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Alternative & Indie - Released October 4, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Three years after My Woman, an album which saw her move even further away from her main influences (Cat Power, Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey) as she pursued her grungy indie folk (which incorporated Americana and vintage sounds) Angel Olsen has signed a more silky, shimmering and even luxurious production here. There are no commercial compromises in All Mirrors, just a clear desire to soak her music in less troubled waters… The sound is bigger, the arrangements more elaborate and the instrumentation even includes strings, again impeccably measured. Much like Annie Clark a.k.a. St Vincent, Olsen blends a powerful explosion of fury and strong self-acceptance, boosted by impressive melodies. The American is also at ease in moving from dark atmospheres to almost playful sequences. A stylistic richness that becomes even greater each time you listen to it. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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i,i

Alternative & Indie - Released August 9, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
“There’s similarities and tributaries through all the Bon Iver records leading to this one and that still flow through this one. It’s an expansive sound”. This is how Justin Vernon, the driving force behind Bon Iver, defines his fourth studio album. 12 years of his life have passed, during which his project went from the wintry solitude of For Emma, Forever Ago, to the chamber-pop spring of its eponymous record, to the feverish summer glitch storm of 22, A Million. This fourth season didn’t come easy, either. The promotional tour for the aforementioned third album ended abruptly, due to Vernon’s struggle with anxiety and depression. i,i was created in that aftermath, as a synthesis of his career – a multi-layered autumn where sonic landscapes flow one into the other, and impressionistic instrumentals, glitchy samples and vocal harmonies pile on top of each other seamlessly, before being torn away to reveal the bare bones canvas lying beneath. This retrospective approach to his music is interlaced with cryptic lyrics that seem to ponder Vernon’s misanthropic tendencies: “I should've known / That I shouldn't hide/ To compromise and to covet/ All what’s inside “ he mourns on the electro-folk crescendo of Faith, undercut by growling bass and haunting background vocals. On the album closer RABi, which is a play on the words “I could rob, bye bye”, Bon Iver seems to find peace at last, in a side nod to listeners: “Sun light feels good now, don't it? And I don't have a leaving plan/ But something's gotta ease your mind/ But it's all fine, or it's all crime anyway “. It’s a cathartic finish, for a troubled artist who seems to have temporarily fought off his demons, as well as the audience – we who’ve followed him and applauded him since the beginning. © Alexis Renaudat/Qobuz
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Soul - Released May 10, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Qobuzissime
What is my purpose? What will come of the legacy of those who have influenced me? And what will I leave behind? These are all the big questions that Jamila Woods asks herself going into her second album suitably named Legacy! Legacy!, a Qobuzissime album! Three years after the release of Heavn, the soul sister from Chicago brings together twelve songs all named after the artists that influenced them. Musicians, painters, writers, activists, poets, they’re all there! And the lucky few are: Betty Davis, Zora Neale Hurston, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sun Ra, Octavia Butler and James Baldwin. There is nothing obvious or didactic here as the young African-American who is ever-so attached to her native Chicago never does out-and-out covers but less subtle “in the style ofs” all while retaining her own distinct style. A poet one day (she acts as artistic director for YCA, a center dedicated to young poets) and a musician the other, she is even a teacher on bank holidays! As the worthy heir of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, all her words are wrapped around ultra-slick grooves with a modernized nu-soul twist. When it comes to features, Jamila Woods helps her local economy by inviting along friends that, for the most part, come from the underground scene of the Windy City: the trumpetist Nico Segal, MC Saba, Nitty Scott, theMIND, Jasminfire. Chance the Rapper’s protégé has mixed intelligence and class, commitment, enjoyment and groove into 49 minutes. Perfect. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 18, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Sharon Van Etten waited five years before releasing a follow up to Are We There, her 2014 album on which she brilliantly juggled between the legacies of Cat Power, Nick Cave, John Cale, Joan As Police Woman, St Vincent, Feist and Fiona Apple. It’s a record on which she was, above all, herself. She confirms this with Remind Me Tomorrow which was conceived when her schedule was overflowing between a role in the series The OA, the writing of the soundtrack for Katherine Dieckmann’s film Strange Weather, the music for comedian Tig Notaro’s show, preparing for a psychology degree, an appearance in the series Twin Peaks and the birth of her first child!Energy is at the heart of this 2019 vintage record on which John Congleton handled the the arrangements. The producer is without a doubt at the forefront of the more rhythmic sequences rather than the more accustomed ones, such as the single Comeback Kid. With less minimalist reflections and more assertive affirmations, Sharon Van Etten hasn’t lost her uniqueness along the way. And what she has added here doesn’t alter the original taste too much. Congleton knew how to find the perfect sound texture to make the singer’s gothic folk universe all the more powerful and charming. With this album one of the most talented artists of her generation continues to grow. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 2, 2016 | Jagjaguwar

