Hercules and Love Affair Blue Songs (Moshi Moshi
Affairs aren''t meant to last, so it was inevitable that Andy Butler would have to retool after his group''s dance-quake debut. With former guest vocalists Antony Hegarty and Nomi Ruiz pursuing their own careers, Butler is still probing the garage disco sound he nailed in 2008, but with much more restraint. That said, deep house rules on Blue Songs, from the throbalicious “Step Up,” with Bloc Party''s Kele Okereke, to the Arthur Russell-ish “Answers Come in Dreams,” with Aerea Negrot.
Pajama Club Pajama Club (Lester/Redeye)
Split Enz/Crowded House alumnus Neil Finn collaborated with wife Sharon to form Pajama Club; their self-titled debut is a collection of big rhythms, loops, catchy melodies, eclectic guitar phrasing, and dreamy synth texturing. More beat-oriented than jangly Finn style, much sounds familiar in reference to U2, John Lennon, T-Rex, and others, while remaining fresh and original. The mix is hypnotic, with hints of Finn''s past. Check out the enchanting “Golden Child” for a lesson in layering vocal textures.
Thundercat The Golden Age of the Apocalypse (Brainfeeder)
You''ve probably heard Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) thrashing his bass with Suicidal Tendencies or crafting slinky, sensual grooves with Erykah Badu. His latest work with Flying Lotus extends toward an astral plane where space-jazz, minimalist beats, and oddball but accessible synth melodies morph together into a dreamy, sci-fi sonic stew. Traces of George Duke and Brian Wilson are evident, but Bruner is making his own way with music that actually takes risks in redefining what used to be called fusion.
William Elliott Whitmore Field Songs (Anti)
The title of singer/songwriter William Elliot Whitmore''s second release for Anti connects him to the Lomax tradition of recording authentic American music at the source. And truly, one song into this brilliant, intense album of new folk songs, and it''s clear that Alan Lomax would have been overjoyed to capture Whitmore''s music on his family''s farm in Lee County, IA. Armed with a banjo, a bass drum, and a voice that channels the late Ted Hawkins, Whitmore is a new blues master.
Steve Cropper Dedicated (429 Records)
Memphis guitar great Steve Cropper counts the ''50s doo-wop, soul, and proto-rock ''n'' roll group the 5 Royales—and particularly songwriter/guitarist Lowman Pauling—among his greatest influences, and on Dedicated he gets to show his devotion. This impeccably produced disc finds Cropper, a killer house band and a slew of “name” friends tackling 15 Royales songs. Guest singers include Lucinda Williams, John Popper, Steve Winwood, the magnificent Bettye LaVette, Buddy Miller, Brian May, Delbert McClinton, and Dan Penn.
Nick Lowe The Old Magic (Yep Roc)
In recent years, the great and underrated Nick Lowe has made albums that live closer to jazz standards than to rock ‘n'' roll. Listeners who follow him in this direction will be rewarded with deeply moving, personal songs and vocals as intimate and smooth as Fred Astaire (another great, underrated singer). The Old Magic features eight smart, lovely Lowe originals (a couple even rock a little) and a few well-chosen covers, including one of Elvis Costello''s greatest: “Poisoned Rose.”
The Rapture In the Grace of Your Love (DFA Records)
The Rapture emerged from San Francisco in 1999 on the post-punk/New Romantic revival''s front end, and soon the band''s curdling yelps and rubbery low-end fell into the nouveau New York scene—equal parts No Wave skronk, mutant disco dissonance, and Chicago/acid house buoyancy. Three albums later, The Rapture exhibits arich saturation of influences, including polka tech-house, gospel deep house, and Sisqó''s “Thong Song.” The band favors groove over angularity, dialing in reverberant euphoria to a synth-augmented live strut.