The xx – xx
The xx are a new quartet of British 20-somethings, and weirdly enough they’re not a sub-par Strokes or MGMT rip off. They play extremely spare, subdued songs built around the boy-girl interplay between singers (and childhood friends) Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, who sing about sex, troubled love, and love troubled by sex. They sound like Young Marble Giants or The Dismemberment Plan filtered through the alienated dub-step of Burial or Flying Lotus. It’s powerful, affecting stuff, good for walking around and feeling disaffected at night, and probably the year’s most promising debut.
Polvo – In Prism
Polvo were one of the great nearly-forgotten indie bands of the 90s. The Chapel Hill natives listened to a lot of Sonic Youth and traditional Southeast Asian music and made four excellent albums of knotty, rhythmically complex guitar rock, setting the templates for the micogenres of Math Rock and Post-Rock. Then they broke up in 1998. Then, without anyone really asking, they reunited in 2008. Now they’ve released In Prism, their most accessible album to date. Songs like “Beggars Bowl,” “Lucia,” and “Right The Relation” are swaggering rock anthems for people who don’t like to dance at shows.
HEALTH – GET COLOR
If you’re inclined to look at Pitchfork’s best-of-the-decade list, you’ll notice that the critical establishment is encouraging us to enjoy the most accessible electro-pop, the most brutal noise, and pretty much nothing in between. After crafting a self-titled album of pure brutality in 2007 L.A. noise-commandos HEALTH have realized that techno and skronk go together like chocolate and chili. Singles “We Are Water” and “Die Slow,” strike a perfect balance between menace and danceability, while the band spends the rest of the record using synths and programmed beats and electric guitars to commit some good-old-fashioned ear-violence. Call it cyborg-punk, or maybe the soundtrack for a disco in Hell.
Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall.
Judging by his song titles (“It Ain’t Gonna Save Me,” “Rotten Mind,” “There Is No Sun”) and his glum lyrics (sample: “People stand around to watch me fall/But in my mind, I will kill them all”), Memphis garage-punk god Jay Reatard (nee Jimmy Lee Lindsay) is in a pretty shitty mood. But that doesn’t stop him from crafting some of this year’s catchiest tunes. His tunes, 3-minute nuggets of pure, hook-y abandon, recall the 60’s proto-punk of ? and the Mysterians or The Kingsmen. In a better world, Jay would rule the airwaves