New This Week: Ke$ha, Memory Tapes & More

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 12.04.12 in Spotlights


Memory Tapes

As 2012 winds down, so too do the number of weekly new releases. Here’s the few this week that are worth checking out.

Ke$ha, Warrior: Here are a few important facts: 1. I love Ke$ha and 2. I am apparently not alone. There has been a noticeable uptick in the number of Ke$ha-friendly pieces appearing in places like The Atlantic and the New York Times, and with good reason. Ke$ha is genuinely cannier and funnier than most pop stars and is fully, 400% in-on-the-joke (she cites Jay Reatard, the Pixies and Sonic Youth among favorite artists and speaks about them enough to prove she’s not bluffing). That said, despite the fact that it features cameos from Iggy Pop and Julian and Fab from the Strokes, Warrior is not the rock record the mighty K had been promising. Instead, to quote Barry Walters:

“I’m sorry but I am just not sorry” is but one of many Ke$ha-isms on parade in Warrior, her second and against-all-odds excellent album. If you’re not favorably disposed to stadium-sized Europop synth riffs and beats, you might not immediately come to the same conclusion: An acoustic guitar opening on “Crazy Kids” and some patches where the drums drop out for a few dubstep diversions only partially disguise the fact that the first six tracks have more or less the same BPMs, same party-like-it’s-the-last-night-of-our-lives desperation, same Auto-tuned choruses alternating with suburban sass-rapped verses, and same swag of her Animal debut and Cannibal EP ramped up one woo-hoo notch higher. As her 100 percent-OTT-in-an-almost-John-Waters-kinda-way video for “Die Young” proves – complete with upside down crosses and Illuminati semiotics – Sebert takes dance-pop cacophony to a new level of blatancy. Complaining that she’s crass is like suggesting that the Ramones should’ve used a fourth chord.

Memory Tapes, Grace/Confusion: For those not as interested in taking a ride in Ke$ha’s Gold Trans Am, there’s the beautiful new record from Memory Tapes. Annie Zaleski says:

Grace/Confusion distinguishes itself in Memory Tapes’ catalog because of its sophisticated arrangements, which deftly merge dense musical ideas and wild mood swings. “Thru The Field,” on which Hawk sounds uncannily like Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, boasts humming keyboards and abstract crowd noise before adding layers of Depeche Mode-style accents, a flurry of strident guitars and a mournful instrumental coda. And “Sheila” stitches together brief swatches of sound – Fleetwood Mac-esque pastoral folk, debauched disco, lonely solo piano and zippered funk, among others – to create a surprisingly cohesive narrative tinged with increasing amounts of regret and loneliness.

Wiz Khalifa, O.N.I.C.F: Second album from last year’s breakout rapper is full hazy, woozy synths, stuttering tempos and laid-back rhymes about weed and ladies. In other words, it is a Wiz Khalifa record.

Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness Reissue: The record on which Billy Corgan fully realized all of his grandiose impulses in a way that was actually enjoyable to listen to. “Tonight, Tonight” and “1979″ are unstoppable. No bonus material here, just the album, all cleaned up for the digital age.

Blissed Out Fatalists, s/t: This album came out in 1987 to little fanfare, but if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was recorded last week. Doomy little record featuring members of Blue Daisies. Grizzled guitar and real stern, imposing vocals make this perfect lights-out listening. This one is on Body Double, a new imprint of Captured Tracks focused on reissuing albums like this. To that point…

Half Church, 1980 – 1986: Another one from Body Double, this international band (they ping-ponged from the UK to California and back again) captures the same dour, doomy mood of other pre-New Order Factory Records bands like Stockholm Monsters and (early) Section 25.

The Jayhawks, Music from the North Country: Another anthology, but this one from a more familiar source. This one came out in 2009 and gathers up some of the band’s best moments.

Dungeonesse, “Drive You Crazy”: Dungeonesse is Jenn from Wye Oak getting her pop groove on. Her smoky voice sounds fantastic bouncing between these limber dance beats.