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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ 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
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+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
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+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
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+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
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+ 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
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Billy Corgan
The Future Embrace

Though the Classic Rock establishment would tell you otherwise, Billy Corgan turned a creative corner when he authored the Smashing Pumpkins' best single, "1979." Razing off the cock-rock bluster that doused Siamese Dream in Andy-Wallace-walls-of-guitar and an unbearable amount of masturbatory guitar solos, the streamlined sound he established on that still-fresh song led onto and bled into the Pumpkins' entirely-underrated Adore album, which, for all its faults — the fact that it seemed to drag on and on being a big one — found Corgan authoring some of the best music of his career, NyQuil-baked, eyeliner-caked neo-new-wave/electro-goth pop-songs like "Daphne Descends," "Tear," and the "1979"-sequel "Perfect" all capturing the sort of woebegone melancholy, minor-keyed drama, and wailing flounce that suits Corgan's aesthetic. The former SP frontman sees "1979" as the beginning of a movement that has led to his debut solo album, The Future Embrace, with Zwan, his post-Pumpkins all-star-rock take on alterna-rock Americana, merely being a tangent breaking off of such.

This'd all make much greater reading if The Future Embrace was a really great album. Only, it's not, and certainly fares poorly when compared with the other solo record to come from within the Smashing Pumpkins, James Iha's 1998 outing Let It Come Down, a "lost" soft-pop classic. Corgan's own own-name debut may not be any sort of classic, but it is a peculiar pop-cultural curio, a strange set of sonically dense songs that seem to have been painstakingly sculpted in the studio, meticulously-erected constructions whose shiny façades are every bit as glistening and phallic as Corgan's bald dome.

It's nominally an "'80s-sounding" record, but, well, it's not really. Whilst the disc does draw heavily from Corgan's longtime heroes Depeche Mode (a band who once actually seemed incongruous to Corgan's aesthetic, when the Pumpkins first covered them in 1993), its retrophonic cues are naught like those poses being struck by the ironic electro-humans in recent seasons. Instead of leaning on kitsch keytone, the disc creates an almost impenetrable sound-world, building songs out of layer upon layer of laid-down sounds, from its foundations of industrial-toned beats to seemingly infinite overlays of heavily-processed guitars, effects-draped vocals, and sci-fi-ish synth sounds. The gear is buffed to such a productional sheen that its every sound seems like a reflective surface, the compositional complexity leading to an album as confusing — and, ultimately, distancing — as a hall of mirrors.

by Anthony Carew

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