Tame Impala – Lonerism
Whereas Tame Impala’s awesome first album, Innerspeaker, was all about muscle, on Lonerism the Australian band tends to build its psych-rock songs more deliberately, more delicately. But they still kick ass, and hard. “Be Above It’s” titular refrain is whispered over a tumbling drumbeat until Kevin Parker takes off with a simple, Beatlesesque melody and he and his cohorts supply fuzzed out psychedelic flourishes. Thanks to Parker’s high, nasal voice, those comparisons to John Lennon keep coming, on songs like “Apocalypse Dreams,” where Parker’s vocals and melodies certainly are reminiscent of the Fab Four, but musically they’re no mere worshippers at the psych throne, more interested in squeezing strange, new sounds out of familiar territory and taking their arrangements through multiple tempo changes, broiling them through effects, laying moogs and synths over them and then looping back to the original melody like deja vu. Tame Impala also prove adept and producing the straightforward rock single on “Elephant,” which may draw comparisons to The White Stripes for more than just its title, but whose bass-heavy sound really pulls more from psych originators like Blue Cheer — just hookier. Parker, who produced the first Tame Impala record, as well as the recent, excellent release by Melody’s Echo Chamber, finds perfect sonic kinship in David Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev), who can be known for helping to dramatically change a band’s sound (Sleater-Kinney’s mindblowing The Woods, for instance) but who mostly seems to help Tame Impala sound even fuller, allowing the band’s punchiness to come through in tracks like the pop psychedelic wonder of “Music to Walk Home By,” but thickening it with layers of space-rock sound. The end result is that Lonerism hits hard but leaves a lasting impression, leaving the listener to wrap his or her head around all the wondrous sounds of the record and immediately wanting to track back and listen again.
Ty Segall – Twins
Ty Segall this year has already released a dual album with White Fence and an excellent run through a more ferocious take on his rock ’n’ roll with Ty Segall Band’s Slaughterhouse. Despite the excellence of those albums, they were diversions from his usual run of albums. He returns to his solo material with Twins, an album that ostensibly is more of a singer-songwriter record, similarly to albums like Melted or Goodbye Bread, but which in reality splits the distance between his more song-first material and his more noisier releases, such as Slaughterhouse or his first releases. Twins is really the best of both worlds. “Inside Your Heart” is tuneful but disintegrates into sludgey guitar noise. “The Hill” is a breathtaking stomper, but Segall sings at his most Lennon-esque and beautiful female vocals at the chorus adds an unexpected twist to what good have been another good times Segall song. Twins has what an album as strong as Goodbye Bread didn’t — meat — without sacrificing any of the songwriting. Witness the extreme tunefulness of a song like “Would You Be My,” as catchy and acidic in equal proportions as a Nirvana song. As prolific as Segall is, Twins shows all of those releases weren’t the work of a dabbling, frivolous artist. Twins is smashing, as honed a release as Segall as to his name, and even just judging by his releases in 2012, that’s saying something.
MellowHype – Numbers
LP $25.98 [Out 11/13/2012]
Duo MellowHype have both the blessing and curse of being part of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, a generally brilliant, if hyped, collective of artists that MellowHype members Hodgy Beats and Left Brain helped found. The good is that MellowHype’s excellence as no-bullshit rappers is recognized among those who know them; the bad is that many don’t, as Odd Future in general tends to overshadow its members, outside of Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator. Numbers could help rectify that, as its expansive 16 tracks show the breadth of work Hodgy Beats and Left Brain have to offer. Single “Grill” sticks out for its slow-mo psych-rap weirdness, as the rappers spell out their band name over a smoke-haze backdrop, as does “Astro,” if for the fact that Frank Ocean lends his vocals and some welcome sensitivity to the proceedings. Hip-hop heads should find plenty to chew on though with the rest of the album, as tracks like the nearly seven-minute “65/Breakfast” shifts so smoothly from slow, jazzy rap to a kind of synth-heavy, sexually charged soundscape to an underwater pondering of the afterlife. And that’s just one song, and the second track of the album. “NFWGJDSH” brims with proto-gangsta-rap nostalgia, soundwise, minus the pointless beefs; “La Bonita” is a weirdo Spanish-vibing tribute to Latina beauties; “Monster” puts ’80s soul through the sound wash and spits nasty verse over the results; and Earl Sweatshirt shows up for the sparkling “P2.” Mostly, Numbers doesn’t concern itself with flash. Track titles like “Beat,” “Snare” and “Untitled L” should clue you in, MellowHype are more concerned with producing excellent hip-hop than image-conscious boasting, almost to a fault. Other hip-hop releases may grab you more quickly, but Numbers’ depth and consistency will undoubtedly leave a more lasting impression.
