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Rock - Released November 8, 2019 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Best New Reissue
Though wildly misunderstood when first released (like most art that’s ahead of its time), Gene Clark's third solo album—his most focused and intricately-produced shot at musical immortality—is now revered as something of a lost masterpiece. Expectations were high for the former Byrd, who had signed a solo deal after he’d been the bright spot in the band’s abortive 1973 reunion. Clark seemed poised to write and record a blockbuster that could power his solo career; the studio was filled with choice players like Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, percussionist Joe Lala, ex-Byrd Chris Hillman on mandolin, Steve Bruton, Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kortchmar on guitars and Claudia Lennear on vocals. Instead, No Other busted its recording budget, disappointed its label and perplexed fans—an expensive commercial flop that hung over Clark’s career until his death at 46 in 1991. Remastered with a brighter, more multidimensional sound for its 45th anniversary reissue, the original eight tracks are supplemented by twenty extra takes from sessions that show the songs’ evolutions, including a slow, loopy version of Clark's earlier hit, "Train Leaves Here This Morning," co-written by Bernie Leadon and later recorded by The Eagles. Producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye (aka Tommy Kontos) grew close to Clark during the sessions and came to share his vision for the project. Their collaboration proved to be the doubled-edged sword at the heart of No Other, one that fashioned a mystical, multi-layered, intricately-arranged singer/songwriter album with forward looking psychedelic and R&B touches. The strongest tracks, the menacing synth-backed folk of "The Silver Raven" (written about his wife's shoes), the fragile melody of the seemingly anti-drug themed "From A Silver Phial" (which speaks of "a mind that sleeps inside tomorrow,") and the glorious title track, with its sinuous changes and low keyboard line doubling the vocal choruses, are among the best of Clark's short career. And his singing throughout is extremely moving. He clearly believed in this project. And yet the overdubbed production confounded many. Slow ballads and mid-tempo songs predominate, and as Chris Hillman points out in the liner notes, Clark refused to tour, do interviews or participate in any promotional efforts, essentially dooming an ambitious project to failure. Original label Asylum refused to employ any marketing muscle and the album was deleted from the label's catalog within two years. Genius or a colossal miscalculation? This confounding prism continues to turn. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Rock - Released November 8, 2019 | 4AD

Though wildly misunderstood when first released (like most art that’s ahead of its time), Gene Clark's third solo album—his most focused and intricately-produced shot at musical immortality—is now revered as something of a lost masterpiece. Expectations were high for the former Byrd, who had signed a solo deal after he’d been the bright spot in the band’s abortive 1973 reunion. Clark seemed poised to write and record a blockbuster that could power his solo career; the studio was filled with choice players like Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, percussionist Joe Lala, ex-Byrd Chris Hillman on mandolin, Steve Bruton, Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kortchmar on guitars and Claudia Lennear on vocals. Instead, No Other busted its recording budget, disappointed its label and perplexed fans—an expensive commercial flop that hung over Clark’s career until his death at 46 in 1991. Remastered with a brighter, more multidimensional sound for its 45th anniversary reissue, the original eight tracks are supplemented by twenty extra takes from sessions that show the songs’ evolutions, including a slow, loopy version of Clark's earlier hit, "Train Leaves Here This Morning," co-written by Bernie Leadon and later recorded by The Eagles. Producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye (aka Tommy Kontos) grew close to Clark during the sessions and came to share his vision for the project. Their collaboration proved to be the doubled-edged sword at the heart of No Other, one that fashioned a mystical, multi-layered, intricately-arranged singer/songwriter album with forward looking psychedelic and R&B touches. The strongest tracks, the menacing synth-backed folk of "The Silver Raven" (written about his wife's shoes), the fragile melody of the seemingly anti-drug themed "From A Silver Phial" (which speaks of "a mind that sleeps inside tomorrow,") and the glorious title track, with its sinuous changes and low keyboard line doubling the vocal choruses, are among the best of Clark's short career. And his singing throughout is extremely moving. He clearly believed in this project. And yet the overdubbed production confounded many. Slow ballads and mid-tempo songs predominate, and as Chris Hillman points out in the liner notes, Clark refused to tour, do interviews or participate in any promotional efforts, essentially dooming an ambitious project to failure. Original label Asylum refused to employ any marketing muscle and the album was deleted from the label's catalog within two years. Genius or a colossal miscalculation? This confounding prism continues to turn. © Robert Baird / Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 13, 2006 | 4AD

