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New releases from The Besnard Lakes, Grizfolk, and James Joyce(!) 

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click to enlarge Finnegans Wake Set to Music, Unabridged
  • Finnegans Wake Set to Music, Unabridged

Various Artists

Finnegans Wake Set to Music, Unabridged

waywordsandmeansigns.com

File next to: Negativland, Tape-beatles, Firesign Theater

Anyone lamenting the demise of sound collages will find solace in this epic homage to the legendary James Joyce. A coalition of universities has posted two full readings of his inscrutable Finnegans Wake online for free, comprising 70 hours of interpretations from artists as diverse as Mike Watt and Neil Campbell. Whether it's the Zappaesque riffs of Mr. Smolin, raucous sing-alongs from Steve Gregoropoulos, or the a cappella croonings of Lizzy Longo, these offerings prove unique and astonishing. The more massive aural assaults mirror Joyce's likely intentions, but it's often the simple works, like Graziano Galati's EDM-influenced sonic brushstrokes, that connect emotionally. This may be the musical/literary event of the decade, although listening to all 70 hours could leave you like Neil Campbell, muttering like a schizophrenic trapped in an attic. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Grizfolk
  • Grizfolk

Grizfolk

Waking Up the Giants

Virgin Records

File next to: Coldplay, The Mary Onettes, thenewno2

Swedish acts from across the musical spectrum have been making critical (and sometimes commercial) inroads into the North American market lately. Although Grizfolk are now based in L.A., the alternative-rock group's Scandinavian roots still shine through. Waking Up the Giants takes the modern pop vibe of fellow Swedes The Mary Onettes, adds a dollop of ABBA melodic sensibility, and puts it all on a solid pop-rock foundation. Although this is their first full album, Grizfolk have never been slackers: In 21/2 years, they've released a trio of EPs and ventured out on 12 separate mini-tours. Waking Up the Giants does recycle some previous material, but if it takes multiple reissues to bring music this appealing to a wider audience, there's no shame in that. Factor in a heavy touring schedule, and Grizfolk might just capture the U.S. fan base they deserve. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge The Besnard Lakes
  • The Besnard Lakes

The Besnard Lakes

A Coliseum Complex Museum

Jagjaguwar

File next to: Flaming Lips, Polyphonic Spree, Rain Parade

Long song titles, albums with epic names, and a gauzy space-rock vibe are the hallmarks of this Montréal group, newly expanded to a six-piece. The Besnard Lakes were last heard from on a 2015 EP, Golden Lion, whose title track is repeated on A Coliseum Complex Museum. The group's fifth album, it finds them continuing to hone and refine their impressionistic sonic approach. That effort does result in a slight lack of variety; put another way, if you like album opener "The Bray Road Beast," you'll dig the seven tunes that follow it. Like label-mates Black Mountain, they craft a sound that's equal parts distant reserve and swirling, psychedelic stew. With creaky, slightly out-of-tune Mellotrons (is there any other kind?) and chugging rhythms that evoke both '80s Paisley Underground and Yellow Submarine-era Beatles, this is the band's most wide-screen, technicolor album to date. — Bill Kopp

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