May 07

EZ3kiel – LUX (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 00:53:46 minutes | 588 MB | Genre: Alternative, Indie
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Digital Booklet | © Ici d’ailleurs

Ezekiel stylized as EZ3kiel is a French musical group formed in 1993 originating from La Riche, Tours, France. It now consists of three members Joan Guillon (main songwriter and guitarist), Yann Nguema (former bassist in charge of visual and interactive aspect) and Stéphane Babiaud (training percussionist, multi-instrumentalist and arranger). Matthieu Fays (drummer), a founder of EZ3kiel withdrew from the group in May 2012 after twenty years of collaboration.

Vocalist Brigitte Amédomé and guitarist Florent Duytschaever participated in the project during its first years of existence (1994-1999). Stéphane Babiaud joined the group in 2007 after recording the album Naphtaline to which he actively participated. The band has been involved in parallel projects, classical music project Naphtaline Orchestra, exhibitions notably Les Mécaniques Poétiques d’EZ3kiel, theatrical, poetic and musical collaborations with a great number of independent artists.


01. Born in Valhalla
02. Anonymous
03. Zero Gravity
04. Dusty
05. Dead in Valhalla
06. Lux
07. Eclipse
08. L’œil du cyclone
09. Never Over
10. Stereochrome

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May 07

Devendra Banhart – Mala (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/48 kHz | Time ~ 40:32 minutes | 435 MB | Genre: Alternative
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks | Digital Booklet | © Nonesuch

Mala is Devendra Banhart’s enthralling debut on Nonesuch Records. The album took shape in Los Angeles, where the singer-songwriter collaborated with longtime friend, Noah Georgeson. The pair played most of the instruments themselves, using borrowed equipment and a recorder they found in a pawn shop. Mala has already received four-star reviews from Mojo, Q, The Times and The Independent. It’s a “career-best” raved Q Magazine.

At a certain point, the path got stranger for Devendra Banhart. Appearing out of nowhere in the early 2000s with a string of almost accidentally perfect albums, Banhart’s haunted voice and familiar impressions of the ghosts of folksingers past pushed him to the forefront of what would be dubbed freak folk. Along with Joanna Newsom and the then-acoustic trip-outs of Animal Collective, Little Wings, Jana Hunter, and a host of other weirdos, Banhart produced effortlessly sublime songs, connected to a sense of earthy wonder and romanticism. Without losing his mojo completely, Banhart’s albums became increasingly meandering and protracted as he went on, with efforts like 2007’s Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon rambling tiresomely and 2009’s What Will We Be feeling both manic and boringly predictable at once. With Mala, Banhart doesn’t quite return to the lo-fi brilliance of his beginnings or continue the overwrought leanings of his most previous work, but somehow finds a way to refreshingly split the difference. Since 2005’s Cripple Crow, Banhart has dabbled in different genres over the course of a single album, often with mixed results. Mala is no different. Beginning with the dark song fragments “Golden Girls” and “Daniel,” he quickly shifts the mood from these eerie Vincent Gallo-esque moments of heartbreak to the icy muted electronics and zombie disco posturing of “Fur Hildegard Von Bingen.” Standout track “Your Fine Petting Duck” rides a cookie-cutter ’50s doo wop chord progression, with boy/girl back-and-forth lyrics setting a scene where a deadbeat boyfriend lists the reasons he was so awful for the girl trying to get back together with him. Elsewhere, Banhart experiments playfully with tropicalia, chilled-out beats, instrumental interludes, and disjointed electronics. “Won’t You Come Over” borrows a synth riff from reggae-poppers Althea & Donna’s classic “Uptown Top Ranking,” the no-fidelity underwater power pop of “Hatchet Wound” sounds like Ariel Pink stopped by to co-produce (he didn’t), and “Won’t You Come Home” sprawls out with all the gorgeous airiness of Talk Talk. Instead of the overreaching, overly long confusion of previous efforts, Mala streamlines Banhart’s multifaceted muse, and the songs all fit together, if in a somewhat roundabout manner. Apart from the increased cohesion, the quality of the songwriting is far higher, reminding us of the astonishing promise and tossed-off ease of Banhart’s early material, and suggesting that his detours into less exciting sounds were just part of a journey that might be much longer and more rewarding than expected. –AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas

