Santigold – 99 Cents

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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.

Future

EVOL

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

Arcology

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 

Varmints

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.

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Moon Duo – Shadow Of The Sun

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Moon Duo – Shadow Of The Sun

Moon Duo – a side project of guitarist Ripley Johnson, more known as a member of San Fransisco psych-rockers Wooden Shjips – have, on their fourth album, settled into a serious groove.  They play psychedelic rock, marry it to a motorik beat, and stir a whole lot of post-punk/New Wave tone throughout.  It’s an interesting mixture, even if it’s the same kind of music they were putting out in 2010; the old maxim of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly applies to Moon Duo circa 2015.  If you’re into lysergic guitar solos, pre-cheese New Wave, or if the concept of a Feelies that came of age in Haight-Ashbury era San Francisco appeals to you, Moon Duo are the band you’re looking for.

 

The Monochrome Set – Spaces Everywhere

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The Monochrome Set – Spaces Everywhere

This honestly sounds like The Walkmen got back together and made the decision to create deliberately bad music.

I gather that this is another one of those bands that had some minor success around the time I was born that decided to get back together and make more albums.  Just as a public service announcement, not everyone should do that.

Will Butler – Policy

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Will Butler – Policy

Multi-instrumentalist Will Butler’s day job is, of course, supporting his brother Win in Arcade Fire.  As a solo artist, his output seems to skew towards a version of the sound his band has fallen into on the last couple of albums:  part wide-scope, stomping rock ‘n’ roll, part nostalgia for the recession-plagued, synth-haunted days of the early 1980s.  “Take My Side” and “What I Want” both show off his skill in crafting rootsy but slick guitar pop, while “Anna” and “Something’s Coming” bely a love of the dark, minor melodies of Gowan and Berlin.  As someone who’s been obsessed with “Metro” of late, I find his efforts with the synthesizer to be much more satisfying; the more straight-forward rock and roll work comes off as a lesser version of the work his day band has perfected.  “Finish What I Started” reveals a third side to Butler – that of a sad-eyed piano crooner – that trumps both the rock ‘n’ roll and the New Wave parts of Policy.  On stage with Arcade Fire, Will Butler comes off as endlessly energetic, an inventive ‘fill-in-the-holes’ type, and a key supporter of main duo Win & Regine.  “Finish What I Started” (and, to a lesser extent, “Sing To Me”) show a much different, more somber side to the man.

Policy shows off a deeper set of skills than Butler has displayed heretofore, but for all of that it still presents itself as a definite side-project – nothing world-shaking, just something to fill time and stake a name between monolithic Arcade Fire albums.