Even if it had been available only in a steel box stuffed with thousands of Styrofoam peanuts, Lullabies to Violaine would be a welcomed and indispensable part of Cocteau Twins' discography. In just about every way imaginable, the compilation outdoes the title-less ten-disc singles box released by 4AD in the early '90s. It certainly looks and feels different: the sturdy flip-top box of old housed the singles in individual jewel cases, while this set squishes most of the old contents, and then some, into four discs that are wrapped in a foldout package that seems to be made of an exotic wintertime plant, which is then encased in a rice-paper-like sheath. You'd be wise not to handle the thing more than a couple times. In fact, just to be cautious, you probably shouldn't stare at it too long. Completists might be miffed to discover that it is missing a few things that the old box did contain, such as the 12" mixes of "Peppermint Pig" and "Pearly Dewdrops' Drops," and the four tracks that appeared on a bonus disc. Robin Guthrie also substituted a couple alternate mixes, but as he argued on his weblog, it's not a big deal: "It's a singles and EPs record, all the singles are there, where is the f*cking problem?" (Well, here's one problem: "Millimillenary," a gorgeous track left to languish on the out-of-print The Pink Opaque, shouldn't have been excluded.) The old box covered the 4AD years and therefore held the singles through Heaven or Las Vegas. This one covers the same ground on the first two discs; discs three and four cover the remaining A-sides, B-sides, and EP tracks through Milk & Kisses (secretly the band's third or fourth best album). Since the Cocteaus typically put the same amount of energy into their singles and EPs as their albums, Lullabies to Violaine features a prolific sum of prime material. The sheer breadth of content is a major factor, but the set is, by a wide margin, the best way to hear how this band consistently developed and constantly switched tacks, from punishing and stark, to elegant and dense, and many places between. It also doesn't hurt that the sound is pristine, improving upon whatever murkiness was audible in the initial round of CD issues. You might call all of the content amorphous goop, but the Cocteaus covered a wide range of emotions with a large set of colors, no matter how blurred they were at times. In fact, "The Spangle Maker," with its tidal structure and mixture of dread and bliss, indicates this in less than five minutes. There are 59 tracks in all, and they're not all overflowing with dreamy exotic genius, but they do form the equivalent of six good-to-tremendous stand-alone albums. For the fans who didn't go any deeper than the studio albums, this will be almost exactly like falling in love with the band for the first time. [4AD also split this into two separate volumes.] © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Electronic/Dance - Released May 28, 2012 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2020 | 4AD

The shoegaze revival is upon us, so a revisit of the classics can only do a world of good. The first Pale Saints album, which came out in February 1990, is precisely a milestone record in the dream pop and shoegaze movement. For its 30th anniversary, it is being rereleased in a remastered deluxe version, in 24-Bit Hi-Res quality, adorned with never-before-heard demos. At the time, the 4AD label was living a sort of golden age with the establishment of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, This Mortal Coil and of course Pixies. The record label headed by Ivo Watts-Russell kept their roster fresh by signing bands such as Belly, Lush and Pale Saints. The Leeds-based group, formed in the late-1980s, based the originality of their sound in the duality of singer Ian Masters’ delicate voice and the wall of sound created by the guitars carrying fairly pop melodies. Evanescent fury, raging daydreaming… in a way, this is the dichotomy of shoegaze. Gil Norton, who made a name for himself by producing Ocean Rain by Echo & the Bunnymen and Doolittle by Pixies, is in the mixing booth for five of the tracks, with John Fryer from This Mortal Coil covering the other half of the album. Once the album starts, the sound of this first Pale Saints opus is unmistakably Cocteau Twins or Jesus & Mary Chain. Some may even draw comparisons with My Bloody Valentine, despite their iconic Loveless coming out only a year and a half after Comforts of Madness in November 1991. More of a cult figure than he is given credit for, Ian Masters is more than just a run of the mill shoegaze singer: he knows how to orchestrate different rhythms and especially how to compose often-perfect pop songs, stringing them together so that the project as a whole feels like one single composition. This feeling is amplified by the absence of any gaps between the eleven tracks. Thirty years later, this masterpiece has not only not aged a bit, but stands out amongst its contemporaries. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 16, 2009 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 19, 1999 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 6, 2005 | 4AD