1 Golden Girls 1:35
2 Daniel 3:05
3 Fur Hildegard von Bingen 2:35
4 Never Seen Such Good Things 3:13
5 Mi Negrita 3:24
6 Your Fine Petting Duck 5:46
7 The Ballad of Keenan Milton 2:12
8 A Gain 1:35
9 Won’t You Come Over 3:35
10 Cristobal Risquez 2:28
11 Hatchet Wound 3:09
12 Mala 1:08
13 Won’t You Come Home 3:31
14 Taurobolium 3:16

Devendra Banhart, guitars (1-4, 6-11, 13-16), vocals (1-6, 8-11, 13-16), textural percussion (1), Wurlitzer (2, 9), drums (3, 4, 11, 15), percussion (4-6), acoustic guitars (5), synthesizer (6, 10, 11), drum machine (6), belt (14), paper (14), bass (15)
Josiah Steinbrick, synth saxophone (1), prepared dulcimer (1), bass (1, 2, 4-6, 9-11, 13, 14), synthesizer (3, 5, 11, 14), synth solo (3, 14), percussion (4), claps (11)
Bram Inscore, cello (1, 5, 8)
Greg Rogoue, drums (1, 2, 9, 14), xylophone (9), chains (14)
Noah Georgeson, guitar (1, 4), programming (1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 13), synthesizer (3, 4, 6, 9-11, 13), drum machine (3, 4, 9), drums (4, 10, 11), percussion (4, 5, 13), string arrangement (5), bass (6), switchblade (14), glass (14), m. concrete (14)
Todd Dahlhoff, bass (3)
Rodrigo Amarante, electric guitar (5), percussion (5)
Ana Kraš, vocals (6)
Bernardo Risquez, vocals (12)
Devendra Risquez, guitars (12), vocals (12)

Produced by: Noah Georgeson and Devendra Banhart
Recorded by: Noah Georgeson, Devendra Banhart and Samur Khouja
Mixed by: Noah Georgeson and Devendra Banhart at the Maid’s Room
Mastered by: Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound

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Apr 27

Cocteau Twins – The Pink Opaque (1985/2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 40:02 minutes | 869 MB | Genre: Punk, New Wave
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Artwork: Front cover | © 4AD

The Pink Opaque is the first compilation album by Cocteau Twins, composed of tracks recorded between 1982 and 1985. A joint release by the UK-based 4AD (the band’s label) and the USA-based Relativity Records, it was the band’s first official domestic USA release. The American label Relativity Records reached an agreement to distribute the band’s albums on license from 4AD. Rather than reissuing all of the band’s releases to that point, it was decided that the compilation The Pink Opaque would be issued instead, as a sampler of the Twins’ output up through early 1985.

After having built up a considerable reputation in the U.K. and Europe, the Cocteaus first fully reached America via this compilation, cherry-picking some of the group’s finest moments for this trans-Atlantic co-release between home label 4AD and then-stateside label Relativity. None of the ten tracks had been released in America before, but whoever assembled the release knew exactly what they were doing in terms of whetting appetites. The only absolute rarity on the disc was “Millimillenary,” originally turning up on a compilation tape given away by New Musical Express. It’s a fine number, recorded soon after Raymonde joined the group – a good mix of the Cocteaus’ instrumental lushness and Fraser’s vocal acrobatics. The version of Garlands’ “Wax and Wane” included here is slightly remixed and arguably even better than the original, bringing out everything a little more clearly and powerfully. A sage decision was the inclusion of all three tracks from the Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops EP; as flawless as that was, all deserved inclusion, while beginning the compilation with “The Spangle Maker” was also inspired. Other cuts include “Hitherto,” “From the Flagstones,” “Lorelei,” and the then-recent single “Aikea-Guinea.” Concluding with the similarly album-ending “Musette and Drums” from Head Over Heels, The Pink Opaque is a lovely taster for anyone wanting to discover the peerless early years of the Cocteaus.

01 – The Spangle Maker
02 – Millimillenary
03 – Wax and Wane
04 – Hitherto
05 – Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops
06 – From the Flagstones
07 – Aikea-Guinea
08 – Lorelei
09 – Pepper-Tree
10 – Musette and Drums

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Apr 27

Cocteau Twins – Blue Bell Knoll (1988/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 35:04 minutes | 792 MB | Genre: Alternative
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Source: Qobuz | Label: 4AD

Blue Bell Knoll from Cocteau Twins gets the reissue treatment, remastered some 26 years after its initial release. Strikingly beautiful at points, it features standouts such as ‘Athol-Brose’ and the title track ‘Blue Bell Knoll’, but it’s a slow burner of an album that features them retreading their best path while venturing into unknown territory. ‘Carolyn’s Fingers’ – perhaps the album’s highest point – features Elisabeth Fraser intoning hip-hop rhythms and delightful guitar melodies as played by Robin Guthrie. While not their best work, it’s a must for collectors and newcomers alike.

