Staff Picks: May

James Brightman
Senior Contributor
Artist: Paul Buchanan
Album: Mid Air
Comments: After an exemplary performance of the title track on Later…With Jools Holland, to say that I was looking forward to this album was an understatement. Now that I’ve got it, I can’t stop playing it. The album is like a series of black and white photographs in a tattered photo album, with each song in Mid Air feeling like a snapshot of the singer’s life – the love and the loss, the mourning and celebration. Just beautiful.

Justin Wesley
Artist: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Album: Here
Comments: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ Here is a flat-out stunning nine-song collection that has become a borderline obsession for me since it came into my possession. In the few years since unleashing a superb debut, the Californian collective of utopian melody makers have become an even tighter unit. On Here, they have scaled back the production to that of an open air celebration of faith in the immediate world and love of your fellow man. Few bands have looked so deeply inward to write gems with such magnificently outward appeal. They have upped the ante by creating a communal testament of love, oneness and faith in music that is so pure and masterfully recorded that it’s nearly subversive in today’s perversely ironic and cynical download age.  Drummer Orpheo McCord explained to TST that Here is a “mellow album that can perfectly ring in the summer.” He’s spot-on, but he left out an indispensable descriptor of this exceptional sophomore album: jubilant.

Sin Lucas
Artist: Jack White
Song: “Love is Blindness”
Comments: Sorry Bono, it’s not that I don’t love the original, but I’m really digging this cover. A few months ago when when White released the cover as part of Q Magazine’s 20th-anniversary tribute to U2′s Achtung Baby, I listened to the song briefly, but didn’t pay it much attention. So, last week the new trailer for The Great Gatsby was released, and I immediately noticed that White’s cover of “Love is Blindness” was used in the trailer, not the original. So I gave it a second listen. Now, I’m uncertain which version I like better. White’s version is dark and haunting. It’s full of passion and pain. The original is equally beautiful, just in a different way.

Verdict: I downloaded both and listen to them back to back.

Josh G
Artist: Buckethead
Album: It’s Alive
Comments: It’s Alive is not a masterpiece by any means. It’s a casual release, reflected by its sales coming solely from Buckethead’s site last year. As a result, it’s certainly not the most masterful showing of the chicken-crazed, guitar wizard’s talent (the opening track remains the longest piece, at six minutes), but this is Buckethead in his most purely metal form – and sometimes that’s all the ear calls for.

There aren’t nearly as many avant-garde diversions as some past efforts, but still a decent deal of variation is to be had. “Barnyard Banties” is carried by funktacular (there’s honestly no other word for it) bass, and “Picking the Feathers” has intriguing, smirk-inducing flair between electronic moments that hark back to 1999’s Monsters and Robots. If you’re picking your Buckethead albums at random (and you’re likely to, considering he has an abundance of more than 30), you could do worse than this.

Janey Criss
Assistant Editor
Artist: Niki & the Dove
Album: Instinct
Comments: Niki & The Dove and their rising success is one of those ‘I told you so’ things for me. I pointed at the Swedish duo before their EP, The Drummer, came out last year, and I put them on the very top of my SXSW 2012 ‘to see’ list because they’d never toured the US before and had only a couple of far away dates listed on the calendar. Seeing them there, outside, under a tent in the very early afternoon, I had a real ‘aha!’ moment. This two-piece, with their amazing touring drummer, truly is something special, and I have been absolutely living with their first LP, Instinct, since it was released two weeks ago. The record is a perfectly fused combination of electropop sexiness, highly emotive vocals, super creative – but always danceable – beats and secret, organic ingredients that magically transform the concoction to something of fantastic proportions. You can take songs like “DJ, Ease My Mind” and “The Drummer” to the club, and you can swoon over the experimentation of “Under the Bridges” in your bedroom for hours. This is the first real rival to Chairlift’s Something as my favorite record of the year so far. And icing on the cake: Niki & The Dove are currently on tour with Twin Shadow.

Will Donelson
Assistant Editor
Artist: Soulsavers
Album: The Light the Dead See
Comments: Many people – including myself, I am embarrassed to say – feared for the fate of the Soulsavers after icon Mark Lanegan left the band. However, after listening to the album a single time I found myself hooked. The Light of the Dead See is perhaps Soulsavers’ strongest album; it’s certainly their most cohesive. From macabre croons to powerful hooks, The Light of the Dead See is a dark, wonderful listen.

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