Mother (Bella Union)
“Goats are mothers, Zeus was raised on Amaltheia’s milk, Black Peak is Mother Earth. …Mother Earth is the mother of everything.” Giorgos Xylouris thus explains his duo’s third album, the first two being Goat and Black Peak. It’s inscrutable and suitable. Cretan lutenist Xylouris and heavy-duty drummer Jim White (of the Dirty Three) cover a waterfront of moods from the amorphous “Woman From Anogeia” to the angry two-step “Only Love” to the lighthearted “Spud’s Garden,” utilizing limited means—the pair is joined only by (judicious, masterful) string player Anna Roberts-Gevalt. Xylouris’ voice is a strong flavor, but it fits, and White’s drumming seems to carve its own path like a river forming a canyon. Too often, “fusion” means a collision of components that sounds like garbage; Mother is a true blend, fresh, heady and intense.
Dearest Everybody (Release Me)
Inara George of The Bird and the Bee returns with her first solo album since 2009, and its light shines steadily throughout. George’s clear voice leads a tour of what sure sounds like her inner life, one that seems comfortable in its turbulence, delivering lines like “A pair of underwear in my pocket / I’m just going somewhere new,” with utter possession. George does seem weirdly bugged by her status as the daughter of Little Feat’s Lowell; the album’s opening line is “I was the daughter of my father,” and on the maudlin “Release Me” she asserts “I’ve spent my life in the shadow of a man / Now I wanna be the writer of this song.” Cool! I didn’t even know you were Lowell George’s daughter, but okay! The album is sparkling chamber pop equally fit for music-box dancing and tea room journaling. Nicely done.
Infinite Avenue (Smalltown Supersound)
Opening up with the spellbinding, opiated title track, Carmen Villain sounds too cool to talk to, but she’s way cool to listen to. Her voice is dreamy, wry, bitter—totally seductive, and yet she doesn’t lean on it too heavily. (The only really heavy song here is “Borders,” an overwrought duet with Jenny Hval.) There are gorgeous instrumental passages, such as the Radiohead-like opening of “Connected,” and an honest instrumental in the enchanted forest dream “The Moon Will Always Be There.” Throughout, there’s a placelessness that seems reflective of Villain’s background (neé Hillestad, she’s a U.S.-born Norwegian-Mexican who’s recently lived in London). Plus, the album’s called Infinite Avenue, so it makes sense that we could be anywhere out on the terra. In any case, it’s her world for us to live in for 37 cool minutes.
Con Todo El Mundo (Dead Oceans)
Con Todo El Mundo is an apt album title for Texas-based, mostly instrumental funksters Khruangbin. The band name is Thai for airplane (literally, “engine fly”), and their latest album sounds like a loving, ranging recreation of what happened when the world heard James Brown and reflected/refracted all that goodness. Guitarist Mark Speer, favoring a trebly tone, invokes Iran, Zambia, Thailand and…Ernie Isley, while bassist Laura Lee and drummer Donald Johnson lay low, and solidly so. Johnson sounds like a subdued Clyde Stubblefield, while Lee’s snaky bass lines define “in the pocket.” The overall effect can feel a bit paint-by-numbers, but the outlines are timeless and the painting itself is casually flawless.