The first Cocteaus album to feature a full-band lineup since Treasure was also their first full studio record released in America, resulting from the group’s stateside deal with Capitol. Much to longtime fans’ surprise, the Twins in fact were much more content with Capitol than 4AD, hinting at their eventual full departure from that label. This was all well and good, but the trio’s new inspiration didn’t fully translate into their work, unfortunately. While Blue Bell Knoll has some striking moments that are pure Cocteaus at their best — the opening title track is especially lovely with a keyboard loop leading into Fraser’s ever-wonderful vocals, a light rhythm, and a great final Guthrie solo — it’s still the band’s least noteworthy release since Garlands. The feeling throughout is of a group interested in dressing up older approaches that have served them well, but aren’t as distinct; the quite-lush arrangements by Guthrie are fine but the songs are a touch more pedestrian. Blue Bell Knoll has enough initial steam, however, to ensure that there are reasons to listen, happily. “Athol-Brose” has the inspirational feel that the Twins can easily create. “Carolyn’s Fingers,” the clear album standout, is perhaps the strongest individual Cocteau song since “Aikea-Guinea,” with Fraser singing against herself over a rough, hip-hop-inspired rhythm while Guthrie peels off a fantastic main guitar melody and Raymonde contributes some supple bass work. After that amazing opening, things slowly but surely slide back a bit; most of the rest sounds okay enough to listen to, but the heartgripping intensity that defines the Twins at their best isn’t present.

01 – Blue Bell Knoll
02 – Athol-Brose
03 – Carolyn’s Finger
04 – For Phoebe Still A Baby
05 – The Itchy Glowbo Blow
06 – Cico Buff
08 – Spooning Good Singing Gum
09 – A Kissed Out Red Floatboat
09 – Sucking The Mender
10 – Ella Megalast Burls Forever

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Apr 27

Cocteau Twins – Tiny Dynamine; Echoes In A Shallow Bay (1985/2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 32:43 minutes | 748 MB | Genre: Punk, New Wave
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Artwork: Front cover | © 4AD

Tiny Dynamine and Echoes in a Shallow Bay are two EPs by Cocteau Twins that were released in November of 1985. The tracks were originally recorded in order to test a new recording studio the band was using.

Released in tandem with the Echoes in a Shallow Bay EP and each essentially a companion piece to the other – the cover art and design alone are virtually clones – Tiny Dynamine documents a more relaxed Cocteau Twins. The band steps away more from the intense drama often brought to earlier albums and singles, indirectly signaling the equally calm but striking work that would surface on Victorialand and The Moon and the Melodies. “Pink Orange Red” would turn into a longtime favorite of the group’s, played on later tours and remade for the Twinlights EP nearly a decade later. A heartbreakingly beautiful Guthrie guitar opens the track, echoing and liquid, with Fraser’s vocal coming in a few chords later. Raymonde’s bass and the drum machine kick in a full-band arrangement, while Guthrie’s descending guitar lines after each verse provide the icing on the cake. The instrumental “Ribbed and Veined” has some fine Guthrie chiming and a loping percussion beat to recommend it, while “Sultitan Itan” is fair but not quite as strong in comparison, nice multi-tracking of Fraser’s vocals on the chorus aside. “Plain Tiger” concludes the EP on a slightly playful note, an upbeat little rhythm groove on the verses alternating with a more strident tone on the chorus, Fraser’s voice being much more staccato at the latter points.
Appearing the same month as its companion release Tiny Dynamine, Echoes maintains the more relaxed-though-still-lush feeling of that EP; if its songs aren’t quite as memorable as some of those on Dynamine, they still provide that lovely, unique Cocteau feeling in their performances and arrangements. “Great Spangled Fritillary” adds a touch of dark psychedelia to the proceedings, gong-like chimes and buried feedback drones mixing with the more expected Fraser singing and drum machine loops. “Melonella” has a neat hook by matching the main piano line and Fraser’s voice exactly in the verse, one constantly accompanying the other. For the chorus, she steps away for a little more free-form singing against extra guitar. “Pale Clouded White,” the EP’s best track, reintroduces the slightly ominous, dramatic edge that often characterizes the band’s most memorable work. An insistent piano line matches with the bass/drum combination, while Guthrie incorporates both electric and acoustic guitar lines as Fraser sings with understated but strong passion. “Eggs and Their Shells” wraps Echoes up on a softer note, a sweet Fraser vocal and guitar/piano arrangement leading the way.

