- no music whatsoever in the specified timeframe -- comes close to what Boston band Come was able to do with rock music in their long, underdogged career. From the early '90s, as Thalia Zedek jumped the sinking ship that was Caroline-era Live Skull, poised for a success that never came, as Chris Brokaw departed his bandmates in Codeine and traded drums for guitar, and as the rhythm section of Arthur Johnson and Sean O'Brien decamped the greater Athens, GA music scene to form the band Come, there was not much precedent for the fiery revisionist blues they'd invent, and history has continued to let us down in this regard. For the 20th anniversary of their debut, Eleven:Eleven, Come is reuniting to show the stragglers what their legacy was all about.

Really, there are very few bands that make it maddeningly difficult to find a precedent for, or even contemporaries, of what they did in their prime. Come was one of these bands. There were electric guitars, bass, drums, a distinctive vocalist with a fiery rasp who'd occasionally trade verses with her weary-sounding contemporary, and maybe, decades prior, there was the sadness in Townes Van Zandt records that could have predicted a band like Come, and maybe glimpses of the quiet-LOUD-quiet dynamic shifts in groups like Slint or Bitch Magnet, but the aggression and inventiveness of their handling of their form of the blues is owned solely by Come. These songs are filled with sadness, anger, and regret, but on Eleven: Eleven the group never evinces any sort of need to apologize or recompense; along with the sound, they own the emotions that come with it, and own up to them in this unheralded classic. Come would go on to make three more albums, all with the quality exemplified on Eleven:Eleven. If you've never heard this record, and are ready to be troubled and torn apart by the dark ecstasy that rock music so rarely brings, steel yourself. If you're already a fan, this deluxe edition includes a live set from fall 1992, and the vinyl edition includes a repress of their "Fast Piss Blues" 7". Highest recommendation. [DM]




$31.99 LPx2+DVD
$25.99 LPx2


Mirror to the Soul: Music, Culture and Identity in the Caribbean 1920-72
(Soul Jazz)

"West Indian Drums" Russ Henderson
"Nassau Cha Cha" Andre Troussaint

This sweeping, ambitious release from Soul Jazz is not just a terrific anthology, it's the soundtrack to a celebrated documentary about how Caribbean culture was presented to the British public for decades via Pathé newsreels. A 2CD/DVD set (available on vinyl as well, with or without the DVD), Mirror to the Soul includes two and a half hours of music, and the documentary has over an hour of bonus footage, plus a 72-page booklet. The film has earned magnificent reviews and is worth the price alone, but the soundtrack is filled with treasures too. You can't possibly cover half a century's worth of music from a region this rich in culture and history without getting into boxed set territory; wisely, Mirror to the Soul simply showcases the diversity and beauty of the Caribbean musical heritage. The first disc is sheer fun, an exuberant mix of calypso, folk, salsa and reggae, with elements of funk, jazz and rock sprinkled throughout. Russ Henderson's "West Indian Drums" features some killer piano riffs anchored by blistering polyrhythms; Slim Smith's "My Conversation" is a lovely, lilting reggae ditty; Celia Cruz's "Chango" is exactly what you'd expect from this titan of Cuban music; while Andre Toussaint's "Nassau Cha Cha" is the perfect introduction to the Trinidadian troubadour. The second disc takes an abrupt turn; the tracks here focus more on percussion and chants rather than on verses and choruses. The drumming gives this half of the album a hypnotic, almost ambient quality. A few reviewers have sniffed that the duality of the comp signals confusion, but the format works, ingeniously giving a bird's-eye view of one of the world's great musical cultures. [JBr]






Superstitious Century
(Boomkat Editions)

"Zero Centre"
"Wasted Evolution"

