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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
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

44.1 kHz Archive

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AK Momo
Return To New York
Hidden Agenda

It's easy to imagine what drew AK von Malmborg and Mattias Olsson together, at least musically. Both seem to come directly from another era: he with his antique keyboards and synthesizers, with funny names like Mellotron and Orchestron, and she with her high-pitched, pre-rock 'n' roll singing voice. Their first release as AK Momo, Return to New York, sounds like a relic from the 1940s that has suddenly resurfaced and been tweaked for the modern audience.

At first, von Malmorg's high voice keeps listeners at a distance. It's not buttery and smooth; it's not cathartic and soulful. She ain't no hollaback girl. But it's enticing, veering between steely and vulnerable in its very female way. Across the blogosphere, she's drawing comparisons to Kate Bush, another singer whose voice hovered in the higher ranges and somehow sounded naked, exposing its vulnerability, muscles and fatty bits. I was a huge Kate Bush fan, and the more I listen to Return to N.Y., the more I find myself buying into the Bushness. The disc has also drawn comparisons to Portishead, but it's less like trip-hop and more like what Beth Gibbons did when she stepped away from Portishead and collaborated with Rustin Man (Paul Webb). Their Out of Season also needed a Victrola more than it did a CD player.

There's a hiss throughout many of the tracks on Return to N.Y., giving the music the warm, staticky feel of a vinyl recording. And the tracks that don't sound like they're coming from vinyl, and even some that do hiss, sound slightly warped, like old recordings that sat too long in the heat or the damp of someone's attic. It all lends an air of theatricality to the music, though like a dramatic friend, after it becomes familiar you no longer feel so much like it's begging for attention. You can just enjoy its charms.

On "Only the Stars," von Malmborg's steely and soft sides both take the spotlight. She sings about a night in Greenwich Park with a lover. "I fucked you; and you fucked me," she sings. The word is jarring in the gauzy old-world setting the music conjures. It pulls you right out of that gauzy world and makes von Malmborg seem tougher than she does on other tracks. But then she adds, after a sigh, "so tenderly," and sweetly follows with "and only the stars were watching; the shy, shy stars were watching." As she brings in the shy stars, the synthesizers bring in the sound of a swelling string section, giving life to names like Orchestron and Optigan. The song is both sweet and street smart. The same is true of "Women to Control": Von Malmborg's innocence turns to sneering as she asks some guy about the prowling and posing he does to get women. The chorus — "You want women to control, to fit in some old fashioned role" — is backed by a loop of coos and ahhhs, probably von Malmborg's own.

While the vintage sounds can sometimes be off-putting, too cold or too quirky, there is plenty that beckons the listener back. Mattias infuses the vintage warbling with inspired loops, samples and beats, so just as your mind begins to slip into a music-history-lesson daze, something comes along to get your hips shaking or your toes tapping. The shuffling beat of "Cold War of the Hearts" is hard to sit still through, as is the bossa nova feel of "World Traveller." And "Time for the Muse" gives credence to the Portishead comparisons.

The disc ends with the haunting "Boys and Girls." It's full of glitches and hisses, backed by an eerie and ominous keyboard. Von Malmborg sings, "Where does hell end and heaven start for boys and girls with brave haircuts and shaken hearts?" It's hard to say whether the question is more fitting for grown-ups who are spooked by life and love, or for my children and their little friends, who are just now learning that the cruelty of friends or family members can be just as spooky as monsters. And it's hard to figure out who has the braver haircuts: those forced by style or those forced by Mom and Dad. There's a lot of space between innocence and corruption, and between vintage and modern. AK Momo are here to bridge the gaps.

by Lori Miller Barrett

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