[vimeo http://vimeo.com/23385130]

Brute Heart, “Eclipse,” from their forthcoming lp, “Lonely Hunter.”

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?

The saints and poets, maybe — they do some.

Kelsey’s Jarboe’s album, “Magical Realism,” presents ten compositions that meditate or reflect in various ways on life at the beginning of our new century.

With something this ambitious, useful comparisons are hard to make. But listening to it, I thought of Barbara Manning’s combination of directness and willingness to experiment. And though stylistically quite different, I also remembered the way that PJ Harvey, especially on her first two lps, dealt with a range of complex issues with controlled emotion. Perhaps another clue lies in the track titled “The Body of Raphaelle Peale,” since there is certainly an element of what you might call “the American still life” in some of these tracks, as well as a playful yet relevant satire in others.

Poignant, powerful, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes whimsical, “Magical Realism” expands significantly on last year’s excellent “Among Your Kind.” A real masterpiece.

“Anthroapologists”

“Heirlooms”

Wagon Christ, from the really nice album “Toomorrow,” Ninja Tune (2011).

Gabe Goodman returns with his second full-length, “Friendly Fires,” available now through his bandcamp page.

Conundrummer” was, of course, one of my very favorite albums of last year. On the new release, Gabe trades in some of the predecessor’s ornate vocal arrangements for more than a hint of early-1990s indie/power pop — an unexpected but not unwelcome line of evolution and one that makes this record a perfect accompaniment to the start of summer.

Gabe still plays nearly all the instruments, assisted by Will Radin. And the songwriting/storytelling, which are really his forte, continue to stand out, with highlights such as “A Common Application,” the title track (below), “Sour Apple,” “Physical Education,” and “Trivial” (also below) all matching or surpassing the magic of “Cops at Crystal Lake” and “Weightless” from the debut.

Once upon a time, something like this would have earned a spot on “120 Minutes” and at least a couple dates with Winona Ryder. Today, it just sounds like an instant classic.

“Friendly Fires”

“Trivial”

Sparseness and restraint are not really what this new album from Gang Gang Dance is all about.

That is made clear from start — the lp opens with the claim that “it’s everything time,” just before launching into the spectacular 11 1/2-minute “Glass Jar” — to finish and everything in between, with even the short interludes identified by repeated infinity signs.

For mind-blowing, over the top, interstellar blast-offs, it doesn’t get much better than this. Which probably explains why the compositions sound even better live, when strung out and elaborated on still further, as shown below and in the excellent 4ad session.

“MindKilla”

“Glass Jar” (live)

“Chinese High” (4ad session)

:take: – “Joie de Resistance” (live, 2009)

Track A2 from :take: white/lichens split.

Daedelus – Bespoke

May 10, 2011

Daedelus - Bespoke - Ninja Tune (2011)

Some might express bewilderment at Alfred Darlington’s (aka Daedelus‘) eclecticism, penchant for experimentation, and Abraham Lincoln looks.  But I consider all those things virtues.

His new album, “Bespoke,” brings back memories of the stuff that used to come out on ZE Records: stylish, danceable, varied but certainly never dull. And you can’t fault his taste in collaborators: Milosh (below, from the new record), Bilal (also on the record, and in another performance below), and Baths, just to name a few.

“Tailor-Made” (featuring Milosh)

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/20051308]

“Tainted Love” (w/Bilal and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson)