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Next Week in Music | Aug. 15-21 • The Short List: 7 Titles You Want to Hear

Early James, Hot Chip, Cass McCombs, Mountain Goats & the rest of the best.

Early James arrives, Hot Chip induce a freakout, Cass McCombs aims for the head and the heart, The Mountain Goats exsanguinate, Panic! At The Disco serve up hot vengeance, Silversun Pickups get physical and Loudon Wainwright III releases the album of a lifetime. These are your plays of the week:


Early James
Strange Time To Be Alive

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Strange Time To Be Alive is the sound of an artist sublimely out of step with the world. With all the charmed eccentricity of a true poet conjuring the ghosts of great southern gothic writers from Eudora Welty to William Faulkner, James takes in the endless absurdity he sees around him, then alchemizes his unease into a glorious patchwork of musical idioms: Forsaken blues and contemplative folk songs, brooding murder ballads and lovestruck piano tunes. James ultimately extracts a certain magic from the madness, imbuing even the most painful truth-telling with a wild-eyed joie de vivre. “I think it’s okay to admit you feel crazy or uncomfortable in your own skin — those are very human feelings that we need to say out loud,” says Early James. “I hope this record reminds people that everyone feels crazy sometimes, and that the real crazy people are the ones who won’t admit self-doubt.”

Hot Chip

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Hot Chip’s eighth album Freakout/Release is another dizzying high in a multi-decade career that’s seen them continuing to innovate and develop a rich, resonant songcraft. And while they continue to operate at peak form, the album also feels like a new chapter for the group — a collection of flesh-and-blood songs that finds the band reaching into the darkness to emerge as a true creative unit, their gazes fixed positively on the future ahead. Freakout/Release was written and recorded in the band’s newly minted Relax & Enjoy studio in East London, a creative space that Al Doyle put together before and during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coalescing in the studio was essential in establishing the album’s lively, full-band sound and marks the first time Hot Chip began work on a new record all together as well as reuniting them in the same room for the first time following their touring behind 2019’s A Bath Full Of Ecstasy. Fittingly, harnessing Hot Chip’s irreplicable live energy in a studio space was in the front of the band’s mind, as they found themselves particularly inspired by their cover of Beastie BoysSabotage that’s become a setlist staple. “The idea of being out of control is always there in dance music, in a positive sense,” Doyle explains while discussing the cover’s influence on the new album.”

Cass McCombs

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “On Heartmind, Cass McCombs enters the double-digit-album phase of his career, a quantitatively rarified place for any songwriter; rarer still, though, is the fact that he does not yet seem to have settled into a qualitative sound or pattern, of singing the same thought twice (or perhaps even once). There are, at least, some basic facts to share about Heartmind, logistical evidence that may in turn shape your own questions: Cass recorded these songs in multiple sessions on both coasts, in Brooklyn and Burbank. The great Shahzad Ismaily not only cut the staggering Unproud Warrior and four others here but also played lots of bass. Buddy Ross tracked New Earth, a paean of post-humanity renewal with several sharp wisecracks. Ariel Rechtshaid — now a dozen years into his collaboration with Cass, which began with 2009’s Catacombs — captured Cass’ scintillating guitars on Belong to Heaven, a thoughtful consideration of what we all lose when we lose an old friend to the inevitable end. The steadfast Rob Schnapf (who previously produced Mangy Love) mixed and merged it all. Wynonna Judd (yes, that one) offers harmonies, while her beau Cactus Moser provides some lap steel. Joe Russo, Kassa Overall, Danielle Haim and Nestor Gomez are featured on the album, too.”

The Mountain Goats
Bleed Out

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Maybe you are just like John Darnielle: In the depths of the pandemic end of 2020, the Mountain Goats frontman passed the time trapped at home watching pulpy action movies, finding comfort in familiar tropes and sofabound escapism. But you are not really like John Darnielle, unless the action movies you found comfort in included French thrillers like 2008’s Mesrine, vintage Italian poliziotteschi, or the 1974 Donald Pleasence mad-scientist vehicle The Freakmaker. Or unless watching them brought you back to your formative days as an artist, when watching films fueled and soundtracked your songwriting jags and bare-bones home recordings and in turn inspired your 20th album to be a song cycle about the allure and futility of vengeance. But there’s no shame in not being like John Darnielle; few people are. “On earlier tapes you’ll find these sound samples,” Darnielle says. “ ‘Oh, where’s this sample from?’ It’s from whatever movie I was watching while I was sitting around on the couch with a guitar. I watch a movie, somebody’d say something that I like the sound of and I’ll write that phrase down. And then I would pause the VHS, write the song, record the song on a boombox, and go back to watching my movie. I got into doing that again; I just kept watching action movies and taking notes on what they’re about and on what the governing plots and tropes and styles are. It was very much like an immersion method acting technique.”

Panic! At The Disco
Viva Las Vengeance

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Panic! At The Disco’s seventh studio album Viva Las Vengeance shows a change in process for frontman/songwriter Brendon Urie, having cut everything live to tape in Los Angeles alongside his friends and production partners, Jake Sinclair and Mike Viola. The cinematic musical journey is about the fine line between taking advantage of your youth, seizing the day and burning out. The songs take an introspective look into his relationship with his decade plus career including growing up in Las Vegas, love, and fame. “Viva Las Vengeance is a look back at who I was 17 years ago and who I am now with the fondness I didn’t have before,” says Urie. “I didn’t realize I was making an album and there was something about the tape machine that kept me honest.”

Silversun Pickups
Physical Thrills

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “This record is alive. No, I haven’t completely lost it…. yet. I mean it sits somewhere in between a collection of songs and an imaginary friend. A friend that from March of 2020 to April of 2021 would not only introduce itself to me, but keep me company through that time of intense isolation. A friend that would remind me that in this instance, the whole world was feeling the same way as well. A comforting, playful, sometimes frightened, often delighted friend. A friend that was finally introduced to Butch Vig, once we got vaccinated, and blew through his studio like a tornado made of cotton candy, leaving little pieces of residue everywhere. But most importantly, this friend REALLY doesn’t give a fuck. I know. That sounds brash. I just mean it’s a thing that is truly free. And now, this little living headspace no longer visits me. I visit it through this album. I hope you like it. My friend wouldn’t care. Little rascal.”

Loudon Wainwright III
Lifetime Achievement

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Lifetime Achievement is Loudon Wainwright III’s first album of new original songs since 2014’s Haven’t Got The Blues Yet, and finds him in a state of deep reflection at age 75, over a set of fifteen recently written, insightful and incisive gems that he wasn’t even planning to pen. Says Wainwright, “I remember when I made my first record for Atlantic in 1969. I was always saying, ‘I want it to be a record — not only a recording, but a document that captureas a moment.’ I was 21 and very serious, and I thought I’d be dead in four years (laughs). So I wanted to make something that would last. A testament. Now, 50 years later, I guess I still want to make a testament. I want to write a group of songs and get them down in the best possible way. And I like to think they might last a while.” While many tracks are stripped down with just Wainwright and a guitar or light accompaniment, others are seasoned with horns, strings, lap steel and electric guitar work, featuring many of his frequent collaborators: Chaim Tannenbaum (vocals, banjo, harmonica), David Mansfield (violin, viola, mandolin, 12-string guitar, Weissenborn guitar, pedal steel), Tony Scherr (guitar and bass), Rich Pagano (drums, percussion), Jon Cowherd (Wurlitzer, organ), and others including a string arrangement by Rob Moose. It was recorded with two of his longtime producers, Dick Connette and Stewart Lerman.”

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