Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend
Porcelain Raft, aka Italian-born Mauro Remiddi, makes the kind of wide-eyed romantic pop that borrows from various genres — lo-fi, soul, indie pop and shoegaze — but ends up in its own emotional territory due to Remiddi’s bedroom-recording aesthetics. “Drifting In and Out” appropriately sees its swooning electronics and new wave guitars come in and out of focus in what feels like falling asleep with the radio on. Strange Weekend works because its filled with tiny surprises, like the way Remiddi suddenly gets all glam in “Shapeless & Gone,” like an electro-twee Marc Bolan, or the psych-hop beats that pull back the marvelously affecting “Unless You Speak From Your Heart” from preciousness. It’s not the first time at the rodeo for Remiddi, a 37-year-old veteran of indie pop, previously in the band Sunny Day Sets Fire; perhaps that’s why he gets nearly everything right on his first solo full-length record.
Howler – America Give Up
What a pleasure Howler’s debut, America Give Up, is. Already this early into 2012, we have the year’s most irresistible album, 10 songs from a band weaned on the likes of The Jesus & Mary Chain and Guided By Voices. Much like their forebears in The Strokes (how’s that for making us all feel old), Howler has a way of distilling somewhat obvious and oversaturated influences into three-minute gems that get pretty much everything right. — dig the swaying romanticism of “Too Much Blood,” or the surf-gaze of “America,” or the snarky indie rock of “Back of Your Neck” (featuring the too-good lyrics “you think we’re Bonnie and Clyde, but both of them fuckin’ died”). If you can stop playing this on repeat, you’re stronger than we are.
Common – The Dreamer/The Believer