love_in_the_time_of_recessionThe Durutti Column have a new album out. For starters: “Love in the Time of Recession.” Brilliant title! Simultaneously, you’ve got the Gabriel Garcia Marquez reference plus the point that the current state of affairs in both the US and UK does symptomize some sort of deeper social illness, whatever you might want to call it.

But then: what’s really hard to believe is that Vini Reilly’s still making great records, now almost than 30 years after the first Durutti Column lp came out. Can you image if the Clash, or the Buzzcocks, or the Jam were still around, making records that sound just as amazing as their earliest? Well, I suppose that Wire is, and I also suppose that the Durutti Column never played what you might loosely call rock like those other bands did, but still ….

And, what’s even harder to believe is that this album has gotten almost no critical attention here in the US, at least as far as I can tell. Start a rumor that this music was made by a new band from Brooklyn, then leak the album on the internet, and you’d have a sensation at least as frantic as the one over the new Grizzly Bear. Hey, I know “Veckatimest” is really great, but I listened to that one and “Love in the Time of Recession” back-to-back this afternoon and if I had to choose, to be honest, my slight preference would be for the latter.

As always, it’s hard to describe the music on this newest full-length. Heavy on atmosphere, brilliant instrumentals, tentative but moving vocals, elements of ambient and maybe even classical as well as Joy Division-esque punk or post-punk. The two longer tracks that close the album, “Loser” and “Lock-Down,” can be heard on the band’s Myspace page.

There’s no better way to close than with this quote, from the official biography (obviously a year old, but you get the point): “Vini Reilly is The Durutti Column. It is 2008, he still has control and does all kinds of ridiculous things.”

Stefan Kozalla/DJ Koze

Stefan Kozalla/DJ Koze

DJ Koze, “Reincarnations: The Remix Chapter 2001-2009.” I’ve found myself drifting back again and again to this one over the past month or so. Kind of like Seger, down on Main Street, I guess.

Though the work that is collected on this compilation was done over a period of years, the tracks are sequenced very nicely and flow together so that you can listen to it straight through like a regular album or DJ mix. Some of the remixes, the one of Battles’ “Atlas” being the leading case in point, sound totally different from the originals. Others, like Heiko Voss’ “Think About You,” stay closer to their sources but still sound new and interesting. In fact, each of the 13 full-length tracks presented here holds up as a highly original work of art. Highlights are hard to single out, since everything’s so good, but for me they would have to include Weschel Garland’s “Swim,” Noze’s “Danse Avec Moi,” and Sascha Funke’s “Mango Cookie.”

And then, above all, there’s Koze’s remix of Matias Aguayo’s “Minimal.” True, that started out as a nice and funny song. But Koze turns it into an absolute masterpiece.

Chriss Sutherland, Worried Love, Peapod Recordings 2009

Chriss Sutherland, Worried Love, Peapod Recordings 2009

Chriss Sutherland is a member of Fire on Fire, a band from South Portland, Maine that put out an excellent album called “The Orchard” late last year. Here’s how Chriss describes himself and his work on his Myspace page: “I make my own music outside of myself. Songs. Words. I’m influenced by all the life and lives around me including my own. I think music and art and its creation should be a daily endeavor minus as much BS as possible.”

“Amen, especially to that last part,” is what I say.

But, I mention all this now because Chriss has a new record just out on his own — his second I believe – titled “Worried Love.”  Ten tracks, kind of folk, a little bit old-timey but with brilliant guitar work that’ll sometimes remind you of Neil Young’s best stuff, and affecting lyrics, some in Spanish.  In other words, really nice stuff.

And you can download one of the best tracks, “What Are We Gonna Do Now?” from the Peapod Recordings webpage.

CDcover6 Hey kids! I’ve got some advice for you, so please bear with me — it’ll only take a sec.

James Blackshaw has a new album coming out later this month, his first on Michael Gira’s Young God Records. It’s called “The Glass Bead Game.”

