Mogwai, "Party in the Dark" (Temporary Residence). Scotland's reigning post-rock scoundrels Mogwai come forth with a sumptuously morose midtempo ear-glazer that falls somewhere in the nexus among early-New Order, late-'80s Church, and shoegaze deities Ride in mild mode. Admittedly, I've not been paying close attention to Mogwai's recent releases, but "Party in the Dark" surprised me with its concise hookiness and abrasion-free textures. It's not a bad change. (Mogwai performs tonight at Showbox with Xander Harris.)
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, "It's A Beautiful World" (Sour Mash). Well, this tempered arena rock is better than anything his brother Liam's done lately, at least. "It's A Beautiful World"—from the just-released Who Built the Moon?—succeeds mainly through its verses, which are buttressed by a skitteringly funky rhythm and minimal bass accents worthy of Holger Czukay. In the chorus, though, Noel strains for wistful transcendence, but merely attains Bono-lite bathos. After all this time, the first two Oasis albums tower over anything the Gallagher brothers have done since the dissolution of that Britpop juggernaut, if you will allow an obvious observation.
Bitchin Bajas, "Jammu" (Drag City). If Terry Riley isn't going to keep remaking the sort of long-form, transcendent, minimalist keyboard blissouts of his peak phase ('60s through early '80s—and why should he?), then, dagnabbit, Bitchin Bajas will pick up the slack. Because we need this sort of chakra-aligning, anxiety-easing music now more than ever, with the looming threat of nuclear war hinging on two irrational, egomaniacal man-babies and, even worse, the death of net neutrality. So, yeah, devote your day to Bitchin Bajas' splendid new double album, Bajas Fresh, of which "Jammu" might be the zenith of its peaks. Fans of Ariel Kalma and Robert A.A. Lowe will also want to get their inner peace on to this.
Ka Baird, "Metamorphoses" (Drag City). Yes, I know it's another Drag City artist. Sue me. In my defense, the long-running Chicago indie label keeps issuing greatness at a staggering rate. Ka Baird, a NYC-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist for the psych ensemble Spires That in the Sunset Rise, offers another gem from her Sapropelic Pycnic album. "Metamorphoses" is an ephemeral dreamsong, laced with frittering flute sighs and striations that allude to "Strawberry Fields Forever." It's a gently disorienting reverie that I can imagine also working in a remake of the cemetery scene in Easy Rider. Ka Baird, if you're reading: Please play Seattle.
Trees Speak, "Soul Machine" (Cinedelic). I can listen to modern bands homaging Can all the livelong day. That's just the way I'm built. So, when Trees Speak approximate the urgent motorik blitzkrieg of "Mother Sky," as they do on "Soul Machine," I am compelled to recommend it to you. Led by visual artist/former Blind Divine member Daniel Martin Diaz, Trees Speak totally capture the nail-biting tension and poised hysteria of "Mother Sky." The rest of their self-titled album ventures into various cosmic- and kraut-rock territories with steely nerved purpose. It's an impressive debut.
Noteworthy November 24 album releases: Björk, Utopia (One Little Indian); Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon? (Caroline); The Fall, A-Sides 1978-2016 (Cherry Red); Sufjan Stevens, The Greatest Gift (Asthmatic Kitty); Steve Moore, Mayhem (Relapse); A Certain Ratio, The Graveyard and the Ballroom; To Each...; Force (Mute reissues); Sect, No Cure for Death (Southern Lord); At the Drive-In, Diamanté EP (Rise).