James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical

Vagrant, 2014

The Irish troubadour changes directions on Post Tropical, with sparse electronica and a more R&B feel for his inimitable falsetto. Drum machines, pianos, clapping and horns trump his usual guitar focused songs, though the beauty is still intact, albeit in a more multi-layered sense. Soulful, groove laden and often soaring to new territories, while his platinum selling debut was the direct singer/songwriter approach, this one is just so oddly charming.

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Yuca – Rebuilding The Fallen Empire

Rising Empire, 2013

Triumphant alt-rock from Canada. This trio deliver soaring anthems with tense moments of melody, often nodding to the best moments of ’90s guitar rock. You’d never think only three guys make the mammoth-sized sounds here, and they aren’t afraid to play around with cinematic and experimental moments between the sonically-charged loudness. This is like an updated Radiohead’s The Bends on steroids, and if they aren’t already, Yuca should be considered some of the best at the alt-rock comeback.

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U137 – Dreamer On The Run

Deep Elm, 2013

For a Swedish duo made up of members of Moonlit Sailor, and a record which goes by the name Dreamer On The Run, this sounds pretty much how you’d imagine: restful, navelgazing, guitar- and piano-driven post-rock. It’s the soundtrack for an unashamedly hopeful movie, and never strays far from that uplifting intent. A fairly tame listen then, but a consistently pleasant one.

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Mùm – Smilewound

Morr, 2013

When Iceland produces alt-rock it’s a whole different story to that which we’re accustomed. Harps, pianos, and cellos all help Mùm’s brand of glacial, gentle pop that shifts from sparse lullabies to intricate melodies, complete with glitchy moments and experimental ideas. Atmospheric, synth-heavy, often stripped back and even danceable on occasion, this sixth album finds a balance between acoustic and electronic in a way few others could. You know you’re doing something right when Fugazi members are blogging about your album.

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Ulfur – White Mountain

Western Vinyl, 2013

The first solo disc of Icelandic notable Ulfur Hansson, these seven tracks collect random field recordings from his travels, assembling them into a soothing and unique listen of ambient ideas. From the sounds of birds to stones hitting water, plenty of organic noises are plugged into layers of harps, flutes, violins, and mandolins, among the standard guitars and slight drumming. An artistic listen of intimate and warm sounds, this is both meditative and awe-inspiring.

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Sin Fang – Flowers

Morr, 2013

The solo outlet for Seabear’s singer, Sin Fang’s third album is a very full listen, yet is anchored by the beauty that Iceland is so known for. Jangly-indie rock and driving guitars are complemented by charming synth and gentle strings, as the layered vocals sit well with the electro and chamber pop tones. This one has it all – big pop hooks, fast rhythms mixed with quieter ebbs, and a focused power and grace unique to each track.

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