This time of year brings a surplus of album releases and, for us, along with the fresh tunes comes a desire to do little more than stay home and listen to music while watching surf videos. The result is a collection of new faves and old jams, both up-tempo and down, to get you through the leap year.
Magnetic Fields: Distortion
The first album from the Magnetic Fields since 2004's i, Distortion is one of their better efforts this century. Chock full of smeary guitar arrangements that take on Dick Dale-like reverb, Stephin Merrit's definitive baritone is a mellifluous complement to the drawn out distortion. But it's Shirley Simms on this go around who comes through with tasteful harmonies on songs like "Drive on Driver."
Clean organs, the fuzzy guitars and a touch of feedback provide a surprisingly full but laid-back sound. It's one of those albums you can listen to all the way through. Pick up Distortion at Nonesuch or from iTunes. Also currently on tour, catch them live from 21-24 February at the Town Hall Theater in New York.
In my opinion one of the most innovative contemporary guitarists around, Bill Frisell, went back into the studio for a string of intense sessions to record Floratone with distinctive percussionist Matt Chamberlain and long-time producers Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend.
Conceived as a lab experiment, the recording process started with Frisell and Chamberlain improvising in the studio followed by Martine and Townsend splicing together a loose song format that the musicians then filled in. The result is an intricately produced blend of jazz-, reggae-, funk- and blues-drenched chords that create a distinctly Southern swamp-like sound. Overlaid twang and reversed tracks are add texture. Purchase it at Floratone or iTunes.—Tim Yu