Not since the late 90s have the Beasties made such a festive, sassy racket. Opening with first single Make Some Noise, the Beasties are back in grand form, modernizing their production values while (thankfully) sticking masterfully to their own brand of retro hip-hop sound - no need to conform when youre this cool. That aforementioned opening track has synths and knows how to use em, while other influences surface, too, just for texture, such as the punky rhythms on Lee Majors , the shoutouts to classic rap on Nonstop Disco Powerpack, and the intergalactic funk of Heres a Little Something For Ya.
Friendly Fires - Pala - XL Recordings
Electro-art-popsters Friendly Fires recorded their sophomore set in a pair of studios in France and London, doling out their already-expected catchy choruses into a brew of NYC-influenced postpunk strumming, grand pianos, and busy beats. Huge drums anchor songs like Hurting and Pull Me Back to Earth, while standouts like Live Those Days Tonight and Chimes lean more towards radio-pop than art club. Tribal rhythms and undertones play a role in a few of the other songs, including Running Away, Hawaiian Air, and the darker, ominous title track; closer Helpless brings back the thick synths for a thoughtful finale.
Panda Bear - Tomboy - P Tracks
Since PB played the majority of these songs live before they were recorded, there was likely a pretty good idea what would succeed on-record and what wouldnt, hence this very focused tracklisting. Its much the same Panda Bear of yore, with the droning, cyclical song patterns that fans have learned to expect (and look forward to), but there are a few flourishes here, such as effect-laden percussion and guitars taking many of the sampler roles, that add new layers of interest. Stnadouts include the huge focus and atmospherics of Scheherazade and the shoe-gazy, downhearted meditation of Slow Motion.
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues - Sub Pop
Recorded in Woodstock, NY and Seattle, folk-rockers Fleet Foxes have pulled sounds from a variety of insightful peers for this set, including The Byrds, CSN, and Van Morrison, among others. Actual blues are scarce, but the harmonies will be instantly recognizable to music-history aficionados as arriving from that same timeline, especially on tracks like The Plains/Bitter Dancer, Montezuma, and The Shrine/An Argument - although the latter throws in some jazzy experimentation that seems a little out-of-place; other tracks worthy of highlighting include the island flair of Lorelai and the mysterious strings of Bedouin Dress.