The Young Professionals
9AM to 5PM, 5PM to Whenever
Let’s all give props to Casablanca Records. The once-shuttered, classic ‘70s record label is back, determined to bring the best (and clearly queer-tinged) beats to the masses again. Next in line is Tel Aviv’s The Young Professionals. The duo released this import last year, but this revamped deluxe American release (with their Lana Del Rey “Video Games” cover and two remixes of their smash “D.I.S.C.O.”) is essential. Speaking of “D.I.S.C.O.,” if there is a more perfectly crafted (and aptly titled) invitation to command the dance floor, I’ve yet to find it. And yes, they want you to sing along to this like “YMCA” in the catchy choruses. Elsewhere, the loopy, electropop new wave of both “Deserve” (a sort of twee-sounding nod to A-Ha and The Postal Service) and “F#ck Off Berlin” (the chant you’ve wanted to scream inside any tired-ass discotheque) are equally alluring to the ears and the hips. And their ode to Tel Aviv (“The Young Professionals”) is a breezy, electro-soul foot-tapper, while “Pop” showcases their more delicate and minimal leaning urges, replete with strings. Openly gay (and super handsome) singer Ivri Lider will also charm you with his prowess, and TYP are about as clever and cunning as pop electro can sound in 2012. —Paul V.
Music 4 TNGRS
Chester French are an odd band. The Harvard-grad duo had the fortune of getting one of their songs (“She Loves Everybody,” a clever ode to safe sex, wonderfully packaged in condom wrappers) featured on a prominent episode of Entourage. Then, after the band was the focus of a bitter bidding war between the likes of Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and others, it released its tasteful debut, Love The Future, on Pharrell’s Star Trak label. Why two of the whitest indie rockers garnered the attention of the hip-hop community—with their references to Bebe Beull, Jimmy Choos and sculptor Daniel Chester French—one might never know, but flash forward three years, and the band is now releasing its new, unfortunately titled Music 4 TNGRS digitally on Karmaloop. Pharrell does guest on the wretched album opener “Next Big Thing,” if anyone cares, but the album is a disjointed mess. Lead single “Black Girls” is a clever ode to vocalist D.A. Wallach’s penchant for—you guessed it. The lyrics are clever, but not clever enough to wash away the DuJour-esque (anyone see Josie & The Pussycats?) “Drop.” The song is about panties dropping to the floor. There are some good songs on this album, but Chester French need to find the proper line between tongue-in-cheek and just-plain-stupid. —Dominik Rothbard
Reverend and the Makers
Reverend And The Makers frontman Joe McClure (aka The Reverend) recently said, regarding titling the band’s third LP @Reverend_Makers after its Twitter handle, “Nothing representing the modern times more than the ‘@’ symbol.” Deep, eh? That kind of hyper/160-word thinking works both for and against the band. The album, 10 songs in 30 minutes, is swift, light fun. Album opener and lead single “Bassline” has very little to say but says it well. In just over three minutes, the song unfolds and expands, crossing several of the genres experimented with on @Reverend_Makers. “Out Of The Shadows” boasts a summery indie-tronic sheen. McClure’s raspy vocals mingle surprisingly well with the dance-y material. The songs are simple, poppy and somewhat interchangeable. “Depth Change” is easily the album’s low point, weakly trying to recreate EBM. “Warts N All” is way more appealing than its title. “Yes You Do” is a wonderful, understated ballad, something the album could use more of. “The Wrestler” sounds like current Devo, in a good way. “1+0” finds the band aping Passion Pit, yet it somehow works. “Noisey Neighbor” reverts to the band’s earlier style, but overall Reverend & The Makers have tweaked their sound and created a surprisingly delightful summer album. —Dominik Rothbard
London singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka’s debut, Home Again, is a laidback affair. The son of Ugandan parents (they escaped Idi Amin’s regime), Kiwanuka has been compared to Bill Withers and Randy Newman, which is to say he’s an old soul in a very young body, with a sound that harkens back to the heyday of the songwriter genre—the early ‘70s. This triangulates him amongst modern peers Ed Sheeran and Damien Rice, though Kiwanuka’s a better singer than either of them. He’s mellow, but his soulful croon has grit in it. He’s not yet in their class as a songwriter, though producer Paul Butler (of U.K. act The Bees) compensates for this with spookily precise arrangements. Opener “Tell Me A Tale” channels Moondance-era Van Morrison so perfectly it’s hard to tell it from the real thing. (It’s also, to my taste, the best song on the record.) The Bill Withers comparisons are earned on the gorgeous love song “Any Day Will Do Fine.” And on the title track, Kiwanuka recalls his melancholy countryman Nick Drake. At this point it’s easier to spot the influences than to fully understand what may make Kiwanuka an original talent. But the mimicry is expert, and this youngster is worth keeping an ear on. —Dan Loughry
As good as Twin Shadow’s 2010 debut, Forget, was, it wasn’t as revelatory as many people believed at the time. I hope Confess, his sophomore release, isn’t the victim of a backlash as fickle as hipster tastes, because it’s a better record in nearly every aspect than its predecessor. While George Lewis Jr. (who is Twin Shadow) was certainly hurting from some bad love on his debut, he’s subsequently now both wallowing in it and pissed off to the heart on Confess. And though hundreds have used the same basic materials in the past to create good pop, it doesn’t negate the accomplishment when someone pulls it off again. Confess sounds less slavish to its electronic roots than the debut; Lewis has assimilated his ‘80s jones into a comprehensive aural touchstone. Premiere single “Five Seconds” (the most retro of all the tunes here, with its New Order/Cure synths) is a New Wave steamroller that could be a Killers-like radio breakthrough. “I Don’t Care” calls out an adulterer with chilling accuracy. And Lewis’s voice is strong throughout; where he quavered last time, he’s controlled and powerful here, even when confessing the creaky clichés of the modern love song. —Dan Loughry
Idea Of Happiness
Van She are yet another stellar outfit in a long line of Australians who have the magic touch when it comes to producing and creating feel-good synthpop. Under the moniker Van She Technologic, they’ve also crafted must-have remixes of everyone from Dragonette to The Presets to Daft Punk. But they’ve really outdone themselves with this, their second proper album. If there ever were a collection of songs to take to the beach and sip piña coladas to, this would be it. There’s a bit of ‘80s inspiration and shimmering textures going on, but these boys never sound like rehash. It must be noted just how intoxicating singer Nicholas Routledge’s falsetto vocals are, and just how solid and catchy the melodies are here. Seriously, just take your pick of these fantastic songs. “Calypso” decrees you to dance while doing the limbo; “You’re My Rescue” has lush hues of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rihannon” as imagined by Empire Of The Sun; “Coconuts” surges and pulses with sexy steel drums; and “Jamaica” percolates like a long-lost funky jam from the Miami Vice soundtrack. I’m not sure how well dancing in flip-flops on a beach—while possibly drunk—can work, but Van She’s idea of happiness is exactly that (and more). —Paul V.