In this edition: apocalyptic hip-hop, sweeping indie-rock, an inevitable mashup, soaring electro-pop, and, uh, quirky Marxist lounge music, I guess.
1. T.I. feat. Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne – “Swagga Like Us”
Every great rapper working today? Check. A menacing electronic buzz reminiscent of nothing so much as the avant-garde synth soundtrack to ’80s cult hit “Liquid Sky”? Check. Auto-tune turned up to “11,” forcing the voices into unnatural, robotic stutters? Check. A so-hip-it-hurts sample loop from M.I.A’s “Paper Planes,” with her always-hypnotic voice providing the only organic counterpoint to the machines in this profoundly strange and apocalyptic piece of music? Check.
2. Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos – “A Children’s Crusade on Acid”
At first, it seems a brief flirtation with backwards drums will be the only real reference to LSD-tinged psychedelia on this track from the Indiana combo. But then the simple piano chords suddenly give way to a huge, distorted bass noise, and lead singer Richard Edwards sings, “The children lose their minds/In such uncertain times.” Plus it was featured in “One Tree Hill”! (mp3 from The Yellow Stereo)
3. DJ Earworm – “Reckoner Lockdown” (Kanye West vs. Radiohead)
With both Kanye and Radiohead putting out the musical stems for these tracks, jeez, somebody had to do it, so I’m glad it was the Bay Area’s Earworm, the musical savant who wrote the book on mashups. The mournful guitars from “Reckoner” bring out the heartbreak in “Love Lockdown,” and I suppose the oddest thing about this mashup is how completely not odd it actually is, if that makes any sense. (mp3 from djearworm.com)
4. Robyn – “With Every Heartbeat” (Live version w/ orchestra)
While the now-almost-kind-of-a-classic original gains much of its drama from the slow build of minimal electronica, there’s an unmistakable, nearly overwhelming power in the lyrics’ agonized acknowledgement of heartbreak, and so an orchestra fits right in. The beloved Swedish singer rises to the occasion with an emotional vocal worthy of the setting. (via Pitchfork)
5. Stereolab – “Neon Beanbag”
Okay, sure, I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to Stereolab in a few years. but back in the mid-90s, they released an album called Emperor Tomato Ketchup that fused lounge, Krautrock, and hip-hop together under a bilingual banner of freaky friendship. It’s twelve years later, so of course “Beanbag” doesn’t have the same blinding energy (who does these days), but it’s got a swinging bounce and the entrancing vocals of Laetitia Sadier: “there’s nothing to feel sad about,” she sings, and you almost believe her. (mp3 from Fluxblog)