Music

Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for March 2014

Get the early word on some of March's most anticipated albums from the likes of the Hold Steady, Real Estate, and the War on Drugs.

Photo: Composition of headphones. Image via Shutterstock.

Apropos of a month when buzz and hype hit new heights with South by Southwest, March's installment of Listening Ahead collects some of the most eagerly awaited releases of the year so far. Our highlights for March range from the welcome return by fan favorites the Hold Steady to an uncompromising debut by vaunted newcomers Perfect Pussy, with strong, reaching-their-peak efforts by the War on Drugs and Future Islands in between. Beyond that, March's release schedule serves up intriguing offerings for a broad array of tastes, whether you're talking about the top of the pop charts with new albums by Pharrell and Kylie Minogue or off-the-wall efforts like Thurston Moore's black metal collab Twilight and hippy-folk cult hero Linda Perhacs' first full-length in 44 years. Now that's a lineup that SXSW probably can't even match for variety and eccentricity.

 
MARCH 4
 
Artist: Real Estate

Album: Atlas

Label: Domino

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/r/restateatlas.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

Real Estate
Atlas

Anyone already familiar with Real Estate won't be finding any detours or sudden left turns on the New Jersey group's latest, Atlas. But continuing on the path that it's been going on doesn't mean that Real Estate is simply retracing its steps -- actually, if there's an overarching theme to Atlas, it's about feeling the pull of the past but still being able to push ahead and move on. An album shaped by fine-tunings and subtle adjustments, Atlas is a further exploration down a road Real Estate has traveled since its self-titled 2009 debut and 2011's Days. On the new outing, Real Estate shows a real knack at finding that elusive middle ground between doing what it does best and breaking just enough new ground for itself. So while the patient, inviting jangle that Real Estate made its name with is the starting point for all of Atlas' offerings, there are enough slight twists in inflection to keep things engaging, whether you're talking about the warm, Belle and Sebastian-esque twee of "Talking Backwards" and the instrumental "April's Song", or hints at cocktail-rock sophistication on "The Bend". And even when -- or, especially when -- Real Estate faces the unknown of what's to come, they have an ability to remain even-keeled and committed to the direction they've chosen, as Martin Courtney answers his worries about romantic circumstances and more existential concerns on "Crime" as he coos, "Stay with me / All will be revealed." Maybe some will hear Atlas and think same old same old, but listen more intently and you'll find the work of a band that's staying the course to advance step by step, steadily and surely. Arnold Pan

 
MARCH 18
 
Artist: Perfect Pussy

Album: Say Yes to Love

Label: Captured Tracks

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/p/perfectp.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

Perfect Pussy
Say Yes to Love

The real reason why interest in Perfect Pussy has grown and intensified so quickly has less to do with the Syracuse group's almost un-Googleable name than its brand of furious, unrelenting hardcore punk that's more provocative and unapologetic than the name they happen to go by. Indeed, something as vital and unflinching as Perfect Pussy's proper debut Say Yes to Love could only have been conceived of by artists who take their work -- and themselves -- seriously. You can't help but notice that in the way frontwoman Meredith Graves' visceral, rapid-fire delivery matches the raw force of her incisive lyrics, as she unblinkingly spits devastating lines like, "I can try to hide from suffering / But I know now that won't save me." Or in the way Perfect Pussy's drive to perfect its hardcore aesthetic doesn't keep the newbie quintet from trying its hand at innovating, like when hints of infectious power-pop glee peek through on the pummeling single "Driver" or when the Sonic Youth-y "Interference Fits" uncoils the band's compact, compressed punk to give a little more breathing room for Graves' Kim Gordon-esque cadence. It's at these moments when Perfect Pussy proves it's not just a band that's looking to push buttons just for the heck of it, but, rather, to push itself and the limits of the musical form it works in. Arnold Pan

 
Artist: The War on Drugs

Album: Lost in the Dream

Label: Secretly Canadian

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/w/warond.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

