Having all but abandoned their guitars, Cut Copy’s third full length offers a solid, accessible mix of airy balearic beats, surging new-wave synthesizers and Beach Boy-esque harmonies. While not straying far from their two preceding collections, Zonoscope diverges with perhaps a more pronounced sense of season: summer. In spots it feels brighter, looser and more spacious than some of their previous efforts adding hints of tribal instrumentation and sparkling soundscapes fit for scenic ocean front drives and secluded torch-lit beach parties. And just like the summer, the more you ease into it, the more you will enjoy it.
Head First by Goldfrapp
Released: March 19, 2010 Mute
Following the side-stepping folktronic of their Seventh Tree album, Goldfrapp return to familiar electronic pastures with their fifth collection. Although lyrically, Goldfrapp retain their oblique, sometimes arch imagery, the production draws influence from frothy synth-pop confections of the eighties that, unfortunately, too many chart targeting contemporaries have similarly referenced. Perhaps 5 years too late, or 5 years too early, Head First appears as a reassertion of Goldfrapp’s earlier pioneering role in the genre: smart, sharp, but, at this juncture of their catalogue, somewhat safe.
This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
Released: May 18, 2010 DFA/Virgin
I hate this record. I absolutely fucking hate this record. The reason is simple. It’s very good. It’s exceptionally good. And it is purportedly the final LCD Soundsystem record, ever. And because of that measure, despite its playfulness, it’s earnestness, it’s artful navigation away from spiraling into grating hipster self-adulation, it represents a sad ending of sorts. A closing chapter. A funeral. If LCD Soundsystem does end it’s run as a three-time soundtrack to consumate turn-of-the-millenium hipster anxiety that miraculously made white kids dance, then I encourage you to enjoy this one final, fantastic hate-fuck of a record. You will love it. And then you have to confront the fact that we all, even James Murphy, eventually must deal with our demons, put away our adolescent toys and grow the fuck up.
Overpowered by Roisin Murphy
Released: 15 November 2007 EMI
For some unholy reason, Roisin Murphy’s excellent post-Moloko sophomore solo outing never received the international release it so richly deserved. Tangled in record label woes, it never saw a full North American release, leaving her sophisticated electropop sound, charismatic stage persona, and iconic avant-garde style merely an underground cult classic. Now, I will give Lady Gaga credit where it’s deserved (this is a music video blog after all) and, thanks to Lady Gaga’s incessant attention whoring, she has contributed to, if not electrified a recent resurgence in the craft of music video making. However, when The Fame ambled into the room a couple of years later like a lobotomized version of Overpowered, I felt the sting of an truly original talent unsung and, sadly, overpowered.
Heligoland by Massive Attack
Released: February 8th, 2010 Virgin
Heligoland marks Massive Attack’s fifth studio recording and the list of collaborators goes deeper. This time enlisting vocal heavy weights Damon Albarn (Blur / Gorillaz), Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), Guy Harvey (Elbow) Martina Topley-Bird, and staple Horace Andy, the sound is polished, dramatic and signature melancholy. Unlike fellow Bristolians Portishead, which electrified expectations with their infusion of throbbing krautrock into their truimphant re-emergence on Third, Massive Attack, with its similarly lengthy gestation period, seems to have worn the challenging, jagged edges off, like a stone left too long in the river. But that being said, it’s hard to find fault in a record found unchallenging when their time proven status quo is nothing short of consistently good.
A Brief History Of Love by The Big Pink
Released: September 14, 2009 4AD
Steeped in the waters of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Mezzanine era Massive Attack, the electro-rock duo from London produce a mixed bag of fuzzed our basslines, industrialized percussion, and Bloody Valentines. The collection as a whole lacks somewhat in consistency, but makes up for it on its soaring heights in pure rockstar swagger.
The Blue God by Martina Topley-Bird
Released: 12 May 2008 Independiente
Sultry, soulful and eloquently detached, Martina Topley-Bird, most notably the voice behind the brilliant early works of Tricky, returns with a second solo release, collaborating this time with American producer Danger Mouse. Categorically, you could consider this a bluesy swamp soul evolution of trip hop, but then you’ve probably not given it a proper listening.
The Return To The Acid Planet by Funkstörung
The final album by the glitch-hop duo revives the throbbing 303’s and 808s of acid house as filtered through hip hop breakbeats and rubbery basslines. There are no lyrics and few samples, yet the entire affair is boldly cohesive as any band celebrating and ending their run of 10 ground-breaking years together.
Declaration Of Dependence by Kings Of Convenience
The Norwegian equivalent of Simon and Garfunkel have released their third studio album filled with folksy charmers. The sound is, at times, fuller, with lusher orchestral florishes, while still balancing their signature stripped down, acoustic quiet.
Yeah Ghost by Zero 7
Purveyors of downtempo grooves, Zero 7’s signature sound risked diluting itself with its heavily aped emphasis on soulful crooners, palatable production, and dependably accessible cafe-soundtrackscapes. But on their fourth outing, the formula trap seems broken. The soulful crooners remain, but the roster has switched up with refreshed talent. The tempos as scattershot, ranging from ambient moods to skitterish rhythms that, while not thundering club stormers, up the BPM dial away from safety. This is Zero 7 with a lagged infusion of edge; and for such an established downtempo act, it’s about right on time.
Scars by Basement Jaxx
Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton produce an impressive fifth collection rife with collaborators ranging from Kelis, Sam Sparro, Santigold and Yoko Ono. While the most distinctive aspect of Basement Jaxx is their full-on ecclectic stir-fry of funk, house, tribal and eighties references, the Brixton duo keep focused on their collaborators, leaving space for the style and personality of their guest artist to shine through.
Fever Ray by Fever Ray
Karin Dreijer Andersson’s solo project only tangentialy sidesteps the avant garde electro sounds of her main band, The Knife. Decidedly more ambient and down tempo, the esoteric lyrics and beguiling vocals remain, while upping the experimentalism. Perhaps more difficult that The Knife, but a rewarding build none-the-less.
Music For Men by The Gossip
Despite the fashion industry’s recent infatuation with Beth Ditto, the band stays rock hard. This time out, the band seems to pull inspiration from recent flirtations with various electronica artists and remixers while remaining rooted in their soul drench alt-blues howl.
Dance Mother by Telepathe
Experimental indie knitwear electronica perhaps summarizes the folk infused electro machinations of this Brooklyn domestic partner duo. Produced in large part by TV On The Radio’s David Sitek, their sound has epic synth washes, thumping percussion, and a bold disregard for conventional song structure.