New Music Roundup: This Week In Musicland
Album: King Night
What the hell is it? Debut record from the original drag/witch-house/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-it trio
Sounds like a combination of: Mixing syrup in your lemonade
Recommended? I talked a lot of shit about this band when I saw them at SXSW, but they were terrible live. On record, however, they have created one of the best albums of the year. Starting with the ultrawarped “King Night,” the band who really couldn’t give a fuck actually sound like they care. “Asia” is foreboding, and early stand-out “Redlights” (which has been re-recorded for the third time) shines, mixing 80s shoegaze within the chopped-’n-screwed lens. Then you have the three rap tracks. “Trapdoor” features vocals about things being “blurred out” with vocals so compressed and fucked with that, yeah, they sound African American. But is it a problem like many bloggers have pointed out? Fuck no. Salem aren’t trying to be gangsta or hood—they actually aren’t trying to be anything at all (or at least that is what they say). Most people are gonna hate this record and hope this witch-house bullshit ends, but seriously, take a listen to this record. It is worth every second of your time—I swear.
Album: Halcyon Digest
What the hell is it? Fourth full-length from the Atlanta band
Sounds like a combination of: DREAMWAVE
Recommended? Bradford Cox has evolved from the guy who would blog about everything and accidentally leak his entire record, to one of the most consistent songwriters in indie rock. This is Deerhunter’s most consistent and best record. Gone are the freak-outs, but in their place there’s something more dreamy. Sure, the band knows how to rock out—“Fountain Stars” and “Revival” are barnstormers—but “Helicopter” finds the band in their most pensive and beautiful moment. I could go on and on about how good this record is, but really every critic has lost their load on it—just go listen to the damn thing already.
What the hell is it? Debut from the one-woman project
Sounds like a combination of: Ugh—Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Florence and the Machine, Fever Ray, I hate writing these things cause it is bullshit
Recommended? Cameron Mesirow is a professional. Moving away from her early home recording style and hooking up with a producer she has created one of the best tricks on a record this year. Each song starts with a piece of the last, with the last track echoing the first track, making the record a true “ring.” From the opener “Apply,” to the tropical “Tremel,” Glasser moves through styles invoking all sorts of female solo-artists, but it is unfair to compare her to others.
Artist: DJ Nate
Album: Da Trak Genious
What the hell is it? Compilation/debut from Chicago Footwork producer
Sounds like a combination of: Footwork
Recommended? What a fucking great record. DJ Nate builds his track around a central vocal sample that he chops to death and then repeats over and over. This 25-track compilation serves as the first widely released record from this 20-year-old Chicago producer central to the Footwork scene. Footwork is a style of music made for dancing. As an offshoot of Juke—another variety of Chicago club music—DJ Nate’s tracks have the thug appeal and some of the violent/sexual edge. But like Burial, DJ Nate is smart with his vocal samples. “Call Me When You’re Sober” works around an Evanescence sample, while “You’re Gonna Love Me” is taken straight out of Dreamgirls. Early single, “Hatas Our Motivation” makes the cut, but unfortunately one of DJ Nate’s best tracks, “Make ’Em Run,” didn’t.
Artist: No Age
Album: Everything in Between
What the hell is it? No Age’s triumphant return
Sounds like a combination of: Two buddies rocking the fuck out
Recommended? People talk about records of the year, and this is one of them. No Age have smoothed out the edges to make a record of pure perfection. There are choruses here and the vocals are more decipherable, but the wall of sound that Dean and Randy create is still intact. Single “Glitter” is an evolution of their noise style while Dean’s drumming keeps time, Randy’s guitar freak-outs and sampling tear the track apart. Elsewhere, “Fever Dreaming” is an upbeat punk rocker, and “Dusted” is a dreamy shoegaze number on par with My Bloody Valentine. Play this loud.
Artist: Andrew Cedermark
Album: Moon Deluxe
What the hell is it? Debut record from ex-Titus Andronics axe shredder
Sounds like a combination of: Heavy shit
Recommended? Cedermark is known for epic guitar lines, and they are here, the only difference being this is a personal document of a time and thus less rocking, and more pensive. Cedermark buries his vocals, but on tracks like “Hard Living” and “Moon Deluxe” his talent creeps through the fuzz. This record feels as if it was recorded in a huge room, so there is a lot of empty space, but everything is done masterfully. A+.
Artist: How To Dress Well
Album: Love Remains
What the hell is it? Compilation of HTDW’s tracks from his EPs he released for free
Sounds like a combination of: A great primer of HTDW
Recommended? I’ve talked about how much I love HTDW enough here, so this is just a stand in for BUY THIS FUCKING ALBUM.
Artist: Abe Vigoda
What the hell is it? Surf Punks go Darkwave
Sounds like a combination of: The Cure, New Order, Goth
Recommended? Where have the guitars gone? No longer is Abe Vigoda the African-Guitar band, but a gothy synthy yelping darkwave outfit. Sure, the sings to their progression were there, but few bands have made a switch like this. “Throwing Shade” has some of the guitar interplay of their past record, but then turns into a track suited for goth night at Nation. At first I was turned off by the change, but after a few listens, this record is really much better than their breakthrough Skeleton.
