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Who’s Your New Professor?
While most solo efforts are misguided attempts at “experimentation” by perfectly competent musicians who are better with a band to rein them in, Sam Prekop’s two albums only offer more of what he does best. Fortunately, what Prekop does best is write vaguely jazzy pop tunes that are almost as sedative as his breathy voice. Who’s Your New Professor? features several members of Prekop’s regular band, the Sea & Cake, which comes as no surprise: the album mostly sounds like a slowed-down Sea & Cake record with a few more trumpet parts added. Which, if you think about it, is a pretty great formula for an album.
There’s only so much Pavement fans can do in years like this one, what with random comeback teases, a massive reissue of Wowee Zowee conspicuously absent from shelves, and Preston School of Industry continuing to be really terrible. Fortunately, this year saw both a fantastic Stephen Malkmus record and the best album David Berman’s Silver Jews have ever released. Malkmus does appear on Tanglewood Numbers alongside a couple dozen other folks, but more than ever before, Berman is front and center. The sound is cleaner and more direct than on past Jews records, but the same lyrical brilliance and folk-y sensibility Berman’s fans have come to expect is at its peak.
Sons and Daughters
The Repulsion Box
Sometimes all the indie-rock world offers is the meandering of fragile souls behind moody guitars. But The Repulsion Box, the debut album by Glasgow’s Sons and Daughters, has all the urgency of a time bomb. Vocalist Adele Bethel’s Scottish howl provokes the forceful percussion of David Gow (both formerly of Arab Strap). If you were to strip down Gow’s aggressive dance beats, the album’s heavy bass and guitars, and the garage rock sensibilities, you’d be left with a collection of raucous country tunes. The Repulsion Box is an irresistible dark cabaret with compelling pop songs.
Boards of Canada
The Campfire Headphase
The reclusive Scottish duo Boards of Canada are the quiet geniuses of electronic music. Their two previous albums, Music Has the Right to Children and Geogaddi, burrow into your brain until you can’t remember what your life was like pre-BOC. I’ve spent countless hours trying to deconstruct their brilliance, but ultimately I’m just grateful the music exists, in all its womblike, structurally intricate, lost-art beauty. After anticipating the release of The Campfire Headphase for months, listening to it was a bittersweet pleasure. Good as the music is, it’s a simulacrum of the old work, and proof that BOC are their own toughest competition.
This Halloween at SOB’s, Sharon Jones — petite, pushing 50, and sporting a snappy coiffed fro — took the stage in a canary yellow cheerleader outfit and started to warm up her mic. Thirty seconds and a few crooning, playful phrases later, she owned the crowd. Soul is a music of survival — I ’ve known sorrow but I’m still alive, thank the lord — and Sharon Jones pushes that attitude to the nth degree. Her heart may be broken, but she’s still got great legs, a killer voice, and enough moxie in her pinky finger to crush anyone who tries to keep her down.