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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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+ Espers - II
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Dawn Smithson
Safer Here (Review #1)

Dawn Smithson spent the year and a half that went into this album's creation as something of a hermit, rarely connecting with others. With all its inward gnawing and gnashing of teeth, this solitariness seeps into the woody timbres of her stark guitar-plucking, the seismic lurch of her lucent organ drones, the fire-breathing of the string instruments. Wandering through an expanse of grey quiet, the music has a powerful ease about it, full of exuberance and yearning as it flows around the listener like a warm bath.

Made with mics planted about her room, the recording is rustic to say the least, but also cozy and inhabitable, a quaint nook to steal away to on a sullen Sunday. Her constant use of funeral tempos, low-end, murky drones and grim moods paints an image of scudding clouds and trees silhouetted against a pale sky, unveiling the particularity of Smithson's present situation, with all its blemishes and scabs. With her reedy, robust moan acting as guide through some 40 minutes, thick patches of starlit sound and grumbling surges of industrious buzz expand the aural space and accentuate these valiant, steady confessions. On the relatively sparse and barren opener, Smithson laments, "I may not be happy/ But at least I know that I'm safer here," and unveils as one of the album's central themes the alluring, if simultaneously repugnant, comfort that stems from bouts of isolation.

The sluggish songs are at times lush, and always light and haunting. Although altogether traditional, and even sometimes derivative, the album has an detached center, emphasizing a hard root tone and no rhythmic certainty. Instead, songs startle and remain interesting on account of their raw, erratic displays of emotion, their austere, gritty textures and droning persistence. In a noteworthy moment, against a bank of what sounds like sighing violins, Smithson's low, cracked voice wails, "Close your eyes now/ To the darkness inside/ Can't run from here/ It's deep inside/ You should never have been," as she slowly begins to seek her despair, as opposed to finding a means to disperse it.

However, for all her lucid expressions of agony and fear before a world seemingly devoid of foundation, numerous songs would benefit from greater development of their own character. The work does hinge upon a subtlety of sound, giving care to each tone in its continuation of what came before, but some pieces, such as "Speak Through Me," manage to do this while still undergoing dynamic shifts; nearly two-thirds of the way through "Speak Through Me," the guitar theme picks up to double speed, then slows down for a moment before a final, exultant acceleration.

Perhaps indicative of the work's title, Safer Here too often seeks refuge in pensive folk pastures, hedged by reverb-laden whistles. But it also harbors its own mysterious charm while Smithson tries to probe the problems that plague her interactions with the world and those who wander through it.

by Max Schaefer

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