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Following the acclaimed Burn Your Fire for No Witness and its expanded sound by two-and-a-half years, idiosyncratic singer/songwriter Angel Olsen broadens her palette even more on LP four, My Woman. Now with a long enough discography to note trends, she's made a steady transformation from tormented acoustic crooner to veritable indie rock songstress, if one still capable of the most intimate of deliveries. My Woman has the full range on display, including some electronics and extroversion not heard from her previously, as dictated by a loose story arc that follows the stages of a doomed relationship, all told from a woman's point of view. The album was recorded live to tape with a five-piece backing band at Vox Studios in Los Angeles. In the ambivalent opener, "Intern," our heroine reluctantly decides to have one last go at love, foreshadowing with "Doesn’t matter who you are or what you do/Something in the world will make a fool of you." The song's atmospheric electronics, a first for Olsen, brace listeners for that expanded palette from the opening seconds. A couple of tracks later is the infectious "Shut Up Kiss Me." Also unlike any of her prior material, it's an aggressive retro rocker that captures unbridled passion and lust ("I ain't giving up tonight"). Co-dependency sets in on "Give It Up," and insecurity follows on "Not Gonna Kill You," both full-band, electric-guitar tunes. Arrangements get sparer as the subject matter gets more philosophical and despondent, such as on the artful "Sister," a dusty, nearly eight-minute epic that bargains with the future. Soon, "Those Were the Days" wonders "Will you ever know the same love that I know?" The breathy torch song is devoid of the singer's trademark heart-aching yodel, forgoing past country styling for low-key jazz-rock. In stark contrast to some of the other songs on the record, the closer, "Pops," is a solo piano dirge that bookends the album with its somber opener ("I'll be the thing that lives in the dream when it's gone"). While some tracks will surprise established fans, to say that My Woman is a departure or style swap for Olsen doesn't really take into account the album as a whole. The elements that are new here play out like a means to an end for a songwriter with a tale to tell, one chock-full of raw emotions. The songs stand just fine on their own, too, out of context. So, load up the playlists, but consider giving the album a proper front-to-back play through at least once for old time's sake. ~ Marcy Donelson
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 20, 2009 | Jagjaguwar

Bon Iver's debut album made a huge splash in 2008, receiving both critical acclaim and near-mainstream popularity as the record fanned out over indie rockers, alt-folk fans, and lovers of quietly emotional and frequently inspiring songs sung by a dude with the voice of an angel. All the adulation was well deserved, because For Emma, Forever Ago is the kind of record that manages to capture a musician's soul and transmit it in a way that truly connects with a large array of listeners. It's an impressive achievement and one that holds up over many listens. Released in 2009, the Blood Bank EP is both a pause for breath for Justin Vernon and a reminder why so many people fell so deeply in love with the record and the sound he created. Recorded over a couple years and in various locations, the EP sounds like outtakes from Emma, but not in a bad way. "Blood Bank," with its subtly propulsive drums and idiosyncratic lyrics, would have been one of the album's best moments. The same goes for the more experimental but still beautiful "Babys," which features both some gently jarring piano and Vernon's soothing, multi-tracked falsetto. The only stretch Vernon makes here is on the closing "Woods" -- in a somewhat bold move, he embraces Auto-Tune and warps his vocals into almost unrecognizable shapes. Starting off as a lone voice, he begins to harmonize with himself and then adds layers of warbling vocals until the song builds to a frenzied, backwoods R&B symphony of weirdness. It's a move that could send lots of people into fits of disbelief but strangely enough, it works -- especially over headphones, where the vocals can envelope you completely. It's probably a direction Vernon won't follow, but it's an interesting experiment that keeps the record from sounding like outtakes (worthy outtakes, but outtakes all the same) from For Emma, Forever Ago. ~ Tim Sendra
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 30, 2016 | Jagjaguwar

