10. Bruce Springsteen – “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” (from Magic, out 10/02 on Columbia) (Listen to excerpts and compare to the Magnetic Fields at Vulture here)
Don’t get me wrong, I think Bruce is great (especially Nebraska, since I’m from that state, go Huskers). But when I heard people were accusing Mr. Springsteen of stealing from my fave New York cabaret/experimental popsters The Magnetic Fields, I had to investigate. Turns out, yes, he’s definitely doing a Stephen Merritt, and it’s eerie, and actually pretty good. Over a simple violin melody and strummed guitar, Mr. Born-in-the-USA gets dramatic: listen to him hit that note on the line, “lovers they walk byyyyy.” The day Merritt and Springsteen duet, no price is too high for that ticket.
9. Klaxons, Live at the Fillmore, Friday 9/28/07
I do not get this whole “new rave” thing that people throw at Klaxons. They’re not even rave at all! There’s a keyboard in like three of their songs! But people insisted on bringing glowsticks to this show and whipping them around on strings like I remember from 1993. Not that I did that even then. There was even a crazy guy dressed up like a dalmation-man or something, with giant-soled shoes. Anyway, the band. They were pretty good (despite the half-empty venue), but much more in the spirit of punk rock than rave: edgy, raw, intense… okay maybe it was kind of rave-y. Bleep bleep!
8. Various Artists – DJ Dub-4 – “September ’07 Mix” (grab an mp3 at mashit)
More genre-melting DJ mixes, this time focusing on “Kuduro,” an Angolan dance music, mixed with more typical dancehall and breaks. The generally foreign-language lyrics make this a slightly edgier set than most, but with the syncopated bass drum keeping things from getting too mental, it’s more easy to listen to than you’d think.
7. Matt Hite – “Me & You & Yazoo” (Cassie vs. Yaz vs. The Art of Noise) (grab an mp3 here)
Oh, the cutthroat world of mashuppery! I’ve been wanting to put something together with “Situation” for a while and then fellow-SFer Matt beats me to it with this near-perfect combo. I’m not familiar with the Cassie song, but I can’t imagine it’s any better than this: a silky-smooth mashup that’s both funkier and easier to listen to than the Yaz classic.
6. Iron and Wine – “White Tooth Man”
(from The Shepherd’s Dog on Sub Pop)
It’s hard to pick my favorite song on this album, but right now the weird Fleetwood Mac-via-India vibe of this track is grabbing me. Is there a vaguely political bent under the trippy music? There’s lyrics like these: “We all got sick on a strip club meal / While the statehouse was fryin’ all the witches again.” Hmm.
5. Earworm – “L’eau de Rose” (Louis Armstrong vs. Air) (stream or grab an mp3 at his site)
Another San Franciscan bootlegger, Earworm (aka Jordan Roseman) produced this track for a hilariously bling-a-riffic gig at the opening of the freakin’ Cartier store in SF. I guess the requirement was “mellow mashups,” and this one’s both hypnotic and oddly luxurious. Armstrong’s muted trumpet isn’t always entirely in tune with Air’s electric piano chords, but that seems to give the track more charm, accenting the strange feeling of temporal displacement. Anyway, hope you got a watch, dude!
4. Low, Live at the Great American Music Hall, Wednesday 9/26/07
There was a time when Low was the most under-appreciated band in the country, right around “Over the Ocean;” but now, they’ve gained fans while delving into more experimental territory, and the balance seems better. It’s strange that these days we take for granted that almost half of a Low show will be kinda loud, and so of course it’s lovely to hear some of the good old quiet tracks like “July.” However, a stunning, radically-reworked “Breaker” from this year’s excellent Drums & Guns served as a reminder that this is a band determined to press forward.
3. Chemical Brothers – “Das Spiegel” (from We Are the Night on Astralwerks)
Honestly, I treated this album as an eye-rolling joke when it came out. The Chems were always my favorite of all the “big beat” practitioners, but finally even they seemed to have lost the plot: “The Salmon Dance”?!! Well, I keep hearing this track around and I think I might have misjudged them. The UK duo have always been straightforward about their adoration for New Order (and even toured with some of their old gear); this track, with its delicate melodica layered over groovy synths, could easily pass for an updated version of something off Power Corruption and Lies. I’m still not sure about “Salmon Dance,” though.
2. Imperial Teen, Live at the Folsom Street Fair, Sunday 9/30/07
While this San Francisco band may be slightly non-traditional (female drummer! queers!), their matching pink outfits and quirky pop were still wildly out of place at the venerable leather/S&M festival, and the better for it; I sure wouldn’t have braved the throngs otherwise. Just getting to the stage was annoying, pushing my way through crowds of fleshy freaks and requisite gawkers, but the Teen’s wide-open, shambolic pop calmed me right down. After “Shim Sham” made everybody dance, I even started to feel a little affection for all the pervy misfits.
1. Lupe Fiasco – “Superstar” (featuring Matthew Santos) (from Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool out 12/18 on Atlantic) (listen at Hip Hop Galaxy or Fiasco’s website)
Bad news: the young Chicago rapper’s second album has just been pushed back from an expected November release date, but for now we can enjoy this leadoff single, an epic return to form for the Grammy nominee. This isn’t bombast-rap a la Kanye, it’s a thoughtful evocation of the spotlight: “Want to believe my own hype but it’s too untrue,” he reveals, then ultimately longing for home, where “the light bulbs around my mirror don’t flicker.” Santos sings the chorus, and Chris Martin of Coldplay better watch out, since his vocals have all of Martin’s delicacy and charm with none of the pretension. This is hip-hop that deserves the adjective “beautiful.”