Released as part of 4AD's mail order/Internet-only series, Underarms is an engaging and largely instrumental collection of outtakes from the ...smile's ok sessions. Though the debut consisted solely of covers, five of the seven tracks here were written by Hope Blister creator Ivo Watts-Russell, engineer John Fryer, bassist Laurence O'Keefe, and cellist Audrey Riley. The disc provides a darkly ambient companion to ...smile's ok. The gorgeous, minimalist drone to both parts of "Sweet Medicine" provides a cyclical lean, and a couple tracks are downright sinister, on par with any of Main's harrowing soundscapes. "Strings" versions of Neil Halstead's (Slowdive) "Dagger" and David Sylvian's "Let the Happiness In" fill out the disc. Underarms is a small gem -- it's a shame it didn't become more widely available. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Era

Alternative & Indie - Released June 15, 2015 | 4AD

Era should be the final word on In Camera, a post-punk act signed to 4AD on the strength of a gig for which they shared a bill with Bauhaus. While together, the short-lived band released only a two-song 7" and a four-song 12", both of which were issued in 1980, and they bowed with a posthumously issued 12" edition of their all-originals BBC session for John Peel's program, also recorded in 1980. As for previous anthologies, there was 13 (Lucky for Some) in 1992 and the limited vinyl-only IV Songs + II. Era eclipses them both by offering not only all the studio and BBC recordings, but also demos, live material, and some rehearsals. For early-4AD obsessives and other post-punk fanatics, this won't seem the least bit excessive -- though the sound quality of the live cuts is pretty rough -- and it all fits inside a tidy, sharp sleeve that could be mistaken for an artful greeting card. Among scads of other bands that specialized in hectoring vocals, droning basslines, battering drums, and scraping guitars, In Camera weren't all that distinctive, but they created quite a racket. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Rising from the darkness of the Canadian rave scene at the start of the 2010s, Grimes quickly made her way up the ladder of success. Her synthetic hit Vanessa allowed her to amass a fanbase that was obsessed with her post-teenage voice and elfish look, and at the end of the 2010s, Pitchfork named Oblivion (written following a sexual assault and taken from her 2012 album Vision) the second-best song of the entire decade. It’s this kind of distinction that reminds us that she is an artist that knows exactly how to transcribe emotions into songs, and not just the girlfriend of multi-billionaire Elon Musk. Miss Anthropocene sees Grimes morph into a climate supervillain, a ‘goddess of plastic’ that’s here to take some of the heat off climate change. Musically, Grimes has not drastically changed, with a signature synth-pop sound that borrows from rock on My Name Is Dark, drum’n’bass on the excellent 4ÆM or trip-hop on So Heavy (I Fell Through the Earth), which reminds you of Massive Attack or Transglobal Underground. Well inspired, Grimes continues to hit the mark. © Smaël Bouaici/Qobuz
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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2020 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 17, 2019 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
This eighth album from The National is refreshingly different, somewhat modifying the well-oiled mechanics of this American band. First and foremost, this is achieved through the presence of several female singers who support the leader Matt Berninger on most of the tracks. The most memorable are the performances of Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie’s bassist) on Had Your Soul With You, as well as the particularly poignant performances of Lisa Hannigan and Mina Tindle on So Far So East and Oblivions respectively, the latter being especially moving. Why this sudden feminine presence for an exclusively male band? It’s likely because the album was conceived after filmmaker Mike Mills asked The National to put his short film I Am Easy to Find into song form - a film which happens to be centred around a woman. It’s this relationship to images that has somewhat upended the Brooklyn band’s pop formula. There are a few references to some classics of cinema, chiefly Roman Holiday by William Wyler (1953). But apart from the new cinematic release, fans of The National will still find the legendary melancholy of the group in both the lyrics and the music. The presence of heart-wrenching strings on all the tracks (with the exception of the staccato violins on Where Is Her Head) as well as a recurring introspective piano (notably in the beautiful Light Years) will particularly be remembered. Bryan Devendorf’s singular rhythms plays on contrasts, occasionally making striking jerks (Rylan, The Pull of You) as well as adding a sensual flair (Hairpin Turns, I Am Easy to Find). © Nicolas Magenham/Qobuz  
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2019 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Pitchfork: Best New Music
Less than six months after releasing their highly acclaimed third album, U.F.O.F., the Brooklyn indie-folk band Big Thief returns with Two Hands. While its Irish twin sounds incredibly controlled and labored over, the majority of Two Hands are one-take recordings (tracked live in the middle of a Texas desert) with no overdubs, capturing the arresting beauty of their live performances. Lead single "Not" is the loudest and most intense Big Thief song to date. Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s croon is pushed to a panting rasp during the track’s teetering climax, and its second half is overtaken by a gangly, drawn-out guitar solo gracelessly deconstructing into ringing noise. However, despite the crashing drum fill that kicks off the record, "Not"’s striking diversion from their signature serenity is the album’s only moment of its kind. The main difference is that here, Big Thief sound looser and less concerned with painstaking prettiness. Instead, they let the tape roll and see what happens. Perhaps the most commendable aspect is that even without the benefit of studio wizardry, this band can still make magic happen. © Eli Enis / Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 3, 2019 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
UFO we understand. But UFOF? The additional F is for Friends according to Big Thief. UFOs and friends then? The band’s singer Adrienne Laker gives us a loose explanation: “Making friends with the unknown… All my songs are about this” With the guitarist Buck Meek, the bassist Max Oleartchik and the drummer James Krivchenia, Laker releases her third album. The Brooklyn quartet’s music is a sort of folk mixed with indie rock. Without sounding too much like them, this 2019 album sometimes contains the DNA of Sonic Youth (such as on Jenni). The result is alluring, almost shimmering. But upon a closer look, “UFOF” is a bizarre and strange, almost abnormal record. And like the late Elliot Smith (Laker’s idol that one recalls on Betsy), the beautiful melodies and tremendously artisanal guitars hide an evident melancholy and unusual, unnerving situations. Perhaps that would explain the UFOs? A less ‘polished’ and luxurious record than Masterpiece (2016) and Capacity (2017), UFOF shows a group ready to question itself and evolve its art. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 26, 2019 | 4AD

