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"Marc Riordan recently released Binoculars, a quartet album featuring drummer Tim Daisy, bassist Daniel Thatcher, and New York alto saxophonist Peter Hanson (a member of Jason Ajemian's High Life); it's dominated by original postbop tunes that do little to disguise their debt to Thelonious Monk (whose obscure 'A Merrier Christmas' gets a brisk reading), Herbie Nichols, and to a lesser extent early Cecil Taylor," I write this week. But though Riordan is usually a drummer, he leads the band from the piano. "The group is sober and rigorous yet buoyant, shaping Riordan's skittering melodies with a precision he can't quite match at the piano. Like bassist Charles Mingus, who released a 1963 solo album called Mingus Plays Piano, Riordan is a good but not great pianist—but he understands his strengths, and plays with an insistent drive and infectiously stammery phrasing."
"Sleeping Bag lovingly coat their guitars in tremolo, which gives their messy, slightly off-the-beat songs plenty of warmth; 'Slime' and 'Ben' feel so effortless that I wouldn't be surprised if the band had recorded them between long naps on a carefree afternoon," writes Leor Galil. Their self-titled debut "is an album you can crawl into on a lazy day and enjoy for hours."
"This leather-clad French duo's 2007 'Cross' album was thick with musical references, both obscure (Chicago ghetto house, 70s Italo-horror group Goblin) and not (heavy metal, Daft Punk, Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson)," writes Miles Raymer. "As unique as the band's sound was at the time, it proved easily replicable, and they quickly spawned a legion of imitators. So it wasn't surprising that for last year's Audio, Video, Disco Justice would take a few steps away from it. It's too bad that more listeners didn't follow them—by dialing up the influence of European proto-prog and Krautrock while keeping the heavy-metal disco-pop appeal of 'Cross' intact, they ended up producing one of 2011's most satisfying albums, as well one of its most tragically overlooked."
"It's not common for bands who've broken up, gone on hiatus for more than a decade, and then re-formed to surpass their younger selves dramatically the second time around," writes Monica Kendrick. "But if you can listen to all of Swans' new two-hour opus, The Seer, and not recognize it as their best album ever, you might have your nostalgia goggles on too tight."
photo: Amelie Sjöstrand Gereholt