The Magnetic Fields — Love at the Bottom of the Sea
Stephin Merritt has re-embraced the synthesizer, but while the sound of this record differs from that of the “no synth” trilogy of albums that preceded it, Merritt’s signature rapier wit is as familiar as ever. He opens this record with the couplet of “I think I know what you would like us to do/ When we have children let’s have 72,” and moves through songs with titles like “Andrew in Drag,” “Horrible Party,” and “All She Cares About is Mariachi,” addressing topics as diverse as contract killing, dysfunctional love triangles and, yes, horrible parties. All in all: yay for the return of the Magnetic Fields! Listen via NPR.
Andrew Bird — Break It Yourself
While we’re on literate singer/songwriter types, here’s the new record by word-loving violin wielder Andrew Bird. It’s his first album release for new label Mom+Pop (if you don’t count the soundtrack to Norman, which he masterminded), and it’s a quiet, understated piece of work. As the blurb at NPR, where the album is streaming, observes, Bird has toned down his love for extravagant wordsmithery, and we’re rather impressed by the result. Listen here.
Various Artists — The Minimal Wave Tapes Vol. 2
To some extent, at least, the resurgence of early-’80s proto-synthpop has been catalyzed by Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave label and, in particular, the compilation of obscure ’80s groups she released under the title The Minimal Wave Tapes in 2005. This is a long-overdue sequel, pulling together another 14 like-minded coldwave lovers, from Ariel Pink-approved LA starlet Geneva Jacuzzi to genre mainstays like the excellent Felix Kubin. The compilation’s streaming at AOL’s Spinner site.
School of Seven Bells — Ghostory
Elsewhere, this is School of Seven Bells’ first album since the departure of vocalist Claudia Deheza. Since the multi-layered harmonies of Claudia and twin sister Alejandra were pretty much the defining feature of the band’s sound, we were interested to see how they’d manage as a duo, and the answer appears to be: pretty much the same way they always did. The remaining Deheza’s vocals are wreathed in reverb and still owe a great deal to Cocteau Twins’ Liz Frazer, and the music is as blankly airy as ever. Listen here.
Memoryhouse — The Slideshow Effect
And finally, School of Seven Bells aren’t the only contemporary band with a fondness for 4AD’s ’80s back catalog. Sub Pop signees Memoryhouse make music that’s full of dream pop influences, and it’s also distinctly reminiscent of Beach House, although Denise Nouvion’s voice doesn’t quite have the deep, resonant power that Victoria Legrand’s does. Their debut is a mixed bag — it gets bogged down in mid-tempo tedium too often, although we do have a soft spot for any band who names a song (“Little Expressionless Animals”) after a David Foster Wallace short story. Listen via Spinner.
Bonus link: Various Artists — Da Chip
Ever wanted to hear a selection of chiptune artists cover Daft Punk songs? Rejoice! All your dreams come true right here.