The 10 Best Things Right Now 

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Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Wolfroy Goes to Town
There's a frustrating thing happening in music criticism circles lately, where, I guess due to the whole race-for-firsties thing everyone's always talking about, many of our most reliable artists are being over-looked in favor of some ostensibly more interesting upstart. It's understandable, of course, but fraught with all sorts of problems—for instance, the likelihood that such an approach would lead to you not paying sufficient attention to Wolfroy Goes to Town, which is the most beautiful and affecting record Will Oldham has made, under any moniker, in quite some time, full of gentle, aching songs with sneakily strong melodies and an incredible combination of warmth and clarity. Watch the video for the excellent first single, "Quail and Dumplings," below.

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Remembering Absolutely Kosher
Some bad news came down the pike last week, when we learned that the always-reliable San Francisco-based record label Absolutely Kosher is closing up shop for the foreseeable future. Owner Cory Brown cited increasing debt as the main reason for the decision, and when you take a moment to think about the outrageous amount of good records they've released over the years, it really stings. Among the more recognizable names to have appeared on the roster, you've got The Mountain Goats, Pinback, +/- (Plus Minus), The Wrens and Sunset Rubdown, which is to say nothing of the countless lesser known gems you'll come across with even minimal digging. I was partial to songwriter Chris Garneau's work for the label, and have maintained quite a soft spot for The Court & Spark, who released a handful of very good, elegant country-ish albums back in the early-00s.

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Jens Lekman
An Argument With Myself
When I first started compiling this list, I planned on writing about "An Argument with Myself," the title-track from Jens Lekman's new five-song EP, unbelievably his first new material since 2007. It'll be a divisive track, for sure, borrowing as shamelessly as it does from Afrobeat—a move that, for reasons that have even more to do with class than race, seems to bother an awful lot of people. Just ask Vampire Weekend. Those issues (if you can even call them that; I can't, really) aside, it's one of Lekman's best performances yet, with a vocal melody the alternates between slow, rich crooning and almost comically fast, near-spoken word ranting, which then transitions into actual spoken word. And it contains the line, "Fuck you, no you fuck you." So yeah, it's the best, basically. But it turns out the other four songs are really great too. A must-buy, I'd say, even if people don't seem to be paying all that much attention. Listen to the title track below.

Riff Raff
"I Wanna Be a Cosmonaut"
Even with all the very, very good records that have hit shelves in the past month, and even with all the very, very good records that are scheduled to hit shelves next month, I have probably listened to this one song from 1978 more than any other of late. Riff Raff was Billy Bragg's first band, active for a few years in the late 70s, and they never received much attention, despite the endless charm of this boisterous, snotty punk-rock nugget. The rest of the band's output, which comes across largely as Clash throwaways, lacked the sense of urgency that propels "I Wanna Be a Cosmonaut." The 7" is impossible to find, it seems, but YouTube works just fine in this situation.

The Hive Dwellers
"Lynch the Swan" 7"
Since forming back in 2009, the Hive Dwellers, led by the inimitable Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening fame, have kept a pretty light schedule, only finding the time to release a few songs—first the "Get In" 12" from back in 2010, and now a 7" featuring the track "Lynch the Swan," which is a delectable bit of oddball pop like only Johnson is capable of producing. There is no other artist alive who sounds quite so stately while singing a line that ends with the phrase "choke the chicken." Watch a 2009 performance of the song below, and buy the record here.


"Cowboys in the Void"
By the time they play Glasslands on November 9th, it seems likely that there will be some people paying awfully close attention to Quilt, a Boston psych band set to release their debut full-length on Mexican Summer later this fall. They've got a 5-song EP streaming on their Bandcamp page and—especially on opening track "Cowboys in the Void"—they do a remarkable job incorporating unexpectedly bold melodies while also pushing the psych thing further than most others these days.

Neutral Milk Hotel
"A Baby For Pree"
In anticipation of Jeff Mangum's All Tomorrow's Parties appearances, it seems like as good a time as any to revisit this On Avery Island track, which, clocking in at under a minute and a half, is up there with "Her Majesty" as one of my favorite super short songs ever.

"A Prayer to God"
Another ATP-related pick here. If you've ever want to clear our a room very quickly, look no further. The maniacal refrain of "Kill him, fucking kill him, kill him already, kill him" gets ‘em every time. ("Prayer to God" appears on the album 1000 Hurts, which you can and should buy here.)

Dinosaur Feathers

"Please Please George"
My colleague, Ms. Lauren Beck (hello Lauren), has been talking about this song for a couple months now, and I've only recently gotten around to listening. It is, as she insisted, very good, assuming you are at least sort of into Ted Leo and/or The Apples in Stereo.

Atlas Sound
"Modern Aquatic Nightsongs"
We've still got more than a month before Parallax, the new full-length from Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound, comes out, but he's been releasing a steady stream of album tracks, the most recent of which, "Modern Aquatic Nightsongs," is wholly unique in its ability to sound creepy and comforting at the same time.

"The Ten Best Things Right Now" is a very, very important recurring column here in the music section. Check this space for an update every two weeks.


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