Spencer Kornhaber

  • Man Man, 'Life Fantastic' (Anti-)

    Man Man, 'Life Fantastic' (Anti-)

    Beneath his band's blizzards of ragtime rhythms, tropical melodic bleats, and Fenway Park organ lines, Man Man frontman Honus Honus has always babbled and grunted a remarkably well-drawn sorrow. On their fourth album, these Philly primitives further emphasize the pathos in their Gypsy frenzy. While string-gilded klezmer ballad "Steak Knives" and steamrolling six-minute confession "Shameless" plod well-trod territory, the mod-pop swing of "Piranha Club" and the wry, multi-suite cabaret of "Oh, La Brea" place Honus' self-loathing in a refreshing, no less bizarre, light.

  • Liturgy, 'Aesthethica' (Thrill Jockey)

    Liturgy, 'Aesthethica' (Thrill Jockey)

    Per the Greek root word of their second album's title, these Brooklyn black-metal theorists value beauty -- heaving, obsidian, tonsil-ripping beauty. On the a cappella, coulda-been-Animal-Collective interlude "Glass Earth," they reveal their intention to hypnotize and transport via repetitive, shapeshifting lattices of sound. Then "Harmonia" ambushes with a very different palette: meth-jazz drumming, stutteringly sky-climbing fretwork, and the incomprehensible suck-shrieks of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. Repurposing tired metal tropes for ecstatic sensory trips, these songs are steel-tipped pointillist portraits of vitality itself.

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    'Community' Star Donald Glover Talks Hip-Hop

    With his sitcom stardom and his Wu-Tang name-generator handle, Donald Glover knows people may have a hard time taking his rap alter ego Childish Gambino seriously. That's exactly how he likes it. [Magazine Excerpt] Donald glover admits that he came to rap fandom "like a white kid," which is to say via Limp Bizkit. But in middle school, he did develop a fixation with teen rap duo Kris Kross, and in homage to their wardrobe, wore a pair of mustard-colored overalls to class one day. Some kid named Vincent, the bane of Glover's seventh-grade existence, did not let this opportunity slip by. "He was like, 'You shit your overalls,'" Glover, 27, recalls from behind the wheel of his BMW 323i, turning off Sunset Boulevard toward a recording studio in Atwater Village. "It's funny!

  • The Joy Formidable, 'The Big Roar' (Atlantic)

    The Joy Formidable, 'The Big Roar' (Atlantic)

    As if the size-related descriptions of 2006's mighty-sounding mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning weren't enough, this trio blows out 2009 single "Whirring" to nearly seven minutes with a Slayer-worthy kick-drum barrage girding the band's trademark glazed guitars and TV-buzz low end. Conversely, singer-guitarist Ritzy Bryan ups the airy lilt in the songs' hooks, while her lyrics document the discrepancies between emotional interiors and exteriors. "Turn the dial on my words," she suggests, and the band's glorious noise obliges time and again.

  • The Rural Alberta Advantage, 'Departing' (Saddle Creek)

    The Rural Alberta Advantage, 'Departing' (Saddle Creek)

    It's intriguing when Jeff Mangum sound-alike Nils Edenloff opens his art-folk band's scrappy yet diverse second album with a promise to hold on so tight that he'll crush his lover's veins. Perhaps, one imagines for a moment, Edenloff might be that rare songwriting quantity: a faithful chronicler of the beautifully bizarre. But there's a nagging, rote quality to his depictions of countryside geography, portentous weather, and flickering romances. Standouts like "Barnes' Yard" and "North Star" deliver frank melodies with a shimmy, but Edenloff's lyrics never consistently elevate them past promising, fanciful anonymity.

  • Acrylics, 'Lives and Treasure' (Friendly Fire / Hot Sand)

    Acrylics, 'Lives and Treasure' (Friendly Fire / Hot Sand)

    Like their sonic stepcousins Stars and Headlights, this breathy, '80s-loving boy-girl duo are not only attentive to the spoils of love, but also to its sacrifices, like when a partner wrecks a good night's sleep by steaming up the sheets or when romantic considerations complicate clothing choices. Maybe that's why even at its most hummably glossy -- check the Phil Collins synth burbles on "Counting Sheep" and Coldplay guitar smoke on "Asian Pear" -- Lives and Treasure rarely strays into cheesiness: The songs appeal broadly, but they're tailor-made for two people.

  • Danielson, 'Best of Gloucester County' (Sounds Familyre)

    Danielson, 'Best of Gloucester County' (Sounds Familyre)

    When squeaky-voiced savant Daniel C. Smith begins his jubilantly diverse eighth album by announcing that he's "opening up the Book of Daniel," it's more of an autobiographical than Biblical proclamation. On tracks like "This Day Is a Loaf," Smith hints that he has battled complacency in the years since 2005's intensely collaborative, slightly punchier Ships. And on "But I Don't Want to Sing About Guitars," he unpacks the adjusted artist's challenge: How to write authentically about a mundane life? Smith's answer involves screwball hooks, surreal evangelizing, and drunken-troubadour gusto.

  • Discodeine, 'Discodeine' (Dirty)

    Discodeine, 'Discodeine' (Dirty)

    French beatmakers Pilooski and Pentile have courted indie-rock acceptance by remixing LCD Soundsystem and Tame Impala, but compared to the crossover attempts of their DJ-duo countrymen -- Daft Punk, Justice -- their Discodeine debut is surprisingly devoid of frothy sensationalism. The songs' analog percussive pecks and synth squirts occasionally cohere like four-on-the-floor Art of Noise collages; and then, too often, they just hang. Cinematic dread appears when Jarvis Cocker plays a grooving ghoul over the filthy funk of "Synchronize," but too many of Discodeine's tracks settle for an orderly, drama-free dance floor.

  • Arbouretum, 'The Gathering' (Thrill Jockey)

    Arbouretum, 'The Gathering' (Thrill Jockey)

    Indie rockers deepen their commitment to stoner metal, get inspired by Carl Jung, and pen lyrics about swashbuckling travelers and the risen dead? The Gathering should be a hoot, at the very least, but this Baltimore clan's fourth release is more of a slog, shackled by monochromatic guitar churn and a slack pulse. Sure, Arbouretum singer-guitarist Dave Heumann leads us on a journey through his sun-scorched psyche, but it's a trip with few highs or lows save for intermittent instrumental heroics. When the nearly eight-minute, Tool-like "Waxing Crescents" manages to dim the palette from brown to black,it's a serious shift.

  • The Go! Team, 'Rolling Blackouts' (Memphis Industries)

    The Go! Team, 'Rolling Blackouts' (Memphis Industries)

    If the Go! Team didn't predate chillwave, they would have led the backlash against it. While fashion calls for smearing Ren & Stimpy-era nostalgia with tranquilized synths and pervasive ache, the Brighton, England-based sextet bedazzle Gen-X childhood touchstones -- think the A-Team theme and proto-rap -- with crackling guitars and giddy lo-fi orchestration. Their diverse third release occasionally finds new ways to induce grins: "Secretary Song" puts Deerhoof's Satomi Matsuzaki into a pepped-up 1950s supermarket-aisle soundtrack, and "Yosemite Theme" is so full of purple-mountain majesty that even Stephen Colbert might pilfer it.

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