8. Puro Instinct-Headbangers in Ecstasy
Sisters Piper and Skylar Kaplan present an album of dreamy pop landscapes not unlike their pal Ariel Pink’s last album Before Today. In fact, one of the album’s strongest cuts is “Stillyagi,” which features Mr. Pink. The airy and hazy music may not be ground enough to be palatable for some listeners, but I think it’s a lovely album – one that’s particularly good for late spins when you’re pulling an all-nighter.
7. Raphael Saadiq-Stone Rollin’
Continuing the retro soul of 2008’s The Way I See It, Stone Rollin‘ is a bit more raw in its delivery, more Stax than Motown. Some critics bemoan another retro album by Saadiq, but I actually think this time around he executes the throwback much more effectively than on The Way I See It.
6. Wanda Jackson-The Party Ain’t Over
Produced by Jack White, The Party Ain’t Over has the rockabilly queen belting out her take on a classics such as “Shakin’ All Over,” “Rip it Up,” “Busted,” as well as a killer version of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” It’s straightforward rockabilly goodness delivered by one of the genre’s best.
5. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi-Rome
This one took some getting used to, but has earned its spot in my heavy rotation. The soundtrack to a spaghetti western that doesn’t exist, the project mixes instrumentals with multiple tracks fronted by Norah Jones and Jack White. Excellent stuff.
4. Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
The sophomore effort from Pains of Being Pure at Heart carries on in much the same vein as their 2009 debut, though here their pastiche of moody 1980s alternative is a bit more cohesive and a bit more developed. Check out “Heart in Your Heartbreak” for a representative taste (http://youtu.be/T2syY0U-eY0).
This side project/collaboration between Spank Rock, DJ Hoff and Blue Jemz came to me with little warning, and I think carries very little fanfare. But it is absolutely one of my favorites of 2011 so far. Musically, the album is an homage to the Italo Disco genre of the early-mid 1980s. But the lyrics and segues construct a narrative wherein a fallen disco star (Mobroder) has not only lost his woman (Precious) but also had his master tapes hijacked by his arch nemesis Fibrizio. Join Mobroder, Sweet Meat and Sugar Balls on a consistently entertaining (and funky) voyage. Free download at www.mobroder.com
2. Rainbow Arabia – Boys and Diamonds
One of my favorite bands of the last few years. With two stellar EPs under their belt (2008’s The Basta and 2009’s Kabukimono), Rainbow Arabia’s full length debut has the band presenting their most polished and accessible album to date. While it isn’t quite as adventurous as their previous releases, the album is by no means a cop out either – still one of the most unique sounds on today’s pop landscape.
1. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
I loved Cut Copy’s 2008 album In Ghost Colours. Zonoscope doesn’t quite match its predecessor in terms of wow factor, but it’s a consistently pleasing electropop album that doesn’t wear with repeated listens. Put on yer dancin’ shoes.