Category Archives: Music Recommendations

Chromeo Releases a New Dress Code

NPR is streaming Chromeo’s newest release Business Casual until the record drops on September 14th. I’m hugely obsessed with Chromeo, and consider any tracks the duo touch cause for celebration. Business Casual is no exception. It continues the dance-driven groove of their previous records, replete with smooth Talk-Box choruses and slightly geeky, urgent lyrical come-ons.

Chromeo’s lyrics are fun, their beats danceable and their melodies smooth. If you’ve only heard one or two songs, it might be tempting to read the band as a bit of a parody, but in countless interviews, the duo insist upon their sincere love of the music from which they borrow. It’s also doubtful that a parody could sustain itself through an entire album, let alone a near-decade long career.

This sincerity probably keeps them just under the pop-radio radar, which is a good thing if you want to see them live. I saw Chromeo play at Berbati’s Pan when they toured in support of Fancy Footwork. It was a hot, sweaty crush of dancing and probably the most fun I’ve had at a show since I was in college. Live and on their records, Chromeo delivers the party, and while they would no doubt bring the same energy to a larger club, the small venue, with the band mere feet from the crowd, made for a more intense and exciting performance.

If you’re in your early 30’s Night by Night will probably make all your party playlists this year. It combines an 8-bit video game vamp with some Beat It era Eddie Van Halen guitar soloing that makes for a fat, when-you-wore-high-tops sound that is both nostalgic and refreshing.

If you miss the streaming of Business Casual, you should, of course, go buy the album. But you can also comfort yourself immediately with these performances they did with Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates.

Camera Obscura’s My Maudlin Career

This is a heads-up for probable awesomeness. As they did with Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone, NPR will be streaming Camera Obscura’s new album, My Maudlin Career, beginning at 11:59pm tonight. Based on the sample track, French Navy, this should be another great album from Camera Obscura, whose last album, Let’s Get Out of This Country, reminded me of a pop re-imagining of the Good the Bad and the Ugly score.

*Update*

Well, as expected, it’s a solid album. I think I prefer Let’s Get Out of This Country a bit, largely for its more ethereal instrumentation. That may be my peculiar taste, and I could see many people preferring this album, because the individual songs seem to stand out a little more on their own.

Comparisons aside, I’m certain this album will be entering our household soon, and will be played frequently when we’re kicking back.

Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone

If you had ever questioned whether you would pickup Neko Case’s latest album, Middle Cyclone, you can listen to the entire thing on the National Public Radio website. NPR has does America a great service by sharing this and shedding light on another great contribution to the often-regrettable cannon of recent Country Music.

I’ve long thought Neko Case might be too uncompromising for mainstream success. Her humorous and vociferous interview with Pitchfork found her in a mood to burn bridges while taking shots at Celine Dion, Shania Twain and much of the recording industry. That’s all well and good, but her last album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, seemed to veer into an extreme seriousness that sapped some of the fun out of the music.

Middle Cyclone feels more relaxed than Fox Confessor, returning to the dark beauty of Blacklisted, probably her best album. Love is a theme on Middle Cyclone, but it reaches well beyond individual, romantic love, into the realm of spiritual and elemental longing, out-of-reach but not intangible. Case’s music is still serious and uncompromising, but she brings to it the kind of infatuating gentleness that makes boys fall in love with girls they know they’ll never get.

Karate

I first heard Karate on the once-defunct, now-revived WOXY.com. They were an occasional break from the din of fuzzed-out guitars and nasal, tenor singing. Alongside acts like Wolf Parade and Silver Jews, Karate’s music is positively ethereal. At their best, their songs reside somewhere between portraits and short-stories, free-jazz re-imaginings of early Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits (think Blinded by the Light and Jersey Girl, respectively).

If that all makes no-sense, it’s because I don’t really understand Karate. I tend to be a bit surprised when they come on both by their sound–so different from the rest of the indie-rock landscape–and that I like it so much. Perhaps the best way I can explain it, is that their name fits them perfectly. Their songs evoke the image of a solitary warrior, surveying the city after it has gone to sleep, all too aware of its flaws but, unable to let go of it. It’s a cinematic cliché, to be sure, but it’s also a film I’d enjoy, and for 5 or 6 minutes, it is wonderful to have that feeling conjured.

Sharon Jones and Daptone Records

Back in December, while doing the annual holiday shopping, I picked up Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings most recent album, 100 Days, 100 Nights. Sharon Jones is the elder-stateswoman at Daptone Records, a small Brooklyn label specializing in Soul, Funk, Gospel and Afro-beat (their words). Most of Daptone’s output appears to be vinyl LPs and 45s, adding to the label’s old-school feel.

100 Days, 100 Nights is truly late-60’s era soul, free of the 80’s and 90’s guitar and synth sounds ever-present in Neo-Soul. The writing sticks to the battle of the sexes school, with Jones’ full, emotive voice lending credence to the words. The band is a hefty 8-piece, who’ve worked with Amy Winehouse, and apparently been sampled by Kanye West and Lily Allen, provide a solid backing for Jone’s voice. With tight, in-the-pocket beats and shuddering brass harmonies.

My CD included a second disc, Binky Griptite’s GhettoFunkPowerHour, a mix hosted by one of the Dap-Kings’ guitarists, that showcased many of their label-mates along with two bonus, Scion-sponsored, Daptone samplers–one disc of remixes and one of original recordings, all-in-all, over 2 hours of additional music. While I could do without the remix disc, the extras served to further stoke my fire for Daptone’s excellent offerings.