Worldwide stardom hasn't softened M.I.A. one iota; if anything, it's made her resolve to be the planet's most provocative pop star that much stronger. Following the all-over-the-map Maya, by comparison Matangi is laser-focused, utilizing harsh industrial noise much in the same way Kanye West's Yeezus did, though she fuses it with a worldbeat touch and heavy EDM nods. Most of all, Matangi succeeds because it sounds like an M.I.A. album, even if it's been digitally chopped up and reassembled more so than previous releases. Her opening tracks come on hard, dropping names of wartorn nations in the title track amid a digital grenade of atonal sounds, while "Warriors" drills with a minimalist hip-hop beat. "Come Walk With Me" starts like a love song, quiet with a reggae sway, before jumping off the rails with a hyperactive dancehall-house beat. Though these tracks touch on her typical subject matter of empowering the global masses, she's also having a great time, rapping like a cocky hip-hop star and subverting the formula. And the second half of Matangi is loaded with ass-shakers. "atention's" twisted beat makes it one of her sickest dance songs since "World Town." The previously released "Bad Girls" makes an appearance in all its bhangra-beat glory, and "Bring the Noize" is the album's instant classic, unleashing a brutal beat that makes most EDM sound like kid's music as M.I.A. pulls off sounding disaffected while spouting rhymes at an impressive tick. Matangi is a welcome comeback after a troubling period for M.I.A., proving her once again to be one of the most forward-thinking pop music entities around.
Poolside – Seasons Change mix
The last band I expected to hear from this fall/winter was Poolside. Their Pacific Standard Time album was so perfectly suited for the sunshine that it would seem perverse for them to go wintry, but that’s just what they’ve done with their Seasons Change mix, which the LA-based duo said they put together while driving through the Northeast in October. Listen below. On initial scan, it actually sounds pretty similar in spirit to their other album’s moody electronics, making you realize the power of suggestion. Also it sounds great no matter when you put it on.
The Fresh & Onlys Film “What’s In My Bag?”
SF garage-pop greats The Fresh & Onlys filmed a “What’s in My Bag?” feature with Amoeba, and we have it up to stream now. Check out their album Long Slow Dance if you haven’t yet, one of my favorite rock ’n’ roll records released this year.
Like some unholy marriage between Black Flag and The Cramps, FIDLAR’s “Cheap Beer” is pure aural fuck — “I DRINK CHEAP BEER SO WHAT FUCK YOU.” There’s more subtlety there within than that would imply — sweet little surf riffs, excellent solo, smart dynamics, perfect production without being self-consciously lo-fi. But the thing the L.A. band offers uniquely is that clear-cut dynamite party chorus, a rarity in the days of reverb-awash garage rock. FIDLAR’s deubt album will be released in early 2013 on Mom & Pop.
SFV Acid – “Ashland Slumber”
This nasty bit of indie electro-house comes from L.A.’s SFV Acid, who sound like they’re coming into their own with this latest slab of sublimely grimey dance music. “Ashland Slumber” sounds a bit like Detroit house blasted out of shitty speakers and garnering extra feedback and reverb in the process. I love how lush the synths are vs. the brutality of the beats. Harsh, weird fun stuff. The Neighborhood Archives EP is due Oct. 15 on UNO.
Vex Ruffin – “Take It”
Gnarly, nasty one-man-band punk out of L.A. Vex Ruffin’s “Take It” rides its bone-simple riff and drum machine (I think? It might as well be.) to great heights on Ruffin’s balls to the wall vocal. It’s kind of the punk inverse of Dirty Beaches’ one-main rockabilly noir. His debut LP is due next year on Stones Throw.
