listening to music by mysteriousfantasy

It's March, and along with your spring cleaning it's time to revamp your listening habits! We're bringing you the 23 album reviews from our February/March 2017 issue, along with a Spotify playlist to accompany them. Read up on the latest from Laura Marling, the Flaming Lips, Cate Le Bon, Ty Segall and more.



Crystal Fairy 3000x3000


Staff Pick:
Crystal Fairy
(Ipecac Recordings)

They’re called “supergroups” for a reason, and Crystal Fairy has certainly earned the title, with the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover on guitar and drums, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of the Mars Volta on bass, and Le Butcherettes’ Teri Gender Bender delivering the keys and her fiendish, wild vox. Their debut record is a banger from start to finish. Sludgy songs like “Drugs on the Bus” and “Sweet Self” are riff-centric and heavy, and are balanced by faster, wilder tracks like “Bent Teeth” and “Chiseler.” The end result is a well-rounded, weirdo rock collection that will have listeners pining for more. (5/5) –Emilie Von Unwerth



austra 1


Future Politics

When you think about Earth’s impending doom, “joyful” isn’t the word that comes to mind. But it’s fitting for Austra’s Future Politics, an uplifting album about how humanity could change for the better to prevent the apocalypse. Despite the heavy subject matter, the Toronto-based dream-pop band sounds happier than ever here, if somewhat pared down. The sparse instrumentation allows frontwoman Katie Stelmanis’ operatic voice to shine as the formidable weapon it is, especially on the title track and “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself.” If this is what the end of days sounds like, it can’t be that bad. (4/5) –Eliza C. Thompson



Blak Emoji

Intro EP

In a time when unlikely fusions of musical genres abound, Blak Emoji (born Kelsey Warren­) has tapped into something new. The New York City mainstay—a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and studio hired gun—shows off a mastery of diverse talents on his debut EP, Intro. Smokey Seal-style vocals meet industrial rock on “Sapiosexual” (Warren cites NIN as a major influence), funky synths appear on “Velvet Ropes & Dive Bars,” and there’s lots of powerful electric guitar throughout, calling to mind a grittier Lenny Kravitz. With only five songs, Intro is short but dense with talent; Blak Emoji deserves a high-five (or are they prayer hands?). (3/5) –Liz Galvao



chavez 2

Cockfighters EP
(Matador Records)

New York alt-rockers Chavez rose to popularity during the math-rock and post-rock heyday of the mid-’90s. With contemporaries like Shipping News and Rodan, they played noisy, angular, guitar-based rock, often with unconventional and almost jazzy song structures. Cockfighters, Chavez’s first release in almost 10 years, finds the band in familiar form, and though it’s concise, fans will not be disappointed. “Blank in the Blaze” is a particular stand out, segueing from a subdued intro into a Jawbox-style melody with deliciously loud, crunchy guitars. Chavez’s new EP makes a compelling case for an alt-rock renaissance. (4/5) –Krystle Miller




Allison Crutchfield

Tourist In This Town
(Merge Records)

Allison Crutchfield’s debut solo album, Tourist In This Town, hasn’t come a moment too soon. The Alabaman singer/songwriter (best known for her collaborations with her twin sister Katie, aka Waxahatchee), is fierce, raw, and above all else, real. Crutchfield uses a fusion of folk-rock and synth-pop to tell a story of self-reflection, pain, and growth. Songs like “Dean’s Room” and “The Marriage” are a gut-punch of emotion, while “Sightseeing” has strands of earnest lyrics like, “I can’t enjoy Paris/Because I can’t get away from you.” Town casts a golden light on a time that feels so dark. (5/5) –Claire Mckinzie



Dirty Projectors

As a band, Dirty Projectors are in a constant state of experimentation. Over the course of the 14 years they’ve been active, David Longstreth’s musical project has been through many different band line-ups, musical styles, and creative directions. Their new self-titled album—their eighth full-length release—continues the experiment. Musical misdirections (“Winner Take Nothing”), surreal harmonies (“Work Together”), and otherworldly electronic soundscapes (“Ascent Through the Clouds”) make up this engaging, if a bit inaccessible, album. Overall, Dirty Projectors feels like a look forward for the band. It’s futuristic, pushes the boundaries of song structure, and is full of experimentation. (4/5) –Liz Galvao




