Santi White finally returns, four years after a debut album that firmly placed her star in the indie universe (stylistically somewhere around M.I.A and Lykke Li). The immediacy of singles like “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Creator” made her a marketable pop act of that moment while the cross-cultured range of her influences (tropicalia, hip-hop, afro-beat, reggae, ’80s synth, ’90s post-punk, etc) challenged the simplicity of such a classification (much like the aforementioned artists), and also gained the attention of critics. So which side does she play up on this follow-up? Both, again; with a little less emphasis on the quick and bouncy hook, adding more shadow and detail.
Josh Tillman would agree that success is a tricky beast; last year the guy quit Fleet Foxes, a band that kind of had it all: the peak of commercial acceptance and artistic credibility—what he likened to a “golden ticket”. And it wasn’t due to the usual creative differences, rather his own desire to fully break out from behind a drum kit, which is saying a lot since he’s been pumping out solo albums annually since 2005. But this is his first in character, as one Father John Misty, a dark and clever alter ego which has allowed Tillman to venture outside of his previous folk singer/songwriter template. Fear Fun is a gorgeous and lyrically entertaining listen, inspired by his strange new (and musically-rich/superficial) surroundings of Laurel Canyon, California.
Baltimore four piece Lower Dens specialize in a kind of dreaminess that’s not for dosing off to. Beneath its all its haze, their 2010 debut hit some heavy notions and follow-up Nootropics looks to continue the insight, this time inspired by transhumanism (the use of technology to extend human capabilities). And like last time the concept’s atmospheric coating is very attractive. It was written primarily by Hunter in the back of their tour van on a keyboard, so she’s described the work as something “that feels good looking out a car window.” Yet to try, but they feel plenty good staring at a laptop.
Who knows how much more Anton Newcombe could have done had he been part of this generation and not the last. The pysch-rock mad genius has been channeling the 60s since the early 90s, and back then might have benefited from a bandcamp or a “bedroom databank”…or the ease of a modern bedroom studio. But, 13 albums in, and despite that major label push that never came, he and his rotating cast of bandmates are doing just (and would have probably been too busy with drugs and fights for the Internet anyway). Aufheben (German for ‘abolish’ or ‘preserve’) features the return of original member Matt Hollywood, as well as contributions from Will Carruthers (Spacemen 3, Spritualized), and it’s another trip-out of the BJM variety.
This Brooklyn-based darkwave duo have been rising for a few years now, having built their name mainly through explosive live shows and a handful of standouts from a 2010 EP. The draw here is Shannon Funchess, an intimidating frontwoman to put it lightly. It’s her voice and presence that define their sound: low but loud, eery but lively. The self-titled debut packs an apocalyptic punch, if a bit repetitive.
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