New releases from Bon Iver, Allyson Seconds and Jenny Hval 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Bon Iver
  • Bon Iver

Bon Iver

22, A Million


File next to: Father John Misty, Odd Future

Justin Vernon wants to make sure he rarely repeats the falsetto folkie style for which his Wisconsin- and Carolina-based band became known in 2007. For this third Bon Iver album, that means plunging deep into numerology and an electronically modified sound suggesting Imogen Heap and psychedelic hip-hop. The 10 brief tracks on 22, A Million are fascinating, if nearly indecipherable, with only the occasional folk refrain emerging from a background of apocalyptic warning signs. Detailed liner notes and lyrical clues save the album from being altogether puzzling on a lyrical level, as Vernon references Biblical psalms and literary works in complex tracks like "666" and "33." The band remains virtually the same as in its last outing, but is employed for found sounds unlike anything Vernon has attempted before. How fans will respond is anyone's guess, but at least it's an odd move forward. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Allyson Seconds
  • Allyson Seconds

Allyson Seconds

Little World


File next to: Anton Barbeau, Corner Laughers

Pop music has long included engaging artists who don't write their own material. After all, Frank Sinatra never wrote a song in his life, and Linda Ronstadt's long and successful career was built in large part upon her canny choice of material. So Sacramento pop vocalist Allyson Seconds is in very good company. On Seconds', um, second album Little World, she's chosen to work with hometown artist Anton Barbeau — who serves as producer, musician and songwriter of all 11 tracks. Barbeau has collected a clutch of ear-candy melodies. With the help of associates including The Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman, former XTC bassist Colin Moulding, Soft Boys' Kimberley Rew, and the Corner Laughers' Karla Kane, he succeeds in helping a decidedly pop-leaning artist imbue her album with serious, edgy alterna-rock credibility. The fact that Seconds possesses a lovely voice of her own helps matters no end. — BK

click to enlarge Jenny Hval
  • Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval

Blood Bitch

Sacred Bones Records

File next to: Nico, Circuit des Yeux, Kate Bush

While much of Jenny Hval's work has gotten her classified as an art-punk purveyor, on Blood Bitch she wanders closer to the realm of ethereal ritual. Her second U.S. release in less than a year, it contains echoes of everyone from Marissa Nadler to Kate Bush. Lyrically, Hval is clearly obsessed with bloodshed, whether caused by vampires, menstrual cycles or violence. The intention of the Oslo-based experimental musician may not always be clear, but the music is more hushed and sacred than it is outrageous, with the track "The Plague" a standout masterpiece. Last year's Apocalypse, Girl was a strident ode to sexuality that suggested a punkier version of Laurie Anderson's more transcendental moments. Taken together, the two albums reveal the eclecticism of an artist who has continued to grow with each new release. — LW


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