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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Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

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It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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