I've had nearly a dozen different people ask me the same question over the last week or so: “What have you been listening to?”
Luckily, it's been a fruitful season for (relatively) new music. Here's my answer:
PJ Harvey —Let England Shake: Harvey's latest gets better and digs deeper with every spin via its textured arrangements and curious, Folk-tinged genre U-turns. I'm still not sure I like her more overtly topical lyrical bent, but her voice is as affecting as ever.
Yuck — Yuck: Who cares if the name (and album art) sucks —this is the unexpected, out-of-nowhere record of the year (so far). The young, London-based four-piece sounds like the love child of prime-period Yo La Tengo (1993's Painful through 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, for those wondering) and Dinosaur Jr. (among other Indie Rock staples) without ever coming off as plunderers. I can't stop playing this.
Girls —Broken Dreams Club EP: Christopher Owens' EPs are better than most artists' long-gestating full-length efforts. He's also an unabashedly romantic songwriter, a rare thing in the ironic and/or obtuse world of Indie Rock. And don't think this is a one-man show —Owens' collection of collaborators delivers a lush, diverse sonic excursion influenced by nearly every decade of the Rock & Roll songbook. Broken Dreams Club actually trumps Girls' stellar 2009 debut effort, the simply titled Album.
Cut/Copy — Zonoscope: Not as dancey as the the first two CC records, Zonoscope is a spacier, more laid-back grower that reveals frontguy Dan Whitford's lyrical acumen (the big beats and thick synths used to push his words to the background). I'm curious to hear how this sounds live. Unfortunately, CC's current tour does not feature a Cincy stop —though the band is slated to play the Pitchfork Music Festival July 17 in Chicago. Road trip!
The Twilight Singers — Dynamite Steps: Greg Dulli goes dark … again. My dog gets scared when I play this too loud, which is weird —volume usually doesn't bother him.
Girl Talk — All Day: Gregg Gillis' formula is pretty obvious at this point —nearly every hook-laden track melds Classic and/or Indie Rock touchstones with Rap staples — but that doesn't make his latest cut-and-paste effort any less addictive or party-starting.
The Strokes —Angles: I've yet to procure this thing (it just came out Tuesday), but I've heard the free stream on the band's Web site a few times. It's too soon to give an incisive opinion, but, as usual, the glossier studio versions seem to pale in comparison to the grittier live incarnations put forth on Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks ago and on Letterman last night. Beyond the slick production aesthetic, my first impression of Angles is that the new songs are poppier (they've always name-checked The Cars as an influence) and more sonically diverse than I expected, neither of which is necessarily a bad thing.