Record Time: New & Notable Vinyl Releases (September 2021)

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Bokassa: Molotov Rocktail (Napalm)

This may not be the first time a band has named an album Molotov Rocktail but I doubt any artist fully embodies the boneheaded brilliance of that title as much as Bokassa. The Norwegian power trio fulfills the promise of Eagles of Death Metal and The Darkness, outfits that try to take the piss out of heavy rock but wind up taking themselves way too seriously. There’s little worry of that with Bokassa. These 11 tunes are silly in the best way, with each power chord and fist-pumping rhythm treated like a beer-fueled joyride in a 747 or a mosh pit full of motorcycle gangs high on mescaline. Heady, leathery, spiky and a hell of a lot of fun to spin ahead of a night out or an epic night of playing Breath of the Wild between bong rips.


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Madeleine Peyroux: Careless Love (Deluxe Edition) (Craft Recordings/Rounder)

After making a healthy splash with her 1996 album Dreamland, jazz vocalist Madeleine Peyroux risked being forgotten by not returning to the studio for another eight years. All that time away only made her return that much sweeter, especially when fans and critics got a chance to hear her sophomore effort Careless Love. The album fulfilled all the promise of her debut as Peyroux applied her serpentine voice to smoky arrangements of modern classics by Leonard Cohen, Elliott Smith and Hank Williams. This deluxe edition vinyl reissue with its additional live recording of Peyroux and band at a Spanish jazz festival in 2005 should be a further recapitulation of her greatness, but the pressing we received for review dulls the excitement. All three discs are marred by non-fill and each one came out of the sleeve scuffed up, adding a heap of surface noise to the mix.


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Kiefer: When There’s Love Around (Stones Throw)

Kiefer has a lot on his mind. The L.A.-based keyboardist and composer crafted his new album in two chunks, with one evoking memories of his childhood years—a period marked by insecurity and distress—and the other letting him pay tribute to and mourn his grandmother. That suggests a downcast album of ballads and blues, but these instrumentals bounce with life and head-nodding jazz-soul grooves. Working with a band for the first time—a shifting ensemble that includes greats like Carlos Niño, Sam Wilkes and Andy McCauley—Kiefer seems strengthened by their support and friendship. The liquid melodies he coaxes from his synths and piano are contemplative yet light, yearning yet celebratory. The collective weight of the past and present are on his shoulders, but he’s not forced to bear this burden alone.


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OHR: Walk In The Light (Headstate)

It’s been some time since a sole artist condensed the past five decades’ of psychedelic music into a cohesive and brain-tickling whole. OHR has reset the clock on that waiting game. The Seattle-based quartet, led by Craig D. Klein (founder of adored electropop group The Race), took a while to get these songs out, but sometimes greatness takes time. This new double LP is a languorous quest for enlightenment set to drowsy synth arpeggios, melting Dali guitars and thick-tongued mantras saluting the sun, dream states and chains of love. According to Klein, much of this music emerged from a dark period after his move to the Northwest during which he struggled with depression and anxiety. It was the swelling, breathing movement of his work with OHR that helped pull him closer to the light. If you’re anything like me, you’re crawling right behind him, hoping he’ll share some more pearls of musical wisdom or at least something from that bag of shrooms in his back pocket.


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CJ Garton: Tales Of The Ole West And Other Libations To Please The Palate (G-Bar)

Country artist CJ Garton is coming out of the saloon doors swinging with the first release on his own label. The limited edition vinyl version of his new album is a luxe affair, pressed on thick colored vinyl and packaged in a heavy sleeve with a lenticular cover. Within each package is a flexidisc cut into an x-ray, and he had the pressing plant double up the grooves on one track so you don’t know which version of opening track “Devil” you’re going to get when you drop the needle. It’s the kind of grabby release we expect from someone like Jack White, not a relative newcomer from Oklahoma. Some of these treats are better in theory than in practice (the flexi rendered Garton’s tune almost inaudible) but the music overcomes the glitches. Garton’s thunderous baritone is a wonderful throwback to the days of Johnny Paycheck and Waylon Jennings, and he writes country epics that easily outduel the biggest current names in the game.


