This week, lilting Europop seems to be the theme, sort of. Northern climes represented include the lovely Sweden and the dashing Denmark! But there’s other stuff here too: mopey indie rock, ribald hip-hop, and zoomy techno. Come to think of it you can probably just read last week’s.
10. Isabel Guzman – “When You Were My Friend”
(listen on her MySpace page)
The first of two Swedish women with snazzy hairdos on the Top Ten this week, Guzman is the up-and-comer, and her voice has a deep, almost guttural quality; mostly, though, this song is about the flawless dance-pop production. Like the best of Madonna, it manages to grab all the latest, coolest effects from electronic music and put them to good use.
9. The Brunettes – “Small Town Crew” (from Structure & Cosmetics on Sub Pop) (mp3 via the Sub Pop site)
This New Zealand duo have been described as “twee,” but it seems to apply only in the best possible sense: delicate, sparkling acoustic pop, with the barest waftings of melancholy. But then the lyrics take a darker twist (“if only I could have you here/I’d love to smack you around the room”) and the instrumentation fills out, giving the song a cinematic feel.
8. Junior Senior – “Can I Get Get Get” (from Hey Hey My My Yo Yo, out 8/14 on EMI)
(mp3 via You Ain’t No Picasso)
While the exuberance of 2003’s “Don’t Stop” may have settled down a bit, the infectious Jackson 5-style grooves are still in effect. The rhymes are a little silly… and I just had the realization that Junior Senior might be the Flight of the Conchords of Denmark, which actually makes me like them a little more.
7. New Young Pony Club – “The Get Go” (from Fantastic Playroom on Modular)
(grab an mp3 at Cause=Time)
I have to admit, I wrote this London combo off after getting sick of their omnipresent first single, “Ice Cream” (seen any Intel commercials lately?) but it turns out they have a lot more to offer, and a much deeper understanding of post-punk possibilities. This song features a Joy Division-reminscent bassline, but a more mellow, straightforward dance beat—unlike fellow Brits Klaxons or Bloc Party, NYPC aren’t afraid to groove.
6. 50 Cent w/ Justin Timberlake – “AYO Technology” (from Curtis, out 9/11 on Interscope) (buy it at iTunes)
So much trouble! First there’s all the delays with the album release date, and 50’s, um, anger management issues . This single was originally so explicit that the label refused to release it, and it’s still pretty, um, ribald, but whatever: Timbaland outdoes himself on production once again. While a syrupy-slow beat counts time, what sounds like an old Nintendo jacked up on too much juice goes mental with blippy hyperspeed arpeggios. Have I asked for Timbo to get a MacArthur genius grant yet? Well, I assume he doesn’t need it.
5. Aesop Rock – “Coffee” (from None Shall Pass, out 8/28 on Definitive Jux)
(grab an mp3 at Spinner)
The San Francisco-via-New York rapper has a reputation as a ground-breaker, and this track doesn’t disappoint. He brings in John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats to help out, and the instrumentation is appropritately rock-ish, with live-sounding drums and rhythm guitar; but over Aesop’s insistent rhymes, strange samples slip in and out of the mix like ghosts.
4. Go! Team – “Do It Right”
60s R&B retro is kind of hot right now, I guess. Amy Winehouse’s neo-soul gets updated subject matter, and the Pipettes give an indie edge to girl-group fluff. The Go! Team, on the other hand, are still at the party, and this track’s noisy cacophony makes you want to put on your hippie pants and jump right in.
3. Robin feat. Kleerup – “With Every Heartbeat” (from Robyn on Konichiwa)
Talk about a delayed reaction. The pop singer-songwriter released this album in her native Sweden back in ’05, and it’s finally made it to England, where this song just landed at the #1 spot. Sure it’s got electronic beats and breathy vocals, but the song is anything but formulaic: a strange chorus-free structure breaks down to a string interlude in the middle, and the mood is decidedly heartbroken.
2. Marc Houle – “Bay of Figs” (from ISSST on Global Underground)
(buy it at iTunes, or listen at their MySpace) ISSST, the London club night, has a reputation as the home of a newly resurgent, darker version of acid house, spun by the likes of Tiefschwarz and Paul Woolford; this compilation will give you an idea of the sound even if you can’t get in the door. This buzzy, echoey track is almost entirely atonal, as its lead synth drifts up and down the scale, but like the best techno, it uses the genre underpinnings to stay funky even when it’s sounding incredibly strange.
1. Sea Wolf – “You’re a Wolf” (from Leaves in the River, out 9/25 on Dangerbird)
(mp3 via Each Note Secure)
It’s understandable if you’re suspicious of bands with the same or similar names and song titles: like, you’re using up your band name on this song? But, then, remember the good examples: Big Country’s “In a Big Country,” Talk Talk’s “Talk Talk,” and this one right here. Like Nada Surf or Grandaddy, the Wolf make melancholy, densely layered music, haunting and oblique: “old gypsy woman spoke to me,” sings bandleader Alex Brown Church, “said, ‘you’re a wolf, boy, get out of this town.'”