Artist: Bag Raiders
Album: Bag Raiders
What the hell is it? Full length debut from the Aussie DJ Crew
Sounds like a combination of: If Cut Copy didn’t want to be a band
Recommended? If early singles said anything, it said this record was going to kill, and it does, just softly. There are the standout jams, “Sunlight,” “Shooting Stars,” “Not Over,” and “Way Back Home,” but the other tracks take a little bit to stick. At only 11 songs and just about 42 minutes, this is a compact dance record, as there are no long freak-outs (which is a plus). If you need more jams for your dance party, look no further.
Artist: Maximum Balloon
Album: Maximum Balloon
What the hell is it? Dave Sitek and a whole lot of other people
Sounds like a combination of: Electropop with a cast of characters
Recommended? Dave is known as being the white dude from TV on the Radio, and also as an expert producer. This collection of tracks is filled with TV on the Radio dudes, as well as collaborators like Karen O and Katrina Ford from Celebration. The tracks have the bounce of the funkiest TVOTR tracks but they are more in the electro-pop vein. “Groove Me” featuring rap-singing from rising star Theophilus London bounces hard. David Byrne kicks up shit on “Apartment Wrestling,” making it clear who should produce a Talking Heads reunion record, if it were to ever happen. Usually these records fall under the weight of their guests, but this one doesn’t.
Artist: Mark Ronson & The Business Int’l
Album: Record Collection
What the hell is it? Mark Ronson and a whole lot of other people
Sounds like a combination of: Electropop with a cast of characters
Recommended? This record on paper shouldn’t work. There are so many guests, from Ghostface to Q-Tip to MNDR, the dude from Phantom Planet, the dude from Miike Snow, a chick from the Pipettes, D’Angelo (!!!!), Boy George and fuckin’ Simon LeBon. Suprisingly everyone works out. No longer using the Dap Tones and soul as his inspiration, Rons has gone all electropop. Boy Geoge’s “Somebody to Love Me” is pretty heartbreaking when taken into the drama that surrounds George’s life. D’Angelo’s return doesn’t really work, mostly because the autotune fucks his voice to make him sound like Cee-lo (ugh!), but Simon LeBon’s bullshit verses (sample lyrics: “I drive ’round cities in my chariot/I get preferential treatment at the Marriott”—I mean, who writes this shit?) in “Record Collection” don’t mar the song, because the chorus and the Wiley verse are unfuckwithable. Rose Dougall, formerly of the Pipettes, is a star here, singing on multiple tracks and becoming a highlight—too bad her solo record is kinda shit. The true banger here is “Bang Bang Bang,” featuring a solid Q-Tip verse along with a English/French chorus from MNDR—a name you should start knowing.
Artist: Marnie Stern
Album: Marnie Stern
What the hell is it? Third record from the guitar goddess
Sounds like a combination of: Rock music
Recommended? Marnie Stern is one of the best guitar players out there, and though her frantic shredding and Zack Hill’s just as kinetic drumming can get cloying this is the perfect Stern record. Not so much as a departure from her last two records, Marnie Stern showcases Stern’s talent, while toning down some of the freak-out moments. The cheekily titled “Female Guitar Players Are the New Black” is just as propulsive as her previous material, but tracks like “Transparency is the New Mystery” find Marnie comfortable in her yelpy voice and at her most emotional.
Artist: Cinema Red and Blue
Album: Cinema Red and Blue
What the hell is it? Side project collecting Crystal Stilts and Comet Gain
Sounds like a combination of: Twee as fuck
Recommended? What a combination. Comet Gain are the leaders of jangly, twee indie-pop and the Crystal Stilts are purveyors of the genre, so hooking them up you get a tight record full of classics that sound like they were recorded years ago. This is real indie-pop made by professionals. With so many releases this year, this record is sure to be glossed over, but if you like indie rock, take a listen.
Artist: Gold Panda
Album: Lucky Shiner
What the hell is it? Debut record
Sounds like a combination of: Four Tet, minimal techno, impressive
Recommended? When Gold Panda is on (“You,” “Snow & Taxis”) dude is on. This record moves through styles of sampling, like “You” cutting vocals to say both “you” and “me,” but he also cuts beats, layering them like early Four Tet and Aphex Twin records. This record sounds warm. Like The Field, Gold Panda can be described as minimal, though it is a compression of The Field’s long tracks, as there is more going on in these songs, they almost feel as if they are built on the verse-chorus structure, but they aren’t.
