Crystal Castles have made a career of virulent, opaque electro. Their first two albums earned high praise, and their live shows gave them a reputation for causing riots. Their third full-length, 'III,' is not as blindsiding as their earlier work, but the Canadian duo once again create an intoxicating kaleidoscope of fever dreams.
Nostalgia, guitar solos, slacker jams, introspection, depression, hope: It's the stuff of youth, and it all fits into ‘Our House on the Hill,’ the second album from the Babies, a peanut butter sandwich of a record that is delicious in its familiarity. And perhaps a little unhealthy.
What must it be like in the mind of David Longstreth? The frontman of the Dirty Projectors leads one of our era's most beloved bands, and the lush strings and interlocking vocals of ‘Bitte Orca’ and ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ have become as familiar to listeners as well-loved furniture. An EP, then, constitutes a bonus, complementing and expanding on the Projectors’ careful, measured work of the past five years and letting us deeper into this artist's mind.
There's a good chance you already love one-half of the twin creative force behind the Crystal Ark. Gavin Russom was a member of a little band called LCD Soundsystem, which popularized a particular Nu-Disco-meets-New Order sound endemic to New York-based boutique label DFA. As you may know, LCD has split up. Russom, accordingly, has found a new creative partner, telenovela director and artist Viva Ruiz. The result might be the best dance-pop album of the year.
As virtuostic as he is proflific, the Chicago-born Andrew Bird has been giving us slices of baroque gorgeousness every year for a decade. At 39, he's established a unique, signature sound, a pastiche of a fragile violin, earnest lyricism and clever arrangements, somewhere in the environs of fellow indie darlings Sufjan Stevens and the Arcade Fire. And so on 'Hands of Glory,' when that violin becomes more of a fiddle, the listener naturally sits with rapt attention. This is a side of Bird we haven't heard.
Canadian surreal pop, whispered French nothings, British New Wave, Japanese undead: It's all there in the sexual Frankenstein cabaret of Harouki Zombi, the shared project of Nina Barnes and Orenda Fink. The duo mark their first release with ‘Objet Petit A,’ a danceable, strange and awesome EP that provides unexpected uplift, both to the heart and the booty.
With their outrageous band name, gruesome-cute album art and endlessly vocodered vocals, Black Moth Super Rainbow do not lend themselves to accessibility. At first blush, the Pittsburghian maniacs seem like less-literate cousins of Animal Collective, a drop in the psychoactive bucket. However, after a few spins of ‘Cobra Juicy,’ another theory begins to emerge: These guys are really good.
This warrants investigation.
It's been a crazy 21st century for Benjamin Gibbard, whose soft-spoken voice has permeated the era, and whose Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service projects have left an indelible mark on listeners' lives. Along the way, he married indie princess Zooey Deschanel, though the two have since split up. Through all of this, he flipped between his native Seattle and adopted home of Los Angeles, all the while writing and recording disarming little solo songs. From these comes 'Former Lives,' his first album under his own name, and a more fitting title would be hard to find.
On ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ their first album in a decade, Godspeed You! Black Emperor deliver a post-rock protest record that speaks and plays at the highest of volumes -- even though they never say a thing.
The word, concept and phase of life that saturates Freelance Whales is youth. Not in an M83, babies-of-the-'80s nostalgic way, but rather in real-time, doe-eyed expressions of their still-going salad days. The Whales are a quintet from Queens -- which counts as contrarian, given all the Brooklyn bands -- and on 'Diluvia,' they have a yearning, reaching, inchoate style that's as crisp as a freshly plucked apple.