How exciting that even now, while we're so close to the year's end, there is STILL such phenomenal music being released at every turn - which is why I've still got a shred of hope in me that Radiohead will end up capping the year with their promised new album that has been drooled over for some time, now. In any case, here's a quick run-through of my top tracks for November; as usual, please feel free to include your own favorite tracks of the month. Aaaand let's get on with it. Daft Punk - Derezzed
The legendary house duo may not have seemed the obvious choice to score the upcoming Tron: Legacy, but as they display here, it's rather unlikely that anybody else could've done it better. Derezzed is basically Daft Punk toying with a simplistic, futuristic beat for just under two minutes, and it absolutely screams Tron. The whole soundtrack is rather impressive, but it's the moments like these where they let their electronic sensibilities take the forefront that it really shines. This track is doesn't even come close to wearing out its welcome; it's fun, addictive, and most importantly, it makes me want to see the shit out of this movie.
PJ Harvey - Written on the Forehead
Probably the most criminally unsung musical chameleon around, the new song off of PJ Harvey's upcoming tenth LP shows yet another drastic change in direction, and once again it sounds great. The highly visual lyrics detail the horrific aftermath of war, but with a lightly treated vocal that sounds utterly beautiful over the hazy guitars, rhodes piano, additional vocal samples, and upbeat drums. It's oddly sad but uplifting, and it's got my expectations for the new album ridiculously high.
Jamiroquai - Never Gonna Be Another
While there was certainly nothing wrong with Jamiroquai's last few rather dance-heavy albums, the second half of their latest, Rock Dust Light Star, is a most welcome display of just how diverse this band's sound really is, with Never Gonna Be Another being the peak for me. Bluesy and longing, but managing to sound more soothing than depressing, Jay Kay beautifully mourns the loss of a lover over tastefully sparse keys, guitar, and of course that ever-present bass. It was fairly difficult choosing which song to include off of this album, but the more i listen to this smoky, downtempo gem, the more I fall in love with it.
Rihanna - S&M
Rihanna really puts her best foot forward on her latest album, kicking off with this banger of a track. S&M drips with an unabashed sexuality that never comes across as classless, and let's not forget the maddeningly sing-a-long melodies and that delightful nod to The Cure's Let's Go to Bed. The confident and upbeat songs like this off of Loud probably do the best job of showing just how well Rihanna is coming into her own.
Hercules and Love Affair - My House
Andy Butler and co. have got the follow-up to their excellent debut just around the corner, and My House - a slab of old fashioned disco house, livened up with a series of dirty glitches - is the taster. And it tastes damned good, let me tell you. It's always so remarkable when an artist can take such a dated sound and make it sound fresh, and if My House's ability to walk the line between fun and cheesy is any indication, the upcoming Blue Songs is going to be fantastic.
Kid Cudi - Mr. Rager
Now here was a pleasant surprise - while Man on the Moon 2 is by no means perfect, it shadows its predecessor simply because Scott Mescudi has gotten better at embracing his strengths. On tracks like this one, he absolutely nails it with the production, the harmonization, and themes of loneliness and alienation, without indulging in any one quality too much. His listless vocal and the intricate, downtrodden beat go together perfectly, and unlike several moments on his debut, it never goes over the top.
Home Video - The Automatic Process
The title track off of Home Video's long awaited new album starts out with what sounds like a typical euro-trash hook, but the way it's built upon is truly remarkable. Even with the band's notoriously minimalistic style, vocalist Collin Ruffino's voice is weighed down with unmistakable despair, which in a recent interview he chalked up as an attempt to reflect the current state of the world through personal struggle. Once the snare drum and guitar kick, the song just takes off, and you can really feel what Ruffino is trying to express.
Iron & Wine - Walking Far from Home
Yet another tantalizing new single hinting at greatness to come, Walking Far from Home shows Sam Beam trying on a new sound, keeping the band behind him and dropping the intimate, potentially haunting aura that he's been known for through his career. Walking hinges more on its lyrics than the cleverly progressing music, though - it's very impressive how Beam draws out such intense introspection from merely observing (Sam Beam? Yup! Just sits there all day, singin' about what he sees...), and with how Sufjan Stevens branched out so brilliantly this year, it'll be interesting to see what Beam's got up his sleeve.
Kanye West - So Appalled
Kanye and his slew of guests (who, even without the RZA's quick appearance near the track's conclusion, all display a trade-off worthy of comparison to the Wu-Tang Clan) all say it best - this song is fucking ridiculous. Everybody does such a great job (Jay-Z's verse in particular is excellent), and Kanye really outdid himself with the beat; it has this intense air of paranoia about it and doesn't let up once throughout its six-plus minute length. Just another example of why this album is far and away the best thing the man's ever done.
The National - You Were a Kindness
The reissue of The National's jaw-dropping album High Violet has a good number of previously unreleased tracks to boast, with You Were a Kindness resting easy at the top of the heap. Yet another tale of mourning over a departed lover, Matt Berninger delivers one devastating line after another ("I was careful, but nothing is harmless," "Why would you shatter somebody like me," "It doesn't work that way, don't leave me here alone," etc.) with the band's gorgeous harmonization backing him up along with a somber piano, guitars, and (I think?) an organ. This one is a heartbreaker, plain and simple.