Pye Corner Audio continues his hot streak with this stellar 20-minute, four-song EP of new material for the Boomkat Editions label. Superstitious Century finds the Head Technician pumping out material that ups the dance floor ante a few notches, whilst never sacrificing the shadowed, brimstone-laden synthscapes upon which he's made his name. All four of these cuts work together in the same way that Autechre and Boards of Canada have always been so good at making their EPs important entities of their own, as opposed to afterthoughts left on the cutting room floor. Rather than feeling like outtakes from Sleep Games or the various Black Mill Tapes releases, Superstitious Century goes for a full on Blade Runner vibe, all rain-soaked and fog-encrusted neon atmospheres with deep, pumping rhythms that keep things sensual amidst the ambiance. Earworm melodies also creep out slowly amidst the arpeggiated chords, creating eerie, churchlike hymns for the cyberpunk set. All in all it's another top-shelf release from an artist who shows no signs of slowing down his magic; if you've been a fan of any of his prior efforts, this is a must-own, and if you've missed out or have been apprehensive up to this point, Superstitious Century is an excellent entryway into his world. Top marks all around for this one! [IQ]




$21.99 LP


Silver Wilkinson

"A tout à l'heure"

After the lovely, splendid disarray of 2011's Mind Bokeh, Stephen Wilkinson (a/k/a Bibio) streamlines his Dilla/Folkways/Beach Boys obsessions and throws in a dose of the pastoral downtempo analogism's of labelmates Boards of Canada for his newest full-length. The result is quite possibly his best record since his breakthrough album, Ambivalence Avenue; the smeared chromatic chords of Mind Bokeh are now given a boom-bap makeover on burners like "You" (which utilizes a Lionel Richie vocal snippet to awesome effect). The first single "A tout à l'heure" ups the ante of the fractured folk of Ambivalence Avenue that gained him initial acclaim, complete with crackin', rumbling, muted snares and a lovely vocal turn from Wilkinson. Album centerpiece "Dye the Water Green" is cavernous World of Echo-laden ambient psych-folk that balances the soft, rich vocal cadences of Arthur Russell with the pop refractions of modern contemporaries such as Panda Bear. Lovely stuff once again from Wilkinson if you're already riding the bus, and for novices who are fans of any of the aforementioned, this is as good of a place as any to start. Recommended! [DH]






Perils from the Sea
(Caldo Verde)

"You Missed My Heart"

Releasing close to ten albums, including live and soundtrack work, in the past two years, Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon frontman Mark Kozelek has been recording, writing, and touring non-stop. Perils from the Sea, however, is something entirely new for him; a one-on-one collaboration with Album Leaf founder and mastermind Jimmy Lavalle. Here Kozelek trades in his acoustic guitar for Lavalle's minimal electronic production and focuses solely on vocal duties for most of the tracks. Unlike last year's excellent Among the Leaves, this record's lyrics are decidedly less confessional and find Kozelek drifting into storyteller mode, painting vivid portraits of various people and situations throughout Perils from the Sea's duration. And really this record is ALL ABOUT the lyrics. For example, album highlight and recent live favorite "You Missed My Heart" details the story of a protagonist committing a crime against his unfaithful lover and reflecting through prison walls. However, there are less dramatic moments, and on "Caroline" Kozelek plays guitar over the track and sings about road life, walking through Chinatown, and life's tiny precious moments. It's always great to hear Kozelek's resonant baritone, and this time around it really shines over the cold synthesizers and programmed drums. [RN]




$19.99 LP


The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World
(De Stijl)

"Chain or Reaction"
"While I've Been Waiting"

It was inevitable that this album would be reissued and regarded as the classic singer-songwriter effort that it is. New Zealander Peter Jefferies was a member of the seminal, largely unheard group Nocturnal Projections, whose music traversed the punk and post-punk eras in early-'80s Christchurch, and later in the heart-wrenching This Kind of Punishment, with his brother Graeme, as well as guitarist in Kiwi supergroup the Plagal Grind.  1990's The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World is one of the seminal releases on the Xpressway label, and was reissued, along with a handful of other wonderful recordings, by the Ajax imprint not long after. A dedicated, fervent fanbase quietly praised these works, treasures unearthed from a country whose rich musical bounty was then just making itself visible to the rest of the world. Inevitable touring of America led to a chance pairing with the group Mecca Normal, and Jefferies had as public of a relationship as could be fathomed at that level in 1994 with that band's vocalist, Jean Smith. They started a project called 2 Foot Flame, with some releases on Matador, then separated and disbanded the group; Jefferies would go on to release a handful of solo efforts on the Emperor Jones label before retreating from music in the early '00s. His music has been celebrated by musicians as different and divisive as Cat Power (who covered Jefferies on her breakout album What Would the Community Think?) and Amanda Palmer (who sought him out for a performance during a stopover in Australasian touring), but while Graeme still performs with his long-running group the Cakekitchen, Peter has shunned returns to the spotlight for the most part, and refused most offers to return to music.

