Music

Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for March 2013

Matthew Fiander and Arnold Pan
Hi-Fi headphones and colorful disc. Image from Shutterstock.

March offers a whole host of albums that are among the most anticipated of this year, featuring new music from beloved artists spanning multiple eras.

As spring springs, so too does the record release schedule fully bloom in March. There's a whole host of albums that are among the most anticipated of this -- and any other -- year coming out in March, especially long-awaited returns from pop megastars from across three generations: David Bowie, Depeche Mode, and Justin Timberlake. The coming month features a wide array of new music that spans multiple musical eras, with work from always relevant legends like Billy Bragg, Trent Reznor (How to destroy angels_) and Thurston Moore (with his new band Chelsea Light Moving), underground icons like Robyn Hitchcock and Wire, as well as young acts entering their prime, including Wavves and Youth Lagoon. And that's not even mentioning a new Strokes album, a big comeback effort from Suede, and the hot-off-the-presses Replacements EP.

 

Artist: The Kingsbury Manx

Album: Bronze Age

Label: Odessa

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US Release Date: 2013-03-05

UK Release Date: 2013-03-04

The Kingsbury Manx
Bronze Age

Kingsbury Manx play a sweet, understated brand of folk music that pulls from classic rock and country and folk traditions at every turn. But despite those pristine vocals and bright melodies, their latest and best record Bronze Age reminds us there's nothing soft about this band. We get the pastoral shuffle we might expect from "Weird Beard & Black Wolf" or the first half of "Handsprings" or late-album standout "Lyon". But, in other places, we get harsher edges, like the space-aged rock of "Future Hunter" or the narcotic haze of the close of "Handsprings" or the epic psych-pop of "How Things Are Done", a song as awash in troubling keys and atmosphere as it is in perfect hooks. The band both beefs up their rock side and indulges their experimental side here without ever forgetting about their effortless knack for a great chorus, a great harmony, or any other seemingly simple pleasure you expect from pop music. Kingsbury Manx have been at this for a long time now, and they've never missed, and this is their latest finest achievement, an album that reminds us of their charms and teaches us some impressive new ones simultaneously. Matthew Fiander

 

Artist: Low

Album: The Invisible Way

Label: Sub Pop

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US Release Date: 2013-03-19

UK Release Date: 2013-03-18

Low
The Invisible Way

Low has been around long enough for us to know that this is a band that doesn't make bad records. They do, though, twist the formula whenever they can. So after working with Dave Fridmann on The Great Destroyer and Drums and Guns, the band returned to the studio they recorded 2002's Trust in for their last record C'Mon, and turned down the expansive noise some. Even in comparison to that record, the new Jeff Tweedy-produced The Invisible Way is an intimate listen. In fact, though, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's vocals are anything but invisible here. "Plastic Cup" is all basic acoustic guitar and drum under Sparhawk's sweet groan, while "So Blue" plinks light guitar and clean piano under Parker's beautiful voice. This is an unrelentingly quiet record, but not in the spacious ways of past Low records. This is their vocal record, in some ways, turning down the instruments -- great though the arrangements are -- in favor of a confessional back and forth between Sparhawk and Parker. Of course, they work in the excellent squall of guitar at the end of "On My Own" just to upset the balance, to splash a boulder through the calm waters of the record. But despite the quiet, despite the lean compositions, this is Low at its most fascinating. It feels upfront, even basic, but underneath it all secrets reveal themselves. Like I said, they've been around a while, so maybe the biggest accomplishment here is that this record teaches us something new, something about the players behind years of sweetly haunting sounds. Matthew Fiander

 

