The adorably insane and ever inventive chamber pop of St. Vincent has vastly expanded arrangement-wise and audience-wise since its 2007 inception. 2011 finds Annie Clark in the upper class of popular art-rock, where commercial demand is high and creative options are unrestricted. On Strange Mercy, her third and most daring (and approachable) to date, she’s made great use of that position. Songs blend hard guitar rock and soft electronic with Clark’s now trademark mood swings, going anxious / dark one second and soothing / bright the next. It’s an intricate listen, and very much worth multiple and attentive ones at that.
San Francisco rock duo Girls got it right on their first go around, and now their second has somehow bettered it. Album, their debut LP, was celebrated for its earnest approach—this sort of wide-eyed, unapologetic love for classic pop, and ability to explore life’s heartaches in a sincere, sometimes profound manner. Father, Son, Holy Ghost works in the same oldies-informed sense, this time pushing the band further as musicians; singer Owens is more focused, personal, and spiritual; production is rich with sharp, well-mixed instruments, and tone is still quite heavy-hearted. The result is a record that feels both familiar and original.
His counterparts have made their moves; Washed Out aimed for sonic perfection within the subgenre’s characteristic haze, and Toro Y Moi went down a funkier path, far away from the tag altogether. Here Alan Palomo aka Neon Indian also takes a mature stride, choosing to build on the blissful, sci-fi video game soundcapes of Psychic Chasms, while upping the intensity with heavy chord distortion and pulsing drums. He’s still crushing on the 80s, but this time he evokes titans outside of the ordinary, leaning into new wave, shoegaze, and at times even prog-rock. Era Extrana isn’t a master-move for chillwave, nor is it major distancer; it’s simply a pretty solid synth n’ guitar album.
Brooklyn Based rap duo (plus a hype guy) Das Racist first entered the picture in 2008 with the zany track “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” Deemed a joke by some, brilliant by others, inescapable by all, the guys went on a giant hype ride peaking with two mixtapes in 2010 Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man. There was something refreshingly smart and culture-conscious about the releases, all delivered with an early Beastie Boys-style referential wit. And whether you’re into that or not, the press storm is here again, as Relax attempts similar tricks in a more proper album structure, leading off with the “Black or White” defacing video for “Michael Jackson.”
Coming from a member of choir-folk megastars Grizzly Bear, and with collaborative help from Twin Shadow‘s George Lewis Jr., Chris Taylor’s full length debut as CANT already has an industry of ears eager to hear. Dreams Come True is more synth-heavy and less organic than anything on the GB catalog, but it’s Taylor’s delicate craftsmanship and haunting voice that undoubtedly connects the two. His vocal presence sometimes sits behind a dance rhythm, or alongside echoed beats like “In The Air Tonight” era Phil Collins, while in other places is right up front, on top of more minimal arrangements. It makes for a semi-cohesive effort, somewhat loose in identity, but impressive nonetheless.
This is a big week for music. Also find releases from Americana heavyweights Blitzen Trapper (American Goldwing), Sleater-Kinney/Helium/The Minders alum Wild Flag (self-titled), soul-sampling loudmouth Wise Blood (These Wings), Moon Duo-affiliated hypnotic rockers Wooden Shjips (West), and aforementioned dance-funk master Toro Y Moi (Freaking Out) .
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