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Sometimes it feels like you hear a Bright Eyes song with your whole body. From Conor Oberst’s early recordings in an Omaha basement in 1995 all the way up to 2020, Bright Eyes’ music tries to unravel the impossible tangles of dissent: personal and political, external and internal. It’s a study of the beauty in unsteadiness in all its forms – in a voice, beliefs, love, identity, and what fills up the spaces in-between. And in so many ways, it’s just about searching for a way through.
The year 2020 is full of significant anniversaries for Bright Eyes. Fevers and Mirrors was released 20 years ago this May, while Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning both turned 15 in January. The latter, a singer-songwriter tour-de-force released amidst the Bush presidency and Iraq war, wades through incisive anti-war rhetoric and micro, intimate calamities. On the title track and throughout the record, Oberst sings about body counts in the newspaper, televised wars, the bottomless pit of American greed, struggling to understand the world alongside one’s own turmoil. In its own way, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning carved out its place in the canon of great anti-war albums by being both present and prophetic, its urgency enduring 15 years later.
In 2011 the release of The People’s Key, Bright Eyes’ ninth and most recent album, ushered in an unofficial hiatus for the beloved project. In the time since, the work of the band’s core members – Oberst, multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, and multi-instrumentalist Nathaniel Walcott – has remained omnipresent, through both the members’ original work and collaboration.
In recent years, Mogis produced records for beloved folk acts First Aid Kit and Joseph, among others, as well as mixed the fine-spun ennui of Phoebe Bridgers’ breakthrough 2017 debut, Stranger in the Alps. Mogis and bandmate Walcott also teamed up to write the original scores for The Fault in Our Stars, Stuck in Love, and Lovely Still, and Walcott worked as a solo composer scoring number of independent feature-length films. Walcott spent extensive time on collaboration; in addition to his arrangement work for Mavis Staples, First Aid Kit, and M. Ward, he contributed studio work to artists ranging from U2 to jazz guitarist Jeff Parker, and also toured heavily as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Oberst, who’s nearly 30 years into a prolific musical career, spent the last decade in similarly productive fashion. Across three years he released a string of solo albums: Salutations (2017), Ruminations (2016), and Upside Down Mountain (2014), as well as guested on records by First Aid Kit, Phoebe Bridgers, and Alt-J. His punk band, Desaparecidos, emerged from a 13-year hiatus in 2015 with the thunderous sophomore LP, Payola, a white-knuckled disarray of hollered political fury. And at the top of 2019, Oberst and Bridgers debuted their new band, Better Oblivion Community Center, digitally dropping the critically-lauded eponymous debut LP alongside a surprise performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The heart at Bright Eyes’ songwriting still looms culturally, in films and TV shows and through re-imaginings by other artists. Mac Miller covered both “Lua” and “First Day of My Life”; Lorde’s version of the penultimate The People’s Key track, the funereal-waltz “Ladder Song,” was a focal point of The Hunger Games’ soundtrack; The Killers covered “Four Winds” for their Spaceman EP; and Lil Peep’s “Worlds Away” samples “Something Vague” while Young Thug’s “Me Or Us” samples “First Day of My Life.”
Bright Eyes’ expansive catalog has traversed genre, sound, and countless players; unpolished demos or fuzzy folk, electrified rock or country twang. The sharp songwriting and musicianship is all anchored in Bright Eyes’ singular ability to flip deep intimacy into something universal. For so many, for so long, listening to Bright Eyes has been like hearing yourself in someone else’s song – a moment of understanding or illumination, knowing you’re on the same team looking for a way to move through of all this shit.
And while 2020 is a year of milestones for the band, it’s also the year Bright Eyes returns, newly signed to indie label Dead Oceans. Amidst the current overwhelming uncertainty and upheaval of global and personal worlds, Oberst, Mogis, and Walcott reunited under the moniker as both an escape from, and a confrontation of, trying times. Getting the band back together felt right, and necessary, and the friendship at the core of the band has been a longtime pillar of Bright Eyes’ output. For Bright Eyes, this long-awaited re-emergence feels like coming home.
MP3 Album: $9.99 Download
'All The Time', Jessy Lanza's first album since 2016's 'Oh No', is the most pure set of pop songs that she and creative partner Jeremy Greenspan have recorded, reflective and finessed over time and distance. Innovative juxtapositions sound natural, like rigid 808s rubbing against delicate chords in 'Anyone Around', subtle footwork flutter giving a nervous energy to 'Face', unusual underwater rushes underpinning 'Baby Love'. The songs also sound more 'live' than ever before. Jessy's voice is treated, re-pitched and edited on songs like 'Ice Creamy' and gestural sounds seem to respond to her lyrics in songs such as 'Like Fire', which reward the listener on repeated plays. More than previous albums, the lyrics on 'All The Time' became an important focus for Jessy too, channelling the negativity of anger and frustration arising from some significant changes in her personal situation into the text. These lyrics sometimes process raw feelings, which aren't obvious to begin with, but are soon felt, standing in stark contrast to the cushioned settings of the music. 'All The Time' has ended as a triumph and an abstracted diary of a sometimes difficult, but enduring friendship and creative relationship, and it's their best work yet.
Limited to 5,000 copies, 3750 for the US (mirror-board LP jacket, 180 gram orange-green spash vinyl, zoetrope label)
The Waterfall II completes The Waterfall, My Morning Jacket’s acclaimed 2015 record. Originally intended to be a sprawling triple album, the band were advised to hold back and keep some of it on the shelf. Until now! Frontman Jim James says, "this is simply the second half of a long snapshot of life for me as a writer in the years leading up to 2014, and the life of us as a band as we lived and worked in the epic country in and around Stinson Beach, CA during these recording sessions."
