Swedish electro-pop trio Miike Snow dominated alternative radio in 2009 with singles "Animal" and "Black & Blue"; it was a tad polarizing, but when you're former Britney Spears producers, over-saturation is clearly not much of a concern. Interestingly here though, their anticipated follow-up Happy to You scales back on the hooks, and opts for subtlety over immediacy. Noble, but maybe a bit problematic as well. Not even an appearance by Lykke Li can bring much stability to this identity crisis.
With lots of Oh-Oh-ing, a new-wave-y wonder boy named Brad Oberhofer made quite the splash in 2010 with blog-hits like "Away Frm U". He struck most with a strange compositional maturity for his age, which was 18 at the time. Since then, he's built out into a full band, toured extensively, and recorded a proper debut that's remarkably cleaner and more lush than that first collection of mp3s. Orchestrated, grand, yet still explosively raw and emotional—it's the kind of evolution you hope to see when the talent's been there all along.
On their 6th LP and first since 2009, El Paso prog-rockers Mars Volta return with a futuristic album full of the same spastic fury they've been flexing over the last decade. It's a reliable sound, though in another sense, a nothing-new development from a group of guys that arrived fully realized on a 2003 debut, in the wake of their titanic post-hardcore band At the Drive-in. It's easy to let the news of an ATD's reunion slated for Coachella drown out Noctourniquet, but time spent with this beast should remind fans, rather aggressively, that this project is far from a second priority.
Hot off a buzz-y showing at South by Southwest, the Seattle neo-soul/rap duo finally break through with awE naturalE. The ladies are signed to Sub Pop, and confidently represent that pocket of artful hip hop the label has been investing in as of late. You may remember them for their contributions to last year's big time Black Up release by Shabazz Palaces, but the two will soon be known for much more, as this record grooves and swirls with mindful material. The "Leave your face at the door / turn off your swag / check your bag" introduction to “QueenS” might some up their definative statement here — a challenge to the current hip hop climate (ahem, Odd Future and A$AP).
Compared to her fuzz-rock full-time gig as a Vivian Girl, "Kickball Katy” Goodman has favored a prettier, sparser, and often pop-ier approach in her solo work. Last year's self titled debut had a charming simplicity to it, and Sees the Light sharpens it with subtle improvements across the board. A mix of jangly upbeat and breezy downtempo, Goodman appears to be singing about a break-up, yet never sounds too heartbroken.
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