Lou Barlow - Mirror Eye (buy it)
A new Lou EP from Spanish label Acuarela, which gives the full scoop here. No preview tracks from the EP are around, but Lou's web site is a labyrinthine trove of downloads, video, scrawled notes and ephemera. A quick curiosity is 7 Before 17, "16 years old, crew cut and straight-edge". Of the batch, most of which are about a minute long, my pick is "17 in July".
MP3: Lou Barlow - 17 in July
Catherine Howe - What a Beautiful Place (buy it)
The first release of the year from the Numero Group, this is the first time Howe's debut album has been on CD. Los Angeles City Beat has a fine story on this album:
"Made in an era when singer-songwriters were flexing their rock muscles and Carole King’s Tapestry ruled the charts, What a Beautiful Place is a lush, heavily orchestrated record that feels more a product of the early or mid-’60s. In its day, it would have sounded square, but it may be that very squareness that plays compellingly now. It’s an off-the-wall mixture of slightly shlocky old-school pop and neo-trad English folk (though Howe denies such leanings), with some jazzy seasoning provided by Scott’s own stabbing, bluesy piano work. At its center is Howe, whose chilled, half-swallowed, vibrato-free vocals maintain a sustained, charming purity."
MP3: Catherine Howe - It's Not Likely
Other notable releases include a pricey double-CD live import from Nick Cave and the new Beirut EP.