01 – Pink Orange Red
02 – Ribbed and Veined
03 – Plain Tiger
04 – Sultitan Itan
05 – Great Spangled Fritillary
06 – Melonella
07 – Pale Clouded White
08 – Eggs and Their Shells

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Apr 27

Cocteau Twins – Heaven Or Las Vegas (1990/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 00:37:52 minutes | 791 MB | Genre: Alternative
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Source: Qobuz | Label: 4AD

Heaven or Las Vegas was released in 1990 and is recognized as their most commercially successful release, reaching number seven in the UK album charts. Numerous publications have since declared it one of the best albums of the 90s, Pitchfork calling it “a core of ungodly gorgeous songs that is every bit as moving and relevant today as it ever was.” Label founder Ivo Watts-Russell goes further, candidly revealing in the recent 4AD biography, Facing The Other Way, that this album wasn’t just his favorite Cocteau’s album, but also his favorite all-time 4AD album, and “by a long shot”, calling it “the perfect record.”


01-Cherry-Coloured Funk
02-Pitch The Baby
03-Iceblink Luck
04-Fifty-Fifty Clown
05-Heaven Or Las Vegas
06-I Wear Your Ring
08-Wolf In The Breast
09-Road, River And Rail
10-Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires

Elizabeth Fraser – vocals
Robin Guthrie – guitar
Simon Raymonde – bass

Producers: Cocteau Twins

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Apr 05

She Is We – War (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 00:39:29 minutes | 853 MB | Genre: Alternative
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks | Digital Booklet | © Vanguard Records

She Is We, fronted by alternative singer-songwriter-force of nature Rachel Taylor (formerly of the duo He Is We) has a tremendously loyal and active fan base well-primed for this much-anticipated new studio album, buoyed by lead single and video “Boomerang.”

1. Boomerang 03:53
2. Monster 03:51
3. Better Now 04:15
4. Crazy Heart 02:59
5. Flatlining 03:49
6. Blue 03:20
7. War 04:22
8. Fight For Me 03:22
9. Heartstrings 02:52
10. Runaways 03:27
11. Lead The Fight On 03:49

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Mar 31

Lord Huron – Strange Trails (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 00:55:42 minutes | 616 MB | Genre: Alternative, Indie
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | © IAmSound Records

On their follow-up, Strange Trails, Lord Huron settle into the Western themes and sense of open prairies that marked the band’s debut, Lonesome Dreams. Frontman/songwriter Ben Schneider fully embraces the American West/Troubadour character, illustrated even in song titles like “Dead Man’s Hand,” “Meet Me in the Woods,” and “The Yawning Grave.” The album’s lyrics tell haunted stories of adventure and survival (“On the night you disappeared/Oh, if I had seen it clear/But a strange light in the sky was shining right into my eyes”), with nature imagery (“In a grave out here where the carrions cry”), and the occasional old-time turn of phrase (“Before I commence my ride/I’m asking Lily to be my bride”). With warm electric guitar sounds, soft and constant reverb, harmonized vocals, and a faint but persistent twang, it’s a contemporary, specifically Fleet Foxes-reminiscent, indie folk-influenced rock haunted by allusions to the Old West. Listeners may envision fringe and spurs without any overt country presence (though there’s certainly a subtle one) outside of lilting vocals, such as on “Way Out There.” The band still focuses more on atmosphere and haunting, harmonic sound and rhythm than on progressions or memorable hooks, but the landscapes that they create are consistent and sound-defining, and there’s no shortage of eerie beauty in the melodies. “The Night We Met,” in particular, has a lullaby quality to its wistful, singsong melody (“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do/Haunted by the ghost of you”). The record takes a few interesting musical routes on its journey: the reverbed rockabilly and surf sounds of “The World Ender,” the campfire-gathering feel of “Meet Me in the Woods” with handclaps and female vocal harmonies, and the pulsing, ramblin’ road tune “Frozen Pines” all contribute to an impression of timelessness as well as a certain folksiness befitting the album’s well-established rural themes. There are no big surprises here; fans of Lonesome Dreams will surely be pleased, and Strange Trails’ serene ambience and unconventional narrative may capture the imagination of inclined first-timers. ~ Marcy Donelson

