I love the fall. I love music. I love listening to music in the fall. This has been another great one.
Kudu Death of the Party
Kudu are officially my new favorite band. Smart, super-catchy electropop with the shadowy ambience of goth and the melodic elasticity of cocktail jazz. Singer Sylvia Gordon knows exactly what she's doing, whether she's lacing bouncy melodies around the skeletal synths of songs like "Playing House" or using effortlessly clever wordplay to demolish pretentious nightlife personalities in wicked romps like "Bar Star" and "King Kong (Attack of the Egomaniac)"
Crazy-talented drummer/synthesist Deantoni Parks, making up the other half of this dynamic duo, sets down bracingly physical beats and spare keyboard hooks, leaving plenty of space for Sylvia to do her thing. Occasionally one catches a whiff of the band's acid jazz/drum n' bass background but for the most part this record is relentlessly poppy, displaying the musicians' chops in only the most subliminal ways.
I've listened to this album a hundred times. It's my favorite to hula-hoop to!
Yohimbe Brothers The Tao of Yo Justice self-titled
The Yohimbe Bros is the sound of Vernon Reid and DJ Logic -- and a slew of friends -- having fun in their spare time. This, their second album, is a colorful and vastly entertaining tour through the duo's take on hip hop, cut & paste electronica, hard rock, spaghetti western drum n' bass, weird jazz, reggae and plenty of other stuff as well.
Standouts include "Shine for Me" (which could have been an M.I.A. track), the deeply funky "More from Life," which benefits from an excellent, politically-charged rap courtesy of Traz and the monstrous, stomping "TV." Other guests include Kudu's Deantoni Parks and the outrageously gifted Taylor McFerrin, who brings a thoughtful piece of verbiage to "Words They Choose."
Guitar god Reid never plays where he's not welcome, but does turn in some characteristically manic jazz/metal solos here and there. Elsewhere he provides a variety of textures, from gorgeous acoustic arpeggiations to monolithic power chord riffs. This record is way better than you may expect.
French disco upstarts Justice have finally stepped in to take up where Daft Punk's first album left off a decade ago. Their dazzling debut is a raunchy splash of hyper-cut-up dance rock and disco which nearly catches fire with the heat of its own feverish inspiration and energy.
I'm sure you've heard their ubiquitous single "D.A.N.C.E," which slathers a pitchy, girlish sing-song vocal over super-compressed fake funk basslines, buoyant string lines and handclaps. It is irresistible. But check out "Let There Be Light" and "Newjack" to hear this duo (Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge) really show off their chops. These tracks are so full of edits, they have no right being so danceable.
So why is Justice's particular take on dance music so interesting? Unsurprisingly, it's because these two don't just listen to dance music. A glimpse at the liner notes shows a list of faves that includes Queen, Slipknot, Prince, Mussorgsky (whose "Night on Bald Mountain" gets a thirdhand thrashing -- by way of a sample of "Night on Disco Mountain," from the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack -- on "Stress"), Beyonce, AC/DC, Brothers Johnson, Primus, Goblin and Donna Summer. If they'd only cut their teeth on Daft Punk and Cassius, this would have been a boring record.
As for the weird religious imagery? I tend to ignore it.
M.I.A. Arular and Kala
Ok, first of all, let's get one thing straight -- M.I.A. is overrated. She is not some genius visionary who's come forward from the abyss to melt genre barriers and bring the world together in some metaphysical musical event. Surely you've heard Indian music melded with hip hop and dance music before -- have you had dinner on East 6th street in the last ten years? This kind of thing's been around for longer than M.I.A; it's just that she's put it on the map. She's given it a face. M.I.A is talented, hot, has a great producer and an even better publicist.
That said, I LOVE this chick. Her spirit is infectious. She's fearless. She's smart, colorful and has something to say. Some of her lyrics are flat-out stupid ("how many how many boys are crazy, how many boys are raw"....huh??) and some of her vocalisms are just shy of being annoying ("Bucky Done Gun") but she has great intentions, not to mention killer hooks.
I prefer her second album Kala, with its flawless "Paper Planes" and irresistible "Jimmy." And "Mango Pickle," featuring little kid guest rappers, is one of the most wonderful things I've ever heard. I hope M.I.A. makes many more records and gets even better at what she's doing.
Prince For You
Prince's debut is audacious to say the least. It's fun to hear the 19-yr-old getting right down to the business of letting everyone know who's boss. My favorite is the closer, "I'm Yours," where he cuts heads on every instrument. I don't care if you sing, play guitar, bass, drums, keys or whatever -- Prince will hand you your ass.
TV on the Radio Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
This is what music coming out of Brooklyn should sound like -- restless, innovative, stylish, forward-thinking. TVotR take the same influences that propel less-imaginative bands like Interpol and truly do something new with it. Punk rock, psychedelia, hip hop, jazz, no-wave noise and electronica all gets thrown into the pot along with a potent dose of intelligence and anger. It's no wonder David Bowie wants to sing backups on their records.
What could I possibly say about Bowie that wouldn't just sound redundant?
Blonde Redhead Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons
Another great local band, Blonde Redhead have been doing their own fiercely independent thing for a decade now. Along the way they've toyed with noisy dissonant art rock, ethereal shoegazer pop and hard-hitting no wave angularity. I've been listening to alot of them lately, trying to follow the confounding logic of their creative trajectory (oh god, did I just say that??). They're a deep band, not to be digested overnight. I'm taking my time. Thanks Joe for hooking me up with the music.
Dresden Dolls self-titled
Wow. What a first album. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione take no prisoners with the searing "Girl Anachronism," the ultra-clever "Coin Operated boy" and the achingly girl-group-ish "The Jeep Song." After this album appeared in 2003, critics had to make up a new genre tag: cabaret punk. I do love this band, and hope that ex-lovers Amanda and Brian can stick it out long enough to make some more records.
Nick Cave will never suck. This, his latest project, finds him still in company of some Bad Seeds and shows just how hungry the man still is, nearly 30 years after the start of his singular career. "No Pussy Blues" roils with molten guitar and a savage vocal, while "Electric Alice" simmers over brushed snare drum and creepy pitch-bent wah-wah guitars while Cave spins a characteristically morbid yarn. This will melt your hi-fi.
Zappa Shut Up & Play Yer Guitar
A kaleidoscopic patchwork of Zappa guitar solos taken from tour archives, this 2-disc set more than adequately displays Frank Zappa's most overlooked skill: blazing away on the guitar. Listening to his backing band is just as entertaining.
Chromeo Fancy Footwork
Take all the worst, shallowest and most annoying aspects of the 80s and recycle them with cynical, note-perfect precision, add nothing original to the mix and you've got Chromeo. If your idea of a good time is hearing twelve different ways to plagiarize Ray Parker Jr's Ghostbusters theme (with a splash of cheesy Billy Ocean saxophone thrown in occasionally), then be my guest. But to me this is crass, limp-dicked bullshit. In five years I predict they'll need to make a landfill out of all the copies of this CD that go sailing out of people's windows.