Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
When I listen to music, it’s either in my living room on my computer (through what I like to think are decent stereo speakers), on a CD in my car (probably the main reason I still buy CDs, including this one), or through earbuds on my cheap, refurbished mp3 player. Cosmogramma, like the last two albums from “FlyLo,” sounds great at home, doesn’t work well as driving music at all, and makes for a moody soundtrack on a late spring’s evening stroll. I don’t enjoy it as much as Los Angeles or perhaps even 1983, as it feels a little more cluttered and claustrophobic than I’d like, though I realize that he needed to step up and make something a little more difficult than those albums if he wanted to take advantage of the fortunate (and well deserved!) position that he’s found himself in in 2010. Once again, Laura Darlington provides a cool and sultry album-closer (er, second to last track this time, close enough) and is the most memorable of album’s guests. As they say on teh Interwebs: moar!
Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
In my first installment of this column (if you can call it that) I was pining for a new Crystal Castles release. Almost overnight, another self-titled album was suddenly announced, and it’s a great example of a band maturing — possibly one of the least likely bands to really do so — without losing their edge or any of what made their earliest efforts sound edgy, brash, or fun. The Chiptune influence is a little less obvious on this album, but Crystal Castles are still playing with dated sounds in fresh new ways. They’re not content to be bratty electro-punks anymore, but seem to have a real interest in glossy pop and ambitions to respectfully deconstruct it into something that’s uniquely theirs. Again, there’s plenty of ear-splitting moments — “Doe Deer” finds Alice’s vocals redlined into completely incomprehensible noise — but it turns out that the Enyaesque “Tell Me What To Swallow” from the debut was really a sign of things to come. It’s still hard to tell whether the emotion in these songs is genuine or just a ploy, but after several listens it was enough to make me feel sorry for ever prejudging these two for their petty crimes against indie decency.
Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?
Honestly, I’ve loved this band since Solar Bridge came out, but now that they’ve been approved by Pitchfork, every dork who’s drooling over new Arcade Fire and M.I.A. songs is catching on and rushing to an opinion about them, and they’re well on their way to being just another indie band for college kids to put on their iPods. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a really stunning album that overshadows and obliterates anything it’s set next to, whether it’s twee indie rock or anyone else’s other space-age drone project. The songs are shorter this time out and more “musical” than in the past, with guitar solos bubbling up below the noisy surface, but it still feels like their biggest and most ambitious recording to date. Play this on your next trip through the star gate or journey into the Dirac Sea.
Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
A year ago I was turned on to the fantastic and deep double-length collection Rifts, which compiled the first few EPs from OPN (given name Daniel Lopatin). I thought I was hearing some familiar influences: Boards of Canada, Para One, moody instrumental hip-hop or classic IDM, all stuff that I either liked or loved, and was probably attracted to out of a sense of familiarity. Lopatin threatens to blow these warm and fuzzy feelings apart in the opening minutes of Returnal, which opens with a cacophonous noise piece before easing back into the kind of keyboard-driven ambiance that he’s better known for. Except for the title track (which sounds like The Knife, as I’m sure every review is bound to mention), there’s not a whole lot to distinguish Returnal from his past works. But maybe that perception is just the inevitable result of him releasing so much music in so little time, and me being a blogger trying to absorb and honestly sort it out. Keener ears might discover some changes from Rifts that I simply can’t catch. But I really do like this and think it’s worth the attention it’s received, and I’m glad that he’s made the jump from a virtual unknown about a year ago to the kind of status that he’s (hopefully) enjoying today.
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
I don’t know if I’ve so consistently enjoyed an artist as I have over the last decade as I have LCD Soundsystem while still managing to take them so for granted. The self-titled album was a favorite of mine back in 2004, until it was stolen from my car, leaving me with no memory of what it really sounded like other than the essential singles included on the bonus disc. Sound of Silver sounded great in 2007, until it became the favorite album of every Modest Mouse/Spoon/Wolf Parade white bread indie fan (all very eager to relate to his personal songs in all the most superficial ways). Hopefully, This Is Happening will escape such fates, and for all the fun I’ve had with it for the past two months, it seems like it stands a good chance to. “Drunk Girls” sounded awful as a lead single, but of course I’ve come around to it by now. Otherwise, it’s just more of James Murphy doing what he does best.
DeepChord Presents: Echospace – Liumin
Another DeepChord release, or is it by Echospace? What’s the difference, and why carry on with such a confusing moniker? Anyway, this is one hell of an immersive album, pushing minimal techno to its limits. Each track bleeds into the next, making Liumin sound less like a collection or even a work of art than some kind of loop-propelled journey into the neon-lit night as seen on the cover. This can all go by rather quick if you let it but rewards attentive listening. I’m not sure if they (or anyone, really) have ever truly moved past the Basic Channel-inspired sound that they’re either copying or paying tribute to here, but if this is the sound of electronic music spinning its wheels, then I don’t think we have much to complain about.
Efdemin – Chicago
As a listener who sits in front of the computer for hours at a time, and who takes his mp3 player on walks during breaks at work, I enjoy most of this album for the space that it gives me to think. Of course, there’s some good dance beats at work, and I’m sure that even I could find a way to work about half of these tracks into a good house music set. But there’s a sort of joyless monotony to about a third of it, less suited to dance floors than to assembly lines for low-wage workers. I guess what I mean is, there’s always a sense of momentum, of moving forward, but occasionally it seems to lose sight of anything higher. I know, I couldn’t possibly be any more vague than that. This album has a workmanlike feel to it in both the best and the worst sense of the word, I guess.
Glimpse – Runner
I really feel this even though there’s nothing obvious to it that’s really grabbing my ear. Economical, no-gimmick deep house that makes my apartment a nicer-sounding place to live. I keep coming back for more and trying to figure out what it is that I like about it.