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
The master of fuzzy folk and melancholy country, Justin Vernon showed his genius when For Emma, Forever Ago, his first album produced under the Bon Iver moniker, came out in 2008. This ghostly, entirely mad and haunting folk masterpiece was dreamt up after he isolated himself in the depths of winter for three months in a Wisconsin cabin! The harmonic cathedrals, the mystery of the organ possessed by true grace: everything was miraculous. But Vernon quickly shook off his folk convictions to try out a range of electronic experiences. These changes were apparent on Bon Iver’s second album, simply called Bon Iver, which contained nods to minimalists Steve Reich and Philip Glass and tracks on which the intriguing bearded artist thought himself more a Brian Eno than a Brian Wilson... Five years after this eponymous record, and having worked through some surprising and fascinating collaborations (James Blake, Kanye West, Travis Scott and St Vincent), the updated Mr Bon Iver is re-emerging with 22, A Million. It is this  third album which finally brings together all his experience right from the start. And whether the result is a folktronica carbon copy or not, Justin Vernon succeeds more than ever in merging the worlds of folk and electronic music without either of the two sides managing to tug too hard in their own direction. As for the singing, his falsetto is still just as affecting even when manipulated and tinkered with. And when he uses openly abrasive sounding tones and elements more from soul, the result is impressively dreamy. Like a melancholy, meditative symphony at the heart of an immense cathedral. To add to this fascinating mystery, Justin Vernon has enjoyed giving his ten new compositions unpronounceable (or almost unpronounceable) titles. An experience unlike any other. © MD/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 7, 2012 | Jagjaguwar

Booklet
When Sharon Van Etten issued the ironically titled seven-song Epic in 2009, it stood in stark contrast to her 2007 debut, Because I Was in Love. On the latter record, she employed a full-on rock band, her songwriting gained a more defined precision, and her singing voice -- even at its most vulnerable -- seemed to speak with a confidence that didn't seem to need any frame of reference other than its own. Tramp is titled for the period of post-relationship uncertainty and the period of homelessness Van Etten experienced during its 14-month recording process. Produced by the National's Aaron Dessner, who puts the songwriter's fine singing voice front and center, it features guest appearances by Zach Condon, Julianna Barwick, and more. "Warsaw," with its jagged electric guitars, bass, halting keyboards, and primitive, tom-tom heavy drums, is a shambling illustration of what's to be found here. Van Etten's protagonist is still vulnerable, but she wills herself toward a horizon past it. Likewise, the set's first single "Serpents," with its rumbling guitars and cracking snares, frankly discusses being physically and emotionally abused, but it comes from the other side, her protagonist is out of the situation, refusing to be a victim. Jenn Wassner's backing vocals in every line transform this into an anthem of survival. Not everything here falls down the rock & roll rabbit hole, however. Acoustically driven ballads such as "Kevin's," "All I Can," and "Leonard" highlight her subject's character defects and vulnerabilities as well as those of her significant other's. Van Etten's lyrics accuse as much as they confess and empathize. More often than not, her subject is the one who leaves, rather than the one left; the reasons are myriad: betrayal, co-dependency, a willingness toward an emotional freedom that allows love itself to dictate what it expects. There is great beauty on Tramp, especially in its last third; from the jaunty, acoustic stroll of "We Are Fine" to the multi-textured, nearly psych-pop of "I'm Wrong," to the airy, drifting closer "Joke or a Lie." For all this, Van Etten skirts the edges of giving us a great album without actually delivering one. Perhaps it's the exhaustive, confessional nature of its songs, its reliance on three basic melodic ideas, or even its length. Whatever the reason(s), Tramp doesn't quite fulfill its considerable promise. But this isn't a criticism; Van Etten is still a young, developing songwriter who gets more sophisticated with each album. As such, Tramp offers plenty for listeners to enjoy as she goes. ~ Thom Jurek
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 27, 2014 | Jagjaguwar

