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new kexp album reviews

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New Album Reviews:

The Sonics: This Is The Sonics
Buy! - (Revox)
Remarkably, the legendary Tacoma band sounds as vital as ever on their first album in 48 years, a scorching set of high-octane garage-rock with loud guitars, honking sax, searing organ, pounding rhythms, urgent vocals and primal rock screams. 3/26/2015 - Don Yates

Surf City: Jekyll Island
Buy! - (Fire)
This New Zealand band’s third album is another impressive blend of jangly New Zealand pop and shoegazerish psych-rock, featuring a woozy, sun-soaked sound with fuzzy guitars, hypnotic rhythms, hazy vocals and dreamy melodies. 3/26/2015 - Don Yates

Other Surf City album reviews:

We Knew It Was Not Going To Be Like This - 7/19/2013
Kudos - 11/12/2010
Surf City - 1/13/2009

Death Cab For Cutie: Kintsugi
Buy! - (Atlantic)
This Seattle band’s eighth album is the first since the departure of founding guitarist/keyboardist/producer Chris Walla, and while Walla didn’t produce the new album, he does play on it. The album’s moody, atmospheric alt-rock sound is very much in the Death Cab tradition, though it’s a bit darker and more restrained than usual, with a variety of smartly crafted songs combining bittersweet melodies with lyrics of lost love, separation and renewal. 3/26/2015 - Don Slack

Other Death Cab For Cutie album reviews:

Transatlanticism - 9/15/2003
The Photo Album - 9/15/2001
Forbidden Love e.p. - 10/15/2000
We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes - 3/15/2000

Lower Dens: Escape From Evil
Buy! - (Ribbon)
This Baltimore band’s third album is a well-crafted set of hypnotic, ‘80s-steeped post-punk and dream-pop with ringing guitar lines, chilly synths and metronomic rhythms accompanying Jana Hunter’s haunting vocals and increasingly personal and direct lyrics. 3/26/2015 - Don Yates

Other Lower Dens album reviews:

Nootropics - 4/27/2012
Twin-Hand Movement - 7/30/2010

The Mountain Goats: Beat The Champ
Buy! - (Merge)
The 15th album from John Darnielle & co. is a fascinating set inspired by professional wrestling though often dealing with notions of identity, justice, death and other weighty subjects. The album’s expansive sound ranges from hook-filled folk-pop and raging, punk-infused rockers to moody, jazz-tinged pop and atmospheric piano ballads. 3/26/2015 - Don Yates

Other Mountain Goats album reviews:

Transcendental Youth - 9/21/2012
Get Lonely - 8/14/2006
The Sunset Tree - 4/20/2005
We Shall All Be Healed - 1/19/2004
Tallahassee - 11/15/2002
All Hail West Texas - 2/15/2002
Full Force Galesburg - 6/15/1997

Waxahatchee: Ivy Tripp
Buy! - (Merge)
The third Waxahatchee album from Alabama-bred, Philadelphia-based artist (and former P.S. Eliot frontwoman) Katie Crutchfield features a more confident and expansive sound ranging from buzzing garage-pop to sparse acoustic folk-pop, along with some of her best, most sharply crafted and deeply felt songs to date. 3/26/2015 - Don Yates

Other Waxahatchee album reviews:

Cerulean Salt - 3/8/2013

The Soft Moon: Deeper
Buy! - (Captured Tracks)
The third album from Oakland artist Luis Vasquez (aka The Soft Moon) is a potent set of adventurous, goth-tinged coldwave and postpunk, featuring a bleak, dystopian sound with cold, alien synths, industrialized rhythms, ominous vocals and dark lyrics. 3/26/2015 - Don Yates

Other Soft Moon album reviews:

The Soft Moon - 2/18/2011

Laura Marling: Short Movie
Buy! - (Ribbon)
This British singer-songwriter’s excellent fifth album features a more edgy and electric sound for her brooding folk-pop, combining her intricate acoustic guitar finger-picking with rumbling electric riffs and washes of guitar noise along with galloping rhythms for a more aggressive backdrop for her husky, elastic vocals and dark, often-biting lyrics. 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

Other Laura Marling album reviews:

Once I Was An Eagle - 5/24/2013
A Creature I Don't Know - 9/13/2011
I Speak Because I Can - 4/12/2010

Bearhug: So Gone
Buy! - (Spunk)
This Australian band brings a rougher, noisier edge to their second album. It’s a potent set of ‘90s-influenced noise-pop, combining layers of loud, fuzzy guitars, hazy vocals and catchy song hooks. 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

Other Bearhug album reviews:

Bill, Dance, Shiner - 7/13/2012

Mitski: Bury Me At Makeout Creek
Buy! - (Don Giovanni)
This New York-based singer-songwriter’s third album is an intoxicating blend of stark folk-pop and ‘90s indie-rock, combining rumbling guitars and bursts of distortion with wistful vintage-pop melodies, dynamic, tremulous vocals and emotive lyrics. (Released last fall on Double Double Whammy, it’s now being reissued by Don Giovanni with four bonus live tracks.) 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

