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Every month, Utne Reader presents free, downloadable music gleaned from current and upcoming releases on independent music labels. This sampler was curated by editor in chief Christian Williams and associate editor Ben Sauder.

May 2016

Supermoon – “Bottleships”

When the garage rock group Movieland broke up and a jangle-pop band called Pups did the same, some of the ex-members combined their musical influences and started a new project. The result is Supermoon. The Vancouver-based band consists of multi-instrumentalists Adrienne LaBelle and Alie Lynch, guitarist Katie Gravestock, and drummer Selina Crammond. After debuting with the EP Comet Lovejoy last year, the group is following up with Playland. Speaking about the upcoming release, Crammond says, “We’ve been honing our collaborative songwriting technique to create a more intimate musical space.” Here is the lead single “Bottleships.” Playland is out May 17th on Mint Records.

Kaia Kater – “Saint Elizabeth”

Long defined by white musicians, American folk music is now being revitalized by a younger generation of black artists like Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons, and Kaia Kater who have their own powerful stories to tell. Born of Afro-Caribbean descent in Quebec, raised in the tradition of Canadian folk music, and studied in Appalachian music of West Virginia, Kaia Kater melds these influences together on her new album, Nine Pin.  On the opening track “Saint Elizabeth,” Kater sings in her low tenor voice over a repeating and meditative banjo line, “I am slave to your land / I will die by your hand, Elizabeth.” By the song’s end, the emotional weight is built to a peak with layered backup vocals, trumpet, bass, electric guitar and a slap percussion. Nine Pin is out May 13th on Kingswood Records.

Idris Ackamoor - “We Be All Africans”

West coast avant-garde jazz aficionados will likely recognize the name Idris Ackamoor. The alto saxophonist founded the influential intergalactic jazz-funk-fusion band the Pyramids in the early 1970s, which released three well-received albums and toured Europe and Africa before disbanding in 1977. For the next 30 years, the band ascended to cult status among vinyl collectors and jazz fans and responded by regrouping to release a new album of material in 2012. Their latest album, We Be All Africans, is another top-notch effort from a band that seamlessly melds a variety of influences picked up over four decades of playing music together around the world. The harmony of various musical ideas on the new album fits well with the purpose that Ackamoor applies to his music: “We Be All Africans is a message of survival. A message of renewal. A message that we are all brothers and sisters. We are all one family, the human family and we need one another in order to survive on this planet that we all share.” Here’s the title track from We Be All Africans, out May 27 on Strut Records.

Misha – “Blood Is Hard Enough”

After an 8 year hiatus, Misha is back with the release of their second album, All We Will Become. Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter John Chao began work on the new album following a breakup with his partner and former bandmate. Due to the circumstances, the Buddhist themes of reincarnation and renewal can be found throughout the work. All We Will Become not only marks a rebirth for Misha, but for the record label TOMLAB as well. The Berlin label known for releasing records by The Books, The Oh Sees, and Casiotone will celebrate their first release since 2008. Here is the waltzy and lushly orchestrated “Blood Is Hard Enough.” All We Will Become is out May 20 on TOMLAB.

Marissa Nadler - “Janie in Love”

Marissa Nadler’s music has always occupied the darker corners of the modern singer-songwriter genre since her first album studio album, Ballads of Living and Dying, in 2004. That first album and the others that followed often involved Nadler mining her own emotions for minimalist folk songs that generally featured just her striking voice over finger-picked guitar. Over time, Nadler has expanded both her source material and the sounds employed to deliver her gothic tales, which has elevated her music to another sonic level. On her latest release, Strangers, Nadler’s melancholy vibrato is still the focal point, but is complemented perfectly by an apocalyptic soundscape that matches the lyrics. Here’s “Janie in Love” off Strangers, out May 20 on Sacred Bones.

Attic Abasement – “Guarantee Jesus”

Since 2006, Rochester-based musician Mike Rheinheimer has recorded and performed as Attic Abasement with an ever-changing cast of bandmates (no fewer than 14 members throughout the decade). Despite the evolving line-up, the band has put out a steady stream of releases, the majority of which have been home recorded and self-released. For their latest album, Dream News, Attic Abasement recorded with producer/engineer Chris Daly at Salvation Recording Co. On “Guarantee Jesus,” the relaxed and rolling guitars back the nostalgic, Pavement-esque vocals. Dream News is out May 27th on Father/Daughter Records.

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