Brooklyn singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten's transfixing voice and often heart-wrenching songs come through in an odd mixture of pain and flourishing inspiration on the best moments of her fourth album, Are We There. The album, produced by Van Etten herself with some help from New York-based producer Stewart Lerman (Elvis Costello, Sophie B. Hawkins), follows her 2012 outing Tramp and trades up on some of the crushed indie templates of that album for new stylistic territory. From her first hushed demo-like recordings, Van Etten's songs have more often than not found their lyrical core stemming from painful relationships and hard times, culminating in Tramp's tales of homelessness, uncertainty, and desperation. Are We There's 11 selections also mine her harrowed heart for inspiration, be it the slow-burning portrait of a toxic love/hate romance in "Your Love Is Killing Me" or the obsessed fixation on an absent lover in "Break Me." While there's still a fair amount of heartbreak and pain in the subject matter of the songs, the folky strums and indie rock clatter of Tramp and earlier records have been expanded upon with more inventive musical approaches, leaving the album feeling much brighter, even in its darkest moments. "Taking Chances" is guided by an unexpectedly slinking bassline and minimal drum machine clicks, Van Etten's voice melting like honey over their laid-back foundations before introducing rawkus guitars on the chorus. Similar instrumentation shows up on "Our Love," a steady drum machine and lonely organ drone setting the stage for the brilliantly arranged multi-tracked harmonies and an indie take on the sophisticated tones of '80s quiet storm R&B. Even when tending toward more familiar rock sounds, the arrangements on Are We There are more considered, colorful, and ornate than ever before. Where previous albums felt a little too anchored to Van Etten's samey guitar changes, here tracks like "Tarifa" explode with sure-footed horn sections, nostalgic Hammond organ, and spirals of anthemic vocal harmonies. Quieter songs like "I Know" and "I Love You But I'm Lost" are driven by piano, leaving lots of space for the vocals to soar, while the cinematic textures and haunted guitar twang of "You Know Me Well" could almost draw comparisons to Lana Del Rey in her more Twin Peaks moments. The more inventive arrangements and advances in songwriting are an undeniable step forward for Van Etten. While still immersed in songs of emotional ravagement and betrayal, the confidence of her performances and spectrum of sounds represented here suggest a complete graduation from troubled, uncertain roots into a place where she can deliver her songs with a powerful, borderless command. ~ Fred Thomas
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 9, 2008 | Jagjaguwar

Okkervil River's 2007 almost-masterpiece Stage Names presented a vivid dissection of the "Silver Screen," both literally and metaphorically as filtered through the crowded, cerebral library of bandleader (and one-time film student) Will Sheff. 2008's Stand Ins doesn't just complement Stage Names (which was originally conceived as a two-disc package), it completes it. Opening with the first of three mini-instrumentals that sound like a mash-up of Bill Frisell's Nashville and Radiohead's Kid A, Stand Ins revisits many of the central themes (loneliness, failure, hero worship, and broken love) that bounced around the set of Stage Names. Songs like "Lost Coastlines" (a duet with former member and current Shearwater main man Jonathan Meiburg), with its Motown bassline, copious "la, la, la's," and "Old West" horn section, "Blue Tulip" with its slow-burn build and explosive finale, and "Singer Songwriter" with its lament that "This thing you once did might have dazzled the kids/but the kids once grown up are going to walk away" are all instant Okkervil classics, but it's the nearly six-minute closer that seals the deal. Like "John Allyn Smith Sails," Stage Names' ode to doomed poet John Berryman, "Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed on the Roof of the Chelsea Hotel, 1979," a tribute to gay glam rock icon Jobriath, who was adored and then devoured by the press in the mid-'70s before dying of AIDS in 1983 a poor lounge act, presents its subject as tragic, misunderstood, and buried beneath the weight of his accomplishments. It's a subject that suits Sheff's writing style well, flowing out like an Americana version of something off of Scott Walker's self-penned fourth album. Stand Ins glows a little less bright than its predecessor, but it shines nonetheless. There may be nothing as immediately satisfying as "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe," "Plus Ones," or "Girl in Port," but it offers a more streamlined ride than Stage Names, wasting very little time trying to squeeze every last bit of scarlet pulp from the blood orange. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 21, 2011 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 19, 2008 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 18, 2014 | Jagjaguwar