Dude York

(Hardly Art Records)

Dude York’s Sincerely packs a sugary punch. On their new album, the Seattle-based rock trio provides hard-hitting drums and face-melting riffs (especially on “Paralyzed”), but they never stray far from a pop base. “Something in the Way” and “Life Worth Living” both have choruses that are begging for a singalong. And bassist Claire England makes her welcome debut as a lead vocalist for Dude York on this album. “I might be wrong but at least I’m sure that you’re not right,” she sings on “Tonight.” It’s an album highlight that perfectly captures the sweet, punky sound that’s uniquely Dude York. (3/5) 
–Kathryn Hensch




Flaming Lips

Heavy Rotation:
Oczy Mlody
(Warner Bros. Records)

Not only are the Flaming Lips back, but their new album is also full of the moody and mischievous melodic tendencies that made us fall in love with them. With whirring synths and droning distortion, Oczy Mlody experiments with inventive electro-pop and avant-garde psych-rock. On “How,” Wayne Coyne’s softly warbling vocals give way to a fuzzed-out, bass-driven chorus. Miley Cyrus lends vocals to “We a Family,” a dreamy duet that closes the album with the sonic equivalent of a group hug. With Oczy Mlody, we can thank our lucky stars that the Lips are as weird as ever. (5/5) –Cindy Yogmas






Soul Sick
(Vanguard Records)

If you’re feeling nostalgic for rock ‘n’ roll from a sunnier era, then you’re going to love Sallie Ford’s latest album, Soul Sick. The Portland-based singer/songwriter’s newest release, her first as a solo artist, is a collection of upbeat, confessional, ’60s-inspired tracks chronicling her battles with anxiety, insecurity, and depression. “Loneliness is Power” is full of fuzzy surf guitars, while “Unraveling” is a modern doo-wop ballad that exposes both Ford’s vulnerable side, and her musical talents. Soul Sick is a triumphant record, one that will hopefully inspire more performers to unveil their personal challenges. (3/5) –Stephanie Nolasco




Valerie June

Heavy Rotation:
The Order Of Time
(Concord Records)

Valerie June’s sophomore album showcases her intoxicatingly twangy vocals against an eclectic musical backdrop. Pedal steel, ukulele, organ, and backing vocals by her family are all in play, and there are moments of classic blues balladry (“Slip Slide On By”), modern folk-rock (“Astral Plane”), and traditional rootsy Americana (“Man Done Wrong”). But June’s songwriting moves beyond classification and toward a timeless, inimitable sound, one she’s called “organic moonshine roots music.” Closer “Got Soul,” exemplifies this best, starting in the style of blues-based gospel, blending into joyous horns and fiddle, then fading out with an a cappella refrain. It shines, just like June. (5/5) –Cindy Yogmas

Photo: Danny Clinch



jesca hoop 1

Memories Are Now
(Sub Pop Records)

On her seventh studio album, singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop follows in the footsteps of early 2000s experimental folk artists like Devendra Banhart and Cat Power. Memories Are Now is built with layered vocals above a sparse background of rhythmic guitar loops. In an interesting juxtaposition, Hoop uses old-fashioned close harmonies to convey modern lyrics with an emotional twist (“You say it’s impossible, but your dumb computer says no”). Many of these songs—“Unsaid” and “Cut Connection” in particular—are slow-burners that build to dramatic conclusions, so a bit of patience is required to appreciate this album. It’s worth the wait. (3/5) –Sarah C. Jones



Ibibio Sound Machine

(Merge Records)

