Praxis Makes Perfect
Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip return with music of ’80s dance music-sized portions, with soothing vocals and shimmering melodies. A joyous record that goes by faster than a Lamborghini, the album features Asia Argento, Cate Le Bon, Josh Klinghoffer, and follows Neon Neon’s 2008 debut, Stainless Style. Neon Neon’s use of chunky ’80s dance grooves, period synths, and drum machines borders on parody, but the music, inspired by left-wing activist and Doctor Zhivago author Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, offers an exuberant journey through electronic-pop craft. From the Bowie-esque “The Jaguar” to the sweetly hilarious “Dr. Zhivago,” the zippy “Shopping,” and ethereal Kraftwerk-ian closer “Ciao Feltrinelli,” Neon Neon makes everything aglow anew.
If Bradford Cox, Lockett Pundt, Moses Archuleta, and company collectively hold a single-minded obsession, as their fifth album’s title suggests, equilibrium it ain’t. Across 12 oscillating tracks, the band manifests pressurized tendencies, congesting eight-track recorders with physically demanding skronk and psychedelic residue peppered with brazenly concise, unforced harmonies. Riffs influenced by Television, T. Rex, the Method Actors, and Wire, among others, flare throughout the lacerated awakening of Deerhunter’s most enthrallingly feral songs to date.
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound
The title track on Howl is mindblowing, and whoever had that idea—of having this particular group of musicians fuse neo soul with Buzzcocksstyle punk—should get a medal. Most other tracks on the record have more familiar soul/R&B arrangements, with tight, funky guitar riffs and vocal styles that range from high and breathy to raw and earthy. It’s all fantastic, and all have a hint of that secret modern-rock ingredient that makes “Howl” so unusual, and so killer.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
Dominic Maker and Kai Campos were branded “post-dubstep” for enriching pensive bass with portamento wobble, pitched vocal samples, and syncopated jangle. From an alcove littered with workstations, an Electro-Harmonix 2880 looper, EHX Cathedral reverb, and Line 6 DL4 delay modeler, among other components, the duo has saturated a less hermetic sophomore album with maws of synths, vintage drum kit resonance, hazy chords, static-spackled furrows, and insistent vocals. The treatments elaborate on physicality without ducking spectral composure.
Calling Quadron “blue-eyed soul” would be an insult. The Danish duo has an authentic understanding of soul music. It is the clever doctoring of those sounds with studio enhancements, however—not to mention vocalist Coco O’s stunning, honeyed tones— that makes their sophomore album an R&B exemplar. With nods to jazz and the extensive use of orchestration, the two sound smooth and polished on “Neverland,” chilling on the moody title track, and in the throes of new love on “Hey Love.”
Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck
The White House Sessions, Live 1962
There are dozens of stellar moments on these recordings, recently discovered in Sony Music’s archives. A rapidfire rendition of the Brubeck Quartet’s “Take 5” swings mightily; Bennett’s voice is perfection on standards such as “Just in Time” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” just a few weeks after the latter was originally released. But the highlights are the singular, impromptu collaborations with Brubeck backing Bennett on “Chicago,” “That Old Black Magic,” and more— priceless.
Solter Resets Friedlander
New York City Downtown bassist Erik Friedlander gives up control to renown engineer Scott Solter and the results are well, spooky. Friedlander has always been an inventive avant garde musician, but when Solter manipulates the barest elements of the bassist’s 2008 Broken Arm Trio CD, it’s like a slow-moving cinematic nightmare, an alternate soundtrack for The Hills Have Eyes where the mutants spin yarn instead of sucking milk. String sounds clang and reverberate; beats spin, dissipate, and die. An eerie calm pervades.