Essential New Music: Dori Freeman’s “Letters Never Read”

On her 2016 self-titled debut, Dori Freeman addressed the downside of love with plenty of wit and uplifting melodies. There are more love songs on Letters Never Read—some luminous, some troubled—but her soulful singing lifts them all out of the doldrums and into a pleasing state of grace. On “Turtle Dove,” her voice embraces the blissful limitations of true love, channeling the spirit of Jim Reeves with the help of a shimmering vibraphone and Aoife O’Donovan’s heartfelt harmonies. The quiet, twang-heavy groove of “Make You My Own” is a classic love song made more passionate by Freeman’s understated delivery. Her tender vocal on “Cold Waves” balances feelings of hopelessness with a prayer for the deliverance that only true love can bring. It’s a remarkable performance. Producer Teddy Thompson brings in an impressive cast to support Freeman’s burnished vocals, including his dad, Richard, who lends his distinctive fretwork to her cover of his “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight.”

—j. poet

In The News: Wye Oak, Eels, Okkervil River, Courtney Barnett, Melvins, Eleanor Friedberger, Ash, Dr. Octagon, Fatboy Slim, A Place To Bury Strangers And More

Wye Oak‘s The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is out April 6 via Merge; the dozen-song LP will be supported live dates in April, May and July … Also on April 6, Eels will issue 12th album The Deconstruction on E Works/PIAS … April showers bring the new Okkervil River album, In The Rainbow Rain (ATO, April 27) … Tell Me How You Really Feel is the latest from Courtney Barnett, out May 18 courtesy of Mom + Pop/Marathon Artists/Milk! … Sloan‘s 12th studio album, 12, is out April 6 via Murderecords/Yep Roc … The Melvins + Steven McDonald (Redd Kross, OFF!) + Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers) = Pinkus Abortion Technician (April 20, Ipecac) … Megaplex, the sixth album from We Are Scientists, is out April 27 via 100% … Frenchkiss will issue Eleanor Friedberger‘s Rebound on May 4 … Islands is the first album from Ash in four years, and it’s out May 18 via Infectious Music/BMG … On April 6. Dr. Octagon—Dan The Automator, Kool Keith and DJ QBert—is back after 22 years with Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation (Bulk) … Different Strokes for different folks: Albert Hammond Jr‘s fourth LP, Francis Trouble, is out March 9 on Red Bull … MIEN is Alex Maas (Black Angels), Tom Furse (Horrors), Rishi Dhir (Elephant Stone) and John-Mark Lapham (Earlies), and its self-titled debut is out April 6 via Rocket … Reissue redux: Fatboy Slim‘s You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby 20th Anniversary Edition (March 15, Astralwerks) and 2PAC’s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (vinyl only, out now, Interscope/UMe) … Stone Temple Pilots has a new singer (Jeff Gutt) and a new album (Stone Temple Pilots), which is out March 16 on Atlantic/Rhino … The Goldberg Sisters (a.k.a. actor/filmmaker/photographer/Hebrew Hammer/MAGNET guest editor Adam Goldberg) will release Mood Swing on April 13 … The same day, A Place To Bury Strangers returns with Pinned Out (Dead Oceans) … Also making the 13th of April lucky is the Damned, with Evil Spirits (Search And Destroy/Spinefarm) … Someone please stop the April 13 madness: John Prine‘s The Tree Of Forgiveness is also out that day via Oh Boy … MAGNET faves the Orange Peels return April 27 with Trespassing (Minty Fresh) … Speaking of MAGNET faves: The Green PajamasPhantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3 (Green Monkey) is out March 16 … It’s only been 14 years in the making, but A Perfect Circle release Eat The Elephant on April 20 (420, dude) via BMG … Thirty Second To Mars‘ new album, The New Album (get it—it’s the new album and it’s called The New Album), is out April 6 on Interscope … Something Higher is the latest from Leftover Salmon, out May 4 via LoS … Shonen Knife‘s Alive! In Osaka is a 21-track live DVD/CD recorded last year and out May 4 on Good Charamel … Beth Hart also has a new live DVD/CD, Live From New York: Front & Center, out April 13 courtesy of Provogue/Mascot.

Essential New Music: Mirah’s “Sundial EP”

Brooklyn indie songwriter Mirah has always been a wonderfully eclectic artist, with each album bringing new sounds and ideas. For her latest work, she’s collaborating with longtime friend Jherek Bischoff, a noted composer. Together, the two rework key songs from her past catalog, bringing closer vocals and string-quartet arrangements. It’s quite lovely, and even when the arrangements don’t stray that far from the originals, the new intimacy of Mirah’s vocals on these tracks is worth the price of purchase itself. Physically, this is a vinyl-only EP, but pick up the digital version and you get four additional songs, some of which are more adventurous than the proper tracks. There’s only one new composition here, the title track, but it’s a hopeful number that’s full of the same kind of sunshine that infuses the EP.

