The New Regime: Johnny Flynn & Laura Marling

For songwriters with such a precise way with words, Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling are all over the map these days. “I feel really connected to all the places that I’ve been and the images and stories that I’ve picked up along the way,” says Flynn, originally from South Africa, who met his kindred spirit and touring mate Marling in London, after the Hampshire-raised beauty moved away from her home at the age of 16. “I forgave myself for being a kid,” she says of the songs on her Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, Alas I Cannot Swim, released after her eighteenth birthday, featuring her smoky, intoxicating alto. “Everything up until then had been a massive self-indulgence, very teenage.”

Today, Marling draws on classic literary canons — the Brontë sisters are among her favorite writers — and a long tradition of folk music. Flynn displayed an equally lithe and literary touch on his highly praised album, A Larum. Before making his mark as a songwriter, he performed in an all-male Shakespearean theater troupe. And even though the Bard continues to be an inspiration, Flynn performs anything but golden oldies. “We’re playing instruments that have been around for hundreds of years,” he says, “but I believe that you can be present in your relationship to the past. The sound of my music has to be contemporary.”

Photo: Isa Wipfli, at Bowery Ballroom

Music for October: Of Montreal to TV On The Radio

Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl). On their ninth studio album, these melodic misnomers from Athens, Georgia, continue to build upon their boffo brand of carnival pop. “Nonpareil of Favor” boils over with typical bubbly fare, anchored by frontman Kevin Barnes’s charming falsetto. On “For Our Elegant Caste,” an unexpected experiment in indie funk, Barnes lilts, “We can do it soft-core if you want, but you should know that I go both ways.” Similarly, “Gallery Piece” features lyrics like, “I want to hurt your pride, I want to slap your face, I want to paint your nails,” a perfectly bathetic trajectory for a perfectly contradictory band. —Nick Haramis

Deerhunter, Microcastle (Kranky). Has America finally found its very own Radiohead in Deerhunter? On their third album, this indie five-piece from Atlanta, Georgia coalesces ambition, experimentation and melody with a concision missing from previous releases. There’s as much ethereal post-punk noisemaking as ever, but honed into sharper songs: “Agoraphobia” could be a long-lost song by the Replacements, while “Nothing Ever Happened” rides an elegant krautrock rhythm majestically into the sunset. Frontman Bradford Cox proves as enigmatic and provocative as, well, Thom Yorke. —Matt Diehl

Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue (Warner Brothers). Album title aside, Jenny Lewis’s sophomore solo effort is guided by her honey-tinged voice. Still, her sharp songwriting supplies bite and introspection (“Acid Tongue”) in equal doses. Like her solo debut, 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat, Lewis’s preferred genre is soul, but the singer and her eclectic collaborators (Elvis Costello, Zooey Deschanel and boyfriend Johnathan Rice, among others) have also turned up the volume. “Jack Killed Mom” is a fiery, organ-led barnburner, while “The Next Messiah” churns along, changing course over nine jammy minutes—and here, Lewis sounds like she’s having more fun than ever. —Brian Orloff

Yo! Majesty, Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid (Domino). Finally, The L Word has its own Salt-N-Pepa. Actually, these Sapphic Floridian firestarters prove much tougher than that; in practice, their groove theory sounds mad, bad and dangerous. “I don’t give a damn what you say!” is the first line on this gloriously raunchy, raw dancefloor dirty bomb, and it sets the tone: throughout, MC’s Shunda K and Jwl. B put the “out” in outspoken over abrasive ’80s-style punk-funk, fashionable electro, grimy boom bap and crude crunk. —M.D.

Oasis, Dig Out Your Soul (Big Brother Recordings). O brothers, where art thou? Since their revolutionary debut, Definitely Maybe, and their inspired follow-up, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, the Gallagher fraternity has plagiarized itself into a palimpsest of irrelevance. And still, stalwart fans the world over wait with breath that is bated (and ultimately deflated) for something new, a flicker of earlier sonic friction. Unfortunately, these soggy rock tracks flounder with the immediacy of wilted arugula. Balladry and psychedelia are muddled together to lackluster effect. The best song of the bunch, “Waiting For the Rapture,” is solid enough, but quivers within the arms of the White Stripes, as if paralyzed by the band’s previous highs. —N.H.

Noah and the Whale, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down (Cherrytree). What would this Brit band be called had Noah Baumbach not made The Squid and the Whale? Noah at the Wedding, perhaps. Self-proclaimed Wes Anderson fanatics (he co-wrote the nautical navel-gazer), Charlie Fink and company emulate his oeuvre, a charming mise-en-scène, damage underneath. Peppy handclaps, cheerio whistles and backup vocals courtesy of Laura Marling can’t obscure lyrics like, “Wherever you go/ Whatever you do/ There’s a man underground/ Who will always love you.” But it’s not all morbid sheen. “5 Years Time” is a ukulele-driven summer-love hymn perfect for, well, a film by Wes Anderson. —Ben Barna

TV On The Radio, Dear Science (Interscope). The latest opus from these orchestral Brooklynites confirms that TV On the Radio are the maddest scientists in all of pop music, masters of sonic experimentation. From the opening Beach Boy doo-wop of “Halfway Home,” lead wailer Tunde Adebimpe goes track for track with Kyp Malone’s startling falsetto, which often ventures into the most unexpected of realms. Droning, distorted, lyrical, and pounding—and still, this is as catchy as art rock gets. —B.B.