The War on Drugs
Lost in the Dream

As the main force behind the War on Drugs, Adam Granduciel has crafted a discography of fascinating sounds, most recently on Slave Ambient. He's spent years twisting and stretching out American traditions of rock and folk into blurry-eyed yet vital soundscapes. But after bonding on the road for two years with his band, Granduciel brought more friends in to record Lost in the Dream. The results are a huge leap forward for an already ambitious project. This hour-long record spreads out in every direction, as guitars and synths melt over each other on "Under the Pressure" or wrap tight coils around each other on "Red Eyes" or ripple and skitter across the slick surface of "Disappearing". Behind these open sounds, the drums charge forward, echoing out into space but never losing their way. Meanwhile, Granduciel's voice has never sounded more self-assured, more rangy and powerful. He's up in the mix here and the connection to us is direct and affecting. He is our tour guide through the gauzy expanse of these songs. It's a sound that transforms the grit of the highway into the sublime of the astral plane. It feels big but never loses its shape. Lost in the Dream is inventive and thick with textures but immediate in its impact. Granduciel has managed to constantly grow from record to record, but this album isn't about growth for the War on Drugs, it's transformation. Into something both grander and more intimate, more epic and more tightly constructed. In other words, you may not be able to put your finger on what makes the record so brilliant, which is why you'll keep coming back to it, if only to let the sound surround you again. Matthew Fiander

 
MARCH 25
 
Artist: Miles Davis

Album: Miles at the Fillmore -- Miles Davis 1970: Bootleg Series, Vol. 3

Label: Legacy

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/m/milesfillmore.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

Miles Davis
Miles at the Fillmore -- Miles Davis 1970: Bootleg Series, Vol. 3

Following Volume 1's look at the second great quintet in Europe and Volume 2's rare look at the "lost band", you'd almost be forgiven for feeling like Volume 3 is too obvious a choice, capturing Miles Davis' well-known Fillmore residency from 1970. That is, until you hear the bracing, surprising power of these sets. The four nights captured here were originally edited and condensed down into the two-LP Miles Davis at Fillmore album, but that set paid homage to the editing and studio work Davis put into Bitches Brew. It was an extension of the process. This massive and endlessly rewarding box set puts a spotlight on the brilliantly volatile music, the organic sounds under all that studio wizardry. It provides over 100 minutes of unreleased music and, more importantly, lets each piece of each set have its moment. The sets themselves share songs, but each has its own unique combustibility, as Davis and his band range from funky rumbling to dissonant chaos, from musical joy to channeled anger and back again. These are performances that can rattle in your head with intellectual vigor or rumble in your gut with pure emotive power. It's an exciting moment in Davis' career, with a new direction and hot off his epic Bitches Brew, and he claimed he always wanted all of these sets to be made public. Now that they are, we can see why, as it's one of the most powerful live sets available from one of the most dynamic live performers in music history. Matthew Fiander

 
Artist: Future Islands

Album: Singles

Label: 4AD

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/f/fisingles.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

Future Islands
Singles

You wouldn't exactly say that Future Islands have found their identity on their latest effort Singles, considering they've stood out for their own art-minded approach to synthpop for a while now. But it would be apt to suggest that they've hit their stride on Singles, which finds the Baltimore outfit boasting a batch of bolder, more confident songs than before. So even if not every track on Singles is a single per se, the title isn't a case of false advertising, not in the case of an album that's chock full of sculpted, expertly composed offerings. Indeed, all the components in Future Islands' mix come through with clarity and sharpness, be it the added heft of their substantial keyboard lines or the way Samuel T. Herring's husky baritone resonates more deeply than ever. Opener "Seasons (Waiting on You)" and the driving, melodic "Sun in the Morning" are leaps forward that really jump out, as Future Islands take advantage of a bigger, brighter palette that's available to them. And there's a rich soulfulness to the National-like "Back in the Tall Grass" and the '80s strut of "Doves" that's somewhat rare for the vernacular Future Islands work in. The progress Future Islands make on Singles after all these years might be incremental, but it's definitely discernable too. Arnold Pan

