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Top 10: Hymns, Clinic, M83, Poker Flat

Hymns
Travel in Herds
Blackland
Release Date: March 11, 2008

Blame it on my Southern upbringing (half of which was spent feeding quarters into the jukebox of a no-frills dive bar), but nothing satisfies like a little twang and some country bass rhythms. Hymns, who hail from Texas but now operate from New York, add organs, bluesy saxophones, and electric guitars to their country-flavored, pedal-steel-driven album, creating a wonderful dichotomy that calls to mind both the masters of classic country and today's newest up-and-coming indie bands.

Cloudland Canyon
Lie in Light
Kranky
Release Date: April 28, 2008

The album starts with low, haunting keyboards that slowly crescendo and explode into what sounds like 10 electric guitars riffing off one another. That pretty much sets the tone for the entirety of Lie in Light, which darts constantly between soft interludes and epic instrument clashes. Though “Krautrock” would probably best describe the sound of this Germany-based outfit, Lie in Light also contains a sizable helping of pop and '80s sounds, though of course, executed with surprising twists.

M83
Saturdays = Youth
Mute
Release Date: April 15, 2008

Anthony Gonzalez is back with a new long-player under his M83 guise, and for Saturdays = Youth, he has bundled guitars, pianos, synthesizers, and breathy female vocals together, then enlisted Ken Thomas and Ewan Pearson to assist with production. Half dance music, half rock music, but then again, not really either one of those, Saturdays = Youth lives up to its name, with musical construction that feels cathartic and is coupled with lyrics that document the woes of life as a teenager.

Various Artists
Moods: You, the Night, and the Music
Backdrop
Release Date: February 19, 2008

You must bypass the sappy title to get the real goods on this compilation from ObliqSound sub-label Backdrop, but once that's done, a wealth of nu-jazz, soul, and electronic music await. Whether its Frivolous cranking out synth melodies on a bouncy dance number, Stateless belting it out over leftfield hip-hop beats, or Ursula Rucker’s poetry sung over African tribal drums, this disc is an energetic, upbeat trip through a variety of styles.

Sunny Day Sets Fire
STRANGER/Remix
IAMSOUND
Release Date: February 26, 2008

This London-based five-piece's style is as unabashedly poppy as it gets, but for its Stranger/Remix EP, meant to tide fans over until a full-length this spring, numerous artists stepped up to the mixing board and gave the band’s music added dimension. Stand-out tracks include CSS' happy-go-lucky take on "Wilderness," the cut-and-paste version of "Adrenaline" from XXXChange, and The Cool Kids' crunchy, distorted remix of the title track.

EMC
The Show
M3
Release Date: April 8, 2008

EMC features the combined talents of Masta Ace, Punchline, Wordsworth, and Stricklin, all respected hip-hop artists in their own right. Besides tight production and clever lyrics these four bounce around like a ball on a four-square court, The Show is also notable because of its concept: EMC chose to write the album based on a day in the life of a hip-hop group, from waiting for tardy promoters to doing radio shows and driving aimlessly around town. Always nice to see a little wit and creativity breathed back into hip-hop.

Trouble Over Tokyo
Pyramides
Klein
Release Date: April 13, 2008

The softly plucked–dare I say–pretty guitar notes at the beginning of the first track here offer a deceptive introduction for Pyramides. Rather than follow up with a collection of predictable chord progressions and sensitively sung lyrics, Trouble Over Tokyo launches into an album of abrupt stops and starts, falsetto vocals that give Panther a run for his money, and musical styles that run the gamut from ’80s to R&B. It’s something like a cross between your average indie rock band, Radiohead circa Kid A, and Destiny's Child. No kidding.

Various Artists
Dead Man's Hand
Poker Flat
Release Date: March 3, 2008

Poker Flat may be in love with the concept of gambling (as evidenced in not only its name, but also in 2006’s Bets'n'Bluffs sampler), but anytime the Germany-based label unleashes a new compilation it’s a safe bet you’re going to receive only the best in new house and techno made by dance music’s household names. Here, label boss Steve Bug, along with Märtini Brös' Clé take listeners on a trip through the Poker Flat catalog, then finish things off with a few tracks made specifically for this compilation.

Clinic
Do It!
Domino
Release Date: April 2008

The four members of Clinic enjoy creating tension as much as they like wearing those surgical masks, and on this, their fifth long-player, they pit relaxing, folk-style acoustics against screaming guitar riffs while vocalist Ade Blackburn sings about love, alcoholism, witch hunts, and Christmas. Do It!’s press release states that “Clinic has never sounded so relaxed and so uptight.” We concur.

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