Lady Gaga’s deliriously oddball ARTPOP leads this week’s rundown of new albums, many of which are as fantastically bonkers as Mother Monster herself.
Lady Gaga, ARTPOP: Lady Gaga’s latest is extreme, even by her standards. Barry Walters says:
At a time when former goodie-goodies like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez are scoring monster hits with Gaga-eque maneuvers, Germanotta is doubling down. ARTPOP amps up her aesthetic until it towers over both her competitors and her own body of work, combining jackhammer EDM beats, hair-metal choruses, deranged growling and massive fan-rallying slogans into a Eurobeat/dubstep fusion so claustrophobic and nightmarish it verges on seizure. Half-assed it is not.
The Killers, Direct Hits: One of my favorite bands releases a greatest hits compilation. I cannot think of a single reason you would not want to buy this. “Shot at the Night” was produced by Anthony from M83 and sounds like it. Barry Walters says:
Direct Hits makes the strongest argument yet that one join the former camp. This is a gloriously garish band, and this 15-cut collection (18 in the deluxe) gathers most of their biggest and brightest with relentlessly bombastic results. Arranged chronologically, it takes notable liberties with their singles catalog: Sam’s Town‘s “For Reasons Unknown” takes the place of its far more popular “Bones,” while Battle Born album track “The Way it Was” swaps out “Here with Me.” Nowhere is there anything from Sawdust.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, UZU: Excellent Japanese-Canadian art-rock band writes gorgeous, imposing psych-rock songs that are hypnotic and completely arresting. Andrew Parks says:
Lurking beneath the cardboard cutouts, papier-mâché props and meticulous face paint of Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is something much more ambitious than an art-damaged answer to bloated rock operas. Described as “Noh-wave” — a head-on collision of traditional Japanese theater and the noisy art-punk that populated New York’s syringe-lined streets in the ’80s — their mercurial sound is melodramatic without feeling like the loony-bin labors of drama school dropouts. Much like their richly-woven debut, the Canadian collective’s second album sounds deadly serious, as it melds candlelit balladry and Merzbow (“Saturn’s Return”), Cocteau chords and Glassy synths (“Windflower”), and the palatable outer reaches of prog-rock (the second half of “Seasickness”).
Erasure, Snow Globe: Their new Christmas album is “so archly irreverent that it virtually arrives sporting a tinsel tutu.” Ian Gittins says:
Vince Clark’s analog bleeps and squelches, unchanged since Erasure’s ’80s heyday, sound so quaint that they virtually qualify as retro-futurist, while Andy Bell’s cherubic trill (“I’ve re-found my inner choirboy,” he claims) fits these festive frills perfectly. Of the self-penned tracks, the Hi-NRG pledge of devotion “Loving Man” and mischievously melodramatic nativity tale “Blood On The Snow” stand out, but inevitably it’s the covers that command the attention: a still, sepulchral “Silent Night,” a narcoleptic, drone-driven “White Christmas,” and a sleigh-bell-laden take on “In the Bleak Midwinter” wherein Bell’s meticulous, forensic enunciation is all the more laudable given that he is presumably simultaneously attempting to keep a straight face. From its sleeve shot of the pair posing inside the titular ornament in question, Snow Globe utterly redefines the concept of the queens’ Christmas message.
Throwing Muses, Purgatory/Paradise: Kristen Hersh & Co. return with this HIGHLY RECOMMENDED new album. Songs are short — some shorter than a minute — but ideas are in plentiful supply. Fishhook guitars, stuttering drums and Hersh’s weird, mystic singing are the highlights of this group’s masterful return.
Songs:Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co. (Deluxe): Deluxe edition of Jason Molina’s masterpiece rounds out the original with demo versions. This album is still as beautiful and arresting as it was when it was originally released, and is well worth rediscovering.
Psapp, What Makes Us Glow: The latest from UK electronic duo is just as far-reaching and stylistically voracious as ever; drunken-carnival brass and bells rub shoulders with delicate ambient atmospherics; gypsy jazz numbers clang up against Tin Pan Alley tunesmithing. An encyclopedia of genres in a single record.
Various Artists, Inside Llewyn Davis: Soundtrack to the forthcoming Dave Van Ronk-inspired Coen Brothers film is as rustic as you might imagine, foregrounding folk and folk-inspired songs.
Mondreman, The Say I Struggle Rap: Eerie, spooky hip-hop that recalls the grime and glory of early Geto Boys — weird, warped-out productions, vaguely surreal and fully sinister, topped with breathless, insistent rapping. RECOMMENDED
David Van Tieghem x Ten, Fits & Starts: The latest in RVNG’s excellent FRKWYS series is sparse and shadowy, full of strange sounds — bangs, whirrs, clicks — that create a distinctly unsettling mood but eventually cohere into the blurry outlines of actual songs. Perfect for late-night listening.
Sapphire Slows, Allegoria: Latest from great LA label Not Not Fun is another great batch of super-minimal dance music — a few Casio bleats, some breathy vocals and just the barest trace of melody. I can’t get enough of this stuff; it’s so terrifically thrift shop in its sound and aesthetic that I find it impossible to resist. RECOMMENDED