April’s Top CDs
The Both, EMA and Fear of Men lead the list.
Poet, pornography connoisseur and private bigot Philip Larkin once advised his mother that England was a “wettish country” and there wasn’t much to be done about it. April is a “wettish month” in enough places beyond England to justify an adage addressing the fact, and, again, there’s not much to be done about it.
FIVE TO FEEL…
- The Both, The Both (SuperEgo). When two distinct musicians not known for collaboration decide to combine their talents, they’re usually either too cautious or too callous. However, singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo fit each other very well, creating tight pop-rock songs that sound as if neither could sing them alone.
- EMA, The Future’s Void (Matador). When William Gibson wrote his pioneering cyberpunk novel Neuromancer in 1983, he used a manual typewriter to ponder an entirely computerized future. While Erika M. Anderson isn’t so analog as she ponders the computerized present on her second solo album, she makes music as dystopian, haunted and recognizably human as Gibson’s prose.
- Fear of Men, Loom (Kanine). Reviving the 1980s tends to be an exercise in nostalgia or smugness. By contrast, the Brighton trio Fear of Men and especially its lead singer Jessica Weiss earnestly capture that decade’s best UK musical attributes—shy, miasmic loveliness and Manchester melancholy—on a full-length debut that surpasses the bleak promise of earlier singles and cassettes.
- Kelis, Food (Ninja Tune). This is the same Kelis Rogers who scored a huge hit in 2003 with “Milkshake,” and this album does work a culinary theme not entirely unrelated to that smash. Yet this is not really the same Kelis, because the singer, songwriter and certified chef now knows that the best R&B should be organic, greasy and spicy.
- Split Single, Fragmented World (Outside). If indie rock seems moribund these days, then the return of Jason Narducy to frontman status—after and between sideman gigs for Bob Mould, Superchunk and many others—is a lightning storm that brings the subgenre back to life. Britt Daniel (of Spoon) and Jon Wurster (of lots of bands) help Narducy control the electricity.
…AND ONE TO SHUN
- Iggy Azalea, The New Classic (Island/Def Jam). Other female pop musicians have been defending this Australian native, model and rapper against those nasty critics, but her first official studio album is like Ke$ha’s Animal, but without the snarky charm, earworm melodies or stupid-sexy cool.