On their new album, Uyai, Ibibio Sound Machine marries African rhythms with electronic melodies, and the end result is quite a harmonious pairing. It’s fitting that the record’s title means “beauty” in the Ibibio language. Using aspects of West African funk, disco, modern post-punk, and electro, the London-based band puts forth a unique—and unexpectedly cohesive—sound that incorporates groovy basslines, ’80s-inspired synths, and a DIY energy. Not only is the album lively and engaging, but its title also refers to the strength and free spirit of women. Uyai is a much-needed reminder of female empowerment, especially for post-election America. (4/5) –Alexa Tietjen


nikki lane 1

Highway Queen
(New West Records)

As Nikki Lane howls “Ohhhhh yippee-ki-yay” on album opener “700,000 Rednecks” for her third album, Highway Queen, the sentiment could seem cliché, conjuring tired images of bloated cowboys and Wild West stereotypes. But instead, the Nashville-based singer/songwriter’s music is an homage to her country roots that is both nostalgic and fresh. Evoking Miranda Lambert, Neko Case, and Wanda Jackson, Lane’s sound manages to be both classic and contemporary. Tracks like “Big Mouth” and “Highway Queen” are injected with infectious, rough-around-the-edges pop. By the time album closer “Forever Lasts Forever” arrives, even the staunchest country skeptic will be converted. (4/5) –Melynda Fuller




Lilah Larson NEW FINAL



Pour yourself a stiff drink and listen to Lilah Larson pour out her heart. Her debut album, Pentimento, tells a conflicted love story that starts at the pit of despair with the dirge “Dear Mountain, Love Valley” and ends with the wistful strummer “Come Home.” That passionate push and pull is heard throughout, with Larson admitting she doesn’t mind being her lover’s second choice on “Someone Else,” only to realize she’s selling herself short on the Dylan-style “Oh Inertia.” But it’s the wise-beyond-her-years “Dink’s Song” that will have you finally forgetting that (wrong) one that got away—likely with help from another round. (4/5) –Shannon Carlin




Cate Le Bon 2400x2400

Heavy Rotation:
Rock Pool EP
(Drag City Records)

Cate Le Bon produces comfort tunes for the soul. 2016’s Crab Day LP saw the Welsh artist dive deeper into her nostalgic tendencies through twangy guitars and dreamy vocals. On her new EP, Rock Pool, Le Bon continues to take her cue from the past, though her sound is by no means dated. “I Just Wanna Be Good” includes playful piano, and the peppy, electronic-infused “Perfume Days” shows that the singer/songwriter is firmly future-facing. Rock Pool proves that Cate Le Bon is able to see the beauty in the world around her, and bring it to others, too. (4/5) –Sammy Maine




Laura Marling

Semper Femina
(More Alarming Records via Kobalt Music Recordings)

With every record, Laura Marling’s singularity as an artist grows more distinct: she’s not “trying something new,” but instead reveals what she’s already mastered. With Semper Femina, the old-soul 26-year-old folk musician has grown more concerned with the complexity of both womanhood and songwriting. Without taking direct cues, the dramatic sonic landscape of “Soothing” is evocative of Bowie’s dark surrealism and Kate Bush’s fantastical intimacy. Yet Marling’s words remain rooted in folk tradition, as in “Next Time,” an exquisite, agonizing ballad: “I can no longer close my eyes while the world around me dies/At the hands of folks like me.” (4/5) –Maura Hehir




Tift Merritt

Stitch Of The World
(Yep Roc Records)

Tift Merritt has always been equal parts story-weaver and songwriter, so it makes sense that Stitch of the World resonates like a book you just cannot put down. The singer’s sixth studio album unwinds in vignettes, all braided through Merritt’s loose blues and raw country soul: the opening scene kiss-off (“Dusty Old Man”), the sobering reflection (“Heartache is an Uphill Climb”), then movement and transformation (“My Boat,” “Eastern Light”). The music alone is enough to bring you back again and again—dusty and bittersweet, all gorgeous country guitars and that sugar-sour voice. But the story itself? That’s the page turner. (4/5) 
–Mollie Wells



The Orwells

Terrible Human Beings
(Canvasback Music)