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 2018 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released December 5, 2006 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 22, 2017 | Jagjaguwar

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
The singular talents of Moses Sumney were already apparent in a couple of early EPs and guest spots with Solange and Sufjan Stevens, but his stellar debut album, Aromanticism, still comes as a slow-motion shock. First of all there is his concept of "aromantic," defined by Sumney as someone incapable of experiencing romantic love, coupled with the struggle to fit into a world where love is almost an imposition and its negation an aberration. Unsurprisingly for an era so obsessed with body politics, most of the commentary surrounding this critically acclaimed album tended to focus on Sumney's manifesto, conveniently ignoring that many before Sumney have been suspicious about the commodification of romance, for instance political art rock bands such as Gang of Four or the whole straight-edge hardcore movement. What is different here, and the main reason Aromanticism is such a beguiling record, is the tension between content and form. While the bands mentioned above took pains to create music as unromantic as possible, Sumney's is explicitly sensual, his yearning for detachment as convincing as Al Green's or Maxwell's longing for the polar opposite. Juxtaposition lies at the very fabric of these tracks, which contrast spacious, spectral electronic textures against lush organic sounds such as harp, guitar, and strings. Furthermore, while most of the record keeps to a chill downtempo, climax and release occur at key moments in the shape of sudden bursts of acceleration and volume, most noticeably on the coda to the album's centerpiece, "Lonely World." As meticulously impressive as the arrangements are, everything takes a back seat to Sumney's heavenly falsetto surrounded by a swirling spiral of his own background vocals. This is no small weapon: not since Antony has a voice evoked such wonder. The results are startling and difficult to categorize (groove ambient music? art soul?), and nonetheless uniformly exceptional. Aromanticism may have developed from a peculiar and attention-grabbing concept, but it ultimately triumphs on account of the utterly original and exquisite craft of its productions and performances. The sterling list of collaborators includes fellow sonic adventurers such as Thundercat, Paris Strother (King), Matt Otto (Majical Cloudz), Ian Chang (Son Lux), and Nicole Miglis (Hundred Waters). ~ Mariano Prunes
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Soul - Released August 16, 2017 | Jagjaguwar

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Before it was given a proper showcase on this debut solo album, the voice of Jamila Woods was heard fronting the "adventure soul" of Milo & Otis and supporting tracks by fellow Chicago artists including Chance the Rapper, Saba, Donnie Trumpet, and Kweku Collins. In early 2016, Woods helped close out Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "White Privilege II," courageous enough to assert "Your silence is a luxury" at the pair's overwhelmingly white fan base. Around the time that song came out, Woods released her own "Blk Grl Soldier." A muscular Jus Cuz production served as the backdrop for a characteristically soft and sweetly melodic vocal, rich in pride and fortitude, with substance packed into each line: "Look at what they did to my sisters -- last century, last week/They make her hate her own skin, treat her like a sin/They love how it repeats." Months later, the perseverance anthem appeared smack in the middle of the sanguine HEAVN. On the title song, Woods floats over a rolling groove, quoting the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" and then twisting it a bit, beaming "I don't wanna run away with you/I wanna live our life right here." She later sings "I don't belong here" and "I'm an alien from inner space" in "Way Up," and dreams of leaving this planet in "Stellar," but Woods otherwise isn't one to promote escapism, not when she's sustained by friends, family, and fellow musicians -- including most of the above-mentioned -- who inspired and/or helped create this album. Some moments regard an intimate relationship and independence, occasionally both at once, like when she affirms "Nobody completes me" in "Holy." A larger portion concerns communal matters like survival, resistance, sisterhood, and how to thrive in conditions designed to perpetuate oppression. The resolutely nurturing and buoyant qualities make it easy to miss out on some of the wisdom and stirring lines such as "Grandma loved granddaddy even after he forgot our names," related over Nico Segal's trumpet and the kaleidoscopic swirl of Stereolab's "The Flower Called Nowhere." Originally a digital-only release from Closed Sessions, HEAVN was expanded and reissued a year later by Jagjaguwar, made available on physical formats with a track list that added six interludes and a thick reprise of "Holy." The interludes, especially the one in which children recite an Assata Shakur quote -- inserted as a brilliant setup for "Blk Grl Soldier" -- are not extraneous. ~ Andy Kellman
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 6, 2018 | Jagjaguwar

