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Far too often we find ourselves falling back on the same music habits, listening to old favorites instead of discovering new music. So we're bringing you BUST's album reviews from our December/January 2016 issue, featuring new music from Kate Bush, Miranda Lambert, Martha Wainwright and more — plus a playlist you can listen along to as you read!

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Staff Pick:
JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN
Let It Be You
(Reveal Records/BFD/Red Distribution)

Joan As Police Woman (aka Joan Wasser) has always taken risks, expanding her creative output through collaborations that bring out the best in both artists. On Let It Be You, musician Benjamin Lazar Davis comes along for the ride, with the pair bonding over a love of Central African Republic Pygmy musical patterns. These eclectic influences are noticeable throughout, but it’s the softer performances that really hit home. Final track “Station” is especially poignant, with its simple guitar plucks and vulnerable vocals. Let It Be You is a record that experiments with dynamics, balancing lush instrumentation with vocal crescendos. (4/5 BUST rating) – Sammy Maine

Photo: Shervin Lainez

 

dawn

D△WN
Redemption
(Local Action/Our Dawn Entertainment)

On Redemption, singer Dawn Richard (formerly of Danity Kane) tries on a variety of styles. Her new LP is sonically rich, from the moody EDM of “Love Under Lights,” to the atmospheric “LA,” which features both an electric guitar solo and a brass ensemble. But the record is hardly cohesive, and, at times, even unoriginal. “Voices” is reminiscent of Miike Snow’s “Silvia,” while “Interim (Interlude)” and “Valhalla” both allude to “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap. Songs like “Hey Nikki” and “Sands” are rhythmically pleasing, but they miss the mark lyrically. Song diversity has value, but Redemption needs a clearer message. (2/5 BUST rating) – Alexa Tietjen

 

 

nina

NINA DIAZ
The Beat Is Dead
(Cosmica Artists)

Girl in a Coma frontwoman Nina Diaz delivers her first solo record, The Beat is Dead, with a soft snarl. Aggressive guitars overtake synth-laden disco beats on opener “Trick Candle,” as Diaz jumps in with vocals somewhere between Joan Jett and Shirley Manson. It’s a killer track that sets the momentum for the remainder of The Beat is Dead. Covering a wide spectrum of emotions and sounds—“Fall in Love” is subtle yet poppy, while “Rebirth” is nearly operatic in its approach—Diaz’s solo debut is as captivating as the rest of her body of work, and just as highly recommended. (4/5 BUST rating) – Melynda Fuller

 

 

dungen

DUNGEN
Häxan
(Mexican Summer)

Swedish psych-rockers Dungen venture into new territory with their first all-instrumental album, Häxan (“the witch”). The band was inspired by a request to create a score for the 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, thought to be the oldest surviving full-length animated feature. The result is just as trippy and experimental as you might expect, drawing from ’60s post-bop on “Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten,” and ’80s synth rock on “Achmed flyger.” The title track has the most familiarly Dungen sound, though that, too, devolves away from melody by its end. Häxan is not the most accessible Dungen album, but it might be their most ambitious. (3/5 BUST rating) – Liz Galvao

 

 

honeyblood

HONEYBLOOD
Babes Never Die
(FatCat Records)

Stina Tweeddale and Cat Myers have perfected their sound as lo-fi rockers Honeyblood, and their new album, Babes Never Die, is proof. Their vocal harmonies melt into each other, while guitar riffs mingle with dizzying drumbeats. Tracks like “Hey, Stellar” boast Honeyblood’s post-modern sound, with the edge of grunge and the poptimism of the Go-Go’s. “Sea Hearts” blends sugary melodies with cutting words; “Ready for the Magic” takes no prisoners. To hear music so sure of itself feels radical. Babes Never Die is not the album for hibernating this winter; it’s a blast of cold air sure to wake you up. (4/5 BUST rating) – Mary Kinney

 

 

jacuzzi

JACUZZI BOYS
Ping Pong
(Mag Mag Records)

Jacuzzi Boys moved from Miami to California for their fourth album, and the cult indie rock trio is definitely leaning into the surfer vibes. The Boys, who recently opened for Iggy Pop, sound like the Beach Boys sped up on “Lucky Blade.” Ping Pong is more polished than the band’s slick self-titled album, but the songs are still as delightfully weird as ever, all about girls who steal toothbrushes (“Strange Exchange”) and their obsession with hemoglobin (“Boys Like Blood.”) But it’s the fuzzy guitars on closer “Tip Of My Tongue/Edge Of My Brain,” that will have you following the band wherever they go next. (4/5 BUST rating) – Shannon Carlin

 

