by Jim Eaton-Terry
Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne
This was never going to be as dazzling as it ought to be, and only mildly disappointing is about the best possible reaction to these two finally making an entire album together. There’s a distinct sense of two artists doing what they do – as the song says, you know me by now – but it’s a schtick that’s still not worn out its welcome. Kanye is just coming to the end of his imperial phase, Jay-Z is maybe a shade too magisterial, but at this point a sub-par Kanye/Jay-Z record is still better than most of the rest of what’s out there.
Washed Out – Eyes be Closed
There seems to be an incredible amount of polite, slightly indie-inflected pop around this year. Everywhere you turn the influence of Creation records is sloshing around. Maybe it’s the 20 years thing, maybe it’s a recession and a Tory government, but a full-blown shoegaze revival makes sense.
Washed Out are the best of the bunch – Within and Without makes a connection between the Thames Valley sound and the comedown music of the same period. It’s still a bit polite, though: never quite sure whether it wants to lose itself in drones or to reach for anthems.
Zomby – Dedication
Like Washed Out, Zomby is drenched in the early ’90s – his first album was even called Where were you in ’92? – but if Washed Out’s spiritual home was somewhere between Reading and Oxford in that year, Zomby is firmly looking back to Castlemorton or a field somewhere in Sussex. It’s a seam of dance music that doesn’t seem to have been quite so relentlessly stripmined as some others, probably because everyone’s a little embarrassed about it and because drum and bass obliterated it from memory
Zomby takes the atmospherics of the early ’90s and adds a level of sophistication – and of bass – that no-one at the time could have come close to. It’s certainly the album of the month and is going to be a runner for album of the year.
John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
More retromania. John Maus has made a whole album out of the snippets of synth-pop that appeared in the background of the prom scene of every ’80s teen movie, or over a montage of Crockett driving his Ferrari. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why he’s bothered. And before you get excited Cop Killer isn’t a Body Count cover.
As always, August is a quiet month, so here are a few things I’m (more or less) excited to hear coming up in the autumn:
Little Roy – Battle for Seattle
Reggae Nirvana covers! A whole album of ’em! What could possibly beat a whole album of Nirvana songs done by an elderly Jamaican session singer?
Lana del Ray
OK, she was built in a lab to appeal to the Lee and Nancy demographic. But the songs are great, the videos are fun, and I think she deserves to be a pop star. Previous people I thought deserved to be pop stars included J-Pac so I may not be the best judge of these things.
Jim Eaton-Terry tweets on occasion and has completely given up on only listening to new music in 2011.