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Sasha Dobson: Girl Talk (self-released)

If the cover art wasn’t a dead giveaway, the new album by vocalist Sasha Dobson is a stylistic throwback to the days when Peggy Lee and Blossom Dearie were the toast of the pop-jazz world. With some assists from pal Norah Jones and the shimmering tones of Peter Bernstein’s guitar, Dobson reverts to the swinging ’60s with dishy, cocktail tipsy arrangements of tunes from the pop canon (“Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps,” “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” “Autumn Nocturne”) and a few original tunes that slot nicely amid the familiar. Dobson holds it all together with a voice that has the tang of licorice and a lived-in, hot under the collar sensuality. One listen to this little pearl of an album and Matthew Weiner might consider rebooting Mad Men with Dobson providing the soundtrack.


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Limina: Hidden Spaces (Sonic Ritual)

For his day job, Tyler Durham programs synths for film soundtracks and composes music for video games—gigs that require him to provide the backdrop for a lot of on screen action and activity. Is it any wonder then that, when he decided to make his own music as Limina, what would come out are much more sedate and meditative compositions? The L.A. artist still has a mind toward telling a story, however. The six pieces on this album flow from one to the next without pause and carry plenty of drama within the gripping melodies and the sonic web he weaves using deep bass drones and throbbing synth pulses. Actual visuals aren’t necessary. These tunes will call up some lovely images and beloved memories from within your mind’s eye all on their own.


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Art School Girlfriend: Is It Light Where You Are (Wolf Tone)

Polly Mackey, the UK artist who records and performs as Art School Girlfriend, had the kind of 2019 you can only survive by turning it into, well, art. Her first full-length chronicles what sounds like a tempestuous relationship that ended even more dramatically, leaving her, as she sings on the velvety “Bored of Myself,” staring at her ex on her phone and praying for some kind of reprieve. The bitter taste of Mackey’s words go down a lot easier with the help of the music accompanying them. The album is a masterclass of modern darkwave pop with sleek electronic beats and keyboard ornamentation ideal for a furtive coupling, a tender embrace or a candlelit night alone with one’s thoughts and a bottle of something sweet and strong.


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Dar Williams: I’ll Meet You Here (Renew/BMG)

In a sense, Dar Williams is coming full circle with her 12th studio album. Closing track “You’re Aging Well” was originally recorded for her breakthrough LP (1993’s The Honesty Room) and was a favorite of early supporter Joan Baez. Heard here, Williams settles into the fact that she’s reached a certain age and finds even deeper truths within. It’s a breathtaking way to end this record, especially as Williams sounds as vibrant as ever on the other nine tracks. She looks at the past with fondness (“Berkeley”) and sees the lessons in the mistakes she made while also taking stock of the present both outside her front door and in the world at large (the climate crisis plea “Today and Every Day”). There’s strength in her words, leaving little markers of hope and wisdom to guide listeners on their own path through life.


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Jimmie Vaughan: The Jimmie Vaughan Story (Last Music Co.)

This boxed set is no small thing. But then again neither is the fact that blues guitarist extraordinaire Jimmie Vaughan recently celebrated his 70th birthday. To honor this Texas legend, Last Music Co. decided to take stock of Vaughan’s entire musical history in one hulking package. In the deluxe edition set is a five-CD collection of Vaughan’s recorded work that includes tracks from his beginnings in the ’60s through to his most recent sessions, two 7” singles, a signed poster, a booklet showing off his vintage hot rods, and the first ever vinyl pressing of his 2001 album Do You Get The Blues?. It’s a feast of a collection, compiled and designed with respect for his achievements is all a fan could ask for. And for the purposes of this set, it’s worth highlighting the fantastic sound of the vinyl within. The singles and the LP both sound sharp as a pin and as bright as a spotlight bouncing off the pomade in Vaughan’s hair.