People will inevitably come down on this record for its slapdash 4-track ingenuity (the sounds of household clatter in "Domesticia," the various bits of distortion and electronic clutter on "While I've Been Waiting"), his choice of piano as lead instrument, and for the overwhelming sense of melancholy that Jefferies' songwriting, and especially his baritone voice, drapes over these tunes. These same people forget how hard it was to carve the appropriate niche for oneself in this era, when few if any found a reason, or even a way, to discover music like this on their own. There wasn't much in the way of hardscrabble, stark melancholy on offer when Jefferies created this record, and there still isn't today. Peter Jefferies handily made a dark, foreboding work of unnatural beauty while avoiding every genre trope in the book. Joining him on Last Great Challenge are David Mitchell (Plagal Grind, the 3Ds), Alastair Galbraith (Plagal Grind, the Rip, and a still-active solo career), Kathy Bull, and all three members of the Dead C. De Stijl's reissue tacks on the tracks from his Catapult 7" on Xpressway, including the mesmerizing "Fate of the Human Carbine." Even within Peter Jefferies' own catalog, let alone any of his contemporaries, there are very few records with this sort of power and inward illumination. Let's hope this edition pulls the artist back out of the shadows. [DM]






Pale Green Ghosts

"Ernest Borgnine"

The second solo album from the former Czars vocalist finds John Grant experimenting with new sounds and taking even more chances than on his debut. Grant's solo career has been punctuated by a series of press dust-ups -- he came out publically during the promo for his debut album, and before this record was released he revealed on stage that he was recently diagnosed as HIV positive; yet with Pale Green Ghosts, Grant has made one of the most personal and cohesive (and depressing) breakup albums in some time. Always a transient spirit, he is a gifted storyteller and talented crooner with the sturdy baritone to weather any storm. His one great love weaves in and out of every track, and this music comes from a place of inner strength within the trials of a spiteful soul. Pale Green Ghost refers to the glow of the olive trees John would pass while night driving in Colorado on his way to the lone gay dance bar in the area; it was here he learned for the first time he was not alone, and amid the chaos and confusion of his troubled adolescence, he discovered his voice.

Whereas his debut was recorded in Denton, Texas with the band Midlake, here he has ventured to Iceland to craft a synth-based album with Biggi, of the electro pioneers Gus Gus, and together they transformed this sonic diary from just a collection of sad songs into a revealing novella of a breakup, and a moving listening experience; this is not the feel-good album of the year, but these honest, gut-wrenching confessionals shimmer and sparkle in the meticulous production. Many songs are grounded in forlorn Bronski Beat-styled synth grandeur, but with Grant's deadpan clever and dour lyrics at the core. In "Vietnam," he allows bitterness to consume him: "And the only thing that brings me any comfort is the knowledge that no matter who you're with, you'll always be alone." Love is conditional; in "It Doesn't Matter to Him," he weeps, "I keep getting up and I am loved by all my friends and family, though there have been lots of raised eyebrows and concerned glances lately." On "Ernest Borgnine," he asks for the actor's help in dealing with his AIDS diagnosis; "I wish he'd call me on the phone and take my ass to school." Sinead O'Connor adds a plaintive second voice to five tracks, and in O'Connor it seems he has found a muse, his weeping siren screaming from the shore. Grant does not just wear his heart on his sleeve, but right in the middle of his forehead, bleeding out for all to see. [MF]






