MAGNET’s #7 Album Of 2017: Future Islands’ “The Far Field”

The narrative for Future Islands’ fifth album is simple and linear: The Samuel Herring-fronted synth-pop band struck gold with “Seasons (Waiting On You)” from 2014’s Singles, partly on the heels of an instant-classic Letterman performance. Although the Baltimore band came out of the same scene as experimental oddballs like Dan Deacon, “Seasons” was pure pop bliss, and The Far Field doubles down on its strengths. Throbbing, New Order-ish bass lines, bubbling synths, rhythms that propel you to the dance floor, and, most of all, Herring’s emotive, gruff vocals. He’s quite the singer, conveying earnest commitment, desperation and heartache from within a muscular, masculine exterior. “Freezing rain can’t keep me away from you,” he growls on “North Star,” and there’s a sad plea within his pledge. On The Far Field, Future Islands find the difference between selling out (compromising one’s identity and values to follow paths that have potential for commercial reward) and buying in (recognizing when one has at last found a perfect alchemy, then seeing what more can be done with the ingredients). Which also meant, for Herring and Co., drafting one of their heroes—Debbie Harry—for a duet that, although it slightly disrupts the spell Herring has cast, makes perfect sense for a nigh-perfect record. —Steve Klinge; photo by Gene Smirnov

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Austin Lucas Announces New Record, In Studio Now With Will Johnson And Steve Albini

Stars align. Be it cosmic or divine intervention, there comes a time when the chips fall in your favor, the light shines in the shadows or even on a dog’s hindquarters. For newly energized folk/punk mainstay Austin Lucas, that time is now. The singer/songwriter just entered Electrical Audio in Chicago with everyone’s favorite jumpsuit-clad audio genius, engineer extraordinaire Steve Albini.

The cantankerous Shellac and Big Black frontman, who also boasts studio credits with the likes of Nirvana, the Pixies, PJ Harvey and the Stooges (among many others), will guide the process with accompanying artistry from former Centro-matic main man Will Johnson, as well as Lucas’ family members, most notably Austin’s father Bob, a multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer known for his work with Alison Krauss. Todd Beene (Lucero, Glossary, Chuck Ragan) will be handling pedal-steel duties as they all team up for (and as) Immortal Americans.

“In my estimation, there isn’t a single human being alive who has been responsible for recording more music that I love (than Albini),” says Lucas. “As I can say with certainty that I’ve never poured more of myself into a collection of songs, I can’t think of anyone who I’d prefer to have at the engineering helm. This project has been a long time in the making, and I’m excited to finally be headed into the studio with so many amazing people. This album will be a new direction for me, in a way only hinted at before on (2009’s) Somebody Loves You.”

2018 promises to be a big one for Last Chance Records, as the label announces an acoustic Lucas LP, Field Recordings, followed later by Immortal Americans. When asked if having Albini, Johnson and Co. involved in the making of Immortal Americans means that things will be getting loud and fuzzy or, instead, a bit more laid back, Lucas responds, “Yes.”

As you digest that, here’s an added bonus for your listening pleasure: a stripped-down, acoustic version of one of the songs from Field Recordings that will be revamped and fleshed out for Immortal Americans: “Killing Time.” Enjoy it here.

—Scott Zuppardo

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Happy Birthday Mike Mills (R.E.M.)

Happy birthday to Mike Mills (R.E.M.). Read our feature on Mike and violinist Robert McDuffie here.

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Essential New Music: Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos”

If a pop masterpiece drops in the forest, does it make a sound? It took four years for “I Am The Cosmos”/“You And Your Sister” to be released as a single. It took another 14 years for the rest of these songs to become the greatest posthumous pop album ever released. It took 17 more for the Rhino Handmade deluxe reissue and another eight for this Omnivore 35-track extended version. (Omnivore also just released the six-LP The Complete Chris Bell, which includes this extended I Am The Cosmos, pre-Big Star recordings and an unreleased 1975 radio interview.) With each Cosmos reissue, there’s another handful of alternate mixes/outtakes, another set of tweaks that fall short of the versions Bell started shopping in 1975. At this point, there’s little gold left to mine, but with each new pressing, we get another chance to hear Bell in all his passionate pop perfectionism, to marvel at the intensity of these performances, to imagine what might’ve happened if he hadn’t died—and to be amazed that these recordings even exist. If Bell’s brother had given up hope, and if Rykodisc hadn’t championed these songs in 1992, who would’ve known?

