In case you’ve been sleepin’
Who doesn’t like a good list? It’s a contemporary music survival guide, a quick hitting way to get up on that which you should be getting to, and great toilet reading.
In a few months, mouths will digress into conversation in kitchens, patios and dorm rooms. Blogs, forums, chat boxes and the like will rattle in an orchestra of keystrokes. Heads will shake. Eyes will roll. And maybe two people will agree on what was, undoubtedly, the best record of the year. Maybe those people will spawn children and the world will be a better place. In any event, you should know your shit.
In no particular order — ‘cause who has the time for that? — I’ve listed 25 albums that iTunes tells me I listen to a lot. I’ll give you 12 this week, and kick it up to 13 next week.
|Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr
Here’s your summer sleeper; it’s a real hammocky swing, a to-and-fro hypnotization. Horse Power is an EP brushed with beach folk ballades, backed by 808s and stitched with minor-key sentiment. Look beyond the guffaws induced by their motor-centric moniker and make time for the sound. Call it dreamy. Call it inspired. Call it pop. Call it Call it what you will. DEJJ is, harmonically and melodically, some of the best music I’ve heard this summer.
Wry wit, bangers and mash.
Deadmalls & Nightfalls
Michigan’s rising folk phenomes continue to holler wistful verses about the Great Lakes and growing up. Singing saw, banjo, and visceral scenes splayed out in poetry—it’s all here.
Electronic mood conductor Dear is at it again. Introspective and droning, this follow up to Asa Breed requires night skies and time to think. Sometimes Dear sounds like Lou Reed gone electro, others, like with the title track, he succeeds in sounds like himself, which is even more welcome.
|Band of Horses
On Infinite Arms, sweeping choruses that after a few listens become really catchy work off of soft instrumental build ups that break open just as and when they should. The record plays out from there as something pastoral, then sways from pristine to interpersonal and, ultimately, percussive. It’s a up north indie-kid’s prom lullaby.
These Akron dudes churn out killer music. Bluesy, swampy, funky, and sometimes just mad — this record spans scenario. It’s real easy to listen to this whole record.
Yes, there’s the track with Thom Yorke, and yes it is dope like crack. But this whole album is a beautifully scattered, electro-hop mindfuck. And it’s meant to be played LOUD.
|Freeway & Jake One
The Stimulus Package
Back in the day, Freeway was supposed to be the next best rapper. Like Hova meets Biggie or something. His projects got shelved, his guest spots got outshined, and he fell from graces with the mainstream. But he was never supposed to be mainstream. This collab with oulier producer Jake One is the best rap record since last year’s The Ecstatic from Mos Def. Vigorous and unrelenting.
Total Life Forever
In a year of undewhelming follow up records, Foals’ sophomore release is a clever patchwork of upbeat, unthreatening and comprehensive indie-pop songs from front to back. Check out “Black Gold” or “This Orient” to get a feel. Fans of Bloc Party, Franz and UK guitar driven indie-pop in general will surely swoon.
How I Got Over
The fact that this is The Roots’ ninth studio release makes me feel old. The fact that it’s their best release since 2002’s Phrenology makes me ok with that. This is like a 2007 Napa Valley Petite Sirah of rap.
Ten years between their first album and next is too long — still, with cuts featuring Bun B. (“Strangers”), Mos Def, Jay Electronica and J. Cole (“Just Begun”), RPM sounds new, old, weird, and casually cool.
Sea of Cowards
Like the last one (Horehound), but more stoned and sultry — maybe even slutty. There’s a blues feel in their brand of gutter trippy rock, but it’s sliced by a guillotine of synthetic keys and strings. The album verges on sounding animalistic, even if it’s a bit too long for my liking.
Next week: Some new classics, some classics with new stuff, and a disc that manages to be both at the same time.
Travis R. Wright is arts & culture editor at Metro Times (metrotimes.com).