alt-j – This Is All Yours

UK-based art pop outfit alt-J releases an even more obtuse followup to their popular debut album.

Mirel Wagner – “The Dirt”

Ethiopian-born Finnish singer-songwriter Mirel Wagner very quietly released her debut of creaky, stark folk music with a self-titled record in 2012. The whole thing was very minimal and dark and somber, so it isn’t too much of a surprise that it didn’t catch too much buzz (which is unfortunate, really). But now, Wagner has signed to Sub Pop for her sophomore record, When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day, and has released a new song.

“The Dirt” follows a similar pattern to her debut songs, but it has a richer production and songwriting value, with Wagner’s voice really shining throughout, with just the right dab of reverb. It has a bluesy strut (blues has always been a clear influence on her brand of folk), and the electric guitar that comes sliding in has a rustic, rickety feel that fits the song perfectly. It’s nice to hear Wagner’s songs get a couple more musical elements embedded into them; she does a nice job with these small but important assists. And when she closes the song with the chilling, “You’ll be in the dirt / You’ll be the dirt,” it just gets me all scared and excited.

When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day is out August 12 via Sub Pop.

Panopticon – Roads to the North

The latest album from Panopticon not only combines black metal with bluegrass and American folk music, but it’s a bonafide musical epic as well.

Marketa Irglova – “This Right Here”

A soft, uplifting piano ballad from Marketa Irglova, which is the name of a Czech singer-songwriter who currently resides in Ireland, I believe. She’s about to drop her sophomore full-length album, which is titled Muna, in September. Look for this LP on ANTI-, and just allow yourself to be enchanted by this track.

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

New York singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten tests patience with a slow burner of a new record.

Timber Timbre – “Curtains?!”

The sound of Timber Timbre’s latest and greatest LP Hot Dreams calls to mind the visuals of either a Lynchian Western or vintage film noir. This Tyler T. Williams-directed video for album highlight “Curtains?!” delivers on the latter, starring Williams collaborator Joel Kliebe as an apparent hitman just released from prison and getting back to business. The stark, shady atmosphere here is (in my opinion) a much better fit for Timber Timbre’s sonic direction than Chad VanGaalen‘s trippy animation for “Bang the Drum Slowly,” although give that one a chance too, if you’ve yet to.

Sharon Van Etten – “Your Love Is Killing Me”

Singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten and her band hammer out a loud but patient ballad on “Your Love Is Killing Me.” Without doing it intentionally–I don’t think–the instrumentation on this one works more like a drone than it does indie or folk rock.

Sharon kicks things off with a distant drum beat, twang-y guitar leads, and some somber keys. Everything just builds, builds, and builds from there. The movement of the song is subtle, but it continues to grow more and more intense as it draws to a close, slowing the progression down a bit on occasion.

“Burn my skin so I can feel you,” Sharon calls out, lining that lyric up with a series of other contradictions that point out just how flawed this “love” she’s speaking of is. Sharon’s voice, like usual, is incredibly powerful, beautiful, and delivered with an immense amount of conviction.

Look for Sharon’s next album, Are We There, via Jagjaguwar on May 27th.

Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere ft. Elliot Quinn

With fellow reviewer Elliot Quinn, I talk about the fifth full-length album from Portland blackened folk outfit Agalloch.

Various Artists – Anything for You: A Tribute to Swans

Are you one of the admirable few who’s managed to abstain from listening to Swans‘ massive new album To Be Kind? Hang in there – there’s only a handful of days left to go! But maybe you’ve already worn out their other 12 records waiting and need a little something to keep you from cracking? Well, CHVRCHDVST Records is here for you, with this sprawling, 32-song-long tribute album to Swans by various underground acts ranging from drone to folk to post-punk in style. It’s like the length of two whole Swans records (or four early Swans records)! This really oughtta keep you occupied til Tuesday…But seriously, you should just give in and listen to the album already. No one’s gonna judge.

Also, Swans has begun uploading its back catalog to their YouTube channel. Check that shit out if you’ve been meaning to get into their music.

Andrew Jackson Jihad – Christmas Island

With Christmas Island, Andrew Jackson Jihad comes through with what’s essentially their pop album. While the band brings plenty of concise tracks with straightforward instrumentation, they mostly lack the emotional impact of previous material–the instrumental finesse, too.