Possible Humans are five guys from Melbourne, Australia, but if I told you they were from another time you’d believe me. They favor a trebly, propulsive strum that attained its apotheosis around the time these guys were born. Think early R.E.M., pre-emigration Moles or Birdnest Roys, and you’ve got the blueprint. But while it’s not exactly a map to pop domination, the page never yellows, and in the quintet’s collective hands it results in music that stands tall on its own.
Like the aforementioned bands, these Humans favor lyrics that imply meaning without giving it all away. It’s really the guitars, terse and tightly wound, that do the talking. They invite you into a state of sustained tension that makes you both yearn for resolution and want it to wait just a little bit longer. That suspension makes “Born Stoned,” the one song where they put a match to the formula and let it burn, even more of a release.
Safe? Sane? Anyone who feels the need to assure you that those qualities are at hand is not telling you something that you really need to know. So while the flower on the cover of the album looks pretty, beware of thorns. Kid Millions (Oneida, Man Forever) is a force of nature on the drums, raining down beats and channeling energy like the third hundred-year storm to swamp your coastal downtown this season.
What drives nature to such fury? The unnatural influence of humanity, of course, and if one man can cause global warming via sound alone, it’s Jim Sauter (Borbetomagus). In photos, he looks like your average tenor-saxophone-toting lumberjack. But you could spend a long time with Safe & Sane without realizing that a horn is involved, since his tone is so fried by electronics that it will make oxygen combust. This music is neither safe nor sane, and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Spoon Everything Hits At Once: The Best Of Spoon (Matador) This compiles a dozen tracks spanning seven Spoon LPs and a solid new song. We’ve always loved Britt Daniel and Co. dearly, so anything that collects standouts like “The Underdog” and “Cherry Bomb” is essential. But the song selection here is not. Nothing from the first two albums? Questionable choices from Gimme Fiction and Girls Can Tell? Oh no, we just can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t believe it.
Prince Originals (The Prince Estate/Warner Bros./TIDAL) The 15 songs collected here—chosen in part by Jay-Z—are ones that His Royal Badness wrote and gave to others (including the Bangles, Sinéad O’Connor, Kenny Rogers and Martika) to record. Listening to Prince’s demo versions, you see how closely they wisely stuck to his original vision for each of the tracks.
David Bowie The ‘Mercury’ Demos (Parlophone) 50 years ago, David Bowie and fellow guitarist/vocalist John “Hutch” Hutchinson recorded these 10 songs live in one take in Bowie’s apartment at the request of Mercury Records. First track “Space Oddity” launched (pun intended) Bowie’s career later that year. Hutch eventually stopped playing music professionally and got a job in the oil industry. As for Major Tom … well, we know he’s a junkie.
Everything But The Girl Amplified Heart: 25th Anniversary Edition (Buzzin’ Fly) Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt were a critically acclaimed duo with modest mainstream success for the first dozen years of their career. And then came their seventh album and its worldwide hit single, “Missing.” Amplified Heart now appears on vinyl for the first time, with half-speed mastering. The artwork is new (the original photos went, uh, missing sometime after the album’s 1994 release), and the track listing is faithful to the initial 10-track running order (without the bonus tracks found on later CD runs and the 2013 reissue).
The B-52’s Cosmic Thing: 30th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Rhino) This two-CD set features the original album and assorted b-sides and remixes (all remastered), plus a previously unreleased 16-track live set from 1990 with fan faves like “Rock Lobster” and “Private Idaho.” You’re what?
Preservation Hall Jazz Band That’s It! and So It Is (Sub Pop) Two reissues from this New Orleans institution. 2013’s That’s It! was produced by Jim James and is the first album of original material in PHJB’s then-50-year history. 2017’s So It Is was produced by Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio) and was heavily influenced by the group’s 2015 trip to Cuba.
Television Personalities Some Kind Of Happening: Singles 1978-1989 and Some Kind Of Trip: Singles 1990-1994 (Fire) As you might surmise from the titles, these are chronological collections of the many singles, EPs, flexis, etc., that Dan Treacy and his revolving-door bandmates released during the first two-and-a-half decades of their still-ongoing career. Some Kind Of Happening contains 1980’s seminal “Part Time Punks,” so if we’d have to pick one, that’d be our choice. But both sets are excellent introductions to the wonderful world of the vastly underrated Treacy.
that dog. that dog. (UMe) We were fans of that dog. back before they were even housebroken, so we’re thrilled the quartet’s self-titled debut has been digitally reissued to celebrate its 25th anniversary. These 15 tracks (and four bonus cuts) are puppy photos that remain far more than just cute.
The Love Language The Love Language (Merge) To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Stuart McLamb and Co.’s out-of-print, cry-in-your-beer debut, our friends at Merge have reissued it on opaque yellow vinyl with updated artwork. The download includes four bonus tracks, as misery loves company.