Artist: Gucci Mane
Album: The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted
What the hell is it? First record from Gucci after his last jail sentence
Sounds like a combination of: IT’S GUCCI TIME
Recommended? GUCCI. Gucci Mane has some of the best rhymes, like the chorus of “Little Friend” where he talks about all the things he could’ve been: “Should’ve been a lawyer/I go to court so much I could’ve been my own employer.” This record, like his last, is a mix of the hard hood-bangers like “Trap Talk” and the radio-friendly joints like the Justice-sampling “Gucci Time.” There is also the playful “Dollar Sign,” where he ludicrously boasts that he is “so fucking paid he just bought the dollar sign.” Nicki Minaj shows up to guest on the all right, but not great, “Haterade,” but it could be because Pharell stinks up the track. For every great song there is one grenade in the mix. “ODog” features the abortion-of-a-human Wyclef, and it is one of Gucci’s worst tracks, but skip it over and you’ll find the quality that Gucci is known for.
Artist: Waka Flocka Flame
What the hell is it? Debut from ex-Gucci Mane protégé
Sounds like a combination of: Hood shit
Recommended? People who are mad about Gucci going all glossy hip-hop have a savior in the funnily named Waka Flocka Flame. Though he shares a name with a stupid Shakira song (he had the name first!), Waka means business. Dude goes “Hard in Da Paint” and all of his dudes are “TTG (Trained to Go).” How a major label backed this is beyond me. I mean this is some real thug music. Sure the Roscoe Dash-assisted “No Hands” is kind of a pop joint but it’s fierce beat seems so un-mainstream. Like most hip-hop records though, 70 minutes is too long, but if you have a car, bang this around your hood.
Album: Grinderman 2
What the hell is it? Second record from Nick Cave’s demented side-project
Sounds like a combination of: Old dudes rocking the fuck out
Recommended? This record has two rules: no songs about love, and no piano. Cave doesn’t break them either. With his snakecharmer swagger intact, Cave brews up a batch of songs that are pure evil. Cave’s 13-year-old son supposedly taught him how to play guitar for the record, though with Warren Ellis’s howling guitar lines, it’ll cover any amateur up. The music is full of the bluesy, rock-and-roll-fused elements Cave has perfected over the years. The almost-funk “Heathen Child” is a rocker that is intense as fuck. Its counterpoint is “Evil,” a song that lives up to its name, but the hopeful moment “Palaces of Montezuma” hits a surprising high note.
Album: Public Strain
What the hell is it? Canadian noise rocker’s second record
Sounds like a combination of: Atmosphere and noise rock
Recommended? The first Women record fell on deaf ears, but as those who caught on to their greatness know, this is a band with talent and skill that can fill a track with endless noise, but switch shit up and go all classic indie rock at any moment. Like their peers No Age, tracks are fuzzy but then explode. “Can’t You See” is a traditional rock song on the surface, but all the atmospheric noise around it makes it special. Guitars interlock to form melodies but then everything bottoms out into shrieks of noise before you know it, kind of like math rock. Public Strain is a record that is not for background listening.
Artist: Belle and Sebastian
Album: Write About Love
What the hell is it? A brand new B&S record—hooray!
Sounds like a combination of: B&S gone soft/adult contemporary/their lowest point since Fold Your Hands/Storytellers though not really as bad as those records (and bad is in comparison to their earliest and best material, as well as their recent two-album sting).
Recommended? It isn’t a horrid record. It is just disappointing, mostly because The Life Pursuit was so goddamn good. I mean, yeah, I was shocked to hear fucking Norah “Snooze” Jones on this album. There are plaenty of great songs in the first half of the record (N.J. aside) like the bouncy “Come Over Sister,” and the Carrie Mulligan-assisted “Write About Love,” but the end of the record doesn’t hold a candle to B&S’s best. I will always be a cuckoo for Belle and Sebastian, but I know they can make a better record than this one.
Artist: Corin Tucker Band
Album: 1000 Years
What the hell is it? S-K front woman gone solo
Sounds like a combination of: S-K gone soft
Recommended? Corin Tucker is pretty brilliant, but these songs are pretty blah. If there was any reason to get the girls back and rock through All Hands on the Bad One it would be this. If you are a fan, give it a spin.
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Album: The Age of Adz
What the hell is it? Sufjan “not fucking around”
Sounds like a combination of: Electro-folk, everything
Recommended? Disclaimer: I dislike Sufjan. There are some fun moments on this record, but it’s so exhausting, and my attention span can’t really give it a “proper” listen. Then there’s that autotune. It worked for Bon Iver, but Sufjan—if you are going through a crisis, buy a car, don’t record some bullshit. Seriously, no one is gonna go against this record, so I might as well start the backlash.
Artist: Blue Water White Death
Album: Blue Water White Death
What the hell is it? Side project from Shearwater and Xiu Xiu
Sounds like a combination of: See above
Recommended? This is a painful record to get through. It is pretty avant, but I think it is trying too hard to be weird. Maybe I don’t get it because all the voices sound like Muppets and the music sounds like it is trying too hard to be spooky, but this is a pretty awful record—just saying.
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