1 Love Like Ghosts 3:44
2 Until The Night Turns 3:47
3 Dead Man’s Hand 4:21
4 Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme) 2:46
5 La Belle Fleur Sauvage 5:41
6 Fool For Love 4:34
7 The World Ender 4:30
8 Meet Me In The Woods 4:22
9 The Yawning Grave 3:12
10 Frozen Pines 3:57
11 Cursed 3:58
12 Way Out There 4:10
13 Louisa 3:09
14 The Night We Met 3:28

Ben Schneider – guitar, vocals
Mark Barry – percussion, vocals
Miguel Briseño – bass, keys, percussion
Tom Renaud – guitar, vocals

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Mar 22

The Smithereens – The Smithereens Play Tommy (2009)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 45:12 minutes | 937 MB | Genre: Alternative
Official Digital Download – Source: | Digital Booklet | © eOne Music

The Smithereens decided to make a proper, all-out studio version of one of the albums that inspired their rock dreams of becoming a band in the first place for this 40th anniversary tribute. The Who’s unique sound will never be duplicated, but then again neither will The Smithereens’ sound that has made them enduring rock icons over the past 25 plus years. The result is part Who, part Smithereens. Part totally familiar, and part unexpectedly unique… and 100% tour de force. The Smithereens’ “musical dreams ain’t quite what they seem” – the result is more than a loving tribute and much more like an inspired re-imagining. After listening to this album a few times, you may never hear any of The Who’s versions of Tommy the same way again.

After releasing two albums devoted entirely to Beatles tunes in a year and a half (Meet the Smithereens! and B-Sides the Beatles), the Smithereens clearly wanted to prove that they were still a band capable of more than just coasting on the strength of another act’s legacy, and with this in mind they’ve decided to boldly branch out — and spend an entire album covering the Who. The Smithereens Play Tommy is, you guessed it, the Smithereens’ own rather faithful interpretation of Pete Townshend’s rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind pinball champion and spiritual leader, though they have tightened it up quite a bit, editing the piece from 24 selections to a lean 13 tunes and zipping through the work in 41 minutes. It’s hard not to be baffled by the Smithereens’ decision to become a cover band, but they do seem better suited to interpreting the Who than the Beatles; guitarist Jim Babjak may lack Townshend’s epic vision and sense of flourish, but he gets the crunchy bash of this music right, and drummer Dennis Diken and bassist Severo Jornacion find a way to pare down the style of the most manic rhythm section in rock history while achieving some approximation of their power and musical sense. Lead vocalist Pat Dinizio’s deep, moody tone doesn’t match Roger Daltrey’s style any more than it did Paul McCartney’s or John Lennon’s, but at least these songs are better suited to the dark, dramatic feel of Dinizio’s instrument, and Babjak and Diken contribute lead vocals on a few tunes that demand something lighter. And while this condensed version of Tommy makes about as much narrative sense as the original (which is to say not much), from a musical standpoint the feel of the album is pretty close to the Who’s version, especially the several live recordings of the opera that have appeared in recent years. So the Smithereens do better by the Who on The Smithereens Play Tommy than they did by the Beatles, but that doesn’t change the fact that as long as the Who’s Tommy remains readily available (and it’s actually easier to find than this disc), this album is little more than an oddity for Smithereens completists and Who fans obsessive enough to want every cover version of their favorite band’s work. In short, this gets an A for effort but a C- for practical utility. (the Smithereens do deserve credit for hiring William Stout to do the cover, whose witty cartoon artwork graced the sleeves of several top-notch Who bootlegs).

01 – Overture
02 – It’s A Boy
03 – Amazing Journey
04 – Sparks
05 – Eyesight To The Blind
06 – Christmas
07 – Acid Queen
08 – Pinball Wizard
09 – Go To The Mirror
10 – Tommy Can You Hear Me?
11 – Sensation
12 – I’m Free
13 – We’re Not Gonna Take It / See Me Feel Me

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