Albums of the week | Beach House, Best Coast and Killer Mike
Killer Mike R.A.P. Music
Most mainstream rap records are manufactured like Lunchables, and there’s a reason mixtapes are called mixtapes. R.A.P. Music has a unified vision and purpose—no processed Ibiza cheese, no slimy slices of bedroom bologna, just rap. “This album was created entirely by Jaime and Mike,” Killer Mike Render proclaims at the start of “Jo Jo’s Chillin.” Jaime is Jaime Meline, El-P, who lays down his brickbat boom-bap like wet cement. El-P is generally all menace and moue, seemingly pissed at nothing more than the state of hip-hop. But the Definitive Jux honcho can be playful, too. Perhaps it’s my imagination spinning off the fact this was released by Williams Street—the Adult Swim and Cartoon Network production house—but I hear Aqua Teens and video games in the gurgling synths (“Ghetto Gospel”) and 8-bit explosions (“Butane”).
With a heavy-jawed Southern drawl, Mike spiels about his history, family, community, government. He’s most successful in descending order. On “Reagan,” the ATLien sounds more like a student delivering a report than a preacher or revolutionary. He does his civic duty to Atlanta by delivering the greatest record from the city since Outkast still worked together. Take the power back from Waka Flocka, Future and B.o.B. The title track is a statement of hip-hop as religion, set to a more soulful take on Watch the Throne’s “Why I Love You.” He spits, “This is what my people need and the opposite of bullshit.” Amen.
Beach House Bloom
Bloom behaves as a gas, expanding to fill the space in which you play it. When I first listened on little earbuds, the music-box guitars and antique drum machines felt dainty. Last weekend, I overheard it spinning in a Barnes & Noble, where the record hung over 33,000 square feet like a silver fog. That’s their trick, isn’t it, to sound grandiose and intimate? Given time and volume, Beach House’s spellbinding fourth convinces you it is their master statement. Victoria Legrand’s voice is more like a male falsetto. In her drunken androgyny, she sounds hoarse, as if she ran into the vocal booth after a screaming fight with her husband. When Alex Scally quickly strums his guitar like it's a mandolin, it sounds like Italian mourning ballads, as played by Vangelis. Keyboard and guitar arpeggios flutter downward in slow fugues. The duo has real melodic smarts. I’m guessing they own some Bach CDs.
Cornershop Urban Turban
A Cornershop record is the genre confusion that would happen if the Hulk shook the fuck out of Dusty Groove thinking it was a snowglobe. The British duo cooks funk, krautrock, hip-hop, psychedelic, disco, electro and Indian pop into a one-of-a-kind stew. As a collection of one-off singles packed with guest vocalists, Urban Turban is even more of a pick ‘n’ mix. Yet in its giddy, grab-bag way, it's the best comprehensive representation of the veteran underdogs. Tjinder Singh’s pop tunes are children’s music for vinyl collectors. Go lowriding through Mumbai (“Beacon Radio 303”); boogie at the ISRO’s inaugural lunar shindig (“Inspector’s Bamba Singh’s Lament”); imagine Lou Reed as a sweet twee pigtailed girl (“Something Makes You Feel Like”).“What Did the Hippie Have in His Bag” almost mocks the guy who waxed nostalgic about wax in “Brimful of Asha,” and its his best single since. How could you not love these guys?
The Cribs In the Belly of the Brazen Beast
Two records spring to mind when listening to ITBOTBB (That’s what we’re calling this for short, right? “It-bot-bob?”)—In Utero and Pinkerton. At 18 tracks, it feels as long as both combined, too. Rivers was tired of sex. Kurt was tired of fame. In their hum-along angst, the Brothers Jarman are tired of famous sexpots, the pop stars on the charts. The Cribs’ post–Johnny Marr, back-to-basics album uses the same producers, Steve Albini and Dave Fridmann. Yes, Steve Albini is a producer, not an “engineer.” He coats everything he touches with an unmistakable, unchanging shellac. As does in-the-red addict Fridmann. On the last record, the Cribs hated the charts enough to invade them. Marr was the Trojan horse. The “brazen beast” has puked them out and back into the ’90s. They’re some of the last few believers of dated indie tenets, that a hole in the knee of your jeans or a crusty kick-drum means something.
After dabbling in more organic textures, slap-bass boogie and jazz, Tom Jenkinson returns to the glitchy, steely, cold, hard shit that got Warp Records all its nice office furniture. With its ringtones and dubstop whomps, “Unreal Square” tethers this record to 2012, but beyond that the tracks skitter and squirm with beautiful malfunction, especially the back half, which attacks and decays rhythms in a swarm of nanobots. Anyone who knows the difference between Draft 7.30 and Untilted without me having to explain will be in heaven—or the machine-constructed delusion that is heaven, I mean.
Rye Rye Go Pop Bang
After sitting on a shelf next to Eddie Murphy movies for a couple years, the debut of the baby M.I.A. from Baltimore is finally released. I mean that literally—Rye Rye sounds like M.I.A. if she were a toddler, a Muppet Babies to Mathangi’s Muppets, if you will. Which isn’t a bad thing in small doses. It can be sweet relief to hear that colorful collage pop without the gunfire. Rye Rye begs us to dance more than DJ Lance Rock implores chubby children, “C’mon, get up!” One song: “Drop.” Another (somewhat) different song: “Shake Twist Drop.” Unfortunately, her producers have buffed away her B’more style. Wasn’t that her only reason for existence?
Best Coast The Only Place
Take away the reverb and what’s left? A mediocre Belly album, Liz Phair with a lobotomy. As we’ve touched on here and here, Bethany Cosentino has a vocabulary of 24 words and four chords. C, G, “beach” and “he,” mostly. “When we get bored, we like to sit around and stare,” she sings in an ode to California completely free of details about California. Staring honestly does the trick? There must be some SSRIs involved. “We’ve got the ocean, got the waves.” Hey, so does South Carolina and Oman. Ms. Wavves hates “things” and her mom asks her “questions.” What things? What questions? The Only Place is one of those works that becomes so contemptible for being so mediocre. Terrible records are at least fascinating. This takes pleasantness to new averages. Oh, like San Diego! I get it now.