10 Ways to Stay Hip

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Not included in this week’s Top Ten: Major concert events at the Shoreline, controversial finales to popular television shows, or the new Queens of the Stone Age album, even though there are good things about all those things. But the Top Ten must be an honest appraisal, and if I’m moping around to swirly dream-pop and grooving to Southern hip-hop, then I have to tell you that, right? No off-limits topics here, thank you very much.

mojo-photo-pissedjeans.jpg 10. Pissed Jeans – “Secret Admirer” (from Hope for Men on Sub Pop)
If there’s a better way to weed out weak and infirm listeners from the Top Ten than by kicking it off with distorted and scream-filled sludge metal, I don’t know it. Take that, Riffers. This Pennsylvania foursome evoke a couple great hard rock bands (like The Melvins and The Jesus Lizard)
on their second album, and this medium-tempo track has the growling menace of Killdozer. Anybody remember any of those bands?!

9. Sonny Jim – “Can’t Stop Movin” (video via Stereogum)
The song, a filter-happy rework of an old Jackson 5 number, is pretty cool, but for me it’s all about the video: disco-riffic footage from the Jackson 5 cartoon show, cut up to match the samples. There’s a moment when all the Jacksons’ faces appear, one by one, in screen-filling heart shapes, as their bell-bottomed silhouettes dance below – did we actually watch this?!

mojo-photo-pantha.jpg8. Pantha du Prince – “Florac” (from This Bliss on Dial, stream on his MySpace page)
Yes, yes, I know: the Top Ten needs more German techno like the internet needs more, um, geeky dudes like me writing about stuff they like. But this is a little different. Pantha du Prince (a.k.a. Hamburg’s Hendrik Weber)
makes minimal electronic music with a darker, more organic feel than his contemporaries; his MySpace page lists his location as “Antarctica,” and you can almost believe it.

mojo-cover-comar.jpg7. ComaR – “Mr. Jones in a Forest” (The Cure. vs. Mike Jones, mp3 via Comar’s site)
While it’s doubtful any “Forest” mashup will ever equal the spine-tingling beauty of Gordyboy’s 2003 Bjork combo “A Hidden Forest,” French bootlegger ComaR has made an enjoyable runner-up. Houston rapper Mike Jones and his backup singers sound even more menacing over the Cure’s double-time beat, and it’s actually fun enough that you could almost dance to it. And not just that goth “swirly dance.”

mojo-photo-justice.jpg6. Justice – Essential Mix, BBC Radio 1, Sunday June 10th, 2007
(listen for the next week here or grab an iffy-quality mp3 here)
The French techno duo’s highly-anticipated album, (yes, that’s a cross), comes out tomorrow, and this set is like a soundtrack to the release party. Squeezing a record 70 tracks into their two hours, and veering from Janet Jackson to the Chemical Brothers, the Human League to, um, the Ronettes, what Justice lose in beatmatched flow they more than make up for in fun. And I do like fun.

mojo-cover-younggalaxy.jpg5. Young Galaxy – “Outside the City” (from the self-titled album on Arts & Crafts, mp3 via Cause=Time)
If this duo reminds you of Stars, it’s because one of them toured with the better-known Canadians; but Young Galaxy have a dreamier, more ’80s sound. This track builds from an atmospheric filtered guitar intro to an epic climax that would probably sound awesome in your car out on the open road. Now to just get a car and an open road…

4. UGK feat. Outkast – “International Players’ Anthem” (from Underground Kings, out July 17th on Jive)

Putting aside for a moment the fact that bringing together rappers from Texas and Georgia doesn’t exactly constitute “international,” this is one of the rap moments of the year. Andre 3000 steals the show as usual, intoning his verses over a beatless 1-minute-15-second intro – for hip-hop, almost unthinkably long – where he reveals his pre-wedding jitters, of all things. When the beat kicks in, though, the party really gets started.

mojo-cover-blocpartyprayer.jpg3. Bloc Party – “The Prayer” (Break and Silent Witness remix, from The Prayer EP on Vice)
The original, from Bloc Party’s Weekend in the City, is already one of the band’s most intense songs, with a heartfelt plea to “make me unstoppable” over a driving, bass-heavy backing track. The remix takes it to the logical next step: unadulterated drum ‘n’ bass, even faster and heavier, but also given more space to breathe, with snippets of lyrics floating in and out of the mix, echoing out into the atmosphere. On a side note, whether at any time over the weekend a representative from Bloc Party’s label told a radio interviewer not to mention lead singer Kele’s “personal life,” in a sinister and disappointing attempt to, I guess, prevent any mention of his sexuality, is something I can neither confirm or deny.

mojo-cover-miakala.JPG2. MIA – “Boyz” (from Kala, out August 17th on Interscope)
(watch video at Pitchfork here)
How many triple-time dance tracks are there in the history of music? Three? Two? Okay: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Part 2,” and, um… I can’t think of any more. Except now M.I.A. has managed to make two great triple-time tracks in the last couple months, first the head-spinning “Bird Flu,” and now this, a rollicking, horn-filled (and horny?) ode to males. For more insanity from the upcoming album check out “Hustle” here performed live at a Radio 1 concert last month.

mojo-cover-cinematic.JPG1. Cinematic Orchestra – “To Build a Home” (from Ma Fleur on Domino)
(listen on their MySpace page)
This British combo, coalescing around multi-instrumentalist Jason Swinscoe, avoids easy classification: they’ve recorded for avant-hip-hop label Ninja Tune and performed to Vertov’s “Man With a Movie Camera.” But on this number for piano, strings and voice, they sound like a better Coldplay fronted by Antony of Antony and the Johnsons. Atmospheric and somewhat inscrutable, the song nevertheless packs an emotional whallop, with an overwhelming sense of loss counterbalancing the simple major chords.


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