Consider this week the proverbial calm before the storm. May 4 marks the beginning of a month of music that’s not so much a steady stream of highlights as it is a torrential downpour. It’s actually a little intimidating seeing the list of names with albums on the horizon in the next four weeks: Broken Social Scene, Flying Lotus, The Fall, The Hold Steady, The National, Band of Horses, LCD Soundsystem, The New Pornographers, Holy Fuck, Phosphorescent, Ellen Allien, Harvey Milk… we could just keep going but you get the idea.
However, March and April have provided their share of great albums, from the eclectic pop blend of Gorillaz, to the psychedelic soul of Erykah Badu, the raucous epics of Titus Andronicus, the stunning solo work of Sigur Rós’ Jonsi and the trippy dance anthems of Caribou. So, enjoy this mix of 12 outstanding songs from the best albums of the past few weeks.
Gorillaz – “Empire Ants”
from Plastic Beach
What We Said: “Empire Ants” begins luxuriantly, relaxing in repose, but then halfway through launches into a Heaven 17 / Human League club facelift, making way for Yukimi Nagano’s honeyed vocals.
Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”
from The Monitor
What we said: “A More Perfect Union” is one hell of a way to kick things off, starting off with a Constantines-style rock ‘n’ roll bulldozer as Stickles rattles off more allusions in his wordplay than a grad student at pub trivia.
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Bottled In Cork”
from The Brutalist Bricks
What we said: …the album’s best song, “Bottled in Cork,” is a recitation of various overseas tour stops that ends with a repetition of the heart-swelling declaration, “Tell the bartender, I think I’m falling in love.”
Broken Bells – “The Ghost Inside”
from Broken Bells
What We Said: “The Ghost Inside,” probably the closest thing to Gnarls Barkley on the record, has James Mercer doing his best Prince impression, and it’s surprisingly infectious.
She & Him – “Over It Over Again”
from Volume Two
What We Said: “Over It Over Again” is another highlight, and may cause diabetics to run for their insulin from the sugary sweetness that is sprinkled throughout this girl-group track.
Jónsi – “Tornado”
What We Said: The opening piano chords of “Tornado” could certainly remind some of either Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” or the National’s “Fake Empire,” and the ensuing song is equally as transformative.
Erykah Badu – “Window Seat”
from New Amerykah Part 2: Return of the Ankh
What we said: …it’s a set packed with standouts, the earliest and most accessible being lead single “Window Seat,” a twinkling, psychedelic soul highlight that shows off Badu’s sensual side in a jazzy, coolly grooving context.
White Hinterland – “Thunderbird”
What We Said: White Hinterland’s sound has skewed decidedly toward the edges of the map, while Casey Deniel’s vocal turns often incorporate shapes and mannerisms from mainstream R&B, lending a streamlined grace to their inspired patchwork.
Goldfrapp – “Shiny and Warm”
from Head First
What We Said: In slight contrast to (“Hunt”) is the glamorous and erotically eerie “Shiny and Warm,” one of the rare tracks that sounds culled from the Supernature sessions.
The Tallest Man On Earth – “Burden of Tomorrow”
from The Wild Hunt
What We Said: On the album’s second track, “The Burden of Tomorrow,” Mattson subtly explores the tender nature inherent in facing the future. The music reflects this inchoate emotion with its quiet guitar strums splashing against the crescendos of Mattson’s recoiling vocals.
Under Byen – “Territorium”
from Alt er Tabt
What We Said: “Territorium” opens with a steady 4/4 trip-hop beat and a memorable bassline hook before a cascade of more strings, melodica, Far Eastern samples and various other curiosities come rushing in. It’s not only a strikingly urgent sound from the band, but sonically sublime.
Caribou – “Kaili”
What We Said: “Kaili” may be the strongest song on the record, overwhelming from the start with flowing synth stabs that rush over the top of flute melodies and Snaith’s gentle, ruminative vocals