Drake’s back in big way this week with a “bumper” crop of new releases. -ed.
It’s the first week since March that we’ve had so many highly anticipated releases for folks like me to savor. Well, unfortunately, it’s not all that rosy… aside from M.I.A.’s excellent sophomore release, I’m afraid the new albums from The New Pornographers, Rilo Kiley, Architecture in Helsinki and Imperial Teen all have some degree of disappointment (however minor.) Meanwhile there’s a whole lot more interesting releases to check out that I haven’t gotten to yet (or just started,) like Talib Kweli, Caribou, Earlimart, Kinski, Over the Rhine, Mekons, Minus the Bear and many more. Now get to listening!
Playlist: New Releases 08.21.07
Album: M.I.A. – Kala
When a debut is as fresh and creates as much buzz as M.I.A.’s Arular did over two years ago, you expect there to be at least some disappointment in the follow-up, but with Kala, M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam) solidifies herself as an international force to be reckoned with. While Arular is named for her father, a reported rebel in Sri Lanka, Kala is named for her mother, a seamstress by trade. Appropriately, album is a diverse collection of songs that are stitched together by Arulpragasam’s artistic seamstressing work. The oceans and borders that she bridges here aren’t just metaphorical, but a literal obstacle that Kala had to overcome. It was supposed to be, in part, a joint venture with Timbaland, but when the US denied her a visa and entry back into the US last year, Arulpragasam bounced between India, Jamaica, Trinidad and Australia with portable recording gear in hand. As a result, the tribal Indian beats anchor two of the best songs (“Bird Flu” and “Boyz”) and “Jimmy” is an 80’s Bollywood disco cover (“Jimmy Adja” from Disco Dancer.) Meanwhile, this time around she’s referencing classic alternative songs all over the place. The opening track (“Bamboo Banga”) first pulls from The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner” (“with the radio on.”) The later, “$20” leads in another couple sacred cows, using the easily recognized chord progression from New Order’s “Blue Monday” and mixing in a couple lines from Pixies’ “Where is My Mind.” Finally, on “Paper Planes,” she samples The Clash’s “Straight to Hell,” which seems a subtle message to US Immigration and Homeland Security for messing with Arulpragasam. She’s counterfeiting visa’s now… don’t they know that M.I.A. is beyond borders?
I already wrote a bit yesterday about where NP’s at now (leaning more towards the art folk/rock of Dan Bejar’s Destroyer,) but I haven’t really had enough time with the release to know where it stands in their cannon. My initial feeling is because they’re not a band in the normal sense (more in the ‘super’ sense) that much of the stretching out of the band’s sound, while admirable, doesn’t reach the heights it aims for. The bouncy power-pop sound that Carl Newman deftly employed on prior releases isn’t even hinted at until halfway through Challengers (with the great “All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth”,) and then again only later on the equally grand “Mutiny, I Promise You.” Meanwhile, Dan Bejar (Destroyer) nearly steals the show again with his requisite three song contribution, especially on “Myriad Harbour.” (Forget that “The Spirit Of Giving” sounds like a Destroyer cover, you could argue that all of Destroyer’s
Rubies was like Bejar covering himself.) Anyway, it’s a roundabout way of saying I like it, but not as much as prior releases. Humbuggery.
Imperial Teen have always embodied that 90’s indie pop sound that they forged with the song “Yoo Hoo” (from their ’96 debut Seasick) and have never strayed from it since. It’s now been five years since their last album (On) and again, nothing’s changed – and that is good. The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band, in title, explains what the band has been doing during their hiatus, and while the sound hasn’t changed, as the title suggests, life has happened… and the lyrics reflect it. Well, some do anyway… and some are just fun, like the bounce to the infectious “Sweet Potato,” the B-52 party of “Shim Sham” and the Imperial Teen archetype sound of “Do it Better.” I just hope they don’t wait too long for their next album, or the title might be something like The Empty Nest the Goiter the Lump and the Nursing Home.
LA’s Rilow Kiley have always seemed to release an album appropriate to their surroundings. Their first album (Take Offs and Landings) was on Seattle’s Barsuk label, and was appropriately a little album that seemed to achieve big things. For their second (The Execution of All Things,) they moved out to Nebraska’s Saddle Creek to distribute their red state friendly alt-country sound. By 2004, Rilo Kiley was on Warner Bros., creating their own imprint (Brute/Beaute Records,) and More Adventurous was appropriately their foray into the big leagues, and was, well… more adventurous. So now that their on Warner Bros. proper, the ante has been upped, and thus you’d think the radio-friendly sounds of Under the Black Light whouldn’t surprise anyone given RK’s trajectory. But just who would ever predict that RK would write 2007’s strip club song of the year in “The Moneymaker”? The songs here are 70’s (and 80’s) AM radio friendly, delivered with out hint of irony, and shed their blacklight on the streets of Los Angeles, the long time home to the former child actors and co-founders Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett. It’s Lewis’ band now, it seems, and like with her solo debut from last year (Rabbit Fur Coat,) the quirkiness is nearly all gone. Under the Blacklight is what it is, which isn’t groundbreaking, but very appropriate for their home on Warner.
Am I the only one that finds this one a bit grating? It’s not horrible, mind you, just annoying as a follow-up to their amazing 2005 release In Case We Die.
Almost lost in the bevy of new releases yesterday was the release of Animal Collective’s “Peacebone,” from the forthcoming Strawberry Jam.
Domino Records has the video for “Peacebone” on YouTube now, and it’s as freaky as you’d expect. It’s a love story, between sinister and more sinister, proving there is someone for everyone. It’s kind of like Blind Melon’s “No Rain” video re-imagined by David Lynch and John Carpenter. Chez creepy!
Wished I could talk about, haven’t heard (not in Rhapsody:)
Jeremy Enigk – The Missing Link
More going (or already in) the Sansa
Earlimart – Grand Animals (Free album stream from AOL)
Caribou – Caribou > Andorra (Free album stream from AOL)
Kinski – Down Below It’s Chaos (Free album stream from AOL)
Mekons – Natural
Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice (Reissue)
Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Animal Collective – Peacebone EP
Numbers – Now You Are This
The Golden Dogs – Big Eye Little Eye
Talib Kweli – Eardrum
Over the Rhine – Trumpet Child
LadybiRds – Regional Community Theater
The Mendoza Line – 30 Year Low
Lindsay Anderson – If
Luke Temple – Snowbeast
Cartel – Cartel
Foreign Born – On The Wing Now
Swizz Beatz – One Man Band Man