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Due to the constraints of Web 2.0 and the foreshortened timeframe that music critics have to make decisions about the pros and cons of new music, Missed the Boat is a new LAS column dedicated to giving a shout to those artists and albums that have largely fallen through the cracks while everyone was busy fawning over Justice or Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear or whatever the latest tastemaker craze happens to be. Here's this month's batch of unreviewed records that are worth your time but that you may have overlooked:
Japandroids - Post-Nothing (Unfamiliar)
If Travis Morrison's greatest tic as a vocalist is his tendency to drop in ultra-geeky "oh yeaaaaaaaaaaah"s when he runs out of stanza, wait 'til you get a load of this Vancouver duo's powerfully harmonized "whooooooooooooa"s. If Superchunk snuck into No Age's basement to cut a demo, it might sound something like Japandroids, who gleefully invoke a burnt-out, three-chord summer with geeky impulses (to French-kiss French girls in France on the best track) and adolescent worries (about whether it's too early to worrying about dying on the most anthemic one). The soul and adenoids of the Descendents, updated for the age of ahem, the "shitgaze" movement.
Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (Drag City)
Those of us uninitiated with Smog may as well start here; I did and I feel fine. Callahan could be any other sap-sucking sad-sack in the overpopulated countrified contingent of the indie universe if not for a few genius specificities that prevent him from sinking into abysmal self-pity. Unlike Will Oldham, he treats beauty as beauty, not a punching bag for its cousin ugliness, so you're unlikely to drift across one of his violin figures and find yourself face-to-face with an armful of maggots. Then there's his production, which is full-color rife with strings and fancy musicians off in the distance, recorded with the pristine clarity of a puddle ripple. Try the flaring sweep-in on intense late highlight "All Thoughts are Prey to Some Beast" (which sounds like "all thoughts are prey to zombies" when he sings it). Finally, there's his voice that brings it all over, a patient, sexy growl that can also creak and purr, even on the nine-minute cease-and-desist order for theism.
Glasvegas - Glasvegas (Rough Trade)
The party line is that these Glaswegians who broke through last year are the Jesus and Mary Chain reincarnate, with U2 producing, but the tunes are pure "Unchained Melody" or "Earth Angel" nearly, even when they're about football or inciting a riot on "Go Square Go." The tunes are nearly belted from behind glossed out behind huge walls of feedback and booming Lillywhite-style drums, which may embarrass you on first listen. And true, nothing grips quite like that epic opener (the football one) or the follow-up about the social worker ("Geraldine") or the stomp about frontman James Allan's cheating heart. But even if things slow to a crawl too often, this is some of the most soul-baring, romantic rock in years to have something besides chart-obsessed intentions behind it.
Zomby - Where Were U in '92? (Werkdiscs)
If Burial is the Tricky of dubstep (moderately anonymous soundscaper warps and slices impossible found sounds and deconstructed pop hits) and the Bug is Massive Attack (trippy, bass-heavy vehicle for revolving guests and rappers), then what does that make Zomby? The Prodigy? At barely over a half hour of "It Takes Two"-style grimebeats, subterranean bass whumps, familiar hiphop samples and throwback synth noises, this blunt, shuffling animal-especially its monster title jam-may be the first of its kind you can actually throw a party to, albeit for just over a half hour.
Amadou & Mariam - Welcome to Mali (Nonesuch)
It's too easy to write off or patronize this cute blind couple from the titular African nation; they have "Grammy crossover" written all over them a few albums from now. Still, their aesthetic decision to play the Afro-american blues as dance music rather than a solemn ethnological exercise is not only what's won them hordes of raves stateside but cements them as the first to invoke such excitement for the genre since...George Thorogood? ZZ Top? As authentic as legends like Oumou Sangare and Ali Farka Toure, the duo follows their muse and their Eurobucks, dabbling in classy, sparkling techno on the Damon Albarn-produced "Sabali" and metallic, gamelan-style pings on "Ce N'est Pas Bon," while retaining plenty of their usual licks and call-response choruses on staples like the chanting "Masiteladi." Somalian-Canadian rapper K'Naan even shows up for the percussive, organ-flecked "Africa."
Little Girls - Tambourine EP (Paper Bag Digital)
After the reinstatement of twee and lush, Sufjan Stevens-style orchestration in indie, minimalism has come back in style with the droning Deerhunter and essential lo-fi perpetrators No Age making a two-chord ruckus in their basements. These guys fall somewhere between the Strokes' pressing one-note sharpness and Wavves' stoned-down surfcore, only with dimmer, less bleeding sonics and a sense of melody that would rival peak Archers of Loaf if they learn to develop it. Here's a hint, guys: stop singing from the back of the room. Strong propulsion, though, from a scene that needs it.
Wussy - Wussy (Shake It)
My favorite lines of the year so far concern a mother, a daughter, and a mother-daughter banquet the mother just left for but forgot her daughter (whoops). Such is the dank humor of Wussy, the redneck answer to the Magnetic Fields and brainchild of ex-Ass Ponys frontman Chuck Cleaver and his hardly-blushing bride Lisa Walker, who more than holds her own three albums into a lustrous career. Other laugh riots include a house full of bugs, a paper bag of mildewy porn and a Las Vegas that "looks like Christmas when you're high." Actually, that last one's more apt to make you cry. But most of these twelve paeans to three-minute mastercraft will do both.
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.
See other articles by Dan Weiss.
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