Santigold – 99 Cents


Santigold – 99 Cents

Released February 26th, 2016 on Atlantic Records

Santigold – born Santi White in Philadelphia – is at a strangely awkward place in her career.  After wowing the indie-blog glitterati in 2008 with her debut Santogold, she followed it up four years later with Master Of My Make-Believe, a record that received more muted applause despite being a generally stronger album.  The trend continues on 99 Cents, an album that has been largely slept on by critics despite being the strongest recording of Santigold’s discography to date.

Part of the problem, perhaps, is that she’s no longer new and shiny.  It’s fairly obvious by now that the blogosphere – spearheaded by Hipster Indie Bible site Pitchfork – is enamored with artists when they’re new and exciting and ditches them as soon as they release follow-ups that build upon strengths in increments.  Santigold has fallen victim to that phenomenon; witness the number of outlets that have reviewed 99 Cents as “restrained”, “empty”, and “unambitious”.  This, to describe an album that playfully encompasses any number of styles without ever committing to a generic reading of genre.  Lead single “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself” bounces on a summer-breeze pop groove while “Big Boss Big Time Business” adds some solid weight to its Carribean bass-boom.  “Rendezvous Girl” switches things up for an Eighties-tinged New Wave-inspired rocker while “Who Be Lovin Me” (featuring ILoveMakonnen) puts her squarely in the ambient-shaded singalong world of modern hip hop.  99 Cents goes in a lot of directions at once, but it manages to strike the right path in those directions a lot more than it wanders off.  Only “Chasing Shadows” and “All I Got” come off as forgettable; the rest have their own individual character , one infused by the warm, sarcastic vision of their creator.

Santigold may no longer be the shiny hype-draw that blogs are looking for to draw readers in, but 99 Cents is an extremely solid record and Santi White is an artist who’s still willing to take risks and explore sounds.

And the rest…

Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

01/22/2016 on Rough Trade

The combination sounds like a wild winner – post-rock masters of ambient dread and the Neil Young-inspired folkie without any lyrical filter whatsoever – until you realize that Jesu and Mark Kozelek is just Jesu and Mark Kozelek.  Every song is squalling chords dripping with fuzz that have Kozelek getting unhinged over top.  While it’s a nice effect in general, it gets exhausting in the long run.



02/06/2016 on Epic Records

Easily the best thing the Atlanta trap star has put out, EVOL shows a willingness to push forward both musically and lyrically.  “In Her Mouth” is the most hilariously over-the-top he’s ever gotten, and Weeknd-collab “Low Life” shows that crossover success is a when, not an if.


The Dirty Nil

Higher Power

02/26/2016 on Dine Alone Records

Ontario punk rock is a beast that keeps savaging everything in its path, year after year.  I first saw the Dirty Nil in a tiny bar backing the always-amazing Single Mothers and their debut LP is a welcome addition to the canon.  Treads a tightrope between crushing brutality and soaring sing-along.

Thug Entrancer


03/04/2016 on Caroline Records

An inoffensive enough electronic record that is nonetheless too heavily indebted to Boards Of Canada to generate any thrills.

Anna Meredith 


Once the composer-in-residence for the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, now crafting odd, off-kilter electronic songs that have a strangely chiptune bent to them.

Guerilla Toss

Eraser Stargazer

03/04/2016 on DFA Records

The Boston noise band takes junk shop sounds and welds them together in the backyard to create something willfully abrasive and strange.

Robert Pollard

Of Course You Are

03/04/2016 on Fire Records

Look, if you know anything about Robert Pollard, you know exactly what you’re getting from a Robert Pollard record, or a Boston Spaceships record, or a Ricked Wickey record, or (soon, again) a Guided By Voices record.  It’s guitar-driven British Invasion inspired stuff with a strong sense of melody and a lysergic tendency in the lyrics.

Esperanza Spalding

Emily’s D-Evolution

03/04/2016 on Concord Records

Artful, lyrical, and jazzy as all hell, like Janelle Monae and Joni Mitchell had a jazz baby and that jazz baby liked to blaze it.

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

A Man Alive

03/04/2016 on Ribbon Music

Saved from being an exercise in tUnE-yArDs lite indie-clatter by the presence of a heavy, thumping bass that makes those speakers push more air than they have a right to.

The Coral

Distance Inbetween

03/04/2016 on Ignition Records

There was this band in the Nineties – The Tea Party – that really wanted to be Led Zeppelin (later Nine Inch Nails) with a singer who really wanted to be Jim Morrison.  The Coral, as a parallel, really wants to be Faust but the singer really wants to be Alex Turner.  Either way it’s hot garbage.


Baio – The Names


Baio – The Names

Solo albums are usually pretty suspect.  For every Ozzy Osbourne there’s a whole host of guys like Slash, Paul Banks, Scott Weiland, and Mick Jagger – people who have no business separating themselves from their bands.  They’re typically the result of too much ego to be contained even by a world-shaking band, and a need to stake their own claim discrete from where they became famous.  This effect is even worse when it’s the bassist from a famous band.  The reason behind this is that the bassist, in your typical rock ‘n’ roll format, is the most boring person there is.  No one cares about the bassist.

Chris Baio is the bassist for upper-crust Ivy League dorm band Vampire Weekend.  After three albums of riffing on Paul Simon like he was the Second Coming of Jesus, the band seems to have come to a period of individual exploration.  That is to say, singer Ezra Koenig is doing some stuff in collaboration with others, and now bassist Chris Baio is staking out a solo album, The Names.  Just the idea of the bassist from Vampire Weekend making a solo album is typically enough to make me cringe.

He pulls it off really, really well, however.  These are not the sort of rote Vampire-lite songs that you might expect to tinkle oh-so-preciously from your speakers.  These are songs anchored to hard, throbbing bass, more influenced by epic house anthems than they are by Upper West Side Soweto.  Lead single “Sister of Pearl” is actually the outlier here; most of these tracks resemble the opener, “Brainwash yyrr Face”, with light, graceful vocals playing around the maypole of that monolithic rumble at the bottom.  “I Was Born In A Marathon” is the best track here; it runs through a tidal bridge that shows a masterful hand with fusing house tropes into a more general pop form.

Chris Baio bucks a trend here; he may not be Ozzy Osbourne but gets the job done in a rare fashion, and it’s one solo album that’s actually worth listening to.




ThEESatisfaction – EarthEE


ThEESatisfaction – EarthEE

ThEESatisfaction are a smoky alternative R&B duo from Seattle who first caught the attention of the venerable Sub Pop label through a guest appearance on Shabazz Palace’s modern classic Black Up.  EarthEE, the duo’s second album, brings them out from the shadow of their origins and establishes them as a laid-back amalgamation of 70s jazz, soul, and afro-funk.  There aren’t many clear-cut hooks here, just a lot of hand drums and throbbing bass – in some places, courtesy of supreme bass player Meshelle Ndegeocello.  Soft synth work abounds, providing a cushion between the insistent grab of the bass and the on-the-edge-of-space vocals of Catherine Harris-White.  “No GMO”, “Planet For Sale”, “Blandland”, and “Post Black Anyway” all speak to the politics lurking beneath the chilled-out vibe, marking them out as significantly more interesting than your average alt-R&B project.  EarthEE makes a great soundtrack for all sorts of fun activities, although the songs seem to run together after a while.