Playlist, December 2011

Check out new releases from top artists as picked by the EM editors for the December 2011 issue

Metallica/Lou Reed Lulu (Warner
“I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff,” Lou Reed announces on “Brandenburg Gate,” the opening track to this unlikely clash of titans. Once a template is confirmed—Metallica slamming sludgy riffs as Reed spews a spastic colon''s worth of humorous lyrics—it all somehow works. “I wish you''d tie me up and beat me,” Lou lip-curls on “Mistress Dread,” then deadpans “spermless like a girl” on “Frustration,” as drummer Lars Ulrich surrounds him with punch-drunk commentary. Acoustic interludes and white noise alter the pedestrian two-way punch, but it never becomes ordinary.
— Ken Micallef

The Perishers All These Years (Head)
Hook-laden and stylish, the band''s third, thoroughly charming release draws influence from noble predecessors Big Star, The Hollies, The Who and even The Monkees, while still sounding contemporary. It''s great fun to feel drawn into the songs'' abundantly clever melodies, sharply woven pop harmonies, and warm, fuzzy electric guitars. You''ll also find hauntingly good lead vocals, snappy drums and excursions into grungy tonalities. This collection will compel you to be on the lookout to catch them live. ?
—Craig Dalton

Emika Emika (Ninja Tune)
What is it about Berlin that casts such an imposing shadow over the music made there? Brit emigree Emika seems to thrive on a similar sense of futurist urban dread; her debut roils with under-your-skin vocal melodies (“Professional Loving” and “Drop the Other” stand out), while stark beats and synth bass lines that move like boa constrictors highlight her dubstep roots. As a sound designer for Native Instruments, Emika knows her way around a laptop, but this isn''t just machine music—it''s pure art techno with a soul.
—Bill Murphy

Pistol Annies Hell on Heels (Sony Nashville)
Now that Miranda Lambert''s officially a country superstar, there''s probably a lot riding on the success of her new album, Four the Record. But she can still let loose old-school with the Pistol Annies, the trio she formed with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. Any one of these women has enough talent to write or sing most artists under the table; together they''re almost too good. Sweet harmonies, bad-girl lyrics, and gritty guitar work add up to a real country record with attitude.
—Barbara Schultz

North Highlands Wild One (Self-Released)
Hipster indie bands are as common as tight jeans and facial hair, but Brooklyn''s North Highlands rise above the dreck. Electric hollowbody guitars, mandolin, and violin arc and gently pulse, vocalist Brenda Malvini (recalling the Innocence Mission''s Karen Peris) spins magnetic melodies worthy of Brian Wilson and Mama Cass, while lithely nervous rhythms gently nudge you into a summer halo. Sweet and slumber-rific!
Ken Micallef

Ryan Adams Ashes & Fire (Pax Am/EMI Capitol)
First and always, it''s about the song. Mediocrity doesn''t stand up, regardless of studio production, and a great song often needs little dressing. Producer Glyn John smartly takes a minimalist approach here, with just the right seasoning added. Small touches such as sizzling ambiance on cymbals and punchy acoustic guitars enhance Ryan''s poignant lyrics and tasty hooks. Add guest appearances by Norah Jones and keyboardist Benmont Tench, and you''ve got a delicious repast for the ears.
—Craig Dalton

The Mekons Ancient and Modern (Sin)
Leave it to The Mekons—now approaching their 35th anniversary as a band—to conceive such a cool, unexpected album. Whereas the Ancient and Modern CD is designed to look like album of odd old photos, musically, the group''s 26th album ranges from old-time dancehall ditties to anthemic ''70s punk, with lots of hybrid folk-punk-rock in between. There''s no beating The Mekons'' early art-punk sound, but blurring the lines between “ancient” and “modern” music is always interesting.
—Barbara Schultz