This Just In: Skiptracing

I slept on the last Mild High Club album, which is a shame not only because I love punny band names, but because the album was damn good. When I heard the follow up was gonna drop, I checked out the promo instantly. Lots of comparisons came to mind – early Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Conan Mockasin, Tame Impala. What’s remarkable about Skiptracing is that while it references the aforementioned and many more, no two songs on the album sound alike. Hell, movements within some of the same tracks don’t even sound alike, but still flow smoothly, like well-written jazz. Apparently there’s a story to the songs, but I’ll need a few more listens to get to that part, especially because it’s tough to not focus on the arrangements. If you appreciate clever complexity within accessible songs, you’ll love Skiptracing, mildly high or not. Don’t forget this week’s in-stock list below – lots of hip-hop and weird stuff!!! -MLE

Mild High Club – Skiptracing LP
Listen: “Homage”
“Mild High Club founder Alexander Brettin grew up playing flute in the school band and majoring in jazz studies in Chicago. In 2012, a visit to Los Angeles allowed him to connect with the Stones Throw crew. Within a year, after passing the early demos of what would become Timeline onto Peanut Butter Wolf, Brettin made the move out west.

‘The difference between Timeline and Skiptracing is detail,’ Brettin said. ‘I was stubborn with the process for Timeline; it took almost three years to let go of it.’ On Timeline, Brettin resorted to vague lyrics so as to highlight the music itself. But for Skiptracing there’s both a heightened thematic aspect as well as more complex musical arrangements encasing it. In Brettin’s estimation, the album’s story arc is that of a ‘private investigator attempting to trace the steps of the sound and the spirit of American music.’

And in investigating the spirit of American music, Mild High Club re-imagine AM radio hits as blasting in from a parallel universe, the sound of early 70s LA in a smog of sativa. If Todd Rundgren was the primary touchstone for Timeline, Brettin and band now look to the wry, trenchant wit of Steely Dan, gazing deep into the dark underbelly of sun-bright L.A. and coming away with catchy songs underpinned by slippery jazz phrasings.

Dig deeper into the lyrics and imagery and that detective story slowly emerges. But it’s no simple whodunit? Instead, think The Long Goodbye, The Late Show, Chinatown, Night Moves or any early 70s inversion of the detective noir genre, where the gumshoe protagonist ultimately winds up investigating himself, navel-gazing so as to solve the ultimate mystery. Skiptracing is Philip Marlowe driving around LA listening to Caetano Veloso or that deleted scene in John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie where Cosmo Vitelli reads Cosmic Trigger.

In crafting Skiptracing, Mild High Club have made an album that strikes a balance between the known and unknown aspects of art and creation. While Brettin sought to have complete control over the creation of the previous album, in opening up and allowing these creative variables in, he learned a valuable lesson that lies at the heart of Skiptracing itself: ‘When you wish upon the unknown, you might be surprised by the rewards.’” -Stones Throw

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Anti-skating, no skipping – new releases, reissues & restocks…

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This Just In: Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters

I used to live in a cold, dark place (literally) and I’m a sucker for brooding music and Scottish accents, so naturally The Twilight Sad’s debut album, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters was right up my alley when it dropped in 2007. Initially drawn in by the artwork, after listening once I was hooked. They fit perfectly alongside my other Scottish favorites (Arab Strap, The Delgados, Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai), but don’t sound quite like any of them. There are elements of post-rock which accentuate the intensity of allegorical storytelling within the lyrics, but there are also mellow rhythmic and melodic progressions that serve a narrative purpose as well. Maybe y’all recently caught them opening for the Cure’s two night stint at Bayfront Park back in June? So ya know, if it’s Cure-approved, there’s definitely something there. Perfect timing for a reissue! Take a listen to the full album below and decide for yourself. Aaaaaaand this week’s in-stock list is nothing short of massive, so don’t forget to check it out too! -MLE

The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters LP
Listen: Full Album
Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters is the Twilight Sad’s debut album – an LP that more than lives up to the early promise of their critically acclaimed US-only 2006 EP. Epic in scope and equally as intense, the band are inspired by a diverse range of music from Van Dyke Parks to Phil Spector, Daniel Johnston, and beyond, although the band are as influenced by their immediate geography (‘the sticks just outside Glasgow’), as they are any particular musical reference points. Recorded at Chem 19 and Ca Va studios, Glasgow, and mixed and produced by the band and Peter Katis (Interpol, Mercury Rev, Mice Parade) in Tarquin Studios, Connecticut, Fourteen Autumns… is nevertheless liable to evoke a more familiar indie canon, from white-noise era Creation Records, to fellow Scots Arab Strap or Mogwai.