Devon Leger

Normal History Vol. 465: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

One could make a case that riot grrrl’s original influence appeared to taper off only to surge again as a sort of macro-nostalgia 20 years after its inception. Now, around the 25-year mark, riot grrrl’s powerful history begins to look both fluid and cyclical. Who saw Pussy Riot (founded in 2011, inspired by riot grrrl) on the horizon? Who imagined that Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile) would record a relaxed interview with Ana Da Silva (the Raincoats) about influence and inspiration all these years later? Let’s say Mick interviewed Paul 20 years after the fact. What the hell would they talk about? This note. That chord. Record sales. Ana’s conversation with Allison effectively connects two revolutionary eras of populist uprising. Never mind that it’s also feminist history!

“More More More” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

Maston: Awake In The Dark

Maston’s Tulips is a love letter to primitive-cool European film scores

L.A.-based producer/composer Frank Maston had always wanted to live abroad. When he was given the opportunity to sit in on an extended tour with Dutch indie-psychedelic-pop star Jacco Gardner, Maston—who releases his music under his surname—didn’t think twice. And it was there, during that time adrift in the Continent, that Maston’s glorious, film-geeky, hopelessly romantic Tulips was born.

“I wrote it over here, though,” says Maston, whose second album is released on the artist’s Phonoscope label. “I was trying to get at a kind of sound—it’s difficult to describe. I didn’t want it to be rooted there, but I also didn’t want it to sound like I was trying to recapture a sound that I wasn’t connected to. I ended up going (as a reference point) to a kind of music I’ve always loved: those great soundtracks to 1960s and 1970s European films.”

Like the best of those film scores—and we’re talking here not just the work of the venerable Ennio Morricone but also grittier, lesser-known composers like Bruno Nicolai and Franco Micalizzi—Tulips contains a series of short theme-and-variation grooves, heavy on chorus-washed keys, gutsy/cool guitar lines, somber flutes and minor-key bridges. As a composer and producer, Maston has done his homework—Tulips spins like a lost soundtrack circa 1969 and would be difficult to tell apart from its source material in a blindfold test—but the album works as a collection of short original compositions in a “neo-classical-trash” style. Barely 24 minutes total, Maston’s second record knows what it’s about, and not only doesn’t overstay its welcome but it leaves you wanting more.

“Oh, that’s so nice, man,” he says. “That’s such a compliment.” Well, if you’ve got a head for this sort of sound, so is Tulips.

Eric Waggoner

Film At 11: The Prefab Messiahs

Ah, Worcester, Mass. So much to answer for: Denis Leary, Abbie Hoffman, New Kid On The Block Jordan Knight, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, the Coors Light Twins, the Big Ragu on Laverne & Shirley, suspected serial killer and cannibal Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, the editor-in-chief of MAGNET. Yeah, it’s that kind of town. In the early ’80s, garage/psych weirdoes the Prefab Messiahs were at the forefront of the city’s Wormtown scene, playing out often but only releasing Flex Your Mind, a 1983 cassette. Fifteen years later the Devolver CD-R appeared, collecting the band’s early output, with the Burger label remastering and reissuing it in 2013 on cassette and then releasing an eight-song EP of new material, Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive, two years later.

Now, the Prefab Messiahs are back with Psychsploitation Today (Lolipop/Burger), a 10-song album that mines the same scuzz-rock/post-punk territory these Wormtown freaks were cranking out when your cool uncle was still in short pants. The band just made a video for Psychsploitation Today track “Gellow Mold” (get it, millennials? probably not), and we’re premiering the clip today on Says frontman Xerox Feinberg of the track, “‘Gellow Mold’ is a woozy, hallucinogenic sonic meditation on the current state of mindless conformity and mindful manipulation, those age-old buggaboos of the psychedelically inclined—and as much a thang in our splintered, black-mirrored 21st century as ever. Slipping down rabbit holes with great wifi, we pour ourselves into predetermined shapes, jiggly cubes a-drying, a generation dying. If that sounds like a mouthful of mumbo-jumbo, it’s because it probably is, but usually with vocals lower in the mix. We wash it all down with a kaleidoscopic video montage of ancient found footage, just some jokers in our jukeboxes, trying to make contact. Dig?” Yes, we do. And so should you, so flex your mind, and check out “Gellow Mold” now.