Hamell On Trial Choochtown: 20th Anniversary Edition (New West) Ed Hamell’s first post-major-label-bust album gets the deluxe reissue treatment with 11 bonus tracks. Any LP that starts with a song called “Go Fuck Yourself” is timeless and a keeper. (No word if former Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz is a fan of Choochtown.)
POP ETC Covers Collection: 2007-2019 (Pop Etc) A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a band called the Morning Benders. Though these days they go by POP ETC, Chris Chu and Co. still have a passion for doing versions of songs that inspire them. So this 21-track LP features interpretations of tracks from many artists we all adore, like Bowie, Petty, Nirvana, McCartney, Springsteen, Costello, Beach Boys, U2, the Strokes and, of course, Wham!.
James Taylor The Complete Warner Bros. Albums: 1970-1976 (Rhino) Brother JT recorded six LPs for the brothers Warner. Now, all of them—1970’s Sweet Baby James, 1971’s Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon, 1972’s One Man Dog, 1974’s Walking Man, 1975’s Gorilla and 1976’s In The Pocket—have been remastered and compiled as a set available on six CDs and six LPs. How sweet it is.
Thom YorkeANIMA(XL) This nine-track LP was written by the Radiohead frontman, produced by Nigel Godrich and features several tracks played live during the Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes performances by Yorke, Godrich and Tarik Barri.
The Appleseed Cast The Fleeting Light Of Impermanence (Graveface) It’s the first album in five years from these typically ambitious Lawrence, Kan., vets, who play mature, intellectual post-rock for the aging emo crowd.
Drivin N Cryin Live The Love Beautiful (Drivin N Cryin) These Southern-rock standbys have self-released their first LP in nine years, produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan, who’s worked with everyone from Jack White to Sean Ono Lennon.
Hollywood Vampires Rise (earMUSIC) This is what happens when Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper and Joe Perry get together in the bat/man cave, write some songs and cover David Bowie, Johnny Thunders and Jim Carroll Band.
Hot Chip A Bath Full Of Ecstasy (Domino) Produced by Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Phoenix) and Rodaidh McDonald (David Byrne, xx, Sampha), the seventh album from this London quintet is arguably its best.
Peter Lewis The Road To Zion (Omad) The Moby Grape co-founder, who’s life story is ripe for a memoir, has issued his third solo album, produced by Oscar/Golden Globe winner John DeNicola.
Nas The Lost Tapes II (Mass Appeal/Def Jam) The follow-up to 2002’s The Lost Tapes, this 16-song set compiles unreleased tracks from 2006’s Hip-Hop Is Dead, 2008’s Untitled, 2012’s Life Is Good and 2018’s Nasir.
Richard Reed Parry Quiet River Of Dust Vol. 2: That Side Of The River (Anti-/Secret City) The Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist returns with the companion to last year’s collection of Buddhist-leaning ambient-folk music about mortality, inspired by his stay in a Japanese monastery.
Preservation Hall Jazz BandA Tuba To Cuba(Sub Pop) A Tuba To Cuba is the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name directed by T.G. Herrington and Danny Clinch, which showcases the New Orleans band’s 2015 visit to Cuba.
Joe Pug The Flood In Color (Nation Of Heat) The singer/songwriter born Joseph Pugliese moved back home to Maryland and worked with Kenneth Pattengale (Milk Carton Kids) on the 10 songs that make up his first LP in four years.
Yeasayer Erotic Reruns (Yeasayer) The fifth LP from this experimental Brooklyn trio was recorded at each member’s home studio and pushes Yeasayer’s pop sensibilities to the fore.
Yesterday Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Capitol) The soundtrack to the feel-good hit of the summer features new versions of Beatles classics performed by the film’s star, Himesh Patel, as well as the original score by Daniel Pemberton.
If you need some music made to order, guitarist Chris Brokaw is your man. He can play all the tricky parts for Evan Dando, match blue note for blue note with Thalia Zadek in Come, score your movie and then turn around and make a set of solo classical-guitar interpretations of David Bowie and Prince songs. Once he knows the plan, he gets to work.
End Of The Night was born from a challenge: Make the last record you’d want to play at the end of the night. Ah, but what kind of night are we talking about? Each of this LP’s 10 tracks could work as a solitary nightcap for a particular situation. If you’re full of regret, listen to “Our Fathers” as you mumble your prayers. If you gotta go, let the stolid cadence and wide-screen-worthy, echoing lead of “Step Outside” ring out while you put on your 10-gallon hat and step into the inky night. Want to have some company? Bat your best bedroom eyes to “The Dip.” But if you’re turning the corner from latest night to early morning, put the whole thing on and let Brokaw’s reverberant guitar and the melancholy trumpet of Greg Kelley (Heathen Shame, Damon & Naomi) prop you up on either side as you fade away. End Of The Night delivers just what it promises.