words by DENISE LU
SPOTLIGHT: FIDLAR – FIDLAR [Mom + Pop]
As if Japandroids’ anthem-worthy Celebration Rock wasn’t enough to tide you over through the new year, FIDLAR’s self-titled debut is another offering to cheap beer and the fuck-everything-else credo, literally. The album opener – appropriately titled “Cheap Beer” – is a brilliant epitome of the entire record. A running BPM starts before a crash of guitars join in. Besides “a line of speed” and “half a pound of weed,” the only other message that’s faintly clear is the chorus itself: “I DRINK CHEAP BEER / SO WHAT FUCK YOU!” Just listening to the tracks might induce shortness of breath and dizziness, but goddamn, it’s worth it.
Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic [Jagjaguwar]
From our review: “Nostalgia rock can be tiring, as certain sounds become trendy for short periods of time, only to go away as quickly as they came (lo-fi surf-rock comes to mind). But with We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, Foxygen is a breath of fresh air, reviving a vintage style of songwriting in a new and creative fashion.”
Mountains – Centralia [Thrill Jockey]
Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey is a treasure trove for experimental artists of all sorts. Centralia is Mountains’ seventh release on the label and it is a rich journey of various soundscapes from ambient, subtle progressions to lone guitar layers to Emeralds-like electronic quips.
Nosaj Thing – Home [Innovative Leisure]
Already with tons of remixes and original productions under his belt, Nosaj Thing returns with his third full-length, featuring new collaborations and guest vocals for the first time. Appearances by Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead and Toro y Moi add an additional dimension to Nosaj Thing’s already complex compositions.
Shugo Tokumaru – In Focus [Polyvinyl]
Japanese artist Shugo Tokumaru marries charming, poppy melodies with jaunty instruments that sound like a toy marching band. In Focus is a refreshing take on good old colorful pop without being too squeamishly cute and cheesy. What saves In Focus is the diverse instrumentation and careful attention to interesting rhythmic counterpoints; each track is like a cinematic musical mini-vignette that has shape and texture.
VA – Pop Yeh Yeh: Psychedelic Rock From Singapore and Malaysia 1964-1970: Vol. 1 [Sublime Frequencies]
Another exemplar release from Seattle-based label Sublime Frequencies, which specializes in unearthing obscure international cuts from the past, Pop Yeh Yeh features the untapped world of Southeast Asian psych rock. A Pandora box of intriguing melodies and timbres, The Pop Yeh Yeh era in the late ’60s coincided with modernization of Singapore and Malaysia. Notes from Western ’60s pop is obvious, but the artists build on rather than imitate these influences for original compositions.
Widowspeak – Almanac [Captured Tracks]
From our review: On Almanac, Widowspeak have delicately crafted a steaming broth of rural nostalgia, painfully endemic wanderlust, and a quiet reverence for the spirit of rock n’ roll. What results is a delicious pot of Americana, fit with a pinch of Cat Power, a sprig of Fleetwood Mac, and a lovin’ spoonful of Neil Young. All sounding meant to be — a 21st Century manifest destiny.
Alasdair Roberts – A Wonder Working Stone [Drag City]
Arbouretum – Coming Out of the Fog [Thrill Jockey]
Bad Religion – True North [Epitaph]
Big Harp – Chain Letters [Saddle Creek]
Brokeback – Brokeback and the Black Rock [Thrill Jockey]
Camper Van Beethoven – La Costa Perdida 
Esben and the Witch – Wash the Sins Not Only the Face [Matador]
Ex-Cops – True Hallucinations [Other Music]
FaltyDL – Hardcourage [Ninja Tune/Blueberry]
Hilly Eye – Reasons to Live [Don Giovanni]
Nightlands – Oak Island [Secretly Canadian]
Petra Haden – Petra Goes To The Movies [Anti]
Pillowfight – Pillowfight [Bulk Recordings]
Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love [Arts & Crafts / Barsuk]
Renny Wilson – Sugarglider [Mint]
Speck Mountain – Badwater [Carrot Top]
The Growlers – Hung at Heart [Everloving]
The Holydrug Couple – Noctuary [Sacred Bones]
The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law [Canvasback/Atlantic]
This Town Needs Guns – 188.8.131.52.0 [Sargent House]
VA – Dual Form [Stone Throw/Leaving Records]
VA – Scattered Melodies: Korean Kayagum Sanjo [Sublime Frequencies]
VA – The Crying Princess: 78 RPM Records From Burma [Sublime Frequencies]
VA – Yellow Loveless [High Fader]
Voivod – Target Earth [Century Media]
Wimps – Repeat [End of Time]