And now for the advice. Go to the page here and download the first track, “Cross.” It’s free and legal! Load it into your iTunes or whatever, and then come back ….

So now you know what I mean. The exquisite guitar work, that’s to be expected from James Blackshaw. But the added instrumentation and, even more, the wordless vocals that float above, those are the surprises that give this composition its enormous — to paraphrase Gira himself, I’d almost say its shocking — beauty. And, if for some reason that’s not enough, the album’s closing track, the 18-minute-plus, shimmering, piano-based “Arc,” is perhaps even more spectacular.

I’ve always enjoyed and admired James Blackshaw’s work, but “the Glass Bead Game” takes it to another level. It’s really something special.

return-to-sourceI’ve had this album, “Return to Source” by Many Mansions, on repeat all weekend. The Whitehaus Family website describes it best: “the latest album from Many Mansions is dance oriented, blending the repetitiveness of trance, the feel-good vibrations of tropicalia and the mind-bending aspects of psychedelia.” Kind of like Animal Collective meets “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” meets Roberto Matta. Awesome!

Best of all, you can download it for free right here.

thefuturewillcomeSay that one of your favorite songs from last year was “Raise Me Up” by Hercules and Love Affair. Say that one your favorite songs from the year before last was “Get Innocuous” by LCD Soundsystem. And say that one of your favorite songs from the year before that was “And I Was a Boy From School,” by Hot Chip. True, true, and true, at least for me.

And if you’re like me in those respects, you’ll probably also join me in loving this new album, “The Future Will Come” by The Juan Maclean. This ten-song lp is anchored by three excellent, long (circa 10-minute) tracks, “The Simple Life” and “Happy House,” both of which were released previously as tremendous singles, and “Tonight,” which is all-new and even better. Interspersed are shorter, three-minute songs, equally strong, of which “Accusations” with its bitter/sweet lyrics and “The Station” with its Human League-esque boy-girl vocals is the standout for me. Nancy Whang, who contributed to the aforementioned “Get Innocuous,” takes the lead on vocals for most of these tracks and while yes she’s always great here in my opinion she’s never sounded better.

Indeed, what’s best about this album is that no special philosophy is needed to enjoy it. Electronic disco beats and female vocals — sometimes that’s all you need and this record proves it. Kind of reminds me of that old Roxy Music song: “when you’ve heard enough of the blues and stuff” … and if “I don’t have to tell you hard hard it can be to get by” … then this album’s for you.

And what was the name of that song? Oh yeah … “a really good time.” A fitting four-word description of this one too.

Yes, well, I’m just now getting around to listening to the self-titled cd by Magic Magic, which came out towards the end of last year. But what can I say, I’ve been really busy with a lotta other, you know, important stuff. Happily, though, this mistake on my part in setting priorities has now been rectified. Which leads me to file the following report.

Magic Magic. Judging from the band’s Myspace page, many other listeners seem to think that Magic Magic sound like Arcade Fire; meanwhile, the band members themselves disagree. And I must admit that I wouldn’t have drawn that comparison either. But now that the connection’s been made I will say that the best of the nine tracks on this album, “Over Your Head,” “Talking Smoke,” and “Savage,” are good in the same way that Arcade Fire’s “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” is good, which is to say that they’re really excellent (and “Talking Smoke” is up on the Myspace page, by the way).

Instead, to my ear, the similarities are greater between Magic Magic and the French Kicks, who put out one of my absolute favorite albums of last year and who I think are one of the most underrated bands around. Similar vocal stylings, similar smart songwriting, and similar blends of what I’d guess you’d call indie rock and pop. The French Kicks covered a Lindsey Buckingham song on their most recent ep, and I can see Magic Magic doing the same.

And so, most definitely, Magic Magic’s is a very nice cd; my only regret is waiting so long to give it a spin. Don’t make the same mistakes as me, youngsters!