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The element of surprise has inevitably been lost but the magnetism remains; this girl is unstoppable. Hannah Toop aka Aldous Harding reinterprets a tried and tested formula. Accompanied again by John Parish, PJ Harvey’s producer, the New-Zealander favors eccentric harmonies that are as rugged as they are stirring to create a sublime sound that distinguishes her from other songwriters. After her breakup with Marlon Williams, Aldous delivers a painstakingly melancholic opus that, at times, exhibits a darker side (Pilot) as well as lighter tones (The Barrel) through tracks that are packed with raw emotion despite the blunt and unfiltered lyrics. After an eponymous first album and the revelatory Party released on 4AD, Harding has realized a third success with the very succinct Designer. © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 1, 2019 | 4AD

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Zach Condon quickly realized that he wasn’t always going to be able to wander through the subway carriages with his brass band. That even his hardcore fans would eventually grow tired of him and stop handing him their spare change... On his 2015 album No No No, the brain behind Beirut beautifully transformed his experience in the Balkan folk/Mexican scene into brilliant high-flying pop tracks. He sculpted a more artisanal sound and renewed himself while keeping the dreamy, magical singularity of his universe that’s dominated by brass and percussion.Condon is a true citizen of the world: he was born in Albuquerque, lives in Berlin and writes in New York as well as in Puglia, Italy. It is there that one finds Gallipoli, a coastal city that lends its name to this fifth album. Condon has a voice that’s characterised by a wistful lyricism, giving his songs an undeniably melancholic feel. Sat behind his Farfisa organ or his Korg synthesizer, and surrounded by Nick Petree on drums, Paul Collins on bass, Ben Lanz on trombone and Kyle Resnick on trumpet, Condon builds his songs like Russian dolls. There’s a playful side which is largely amplified by the Farfisa. And through his world music and lo-fi melodies, Gallipoli covers the entire range of everything that Beirut has generated in just over ten years. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 6, 2020 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
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World - Released June 2, 2008 | 4AD