Hi-Res
If Ruban Nielson were an animal, he'd most certainly be an octopus, due to his many-limbed approach to music and his ability to squeeze into the narrow spaces between genres. Sex & Food finds Nielson and Unknown Mortal Orchestra displaying the same versatility, albeit with the rounded edge of Multi-Love traded in for a spikier fourth album. Nielson has always been hard to pin down; he operates on the fringes of certain genres, leaning in to borrow ideas but warping them enough that they would feel out of place side by side with their influences. The record touches on many of his trademark styles, including folk, R&B, and funk, but adds a dose of riff-centric rock. However, while it's true that he can weld both the loud and quiet ends of the spectrum, it's still his softer side that shines brightest. The fuzzier approach heard on "Major League Chemicals" and "American Guilt" is degraded and grating by design, obfuscating the all-out nature of both tracks. This is rectified by the time "Hunnybee" rolls around -- the first major highlight -- which manages to take a softer approach yet includes a standout guitar solo. The soft guitar prevails throughout "Chronos Feast on His Children," highlighting Nielson's penchant for contrast, as it leads directly into "American Guilt" with all its scuzz and vigor. Multi-Love included a handful of funkier cuts, but here it falls to "Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays" to remind you that this specific side of his songwriting hasn't faded entirely; the same can be said for the R&B-skimming "Not in Love We're Just High." It's hard to fault the album overall; even though there's a trend for magpie-esque records, Sex & Food still has an instantly identifiable sound. It may not reach the peaks of the Orchestra's previous album but it's stuffed with ideas and proves that Nielson's consistently shifting tone finds creative strength where others might stretch themselves too thin. ~ Liam Martin
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 10, 2017 | Jagjaguwar

One year after the release of her superb My Woman, Angel Olsen opens her treasure chest with this collection of B sides, demos and unpublished rarities. Twelve tracks dug up from seven years of recordings, among which we find Special, an original piece from the My Woman sessions, or even the luscious Fly On Your Wall, escaped from the Our First 100 Days project. Even if all this isn’t as invaluable as the "real" records from the Missouri native such as My Woman or Burn Your Fire For No Witness which came out in 2014, this true-false compilation remains an essential piece in the mega puzzle of Angel Olsen, goddess of indie folk mottled with grunge, Americana and vintage sounds… © MD/Qobuz
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II

Alternative & Indie - Released February 5, 2013 | Jagjaguwar

Booklet
For his dense, mellow second album, Ruban Nielson continues to challenge himself and his audience by working within the detailed sonic framework crafted on Unknown Mortal Orchestra's 2011 debut. Like on Nielson's first outing, the songs are a hodgepodge of collaged headphone candy, revolving around his childlike vocals, wonder, and multi-layered production, but here, lighthearted pop melodies are obscured by a melancholy tone. There are hooks, but they are not quite as obvious. This can be a good thing, however. Even if II is not as sunny, fun, or simple, Nielson wears the badge of maturity well and doesn't fall prey to typical sophomore pitfalls or lose track of his original psychedelic vision. It's reassuring to find that even after signing to Jagjaguwar, the album still feels like a bedroom studio creation, because his most endearing quality is his creative craftsmanship, and it shines. Each song is carefully and imaginatively put together, with nothing excessive to tarnish the clean lines of the songwriting or arrangements. This is especially impressive considering that on this album, Unknown Mortal Orchestra use a wider spread of sounds, and additional instrumentation is added by members of the touring band. Hip-hop breakbeats acted as the backbone for nearly all of the early material, so adding live drums changes the dynamic, but never seems to complicate matters. Instead, it provides a sense of movement that allows Nielson to show off his guitar playing, which is never showy but is extremely clever; rotating from apt funk riffs, to prog scales, to fingerpicking. From the opening moments of the trippy, lo-fi intro "From the Sun" all the way to the funky-as-a-Hendrix-ballad closer "Secret Xtians," II takes risks and achieves greatness. ~ Jason Lymangrover