Artist: The Men

Album: New Moon

Label: Sacred Bones

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US Release Date: 2013-03-05

UK Release Date: 2013-03-04

The Men
New Moon

The most startling sounds you'll hear on the Men's latest New Moon are the first ones from the bouncy saloon-rock intro to the leadoff track "Open the Door", as the Brooklyn bar-punk heavies mosey along to player-piano chords and swaying fiddle like they weren't known for their aggro, in-your-face onslaught. But if you haven’t learned to expect the unexpected from the Men, then you haven't learned enough about the post-hardcore group. New Moon is a rich and varied album that keeps you on your toes as the Men change up mood, tone, and tempo every time you start to get your footing, shifting gears breathlessly from rootsy, twangy numbers ("The Seeds", "Bird Song") to surreal dark rock ("Without a Face") to motor-revving punch-ups ("The Brass", "Electric"). And then New Moon switches up on you one last time with the psych-rock coda "Supermoon", a trippy, harrowing guitar-driven journey that boldly treads new ground while sounding completely like something the Men would be up to. A fitting note to end New Moon on, "Supermoon" is at once the pinnacle of what the Men have done and perhaps a hint of where they're headed, though you wouldn't be surprised if they end up going completely in another direction, either. Arnold Pan

 

Artist: Plates of Cake

Album: Teenage Evil

Label: Uninhabitable Mansions

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US Release Date: 2013-03-26

UK Release Date: 2013-03-26

Plates of Cake
Teenage Evil

Back in 2010, Brooklyn's Plates of Cake released their eponymous debut, one of the great unsung guitar-pop records of that year. Two-plus years later, they expand on that album's impressive palate of sound with Teenage Evil, a blissed-out yet dingy set of sharp power-pop tunes. The band still pits propulsive, sunburst riffs against the gruff croon of singer Jonathan Byerley, but here the songcraft tightens just a bit, while the breadth of sounds continues to expand. Opener "Late Last London" hits with lean pop power, but it sets up the statelier angles of the hooks in "A Capitol Is Born" and the Springsteen-cum-reggae sweetness of "Hey Hey That's Devotion". Every song here hits with the darkly humorous charm of, say, Robyn Hitchcock (no wonder they cover the Soft Boys' "Underwater Moonlight"), but delivers the quirky rock punch of any band Robert Pollard has fronted. Part restless pop experimenters, part hazy rockers, Plates of Cake are a band owed some attention, and with the top-to-bottom excellent Teenage Evil, they just might get it. Matthew Fiander

 

Artist: Caitlin Rose

Album: The Stand-In

Label: ATO

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US Release Date: 2013-03-05

UK Release Date: 2013-03-04

Caitlin Rose
The Stand-In

At the crossroads of country and rock, Caitlin Rose harvests the fertile ground staked out by the likes of Wilco and Neko Case before her. Coming off like a world weary vet on just her second full-length, The Stand-In, Rose has come up with a batch of big, polished songs that round out and shine up the fare from her promising 2011 debut, Own Side Now. Rose's growth as a songwriter is something that's hard not to notice right from the get-go with the earworming sing-along "No One to Call", a worthwhile effort at connecting up Jeff Tweedy's musical lineage with Patsy Cline's. "Only a Clown" has the wit, warmth, and pop sensibility of a twangier New Pornographers' offering, as does "Menagerie", both perfect three-minute songs no matter what category you want to fit 'em under. More than anything, though, the tight, impeccably composed numbers on The Stand-In showcase Rose's diamond-in-the-rough voice, which has the grain and depth for a tearjerker croon ("Pink Champagne") and the versatility to go from an easy smolder to belt-it-out cry in no time flat ("Waitin'). On her latest, Caitlin Rose proves she's no stand-in, but a star whose name should be in the brightest of lights. Arnold Pan

 