Music for September: Brazilian Girls to Girl Talk

Brazilian Girls, New York City (Verve Forecast). As the title of their art-groovy third album suggests, Brazilian Girls make music for urban spaces: airports, nightclubs, deserted streets. The trio — only one of whom is female, and Italian — are residents of New York City but citizens of the world. There are songs here in four languages, about “St. Petersburg,” “Berlin” and a plethora of cities name-checked in “Internacional.” Riff genius, immaculate drummer and fashion diva: The Girls resemble Blondie more and more every year. And that’s a good thing. — Evelyn McDonnell

Girl Talk, Feed the Animals (Illegal Art). On his fourth album, Gregg “Girl Talk” Gillis, the math-pop master of layered remixes, multiplies his sonic equations to irksome effect. The tracks are too dense for their own good, despite outstanding moments: Avril Lavigne’s abysmal “Girlfriend” is apotheosized into a hip-hop anthem courtesy of Jay-Z’s big pimpin’, and M.I.A.’s politico wail suffuses the Cranberries’ plaintive “Dreams” with spark. The problem here is that Gillis seems a little precious about his gimmick, overheats his laptop and ultimately leaves listeners unable to fully appreciate his ingenious proofs. — Nick Haramis

The Verve, Forth (On Your Own). From the Pixies to the Stooges, rock has reunion fever, and now Britpop’s finest has joined the trend. On Forth, the Verve’s long-awaited fourth album, “Sit And Wonder” evokes the band’s early tribal psychedelia, while “Rather Be” suggests the soulful country-rock of Urban Hymns. “Love Is Noise,” meanwhile, is an anthem that would sound great bouncing off the rafters at Wembley. — Matt Diehl

Theresa Andersson, Hummingbird, Go! (Basin Street Records). If this album sounds homemade, that’s because it was recorded in Theresa Andersson’s kitchen. The Swedish-born, New Orleans-based singer-songwriter plays every instrument on her fourth solo outing — with some help from a loop pedal — accenting her textured tunes with naturalistic sounds (think fizzing soda bottles and buzzing locusts) and her airy alto. Like Feist’s more granola sister, she delicately traverses sentimental territory, cooking up lovely moments (the breezy, violin-flecked “Hi-Low”) and slow-burning songs (“The Waltz”) that slip under the skin and linger. — Brian Orloff

Amanda Palmer, Who Killed Amanda Palmer (Roadrunner Records). It takes resplendent levels of sneering self-possession to label one’s own music “Brechtian.” But the gloriously savage Amanda Palmer and her extravagant Dresden Dolls have persistently lived up to it. On her solo debut, she and her hard-bitten piano take us on another trip through a mine field of emotions backed by the machine gun, Teutonic glam rock she has so rigorously perfected. Yet the ultimate femme incomprise also pauses here for moments of stirring, elegiac beauty and vulnerability. — Ken Scrudato

Solange, SoL-AngeL and The Hadley Street Dreams (Geffen). Solange Knowles’s sophomore album is an intrepid leap out from underneath her big sister’s shadow, a ballsy throwback record that reaches out into the future. The soul-baring opener “God Given Name” could be a lost Zero Seven track, “6 O’Clock Blues” is her winning ride on the Ronson train, and second single “Sandcastle Disco” is a beachy toe-tapper. All this, plus Boards of Canada produce “This Bird,” an intoxicated declaration of independence.— Ben Barna
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Eyeing Alison Goldfrapp


Alison Goldfrapp is retiring glitter and stepping off the dance floor—at least for now. After 2006’s lusty breakthrough Supernature, the British chanteuse, who records as Goldfrapp with musical partner Will Gregory, was poised to sex-up the electronic music scene. Instead, she explains from a Paris hotel, she discovered acoustic guitars and even a 17th century harp, which decorates the shimmery “Road to Somewhere” on Seventh Tree, the band’s lovely, hazy fourth album. Surprising? Not exactly, for a band that has both mined burbling electronics and icy, cinematic canvases over the course of three disparate albums. This time, “we wanted to do something more intimate—with more warmth,” Goldfrapp explains about the sonic shift. It’s a stylistic departure, sure, but Seventh Tree is as stylized as anything Goldfrapp has recorded.

BLACKBOOK: This is a very sensual record. Do you think about projecting a sexual image when you’re performing?

ALISON GOLDFRAPP: I don’t think about very much while I’m singing apart from going into as much of a zen-like space as I can. But because [the sound] is more intimate—and more obviously personal—the music is more delicate. On that level, it becomes quite sensual because the voice is close to the microphone.

BB: You’ve said images really inspire your songwriting. For this album, you’ve adopted circus imagery. Where did that come from? AG: It came out of one of the songs being called “Clowns.” They’re still a fascination for a lot of artists. [But] it’s more a harlequin image that I used. There’s a certain mystique about a harlequin and the idea they can be very throwaway or trivial but also quite cunning. Playful, but in a melancholic way.


BB: Will you carry out that motif stylistically? AG: I don’t think so. I just get little obsessions with things but usually get bored of them. I’m feeling quite understated at the moment in terms of my appearance. On an everyday basis, I’m quite lazy.

BB: Are you a fashion icon?

AG: No. Other people do [think so], though, apparently. I see people on the street who look like they’re far more interested in fashion than me.

BB: Do you associate your fashion choices with your music? Do they work in tandem?

AG: For me, the imagery and dressing up all come into play when we’re playing live. It’s another expression of the music, rather than being particularly interested in fashion—although, I am interested in fashion.

BB: Is there some look that’s exciting you now?

AG: Long socks—thick wool ones that keep my legs warm. And slippers.