Yet The Twilight Sad are unmistakably their own band, and Fourteen Autumns… is a complete record, the nine tracks working together to create a strong narrative flow. Deceptively simple songs are rendered transcendent. Bleached, overdriven guitars consistently ride a line between ambient and coruscating, working in tandem with an articulate, at times tumultuous rhythm section, forever poised between tension and release. Augmented by piano and more frequently accordion, which provide the songs with a dramatic swoon, The Twilight Sad purvey an awestruck, ragged sentimentality. Lyrically suggestive and metaphorical, their songs give glimpses of bitter experience and romantic failure, their songs at times verging on the anthemic or celebrative, yet firmly rooted in the familiar, often unsaid hurt behind day to day events. -FatCat

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Sixty-two new releases/reissues & eighty-five restocks…

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This Just In: Jazzmatazz

Excited to kick off the weekend with an essential hip-hop reissue from back in ’93 – Guru’s Jazzmatazz Vol. 1. Calling it “hip-hop” isn’t entirely accurate though, as it’s technically “jazz-rap,” and one of the first albums to ever combine the two styles. It’s definitely a pioneering release, especially since the jazz collaborators on it are legit, disavowing many people’s assumptions that rap isn’t/can’t be “serious” music. Seems cats like Branford Marsalis, Donald Byrd and Roy Ayers we’re happy to put their names and talents in this, and it can’t get  more “serious” than that. The “jazz-rap” style would continue on and become a staple amongst true heads and talented producers. Another severely popular title in the style (that we sell a ton of) is Shades Of Blue: Madlib Invades Blue Note. Take a listen to Jazzmatazz below, and come nab it (along with that Madlib record and some other new in-stock goodies) to make your weekend smoooooooth. -MLE

Guru – Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 LP
Listen: Full Album!
“Though it can reasonably be argued that rap grew almost directly out of funk and its particular beat, there are a lot of overlaps with jazz, particularly the bop and post-bop eras: the uninhibited expression, the depiction of urban life, just to name two. Jazz samples have also had a large role in hip-hop, but the idea of rapping over actual live jazz wasn’t truly fully realized until Gang Starr MC Guru created and released the first in his Jazzmatazz series in 1993, with guest musicians who included saxophonist Branford Marsalis (who had previously collaborated with DJ Premier and Guru for the track ‘Jazz Thing’ on the Mo’ Better Blues soundtrack), trumpeter Donald Byrd, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, guitarist Ronny Jordan, and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith, as well as vocalist N’Dea Davenport (also of the acid jazz group the Brand New Heavies) and French rapper MC Solaar.

While Guru’s rhymes can occasionally be a little weak (‘Think they won’t harm you? Well they might/And that ain’t right, but every day is like a fight’ are the lines he chooses to describe kids on the subway in Brooklyn in ‘Transit Ride’), he delves into a variety of subject matter, from the problems of inner-city life to his own verbal prowess to self-improvement without ever sounding too repetitive, and his well-practiced flow fits well with the overall smooth, sultry, and intelligent feel of the album. From Jordan’s solo on ‘No Time to Play’ to Ayers’ vibes expertise on ‘Take a Look (At Yourself)’ to MC Solaar’s quick and syllabic rhymes on ‘Le Bien, le Mal,’ Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (and what turned out to be the best of the series) is a rap album for jazz fans and a jazz album for rap fans, skillful and smart, clean when it needs to be and gritty when that’s more effective, helping to legitimize hip-hop to those who doubted it, and making for an altogether important release.”  -AllMusic

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Waxxmatraxx – new releases, reissues and restocks…

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This Just In: Tween

OK, so this album technically came out in June, but only digitally, so it’s not like we’d have it at the store. But hey, the physical is out today, so although I’ve already been jamming to it for a while, it gives me an excuse to tell you about it. Why Wye Oak? Well, because they’re so painfully underrated – probably one of the most underrated American bands of the past decade. WHY is that? No freakin’ idea, but we can change that today, starting with YOU! Their new album, Tween, could easily be the direction Cocteau Twins went had they not broken up. Maybe I’m stretching here, but although it’s not exactly the same style, it has the same nostalgic feel in textures and arrangements. And there’s just the right mix of electronics and organic sounds to push it past rock/pop when necessary, but keep it rooted and accessible. Take a listen to a track below and see if you become a believer… -MLE

Wye Oak – Tween LP
Listen: “On Luxury”
“The word ‘tween’ implies a certain, very specific kind of awkwardness, and those implications are rarely positive. But think about it like this: Something ‘tween’ is in the process of becoming something else, and there’s a very specific kind of beauty in that becoming. There’s something rewarding in recognizing and celebrating it—in meeting it halfway.

Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack—the band’s two halves—described these songs as ‘not emblematic of a step forward, but a step sideways in time.’ In other words, they just didn’t make sense for album number five—which will happen at some point in the future. But just because they didn’t belong there doesn’t mean they don’t belong anywhere. To wedge them onto Shriek would’ve been dishonest; to orphan them would’ve been somewhere on the line between criminal and just plain silly.

Tween is full of gorgeous Wye Oak songs whose only crime was timing and context, made by two people at the height of their game. One minute Jenn and Andy are embracing their floatiest Cocteau Twins instinct (‘If You Should See’), the next they’re back in Civilian territory a bit (‘No Dreaming’), and later they’re slinky and electronic and gorgeously ‘80s (‘On Luxury’).

The common thread: These are no castaways or cutouts. In fact, pound for pound, Tween might actually be more directly accessible than Shriek. It should join the pantheon of amazing not-albums of history whose names try to downplay how good they actually are, like R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office, The Who’s Odds and Sods, maybe even Dinosaur Jr.’s Whatever’s Cool With Me.” -Merge

 

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Why? New releases, reissues & restocks…

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