A MI NERAL LOVE
Tweaking Boards of Canada’s malevolent musings through a plug-in dubbed “Mr. Happy,” Bibio makes acoustic/electronic sounds as friendly as Raffi. We all need a break from the grind, and that’s what A Mineral Love consistently supplies. Undulating guitars and Twinkie-sweet keyboards comprise Bibio’s world, from the soft-beat hit-single worthy “Town & Country” to puppy-love track “The Way You Talk” (featuring Goyte). Bibio blends his touchy-feely ingredients like a savvy lifestyle chef, where his cream-filled tracks are topped by his loveable, amateurish vocals.
THE BIG PINK
EMPIRE UNDERGROUND EP
Nu-gaze standard setter The Big Pink follows up its two smash albums with the Empire Underground EP. A carved out four-track punch of inventive synth lines, taut guitars, and equally on-edge vocals, the multiple layers of Empire Underground don’t have a superfluous note anywhere. Robbie Furze’s voice brings a swing to the scratchiness of “Decoy”; Mary Charteris is a great accompaniment, bringing even more equilibrium to the equation on their duet, “High-times.”
LIVIN’ ON A HIGH NOTE
National treasure Mavis Staples’ latest is a funky, uplifting soul album produced by M. Ward, and featuring a dozen original songs from superb younger artists, including Neko Case, Nick Cave, Ben Harper, Valerie June, Aloe Blacc, and more. Given Ward’s insight and respect for vintage music, and with each of these songs specially written for the great singer and activist, this is an extremely high-quality project. Forty-five years ago, any one of these songs could have been a hit single.
Rhode Island producer James Hinton hones computative, contemplative dance music. His algorithm is simple and hard to perfect: Lift life’s weight with heavy bass’s kinetic force. Thick pads, resonant low end, plucked synths, and animated kicks cycle into resolute phase, while shaky YouTube-sourced vocal hooks bleed intimate uncertainties. Resounding piano chords shower and blunt snares swarm, recalling the catalytic bliss-outs of early ’90s Hardkiss and ’ardcore records. Delicate nuances stir heart as well as sole.
JAN ST . WERNER
Jan St. Werner’s sonic palette comprises samples, instruments, and found sounds. Each track of Felder (“fields” in German) is gentle, contemplative, but often disturbing. What sounds like death angels falling into the abyss on “The Abstact Pit” is practically interchangeable with the evil Eeyore spews in “Sin Goth.” Perhaps this former Mouse on Mars collaborator has joined a death cult, or has been utterly transmogrified. His freakish talents remain.
ASPHALT FOR EDEN
Ending a too-long half-decade hiatus, Newark’s industrial hip-hop singularity dälek has lost no stellar mass despite time and lineup changes. Will “MC dälek” Brooks, joined by co-producer Mikey Manteca and DJ rEk, exerts inescapable gravitational force, folding shudder and snap across 38 overdriven minutes. Crunched boom-bap, tectonic subbass, and charred harmonics threaten to suffocate blistering lyrics, but Brooks’ snarling cautions skirt the event horizon as he ciphers against his white-noise abyss.
NEW YORK IS MY HOME
May we all age as gracefully as doo-wop icon Dion. He retains one of the most beautiful and expressive voices in rock ‘n’ roll. Dion’s sultry take on Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Katie Mae” is one of only two non-original songs on the album; the artist co-wrote the other eight. Other highlights include the fuzzy blues rocker “Can’t Go Back to Memphis,” and the simmering yet uplifting title track, where Dion sings a delicate and beautiful duet with Paul Simon.