In this edition, Japanese dream-pop, dubstep new wave, Icelandic drum festivals, stoopid fresh Baltimore rave jams, and a tribute to Michael Jackson. No, I'm not making any of that up.
1. Shugo Tokumaru "Parachute" (from the album Exit on Sony BMG)
This Japanese singer-songwriter has apparently been making his delicate, '60s-influenced ditties for a while now, but his work is finally starting to be available in the US. "Parachute" evokes psychedelia without getting too crazy, even though it sounds like there are about 100 different instruments being played here.
2. Version Big-Fi "Blue Monday" (New Order cover)
Dubstep's synthetic take on the traditional reggae rhythm creates menacing, apocalyptic sounds perfect for our anxious times; oddly enough, "Blue Monday's" abject grief is a perfect counterpoint. While versions of the omnipresent "Monday" are a dime a dozen, this is something special, although not without precedent: New Order's own brooding cover of Keith Hudson's "Turn the Heater On" for a John Peel session proved the band had a reggae streak themselves. (mp3 download at versionbigfi.com)
3. Björk & Thom Yorke "Nattura" (single)
Shouldn't they just have called themselves, er, "Byörke"? Anyway, somebody let these crazy kids loose in the drum closet, and not surprisingly, the resulting tracks makes Radiohead's recent output sound like High School Musical. I can't even discern a time signature: 2/4 alternating with 7/8, maybe? But the song's purpose as a charity single for the environment echoes its weirdly compelling urgency: in Björk's world, Nature is not cuddly seals and pretty flowers, but a rumbling wave of unfathomable forces that will overwhelm us if we don't step lightly. (purchase on iTunes or listen while watching vintage Björk footage here)