From one guitar great riff to the next infectious loop, rockers White Rabbits have talent and ideas that stand up against recent releases from Jack White and the Black Keys. They’ve paid serious attention to the greatest composing tool there is: drawing something from influences and shaking it up into something truly your own. This band takes sparkly tonic from Radiohead and Depeche Mode-style tight rhythmic creativity and mixes it with their own favorite vodka for a great kick in the imagination. A well-crafted mix highlights hypnotic bass and shiny, gritty vocal tones.
Possibly more than any other album in her long, groundbreaking career, Banga captures the many voices of Patti Smith—the spoken-word poet reciting on top of a delicate track, the deep, aggressive rock ‘n’ roll singer, and all those nuanced gradations in between. The transitions between speaking and singing are almost imperceptible, but these are extremely dynamic, as well as artful, tracks. The pen is mightier than the sword, especially when a great rock ‘n’ roll band has the writer’s back.
Guitar is his main instrument—it’s what Steve Marion does with it, along with loads of signal-processing gadgets and a hard drive full of circuit-bent drum samples, that makes his strain of instrumental electro-pop so compelling. Instantly memorable melodies emerge from the freaky ether (like singing voices on the funked-up “Afria Talks to You”), and layered chords that at times evoke a slightly off-kilter, almost synthetic take on late-’60s soul (“Two Lovers”) or slick Afropop (“Tallest Heights”).
Sub Pop/Bella Union
Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally deliver their fourth mid-tempo dream-pop album with drum machines still set to jazz brushes, just now bolstered by stacking kicks and foundational sub-bass. Like 2010’s Teen Dream, Bloom is redolent with reverberant guitar arpeggios, dizzy chords, and appropriately blooming harmonies, but there’s greater tonal depth and more sonorous presence to the instrumentation (Legrand on keys, Scally on guitar/bass/keys, augmented by Daniel Franz on live percussion).
The Bravest Man in the Universe
The only thing richer than the respect Womack commands is that silky, sonorous voice. In his first release since 1994 (produced by Damen Albarn and Richard Russell), Womack nails it cold with a collection that’s relevant and reverent—no surprise from an artist who has written numerous hits, but refreshing to experience in such strong form. From deeply personal spoken-word observations to simple, gorgeous arrangements such as “Deep River,” a “living legend” finds true meaning here.
Named appropriately with an ambiguous palindrome, the latest album by nomadic trio Liars collects oblique sequencing, treated drums, and field recordings. Compiled on laptops in the woods and finished in studio sessions beneath a Los Angeles freeway, WIXIW trades the ominous analog percolation of 2010’s Sisterworld for isochronous rhythms and digitally effaced wobbles. Edited with input from Mute founder Daniel Miller, Liars’ largely electronic recent production is an exercise in building gradually, rather than charging in.
Ask the Dust
Marcos Ortega’s latest outing smoothes the harsh edges of 2010’s Nothing Else; the sawtoothed synths and lumbering rhythm of “Ghosst,” for example, bear a vague resemblance to dubstep’s son-du-jour (Flux Pavilion and Nero especially), but any teethclenching mid boosts are dialed way back, favoring space, ambience and texture over onslaught. Don’t even try to dance to it; Ask the Dust is better suited for scoring your next film noir, and that’s a good thing.