Midnight Blues: Paris, London 1968-72

"Can't Get the One I Want"
"Garden of Jane Delawney"

This excellent collection by Ace Records compiles the majority of Françoise Hardy's first English language recordings, and the first material she'd made after parting company with longtime label Vogue. Dating from 1969 to '72, along with a sole cut from 1968, Midnight Blues sees Hardy moving away from the charming, slightly naive pop of her early years, and into a more sophisticated folk-pop with hints of psychedelia, all topped off with gorgeous orchestrations and performances by many of London's top session players. Her delivery is fluid and sensual, never displaying the oft-awkward clumsiness of French singers attempting Anglo-enunciation, and overall these cuts hold up as classics in their own right. With liner notes by Bob Stanley, and loads of period photos, it's a stellar overview of an oft-overlooked period of Hardy's career, and one that you don't have to be a French pop fan to appreciate. Those of you who also dig the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Jackie DeShannon or Dusty Springfield should check this immediately! [IQ]




$14.99 LP

Hard Coming Down

LA-by-way-of-Olympia, WA's Gun Outfit have been steadily refining their brand of backwoods rural rock for the past five or so years, and have finally delivered their defining statement. On Hard Coming Down the trio plods and prods away at fried country punk for some 40-odd minutes, and it never ceases to amaze. Let's just say it's a perfect hazy and humid springtime guitar record. In the past Gun Outfit have always been compared to SST bands, namely Dino Jr., and the K Records camp of indie rockers, but this new album stretches way out and transcends those trappings. Something special happens between the half-sung spoken drawl of Dylan Sharp, the not-quite-pitch-perfect midrange yelp of Carrie Keith, and the driving ramshackle punk energy throughout, with the singers trading off almost every song. This LP is great as a whole; it has a slow-burning vibe with a tense atmosphere, and sometimes you feel like the shiny guitars burning and fading in the background are gonna swallow you whole. But the brilliant songwriting here is truly the heart and the soul of it, and with repeated listening brings to mind everything, from stoned gems like Silver Jews' American Water to Meat Puppets' II, to Versus to Lucinda Williams to the legendary Dead Moon country side-project Range Rats. It really sounds THAT good, and if you haven't paid attention to this band before, now is most definitely the time. [RN]





She's on Top EP
(Drag City)

"She's on Top"
"Biz Bag"

These Bay Area dudes can do know wrong, here offering up three new gritty, off-kilter slabs of garage-rock/psych/power/whatever you wanna call it -- though these nuggets might be a bit more polished and with a little more "oomph" than what we've come to expect from Mike Donovan and Co. Not to fear, all three songs are true summer jams and the record won't be leaving your turntable any time soon, so pick up two copies!




$19.99 CD


C'est Chic! French Girl Singers of the 1960s

"C'est La Mode" Annie Philippe
"Non, A Tous Les Garcons" Michele Torr

Now available on vinyl, this excellent collection of 1960s ye-ye pop combines essential cuts from the likes of Anna Karina ("Roller Girl"), Annie Philippe ("C'est La Mode") and France Gall ("Laisse Tomber Les Filles") with overlooked gems like Michelle Torr's brilliant "Non, A Tous Les Garcons" (one of Serge Gainsbourg's best songs of the ye-ye era) and Liz Brady's spy-theme flavored "Il Suffit D'un Jour." As is typical of Ace Records' high level of quality, this set is all killer, no filler, and works equally well as a nice entryway into the ye-ye world, and a great comp for seasoned Francophiles. Also includes Francoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Jacqeline Taieb, Les Gam's with Annie Markan, and more.
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[KB] Kari Boston
[JBr] James Bradley
[ACo] Anastasia Cohen
[MF] Michael Fellows
[DH] Duane Harriott
[IQ] Mikey IQ Jones
[JM] Josh Madell
[DM] Doug Mosurock
[RN] Ryan Naideau

- all of us at Other Music

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