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Chappo, Jenny Hval, and The Bad Plus 

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click to enlarge CHAPPO
  • Chappo

Chappo

Future Former Self

Votiv

File next to: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Tame Impala

If you're the kind of person who loved Flaming Lips' output circa Clouds Taste Metallic through Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but feel they went off the rails and/or ran out of ideas, check out Chappo. With a sound at times reminiscent of Tame Impala, Future Former Self wraps pop melodies in arrangements that touch on synth-rock, psych, garage and Apples in Stereo-styled chirpy pop. Seemingly disparate left-field elements like trip-hop percussion and wide-eyed psych-folk vocals combine seamlessly with ambitious arrangements that suggest an indie-rock rethink of Jellyfish. Funky/soulful guitars à la Beck are out front one moment, and the next thing you know, the melody's floating on a pillowy synthesizer bed. If you want an album with a definable "sound," look elsewhere. For adventure, look here. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge JENNY HVAL
  • Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval

Apocalypse, girl

Sacred Bones Records

File next to: Ibeyi, Braids

Over the course of five albums — two of them credited to "Rockettothesky" — Norwegian singer Jenny Hval has gradually transitioned from refined baroque-pop to a more erotic feminist didacticism. For Apocalypse, girl, she's assembled a broad collective of Oslo musicians that resembles a raunchy chamber orchestra as much as it does an experimental pop ensemble. And while Hval's repetitious chanting and wordplay sometimes recalls the wilder sides of P.J. Harvey or even Van Morrison, she's at her strongest in unadorned, direct statements like the closing "Holy Land," which conveys her discomfort with the U.S., as well as her fascination with its constant spiritual rebirth. In Apocalypse, girl's best moments, Hval's feminist experimentalism recalls Laurie Anderson's most unsettling work, which is no small accomplishment. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge THE BAD PLUS AND JOSHUA REDMAN
  • The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman

The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

Nonesuch

File next to: Dave Holland, Bill Frisell, Medeski Martin & Wood

Minneapolis trio The Bad Plus have developed a reputation for incorporating classical and rock themes into adventurous jazz suites. Here, they invite tenor sax legend Joshua Redman to join a session that weaves through nine complex numbers, including Redman-penned works like "Friend or Foe." Tracks like "Dirty Blonde" can be put on at parties without frightening guests, but there can be just as many hazards in playing it safe. Granted, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman is complex, intelligent and deserving of repeated listens. But while it succeeds in bringing some measure of adventure back into the jazz realm, it's clear the four musicians hew closer to the mellifluous style of Jack DeJohnette's ECM recordings than the more fearless approach that once characterized the genre. Ornette Coleman, you're already missed. — Loring Wirbel

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