Bright Moments = Hey Marseilles + The Dodos + Andrew Bird
Dreamy instrumentals, layered with wavering vocals, populate this release from multi-instrumentalist Kelly Pratt, known for his trumpet work with the likes of Beirut, LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire. Whether cracking his wispy voice over Fleetwood Mac-evoking dance anthems like “Behind The Gun,” or going all Ben Gibbard on some slow and lazy piano ballads like “Drifters,” Pratt seems totally at home. Ethereal electro-pop meets lo-fi chamber-folk, and gets a big-band treatment via the range of this artist and his crew of recording compatriots on loan from bands he’s worked with. “Travelers” has an upbeat, drumroll-driven beat with a huge mariachi-influenced chorus, rich with horns, and deserves to be a single with its whistling hook. “Milwaukee,” however, has a strange combination of accordion and rock drums that makes it my favorite on the album. Natives is definitely worth checking out. –Rio Connelly
Fake Four Inc.
Busdriver = Outkast + Frank Zappa
There is not another artist like Busdriver. While he is generally classified as a hip hop musician, he dabbles in a plethora of other categories ranging from psychedelic to pop. Beaus$Eros is unpredictable and innovative, and at first listen, might come across as absolutely bizarre—but given a second chance, becomes more and more worthwhile. Using scattered beats, untraditional spacing and a range of intriguing sounds, Busdriver is able to create a cohesive feeling, despite the free form he implements. I dig the track ‘‘Kiss Me Back To Life,’’ which has a futuristic, drum-machine texture. Check Beaus$Eros out if you’re looking for something completely fresh.
Time No Place
CHLLNGR = How to Dress Well + Holy Other
With falsettos akin to How to Dress Well laid over more direct yet abstract beats, CHLLNGR has made an EP that is three-fourths perfect. The sole exception to the impeccable quality of this EP is the second track featuring Cherry B of De Tropix (also known for her work as a backing vocalist/hype woman for M.I.A.). The track in question is called “Desire” and probably has the most solid beat of the entire EP, but the addition of Cherry B’s vocals seem extremely out of place and almost awkward (she literally repeats one weak-ass line the entire time, in a voice unsuitable for the music). Other than that, the EP is great, with soft vocals slowly drifting over experimental and nearly dancey beats. It’s great chill-wave for the summertime. –Cody Hudson
Choir of Young Believers
Choir of Young Believers = Neil Young + Fleet Foxes + Bon Iver
Jannis Noya Makrigiannis has an amazingly smooth singing voice for a native of Denmark, and his collective band’s gorgeous second album extends their orchestral pop sound while it remains wisely cemented at the forefront of it. Layering beats, lush orchestrations, keys and random electronic elements, tracks like “The Third Time,” “Sedated” and “Nye Nummer Et” are fairly representative of their sound. The oddly short—by their standards, anyway—track, “Patricia’s Thirst,” is still lovely, while the experimentation and gelling of their various fusions culminate on the amazing “Paralyse,” which helps belie its true 10-minute-plus length. It isn’t surprising that Makrigiannis/COYB’s music has been featured on soundtracks, and perhaps nowhere else is this as evident than on the heavily orchestrated title cut. While majestic in its cinematic-like scope, if not a teeny bit overly sedated, Makrigiannis’ vocals remain as potently mesmerizing as ever. –Dean O Hillis
Clear Heart Full Eyes
Craig Finn = Lifter Puller + The Hold Steady + Springsteen
Clear Heart Full Eyes is the first solo record by Brooklyn-by-way-of-Minneapolis singer-songwriter Craig Finn. This disc is vocally similar to Finn’s work with The Hold Steady, but it differs stylistically. It has a very roots-rock feel to it, skirting the line between some of the less flashy Bruce Springsteen narratives and the more typically pessimistic work of Leonard Cohen. Finn’s voice sounds exactly like it always does on this one—a fact that will either further endear it to you or make you want to turn it off. If it is possible, these solo songs are even more story-like than anything he’s recorded before—focusing on themes of solitude, displacement and uneasiness in one’s own skin. It is much less complicated musically than anything Finn has attempted before. And even though I would love to hear a few rocked-up Hold Steady versions of several of these tracks, I understand how far they stray from the overall optimism normally associated with Finn. This album is calm and quirky and even quiet—you have to listen really hard to it. It feels a little like a clearance sale at certain points, but if you care enough to give it a proper listen, you will not come away empty-handed. –James Bennett