I feel obliged to tell you I remember little about many albums here, but I’ve been avoiding most of them long enough to know that even another spin or two is unlikely in 90% of the cases to convince me it deserves a bump upwards. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to recommend I give something one more listen. A wide array of albums, some very recent, most several months old. If I’ve been keeping my catalog straight (and I’ve admittedly been lazy), I’m just shy of having heard 200 released from 2013. Add albums released before 2013 I’ve just heard for the first time and the number shoots up to about 300. So as of now I’m more than keeping pace with hearing one new album a day and not far behind my record last year of 269 releases in 2012. Problem is, filing all of that appropriately and remembering to go back and revisit what was even remotely interesting is much harder, especially when those slightly interesting tokens accumulate at an exceedingly rapid pace.
KITTY – Daisy Rage (pick-your-price download): Very possible I’m underrating this unknown Floridian Kathryn Beckwith’s 22-minute EP that’s both catchy and humorous. “Why am I your dirty little secret / Is it because of all the undies that I peed in?” Unlike others of her ilk, the hip-hop getup isn’t done ironically or disdainfully—she’s rapping because she’s a rapper, not because winking at the audience is fashionable. She even calls Scout Finch a bitch. (“UNfollowed.,” “P.R.E.A.M.”) ***
PET SHOP BOYS – Electric (x2): Twelfth studio album from British electronic duo. Didn’t much care for 2012’s Elysium, but this seems immediately more accessible; first three cuts start like a house ablaze, tuck into a nice groove, cover Bruce Springsteen and collab with Example, give structuralism the finger and keep on loving. (“Love is a Bourgeois Concept”) ***
BETTIE SERVEERT – Oh, Mayhem! (Second Motion): Dutch indie rock band’s tenth album. Would have to search out their first nine, but they remind me of Blondie—female frontwoman, all male band, punk hearts with pop sheen. (“D.I.Y.”) ***
J. COLE – Truly Yours (free download EP): Free download a year and a half following his proper debut, here more relaxed with Latin rhythms and jazz. His flow accentuating low-key beats, I wish his beat-heavy full-lengths were less domineering. (“Can I Holla at Ya”) ***
SAVAGES – Silence Yourself (Matador): London post-punk quartet, debut. Not as gloomy as other English contemporaries, but gloomy nonetheless, with a good dose of American eccentricity to fire up their punk sides. One of few good Pitchfork recommendations. (“City’s Full”) **
TALIB KWELI – Prisoner of Consciousness (Javotti Media): Fifth or so album of stream-of-consciousness delivery, so definitely a prisoner of his own stylings. Good flow, occasionally great rhythms, enough guest spots to vary the monotony. Decent album. (“Come Here [feat. Miguel]”) **
A$AP ROCKY – Long.Live.A$AP (Polo Grounds/RCA): From someone who had no expectations, the whining of an overhyped major label debut means nothing. Plenty of Lil Wayne-esque beats, decent flow but no match for Wayne’s humor, so chockfull of guest spots I have an easier time IDing the guests than Rocky. **
The Rough Guide to Latin Psychedelia (World Music Network): Two-disc compilation, the first various artists ranging from classic R&B bar band Joe Cuba Sextet to contemporary sizzlers Chicha Libre, the second a bonus album by Los Destellos. Starts off sounding like early 60’s American garage rock—surprising, actually, just how much is in English—before slipping into irresistible grooves not so psychedelic in Brit/US terms and probably better for it. And remarkable how old some of these songs sound, clearly a decade or so behind said Brit/US contemporaries: Joe Cuba’s leadoff “Psychedlic Baby” released in ’68, the apex of psychedelia, sounds like an early 60s Eddie Floyd cut without the spunk; Johnny Rivera’s “Cloud Nine” from ’76 but could’ve been cut a decade sooner. Extra disc’s extra; nothing much to say about it. (“Guajira Psicodelica” Flash & the Dynamics; “Tomalo O Dejalo” Los Pakines) **
SAVAGES – I Am Here (Pop Noire EP ’12): Four-track live EP, two from Nottingham, two from Bristol, all but “Give Me a Gun” available on their proper debut. **
BELL X1 – Chop Chop (BellyUp): Indie band with an extensive release history but no fame. A successful dilution of Coldplay and the National with expectedly pleasant results; take that as you will. No lyrical geniuses, they have a knack for the soft melodic hook (“A Thousand Little Downers,” “Motorcade”) and a cheesy but well-intentioned ear for horn placements. (“Motorcade”) *
