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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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Beachwood Sparks
Make The Cowboy Robots Cry

On their first two longplayers, Los Angelean syrupy pop/country romantics Beachwood Sparks essentially came across as a kinda more-credible, less-smarmy take on the same trick turned by the Pernice Brothers: gazing back in rose-colored hindsight at a golden age that they believe yielded a golden glow. Such is their nostalgia that their music makes it seem like they believe the past bore a gentler kind of life. Of course, while Buffalo Springfield or The Byrds or Pearls Before Swine sound soft and cuddly in the here and now, the times that birthed their hazy country/pop/psych were hardly that; and, on Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, Beachwood Sparks toss a little sand in their Vaseline-lensed cast-backwards gaze, getting wantonly psychedelic as they do something akin to dropping a tab in their musical iron cup of wine. Housed in lurid, cartoonish acid-trip artwork, their latest EP is a very obvious example of a band using a gap-filling between-album release to stretch their bloody wings a little. The set's six songs certainly aren't afraid to wander into rambling passages, or to shape and shift with the kind of lurching key/tempo changes that don't suit pop songs. L.A. electro-cat Dntel repays the favor to BS's Chris Gunst, who sang on his Life Is Full of Possibilities album, by bringing "additional sounds" to the whole record, his work being lots of tiny details that incrementally add up as the set marches on. Subtle electro-tones and washed-out guitars and crackles of static and approximated theremin and such all stir the songs with all kinds of vivid colors. Mia Doi Todd, who also sang on the Dntel record, comes aboard for the set's centerpiece, a seven-minute showstopper called "Ponce de Leon Blues," in which her coal-miner's-daughter vocals ring out in the most melancholy duet; the song spins in languid circles as it drifts down a wandering river, its floating-on-back trying its soft-psych best to feel like floating-in-space. The overall effect occasionally leads the band into territories that could be compared to either the Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev. But unlike those two vastly overrated bands, with this disc Beachwood Sparks never grab at easy answers, and aren't egotistical enough to believe that the mild experimentation on this set is anything close to experimental. Instead, they clear their heads and let the current of their songs take them where it will. And the result is magnificent, and unexpectedly so.

by Anthony Carew

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