Reissue on vinyl of the first PJ Harvey studio album in the Island Records catalogue, and her second studio album. Produced by Steve Albini and originally released in May 1993, Rid Of Me features the singles ‘50ft Queenie’ and ‘Man-Size’. The album charted at number 3 in the UK. Reissue is faithful to the original recording and package, cutting by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering under the guidance of Steve Albini.
PIG DESTROYER return with their new EP, The Octagonal Stairway! A blistering dose of grindcore, harsh noise, and industrial swagger, The Octagonal Stairway features 6 new tracks from the legendary band, B-side noise tracks, and a special appearance from Igor Cavalera!
“In the aftermath of a homicide scene, sometimes the blood patterns can be beautiful. This is Art!” -Decibel
“With sharpened grind core and hardcore punk, Pig Destroyer bloodless your preconceptions and mis conceptions one blast beat and razor riff at a time,” -Decibel
Head Cage does curl its barbed-wire riffs into something like a gnarled swagger. -NPR
Hull flexes his riffology into new realms, as if allowing the Red-era bombast of King Crimson to barrel into the metallic hardcore mayhem of Deadguy. -NPR
Single LP on black vinyl in single jacket w/ matte coating. Includes euro sleeve (with lyrics) & 24”x36” poster. Download coupon also included
What do we hold on to from our past? What must we let go of to truly move forward? Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield spent much of 2018 reckoning with these questions and revisiting her roots for answers. The result is Saint Cloud, an intimate journey through the places she’s been, filled with the people she’s loved.
South London multi-instrumentalist Tom Misch, and Yussef Dayes, one of the UK’s most innovative young drummers, come together to bring us “What Kinda Music” – an astonishing collaboration between two artists of very different disciplines, and one of the most unique and seamlessly original projects of its like to date. “What Kinda Music” presents us with the DNA of both musicians, fusing so effortlessly and beautifully that it creates something else entirely. Releasing 4/24 via Moonbeam Music.
Where L.A. Witch's self-titled album oozed with vibe and atmosphere, with the whole mix draped in reverb, sonically placing the band in some distant realm, broadcast across some unknown chasm of time, Play With Fire comes crashing out of the gate with a bold, brash, in-your-face rocker “Fire Starter.” The authoritative opener is a deliberate mission statement. “Play With Fire is a suggestion to make things happen,” says Sanchez. “Don’t fear mistakes or the future. Take a chance. Say and do what you really feel, even if nobody agrees with your ideas. These are feelings that have stopped me in the past. I want to inspire others to be freethinkers even if it causes a little burn.” And by that line of reasoning, “Fire Starter” becomes a call to action, an anthem against apathy. From there, the album segues into the similarly bodacious rocker “Motorcycle Boy”—a feisty love song inspired by classic cinema outlaws like Mickey Rourke, Marlon Brando, and Steve McQueen. At track three, we hear L.A. Witch expand into new territories as “Dark Horse” unfurls a mixture of dustbowl folk, psychedelic breakdowns, and fire-and-brimstone organ lines. And from there, the band only gets more adventurous. Play With Fire is a bold new journey that retains L.A. Witch’s siren-song mystique, nostalgic spirit, and contemporary cool. Despite the stylistic breadth of the record, there is a unifying timbre across the album’s nine tracks, as if the trio of young musicians is bound together as a collective of old souls tapping into the sounds of their previous youth.
There is a sting in the summer blossom of Ultimate Success Today, Protomartyr' new album. Arriving after Relatives In Descent, Protomartyr's headlong dive into the morass of American life in 2017, Ultimate Success Today is a fitting follow-up for the Detroit band.
Vinyl: $25.98 Buy
2020 release. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, the San Francisco-based band fronted by singer and songwriter Thao Nguyen, release their fifth studio album Temple. The album is among Thao's most open and honest work yet, finding her coming out in her public life after a long career in which she kept her queer identity quiet in an effort to avoid turmoil with and alienation from a family and culture she deeply loves. Temple follows Thao & the Get Down Stay Down's 2016 album A Man Alive which was released to widespread critical praise. NPR Music called it a 'brilliant, jarring new album'[Nguyen's] most rewarding work yet,' while Pitchfork raved that it is 'Nguyen's most rhythmically robust, gleefully discordant release to date' and Stereogum called it 'explosive and melodically dense.' Over the past year Thao served as guest host of the acclaimed podcast Song Exploder.
Limited twelve inch glow in the dark vinyl pressing. Features the goth rock/post punk classic performed by the Manchester legends. Taken from sessions with producer Martin Hannett.
"Reunions" JASON & THE 400 UNIT - His last album - 2017's "The Nashville Sound" - A #1 album on the Billboard Folk, Independent, Country and Rock albums charts, also received Best Americana Album at the Grammys, Album Of The Year At The Americana Honors & Awards and was nominated at the CMA Awards for Album Of The Year. Since then, he has collaborated on the soundtrack for A Star Is Born, the debut album by the Highwomen, and Sheryl Crow's latest album Threads. He also released a live album, Live From the Ryman.
MP3 Album: $9.99 Download
Nirvana's classic MTV Unplugged in New York album is getting a 25th anniversary vinyl reissue. Marking the iconic lives set's first pressing as a double LP, the new edition features five rehearsal performances that were previously available on only the DVD release.
Among the rehearsals – which were previously only available as bonus content on the MTV Unplugged in New York – is a different take on the David Bowie cover “The Man Who Sold the World,” a version that finds both Nirvana and the production team finding their footing ahead of the concert. Rehearsal versions of “Polly,” “Pennyroyal Tea,” “Come As You Are” and the Meat Puppets’ “Plateau” are also included on the vinyl’s Side D.