Cut Copy — Zonoscope
The surrender of the indiesphere to the 1980s continues into the new year, for better or worse. The trend has resulted in a relative deluge of passionless, “New Romantics” knockoffs, destined for 7.8 ratings on Pitchfork, and soon to be forgotten. But the pop mastery of Cut Copy’s “Zonoscope” is good enough to forgive these indiscretions. There are more ‘80s influences here than you can shake a Casio guitar synthesizer at. The Men at Work vibes of “Take Me Over” and the jangle-pop guitars of “Where I’m Going” make this abundantly clear. Cut Copy has accomplished the interesting feat of creating a superb summer album in the dead of winter. So treat yourselves to these bouncy synths and sing-along choruses when the next Snowpocalpyse hits.
Recommended if you like: LCD Soundsystem, Klaxons, Pet Shop Boys
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 4
Ringo Deathstarr — Colour Trip
As I helplessly watch the latter days of my tweens slip through my rapidly aging fingers, I can’t help but yearn for a return to infancy when I would lie in my crib and let the effects-laden waves of My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” cascade over me. Thankfully, I can take comfort in knowing that Ringo Deathstarr is making the beautiful type of shoegaze I crave.
“Colour Trip” is overflowing with Stephin Merritt-esque melodies soaked in droning guitar distortion, all backed by pulsing bass lines and driving beats. By swapping vocal duties between Elliot Frazier and Alex Gehring, the band is able to keep things interesting and concurrently set up some awesome harmonies. However, perhaps Ringo’s biggest asset is spot-on mixing and production, which is what puts an already great album over the top.
Recommended if you like: The Jesus And Mary Chain, Astrobrite, The Radio Dept.
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 7
Daniel Martin Moore — In The Cool Of The Day
On his third outing, Kentucky native Daniel Martin Moore sounds right at home. This comes as no surprise when one learns that “In The Cool Of The Day” was inspired by the gospel music Moore heard growing up — the outcome couldn’t sound any more natural.
Lyrically, this subtle celebration of faith is simply an extension of the vaguely uplifting themes that permeated his earlier work. Musically, Moore’s unbelievably smooth voice once again takes center stage, but this time around he wisely augments his traditionally spare arrangements with tints of gospel, jazz, and bluegrass that lend themselves to a more engaging listening experience. Put it all together, and you’ve got one of the most unpretentious, yet undeniably good, albums of the year.
Recommended if you like: Ben Sollee, James Taylor, God
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 4, 11
The Natural Yogurt Band — Tuck In With…
This review will do its best at describing this record, but it probably won’t do a very good job. Just being honest. In 2009, The Natural Yogurt Band released their first record, “Away with Melancholy,” and caught the attention of everyone looking for their psychedelic modern funk fix.
With “Away with Melancholy” long gone (they only had a thousand limited copies), the band, former Little Barrie drummer Wayne Fullwood and Miles Newbold, are back with “Tuck In With…” and have added a world influence to their psychedelic jazz funk. It sounds like these two just travel as nomads across the world, recruiting locals to come play with them wherever they go. With all the tracks being very short (none are longer than two minutes), it’s constantly changing for the better.
Recommended if you like: Madlib, David Axelrod, The Heliocentrics
Recommended tracks: 1, 4, 5, 7
Fujiya & Miyagi — Ventriloquizzing
Brighton’s Fujiya & Miyagi have returned with their latest album in two years, as well as their darkest. In their title song, they compare themselves to marionette puppets, setting the pessimistic mood for the album, where other songs touch on themes of temptation, gluttony and other human ills. The funk-y electronic bass lines and beats that serve as a background for these lyrics create a conundrum for the listener: Do you dance or just sit down as the cynical lyrics overtake you? That, my DJs, depends on you. But if you like your electronic music tempered with a dash of funk, I recommend a listen.
Recommended if you like: Aphex Twin, Can, (an electronic, softer) James Brown
Recommended Tracks: 2, 4, 5
Stalley — Lincoln Way Nights
(Intelligent Trunk Music / Mishka)
To compare Stalley’s latest project to a classic car is almost too fitting. Stalley is a rapper with an epic beard who hails from the small blue-collar town of Massillon, Ohio, known for football, basketball and cars. They take classic cars and chop them up, raise them, add fresh paint, new rims and subwoofers.
On “Lincoln Way Nights,” Stalley brings his hometown’s athlete work ethic as he takes apart the classic hip-hop model piece by piece, rebuilding it bigger and louder but always keeping its classic touch. It’s like Clint Eastwood’s car from “Gran Torino,” well-polished and loud so people can’t help but stare. The production gives the record that gritty old-school sound while Stalley’s soft-spoken flow keeps the record sounding new. Turn up the bass for this one.
Recommended if you like: UGK, Curren$y, Big K.R.I.T.
Recommended Tracks: 2, 4, 9, 14