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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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The Robot Ate Me
Carousel Waltz

With a high cascade of sound from the scratchy throat of a trumpet, spreading, thick and clinging, over a shimmering bank of flutes, slowly surging, Carousel Waltz is one of the most brazenly hopeful albums released this year. It's a sound fleshed out by mallet percussion, the tender rasp of accordions unwinding against a sky of crackling vinyl, and the winsome words of a man who, after retreating inside himself like a turtle, seems to have made himself available to others. Carousel Waltz takes love as its fulcrum and, while this often entails its getting lost in the marshes and unruly stench of sentimentalism, love is nevertheless an emotion that fascinates on account of its fragile constitution.

Across 11 pieces of doggedly sawed strings, sun-bleached guitar harmonies and lovely, if borderline twee, orchestral stabs, Ryland Bouchard's homemade songs radiate and swell like summer heat-hazes, sketching sentiments so palpable each listener becomes an actor lodged in the events, wishing him well, questioning his motives and, on occasion, even rebuking him for his decisions. On "Where Love Goes" for instance, he murmurs "Will you hold me up/ Watch me sleep at night/ And be my reason to live?" and seems worryingly dependent. Couple this with other pieces, such as "Just One Girl," and it seems Bouchard simply wishes to expunge his presence into the object of his affection. Elsewhere, within the rainbow-colored trumpet glissandos of "Tonight" and modulated bells and phantom choir of "Come Together," Bouchard places too much weight on the Other, intoning "Come together/ We can change anything!," as he seeks out some unnatural state of equilibrium and rest. For this reason, it's the compositions of more metallic resonance, or others pelted by rhythmic flecks of static and guitar-driven steam, that most beguile for their restrained yet emotional presence.

From the low brooding sounds of "Bad Feelings" onward, successive pieces span wide territories, from raucous marches and folk dance to aggressive jazz and freeform. Although they're a trifle opaque, "Regret" and "This Love Is Waiting" reveal hooks after a few listens. But for the most part, while the album is pleasant, it takes awhile to open up. And once opened up, it's nice, but hardly revolutionary. While previous works were quirky explorations, etching lines through the thumbed pages of indie pop, drawing funny faces on the stern figures, doodling and otherwise rewriting the plot in order to propel it towards an open future, Carousel Waltz is content to play connect-the-dots with traditional lo-fi folk pop, drawing coherent images, united by the hymnal mood that runs along each piece like a river joining its townspeople.

With "Hi, Love," Bouchard erects a bridge between availability to others and the ongoing need to remain committed to one's own projects. Against a bluegrass guitar melody, a throbbing oscillation emanates as though from one's sinus cavity, as Bouchard sighs "Standing up is the easy fight/ Sitting down is violence/ Sometimes the way to change/ Starts with silence."

The album on the whole preaches against hardening descriptive and evaluative categories, as well as self-imposed alienation. Death not often being the resolved chord at the end of a melody, Carousel Waltz appears momentarily liberated from the immediate embroilments that often sit like planks in one's eyes. It seems to discover the value of relationships characterized by mutual collaboration — a freedom that realizes it does not belong to itself. As such, what at first seems the joyous affirmation of love quickly spirals into a reconsideration of what it is to care for another person, as well as for the world in which one lives.

by Max Schaefer

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