Artist: Marnie Stern

Album: The Chronicles of Marnia

Label: Kill Rock Stars

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US Release Date: 2013-03-19

UK Release Date: Import

Marnie Stern
The Chronicles of Marnia

You would never consider Marnie Stern’s prolific axe-wielding gifts a curse, but her status as a bona fide guitar goddess has probably kept her from getting her due as an all-around songwriter. That’s a misconception she dispatches on her new album The Chronicles of Marnia, which puts as much of an emphasis on Stern’s idiosyncratic melodies and lyricism as it does on her claim-to-fame finger-tapping and shredding. More than just offering up awe-inspiring displays of technical proficiency, Marnia builds on the more developed compositions of her eponymous 2010 effort and takes them even further, something apparent right from the start with the catchy opener “Year of the Glad”. It’s hard not to notice Stern’s greater focus on the more harmonious elements of her music, be it on the almost gliding “East Side Glory” -- its morse-code mini-riffs, notwithstanding -- or the rolling Modest Mouse-y rambler “Noonan”, on which her guitar heroine sleights-of-hand offer the finishing touches to the tune rather than its reason for being. But this being Marnie Stern, you’ll still be thrilled by guitar machinations you’ve never heard until now, even if they’ve moved aside to share the spotlight with the songwriting a bit more. Arnold Pan

 

Artist: William Tyler

Album: Impossible Truth

Label: Merge

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US Release Date: 2013-03-26

UK Release Date: Import

William Tyler
Impossible Truth

William Tyler (who also plays in Lambchop) surprised a lot of people with his Takoma School writ-large guitar stylings and sound experiments on his first solo album, Behold the Spirit. His second record, and first for Merge, is nothing less than an astonishing follow-up, an album that expands on its predecessor’s impressive skill and charm and makes what will undoubtedly be one of the great instrumental albums (or just plain albums) of 2013. The big shift here is how Tyler plays with guitar tones and textures. His intricate phrasings and finger-picking are intact, but we get watery tones on opener "Country of Illusion" and cascading swirls on "Cadillac Desert" playing against low string drones. These shifts in texture make the turns back to straight acoustic picking on the aptly titled "We Can't Go Home Again" all the more bright and thrilling, and it all sets up closing mood piece "The World Set Free", which pits shadowy finger-picked spirals -- traced by pedal steel -- against a lean noise-rock breakdown of jagged distorted chords, squalling feedback, and churning drums. It's an odd and thus perfect end to an album that is simultaneously comforting and disorienting. The edges blur and fade, but this is no nostalgia trip -- Impossible Truth is the endless border of the now. It's possibility, in all its bittersweet glory. And it sounds damn good. Matthew Fiander

 

Selected Releases for March 2013

(Release dates subject to change)

March 5

Ólöf Arnalds, Sudden Elevation (One Little Indian)

Autechre, Exai (Warp)

Bajofondo, Presente (Sony Masterworks)

Bastille, Bad Blood (Virgin)

Stefano Battaglia, Salvatore Maiore, and Roberto Dani, Songways (ECM)

Beliefs, Untitled (Manimal)

Blue Hawaii, Untogether (Arbutus)

The Cave Singers, Naomi (Jagjaguwar)

Chelsea Light Moving, Chelsea Light Moving (Matador)

Cloud Cult, Love (Earthology)

Lloyd Cole / Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Selected Studies Vol.1 (Bureau B)

The Cribs, Payola (Wichita)

Cy Dune, No Recognize (Family Tree)

Dead Leaf Echo, Thought and Language (Neon Sigh)

The Glass Canoe, Through Lianas (Korora)

Gold Panda, Trust EP (Ghostly International)

Great Divide, Great Divide (self-released)

Greg Boring, Heavy Syrup (Critical Heights)

Helado Negro, Invisible Life (Asthmatic Kitty)

Jimi Hendrix, People, Hell and Angels (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)

Herbcraft, The Astral Body Electric (Woodsist)

Hervé, The Art of Disappearing (Cheap Thrills)

Hey Marseilles, Lines We Trace (Onto Entertainment/Thirty Tigers)

Highasakite, In and out of weeks EP (Propeller)

Robyn Hitchcock, Love from London (Yep Roc)

How to destroy angels_, Welcome Oblivion (Columbia)

Jamaican Queens, Wormfood (Notown)

Javelin, Hi Beams (Luaka Bop)

Julia Kent, Character (Leaf)

Krokus, Dirty Dynamite (The End)

The Last Bison, Inheritance (Republic)

Making Movies, A La Deriva (self-released)

