Well, July has come to an end, and it shouldn't come as a shock that yet again, a shitload of fantastic music came out. In any case, there's not a whole lot more I can say about July being over, so without further ado let's get on with yet another rant about ten different artists... as usual, whatever you think I've missed, please feel free to comment below. M.I.A. - Meds and Feds
As we all know, M.I.A. is one ballsy broad - calling out less-than-talented songstresses, feuds with reporters, performing shows when she knew full well she was about to pop, controversial music videos, and now releasing what will likely be the most polarizing album of the year. The tastes of dubstep and industrial all throughout the album are great in how cold, robotic, and ultimately challenging they are, but what makes this Sleigh Bells sampling track stand out for me is that it really underlines what this album is about with M.I.A.'s glitched-out "I just give a damn." The loud and confrontational Maya isn't out to make people love or hate it so much as to get in the listener's face and force an opinion out of them, and on those grounds this album has been spectacularly successful.
Brandon Boyd - Runaway Train
Had it not been Brandon Boyd singing on this track (or really any on his solo debut), it's highly unlikely that you'd be able to sniff out any trace of Incubus. Along with its predictably creative video, lead single Runaway Train shows Boyd exploring his musical boundaries, but smartly never reaching beyond his grasp. With a maddeningly sing-a-long chorus and a simple melody backed with busy acoustic instrumentation, this is a hard one not to get addicted to.
Cut Copy - Where I'm Going
Still riding high on the monstrous success of their superb 2008 album In Ghosts and Colours, the Australian synth pop trio released this single as a teaser for their follow-up, which is slated for a January '11 release. And this thing is loaded with hooks, from the verse's lush harmonization to the psychedelic, Lennon-esque bridge. And while the "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! WOO!!" of the chorus feels like it should be obnoxious, it's just done too damn well, and I'm not gonna lie - when it doesn't appear in the final chorus, there's always a split second where I'm looking for it. Quite possibly the feel-good anthem of the summer.
Japanese Cartoon - All Sabotage!!! (STSO)
With his alternative rock based side project, Japanese Cartoon, Lupe Fiasco mostly succeeds where Lil Wayne failed miserably. One of the few tracks on In the Jaws of the Lords of Death where Lupe's faux English accent doesn't get to be a bit much, All Sabotage!!! (STSO) (if the abundance of exclamation points isn't a hint) is pure energy. An incredibly inspired blend of punk, electronica, and hip-hop, this track proves that these kinds of crossovers are not always bad ideas.
The Books - I Am Who I Am
Probably the most aggressive thing this duo has ever done, which may not be saying much given their more downtempo early material, but it's a workout all the same. I Am Who I Am feels strangely faster than its BPM, what with how quickly all the samples fly at you. Some are distorted, some are buried underneath the main synth, but just about all of them feel utterly bizarre and strangely unsettling. Nuttiness.
Mount Kimbie - Blind Night Errand
One of the most appealing things about Mount Kimbie's full-length debut is how it avoids dubstep extremes, particularly how it has a bit too much kick to feel loomingly atmospheric but not enough bass to feel as if it should be played in a club. With how well it's produced though, and how alluring the simple, warped hooks are (this track being a glaring example), this is hardly a criticism. Blind Night Errand is some very ear catching stuff, particularly in how the beat progresses into an almost R&B sound near its conclusion.
Sun Kil Moon - Sam Wong Hotel
One thing that takes a bit of the momentum from Sun Kil Moon's latest is Mark Kozelek's admittedly excellent, but at times over the top classical guitar. The virtuoso stylings don't always mesh particularly well with the singer-songwriter format, but on tracks like this, he nails the balance perfectly. His playing is gorgeous, his voice is haunting, and the melodies are relentless, even more so throughout the instrumental sections.
Cyanotic - alt machine.edit
I know I've already gushed sufficiently over just how good this band is in my review of their latest, but they really deserved a spot on this week's list. alt machine.edit is textbook industrial - brilliant electronics and samples, sharp guitars, and a pounding, danceable beat. I know I already stressed this in the review, but I'll repeat myself anyway: this really is how industrial should be done.
Menomena - Dirty Cartoons
Though this album leaked quite a while back (a fact the band understandably griped about on their twitter), it seemed appropriate to place on this list. The intense longing in the vocals is enough to reel you in, but the instrumentation merits multiple repeat listens all on its own. Steel drums, buried strings, and that throbbing bass are just a handful of things that are woven through this masterfully layered track. About as lovely as a song this sad can be, Dirty Cartoons is destined to be on many, many depressed playlists this year.
Big Boi - Tangerine
One of the few moments on Big Boi's solo debut that can top the ridiculous ear candy of Shutterbug (if only by a hair) is a song about getting blown that is far more catchy than it should be. Tangerine is so loaded with hooks and fun melodies that it can almost distract from not just how great Big Boi himself is (as are Khujo Goodie and T.I.) but how damned graphic this song is! The colorful slang for ejaculation alone makes it a wonder that this song doesn't feel sleazy in the least.