Karen O, Danger Mouse Collaboration A Must-have Among New Releases
Stephen Malkmus — ‘Groove Denied’
THE GOOD: Ex-Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus gets weird on his eighth (and first without usual backing band the Jicks).
THE BAD: You won’t get “Groove” on the first spin, but the album will win you over.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Malkmus recorded the collection completely on his own, off and on, over the past decade. Instead of fronting a proper band, he chose to switch on synths, drum machines and laptops, and put those otherworldly sounds next to all his usual guitar stuff. The end result isn’t exactly “Malkmus goes trip-hop,” but rather a nod to early ’80s post-punk and minimalist New Wave.
Tracks such as the robotic “Viktor Borgia” and the jittery, funky “Love the Door” are equal parts Kraftwerk, Wire and James Murphy. They’re somewhat retro but still timeless. Sonic elements found herein also remind us of when fellow indie pioneer Lou Barlow turned on the beats for Folk Implosion all those years ago. With new sounds in somewhat familiar territory, “Groove Denied” ends up a fascinating side step.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Ex Hex — ‘It’s Real’
THE GOOD: Indie guitarist/vocalist Mary Timony’s classic rock project Ex Hex comes back with a solid sophomore effort.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: I remember Timony playing with her ex-band Helium on the side stage at Lollapalooza ’95. I was a huge fan of the noisy outfit. But after its set, my friends just stared at me in disbelief. Helium was an acquired taste. It was sonically weird and most times completely misunderstood.
So it’s kind of unexpected that Ex Hex hails from practically the same place. This outfit has more in common with early Aerosmith and the Go-Gos than anything Timony ever did a couple of decades ago. Doesn’t matter. This heavy garage trash is just as powerful as her old stuff. It’s simply a different aesthetic, one that Timony is perfectly comfortable delivering.
Songs such as “Tough Enough,” “No Reflection” and “Cosmic Cave” are forceful, catchy and endlessly crank-able. Spring has arrived. Top down. This album full blast. Now.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Karen O and Danger Mouse — ‘Lux Prima’
THE GOOD: Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O collaborates with super-producer Danger Mouse, and the end results are pure bliss.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Lux Prima” is so much more than Karen O acting as the new lead vocalist of Gnarls Barkley or Broken Bells (although moments here vaguely resemble BOTH of those things). “Lux Prima” is completely its own thing with a unique vibe throwing together elements of ’60s psychedelics, ’70s soul and ’90s trip-hop. Danger Mouse makes the retro feel fresh again, while Karen O has never sounded more entrancing.
The two give spacey atmospherics and traditional song structures equal time and importance, creating an experience delivering the best of both worlds. It’s an indie pop album in which you can’t help become completely absorbed. Whether it’s the pounding R&B of “Woman,” the extended trip taken on the title cut or the soft, gorgeous simplicity carrying “Nox Lumina,” both main players’ unique personalities mesh perfectly.
BUY IT?: Absolutely.
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