Gurf Morlix, Finds the Present Tense (Rootball)

Laura Mvula, Sing to the Moon UK Release (RCA)

Kate Nash, Girl Talk (Ingrooves)

Neaera, Ours Is the Storm (Metal Blade)

Old Man Markley, Down Side Up (Fat Wreck Chords)

Madeleine Peyroux, The Blue Room (Decca)

Benoit Pioulard, Hymnal (Kranky)

Post War Years, Galapagos (RCA)

The Replacements, Songs for Slim EP (New West)

Reverend and the Makers, @Reverend_Makers (The End)

Rhye, Woman (Polydor)

Josh Ritter, The Beast in Its Tracks (Pythias)

Boz Scaggs, Memphis (429)

Son Volt, Honky Tonk (Rounder)

Suuns, Images du Futur (Secretly Canadian)

Superhuman Happiness, Hands (Royal Potato Family)

John Tejada/I'm Not a Gun, Sub-tones (Palette)

The Thermals, More Parts Per Million, Fuckin' A, and The Body, the Blood, and the Machine vinyl reissues (Sub Pop)

They Might Be Giants, Nanobots EP (Idlewild)

The Tossers, Emerald City (Victory)

Úlfur, White Mountain (Western Vinyl)

Water Liars, Wyoming (Fat Possum)

Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni)

The Woolen Men, The Woolen Men (Woodsist)

Young Dreams, Between Places (Modular/Interscope)

Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum)

March 12

Devendra Banhart, Mala (Nonesuch)

Bon Jovi, What About Now? (Island)

David Bowie, The Next Day (Columbia)

Eric Clapton, Old Sock (Surfdog)

Girls Names, The New Life (Slumberland)

Golden Grrrls, Golden Grrrls (Slumberland)

Megan Hilty (actress from Smash, It Happens All the Time (Sony Masterworks)

Hot Lunch, Hot Lunch (Tee Pee)

Hurts, Exile UK Release (Sony)

Illnath, 4 Shades of Me (Pitch Black)

Indoor Life, Indoor Life (Compost)

Shooter Jennings, The Other Life (Black Country Rock/Entertainment One Nashville)

Lady, Lady (Truth & Soul)

Heather Maloney, Heather Maloney (Signature Sounds)

The Mary Onettes, Hit the Waves (Labrador)

Naked Lunch, All Is Fever (Tapete)

Off with Their Heads, Home (Epitaph)

Queen, Live at Wembley Stadium (Eagle Rock)

Josh Rouse, Happiness Waltz (Yep Roc)

The Saint James Society, Bab(a/y)lon Rising (Tee Pee)

Scott & Charlene's Wedding, Two Weeks (Critical Heights)

Stereophonics, Graffiti on the Train (EMI)

Turbogeist, Ancient Secrets EP (Spinefarm)

Carmen Villain, Sleeper (Smalltown Supersound)

Wild Belle, Isles (Columbia)

March 19

Ellen Allien, LISm (BPitch Control)

Alpha Rev, Bloom (Kirtland)

And So I Watch You from Afar, All Hail Bright Futures (Sargent House)

Black Pus, All My Relations (Thrill Jockey)

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Specter at the Feast (Abstract Dragon)

Billy Bragg, Tooth & Nail (Cooking Vinyl)

Brandt Brauer Frick, Miami (!K7)

Call of the Void, Dragged Down a Dead End Path (Relapse)

Daughter, If You Leave UK Release (4AD)

Deptford Goth, Life After Defo (Merok Records / Cooperative Music)

Aaron Diehl, The Bespoke Man's Narrative (Mack Avenue)

Simone Dinnerstein & Tift Merritt, Night (Sony Masterworks)

Dump (Yo La Tengo's James McNew), Superpowerless reissue (Morr)

Ensemble Pearl, Ensemble Pearl (Drag City)

Fol Chen, The False Alarms (Asthmatic Kitty)

Susie Glaze & the Hilonesome Band, White Swan (Hilonesome)

