While 2012 wasn’t a banner year for the album format, there were many notable long form efforts to be had. It was a struggle to get to 20 or so albums that I was enamored with, but that probably means 2013 is going to be out of control with expected releases from Local Natives, Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and dare I say…Daft Punk? Let the rumors begin.
While The xx didn’t exactly offer a new take on their minimalist approach to moody indie pop, the trio shouldn’t be penalized for being consistently good. Jamie xx still concocts dreamy string and synth arrangements with Oliver Sims’ hovering bass-lines. Though I couldn’t help but hope for some more of the diversity Jamie xx has shown on other works (see Drake’s “Take Care”). “Reunion” pairs Romy Madley Croft and Jamie xx on an irresistibly uptempo beat and “Swept Away” utilizes some UK garage house, but much of Coexist could use similar fusion. However, top track “Angels” bubbles with familiar dramatic flair as Romy Madley Croft details falling head over heels in love on a sparse production.
Calvin Harris-18 Months
Like it or not, Calvin Harris’ latest album is filled wall to wall with party anthems and have made him a star beyond the electronic music world. While Harris primarily sticks to the successful “four on the floor” rhythm trend, the fact that it doesn’t get old after 15 tracks is encouraging. “We Found Love” and “Feel So Close” might be two of the catchiest pop tracks in recent memory. Elsewhere, “We’ll Be Coming Back” is an instant party starter with rising Brit artist Example and “Bounce” is still criminally underrated in my opinion.
Big Boi-Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours
It is hard to describe an OutKast affiliated work as eclectic, but Big Boi stepped out of his comfort zone and mixes in some of indie’s buzz worthy acts with some familiar cohorts. Phantogram appears on 3 tracks, including stand out “Lines” w/A$AP Rocky and Little Dragon shows up twice (3x if you count the unofficial version of “Mama Told Me”). Hip-hop isn’t forgotten though as “Thickets” brings back Sleepy Brown and expertly intersperses a Jodeci sample, while “In The A” is a trunk rattler you’d expect on a Luda, T.I. collaboration. “Apple Of My Eye” reunites the ATL emcee with Organized Noize producer Mr. DJ and crafts a dance floor burner that hums as Big Boi describes his ideal mate. Big Boi got a little something for everyone…except a 3 Stacks appearance.
Solange has been experimenting with her sound over the past few years and has finally found her groove in new wave-inspired R&B. True was crafted with collaborator Dev Hynes (aka Lightspeed Champion) and avoids the house fetish of top 40 pop-tronica. ‘80’s flavored highlight “Losing You” pulls back on the keys, adds handclaps and allows Solange’s airy vocals to fly on the light hearted break up track. Other standouts include “Locked In Closets”, which makes for danceable fun reminiscent of the late Whitney Houston and “Some Things Never Work” incorporating fluttering synth into Ms. Knowles’ relationship analysis. True’s most impressive aspect might be that is proves that you can make an accessible pop record without falling into tired tropes.