The Drums — Portamento
When we first listened to this, we asked whether there was more to The Drums than “Let’s Go Surfing”. Having now had a few days to digest it, we’re sticking to our initial impression — that the answer is a resounding “yes”. Portamento is a much deeper and more interesting record than Summertime — there’s nothing quite as immediate as the aforementioned “Let’s Go Surfing”, but there’s also a lot more of interest. This is, needless to say, a good thing. The album’s streaming at the New York Times (via its Men’s Fashion section, curiously) — click here to listen.
St Vincent — Strange Mercy
If you’re into left-of-centre pop music, then you’ll no doubt be rejoicing at the release of the new album by Annie Clark, aka St Vincent. Strange Mercy is her third solo album, and first impressions are that it’s her best yet — a collection of fractured pop songs adorned with Clark’s idiosyncratic vocal style and characteristically strange arrangements (there’s even a Van Halen-esque talkbox solo during the track “Neutered Fruit”). All in all, the more we listen to St Vincent, the more Clark reminds us of Kate Bush — quite the compliment, in our book. The album’s streaming all week via NPR — click here to listen.
Laura Marling — A Creature I Don’t Know
A commenter on our recent albums-to-hear-in-September piece suggested that Laura Marling mightn’t be an artist with whom US audiences aren’t familiar just yet — because, y’know, that’d be the only reason we wouldn’t be falling over ourselves to be lauding her new record. In reality, we’re perfectly well acquainted with Marling and the rest of her neo-folk contemporaries, we just haven’t been entirely convinced by her oeuvre as yet. Her third album might just win us over, though — her voice sounds remarkably like Jolie Holland’s these days, all smoky world-weariness and unusual phrasing, a voice hard to reconcile with the waifish 21-year-old from which it emerges, while the songs on A Creature I Don’t Know are the best of her precocious career. The album’s streaming at the New York Times (in the music section this time) — listen here.
M83 — Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Back in the mid-’90s, Australian band Regurgitator announced their musical change of direction with the archly-titled single “I Like Your Old Stuff Better Than Your New Stuff.” It’s true that there’s always a temptation in music to take a conservative stance on musical changes of direction, but there’s no escaping the fact that in the case of M83, we really do like Anthony Gonzalez’s old stuff (ie. the dreamy ambient sounds of albums like Digital Shades Vol. 1 and Before the Dawn Heals Us) better than his new stuff (the poppy, ’80s influenced Saturday Night=Youth). His new album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming continues in the latter vein, but we’re not entirely sure that it’s actually supposed to be streaming here, so you might want to get your skates on with this one. EDIT: Um, so it appears we were right — this wasn’t supposed to be streaming just yet, and it’s been summarily removed from GrooveShark. Curses.
Gui Boratto — III
While we’re on music that’s dreamily beautiful, the new album from Brazilian producer Gui Boratto is streaming via something called MTV Iggy. Boratto’s take on techno is built around traditional ingredients — stripped-down 4/4 kicks and minimal synth lines — but it’s some of the warmest and most melodic music you’ll hear in this genre. III is darker and more foreboding than most of his previous work, but still manages to retain its warmth and sense of accessibility. We like it a lot — have a listen here.