Putting Aphex Twin's New Album Syro in Context

Categories: New Releases

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An Aphex Twin logo, spray-painted on a sidewalk, building anticipation for the new album.
I'm ostensibly here to talk to you about Aphex Twin's new album, Syro, but first I need to admit to some Pavlovian conditioning. Over the years I've grown unreasonably excitable by the first few bars of "Xtal," the first track on his debut album, Selected Ambient Works 85-92. This has very little to do with the substance of the song, in which a seductive female vocal sample coos out nonsense syllables over twinkles and burbles almost gentle enough to qualify as a lullaby. It's not even the best track -- in particular, the dynamite closer "Actium" recasts and then anodizes the album's characteristic sleek platinum into something approaching anger, like furious expert oratory delivered on the floor of an intergalactic senate. But "Xtal" has on its side the anticipation implied by the start of a longform treasure. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

See also: Five Albums That Make Their Fans Insufferable

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The Postelles Learn How To Write The Perfect Love Song

Categories: New Releases

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Though The Postelles have grown up a bit since their self-titled debut introduced us to the latest in refreshingly buoyant pop-rock tendencies, the riffs, sunny breakdowns and overwhelmingly innocent and infectious quality of their music has remained the same. Like The Kooks and The Strokes before them--hell, Albert Hammond, Jr. produced their first record--The Postelles exploit the value of a simple song structure and occasionally biting lyrics, perfectly catering the crux of their live show to the effervescent combination of the two set to major chords and harmonies that wouldn't feel out of place on the radio in 1962. The youthful sonic escape they provide is best devoured after it's been bottled up, packaged and delivered to us over the course of a sweaty 30-minute set in a basement somewhere or while you're driving with the windows down--ageless settings that take you out of their native New York and back to the haunts of yesteryear, where possibilities are endless and each song soundtracked a pivotal moment you weren't aware of just yet.

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Devendra Banhart: "I'm Not An Entertainer"

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Ana Kras
Devendra Banhart really, really wants you to dance.

With "Golden Girls," the lead-off track on Mala, which dropped on Nonesuch Records this week, he implores the listener to do just that: Banhart hypnotically chants "Get on the dance floor" as the flames from a steady burn of strings and crashing cymbals lick at your heels. The song may last a grand total of a minute and a half, but the message carries over the course of the album as Banhart's trademark eccentricity pops through flamenco guitar strains, synth deluges, sultry ballads and minimalist love songs that stun with their lyrical impact and instrumental simplicity. Surprisingly, Banhart doesn't think that Mala's repertoire, despite this rhythmic call to arms, will have people up out of their chairs when he starts to tour behind it.

See also: Devendra Banhart and R. Kelly, 'Maturing'

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David Bowie and Iggy Pop: The Next Day and Ready To Die

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There's always a question of whether or not icons can sustain their status and relevance as they age. Tied to histories that have cultivated their own mythology over time, we've been presented with comeback albums grasping onto some semblance of the youth they thrived in. In the chorus of the opening song off an album that came as a welcome shock to fans and loyal followers, David Bowie simply responds to the curious and the skeptical: "Here I am, not quite dying."

See also: Good Morning, Terrifying David Bowie Spider

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Robotics, Uploading the Consciouness of the Dead: Ra Ra Riot's Beta Love Don't Play

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Android love, humans vs. computers, artificial intelligence, uploading the subconscious: If Ra Ra Riot was reading up on these hyper-specific topics while writing the songs for their next record, and if these themes worked their way into the fabric of their lyrics, does that make the resulting effort a concept album? According to bassist Mathieu Santos, no: science fiction novels and Ray Kurzweil's theoretical writings have been on the band's reading list since they were touring behind 2010's The Orchard, and the subject matter comes up pretty frequently in practice these days.

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-The Ten Best Concerts in New York This Week, 1/21/13
-This Weekend! tUnE-YaRdS, Ra Ra Riot, Hot Chip, "Donuts Are Forever," And So Much More


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Widowspeak's Almanac: "A Rock Band's Take on Movie Soundtracks and Country Cowboy Choirs"

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"It's almost like waiting for your birthday when you're a little kid--'Oh my gosh, I can't wait for my party! I hope people come! I hope I get a ... train!'"

Laughing, Molly Hamilton eases into a foldable chair in the middle of her practice space in Bushwick. After taking a swig from a half-gone Sierra Nevada, she brings me up to speed: Widowspeak, her band, has been practicing like mad over the course of the past few weeks because they'd recently added a member, bringing their touring outfit to five players. They've been feverishly counting down to today as it marks the release of Almanac, their sophomore album out on Captured Tracks, as well the beginning of a brief run of East Coast dates that kicks off at the Mercury Lounge this evening. Older Widowspeak material has been on the agenda for the rehearsals leading up to the show, though the songs of Almanac are what Hamilton is, understandably, especially keen on unveiling. "We'll probably still play a good chunk of them in rotation ... but we're just getting so, so excited about people hearing the record!"

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12 (More) Big Deal Albums We're Hella Excited For

Categories: New Releases

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Hey: Albums! In case people still care about these things, here's a batch of potentially interesting releases arriving in the calendar year.

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Ten Big Deal Albums We're Hella Excited For

Categories: New Releases

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A. Banks
Hey: Albums! In case people still care about these things, here's a batch of potentially interesting releases arriving in the coming weeks and months:

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Pondering the Beautiful and Complicated Contradiction That Is Josh Groban and His New Song "Brave"

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I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you, dear reader, are probably not in the Josh Groban demographic. I'm not exactly sure what the Josh Groban demographic is, but I'm almost certain it doesn't involve reading blogs, or knowing what they are. My guess is that Josh Groban fans stick to the Missing Child Prayer Alert/My Google Won't Download corners of the web. I'm not in his demographic either, but for some reason I find Josh Groban fascinating.

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Does Soundgarden Have Any Business Reuniting in 2012?

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Soundgarden: Back When They Were Young Pups

For a band of impressive magnitude -- an unholy sum of Chris Cornell's wails, Kim Thayil's strangely tuned, beautifully heavy guitar, and the Zeppelin/Sabbath-indebted rhythm section of bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron -- Soundgarden's return from their decade plus absence has been kind of tentative. First some live shows, playing all the hits and dusting off a Badmotorfinger b-side, then a contribution to The Avengers. It took a year and a half of being into this reunion thing for Soundgarden to get blunt and definitive. We were introduced to their comeback album King Animal by way of "Been Away for Too Long," a song that awkwardly stampedes into a bland chorus repeatedly proclaiming they've, well, been away too long.

Soundgarden is both the '90s band you'd most want back and least want back, and kind of for the same reason. They left behind a pretty impeccable catalogue, and the prospect of these four guys making music together seems promising even if their genre has long since vanished.

Soundgarden perform tonight at Irving Plaza.

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- Q&A: Don Fleming On The Grunge Years, Courtney Love's Work Ethic, The Velvet Monkeys And Being Sonic Youth's "Manager"

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