 

miranda

MIRANDA LAMBERT
The Weight Of These Wings
(RCA Nashville)

Musically, 2016 seems to be the year of the woman scorned, and heartbreak sounds great on Miranda Lambert. The multi-platinum country artist returns with the formidable double-album The Weight of These Wings, her first release in two years (and first since her divorce from singer Blake Shelton). It’s an impressive move forward for Lambert. Wings is rock-heavy, with lots of lo-fi, burned-out tracks like “Pink Sunglasses,” “Six Degrees of Separation,” and the Black Keys-ish “Highway Vagabond.” “Bad Boy” has the raw energy of a live performance; its imperfections are its strength. While not every song on the two discs is unmissable, Wings certainly is. (4/5 BUST rating) – Liz Galvao

 

 

nouvelle

Heavy Rotation:
NOUVELLE VAGUE
I Could Be Happy
(Kwaidan Records/!K7)

French music producers Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux’s project Nouvelle Vague has gained a dedicated following for their jazzy, bossa-nova-style covers of rock songs from the ’80s and ’90s. The covers here, including the Ramones, Altered Images, and Eno, do not disappoint. Yet, I Could Be Happy marks a turning point for the duo—for the first time, they’ve included their own original songs as well. Like its title suggests, the album plays with the juxtaposition of sadness and joy. Original track “Loneliness” pairs sorrowful lyrics with cheerful vocals, making sadness seem like just a passing phase. Their cover of Cocteau Twins’ Athol Brose is perfection, but one has to wonder how they ever interpreted Liz Frasier’s lyrics! Moody, French, and fun, I Could Be Happy is the perfect chic soundtrack for your next cocktail party. (5/5 BUST rating) – Adrienne Urbanski

Photo: Julian Marshall

 

 

 

pretenders
THE PRETENDERS
Alone
(BMG Records)

American-English rock greats the Pretenders collaborated with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach on their new album, Alone, and the influence is evident: the sound here is closer to the Black Keys’ garage blues than the Pretenders’ usual thrash-meets-jangle pop. The opening title track rocks with ’70s glam swagger, as Chrissie Hynde declares, “Nobody tells me I can’t/Nobody tells me I shan’t.” There’s a lot to like here, with the kickin’ “Gotta Wait” and “Chord Lord,” the Latin-flavored “One More Day,” and poppy tunes like “Roadie Man” and “Holy Commotion.” Whatever the musical style, Hynde always delivers, as an icon should. (4/5 BUST rating) – Michael Levine

 

 

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Heavy Rotation:
KATE BUSH
Before The Dawn
(Concord Records)

In the summer of 2014, Kate Bush played her first live shows since 1979 in London. All 22 shows sold out in just 15 minutes, but fans of the iconic English singer/songwriter who missed these performances can now experience them in her new, three-part live album, Before The Dawn. Part one is full of hits like “Running Up That Hill” and “King of the Mountain,” while the other portions contain two song suites, “The Ninth Wave” from Hounds of Love, and “A Sky of Honey” from Aeriel. These spectacular shows are now immortalized in these recordings, confirming that Kate Bush is truly a peerless artist. (5/5 BUST rating) – Michael Levine

Photo: Ken McKay 

 

 

 

sad

SAD13
Slugger
(Carpark Records)

Upon first listen, Slugger, the first solo effort by SAD13 (Sadie Dupuis, frontwoman of Speedy Ortiz), sounds fun and catchy, if a little safe. But scratch the surface of this indie-pop album, and you’ll discover that SAD13 uses this synth-laden backdrop to let rebellious, patriarchy-smashing lyrics shine. “<2” has a more complex message than most pop anthems: how to deal when you’re dismissed by a rigid traditionalist. Dupuis knows “it’s not a revolution unless it’s really gonna cost you,” and with Slugger, she’s sounding the call for a new girl order. (3/5 BUST rating) – Maura Hehir

 

 

 shehim

SHE & HIM
Christmas Party
(Columbia Records)

M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, the irresistible She & Him, are back with their second holiday album, Christmas Party. Like their first foray into retro yuletide fare, Christmas Party features classic covers like “All I Want for Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.” But the standouts here are the carols that have faded most from contemporary memory. On the Bing-Crosby-hit “Mele Kalikimaka,” Deschanel channels the bliss of Hawaiian shores, while Ward plays it sexy on “Run Run Rudolph,” a rock ‘n’ roller popularized by Chuck Berry. Ending on the magical highlight of “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” Christmas Party is your perfect holiday soundtrack, start to finish. (4/5 BUST rating) – Camille Collins

 

 

