Back in New York City, and I wish I could say this week’s list is influenced by the hot new trends sweeping the metro area, but unfortunately I’ve been hard at work the whole week and haven’t really been hitting the Williamsburg night spots or anything. Sorry, Riff readers. So, the New Yorky stuff in the Top Ten is pretty superficial, but the music is good, I promise.
10. DJ Medhi – “Signatune” (Thomas Bangalter edit)
France is making my favorite electro jams right now, and one hopes Sarko won’t quash the locals’ efforts in a misguided attempt to Americanize the music scene. This track from Paris’s DJ Medhi is an exhilerating take on the hyper-compressed cut-up sample-based techno style pionneered by fellow Frenchmen Daft Punk, and in fact one of the Punks himself gives it an extended edit that allows the song time to build.
9. A cool picture of lightning striking the Empire State Building on Wednesday 5/16
At the time I was safely ensconced at the CBS Upfronts at Carnegie Hall a few blocks uptown (which, unfortunately, I can’t really cover, ethically at least, because I was hired by them for some music production and DJing, but I have some really good stories if you buy me a beer). It was still an exciting storm. Amusingly the rain kind of ruined the CBS after party at Tavern on the Green, where all the suits and CBS stars were forced to squeeze into the limited indoor spaces, while a couple of the video crew and myself huddled outside under an umbrella with some bartenders, desperately trying to smoke our damp cigarettes, as the rain poured down and the wind seemed to bring the topiary elephants to life.
8. Rhythm Scholar vs. Queen vs. The World – “Another One Bites the Dust” (Blasted Breaks mix) (mp3 from his site)
This stuttery, extended mix uses Queen as its basis but then launches off into samples from Rob Base, Spin Doctors, Joan Jett, and many others. It ends up not being a mashup so much as a kind of acid-house approach to classic rock: recognizable clips reorganized over an insistent beat, aimed at the dancefloor.
7. Ratatat – Remixes Vol. II (self-released CD)
The New York electronic duo jump into the mixtape world again with this fantastic compilation of their takes on the biggest names in hip-hop. Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, and Kanye all make (unauthorized) appearances, and their reworkings of the backing tracks are often revelatory, giving rockist “oomph” to the insistent rhymes from the rappers. Grab an mp3 here of their take on Notorius B.I.G.’s 1993 hit, “Party and Bulls***.”
6. Low – “Hatchet” (Optimimi version)
The Minnesota trio’s recent album, Drums and Guns, is turning out to be one of the year’s highlights; its move towards more quirky, electronic production hasn’t changed the band’s signature emotional intensity. Low remixes have always seemed kind of strange — like the Smiths, their songs seem somehow untouchable and perfectly formed. But this simple rework of “Hatchet” brings a plaintive, soulful vibe to Mimi’s vocals, making Low sound almost… funky?
5. Spotting David Boreanaz getting into a cab outside of the Ritz Wednseday night
I never see celebrities. Ever. So how awesome is it that the one celebrity I see randomly in New York is frickin’ Angel. Sweet, sweet Angel! The vampire hottie who went to hell and back on the best show ever! I was going by in a cab at the time, in the rain, in the dark, so I’m not sure how I managed to spot him — I suppose my Angel-detectors are set on “high.”
4. Fujiya & Miyagi – “Ankle Injuries” (video)
Okay, the White Stripes really did this first and better with legos, but this English rock trio’s video (using dice instead) is an oddly appropriate accompaniment to the tense, spare track, reminiscent of, I dunno, Can or something.
3. Various Artists – Kitsune Udon (compilation mixed by Gildas & Masaya)
Back to France for more electro, this time with some Japanese input. This DJ mix never lets up, intense from beginning to end, featuring tracks from the Presets and Simian Mobile Disco (their “Hot Dog” has the most ridiculous lyrics ever, something about “dance to the rhythm of the hot dog,” I think). Honestly I can’t remember now where I found the mp3, and since this thing is only released in Japan right now, I feel like a bit of jerk for posting about it. Bear with me and I’ll try to track it down again.
2. Cool Kids – “Black Mags” (stream at Pitchfork here)
Chicago hip-hop sounding remarkably Southern. This duo delivers their lines like they’re giving you an insider’s scoop, over a glacial beat and Casio-style bassline, using a slowed-down vocal loop as the chorus (one of my favorite hip-hop tricks these days). Pitchfork points out their retro style, but this track is 100% 2007.
1. Dungen – Tio Bitar (new album on Evilive)
While these Swedes tour as a four-piece, on record it’s basically just a one-man show: Gustav Ejstes, the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who does almost everything. Rock records made by one guy are kind of interesting: for instance, Foo Fighters’ debut album, a pure blast of emotion from a clearly grief-stricken Dave Grohl, or Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, on which Billy Corgan (allegedly) played most of the parts. On Tio Bitar (“Ten Pieces”), the instrumentation is even more wide-ranging, with piano, horns, flutes, and, um, is that a sitar? It’s Hendrix-style psychedelia, for sure, but focused and never noodling. Ejstes’ voice, often multi-tracked into three- or four-part harmony, rings out over the top of the heavy riffs and rolling drums, like some sort of madcap folksy wizard leading us to a better life of cheap modern furniture and lingonberry juice. Hooray, Sweden.