—Kenny Berkowitz

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MAGNET’s #8 Album Of 2017: Queens Of The Stone Age’s “Villains”

Queens Of The Stone Age records are like strangers sidling up to you at a dive bar with a double whiskey neat and launching into a tale. Sometimes the night ends in a brawl (Songs For The Deaf) or the conversation wanders to a dark place (…Like Clockwork), but it’s never, ever a snooze. Villains heads straight to the jukebox, fires up some Prince, chats you up a bit, then dances with your girl when you’re in the bathroom. There’s a booty-shaking groove that snakes through this Mark Ronson-produced set, whether it’s the funky “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” the swing of “The Way You Used To Do” or the seductive strut of “The Evil Has Landed.” This guy’s a charmer, too—few frontmen turn a phrase like Josh Homme, who can slide from comic to confessional to sinister in a single breath (“I’m all dressed up, no one left to blow/Addiction to friction leaves you raw … All I require is a pupil, and I’m sure it’s yours.”). Even a warning about the perils of fast-lane living on “Un-Reborn Again” (“Frozen in amber eternally … drowning in the fountain of youth”) sounds like a party you want to crash. Suddenly, it’s last call, your date went home with that slick-talking damage case, and you’re not even mad about it. —Richard Rys

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In The News: Ty Segall, Buffalo Tom, Ministry, Rhye, Fu Manchu, Jimi Hendrix, Roxy Music, Pet Shop Boys, Ringo Starr, Ghost And More

On January 26, Drag City will issue the latest from prolific former MAGNET cover star Ty Segall. The 19-track Freedom’s Goblin will be supported by live dates in California surrounding the release date and a full-on North American tour in April … Buffalo Tom was on the cover of MAGNET before most of you kids were born, and the trio is also back March 2 with its first new album in six years, Quiet And Peace (Scrawny/Schoolkids) … Rare Birds, Jonathan Wilson‘s third album for the Bella Union label, is out March 2 and features Father John Misty (yet another former MAGNET cover star), Lucius, Lana Del Rey and Laraaji … AmeriKKKant is the new album from Ministry, out March 9 via Nuclear Blast, and something tells us that Al Jourgensen might just have something on his mind regarding the state of the U.S. under our current president, who he refers to as Hurricane Cheeto … The sophomore album from Rhye, the 11-track Blood, will be released February 2 via Loma Vista … The 12th studio album from Fu Manchu, Clone Of The Universe is out February 9 on the band’s At The Dojo label … Sleepwalkers is the second solo LP from Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon, out February 9 via Island … Also on February 9, the Monochrome Set has something old and something new for you: 1979–1985: Complete Recordings is a six-CD boxed set that compiles its first four studio LPs and all the band’s singles, while the new Maisieworld is the Set’s 14th album to date; both releases come courtesy of Tapete … J.D. Wilkes (Legendary Shack Shakers, Dirt Daubers) will release Fire Dream, his solo debut, February 16 via Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum, and it features Jimbo Mathus as well as members of Drive-By Truckers, Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Bo-Keys … Belief, the follow-up to 2010’s Beyond The Valley Of The Ultrahits, is the latest from Richard Youngs, out March 2 on O Genesis … Wild Beasts will become extinct following the release of career-spanning, live-in-the-studio album Last Night All My Dreams Came True (Domino Documents) on February 16 and three live shows across the pond … Both Sides Of The Sky, out March 9, is the final installment in Experience Hendrix/Legacy’s trilogy of albums featuring unissued studio recordings by Jimi Hendrix, following 2010’s Valleys Of Neptune and 2013’s People, Hell And Angels; Both Sides Of The Sky‘s 13 tracks (10 of which are previously unreleased) were recorded between 1968 and 1970 … Roxy Music‘s landmark self-titled debut gets the 45th-anniversary treatment February 2 courtesy of Virgin/UMe with a three-CD/DVD super-deluxe edition (featuring the remastered album, previously unreleased demos, outtakes, radio sessions and rare footage) and a two-CD deluxe edition (which is also available on 180-gram vinyl) … Rhino continues its Pet Shop Boys Catalogue: 1985-2012 reissue series on March 2 with remastered/repackaged versions of 1986’s Please, 1987’s Actually and 1988’s Introspective containing demos, extended mixes, remixes and unreleased material … Light In The Attic is reissuing Digable Planets‘ 1993 debut, Reachin’ (A New Refutation Of Time And Space), as a two-LP set on February 23 in celebration of its 25th anniversary … Ringo Redux: On January 19, Capitol/UMe is reissuing two remastered Ringo Starr records, 1973’s Ringo and 1974’s Goodnight Vienna, on 180-gram vinyl … Jethro Tull‘s Heavy Horses turns 40 next year, so Parlophone is reissuing it February 9; the New Shoes Edition boxed set features three CDs and two DVDs of studio and live recordings and lots more … Last but certainly not least: Out January 19 is Ceremony And Devotion (Loma Vista), a live double album from MAGNET faves Ghost recorded during the Swedish metal mavens’ world tour last year.

