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New releases from Conor Oberst, Glass Animals, and SSHH

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Conor Oberst
  • Conor Oberst

Conor Oberst

Ruminations

Nonesuch

File next to: Jim James, Nick Cave

It may sound strange to hear Ruminations referred to as Conor Oberst's first solo album, given the sessions the Omaha founder of Saddle Creek Records performed with the Mystic Valley Band. But this minimalist work of 10 tracks features only Oberst, the equivalent of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. It was evident in Oberst's Colorado appearance in August that the founder of Bright Eyes was using a drunk, raucous persona to cover an emptiness as weighty as recent Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen works. Tracks like "Tachycardia" and "Counting Sheep" reference Oberst's health problems, while the accusatory "You All Loved Him Once" suggests societal problems are related less to demagogues than to those who support them. While Oberst seems happy enough back in Omaha with his wife Corina, Ruminations is a stark and gloomy album that goes far beyond dark. — LW

SSHH
  • SSHH

SSHH

Issues

Pledgemusic

File next to: Pretenders, Transvision Vamp

Zak Starkey has already had a fascinating career. The son of Ringo Starr was given drum lessons by "uncle" Keith Moon, made a great, hard-to-find album with power-pop hero Will Owsley, drummed with Oasis and eventually took Moon's seat as drummer for the Who. But none of that hinted at his latest project: a new band, SSHH, with longtime girlfriend Sshh Liguz. Here, Starkey leaves the drum kit behind; he plays guitar and Sshh sings. Cleverly on this album of 11 covers, the duo enlists (whenever possible) the rhythm sections that recorded the originals. Highlights on this idiosyncratic album include "Problems" (with Sex Pistols' Paul Cook and Glen Matlock), "All the Young Dudes" (featuring Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs), and Primal Scream's "Shoot Speed Kill Light" (with Darren Moonie and Simone Butler). Profits from sales go to the Teenage Cancer Trust charity. — BK

Glass Animals
  • Glass Animals

Glass Animals

How to Be a Human Being

Harvest Records

File next to: clouddead, alt-J, Yeasayer

When Oxford band Glass Animals released their debut album in 2014, several vocal-electronica acts like Two-Door Cinema Club were trodding the same falsetto be-bop territory. But where the latter band dove into 1977 disco in its disappointing Gameshow album, Glass Animals find a clever, brilliant mix of electronic R&B and oddball trip-hop on How to Be a Human Being that sounds as if clouddead was covering a Motown back catalog. Frontman Dave Bayley, a former neuroscientist, designed each track as a character study of a particular human archetype. It's hard to categorize tracks like "Season 2 Episode 3" and "Mama's Gun," except to say that any individual song would make for a fine dance track, yet the album as a whole constitutes a strange but happy acid trip. Nice to see a band hew close to psychedelic hip-hop while steering clear of disco temptation. — LW

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