This week, quirky covers, funky remixes, shadow puppets, and hyperactive remixers, plus if M.I.A. can't be in the Top Ten without a Riff revolt, I'll find someone who sounds like her, dammit!
10. Japancakes - "Only Shallow" (from Loveless on Darla)
(mp3 at Pitchfork)
It's an eyebrow-raising gimmick: record all of My Bloody Valentine's classic album in a countrified style. It turns out this Athens, Georgia combo have found a hidden link between country and shoegaze, with the pedal steel guitar a perfect instrument to capture the warping harmonies of the original. Actually, I just love pedal steel guitar. Plus the use of the piano to take on the ambient interlude is inspired.
9. Various Artists - Partyshank Mixtape (grab an mp3 at Kidz by Colette)
You get the idea from their publicity photo: Partyshank are a couple of London kids in bright sweatshirts playing with kooky plastic toys, and this hyperactive mix, full of goofball references and sped-up effects, is cartoonish in the best sense. The duo plunders soul, 80s and rave music; anything, really, just as long as it keeps the energy up.
8. Athlete - "In Between 2 States" (from Beyond the Neighborhood, out 9/25 on EMI)
(mp3 at DriveByMedia)
The London combo had been lumped into the Coldplay-wannabe crowd since their 2006 hit single, "Wires;" who knew they could give Boards of Canada a run for their money. This short but sweet sample from their new album features a distorted drum machine and airy electric piano chords, but when the guitars come in, the track achieves an epic scope.
7. Santogold - "Creator"
(mp3 at Nialler9)
Okay, she's a buddy of M.I.A., she kind of looks like M.I.A., and this was produced by M.I.A.'s producer Switch. Well, so what; even if this sounded just like M.I.A., the world could use more M.I.A.'s. But, this Brooklyn-based singer is a little more intense and definitely more American, although the backing track sounds like grime from outer space.
6. Les Savy Fav - "What Wolves Would Do" (from Let's Stay Friends on Frenchkiss)
(listen to the whole album at their Virb page)
This New York band hasn't released a new album in 6 years, and while they've always been in the dictionary under "angular," this track softens the new wave-y guitar with soft harmonies, kind of like Bloc Party after they did a little more living and maybe hung out with TV on the Radio for a while. Worth it if only for the "ahoooooo" howls in the chorus.