Top 10: Koushik, Digitalism, Tittsworth
Out My Window
Release Date: September 30
Warm electronics, dreamy vocals, and slightly funky, off-kilter hip-hop beats are offered in spades on the official debut album from longtime Stones Throw artist Koushik. What the Vermont-based multi-instrumentalist and singer has essentially done with this release is blend '60s-era pop with '90s-era dusty hip-hop, drenched the entire thing in lots of reverb, and added some touches of flute and harpsichord. Simply put, this album is mellow–in the "I've just popped a Valium and plan to lie in a dreamlike state for the next eight hours" sense of the word.
Kitsuné Tabloid Mixed by Digitalism
Release Date: Out Now
Now, in this age of iPod shuffle and instant gratification, it's hard to make a mix of tracks that anyone is going to sit down and actually hear from start to finish anywhere outside the club setting. And when your mix is a who's-who of the ADD-afflicted, blog-happy generation, the aforementioned task becomes even more difficult. The Digitalism boys were up to the challenge, though. The mixing here harkens back to the days when merging one record into another was an actual skill, and the aim was to present a mix that felt akin to one continuous track. There's a nice sense of momentum here as the compilation builds from disco to electro, then rather quickly into harder, faster dance music. Perhaps most importantly, Tabloid feels as though the duo had fun while making it, which, at the end of the day, is what dance music should be all about.
The American Dollar
A Memory Stream
Release Date: August 19
Many artists will claim that their music is cinematic. The American Dollar doesn’t, but the band’s newest album could play soundtrack to a movie quite easily. Using drums, keyboards, guitars, and various other percussion instruments, John Emanuele and Rich Cupolo weave richly textured melodies in between cascades of drums, synths, and sparse organ notes, creating a sound that puts them on par with bands like The Album Leaf or Explosions in the Sky. Whether a track contains a lush, ambient-interlude feel or a sweeping explosion of chords, emotion runs high on this disc.
Release Date: September 1
Also on the ambient tip, but in more of a pop vein is this one, from the St. Albans, U.K.-based trio of Ed Macfarlane, Edd Gibson, and Jack Savidge. Though musically scattershot (you’ll find everything from funk to electro on here), the dance/rock hybrid remains a strong component throughout the album, with producer Paul Epworth stepping up to produce the first single, "Jump in the Pool," a rather My Bloody Valentine-influenced track. According to Macfarlane, the album contains about five percent of what the band is currently writing, so who knows what other styles and songs these guys have planned for the future.
Nothing is Precious Enough for Us
Release Date: August 19
Death Vessel, despite its vaguely metal-sounding name, is the project of singer/songwriter Joel Thibodeau, whose tracks acknowledge a combination of rock, pop, and jazz on this release. In addition to playing most of the instruments himself, from guitar to drums, harmonica, mandolin, and keyboards, Thibodeau also shines a spotlight on his acoustic guitar picking and unique voice, which, to be honest, sounds like neither feminine nor masculine (seriously).
Release Date: August 12
Jesse Tittsworth is gaining international attention of late, taking his high-energy, bass-heavy dancefloor numbers around the country and winning the affection of every blog out there with his remixes and edits. Finally, he's crafted a debut that will prove his skills on the production end. Seemingly having nothing to do with actual 12-step programs (other than the track title "Drunk as Fuck"), 12 Steps, is a trip through a land of gritty breaks, dirty lyrics, and plenty of guest appearances from the likes of Kid Sister, DJ Assault, singer Nina Sky, and Santi White of Santogold. Fun is the first priority here, and in that area, not to mention numerous others, Tittsworth more than succeeds.
Oh My Heart
I’ve never heard an artist compare his broken heart to a dead fish lying on a rock. Enter the quirky world of Vancouver-based quintet Mother Mother, who explore their music with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. A follow-up to their 2007 debut Touch Up, this album is an indie rock-driven affair that, thankfully, doesn’t take itself too seriously, allowing for moments of reckless abandon in which vocals, guitars, drums, and bass stampede over one another before merging back into the tightly arranged compositions found throughout most of the album. And I still love the concept of comparing one’s broken heart to a dead fish being baked by the sun.
Release Date: August 26
It took Tussle nearly two years to complete this album, and in the interim, the band saw a change of ranks with the addition of bass and electronics master Tomonori Yasuda, as well as collaborations with Hot Chip and visual artist David Shrigley. All of these activities must have inspired the band, because Cream Cuts finds them in top form, further exploring the possibilities of organic and electronic instruments and bringing a diverse selection of tracks that are as danceable as they are home-listenable. The drumming in particular is excellent here, with several of the tracks sounding like a really big drum circle–no surprise, considering bandmember Warren Huegel participated in the Boredoms’ acclaimed 77BoaDrum event last July.
Map of the Universe
Man Eating Seas
Release Date: Out Now
KiNo–whose real name is kept under wraps–is one of those Renaissance Man-types that makes the rest of us green with envy over his many artistic talents. A composer, poet, and visual artist, he uses all of these skills on Map of the Universe (besides playing the drums, which are performed by Brazilian Girls member Aaron Johnston). Music-wise, the album finds KiNo singing raspily over a palette of guitars, synths, laptop-generated noise, and numerous other instruments, delving into all manner of genres, from ambient to soul to rock and jazz. Those interested in his visual work can visit his site to watch videos and buy the CD format of this release, which comes packaged in a handmade box.
"Lollipop (Nasty Ways Remix)"
It seems this track is not just a favorite of the XLR8R.com staffers, but also our readers, who wrote in all sorts of eloquent praise for it, such as "Heat!!!," "This is the TRUTH!!!!!," and "Hot Sauce!!!." Besides being a track that causes people to use multiple exclamation points when writing, Eprom and Boreta's remix of "Lollipop" is a synth-laden, feedback-drenched extravaganza that, on minute 5:24, when the multi-chord melody kicks in, causes chills down the spine. Heat indeed.
Photo of Digitalism by Piper Fergueson.