Distinctions Exceptional Sound Recording
With a regular American deal in place for the first time ever, thanks to 4AD's linkup with the WEA conglomerate, Dead Can Dance made a splash on commercial alternative radio with "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove," the first single from Into the Labyrinth. Raga drones, a strange clattering beat, a haunting wind instrument, orchestral shading, and Perry's ever-grand voice make it one of the more unlikely things to be heard on the airwaves in a while. It all begins with yet another jaw-dropper from Gerrard, "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)," with keyboards and her octave-defying voice at such a deep, rich level that it sweeps all before it. Wordless as always but never without emotional heft, the song slowly slides into a slow but heavy percussion piece that sounds a bit like "Bird" from A Passage in Time, but with greater impact and memorability. As the album slowly unwinds over an hour's length, the two again create a series of often astounding numbers that sound like they should be millennia old, mixing and matching styles to create new fusions. Perhaps even more impressive is that everything was performed solely by Perry and Gerrard -- no outside guests here, and yet everything is as detailed, lush, and multifaceted as many of their past albums. New classics from the band appear almost track for track: Gerrard's a cappella work on "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," the gentle beauty of "Ariadne," the rhythmic drive and chants of the title song. The conclusion is a slightly surprising but quite successful cover -- "How Fortunate the Man With None," an adaptation of a classic Bertolt Brecht tune about the turn of fortune's wheel. Given a restrained arrangement and Perry's singing, it brings Labyrinth to a satisfying end. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2019 | 4AD

Less than six months after releasing their highly acclaimed third album, U.F.O.F., the Brooklyn indie-folk band Big Thief returns with Two Hands. While its Irish twin sounds incredibly controlled and labored over, the majority of Two Hands are one-take recordings (tracked live in the middle of a Texas desert) with no overdubs, capturing the arresting beauty of their live performances. Lead single "Not" is the loudest and most intense Big Thief song to date. Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s croon is pushed to a panting rasp during the track’s teetering climax, and its second half is overtaken by a gangly, drawn-out guitar solo gracelessly deconstructing into ringing noise. However, despite the crashing drum fill that kicks off the record, "Not"’s striking diversion from their signature serenity is the album’s only moment of its kind. The main difference is that here, Big Thief sound looser and less concerned with painstaking prettiness. Instead, they let the tape roll and see what happens. Perhaps the most commendable aspect is that even without the benefit of studio wizardry, this band can still make magic happen. © Eli Enis / Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 30, 1993 | 4AD

Thanks to good timing and some great singles, the Breeders' second album, Last Splash, turned them into the alternative rock stars that Kim Deal's former band, the Pixies, always seemed on the verge of becoming. Joined by Deal's twin sister Kelley -- with whom Kim started the band while they were still in their teens -- the group expanded on the driving, polished sound of the Safari EP, surrounding its (plentiful) moments of brilliance with nearly as many unfinished ideas. When Last Splash is good, it's great: "Cannonball"'s instantly catchy collage of bouncy bass, rhythmic stops and starts, and singsong vocals became one of the definitive alt-pop singles of the '90s. Likewise, the sweetly sexy "Divine Hammer" and swaggering "Saints" are among the Breeders' finest moments, and deserved all of the airplay they received. Similarly, the charming twang of "Drivin' on 9," "I Just Wanna Get Along"'s spiky punk-pop, and the bittersweet "Invisible Man" added depth that recalled the eclectic turns the band took on Pod while maintaining the slick allure of Last Splash's hits. However, underdeveloped snippets such as "Roi" and "No Aloha" drag down the album's momentum, and when the band tries to stretch its range on the rambling, cryptic "Mad Lucas" and "Hag," it tends to fall flat. The addition of playful but slight instrumentals such as "S.O.S" and "Flipside" and a version of "Do You Love Me Now?" that doesn't quite match the original's appeal reflect Last Splash's overall unevenness. Still, its best moments -- and the Deal sisters' megawatt charm -- end up outweighing its inconsistencies to make it one of the alternative rock era's defining albums. © Heather Phares /TiVo

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