Innocuous and radio-ready, The Orwells’ third studio album is a pop-rock record that recalls post-Kurt alternative rock, a time in musical history when Eve 6 and Better Than Ezra ruled the charts. Occasional interesting guitar squalls (“They Put a Body in the Bayou,” “Heavy Head”) will have you on the edge of your seat ready for a ferocious attack, but the songs quickly veer back to formula. Seven-minute closer “Double Feature” was the absolute highlight of the record, with its drawn-out instrumentation, lovely guitar interplay, and a bit of much needed grit at the climax. (2/5) –Krystle Miller




Pissed Jeans

Why Love Now
(Sub Pop Records)

Pissed Jeans’ latest album, Why Love Now, marks the urgency and anger that comes with gender politics. This is particularly true in sneering tracks like “It’s Your Knees.” The LP’s first single, “The Bar Is Low,” centers around disappointment and anger about men. “There’s no guy that isn’t a total creep,” frontman Matt Corvette explains in a press release. The album is produced by Arthur Rizk of Sumerlands and Lydia Lunch, whose radical, no-wave influences radiate in tracks such as “Ignorecam,” which features Corvette’s bloodcurdling screams. Why Love Now channels the frustration and the outrage of this modern age. (4/5) –Mary Kinney




Ty Segall

Ty Segall
(Drag City Records)

Taking lessons from 2013’s acoustic dream Sleeper, and 2016’s unrelenting, conceptual noise album Emotional Mugger, Ty Segall is back with a new self-titled record. This time, the Californian garage rocker shows his range. Transparency is the theme, and for the first time, the multi-instrumentalist records with his band playing live in the studio, adding an organic energy to each performance. From the noise rock of opener “Break A Guitar,” to the acoustic, almost honky-tonk “Talkin’,” to the epic, psychedelic sprawl of 10-minute long “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned),” Segall proves once again why he’s one of our favorites. (5/5) –Liz Galvao




Siren And The Sea

This Time With Feeling

Cristina Cano’s debut album with Siren and the Sea, her solo project-turned-five-piece band, is filled with the feelings of a post-2016 hangover: ennui, concern, and defeat. On the salsa-flavored “Limbs,” she sings about getting rid of hers, and on the interstellar “Atmosphere,” she wishes for space. With its layers of blips and beeps, “The Wait” is basically a sigh in song form, where Cano admits she feels like she’s fading away. But, more importantly, she’s tired of listening to what everyone has to say. It’s the 2017 anthem that totally gets how we all feel after a very rough 2016. (4/5) –Shannon Carlin



Jay Som

Everybody Works
(Polyvinyl Records)

Jay Som is the moniker of California-based singer/songwriter Melina Duterte, whose second release, Everybody Works, features more of her dreamy music. This time around, however, she’s created a fuller and more varied sound. “Lipstick Stains” features a dramatic orchestral opening, while “Baybee” has a retro disco vibe, making it danceable even when paired with Duterte’s sleepy, ethereal vocals. The messy guitar work on “(Bedhead)” brings to mind ’90s indie acts like Liz Phair and Sleater-Kinney. Everybody Works offers plenty of dreamy reflection and dance-inducing jams, and Duterte’s low-key style will appeal to a variety of ears and moods. (4/5) –Adrienne Urbanski




Snow Angel

Heavy Rotation:
Snow Angel

Psychedelic pop band Snow Angel’s self-titled first album is like Child’s Play meets the Postal Service. Gabby La La heads the multi-babe band, wielding a number of instruments, including guitar, drums, an accordion, an omnichord, and a sitar. The single “So Sick So Cool” features girl gang backup vocals and, delightfully, a recorder. The record hits its stride with the starry, techie teen anthem “Fifteen,” and holds strong through “Big Group Hug,” a flowery, hippy-ish, disco song. Snow Angel succeeds in creating its signature sound right out of the gate, which is a rainbow-colored burst of girl power. (4/5) –Whitney Dwire

 Top photo: DeviantArt/mysteriousfantasy

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