Cat Power – Sun
Cat Power’s personal life — her admitted alcoholism, her erratic live shows — is a favorite topic of discussion such that it often threatens to overshadow talk of her brilliant music. Perhaps in an effort to curb that, Chan Marshall has created her least intimate, most globally accessible album with Sun. Marshall produced and performed almost everything on the album herself, but in lieu of the sort of austerity of an album like Moon Pix, we get a dark synth-pop record, spurred by Marshall’s desire to make something unlike anything she had done before. However, underneath the synths that spiral around the title track, for instance, this is still very much a Cat Power record — worry not, fans. In fact, the beginning of opener “Cherokee” begins in what sounds fairly typical for Cat Power — a simple, repeating guitar line, light piano touches and a steady beat — but it becomes clear that this is new territory as Marshall comes in with distorted, direct lyrics: “Never knew love like this.” However pop-oriented the song, with a beautiful synth melody making it sound a bit like ’80s Fleetwood Mac, Marshall’s meanings are still obscured: “Marry me to the sky … bury me upside down.” First single “Ruin” is similarly grabbing, but ultimately strange, unique; it’s piano lines and disco bassline dance up and down a bouncing beat while Marshall sings about various global locales like an indie rock “Kokomo,” but she’s singing about poverty, not vacation or the awesomeness of getting to travel while touring. It’s fun to hear her go pop-rock on “3,6,9,” which bounces along with chanted choruses and even sees Marshall take on the ubiquitous vocoder. Marshall can’t help but become increasingly personal as the album progresses, as live drums interrupt the digital beats of “Manhattan,” which glitters with heartfelt searching; “Silent Machine” returns to the bluesiness of her last few releases, but also has a startling computerized breakdown halfway through; and “Nothin But Time,” a duet with Iggy Pop, makes for the most beautiful, 10-minute Kraftwerkian ballad you’ll hear anywhere. The rock guitars and hip-hop delivery of “Peace and Love,” which closes the album, show Marshall is willing to go just about anywhere with her music if it provides new inspiration for her stirring voice and incisive lyrics; thankfully, on Sun, it nearly always does. She's signing copies of Sun today at 6 p.m. at Amoeba Hollywood for the first 100 people who buy the record!
The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance
The Fresh & Onlys were are always good, but Long Slow Dance takes the S.F. garage rockers to epic heights, with a newfound clarity to their vocals and straightforwardness of songwriting. “Yes or No” is divine romantic guitar pop, stringing a beautiful upward melody along a chugging backbeat that develops into a swooning chorus. The title track is the kind of campfire-friendly indie pop that bests the Shins at their game. “Presence of Mind” swirls around a picturesque college-rock backdrop but loops in perfect surf-rock riffs and another irresistible chorus. Every song seems to have some “how can that be new” moment, whether it’s a memorable line like “Dream girls don’t know what they’re doing/They go around doing anything they want,” or some elegant guitar riff, or laying out yet another perfect guitar ballad with “Executioner’s Song.” You just don’t want Long Slow Dance to end.
In the spirit of Amoeba Hollywood’s new Punk section, I’ll post about Sacramento hardcore band Trash Talk and the first video, “F.E.B.N.,” from its upcoming album Odd Future Records, 119, on Oct. 9. Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator directed this bit of black-and-white mayhem in some sort of parking garage. Everything about this music/video is probably upsetting to lots of people. Which means of course that it’s pretty great. The song is less than two minutes long and somehow builds unbearable anticipation in its extended intro — all you want to do is turn it up and face the noise you’re about to hear head on.
Army Navy – World’s End video
L.A. indie pop band Army Navy have a video for the song “World’s End.” I had never listened to this band before; I only knew I might like them because their band name shares a name with a Camera Obscura album. And I do! The song is really nice, kind of sounds like “Blue Bayou” but is less dramatic, more morose, and there’s a key change, which I am a sucker for. The video is awesome for a number of reasons — it’s an old fake talk show, which is a done premise but is done funnily here, as this bizzaro, kind of bleak ’60s swinger thing, and features Freaks & Geaks’ Martin Starr, who I had no idea could be kind of sexy. The singer also kind of looks like Steve Carell. You have to watch it on Entertainment Weekly’s EW.com; I guess this band is getting pretty big. The song appears on a seven-inch with a B-side cover of Yaz’s “Only You,” which is awesome, duh. Their new album is due early next year.