Pick Of The Week
Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste
Harlem-born, 21-year-old rapper Azealia Banks has been courting “next big thing” status for a couple of years now. After doing musical theater growing up, Banks got interested in rap, released several singles on YouTube (including a cover of Interpol’s “Slow Hands”), signed to Interscope, and ended up on NME’s “Cool List” in 2011. To date, though, she’s only released a few noteworthy singles, including the Internet-crowned “212,” and one mixtape, 2012’s Fantasea. Broke With Expensive Taste is her full-length debut and could—maybe, just maybe—live up to the expectations placed upon the ever up-and-coming rapper. As evident on tracks like “BBD,” Banks has the ability to blend laid-back, Missy Elliott-style flow with club-ready beats, and that combination could make her incredibly marketable. [Update: Like so many hip-hop records these days, this LP has been pushed back once again and is now expected to come out sometime later this spring.]
Don’t Break The Seal
LL Cool J, Authentic Hip Hop
LL Cool J had a big, sexy hand in making hip-hop popular, and he’s probably been handsomely, handsomely rewarded for his efforts, but that doesn’t mean his current material is any good. Like Will Smith, LL left full-time rapping behind years ago in favor of acting roles, like his current gig as the resident aloof hardass on NCIS: LA. And like Smith, his rap skills and perception of the game as a whole have suffered greatly while he’s been off emoting. LL says Authentic Hip Hop is both “unapologetic and polarizing,” and while it would be nice to give him the benefit of the doubt in regard to the potential positivity of those words, we’re not feeling all that generous.
Foals, Holy Fire
Foals’ last two records—2008’s Antidotes and 2010’s Total Life Forever—were pretty big hits in the Pitchfork world. With Holy Fire, the British quintet seeks to continue its hot streak with the typically fickle indie-rock audience.
Bullet For My Valentine, Temper Temper
Welsh heavy metal isn’t exactly a hot niche to be in, but Bullet For My Valentine has done okay for itself. Temper Temper is the group’s fourth record, and drops just in time for the band’s namesake holiday.
Darwin Deez, Songs For Imaginative People
Brooklyn indie act Darwin Deez makes pretty difficult music. Sure, it’s catchy, but it’s also kind of annoying. Deez scream-sings a la Travis Morrison over glitchy beats, resulting in a sound that resembles a slightly more aggressive Postal Service. Songs For Imaginative People is only his second full-length, though, so there’s a chance Deez could still figure out how to make his style work for him.
Like so many similar bands, Millionyoung got lumped in with the chillwave movement of the early ’10s. But while other groups, like Toro Y Moi, have tried to escape the moniker, Millionyoung has embraced it. Variable is a synth-swathed bliss-out record of the highest order.
The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, The Jazz Age
Roxy Music, this is not. Instead, The Jazz Age is a series of instrumental, bebop-style recordings of songs from throughout Ferry’s career. It’s an interesting concept, but it’s not exactly the classic Ferry record fans might have wanted.
Veronica Falls, Waiting For Something To Happen
Veronica Falls is a jangly U.K. pop band in the tradition of Belle And Sebastian, but with a darkly witty Morrissey twist. The group’s 2011 self-titled debut was a pretty good intro to the its sound, but Waiting For Something To Happen expands the band’s musical universe just a bit more, touching on everything from teenage crushes to being buried alive.
Roger Knox And The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Stranger In My Land
Keith Urban isn’t the only Australian country singer. Known in his country as both “The Black Elvis” and the “Koori King Of Country,” Roger Knox draws from his Aboriginal roots to sing about strife, displacement, and a civil-rights movement that’s still happening half a world away.
Matt Costa, Matt Costa
Matt Costa is signed to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records, which should tell unfamiliar listeners almost everything they need to know about Costa’s style and influences. Costa’s records are a little more elaborately structured than Johnson’s—they use both strings and horns, for example—but they still comprise mostly simple, mewed acoustic ditties.
Pissed Jeans, Honeys
Pissed Jeans is everything a hard rock band from working-class Allentown, Pennsylvania should be: gritty, angry, and just a little out of control. Honey is the follow-up to 2009’s excellent King Of Jeans, which is a must-listen for those who consider themselves fans of fucking shit up.