 

uncle

UNCLE MEG
Bug
(Self-Released)

Uncle Meg’s new record, Bug, is many things, but it’s mainly a testament to the genderqueer rapper’s ability to stand alone following Meg’s departure from Hand Job Academy last year. On Bug, we get the same bold, unapologetic Meg, now with zero fucks left to give. Cut to lead single, “Taylor Swift,” for evidence of that, but Bug has more to offer than just zings against America’s sweetheart. Tracks like “Freak Like a Model” and “Do You Want To” are odes to the laws of attraction, while “Lay Low” is hella introspective. Uncle Meg’s solo debut deserves its own lane. (3/5 BUST rating) 
– Kathy Iandoli

 

 

 


sleigh
SLEIGH BELLS
Jessica Rabbit
(Torn Clean)

Jessica Rabbit is Brooklyn noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells’ first record in three years, and while their recipe remains the same, the ingredients have gotten stronger. Opener “It’s Just Us Now” sets the tone for the album, which is full of changing tempos and sonic misdirections. Alexis Krauss’ vocals have never been more powerful—she’s in full pop diva mode on songs like “Lightning Turns Sawdust Gold” and “I Can Only Stare.” Sometimes Sleigh Bells creates so much dissonance, it’s hard to latch onto a melody; “Throw Me Down The Stairs” feels a bit like a radio stuck on “scan.” Still, Sleigh Bells never bores, that’s for sure. (3/5 BUST rating) – Liz Galvao

 

 

 

 martha

Heavy Rotation:
MARTHA WAINWRIGHT
Goodnight City
(PIAS)

Martha Wainwright’s new album, Goodnight City, is all about intensity: intense surges of melody, intense dynamic shifts, and intense caterwauling vocals that push you straight into the goosebump zone. Even the most hushed moments have a fire licking just below the surface. From the folky-glam “Franci,” to the electric-stomp “So Down,” to the breathy, confessional whispers of “Piano Music” and “One of Us,” Wainwright blazes into unearthed territory here. There’s a quaking sense of urgency that challenges everywhere she’s been before, even while it’s firmly rooted in those old, intimate grounds. Goodnight City is definitely a must-listen—for fans and newbies alike.  (4/5 BUST rating) – Mollie Wells

Photo: Carl Lessard

 

 

 

sloth
SLOTHRUST
Everyone Else
(Dangerbird Records)

Brooklyn grunge trio Slothrust’s third LP, Everyone Else, muses on oceans and marine life. Sonically, the songs come in waves, most notably on “Pigpen,” which starts off soft but erupts into loud, explosive riffs midway through the track. Lead singer Leah Wellbaum’s writing is strong and full of metaphor; she compares herself to sea animals (“Horseshoe Crab”) and gourds (“Rotten Pumpkin”) without seeming trivial. “Sleep Eater” and “Trial & Error” showcase the jazz-punk fusion for which the band is known. It’s just another way that Everyone Else stands out, making the two-year wait for this album worth every minute.
 (4/5 BUST rating) – Kathryn Hensch

 

 

 

spring
SPRINGTIME 
CARNIVORE
Midnight Room
(Autumn Tone Records)

For Greta Morgan’s sophomore effort as Springtime Carnivore, she let sleeplessness guide her creative process. The aptly titled Midnight Room was sparked by restless nights in a new apartment and those eerie, fuzzy, sudden waking moments in the middle of the night. Despite its seemingly dark origins, the album is full of bright and breezy indie-pop. Melodious synths take hold on “Double Infinity,” while Morgan’s silky smooth voice croons sharp lines like “After the afterglow/Your two faces start to show.” On “Nude Polaroids,” deeply personal lyrics are juxtaposed with upbeat hooks. Midnight Room is dreamy, intimate, and full of moon-drenched moments. (4/5 BUST rating) – Cindy Yogmas

 

 

 

maria 

MARIA TAYLOR
In The Next Life
(Flower Moon Records)

Singer/songwriter Maria Taylor (Azure Ray) shows off her musicianship on her seventh solo album, In the Next Life, on which she plays guitar, piano, and drums. The result is soft, slow, and bluesy, the kind of songs that make great lullabies. “A Good Life,” “Home,” and “If Only” show Taylor’s evolution as an artist, while “Pretty Scars” is firmly rooted in that country-tinged, autobiographical, Saddle Creek style. On “Scars,” Taylor laments, “I thought I knew of love, the kind that knocked you off your feet, but man I didn’t know anything.” Though not groundbreaking, Next Life sets a new, sentimental tone for Taylor. (3/5 BUST rating) – Whitney Dwire

Top photo: iPod commercial from 2004

 

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