Django Django – Django Django
LP $24.98 [Out 11/13/2012]
Django Django’s ebullient psych-pop is so congenial, so easy you don’t realize how addictive it is. Django Django’s songs are nearly always catchy but hardly ever in your face, preferring instead to gradually sink their hooks into you. “Hail Bop” appropriately soars over you with its garage-rock guitars and spaced out harmonies, while “Default” goes for the jugular a bit more, vibing the dark riffs and drone of Clinic with the arena-ready friendliness and moog explorations of Hot Chip. Django Django really delves into its Spaghetti Western roots on songs like “Firewater,” which manages to evoke the West of Hollywood even while employing an electronic beat and vocals that fly out into infinity. Their willingness to cheekily play with classic formula means they get away with a lot, like writing deliberately Egyptian-sounding melodies over what’s basically a digitized 12-bar blues on “Skies Over Cairo.” And though their lyrics then toward scientific and esoteric wordplay, they manage to sing from the heart on the loping “Love’s Dart” (“Love’s dart, broken apart/If you walk in circles, you’ll find yourself back at the start”). Space Western Electro-folk? Whatever you want to call Django Django, they’re so charmingly non-self-serious and eager to please (without being overeager), any rehashed elements to their sound are forgiven in the spirit of Django Django’s adventurous spirit and fun attitude.
Miguel – Kaleidescope Dream
This one came out last week, but I overlooked it then and since have been listening to it nonstop. “Adorn” is too-perfect indie-meets-mainstream R&B, catchy but with perfect experimentality — think a looser, sexier How to Dress Well. “Use Me” marries its sexual longing to an XX-style riff — awesome, and better than Coexist, given Miguel’s impressive pipes, which echo out into infinity. See pictures from his performance at Amoeba Hollywood last week here!
AC Newman – Shut Down The Streets
AC Newman’s hooky, active songwriting has been one of the driving forces in The New Pornographers for years, but his solo material has been comparably fruitful. His latest release, Shut Down the Streets, is his most ambitious yet, adding more instrumental flourish to his palette of British invasion-inspired pop songwriting.
John Cale – Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood
That goofy album title and song titles like “I Wanna Talk 2 U” would seem to imply that this is John Cale's "party record," but despite the aforementioned song’s big drum beat, and the occasional autotune (!), Cale’s latest record is not an ill-fated attempt to party with the kids Skrillex style, but rather an excellent experimental pop record akin to the tasteful kind produced by men of a certain age who haven’t lost their hipness, like a Peter Gabriel or David Byrne.
Trash Talk – 119
LP $25.98 [Out 11/13/2012]
Trash Talk truly sound like the voice of outsiders on 119, decrying the pain, suffering and corruption they see in the world around them on the explosive “Exile on Broadway.” Indebted to classic hardcore bands (especially Black Flag and Bad Brains), Trash Talk keep with its history as music of protest and serious subject matter while staying hard, fast and quick. Odd Future’s Tyler, the Creator and Hodgy Beats growl and chant over heavy sludge on “Blossom & Burn,” speaking to the positive effects of having Trash Talk sign to the mostly hip-hop-based Odd Future Records. But Trash Talk’s smart hardcore speaks for itself, too. Just listen to “F.E.B.N.,” which spends a good chunk of its less than two minute running time building its beat before unleashing riffs that could withstand a hurricane, which is pretty much what frontman Lee Spielman delivers with his slashing vocals.
Black Marble – A Different Arrangement
It’s safe to say that if you like minimal/dark wave, you’re going to like Black Marble. The Brooklyn duo’s debut record hits all the right spots — deeply intoned vocals, notable for their smoothness and fullness here, over tinny drum machines and analog synth delights. “Cruel Summer,” the album’s opener, is a fine example of how much energy they can build through carefully layering their minimalistic set-up. It’s sort of a perfect summer comedown for this first week where it truly feels like fall. “MSQ No Extra” sounds like a takeout food order instruction, but its pulse and Cure-style bassline serve as guides through a spectral synth grid that makes the whole thing feel like a seemingly endless city night. The duo doesn’t add much to pretty well-worn territory — everything’s pretty on-the-nose, right down to ’80s-sounding song titles like “A Great Design” and “A Different Arrangement” — but as far as modern bands go who re-create a then-overlooked and now much-beloved sound, Black Marble is as good as it gets.
Bowling for Soup – One Big Happy!
Bowling for Soup’s 12th album offers more hooky, snotty yet sincere pop-punk.
Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs – Sunday Run Me Over
Holly Golightly’s at it again with her second release of the year, after the fine Long Distance. Sunday Run Me Over finds Golightly and her partner, Lawyer Dave, at their most ferocious and irreverent, kicking their kerosene-fueled Americana into high gear on a collection of originals, like the nasty Delta blues stomp of “Goddamn Holy Roll,” and covers, like “Hard to be Humble,” which starts with a mini-skit of the band members calling each other out on Facebook, or their twisted take on “We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus,” reversing the lyrics to point out the hypocrisy of politics and religiosity (“God really needs your money, well he’s running out of cash out there” is my favorite) and calling for more rock ’n’ roll — amen!