Confession: I was waiting all morning to craft this headline. We are in end times, 2013-wise, but you already know that. There are still records here to talk about, though, and some of them are even excellent! So:
Britney Spears, Britney Jean: Britney Spears’s new one is as businesslike as her single “Work Bitch” implies. Maura Johnston says:
Britney Jean has been touted as being more “personal” than Spears’s other albums, which really means a just-about-even split between bangers and mush. (Ballads, that is.) The left-field flourishes that marked her previous albums are gone, but the rubbery “Body Ache” and the stomping “Til It’s Gone” — both of which count megaproducer David Guetta among their writers — recall the darkened-dancefloor atmosphere of Spears’s enigmatic 2007 album Blackout, while the ever-dapper T.I. continues to position himself as the master of smarmy guest-verse charm on the whirring “Tik Tik Boom.” “Perfume” is not an ode to Spears’s still-chugging-along fragrance line (now at 13 varietals) but a delicately paranoid description of how Britney might mark her (human) territory; the kiss-off “Don’t Cry” serves as the big, swooping power-electro-ballad.
Various Artists, Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound: A compilation that serves as a prologue to the Minneapolis soul and funk scenes. Stephen M Deusner says:
Purple Snow, the 50th release from Chicago-based reissue wizards the Numero Group, collects 32 tracks from this lively era. Many of the names will be familiar: Alexander O’Neal had a handful of hits during the ’80s, but his two tracks here are gritty New Wave funk, while Cymone’s “Somebody Said” hints at his collaborations with Prince and the supremely slinky hits he would eventually write for Jody Watley and Lalah Hathaway. Jam and Lewis appear as members of various bands, ensuring the prominence of the synthesizer in the Minneapolis Sound, and that’s Prince Rogers Nelson himself playing guitar on 94 East’s “If You See Me.” As with most Numero releases, however, the real discoveries are more obscure.
Xiu Xiu, Nina: Xiu Xiu takes on Nina Simone? Brian Howe says:
Generally, Xiu Xiu cobwebs together singer/songwriter fare, art-rock and synth-pop with gritty strands of noise and free jazz, but its defining feature is Stewart’s uniquely wounded voice, accentuated by panicky confessional lyrics about car crashes and attempted suicides and abortions. It’s not immediately clear why such a musician should want to add a song as sedate and wistful as “Don’t Smoke in Bed” to his repertoire, except to scandalously Xiu-ify a sacred cow. But Stewart has said that he identifies with Simone as a provocateur, and while we can question the equivalence of the real boundaries Simone pushed and the abstract ones Xiu Xiu pushes, it’s credible that he approached the music in earnest. He’s just not always certain what to do with it, and his Nina winds up as an oddly tentative experience — often interesting but never, like its subject, transporting.
Alesia, Andrea- Dark, clanging French techno. On Skrillex’s surprisingly robust and active OWSLA imprint.
The Verlaines, Juvenilia and Hallelujah All The Way Home- Classic New Zealand jangle-pop band The Verlaines have their wordy, acerbic and catchy records Hallelujah All The Way Home and Juvenilia reissued by the newly revived Flying Nun Records.
Wolf People, When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate – A 12-inch from the rising British rock band Wolf People, whose sound is steeped in lots of evocatively smoky, gnarled psychedelic history.
Tim Kinsella, Sings The Songs of Marvin Tate- The third in a series of collaborations between Kinsella and the poet Marvin Tate. These songs are lovely, folky, nearly carol-like in their tone, but the lyrics grapple with knotty modern themes – race, privacy, anxiety. Despite the title, other guests show up, including Angel Olsen. Worth it!
Jorma Whittaker, Jorma- Quietly dark, subtly menacing new album from the singer-songwriter Jorma Whittaker, the first since 2001. Understated creepiness.
Glen Hansard, Drive All Night – Hansard covers Springsteen on this EP, which also includes an appearance from Eddie Vedder.
Cannibal Ox, Gotham (Deluxe LP Edition) – So this is kind of a problematic one for me. Clearly, these guys want back into the rap conversation – rap nerds love them, always will. But they have yet to offer up any substantive new music, and seem content to merely stand around collecting accolades without doing anything. This is misleadingly titled “Deluxe LP Edition”, but it is an “LP Edition” of…a SINGLE. What that means is you’re getting the title track, two other new song, and then ten “rarities.” Come on, guys – make an album or stay retired.
Various Artists, Music From Drinking Buddies – Great soundtrack from the film, features Richard Swift, Foxygen, Night Beds, Here We Go Magic, many more.