Desperate Journalist: Desperate Journalist
Buy! - (Fierce Panda)
This British band debuts with a promising album of dramatic post-punk featuring a dark, turbulent sound combining fiery guitars and energetic rhythms with Jo Bevan’s emotive vocals and brooding lyrics. 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

The Go! Team: The Scene Between
Buy! - (Memphis Industries)
The fourth album from this British band led by Ian Parton places less emphasis on sampling and hip hop while making room for more live instrumentation. It’s a bubbly set of ‘60s-influenced dance-pop featuring a variety of mostly obscure guest vocalists and an abundance of sunny pop hooks. 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

Other Go! Team album reviews:

Rolling Blackouts - 1/14/2011
Proof of Youth - 8/30/2007
Thunder, Lightning, Strike - 3/25/2005

Chastity Belt: Time To Go Home
Buy! - (Hardly Art)
This Seattle band’s second album is even better than their promising 2013 debut No Regerts, with a greater attention to song craft that pays off with a consistently strong set of moody post-punk songs combining ringing, surf-inflected guitars, jagged rhythms and Julia Shapiro’s jaded, often-sardonic lyrics. 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

Other Chastity Belt album reviews:

No Regerts - 7/19/2013

Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly
Buy! - (TDE/Aftermath/Interscope)
The LA rapper follows up his classic second full-length (2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city) with a heady, uncompromising album that’s just as powerful. While Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was a personal affair about growing up in Compton, To Pimp A Butterfly looks outward to issues of race, identity and oppression while also reflecting on his own fame and responsibility. Featuring a densely layered sound, the album masterfully combines dark, gritty grooves heavily steeped in ‘70s funk and jazz with Lamar’s tricky, elastic delivery and intricate, often-politically charged rhymes that delve deep into feelings of guilt, anger and self-doubt. 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

Other Kendrick Lamar album reviews:

good kid, m.A.A.d city - 11/9/2012

Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Buy! - (Mom+Pop)
This Melbourne, Australia artist follows up her initial EPs with her official debut full-length, a masterful set that improves upon her promising early releases with even sharper songwriting and a more urgent and confident sound. The diverse set of songs ranges from stomping garage-rock and ‘90s-steeped grunge-pop to psych-tinged jangle-pop and bluesy, atmospheric ballads, though the focus rightfully remains on Barnett’s deadpan vocals and delightfully frank, witty and insightful lyrics balancing wry humor with a deep poignancy. 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

Other Courtney Barnett album reviews:

The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas - 10/18/2013

Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell
Buy! - (Asthmatic Kitty)
The avant-pop composer returns to the tranquil folk-pop of his Seven Swans album for his latest release, which was named after his mother and stepfather and partly inspired by his mother’s death. It’s a powerful, deeply poignant album with a spare sound combining finger-picked acoustic guitar, occasional piano, atmospheric synths, hushed vocals and unflinching, autobiographical lyrics of love, family and death. 3/20/2015 - Don Yates

Other Sufjan Stevens album reviews:

The Age of Adz - 10/1/2010
Illinois - 6/15/2005

Modest Mouse: Strangers To Ourselves
Buy! - (Epic)
The latest album (and first in eight years) from the veteran Issaquah-bred band is a vibrant, wide-ranging affair moving from jagged indie-rock and quirky dance-pop to feverish sea chanteys and campfire ballads, combining a dynamic, adventurous sound with Isaac Brock’s off-kilter melodies and sardonic, often-bleak lyrics. 3/12/2015 - Don Yates

Other Modest Mouse album reviews:

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank - 3/16/2007
Good News for People Who Love Bad News - 4/5/2004
The Moon and Antarctica - 6/15/2000
Building Nothing Out of Something - 1/15/2000
The Lonesome Crowded West - 11/15/1997

Tobias Jesso Jr.: Goon
Buy! - (True Panther)
This Vancouver, BC singer-songwriter’s debut album is an impeccably crafted set of intimate orchestral pop combining a warm, spacious and ‘70s-steeped sound with stately melodies, wistful vocals and lovelorn lyrics. 3/12/2015 - Don Yates

Houndmouth: Little Neon Limelight
Buy! - (Rough Trade)
This New Albany, IN band’s second album is a consistently strong set of anthemic folk-rock with rootsy guitars, soul-steeped organ, often-dark lyrics, alternating male/female lead vocals and exuberant four-part harmonies. 3/12/2015 - Don Yates

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield: Sing Elliott Smith
Buy! - (Ramseur)
Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers hooked up with Jessica Lea Mayfield for this loving tribute to the late Elliott Smith. While many of their versions of Smith’s songs are spare, intimate and haunting, there are also some jauntier pop-rock interpretations of Smith’s comparatively more sprightly material. 3/12/2015 - Don Yates