Introduction, Music in 2011, and More Recent and Upcoming Releases

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First, an introduction: I’m Axel Kodat. This is a music blog. Ideally I’d like to be slightly comprehensive in my discussion of new music, but realistically I won’t be comprehensive at all, because I’m a single person, not a fully staffed music publication. Since individually I’m incapable of keeping track of all great current music I’d love comments or e-mails or tirades or desperate love-letters telling me about your favorite recent music, interesting labels, any release I missed that you feel is absolutely essential listening, how music is fundamentally a pointless waste of time, or how I incorrectly applied the subjunctive. Anything.

I’d like to start off with a short survey of some of my favorite releases from 2011. First and foremost among new LPs for me was Nicolas Jaar’s Space Is Only Noise. It’s comically eclectic — the lurching semi-hip-hop beat and soulful samples of “Specters of the Future” coexist seamlessly with the deliciously throbbing bassline of album highlight “Space Is Only Noise If You Can See,” the melancholic, spacious ambience and wobbling vocal melody of “Balance Her In Between Your Eyes,” and the midtempo (i.e. unusually slow) minimal house that threads through the rest of the album. And yet it remains, somehow, cohesive, a singular, sonically rich statement and comprehensive introduction to Jaar’s still-developing sound.

Other musical highlights of the year include: St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, Sandro Perri’s Impossible Spaces, Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972, Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up, Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow, Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica, Clams Casino’s Instrumentals (as well as his stunning unreleased beat “I’m God” and Rainforest EP), John Maus’s We Must Become Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, Wild Beasts’s Smother, Gang Gang Dance’s Eye Contact, Wu Lyf’s Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, Matana Roberts’s Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres, Atlas Sound’s Parallax, Machinedrum’s Room(s), Radiohead’s The King of Limbs, Zomby’s Dedication, Ambrose Akinmusire’s When the Heart Emerges Glistening, A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Kuedo’s Severant, Tom Waits’s Bad as Me, Shlohmo’s Bad Vibes, and James Blake’s eponymous debut LP. I might be able to say one or two marginally insightful things about at most a few of them but for now I’ll say simply that they’re all highly recommended.

There are also several 2011 albums that I’m just getting to now. I recently began listening to and seriously enjoying Raleigh Moncrief’s arresting first solo album Watered Lawn, released by Anticon in October. Over break a friend turned me on to Rene Hell’s The Terminal Symphony, released by a genuinely fantastic experimental label Type (which streams all albums they release via Soundcloud, so check them out, and actually also released Clams Casino’s Instrumentals). And from Tri-Angle Records (which released Clams Casino’s Rainforest EP … I sense a pattern here) we have Balam Acab’s Wander/Wonder.

As far as recent and upcoming music goes, Sleigh Bells unleashed “Born to Lose” a few weeks ago, and “Comeback Kid,” now the first official single off their upcoming album, was released a few days ago. On Tuesday Ghostly International released Matthew Dear’s Headcage EP. Next week Carpark will release Cloud Nothings’s Attack on Memory and (most excitingly, in my humble, feverishly Warp-obsessed opinion) Warp will release Leila’s U&I and Gonjasufi’s new mini-LP MU.ZZ.LE. The next week holds several potentially lustrous treasures, with Lana Del Rey’s much-hyped debut LP Born To Die coming out via Interscope (more on Lana in my next post) and Mexican Summer, a personal favorite, releasing Lilacs & Champagne’s eponymous new album, Napolian’s Rejoice EP, and Megafortress’s also eponymous EP.

New York phenom Azealia Banks has now signed to Universal, and recently released a new song, “NEEDSUMLUV,” a collaboration with Machinedrum which momentarily eschews her now instantly recognizable rapping for her at least equally great voice. Lower Dens announced they would release their second album on Ribbon Music in May and made their first single “Brains” available to stream and download online; the song starts off sounding vaguely Krautrock-y and eventually blooms to a deliciously fuzzy climax that reminds me a bit of The Walkmen, if they were more interested in exploring their atmospheric side.

Next post: I revel in the media frenzy surrounding Lana Del Rey’s internet hits, deal with Interscope, spotty SNL performance, questionable authenticity, modeling contract, and “gangster Nancy Sinatra” persona. Then, I’ll poetically meditate on the meaning of image in pop and try to discern why everybody cares who, precisely, a good song or work of art is created by anyway, or something like that, probably with more spewing of hot air than actual insight. Finally, I’ll get three parts excited and two parts confused about Clams Casino’s bizarre remix of “Born to Die.” I also hope to include embedded videos, audio, pictures, etc. at some point (hopefully soon) in the future.

Axel is a first-year. You can reach him at akodat1@swarthmore.edu.

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