Album Picks: Porcelain Raft, Howler, Common

Posted by Billy Gil, January 24, 2012 12:01pm | Post a Comment
Hey y'all! Here are my album picks for January:

Porcelain RaftPorcelain 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.

HowlerHowler – 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.

CommonCommon – The Dreamer/The Believer

Common’s The Dreamer/The Believer has been one of the most welcome surprises of late 2011 — a real “return to form,” false promises of such things be damned. It’s easily his strongest set of songs since 2005’s winning Be and harkens back to his earlier classics. Single “Ghetto Dreams” pairs Common with Nas — a similarly revered artist who’s found it difficult to remain relevant — for an old-school hip-hop joint that finds the two rap veterans doing what they do best, trading skilled verses that eschew showiness for depth. Producer and co-writer No I.D. (Kanye West’s production mentor) provides the perfect accompaniment for Common rooted firmly in no-frills classic hip-hop, all soul samples and record scratches, but livens things up with unexpected beat breaks in “Raw (How You Like It)” and makes an ELO sample into stuttering, swirling psych-hop in “Blue Sky.” For his part, Common sounds raw and enlivened, rid of the need to either outdo his younger contemporaries or live up to some “conscious hip-hop” ideal. He’s doing his thing, and it sounds as great as you’d hope.

Relevant Tags

Howler (1), Porcelain Raft (1), Common (13), Twee (5), Marc Bolan (5), The Strokes (8), Guided By Voices (9), The Jesus & Mary Chain (2), Shoegaze (33), Nas (26)