This week, I promise, no “Chocolate Rain” in the Top Ten, no Darth Vader remixes of “Chocolate Rain,” no versions of “Chocolate Rain” sung by McGruff the Crime Dog, no mashups of “Chocolate Rain” and Coldplay. See how easy that was?
10. Hard-Fi – “Suburban Knights” (from Once Upon a Time in the West, out 9/3 in the UK, US release date TBD)
(video on YouTube, stream at MySpace)
So, we established the cover art is silly, but it turns out the music isn’t bad at all. With its jaunty ska-inflected rhythm and sing-along background vocals (“Hey-ey-ey! Ho-oh-oh!”), it’s even more raucous than “Hard to Beat,” the high point on the UK combo’s 2005 debut.
9. Brother and Sister – “Awesome With My Life” video (or, listen without video on their MySpace)
Minneapolis duo Michael and Katie Gaughan (yes, actual bro and sis) make a joyful noise, and apparently are famous around the Cities for unconventional concerts at aquatic parks and jails. Like a kid-friendly “Take the Skinheads Bowling” or “Bitchin’ Camaro” for a new generation, this track makes me want to, well, do something awesome with my life. Anybody got any idea how to do that?
8. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – “100 Days 100 Nights”
(listen on their MySpace here)
Half the fun of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” is the precise backing band, and it turns out they do their own thing too. The Brooklyn combo’s horn-based R&B is definitely retro, but somehow it still feels fresh. The record release party is October 2nd at the Apollo in Harlem, how awesome will that be?
7. Architecture in Helsinki – “Heart it Races” (from Places Like This, out August 21st on Polyvinyl)
(mp3 via Hate Something Beautiful)
This Melbourne, Australia combo gained an extensive blog following with their quirky 2005 sophomore release, In Case We Die; they’ve since shed a couple members, and their new sound is a little more focused (and, weirdly, a lot like M.I.A.’s “Galang”).
6. Feist – “My Moon My Man” (from The Reminder on Interscope)
(listen at her MySpace)
Party Ben: a little slow on the uptake with this one. The first single, “1234,” was nice enough, but put me off with its Gap-ad-reminiscent video; ironically enough, it took an inescapable cell phone commercial to remind me of this song’s hypnotic vocals and shiver-inducing guitar line. Call me a flip-flopper.
5. Aggro1 – Untitled (Stevie Wonder vs. Wired All Wrong)
(grab an mp3 here)
Lots of people like mashups for the fun factor—”wow, band X of genre A goes great with singer Y from disparate genre B!”—but sometimes a bootleg using an unknown song is so well produced it stands on its own. This flawlessly-assembled combo from the Ohio producer layers Wonder’s “Superstition” vocals over a syncopated electro backing, giving it a more aggressive update.
4. Okkervil River – “Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” (from The Stage Names, out tomorrow on Jagjaguwar)
(mp3 via I Rock Cleveland)
The Austin, Texas band’s first four albums gave them a reputation for “literary rock,” but the opening track from their new album is anything but stuffy. While the lyrics are complex and troubled, the music builds to an ecstatic climax that invites comparisons to Arcade Fire.
3. Lil’ Wayne – “Help” (from The Carter III)
(grab an mp3 of the track from me here)
First of all, stop what you’re doing and go download this whole mixtape. I’m not much for the mixtape scene—it’s so hard to keep up!—but Weezy has put together an eclectic, sample-happy set that’s irresistible. This quick little track (1:23!) with its simple Beatles loop, will, of course, never see an actual release, but that’s part of its charm.
2. Various – Erol Alkan DJ Set – Live at Global Gathering, 7/28/07
(mp3 from BBC Essential Mixes here)
Hey, Erol’s back! This set, recorded live at the annual UK dance music festival, showcases why Alkan’s one of the hottest DJs in the world. His style has been called “techno for rock fans,” but mostly it’s just aggressively experimental techno whose grungy production is balanced with a crowd-pleasing structure, building to hands-in-the-air moments of ecstasy you’d have to be a real stick in the mud not to appreciate.
1. José González – “Killing for Love” (from the forthcoming In Our Nature on Mute)
(mp3 from Hypeful here)
I wrote about the Swedish singer-songwriter’s transcendent set at Coachella in April, and it turns out at least two highlights from that show will appear on his upcoming album: a haunting cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” and this dark, almost angry number. Its lyrical theme exemplifies what González calls the “primitive aspects of human beings,” which he has said is a focus on the new album. “You’ve got a heart filled with passion,” he sings, “will you let it burn with hate or compassion?”