The Grapes of Wrath, High Road (Aporia)

Colleen Green, Sock It to Me (Hardly Art)

Lee Hazlewood, Trouble Is a Lonesome Town (Light in the Attic)

Hem, Departure and Farewell (Waveland)

Inter Arma, Sky Burial (Relapse)

Jerusalem in My Heart, Mo7it Al-mo7it (Constellation)

KEN Mode, Entrench (Season of Mist)

Koby Israelite, Blues from Elsewhere (Asphalt Tango)

Patrick Krief, Hundred Thousand Pieces (Rock Ridge)

Mice Parade, Candela (Fat Cat)

Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park (Mercury)

Nightmare Air, High in the Lasers (Saint Marie)

Andre Obin, The Arsonist (Sky Council)

Ocean Blue, Ultramarine (Korda)

Palma Violets, Palma Violets U.S. Release (Rough Trade)

Phosphorescent, Muchacho (Dead Oceans)

Elvis Presley, Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite (RCA/Legacy)

Purling Hiss, Water on Mars (Drag City)

Sexmob, Sexmob Plays Fellini: The Music of Nino Rota (Royal Potato Family)

Sparks, Two Hands One Mouth: Live in Europe (self-released)

Tomasz Stanko, David Virelles, Thomas Morgan, and Gerald Cleaver, Wislawa (ECM)

Stornoway, Tales from Terra Firma (4AD)

Stygian Stride, Stygian Stride (Thrill Jockey)

Suede, Bloodsports (Ingrooves/Fontana)

Tear Out the Heart, Violence (Victory)

Tecla, We Are the Lucky Ones (Mayimba)

Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience (RCA)

Tyga, Hotel California (Young Money Cash Money)

Vanna, The Few and Far Between (Artery/Razor & Tie)

Gin Wigmore, Gravel and Wine (Universal)

Thalia Zedek Band Via (Thrill Jockey)

March 26

Karl Bartos (Kraftwerk), Off the Record (Bureau B)

Alex Calder, Time (Captured Tracks)

Crime and the City Solution, American Twilight (Mute)

The Cyclist, Bones in Motion (Stones Throw)

Depeche Mode, Delta Machine (Columbia)

Diamond Version, EP 4 (Mute)

Dido, Girl Who Got Away (RCA)

DJ Koze, Amygdala (Pampa)

The Hairs, The Magic's Gone EP (Break)

Heloise & the Savoir Faire, Diamond Dust (Simian)

Hot as Sun, Night Time Sound Desire (Last Gang)

Alan Jackson, Precious Memories, Volume II (EMI)

Lapland, Lapland (Hundred Pockets)

Julian Lynch, Lines (Underwater Peoples)

The Milk Carton Kids, The Ash & Clay (Anti-)

OOFJ, To Die To (Fake Diamond)

Senses Fail, Renacer (Staple)

Matt Shadetek, The Empire Never Ended (Dutty Artz)

Blake Shelton, Based on a True Story... (Warner Bros.)

Nadia Sirota, Baroque (Bedroom Community)

Smoke Fairies. Blood Speaks (Year Seven)

Stephen Stills, Carry On 4-CD set (Rhino)

The Strokes, Comedown Machine (RCA)

Turnball Green, The Wolf in You (Take a Record/Daylight Curfew)

Warm Soda, Someone for You (Castle Face)

The Waterboys, An Appointment with Mr.Yeats (Proper)

Wavves, Afraid of Heights (Mom+Pop/Warner)

Wax Idols, Discipline & Desire (Slumberland)

Wire, Change Becomes Us (Pinkflag)

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

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The Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop artist MAJO wraps brand new holiday music for us to enjoy in a bow.

It's that time of year yet again, and with Christmastime comes Christmas tunes. Amongst the countless new covers of holiday classics that will be flooding streaming apps throughout the season from some of our favorite artists, it's always especially heartening to see some original writing flowing in. Such is the gift that Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop songwriter MAJO is bringing us this year.

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