A half-year in review

A selection of record reviews culled from CL's weekly MusicMonday posts.

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Sonic Youth, Simon Werner a Disparu / SYR9

Like its predecessors in the SYR series, this release is jammy and noisy. The difference this time around is the use of a rinky-sounding piano on some cuts, and the inclusion of the movie soundtrack-purposed songs. All are instrumental, with mood swings presumably corresponding to scenes in the French film of the same name. If the various foreign-language titles in previous SYRs were simple affectations, here, at least, there's a clear reason for them. It's not Sonic Youth for the uninitiated, but for fans, it will satisfy on several levels — new textures, tight songs and a warm sound. (Jan. 25, Sonic Youth Records) 3 and 1/2 Stars —Steve Seachrist

Iron & Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean

Everyone worried that Sam Beam would alienate fans by leaving Sub Pop for a major to produce his fourth album. But from the first seconds of "Walking Far from Home" through the last bars of the seven-minute closer, Beam offers up a smorgasbord of auditory indulgence. The textured vocal harmonies are unearthly and the trilling horns on "Big Burned Hand" are funkier than Sasquatch after a weekend bender. While a few tracks have the classic Iron & Wine feel (especially the heart-thumping instrumentation on "Rabbit Will Run"), Kiss Each Other Clean overall comes off as a completely fresh endeavor. (Jan. 25, Warner Bros.) 4 Stars —Ray Roa

Akron/Family, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

The album title is pretty darn unwieldy, as are the sprawling tentacles of Akron's eclectic sound. But the band fillets its interludes in satisfying morsels with moments of warmth and pop deliciousness — you can almost forgive the excesses. There's melody, there's skronk and discordance and then sheer beauty — with a personable vocal reminiscent of Ray Davies. Love it or hate it, it's pretty darn original. It compels a backtrack-and-repeat reflex — and that's saying something. (Feb. 8, Dead Oceans.) 4 Stars —Julie Garisto

Toro y Moi, Underneath the Pines

It's tough to be a pioneering artist of the chillwave movement when everyone is bashing the genre. Toro Y Moi hasn't abandoned the low-key, fuzzy atmospherics explored on Causers of This, the new album more of a logical progression than an attempt at dramatic change. The biggest difference this time around, however, is that Chaz Bundick explores his creative limits with real instruments instead of via digital manipulation. There are still plenty of respectful nods to Air, sexy atmospheric instrumentals, and soft vocals, but there's also some tasty new territory, like the early 1980's disco of "New Beat," which is definitely a track you'll be hearing everywhere this summer. (Feb. 15, Carpark) 5 Stars —Deborah Ramos

Foo Fighters, Wasting Light

Everything you need to know about the seventh Foo Fighters album is packed into the opener, "Bridge Burning." A big chorus with rich harmonies, shredding guitars, and Dave Grohl's signature primal scream — still one of the best in rock. Grohl got the hype machine going when he boasted of his literal back-to-the-garage approach with Wasting Light, and the Nirvana comparisons arose more than usual when he tapped Nevermind producer Butch Vig and invited Krist Novoselic and late-period Nirvana guitarist and early Foo Fighter Pat Smear to collaborate. And Wasting Light absolutely lives up. Some moments that shine exceptionally bright include the raw, punky feel of "White Limo," the thick basslines in "I Should Have Known," and Bob Mould's guest vocals on "Dear Rosemary." Wasting Light closes as big as it opens with the poppy "Walk," its only flaw a degree of uniformity that reveals itself upon repeated listens. At a time when many say rock music is in a lull, Foo Fighters came through with the huge rock record they implied they would — and it may be the best album of their career. (April 12, RCA) 4 Stars —Joel Weiss

Yonas, Proven Theory

Yonas and producer Sean Divine have the classic synergy between artist and producer that's missing in today's world of a la carte production. You can tell these two are on the same page musically from the very beginning with the single "I Could." Yonas has a subtle depth to his lyrics that conveys his passion for connecting with the world around him and Divine's production is cinematic. (April 25, City of Dreams) 3 and 1/2 Stars —Infinite Skillz

Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin'

Where Raphael Saadiq flirted more with the sounds of Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield on his prior album, 2008's exceptional The Way I See It, the neo-soul revivalist tries out a rock 'n' roll vibe in Stone Rollin', which finds him in Sly & the Family Stone territory. His fine honey-soaked pipes are still as smooth as ever; he's just placing more of an emphasis on his rocking side. (May 10, Pookie/Columbia) 3 and 1/2 Stars —Gabriel Echazabal

Battles, Gloss Drop

Wonderfully absurd and exactly the sort of sophomore effort that should have followed Battles' distinctive quirk/math rock debut. The trio led by former Helmet drummer John Stanier cheerily baffles and leaves a lasting impression with lead single, "Ice Cream," an island swaying-heavy-ska-progressive-something-or-other number with catchy keyboard arrangements, dominating riffs, and reggae-flavored rhymes delivered by guest artist Matias Aguayo that are mostly incomprehensible but add to the song's sunny-weird vibe. The majority of the album is instrumental, with scattered guest vocals adding bright eclectic bursts to the already out-there songwriting. 4 Stars (June 7, Warp) —Leilani Polk

About The Authors

Gabe Echazabal

I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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