Necessary Spinning

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Here’s what’s doing it to me in my earhole these days:

Los Campesinos!—Hello Sadness

This record has been getting mixed-to-positive reviews, which I can’t fathom. It’s a brilliant leap forward in an oeuvre of consistently brilliant albums. Whereas previous LC! records have functioned as exhilarating, overstuffed collections of killer songs, Hello Sadness is a proper album, even a concept album, with a clear direction…straight downward from the first blushes of doomed romance to the bleak wreckage of the breakup. As such, the track sequence progressively unwinds from the impossibly catchy, gang-shouty, hand-clappy, tribal-drummy “By Your Hand” (possibly the band’s best-ever single) to the stark funeral marches and elegies of the record’s back half. I fell for these guys hard back in 2008, and while they continue to mine the ins and out of broken romance, my love affair with them is stronger than ever. Key tracks: “By Your Hand”; “Hello Sadness”; “To Tundra”

Real Estate—Days

I never catch up with the rock and roll until after the cool kids are already over it, which means for this and the next two entries, album #2. I’d chalk it up to my being an out-of-touch old man, but I’ve been this way forever. Nevermind, Doolittle, Loveless, etc. were the entry points to my favorite bands back in college. Perhaps this is why I’ve always been slightly confused by the myth of the “sophomore slump”—so many of my favorite bands saved their strongest work for their second go-around. Real Estate certainly have their sound figured out for their second full-length, Days. While there’s not much here as instantly memorable as their early single “Beach Comber”, the shiny, slinky production on the new release does this band all kinds of favors. Chiming guitars, loping beats and mellow harmonies want clean, clear sound to shimmy around in. Not experimental, neither adventurous nor challenging, just impossibly pretty, slightly hazy late-summer indie rock. That’s way more than enough. Key tracks: “Easy”; “It’s Real”; “Younger Than Yesterday”; “All The Same”

Wavves—King of the Beach/Life Sux EP

Brash and bratty, surf-inflected guitar rock that sounds like it didn’t take much longer to write than it does to bash out or listen to. (Which, perhaps I should explain, is a compliment.) Again, the guy has considerably cleaned up his sound from his distortion-drenched debut only to reveal some amazing hooks. “King of the Beach” from the 2010 album, and “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” from this year’s follow-up EP are the reason I listen to rock music—that moment when you first hear a song, and it tricks you into thinking: This is the best thing I’ve ever heard. I want to hear this forever. I live for those songs, those brief bursts of irrational exuberance that are inevitably killed by the fifth or sixth listen, but man, while they’ve got your head turned….Key tracks: see above; “Take On The World”; “Bug”

Dum Dum Girls—Only In Dreams

Not a lot to say about this one, except that lead signer Kristen “Dee Dee” Gundred’s uncanny Chrissie Hynde impersonation works completely. Lyrics are a little dumb, but the music takes a satisfyingly straightforward approach befitting its obvious inspiration. “Caught In One” and “Bedroom Eyes” are both “in-an-alt-universe-this-is-a-smash-hit” songs. Key Tracks: see above; “Coming Down”

Mr. Muthafukin’ eXquire—Lost In Translation mixtape

Because I am such an old man, I only recently discovered that there is such a sea of brilliant hip hop and R&B being released online for free (I suppose both to avoid the hassle of clearing samples and to get music straight to listeners instead of chasing down Jay Z or Kanye to beg an audience for your demo tape.) In the past year I’ve swooned over Das Racist, The Weeknd and others. Lately I can’t get enough of Mr. Muthafukin’, a Brooklyn-based MC whose album recalls the very best of East Coast rap from the past 30 years. A big, confident Chuck D voice meets super-raw lyrical content rooted in eXquire’s lower-to-working class surroundings. This isn’t champagne-sipping millionaire hip hop looking back on a childhood in the projects; this music rooted in tenements, food stamps and 40s. The music is hungry, bristling with ideas and attitude like Jay Z a long, long time ago on Reasonable Doubt. The album-ending remix of paean to drinking “Huzzah” featuring El-P, Das Racist and others plays like a modern-day version of De La Soul’s “Buddy” remix featuring the whole Native Tongue posse. And the Das Racist verses are stronger than anything on their recent album Relax. Key Tracks: “Triple F”; “The Last Huzzah!”; Lou Ferigno’s Mad”

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