Three recent records by artists playing at the Coachella are worthy of pre-festival attention:
The Knife, “Shaking the Habitual” (Rabid Records)
Swedish avant-pop duo the Knife have been releasing records for 15 years, confounding expectations, drawing followers, crafting a strange, visually impressive project of which music is the most prominent of many disciplines. Their videos are a trip, and their performances are legendary. Their most recent album, “Shaking the Habitual,” came out in 2013 and landed on many best-of-the-year lists. If you missed it, catch up quick.
A strange, oddly affecting record with skewed rhythms, extended ambient meditations and epic workouts, and the curious singing of lead vocalist Karin Dreijer Andersson and brother-producer-backing vocalist Olof Dreijer, “Shaking” is a tough first (and second, and third) listen. But after adjusting to their musical dialect, the work blossoms.
Future Islands, “Singles” (4AD)
Last year I had dinner with an operative at 4AD Records who enthusiastically said that the tastemaking indie had just signed Baltimore synthpop trio Future Islands. Before then, the band had teetered on the brink. Charismatic vocalist Samuel T. Herring had other creative opportunities but resolved to fully commit to Future Islands. I’d long been a fan of the band’s thrilling live shows, so the 4AD signing was a good portent, one that has paid off with their breakout album — sparked by a great performance of “Seasons (Waiting for You)” on “Late Show With David Letterman.”
Despite its name, “Singles” isn’t a greatest hits collection — at least yet. But among its 10 tracks are a few that pack as much potential as “Seasons.” The best, “Back in the Tall Grass” and closer “A Dream of You and Me,” contain a similar channeling of emotion, one whose lyrics are as confident — and borderline cheesy — as the glorious “I’ve been waiting on you!” refrain of “Seasons.”
Motörhead, “Aftershock” (UDR)
Art and nuance are fine and all, but there’s something to be said for artless, cliche-heavy pummeling, and no other band has punched with as much relentless hard work and ridiculous lyricism as Motörhead, the long-running metal/punk band born in Nottingham, England, and starring the king of the Sunset Strip, Lemmy Kilmister.
Lemmy’s probably spent more time in the studio (and at the Rainbow Room) than Chance the Rapper has been alive, and on Motörhead’s recent “Aftershock,” Lemmy lined up 14 songs about women, drinking, life on the lam (the killer “Going to Mexico”), death, dust, honesty, glass and wasted days and nights. You know, Motörhead stuff. Those wondering whether “Aftershock” is better than classics “Ace of Spades” and “Orgasmatron” are asking the wrong question. To Motörhead’s enduring credit, “Aftershock” is pretty much identical to them.