Anthology Records reissues Vietnam-era gem FJ McMahon, whose sole album Spirit Of The Golden Juice is eerily prescient 50 years later

Anthology Records reissues Vietnam-era gem FJ McMahon, whose sole album Spirit Of The Golden Juice is eerily prescient 50 years later

McMahon doesn’t use fire and brimstone to convey his ideas. He’s got rough drum takes, glaring equalization problems in the guitars, and a tired-sounding voice. These are all he needs. If it weren’t for the loose production, the record would lose much of its charm; and if McMahon was screaming his rhetoric from the pulpit, Golden Juice wouldn’t be as relatable and moving. Any element you could perceive as negative is also a strength.

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Steph Chou makes a smooth transition from jazz saxophone to multicultural bliss on last year's Asymptote

Steph Chou makes a smooth transition from jazz saxophone to multicultural bliss on last year's Asymptote

The only thing richer than Chou’s current discography is the way in which it is growing. Her current work-in-progress, Comfort Girl, will focus on the unsettling history of Chinese “comfort women” during World War II. In Chou’s own words: “The show will be a musical exploration—in song and story—of the lives of Chinese ‘comfort women’ who were abducted into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during WWII. The work will be a tribute to these young women’s incandescent courage and indomitable spirit, not only while in captivity during the War, but also—in a cruel irony—when they returned home to their families, who didn’t always welcome them back with open arms.” A bold task. But, given Chou’s uncanny ability to meld artistic styles, who could be better suited? The piece will premiere next year at the China Institute in America, in downtown New York. Teresa Teng would not only be proud, she’d likely get a little jealous.

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With a touch of apocalyptic themes, Avey Tare makes another picturesque addition to the Animal Collective canon with Eucalyptus

With a touch of apocalyptic themes, Avey Tare makes another picturesque addition to the Animal Collective canon with Eucalyptus

What’s new about this particular Avey Tare is that the overflow of ideas, lyrics, and themes doesn’t turn spastic and blurry like it has on records past. Eucalyptus, though adventurous, is down to earth and focused. It’s by far the most spiritual Avey Tare has ever sounded (except for the transcendent love on AnCo staple ‘Fireworks’). The pieces of the record are spread out all over the cutting room floor. As you pick them up, they’ll shapeshift and tell their stories whether apocalyptic or teeming with life.

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Beach House's career-spanning B-Sides and Rarities compilation is a long-awaited treat for hardcore fans

Beach House's career-spanning B-Sides and Rarities compilation is a long-awaited treat for hardcore fans

When Beach House’s Thank Your Lucky Stars - the band’s second record of 2015 - dropped, many fans thought it was a b-side compilation. Together with the track ‘She’s So Lovely’ and the pearls spelling out the title, it was a throwback to their debut. Other songs like ‘All Your Yeahs’ sounded distinctly like 2015 Beach House, focusing more on long buildups instead of the rhythmic payoffs like 2010’s Teen Dream.

Over time it became clear that this was not the case – that Lucky Stars was a separate work, and that an argument could be made for its being the superior 2015 Beach House album. ‘Majorette’ and ‘Elegy to the Void’ now seem indispensable, and the band proved that “inessential” isn’t a word in their vocabulary. Funnily, a lot of songs on the new B-Sides and Rarities seem to span the whole career of the band, just like Lucky Stars. Sadly, this is more a record for hardcore fans than casual ones, though there are some distinct highlights.

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Big Thief’s incredible songs trump all awkwardness at The Cedar Cultural Center

Big Thief’s incredible songs trump all awkwardness at The Cedar Cultural Center

There are positives and pitfalls to be had by being bashful. On one hand, you don’t wear out your welcome. On the other, a lack of confidence can turn the room red with discomfort. Incidentally, Big Thief were asking for the softest blue lights they could in between many of the wonderful songs performed last night at the Cedar Cultural Center. Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker didn’t want to be underneath a spotlight of any intensity during her songs. As such, there was an awkward relationship between performer and back of house throughout much of the show.

Incidentally, none of this shyness translated to the performances themselves. After all, people don’t go out and see a band like Big Thief for the stage performance. They go to hear the songwriting. I only mention the strange banter and awkwardness because anything that upset the soft vulnerability of songs like “Mythological Beauty” was uncannily felt. That is to say, the folk rock sounds the band put out were a blanket of warmth. When they ended, it was as if someone had ripped the covers off.

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