SON VOLT – Honky Tonk (Rounder): Thirty-six minute country, well, honky-tonk. His idea of living life on the wild side is unconventionality, broad enough to include the slumbering simple life, which I respect. (“Wild Side”) *
GHOST – Infestissumam (Universal): Drew hype from their elaborate theatrics, they’ve been somewhat slagged for their sophomore album. A bit too long, sure, but I still find them raucously hilarious. How else can you describe one of the Nameless Ghouls detailing in an interview the problems anonymity causes with the wife and kids? *
ALELA DIANE – About Farewell (Burnside): Singer/songwriter split with her Wild Divine guitarist/husband, subsequently lost that crackling backup band, winds up sounding a bit dull—might be her, might be the purposefully downbeat material. (“Rose & Thorn”) *
APPARAT – Krieg und Frieden (Mute): What I liked about The Devil’s Walk but ultimately determined was also lacking was its songs—it started off like a house afire only to drop into a mash of swirly electronic goop. And since this is a soundtrack, well, it’s mostly swirly goop punctuated by strings, so we know it’s a Serious Work of Art. *
EVERYTHING EVERYTHING – Arc (RCA): Manchester-based, falsetto-loving TV On the Radio imitators’ second album. At almost fifty minutes, the novelty wears off with everything everything blending together. *
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – … Like Clockwork (Matador): I see the appeal of Dean Fertita’s heavy prog rock, but it sinks my soul more than rattle my bones. *
KELLY WILLIS & BRUCE ROBINSON – Cheater’s Game (Premium): Country duo, half covers, half originals. Opener’s a good tune, tuned out for the rest. *
BOSNIAN RAINBOWS – Bosnian Rainbows (Rodriguez-Lopez Productions): Rush returns. Rodriguez-Lopez’s first post-Mars Volta album that’s not an experimental solo sludgefest puts Teri “Gender Bender” Suarez on lead vocals, successfully imitating Geddy Lee’s androgynous whine. At least Bixler-Zavala’s howl had character.
THE CIVIL WARS – The Civil Wars (Columbia/Sensibility Recordings): Duo of Nashville singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White, second album. At first their debut bored me before I slid into a brief period of bewitchment, only to get bored again. This is more of the same with less of the deceitful thrill.
CLINIC – Free Reign II (Domino): Apart from some additional reverb, I can’t discern this sequel’s difference.
THE DELFONICS – Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics (Wax Poetics): Producer Adrian Younge teams up with elderly Delfonics falsetto-singer to recreate a sound forty years old and meld it with hip-hop rhythms, supposedly to illustrate the undeniable link between them. I found it confusing, slightly upsetting.
DAVID GRUBBS – The Plain Where the Palace Stood (Drag City): Some guy with a largely instrumental album. What a bore.
MARK LANEGAN & DUKE GARWOOD – Black Pudding (Ipecac): Ex-Screaming Trees frontman Lanegan and multi-instrumentalist Garwood team up for a set of flaccid blues pieces.
BLAKE LYMAN QUINTET – Eponymous (PJCE Records): Some jazz guy, mixes post-bop with muzak flourishes. Nothing special.
PHOENIX – Bankrupt! (Glassnote): French electro group, their last album the first to chart in the US. I remember that album being a bit punkier; this sounds like your run-of-the-mill 80’s imitators who can’t find a good melody.
RAEKWON – Lost Jewlry (free download): “Snake Pond” hit instantly on 2011’s Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang, and while nothing caught my ear in particular, enough beats might interest eventually. Lotsa hoes, from what I heard. What else is new.
RHYE – Woman (Republic): Downbeat electro-group, got Best New Music tag from Pitchfork, so naturally they’re forgettable.
SIGUR ROS – Kveikur (XL Recordings): Did you hear ( )? Or Takk… ? I did, and maybe I should invest more time, because all this ‘post-rock’ swirly swamp matter sounds the same. Shitty.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE – The 20/20 Experience (RCA): I found getting through Lovesexy/Futuresex difficult, but with these super-extended cuts I nearly want to kill myself. Ten cuts, seventy minutes. While at some points I find myself catching the groove, it disappears for minutes, reemerges, and I find I’m still listening to the same song. The second half, Timberlake says, will be released later this year. God help us.
WAVVES – Afraid of Heights (Mom+Pop): Forgettable EP by some garage band I’m supposed to think had a great debut.
WHITE FENCE – Cyclops Reap (Castle Face): One day 60’s garage rock enthusiasts will figure out the raw energy, chunky riffs, and blatant sexuality made that music interesting, not the aesthetic of poor recording apparatus.