Some grumble that the U.S. debut from Blaudzun (Dutch singer/songwriter Johannes Sigmond) sounds like a low-rent Arcade Fire. As though somehow they, Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers have cordoned off the genre. Like no one else is allowed to mix banjos, ukuleles, accordions and whistling with a wobbling heartfelt warble. Nonsense. Lead single “Elephants” is a jubilant love song. On “Flame on My Head,” overture-like orchestration gallops in from the periphery before racing rhythmically into focus; when hand claps arrive at the two-minute mark, my smile is involuntary. With minor-key mandolin and multi-layered instrumentation, “We Both Know” defies impending dissolution. Blaudzun is another proponent of the not-so-complex conundrum of gentle grandiosity, but Heavy Flowers is no carbon copy. (M. Brianna Stallings)
OOO’s fourth release is a soundtrack to the voyage of an abandoned spaceship—piloted by a glitched-out Macintosh—as it drifts in and out of the shadows of undiscovered planets. “Destination: Beyond the Sun`s Influence” begins with the Zeit-like howling of antimatter engines before making a stop at a rainforest planet for an earthy swig of congotronic iboga-beat on “Jungle Adventure.” From here on, side-chained kicks eclipse streams of solar wind chimes that trip through nearly every track and provide an arbor for lopsided microrhythms inhabiting mycological timeloops. OOO is broadcasting an interstellar illbient transmission on the same frequency as Oneohtrixpointnever to spread the good news: Space is the place. (Ehren Salazar)
When experiencing m b v, My Bloody Valentine's first new album since 1991, remember that “triumphant return” is not synonymous with “reinvention of the wheel”—nor should it be. Kevin Shields and company play it safe, front-loading m b v with tracks to assuage loyalists (distortion, loping pace, ghostly vocals) before creeping beautifully into new territory, but the seminal band is aware of their history. Every written detail speaks to the self-exploration necessary for re-emergence. Example? “is this and yes,” whose self-reflexivity and word play feels very e.e. cummings. Later, the wiggly outro of “if i am” transitions into “new you,” which is as close to a Beach Boys song as MBV will ever get. And “wonder 2”? Epic! (M. Brianna Stallings)
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Jenna Dunlap • singer-