Critic’s Picks: La Sera, Black Joe Louis, Wye Oak, and Julianna Barwick

What I’m listening to: 4 hot new tracks.


“Never Come Around”

TRACK 2

from La Sera’s La Sera (Hardly Art)

Liner notes: Phil Spector meets The Byrds in a rock-and-roll dive bar as shimmering female voices, crashing drums, and chiming guitars intertwine to create two minutes of pop heaven.

Behind the music: La Sera is a side project of Brooklyn’s Katy Goodman, a.k.a. Vivian Girls bassist Kickball Katy, who also took part in the short-lived group All Saints Day last year. This latest extracurricular venture subtracts the dissonance from the blurry garage noise of the Girls for a sweeter kind of escapism.

Check it out if you like: Girl-group pioneers like The Chantels and Ronettes, or modern-day descendants like Best Coast and Frankie Rose and the Outs.
 

“You Been Lyin'”

TRACK 8

from Black Joe Lewis & the HoneybearsScandalous (Lost Highway)

Liner notes: Old-school R&B conventions get an incendiary jolt on this blazing garage-soul raveup as Austin, Texas, belter Lewis delivers a furious performance that suggests Stevie Wonder jamming with Sly and the Family Stone.

Behind the music: Produced by Spoon drummer Jim Eno, the aptly named Scandalous is a rowdy and sometimes R-rated set ranging from primal Delta blues to driving funk attacks. Though they could pass for a veteran act, Lewis & the Honeybears joined forces just four years ago, when Black Joe was booked to open for Little Richard and needed a band on short notice.

Check it out if you like: Modern soul believers (Sharon Jones, Kings Go Forth) and their touchstones (James Brown, Otis Redding).

 

“Two Small Deaths”

TRACK 1

from Wye Oak’s Civilian (Merge)

Liner notes: “I’m saving up all my strength for when I finally fail at keeping you safe,” murmurs Jenn Wasner to a gently pulsing beat in this gorgeous meditation on mortality. She composed the lyrics a few hours after learning of the murder of a distant relative and the passing of power-pop hero Alex Chilton on the same day last March.

Behind the music: Originally known as Monarch, the Baltimore psychedelic folk duo of Wasner and multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack later became Wye Oak, taking their name from a massive 96-foot Maryland white oak that collapsed in a 2002 thunderstorm.

Check it out if you like: Offbeat variations on familiar roots genres, including the music of Lambchop, St. Vincent, and Sharon Van Etten.
 

 “White Flag”

TRACK 5

from Julianna Barwick’s Magic Place (Asthmatic Kitty)

Liner notes: This luminous track is best experienced as one movement of an album-length piece devoted primarily to a cappella singing, with occasional sparse instrumentation. Featuring endless overdubs of Barwick’s wordless, angelic vocals, it’s eerie, soothing, and thought-provoking—like New Age music with substance.

Behind the music: Also taking an arboreal bent, the Louisiana-bred, Brooklyn-based Barwick named her breathtaking work after a hollowed-out kid-friendly tree on the farm where she grew up. Following two self-released projects, she’s joined kindred spirit Sufjan Stevens‘ label.

Check it out if you like: Brian Eno’s ambient works, old-fashioned church hymns, and The Beach Boys‘ spiritual side.

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LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

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