Lately, I’ve treated this space with the sort of neglect normally reserved for my children. But with forthcoming releases from The Hold Steady, Sloan, Alejandro Escovedo and Ron Sexsmith (among others) likely to dominate my summer listening, I thought it best to share thoughts on the music that has been crushing me over the past couple of months.
Santogold, Santogold. A wild and wicked collage of new wave, soul and dance music with rhythms that sit in the pocket and stay there. The comparisons with M.I.A. are inevitable and on the money, but the Brooklyn-via-Philly artist is less audacious, more accessible. My clubhouse leader for album of the year. Recommended if you like: M.I.A., Massive Attack, Res.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! Nick Cave is on fire, in the midst of a historic run that began with the cinematic sweep of 2004’s Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus double disc and continuing with the sensational sleaze rock of last year’s Grinderman. Now comes Lazarus, another hyper-literate exploration of religion, sex and soul, featuring one of the hottest bands on the planet. This, pardon my French, is the shit. Recommended if you like: Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, The Hold Steady.
The Ting Tings, We Started Nothing. British minimalist dance rock duo make the party album of the summer, all flash and sass in 4/4 time. Irresistible. Recommended if you like: Blondie, Lily Allen, the first B-52’s record.
The Futureheads, This Is Not the World. British retro-wavers party like it’s 1979 on their third full-length effort, which doesn’t quite equal (but doesn’t pale next to) their near-classic debut. Jagged and skittish but wickedly propulsive. Play it in your car with the windows down and the volume up. Recommended if you like: Arctic Monkeys, 1990s, Gang of Four.
Elbow, The Seldom Seen Kid. Another Brit collective (a theme seems to be emerging), but one not rushing to the chorus. A guitar band that values space over speed, warmth over noise, honey over sugar. Recommended if you like: Early Radiohead, late Blur, low-key Pink Floyd.
The Republic Tigers, Keep Color. Kansas City boys make good with lush, densely-layered, melancholy guitar pop drenched in harmonies. Evocative and elusive, pristine but not prissy. A stellar debut. Recommended if you like: The Shins, Travis, Death Cab for Cutie.
Various artists, Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues. Some of the best music to be released in the States this year was recorded more than three decades ago in Nigeria. A sprawling two-disc set that spotlights little-known acts and spans a vast musical terrain, it features the laid-back lyricism of juju, the hard pulse of Afrobeat, and many styles in between, including the influence of Latin music that comes from living on Africa's west coast. Remarkable, shimmering stuff. Recommended if you like: King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti, Thomas Mapfumo.
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes. This is a new acquisition that I’m slowly wrapping my head around, but it definitely has gravity, the kind of disc I expect to suck me in and reveal itself over time. The whole thing has a warm, analog feel, as if made in another time for our time. Recommended if you like: My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, Band of Horses.