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Banwick's 'Nepenthe' is tragic beauty

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 8:33 p.m.

‘Nepenthe'

Julianna Barwick (Dead Oceans)

★★★★½

The third album by Julianna Barwick is a revelation, a composition that is radiant, overtly gorgeous, calming, but grounded a bit in tragedy. Her music and otherworldly vocals combine on this incredible record to make for her greatest musical accomplishment to date and one of the year's best records.

It is fitting Barwick is opening for Sigur Ros in Pittsburgh, as they are one of her primary musical influences and she creates on the same alien terrain as do they. The 10 songs on this magnificent record are flush with emotion, dream-state gazing, and foggy expression, and she makes music that should connect with your heart and soul on unforgettable “The Harbinger,” a beautiful song that'll stay with you permanently; “One Half,” that features some of her most direct vocals; and “Forever,” that is full of angelic melodies and soul-raising singing. Go out of your way to hear this record.

Julianna Barwick opens for Sigur Ros Thursday at Stage AE. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $34 in advance; $37 the day of the show.

‘Stories of Us'

Goldfrapp (Mute)

★★★★

Goldfrapp never has been a duo to show up and deliver the same record again and again. Throughout their nearly 15 years together, Alison Gold frapp and Will Gregory have gone from soft to boisterous, reflective to dance-infused, depending on what fit their muse, and their sixth record is one of their folkiest to date.

Nine of the 10 songs are given pet mononyms, and each seems to tell a story about the subject matter. The songs revel in ‘70s-style folk and lite rock and is a real pleasure to hear, from “Annabel” to “Ulla” to “Thea” (where they kick up the tempo and volume just a bit) to the heart-stopping “Stranger,” which would be an excellent Bond theme, Goldfrapp again prove why they're one of the world's most adventurous, ambitious acts going, one that delivers again and again.

‘Tookah'

Emiliana Torrini (Rough Trade)

★★★½

It had been some time since we heard from Emiliana Torrini. The Icelandic musician became a mother for the first time, which influenced her music, and found a push for the poppier side of her art. Her new record “Tookah” feels alive, at peace, a little buzzy in spots, and wholly satisfying.

It's not that Torrini ever was a tough artist to get with, as that isn't the case at all, but this new collection is more prone to pull in listeners on the fringe, as she shines through on tracks such as smoky, bouncy “Caterpillar”; lovely “Autumn Sun,” that's both folky and cosmic; ‘Elisabet,” that's murky and infectious; and poppy “Animal Games,” that's both energetic and dangerous. Nice to have her back.

Brian Krasman is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

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