Summer offers ample time for the kind of concentrated listening that drives musical love affairs. In alphabetical order are 10 records released this year that I’ve been recommending to friends.
BECK, “Morning Phase” (Capitol). A lush, breezy record from a mercurial Los Angeles songwriter, “Morning Phase” sees Beck Hansen in contemplation mode.
TOUMANI & SIDIKI DIABATE, “Toumani & Sidiki” (World Circuit). Those looking for relaxing but vibrant accompaniment will love “Toumani & Sidiki,” the product of the first recorded studio session between the father and son Toumani and Sidiki Diabate.
OPEN MIKE EAGLE, “Dark Comedy” (Mello). Funny without being slapstick, political without being preachy, L.A. rapper Open Mike Eagle is a wordsmith whose lines could be endlessly footnoted.
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PROTOMARTYR, “Under Cover of Official Light” (Hardly Art). Through 14 post-punk tracks that suggest Joy Division and Interpol but with a layer of Detroit grit, “Under Cover” is as grim as it is infectious, filled with echoed beats and super catchy hooks.
ST. VINCENT, “St. Vincent” (Loma Vista/Universal). Touches of modern R&B (“I Prefer Your Love”) rub against frenetic guitar shredding (“Birth in Reverse”). Elsewhere she offers complicated love songs and relentlessly surprising structures.
SCHOOLBOY Q, “Oxymoron” (Top Dawg/Interscope). A wicked debut album from a should-be rap star, Schoolboy Q on “Oxymoron” makes a valid argument that he and label mates and fellow Black Hippy members Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul are an unstoppable force.
SWANS, “To Be Kind” (Young God). Warning: At full volume – the only way to really hear “To Be Kind” – the fury overwhelms. More impressive, the decibels are delivered with patience and forethought.
SHARON VAN ETTEN, “Are We There” (Jagjaguwar). Unflinching, Americana-tinged rock that isn’t afraid to go dark, Van Etten on “Are We There” mixes little beatbox rhythms, hypnotic melodies and just a touch of twang.
THE WAR ON DRUGS, “Lost in the Dream” (Secretly Canadian). On the band’s third album are touches of Bob Dylan’s electric work, solos that suggest the tag-team efforts of Television’s Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd and beats that drive songs until they’re humming on cruise control.
JACK WHITE, “Lazaretto” (Third Man). “Lazaretto” is essential because it showcases White the perfectionist. Opting to spend months in the studio rather than banging the record direct to tape, White’s patience is evident throughout, but especially on “Alone in My Home” and “Just One Drink,” two instant rock classics.