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Wednesday, November 22, 2017 
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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
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+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
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+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
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+ 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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+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
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Le Concorde
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Universe And Villa
March/ What Are Records?
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The gorgeous yet disremembered music of the late '80s is as much of a leitmotif here as the title itself. Possibly a nod to the double "L" in each of the Go-Betweens' album titles before 16 Lovers Lane broke the string, Universe and Villa affords a rich introduction to Stephen Becker and his band Le Concorde.

While the band's self-titled 2004 EP had reviewers, myself included, pulling out records and references that were as fun to see in print again — Prefab Sprout, the Lilac Time, Aztec Camera and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark — as they were a compliment to Becker's influences, the full-length not only affirms but somewhat broadens the above list. Sure, starry-eyed averments such as "I Will Go to My Grave Wanting You to Love Me" wouldn't be out of place in any of Paddy McAloon's Prefab songbooks (or Eric Matthews' lush chamber-pop for that matter). But what about the soaring near-end of "Controlling," which would be like Ian Hunter's "You Nearly Did Me In" if not for Becker's glitter-rock falsetto and guarded synth?

The emotional ballast of Becker's songwriting and, likewise, musical arrangements appears in a fuller context as well. He allows that while much of the record is influenced by the end of a marriage, it isn't a static meditation. Instead Universe and Villa displays not only the disquieting efforts of examination but the hope of finding love again. A personal undertaking to be sure, but instead of being some overtly self-aware exercise, the songs encircle the listener with a shared awareness, like remaining alive to the moment and holding close to its possibilities. It is a province rarely explored in contemporary pop music, at least to the degree that Becker does here, as quietly as he does it.

You only need to look at Nick Heyward's breaking solo turn North of a Miracle for an ideal example of understated introspection in the softest of voices. "Whistle Down the Wind" floats a chorus of "Hello, hello, hope you're feeling fine" and, elsewhere, "I want to watch you bloom and breathe." I can't help but be reminded of that song — or even that record — when listening to Becker's "Archeology of Cruelty," where the remains of a relationship are likened to an indelicate frieze, brushed and dated by those who don't know: "Do you keep souvenirs? / My discovery's recovery's not a / Given even after years / If they ask you lie and say it was nothing at all / If they ask you lie and tell them no one can recall / The vow."

Musicians lending Becker a hand here are the Epicycle team of Ellis and Tom Clark, Eric Chial of the Bon Mots, Ed Tinley, Kevin Tihista and ex-Psychedelic Furs members Mars Williams and John Ashton. Universe and Villa has a very definite feel, with very little space between the end of singing and the elevation of vintage synthesizers. But it doesn't sound like an aspect of control — more like an ease of command. Before this Becker played with the Chicago indie-pop band Post Office, where the influences were, of course, pop, but not those heard on Le Concorde. Here the atmospherics include wind effects, drums and programmed drums and the Fender Jazzmaster, the whole of which manages to transport you back to the likes of the adventurous yet heartfelt electronics of OMD's Architecture and Morality without diminishing the very modern pop record it is.

Universe and Villa may even surpass the approved scrollwork of the EP with pop hits like "In the Morning," where Becker sings of sleeping "hand-in-hand with the keeper of the story." The guitar line is as infectious as his declaration. "I Hate Rock and Roll" is the only not-quite-there in evidence despite the lines "I want to want the things that I was born to want/ I want to love the things that I was born to love." But when emotion comes together so easily with music like this, only then do you realize just how exceptional that is.


by Jennifer Przybylski




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