MGMT, The Flaming Lips, A$AP Rocky
[b]MGMT – ‘Alien Days'[/b]
The last couple of years haven’t exactly been kind to MGMT. Falling from indie-disco dominance quicker than you can say ‘CSS’, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser tackled the ‘difficult second album’ issue by ignoring everyone that liked their first album, chucked in a few rambling live shows and topped it off with last year’s gig at the Guggenheim – seemingly proving that the bouncing synth-lines of ‘Kids’ really were just a strange anomaly in their prog-laden masterplan. Now comes the ominously titled ‘Alien Days’ – debuted recently at Columbia’s Festival Estéreo Picnic. Yet, whilst the track is unlikely to be troubling charts any time soon, it has enough flashes of oddball brilliance to remind us that there’s still plenty to care about.
The frustration often caused by MGMT’s stranger forays isn’t to do with their lack of commercial chirp, but that the pair’s psych-tinged, noodling tendencies often take on the un-filtered, meandering quality of throwing a shitload of paint at a wall and seeing what sticks. Here, however, amidst the paisley haze and sprawling structure (‘Alien Days’ clocks in around the six-minute mark) we get glimpses of greatness – not least in the half-spoken, sci-fi intro that slots somewhere in the realm of early Pink Floyd soundtracking the end of [i]The Rocky Horror Show[/i]. A weird and kind of wonderful return.
[b]M83 – ‘Reunion (Mylo Remix)'[/b]
The Scottish dude behind 2004’s filthy ‘Muscle Car’ is back and he’s been listening to French indie music. ‘Reunion’ is a banger among many on M83’s ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ LP, and Mylo’s turned it from freaky preachin’ music into freakin’ beach music by adding a soothing hiss and an all-night disco party beat.
[b]The Flaming Lips + Bon Iver – ‘Ashes In The Air'[/b]
The Lips’ Record Store Day offering may be a pretty gruesome affair (‘…Heavy Fwends’ will literally come daubed in its contributors’ blood), but you don’t always need the crimson stuff to shock. Having Justin Vernon declare “[i]We thought we could outrun them/ But they had robot dogs[/i]” over woozy instrumentation does the trick just fine.
[b]Post War Years – ‘Growl'[/b]
Crashing melodic madness abounds on the Leamington Spa quartet’s newest. If Metronomy, Hot Chip and post-punk also-rans Clor all did the collective dirty, the resulting sonic offspring might sound a little like this. Beamed in with a fragile, nu-folk ping and airy production which suggests a first-day-of-spring zing, it builds from wispy and majestic to a bold little treasure.
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[b]Echo Lake – ‘Even The Blind'[/b]
So thick are the textures of glass-guitar and cooing harmonies on this album cut from London’s answer to Beach House, you can barely even make out what they’re saying. Something about “[i]a city where even the blind can see[/i]”, maybe? Doesn’t matter, really.
[b]Apparatjik ft Pharrell – ‘Do It Myself'[/b]
A supergroup featuring A-ha’s keyboardist, some bloke from Mew and Coldplay’s Guy Berryman might have you running for the hills on paper, but they keep proving our initial instincts wrong. This track sees Pharrell join in on the fun as it builds to an electro crescendo of pretty mesmerising dimensions.
[b]Brendan Benson – ‘Pretty Baby'[/b]
Double-B offers up a country-tinged collaboration alongside husky-voiced songstress Ashley Monroe that’s full of Shadows-y, Mercury Rev-ed up, slow-burning sex appeal. A seductively underplayed offering, it’s the subtle caress to the Raconteurs’ bluesy howl. Miles apart, but perhaps just as good.
[b]Garbage – ‘Blood For Poppies'[/b]
If only all seven-year itches came with as much squalling feedback and eardrum-bursting goodness as Shirley Manson’s, eh? “[i]I’ve been gone for so long[/i]”, she drawls, putting herself back in the game after the band’s long break with some righteous noise and a proper poptastic chorus to boot.
[b]Holograms – ‘ABC City'[/b]
Sweden’s Holograms’ debut is one of the finest slabs of proto-punk brilliance to come out in ages. All awkward blips and shrieks about “[i]desolation[/i]” and “[i]isolation[/i]”, it’s basically the breakfast jingle to the bristling new Nordic Oik movement spearheaded by Iceage. They hit the UK in April – miss them at your peril.
[b]Japandroids – ‘Jack The Ripper (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds cover)[/b]
Running on antsy guitar drones and deadened vocals, the Canadian duo’s take on this Bad Seeds staple lulls you into a false sense of (un)ease before unleashing seven shades of snarling sonic hell. It’ll make you want to lock yourself away in a roomful of kittens forever.
This article originally appeared in the April 7th issue of NME