Playlist, May 2011

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

Dengue Fever Cannibal Courtship (Fantasy/Concord)
Featuring the Mastadong, a half Fender Jazzmaster, half Chapai Dong Veng (a traditional Cambodian two-string guitar), Dengue Fever''s Cannibal Courtship evokes pure worldbeat ecstasy. One minute, they''re rocking shout-outs like Cake, circa 1997 (“Family Business”), the next (“Uku”) they''re adrift in 1975 Phnom Penh: fuzz-wah guitars, spooky flute, and Chhom Nimol''s wailing vocals creating an ethereal sound collage. Recorded at the band''s home studio as well as The Village in Santa Monica, CA, Cannibal Courtship spins Cambodian pop into time-warp dimensions.
—Ken Micallef

The Sea and Cake The Moonlight Butterfly (Thrill Jockey)
The Sea and Cake serves up pretty indie rock with a marked jazz influence on their new album, The Moonlight Butterfly. The upbeat “Up On the North Shore” highlights a tight rhythm section and breathy vocals; and while most of the tracks on the album follow a simple guitar/bass/drums/vocal grouping, the captivating instrumental “The Moonlight Butterfly” is a synth masterpiece, starting off with simple, syncopated vintage synth tones, then building up with multiple layers of arpeggiation and rhythmically echoed groove.
—Marsha Vdovin

Kurt Elling The Jazz (Concord Jazz)
The Chicago-based jazz singer teams up with rock producer Don Was for a bracing and beautifully arranged album of intriguing tunes, including the obscure (but lovely) King Crimson number “Matte Kudasai,” Joe Jackson''s “Steppin Out,” Earth Wind & Fire''s “After the Love Has Gone” and a truly unique interpretation of “Norwegian Wood” (with scat interlude and heavy electric guitar break!). Elling''s imperfect baritone is well-suited to his ambitions as a vocalist, and the band is as expressive as his singing.
—Blair Jackson

The Mountain Goats All Eternals Deck (Merge)
“You don''t wanna see these guys without their masks on…” One evocative line triggers the imagination of frontman John Darnielle and reveals a dark, intimate musical world. This lyric is from “The Autopsy Garland” on All Eternals Deck, the latest album forged from Darnielle''s fearsome poetry and his collaboration with bassist Peter Hughes and drummer Jon Wurster. Guest string and keyboard players, and four producers in four studios, help create varied pop/punk/orchestral sounds, giving an engaging voice to Darnielle''s grimly beautiful imagery.
—Barbara Schultz

Radiohead The King of Limbs (TBD Records)
After waiting for four years, many hardcore Radiohead fans may be disappointed with The King of Limbs, possibly the band''s least cohesive album to date. The album seems to serve as a compilation of previous stylings, but give it a chance: Repeated listening unveils a complex structure of subtle production that takes the listener on a tour of emotional realms. As an example, the first single, “Lotus Flower,” sounds familiar, with reverb-drenched falsetto, melancholy bass line, dry kit with effect-laden snare, and sporadic ambient meanderings. At just under forty minutes, the band may be moving away from the long-play album.
—Marsha Vdovin

Brian Setzer Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL! (Surfdog)
Gretsch master Britan Setzer''s first-ever all-instrumental album opens with a superb rockabilly/Texas swing take on Bill Monroe''s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” a song that has seen as many incarnations as Setzer has. This is a serious guitar record, but it also showcases the artist''s many musical moods: Big-band jazz, distorted rock ‘n'' roll, bluegrass picking, surf noir, and Stray Cats-era rockabilly are all showcased on this joyful collection of stellar covers and inspired originals.
—Barbara Schultz