Before the Odd Future canon and before a certain singer we swore never to mention again became a blogosphere lightning rod, there was the original Die Antwoord meme. It was built on shock—an audio/visual overload of sorts; Die Antwoord’s South African rap-rave sounded like nothing else in popular music, and even more so, they looked and acted like complete aliens to the norm. This resulted in a collective swell from all press directions, a surprise stateside appearance at Coachella, and a major label recording contract. That was 2010. Two years later the deal is gone and much of that shock has subsided, despite the act’s increasingly bizarre, edgy music videos (which may be part of the reason the deal dissolved, they refuse to soften anything for commercial sake). So now with their image appeal hitting a plateau, the same question that surrounded their debut $O$ can be applied to TEN$ION: does anyone want an album’s worth of this stuff? Single “I Fink U Freeky” succeeds in matching the explosive immediacy of “Enter The Ninja“, but the rest remains in that realm of weird, speed-rap meets techno unease that actual Die Antwoord fans should appreciate, but viral followers will probably skip this time around.
No one can say the mad genius Kevin Barnes hasn’t done exactly what he’s wanted with his band in the last decade. At this point that creative drive is equal parts impressively prolific and compulsively indulgent. The tipping point came in 2008, when he followed up the amazing opus Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? with an even zanier psychological electro-glam exploration called Skeletal Lamping. 2010’s False Priest pushed the Prince on acid act further and to diminishing returns—there was a sense that Barnes’ sexier, funkier alter ego had pretty much exhausted its conceptual stay. In comes Paralytic Stalks, a slightly darker and draftier effort that fortunately evolved, but unfortunately didn’t keep something Of Montreal usually over-delivers on, the hooks. Still, this album has moments of glorious mind-fuckery, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
This Brooklyn duo make climactic house music out of not-so house-like electronic elements—it’s an approach that aligns them more with a DIY world founded on psychedelic aesthetics, lower fidelity, and live instrumentation, more so than it does traditional house producers. Their self titled debut is a continuous throb of hypnosis that peaks and valleys on a song by song basis. And for good measure, they’ve included a second disc of remixes from the likes of Andy Scott and Teengirl Fantasy. If those names mean anything to you, consider them a good stylistic reference point, and also: there’s good chance Blondes is going to get a lot of airtime on your headphones.
On their 7th album since 2001, Dr. Dog do what they’ve done every time: make enjoyable rock tunes that don’t apologize for their orientation to the 60s. While the last few albums have sparkled in precise production, challenging critics to write reviews without saying The Beatles, Be The Void embraces a more loose, spirited live side (which should inspire a lot of Rolling Stones and The Band nods). What’s always been great about these guys though, is that once removed from that influence talk and taken without the expectation of ever reaching the artistic merit of their forefathers (purists will say this is impossible anyway), they simply become a reliable and fun band to listen to. And by the sound of Be The Void, that’s all they really care to be.
Since her 2009 debut, Sharon Van Etten has used music as a way to air out feelings of personal sadness, anxiety, and vulnerability. It’s a common thread for a guitar-clinging singer/songwriter, and she explores the age-old craft with an exceptional and understated flair. Tramp is her most complete and confident offering to date, adding a lushness to the usual scarce and moody, lyrically-driven arrangements, along with a number of guest appearances which include Beirut (see standout “We Are Fine“), The National, Wye Oak, and The Walkmen.
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