Sigur Rós – Valtari
I’m not sure why I bought this album on CD. I can listen to it at home on Spotify if I want to (yes, I subscribe) while in the car, it literally lulls me into a sleepy trance. Say what you will about Sigur Rós, but that’s not really what I want out of listening to them. A college roommate of mine used to listen to Ágætis byrjun while falling asleep. Unfortunately for me (or fortunately, whatever), it was so compelling that it would keep me awake. For me, it was engaging in a way that their music just isn’t anymore. There’s some really good moments on this album. In fact, the whole first side is full of surprises and those great emotional swells that the band is capable in ways that all their “post-rock” followers are only capable of imitating. But the rest of the record is beautiful background music, at best. I don’t feel much of an urge to put this on right now and I’m having trouble imagining when I’ll feel otherwise.

Windy and Carl – We Will Always Be
At this point W&C aren’t doing much to vary their sound, so if you were on board before this or even enjoy their earliest stuff, chances are you’ll like this. There’s an acoustic jam up front that invites the listener in, but after that it’s a series of spaced-out but warm dronings that recall some of their best work. This was a good soundtrack for summer stargazing and it’s spacious soundscapes are also just right as the cold air creeps in and the seasons change. The flower on the cover is appropriate; this is not another “trip into the void” album of tuneless psychedelic droning, but an organic album that lives and breathes.

Liturgy – Aesthetica
I don’t listen to much metal so I don’t know if I should be judging this album or not. But it’s something I’m working on. Hey, I listened to all of Reign in Blood yesterday! And I actually enjoyed it. So then there’s this record and wow, even I can tell why these guys are probably hated by all the “true” metalheads out there. Presumably, this is death metal, but it’s actually a pretty cheerful record. Maybe it has something to do with the key that all the songs are played in? I have no idea. I hate to overstate how “joyful” this all sounds but it’s pretty upbeat and positive, and I can see why that would rub some listeners of the metal scene the wrong way. Also, they sound a lot like Lightning Bolt, only with a more tonally pure focus. I really like this album. Also, I’m sure that the band would hate to read all this.

Flying Lotus – Pattern + Grid World
I’ve loved everything this guy has done until now. I was even onboard when 1983 was released! But I hate this EP. The songs have gotten too messy, with less structure than ever, with all his trademark sounds piling up in service of nothing. It’s not until the very end that something resembling the heights of Cosmogramma starts to emerge, but like that it’s over. This has to be a collection of outtakes from that album, otherwise I don’t see any reason for it to have been released.  Needless to say I’m a lot less excited about the new Flying Lotus album than I was before I heard this.

Mouse on Mars – Parastrophics
A long awaited album, for sure, one that feels like a split between the harsh noise of Radical Connector and the silliness of Niun Niggung. It has its moments but something feels off. No real standout track and a few clunkers (“They Know Your Name,” especially). I was hoping for a return to… any of the many things they used to do so well. They’re trying to supercharge their sound here but the structure feels stuck in mid 00’s limbo. I don’t want them to repeat themselves, only to make a more focused statement, or something like that.

Traxman – Da Mind of Traxman
I’m not saying I’ve heard a lot of them, but this is the best footwork album by a single artist that I’ve ever come across. Is this a genre that’s supposed to work in an album context? Are people supposed to sit at home and listen to this? As opposed to hearing it in its original context? I don’t know. The more that it does, the more that it’ll be absorbed by the white blogosphere (people like me, I guess). I just want it to stay underground and off the radar of Pitchfork and people like Girl Talk. Too late, I know. Get on this before hipsters ruin it!

The Orb feat. Lee “Scratch” Perry – The Observer in the Star House
I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Orb’s album with David Gilmore, so I was a little skeptical of yet another collaborative effort, even if it was with another musical legend. But this is a pairing that really works, and is a lot more fun. Perry’s vocals work well with the Orb’s production, and together it’s the best Orb album in at least ten years. Listen to the “Little Fluffy Clouds”-sampling “Golden Clouds” to get a taste.

Chromatics – Kill For Love
I loved the first Chromatics album, and Kill For Love begins on such a high note that I was sure it was going to surpass their older work. After a really good opening salvo of songs (a tremendous cover of “Into the Black,” the title track, “Back From the Grave”) it lapses into a stretch of tracks that don’t really go anywhere. There’s nothing as cool and chill as “In the City” or as textured and tense as their song from the Drive soundtrack. A lot of effort went into this monster of an album (91 minutes long!) but in the end it feels like a missed opportunity, or at least something that could have been paired down by a half hour or so.