Daft Punk – Alive 2007
Having listened to all three of their albums more times than I can count, I found it surprisingly difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for a live album that promised nothing but the band’s most recognizable songs, probably played in a pre-programmed, straightforward fashion. I’d heard amazing accounts from friends who’d been at some of their American shows on this very tour, but I remained sadly unconvinced. Until now. Alive 2007 injects new life into their hits and even makes some of the lesser-recognized tracks from the kinda disappointing Human After All sound fresh, exciting, and brimming with vision. I don’t know if or when I’ll ever get to see Daft Punk in person — sadly, their 2007 stop in Chicago was my last chance, and their final tour with the pyramid — but in the meantime this secondhand experience is a nice consolation.

Tamiya Terashima – Key the Metal Idol: Original BGM Soundtrack
If you’re looking for the opening and ending themes to Key, you’ve come to the wrong disc. Just background music here, simple vignettes that work great in the series but aren’t very engaging on their own. A whopping 36 tracks featuring saccharine arrangements, 80’s-style splashy stadium drumming and lots of midi keyboards. Most of this sounds like demos for forgotten Playstation jrpgs, so if you’re nostalgic for that sort of thing then maybe this is up your alley. Otherwise, it’s a dated and mostly forgettable collection. Track #12 is a notable exception, a hauntological and creepy moodpiece that’s worth hanging onto.

Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald – Recomposed
Two giants of techno team up for an album of classical remixing, reworking famous symphonies from Maurice Ravel and Modest Mussorgsky. Aside from a synthesizer version of Bolero that I own on vinyl for some reason, I’m not familiar with either of these composers, so the classical merits of this album are wholly lost on me.  It’s a challenging listen that I’m unable to form a meaningful opinion on. A nice enough slice of ambient techno, anyways. Like watching gourmet cookies bake through your oven window.

Peter Van Hoesen – Entropic City
Fantastic techno LP, will probably be one of my favorite albums of the year. It’s times like this I realize that I’m not very good at writing about music. Choons from front to back!

Ewan Pearson – We Are Proud Of Our Choices
A strong mix of minimal/deep house and techno, has the same scene-defining quality as Michael Mayer’s Immer mixes. Everything is so of-the-moment these days and it could be said that people are more likely to be listening to a day(s)-old mix they grabbed from a podcast than one like this that’s gone through the time-consuming process of being mastered, promoted, pressed, shipped, and sold, which seems like more troubled than the average DJ or consumer wants to go through to disseminate or obtain an hour’s worth of music. I hope that mixes like this keep being made and held up as recordings that hold up the same value as an album. The free-model of the Internet certainly allows DJs to utilize the newest tracks and to get their mixes out in the most efficient way possible, but will it eventually mean the end of CD release-worthy mixes like this? I don’t know. I have little insight into the business or club culture and sit at home on the Internet too much. Also, I downloaded this for free so I’m just as much a part of the problem as anyone. Anyway, this is a good album that sags a bit in the middle — I really don’t like sappy trance like this “Open Our Eyes” track — but it starts out great and ends on a beautiful note. I’ve been playing the last two tracks over and over ever since I first found this.

Kids Indestructible – Trans-Pienne Express
A forgotten entry from the seemingly-dead Gooom Disques label, best known for releasing the early works of M83 along with launching the tragically-stunted careers of Abstrackt Keal Agram and Cyann and Ben. A very cool blend of spacey ambient music, Kraut-jamming, Mogwai-ish drone and upbeat, organ and synth-driven pop. I’d been on the hunt for a CD of this for years but finally donated a few dollars to their Bandcamp.com site and downloaded a high-quality digital copy instead. A lost gem that deserves a second life. Highly recommended.

Pantha du Prince – Black Noise
I was a little underwhelmed by This Bliss but Hendrik Weber’s second full-length effort packs a heftier punch and is just a lot more fun. One of the guys from Animal Collective shows up on a track but actually isn’t annoying, which in my book is a major feat. No, really, Weber has reached a new level of confident command over his tracks, where he’s really establishing a sound that’s truly his own and not simply a microcosm of German techno, which was the vibe I used to get from him. A bold and beautiful album, this is.

Sog – Abweichung
A strange little release that I don’t know how to feel about. I have high expectations for any project that Wolfgang Voigt takes on, and in light of the reboot he gave his Gas project throughout 2008 and 2009, I guess I was expecting him to work some of the same magic on this single. But instead of slowly drawing you into icy ambient soundscapes, he brings an insistent, clanging beat that sounds like the one from Aphex Twin’s “Bucephalus Bouncing Ball” and runs with it for about 18 minutes. It gets off to a good enough start and wraps itself up nicely by the end; in between there’s plenty of opportunities for for his ideas to wear themselves out but Voigt shuffles his cards just right and keeps things too unpredictable to ever get boring. The sampled woodwinds and orchestral arrangements are a nice touch, and the interplay between them and the more abrasive electronic stomp is more interesting than it should be. Maybe I like this after all?

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
At this point I’m not even sure what 2D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle exactly have to do with the music of Gorillaz. Are they still supposed to be the band behind the songs, or has the project changed to the point where they’re merely mascots for the music? By Demon Days I should have realized that Gorillaz isn’t really a high-concept “animated band” so much as simply a Damon Albarn solo project, albeit one that’s allowed him to collaborate with almost anyone he wants and — thanks to Jamie Hewlett’s visual contributions — find a successful niche in a pop landscape that would otherwise not know what to do with his eclectic visions. This time out, it seems unlikely that average music fans (at least here in the states) will be willing to turn the fantastic lead single “Stylo” into a chart contender like they did with “Clint Eastwood” or “Feel Good Inc.,” but considering that they’ve done nothing but listen to the Black Eyed Peas for the last four years, that was perhaps inevitable. Very good tracks featuring Snoop Dogg, Little Dragon, Mark E. Smith, Mos Def, Kano and Bashy. The only track I end up skipping is “Some Kind of Nature” featuring Lou Reed. Some days I like “Superfast Jellyfish,” but it does sound like De La Soul weren’t really trying on it. Overall, a very strong album that was worth waiting for.

The Stooges – Raw Power
I know this is supposed to be the go-to Stooges album but when I’m listening to any “important” band of past or present, I like to go through their discs in chronological order, hence the reason why I hadn’t heard this until now. That’s really no excuse though, so to even the score this CD proceeded to give me a pulsing headache after a mere half hour’s listen set to a usually safe “30” on my car stereo (which I’ll turn up to “40” if I want to listen to something loud). I guess that was my experience with Stooges and Funhouse, too: in 15-minute doses The Stooges sound like, well… the best band ever. Any more than that and it’s almost like the music gets bored of me, kicks me to the curb and stomps on my head until I give up and go listen to Nick Drake instead. Just like before I’ll brush it off and come back for more. Am I man enough to make it through this (very short!) album in one sitting? If I never post on this blog again, you’ll know why.