Top 10: Dizzee Rascal, Matthew Dear
Maths + English
Release Date: April 29
Okay, it wasn't necessarily a foregone conclusion that Dizzee's follow-up to Showtime would be an all-out success, but I had a pretty good feeling about the album the moment it was announced. Maths & English finds the MC once again rapping about the grim realities of life in the urban U.K. (which, if you know England, can often go beyond bleak) while a torrent of beats pound in the background. "It's easily Dizzee's most upfront and accessible record to date," states his press kit. I concur.
Slender Means Society
Release Date: March 3
The name may sound like it's the guise of a pale European who makes dark techno, but Pwrfl Power is actually the project of Japanese architect and calligrapher Kazutaka Nomura. Dance music this is not. Nomura crafts gorgeous acoustic ballads that sound akin to Beach House, but he juxtaposes this sincerity with ridiculous lyrics and hilarious song titles like "My Bird is Dead" and "Let Me Teach You How to Hold Chopsticks." About time we got someone with talent who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Brand New Pants
Release Date: March 11
Lars Vognstrup and Kristian Godtfredsen are the new authority on tongue-in-cheek humor... and weirdness. Their debut album is equal parts psychedelic, Sinatra, Zappa, Americana, crude as hell, and obsessed with adult themes. Though the tracks can veer towards the abstract, this one could easily be thrown on the stereo for an impromptu dance session at your next house party. At the very least, it would run the annoying hipsters right out of the building.
Release Date: Out Now
As much as I love The Klaxons, it's time for them to step aside and make way for these Brooklyn indie poppers. Their self-titled album does what the aforementioned new ravers did when they married electronic rave sensibility with rock music, but The Epochs don't stop there. Big guitars give way to beats that sound like they were made by Dntel, crazy freak-outs pause for poignant songwriting, and from track to track the album has more energy than a pack of kids decked out in Technicolor hoodies circa 2006.
Release Date: April 1
The Bay Area's nuttiest beatmaker–Taiwan-born David Wang–has turned hip-hop inside-out again. Lots of artists mash up genres. Few do it with the precision and skill Wang displays here, as he drops glitch, dubstep, funk, jazz, hip-hop, and Afrobeat over his frantic drum programming and sharp-as-a-knife lyrics. For the album, he has amassed a collection of some of the Bay Area's finest talent including Casual & Opio (Hieroglyphics), Rasshan (Crown City Rockers), Mykah9 (Freestyle Fellowship), Dopestyle (Kutmaster Kurt), and others, whose versatile styles further enhance the tracks.
Food For Animals
Release Date: Out Now
If you prefer your beats to be of a darker, grittier variety, try the debut album from Washington, DC crew Food For Animals. Producer Ricky Rabbit experiments with a number of styles here–everything from abstract hip-hop to Baltimore club beats–but the production maintains a rumbling, distorted, often suspenseful feel that is echoed in the lyrics and Vulture V's rapping. The dude just sounds mean when he's on the mic, which is great for the album, but I definitely wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley.
The Hundred Days
Release Date: Out now
Good rock music is as rare a commodity as good house music these days, so when a friend tipped me off to this San Francisco-based band, I was thrilled to find a traditional, four-piece outfit that actually moved me. This EP, which has been out a little while now, is a fine collection of songs that musically makes the head nod and lyrically tugs at the heartstrings, but what really carries these tracks–as well as the ones on the band's 2006 self-titled full-length–is vocalist Jon Smith's voice, which seems as much an instrument itself as the guitars, bass, and drums.
Release Date: March 2008
Speaking of good techno, this is one for the record bag (okay, fine, your Serato collection), with dizzying synth loops throughout the tracks, start-and-stop tempos, and, of course, the good old-fashioined hand clap. Midwest-based producer Dustin Zahn lends his skills for a remix of the title track, stripping it down to an even more minimal format and adding just the right amount of reverb.
"Don't Go This Way"
“Free track” used to mean free crap, but not so much anymore. Matthew Dear is the latest artist to prove that, with this free download. "Don't Go This Way" was taken from Dear's Asa Breed recording sessions, and while it definitely has the feel of that album, this track stands apart, with its bouncy, hypnotic bassline, punchy synths, and spooky voiceover. (Image credit: Doug Coombe)
Watch it here
Last night, the XLR8R crew celebrated one year of XLR8R TV episodes. Over the last several months, the weekly show has captured Devin the Dude singing Randy Travis, performance tips from Simian Mobile Disco, and go-cart races with Modeselektor, and it’s all online for you to see. “XLR8R TV is to this millennium what Jesus Christ was to the last one,” show producer Kerry McLaughlin noted this morning, upon which she stuffed another few saltine crackers in her mouth in an effort to rid herself of a hangover. (Which didn’t work.)
Photo of Mochipet by Alexander Warnow.