In 1980, David Bowie followed up the critically beloved but sales deprived Berlin trilogy of experimental rock albums with a set of tunes meant to jump-start his career again. I’m not sure what the label executives were hoping for, but the result feels like a hulking, mutated cousin of what came before it.
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is one of the wildest, weirdest albums of Bowie’s career, ripping violently between hysterical pop and defiantly experimental impulses.
The New Monday is an eclectic set of rhythm vehicles caught in traffic somewhere between hip-hop, spiritual jazz, and the psychedelic fringe of techno. It fully invests in several directions at once, offering a warmly disorienting maze in its ping-ponging structure. This is Shigeto returning to Detroit, trying on its signature sounds, and realizing they fit better together than anything he’s done before.
Private Life is an ambient funk masterpiece from a mysterious new artist named Garrett. This auspicious debut LP expands the dreamy palette of Music From Memory, adding a dose of earthbound swagger to the usually anti-gravity label. Who could produce such cloudlike beat sculptures?
The answer was obvious the moment I pressed play. This is actually a new project for funk legend Dam-Funk. With a deep focus on the most dreamlike aspects of his distinctive sound, it just might be his best work yet.
Boards of Canada are one of the most unique groups in modern music. Even a casual fan could spot their sound in a matter of seconds. Since their first album, they’ve called Warp Records home, but they’ve never been comfortable in any of the genres that legendary label is known for.
Weaving between neon-drenched hip-hop and menacing techno throb, they’ve charted a singular sound that is utterly approachable from any angle. It’s weird electronic music that your mom, your little brother, anyone can instantly nod along to. With that in mind, I present their best early track, Seeya Later, with a beguiling fan-made video:
Vince Staples has been on a nautical kick for a while now, so it’s appropriate that his upcoming full-length album is called Big Fish Theory. Following the Life Aquatic world tour, the logical next step simply had to be Vince rapping on a sinking sailboat.
Thus, the setting for his new single, Big Fish. As with his prior videos, it’s a worth slice of visual art. The song is a low-key banger, too:
New Order is one of the few bands I’ve loved since childhood and continue to do so well into my adult years. The band’s nervy, dystopian take on synth pop was almost a template for my nascent tastes, mixing deep bass grooves, crystalline synthesizer tones, frantic guitar work, and abstract lyrics about love, loss, society, and other fun nonsense.
In my humble opinion, 1985’s Low-Life was the pinnacle of this style, mixing hard dancefloor impulses with sweeping romanticism to unbelievable perfection. The lead single, The Perfect Kiss, came with an appropriately deadpan video directed by Jonathan Demme. Behold:
I’m not the biggest fan of mashups. Most of the time, they’re shallow gimmicks, the kind of party trick that’s more fun to make than to experience. Sure, it’s impressive when someone links two disparate artists in a catchy dance, but there’s usually nothing profound in the experience, no new light cast on the original pieces.
But sometimes, a mashup just lands in the fertile ground between illusion and revelation. Sometimes the sense of surprise gives way to genuine appreciation.