Monday, February 21, 2011

Heavy Rotation (a.k.a. Ivan Becomes Eclectic): Ladies First

These aren't album reviews. They're recommendations.

Adele - 21
XL Recordings
Released: January 19, 2011
Preview: "Rolling in the Deep"; "Lovesong"; "Someone Like You"

Adele is just about as talented as Amy Winehouse, minus the self-destructive nature. As an artist, Amy wins points for that simply because people love to see a car wreck while it's happening (and if they miss it, they like to imagine how it all went down). But Adele's great too and she's really shown a level of maturity since her debut LP, 19. This time around, she's worked with Rick Rubin (among others) to craft a darker, bluesier record.

Akua Naru - The Journey Aflame
Jakarta Records
Released: January 6, 2011
Preview: "The World is Listening"; "The Backflip"; "Mourning"

Hailing from New Haven, CT, Akua Naru is a skilled (f)emcee who spits from the heart over soulful, rootsy beats. Her music pulls from blues to jazz to African sounds, but it's strictly hip hop. The record possesses lyrical and sonic depth.

Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
Domino Records
Released: January 17, 2011
Preview: "Rider to the Sea"; "I'll Be Your Man"; "The Devil"

This London native's debut LP can best be described as "femme fatale music." With her dark, romantic, and overall cinematic sound textures, the half-Italian Anna Calvi resembles a bit of paisan Ennio Morricone's aural atmospherics. The musical pallet here is rich and diverse.

Corinne Bailey Rae - The Love EP
Capitol Records
Released: January 25, 2011
Preview: "Is This Love"; "I Wanna Be Your Lover"; "Low Red Moon"

A short but solid release, The Love EP finds Corinne Bailey Rae covering five tracks by artists including Paul McCartney, Prince and more. Her greatest asset is the tenderness in her voice. This really shines on tracks like Bob Marley's "Is This Love", reinventing the schmaltzy reggae classic into seductively minimalistic perfection.

Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High
Sub Pop Records
Released: March 1, 2011
Preview: "He Gets Me High"; "There is a Light That Never Goes Out"

The newfound empresses of garage pop follow up on 2010's I Will Be with this EP collection of three new tracks, plus a Smiths cover ("There is a Light That Never Goes Out"). The guitars are distorted, the vocals are harmonious, and the sound is both lush and fuzzy. Lovely.

La Sera - La Sera
Hardly Art
Released: February 15, 2011
Preview: "Never Come Around"; "Devils Hearts Grow Gold"

Dreamy and haunting, this side project by Vivian Girls' bassist Katy Goodman exhibits influences of 50s surf rock and 60s girl group pop. These combustible elements are handled softly and with careful execution.

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
LL Recordings
Released: February 28, 2011
Preview: "Get Some"; "I Follow Rivers"; "Love Out of Lust"

Since being 2008's indie pop sensation, Lykke Li has evolved as an artist. She displays both vulnerability and aggression on Wounded Rhymes, maintaining her overall aesthetic with layered synths and reverbed drums abound. Pop ballads and torch songs are conveniently (and effectively) submerged into Lykke Li's icy soundscapes. "Love Out of Lust", my favorite track on the album, is a thing of beauty.