 
Artist: The Hold Steady

Album: Teeth Dreams

Label: Washington Square

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/h/holdsteadyteeth.jpg

Display as: List

Display Width: 200

The Hold Steady
Teeth Dreams

Things haven't changed much in the Hold Steady's sound, but things have gotten more refined over time, and texture and mood have changed with those subtle shifts. Teeth Dreams may not have the upfront bile of Separation Sunday, but it's got its own smoldering fury. The songs move us away from the lost youth into wandering adulthood, where growing up isn't settling down with a family, but rather finding a new path through the city nights and the changing bar scenes. The songs are still full of characters setting the wrong fires to brighten their dark corners, but the stakes are different here, the pills and powders subbed out for more expensive drinks and more lasting worry. People come home for reunions ("I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You"), try to connect in bars ("Spinners"), squat in hotels ("The Ambassador"), and Craig Finn's lyrics find the careful details in lives in search of some nameless next thing. The band itself has grown, its sound bigger than the sweat-wet bars they played for before. Here, there's a more wide-open dust coating the riffs, and the songs take their time building their tension, especially on epic nine-minute closer "Oaks". This is the Hold Steady are their most confident and thoughtful, building a wider landscape so that the characters aren't so clustered up. Even if they're still searching, even if the search changes just as they think they've found something. Matthew Fiander

 

Selected Releases for March 2014

(Release dates subject to change)

March 4

Anne, Pulling Chain (Run for Cover)

Arthur Beatrice, Working Out (Harvest)

A$AP Mob, L.O.R.D. EP

Ava Luna, Electric Balloon (Western Vinyl)

Axxa/Abraxas, Axxa Abraxas (Captured Tracks)

Lisa Biales, Belle of the Blues (Big Song)

Carla Bozulich, Boy (Constellation)

Brace/Choir, Turning on Your Double (Tapete)

Regina Carter, Southern Comfort (Sony Music Masterworks)

Chappo, Future Former Self (Rouse)

Clouder, Sister Raygun (Fleeting Youth)

Diane Cluck, Boneset (Important)

Comeback Kid, Die Knowing (Victory)

Cremator, Clear Air Turbulence (Series Aphonos)

DA and the Jones, Sirens

Bart Davenport, Physical World (Burger)

Bryce Dessner and Jonny Greenwood, St. Carolyn and There Will Be Blood (Deutsche Grammophone)

Drive-By Truckers, English Oceans (ATO)

Each Other, Being Elastic (Lefse)

Eagulls, Eagulls (Partisan)

Terry Emm, Starlight

The Wayne Escoffery Quintet, Live at Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside)

Eternal Summers, The Drop Beneath (Kanine)

Lorenzo Feliciati and Colin Edwin, Twinscapes (RareNoise)

Robben Ford, A Day in Nashville (Mascot/Provogue)

Frankie Cosmos, Zentropy (Double Double Whammy)

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz, The Shape of Doomjazz / Saxophone

Ghost Beach, Blonde (Nettwerk)

Giganticus (RareNoise)

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, It's Her Fault (Transdreamer)

John Gorka, Bright Side of Down (Red House)

Highasakite, Silent Treatment (Propeller)

Jupe Jupe, Crooked Kisses

Kimono Kult, Hiding in the Light (Neurotic Yell)

Krzysztof Komeda, Dance of the Vampires (Series Aphonos)

Laibach, Spectre (Mute)

Lakker, Conatining a Thousand EP (R&S)

Marian Hill, Play EP

The Mary Onettes, Portico (Labrador)

The Men, Tomorrow's Hits (Sacred Bones)

Lea Michele, Louder (Columbia)

Nai Harvest, Hold Open My Head EP (Topshelf)

David Nail, I'm a Fire (MCA Nashville)

