This Week’s New Album Releases (8/23/2011)
This week sees the release of the highly anticipated Mirror Traffic by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. The Beck-produced album is Malkmus’ fifth, and his first since the super-successful Pavement reunion tour. Malaysian singer-songwriter Zee Avi will release her sophomore effort, Ghostbird, where she tiptoes out of her comfort zone without straying too far. We Are Augustines will drop their emotional, aggressive debut, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, which was inspired by frontman Billy McCarthy’s tumultuous family life. Stephin Merritt will release Obscurities after a return to Merge Records.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic
“From Mirror Traffic‘s very first loping riff, that which opens the album on easy-going country jaunt ‘Tigers’ and is accompanied by pedal steel, it’s clear this is going to be an enjoyable album. ‘This record is relatively approachable,’ Stephen Malkmus admits in the press materials for his fifth album and first since Pavement’s triumphant reunion tour last year. Recorded in Los Angeles with producer Beck, Mirror Traffic is varied to boot, dabbling in slacker folk (‘No One Is (As I Are Be)’), adrenalized, blow-job-themed rock ‘n’ roll (‘Senator’) and instrumental psych jams (‘Jumblegloss’), to name but a few of the styles featured.” Read Austin L. Ray’s review of Mirror Traffic.
“After a quick, albeit passive, introduction to the first few tracks of Ghostbird, it’s hard not to lump the record’s polished collection of purposefully laid-back observations into the worn out: ‘let’s throw a bonfire and forget about our troubles’ class of summer exploiting ditties. And while the comfortable and simplistic style of Zee Avi’s latest LP will likely be compared by some as a mimicry of Jack Johnson’s overly saccharine past releases, after a few listens, the Malaysian singer-songwriter’s sophomore effort reveals an experience that, besides its scattered moments of monotony, is far too pleasant to waste the effort necessary to point out its flaws.” Check back later for Carey Hodges’ review of Ghostbird.
“To put We Are Augustine’s debut album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships,
in the proper context, one needs to understand the major inspiration behind this brand of energetic and emotional indie rock. A piece on the WeAreAugustines.com, written by Ryan Berg, gives the backstory. Jim, the brother of lead singer and songwriter Billy McCarthy, had a very troubled past. Since high school, he lived in homeless shelters and on the streets of California after succumbing to excessive substance abuse. He was also submitted to psychiatric hospitals on multiple occasions.” Check back later for Nathan Spicer’s review of Rise Ye Sunken Ships.
“The old adage about odds and sods collections like Obscurities—which, perhaps fittingly, marks Stephin Merritt and his Magnetic Fields’ return to Merge Records, where both first made their names—is that they’re only for completists and obsessives. That they usually comprise weird or somehow ‘less good’ compositions, outtakes that weren’t A-list enough to make their way onto proper albums and instead get dumped onto compilations like this, often as a way to fulfill label contracts or simply serve as vanity projects. This is only sort of true with Obscurities, which contains a mere five unreleased songs, and as such, maybe shouldn’t be called Obscurities in this age of torrents and Mediafire links. Which isn’t to say the stuff included here is less than top notch.” Check back later for Austin L. Ray’s review of Obscurities. Stream Obscurities here.
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