On the Record

On the Record

Goldfrapp
Seventh Tree

Mute
Grade: B+

If Goldfrapp’s last album was a big night out at the disco, then their latest is the sunlight of the next morning. 2006’s #Supernature# was an infectious dose of retro-futurist electro-glitter, with singer-namesake Alison Goldfrapp cooing euphemistically about wanting to “Ride A White Horse” and craving some “Ooh-La-La.” #Seventh Tree#, by contrast, starts with “Clowns,” a delicate ballad featuring little more than strings and light acoustic guitar, on which Goldfrapp mourns that “only clowns will play with dull balloons.” Even the peppier tracks, such as the bouncy “Happiness” and TV commercial-bound “Caravan Girl,” feel tired and hungover. But that is not a bad thing: There is a vulnerability here that gives the record a pure beauty the group has never before achieved.  

Download: “Clowns, “Little Bird”

Matthew Singer

The Raveonettes
Lust Lust Lust

Vice
Grade: A-

raveCall it musique noir: “Aly, Walk With Me,” the opening track on the Raveonettes’ third album, is the song the Danish duo have been working toward their entire career, an ominous but irresistible invitation to an after-hours stroll through the empty streets of the American cityscape, one that pulsates with tense foreboding before immolating itself — twice — in a blaze of feedback. It is the fullest realization yet of the band’s shadowy cool. Everything else is classic Raves: bare-bones song structures, Kevin Shields-esque guitar fuzz, ethereal girl-group harmonies and the male-female vocals of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo freezing together to form the voice of an icy androgyne, its blood-red lips smirking through a long black veil.

Download: “Aly, Walk With Me,” “Hallucinations,” “You Want the Candy”

Matthew Singer

Donita Sparks & the Stellar Moments
Transmiticate
SparksFly
Grade: B

donitaDonita Sparks of L7 rides again with this collection of fairly straightforward and — gasp! — occasionally catchy rock and/or roll. These stellar moments are alternately danceable, spacious and raucous, but work best when the sound is filthy and nervous, as on “He’s Got the Honey” and the opener “Fly Feather Fly.”  Sparks founded Rock For Choice and encouraged countless teens worldwide to be empowered’n’stuff, so the silver-tongued rantings of one music critic won’t cause an anomaly in this particular matrix. Would I feel comfortable giving this to my illegitimate daughter during a child support court battle so that she may be inspired to take up an instrument and shake the dust of this crummy two-bit town off her feet? Absolutely.

Download: "He’s Got the Honey," "Dare Dare"

David Cotner

On the record

On the record

Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend XL Recordings Grade: A

Vampire Weekend is not the first band of collegiate New Yorkers to wrap their Dockers and polo shirts around West African music styles, of course, but it has been a while since anybody has married Afro-pop and white-boy rock with this much success – hence the hype behind these blogosphere heroes. It is well deserved. Where Talking Heads were nervously funky, VW are coolly self-conscious, with singer Ezra Koenig casually namedropping fellow ethnomusical fetishist Peter Gabriel and giving songs titles like "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." This kind of ironic preppiness would be a turn-off if it were not delivered in such an appealing package: spindly guitar atop simple indie rock arrangements and the sweetest melodies this side of Soweto.

Download: "Mansard Roof," "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," "Bryn"

– Matthew Singer

Dengue Fever Venus on Earth M80 Grade: B+

For seven years now, Dengue Fever has been the greatest little novelty act in Los Angeles. Made up of five local indie scene vets and one genuine Cambodian pop star performing Farfisa and surf guitar-driven pysch-garage tunes sung in the Khmer language, the band is ridiculously idiosyncratic. On Venus on Earth, their third album, the group takes a step toward legitimacy. Subduing the jump-up energy of their previous efforts in favor of a smokier, loungier vibe, it is their most accessible record yet. Singer Chhom Nimol and guitarist Zac Holtzman trade vocals (in English) on "Tiger Phone Card" and "Sober Driver," a pair of bittersweet East-meets-West love songs that, like the sextet itself, could only happen in L.A.

Download: "Tiger Phone Card," "Sober Driver"

– Matthew Singer

Burial Untrue Hyperdub Grade: A-

Records don’t come much cooler than Untrue. Produced by a mysterious Londoner who won’t reveal his name, won’t play live and only allows himself to be interviewed anonymously, this is half reggae, half futuristic weirdness. Over massive surges of processed bass we hear blurry phrases sung in a sweet R&B style. In dubstep, what matters most is the sound, not the song, and this is the rare electronica recording that can be amped right up to distortion and still sound good – often beautiful, in fact. Driven by strange but fascinating rhythm tracks – typewriters, woodblocks, scratchy record effects, with a lyric from the title song that will haunt you: "And it’s all … because you lied…" Don’t miss this one.

Download: "Ghost Hardware," "Untrue," "Raver"

– Kit Stolz

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