Nothing, Guilty of Everything (Relapse)

Linda Perhacs, The Soul of All Natural Things (Asthmatic Kitty)

Pharrell, G I R L (Columbia)

Pink Martini and the Von Trapps, Dream a Little Dream (Heinz)

PINS, Girls Like Us (Bella Union)

Gemma Ray, Down Baby Down (Series Aphonos)

Mark Rivera, Common Bond (Dynotone/Red River)

Alfredo Rodriguez, The Invasion Parade (Mack Avenue)

Rick Ross, Mastermind (Island Def Jam)

Roman Remains, Zeal (H.O.T.)

Claudia Schmidt, New Whirled Order (Red House)

Sally Seltmann, Hey Daydreamer (Arts & Crafts)

Solex, Solex Ahoy! (Series Aphonos)

Spirits and the Melchizedek Children, So Happy It's Sad

Stepdad, Strange Tonight EP (Quite Scientific)

Stone Jack Jones, Ancestor (Western Vinyl)

Tanger Trio, Tanger Trio and Ensemble Mondaine (Series Aphonos)

These New Puritans, Fields of Reeds (U.S. release) (PIAS)

TRUST, Joyland (Arts & Crafts)

Ume, Monuments (Dangerbird)

Various Artists, The Grand Budapest Hotel original soundtrack (ABKCO)

Wake Owl, The Private World of Paradise (Vagrant)

Nick Waterhouse, Holly (Innovative Leisure)

We Are Scientists, TV en Français

Weekend (Allison Statton of Young Marble Giants), The '81 Demos (Blackest Ever Black)

Weeknight, Post-Everything (Artificial)

Amelia White, Old Postcard

WhoMadeWho, Dreams

Wild Throne, Blood Maker (Brutal Panda)

The Young Dubliners, Nine

March 11

Aloe Blacc, Lift Your Spirit (Interscope)

Alsarah and the Nubatones, Silt (Wonderwheel)

Architects UK, Lost Forever, Lost Together (Epitaph)

Barren Womb, The Sun's Not Yellow, It's Chicken (Spartan)

Battleme, Future Runs Magnetic (El Camino Media)

Biblical, Monsoon Season (New Damage)

Camcorder, Presence EP

Ekoplekz, Unfidelity (Planet Mu)

Elbow, The Take Off and Landing of Everything (Concord)

Elder Brother, Heavy Head (Pure Noise)

Sara Evans, Slow Me Down (Sony Nashville)

Joan as Police Woman, The Classic (PIAS)

Los Lobos, Si Se Puede! (Concord)

Lune, Music & Sports (Refune)

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, featuring Edie Brickell, Live CD/DVD (Rounder)

Metronomy, Love Letters (Atlantic)

Our Last Enemy, Pariah (Eclipse)

Ozomatli, Place in the Sun (Vanguard)

Saintseneca, Dark Arc (Anti-)

Scraps, Electric Ocean (Fire)

The Shrine, Bless Off (Tee Pee)

September Girls, Cursing the Sea (Fortuna POP!)

Spotlight Kid, Ten Thousand Hours (Saint Marie)

Tensnake, Glow (Astralwerks)

Dean Wareham, Dean Wareham (Double Feature)

Warm Soda, Young Reckless Hearts (Castle Face)

Don Williams, Reflections (Sugar Hill)

March 18

The Belle Brigade, Just Because (ATO)

The Black Lips, Underneath the Rainbow (Vice)

Richard Buckner, Bloomed deluxe reissue (Merge)

Chimurenga Renaissance (Baba Maraire of Shabazz Palaces), riZe vadZimu riZe (Brick Lane)

The Coathangers, Suck My Shirt (Suicide Squeeze)

Dead Rider, Chills on Grass (Drag City)

Kevin Drew, Darlings (Arts & Crafts)

Lyla Foy, Mirrors the Sky (Sub Pop)

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Piñata (Madlib Invazion)

Eliza Gilkyson, The Nocturne Diaries (Red House)

Hark, Crystalline (Season of Mist)

Hauschka, Abandoned City (Temporary Residence Ltd.)