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From The Desk Of Nick Garrie: Life And Stuff

In 1969 Nick Garrie recorded The Nightmare Of J.B. Stanisla, a lush folk/pop album. When collectors discovered it in the ’80s, it began fetching astronomical sums, and it was eventually reissued on CD in 2005. Garrie’s life in obscurity has too many twists to recount, but includes two albums as Nick Hamilton and an opening spot on a Leonard Cohen tour in 1984. The Moon And The Village (Tapete), Garrie’s first release in 23 years, is another subtle charmer. His mellow vocals are supported by arrangements that let his stories glow with a warm inner light. Garrie will be guest editing all week.

Garrie: I’m watching a bird disappear into a crimson sunset, and my mind goes back 40 years to waterskiing in the setting sun (after the clients) in the bay of Campesi (on the island of Isola del Giglio in Italy). The girls would come down from the hills and wave coloured handkerchiefs. When I left the island, they painted “Ciao Nick” in huge letters on the cliff face.

Last year I worked as Father Christmas (there were 15 of us), and in the summer I was in a pub staring at a rough-looking guy, and he swung on me.

“What you looking at?”

“Father Christmas.”

And he gave me the biggest grin I’ve ever seen.

To be honest, I’ve nothing much left to say except thank you for reading if you’re still there. And thank you for listening if you’ve got the album.

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Essential New Music: Acetone’s “1992-2001”

Acetone is just the latest ’90s curiosity to be plucked from hushed, record-store-counter cult status (read: utter anonymity) by Seattle reissue label Light In The Attic. The trio was a prodigiously talented outfit from northeastern Los Angeles—which decades prior attracted the likes of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Neil Young, who put Acetone’s final two albums out on his Vapor imprint—for all of its windswept melancholy. 1992-2001 functions as a perfect introduction to the band’s catalog, bundling tracks from its five albums with nine unreleased songs, beginning with the stunning “Shaker,” which plays like a swirling, tripped-out take on some long-lost soul cut, and including covers of “Midnight Cowboy” and “How Sweet I Roamed.” Theirs is a hypnotic, out-of-time tone, indebted equally to surf rock, country and R&B, nailing that elusive “high and lonesome sound” like few have since.

—Möhammad Choudhery

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MAGNET’s #9 Album Of 2017: Sylvan Esso’s “What Now”

It’s fun to fall down the wormhole of Sylvan Esso remixes, which are essentially reimagined twists—sometimes by others, just as often by themselves (see the improved perfection of the Echo Mountain Sessions)—on a reimagined original. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn’s chicken-and-egg ensemble is unique in modern pop music. More akin to a self-sampling hip-hop team than an indie-rock duo, they might be better considered “premix” artists. If the eponymous 2014 debut offered a bionic/chameleonic glimpse at the metrosexual Mountain Man makeover, this sequel is where they shed their skin, reemerging stronger and yet more vulnerable (i.e., more human) than ever. The album’s whiz-bang production is a consistent kick (jump, twist), but it’s really on those distilled Echo Mountain visual essays that true love takes hold, in large part due to the ace supporting players: Wye Oak dime Jenn Wasner on bass/keys, Mountain Goat Matt Douglas on (what else?) horns. It’s an acoustic read on a digital upsample of a low-res capture, which makes no sense but works like a charm. Just like the band itself. —Noah Bonaparte Pais

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Normal History Vol. 456: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Due out in 2018, a live version of “Armchairs Fit Through Doorways” from a show in Montreal in 1996.

“Armchairs Fit Through Doorways” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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