I Am the Avalanche, Wolverines (I Surrender)

Ibibio Sound Machine, Ibibio Sound Machine (Soundway)

Enrique Iglesias, Sex+Love (Republic)

Killing Sound, Killing Sound (Blackest Ever Black)

Kylie Minogue, Kiss Me Once (Warner)

Mother Falcon, OK Computer Live

David Novick, Your Sister's Hands (God?/Drag City)

Order of Isaz, Seven Years of Famine (Season of Mist)

Elvis Presley, Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis (Legacy)

Bill Pritchard, A Trip to the Coast (Tapete)

Ringworm, Hammer of the Witch (Relapse)

Dex Romweber Duo, Images 13 (Bloodshot)

Ruby the Rabbitfoot, New as Dew (Normaltown)

Shit Robot, We Got a Love (DFA)

Sisyphus (with Sufjan Stevens), Sisyphus (Secretly Canadian)

Taking Back Sunday, Happiness Is (Hopeless)

Twilight (with Thurston Moore), III: Beneath Trident's Tomb (Century Media)

Tycho, Awake (Ghostly International)

Unwound, Rat Conspiracy (reissue with Fake Train, New Plastic Ideas, and rarities) (Numero)

White Suns, Totem (The Flenser)

Woo, When the Past Arrives (Drag City)

March 25

Ages and Ages, Divisionary, (Partisan)

Asia, Gravitas (Frontiers)

The Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring (Sony Masterworks)

The Baseball Project, 3rd (Yep Roc)

Bent Denim, Epistolary EP

Bluffing, Sugarcoated Pills of Wisdom EP (PaperCup)

Johnny Cash, Out Among the Stars (Legacy)

Desert Noises, 27 Ways (SQE)

Faces on Film, Elite Lines

Simone Felice, Strangers (Dualtone)

Foster the People, Supermodel (Columbia)

Jimi Goodwin (Doves), Odludek (PIAS)

Golden Retriever, Seer (Thrill Jockey)

Howler, World of Joy (Rough Trade)

Jean Jacket, Jean Jacket (Decades)

Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road deluxe boxset (Universal)

Hiro Kone, The Unmoved Mover EP (Group Tightener)

Glenn Kotche, Adventureland (Cantaloupe)

Kwesi K, Lovely EP

Liars, Mess (Mute)

Memphis May Fire, Unconditional (Rise)

George Michael, Symphonica (Virgin)

Tony Molina, Dissed and Dismissed reissue (Slumberland)

Mr. Little Jeans, Pocketknife (Harvest)

No Man's Valley, ...And Four Other Songs EP

...Of Sinking Ships, The Amaranthine Sea (Broken Circles)

Owls, Two (Polyvinyl)

Jon Porras (Barn Owl), Light Divide (Thrill Jockey)

Prince Fatty and Mungo's Hi-Fi, Prince Fatty vs. Mungo's Hi-Fi (Mr. Bongo)

Sage the Gemini, Remember Me (Republic)

Seaheaven, Reverie Lagoon: Music for Escapism Only (Run for Cover)

Shakira, Shakira (RCA)

Sleeper Agent, About Last Night (RCA/Mom+Pop)

Throwing Snow, Pathfinder EP (Houndstooth)

Tokyo Police Club, Forcefield (Mom+Pop)

Tyrone Birkett, Emancipation

Various Artists, Bob Dylan in the '80s: Vol. 1 covers album (ATO)

Caetano Veloso, Abraçaço (Nonesuch)

Withered Hand, New Gods (Slumberland)

Young Matthew Fowler, Beginning

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

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Noel Fielding (Daniel) and Mercedes Grower (Layla) (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back in time to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

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?

Keep reading... Show less

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.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image