Shabazz Palaces, "Shine a Light" (Sub Pop). The first single from Shabazz Palaces' new album, Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star, "Shine a Light" is the Seattle hiphop innovators' most conventionally funky and accessible track to date. Not to be confused with Spiritualized's "Shine a Light," this song is a celestial soul gem inflated by a compact funk beat and a gorgeous Muzak™-y string sample from Dee Dee Sharp's "I Really Love You," of all unlikely things. Thadillac's Auto-Tuned vocals on the hook ("Shine a light on the fake this way/My peeps can have it all") might be the most palatable use of that overused technique I've heard, while MC Palaceer Lazaro is his usual laid-back, oblique self, rapping in his trademark smooth, allusiveness, e.g.,"It's seven, it's heavy, it's heaven." Also, there is a gorgeous sitar part discreetly sugaring the works. Spoiler alert: all of Quazarz is fire.
Obnox, "Hardcore Matinee" (12XU). Cleveland ruckus-bringers Obnox—led by former Bassholes drummer Lamont Thomas—deviate from their usual Rustbelt, garage-punk antagonism with a G-Funk-inflected, summer-picnic soul jam. Thomas's usual in-your-face growl here softens into a Vaseline-lensed croon, while the synth squeals in Kool & the Gang "Summer Madness"-like ecstasy, and the beats BOOM with nonchalant sensuality. I'm flabbergasted by how good this and the entire Niggative Approach (out May 21) album are. Change is good—very good—for Obnox.
Mark Lanegan, "Beehive" (Heavenly). Honestly, I'd rather have put the shiver-inducing ballad "First Day of Winter" in this slot, but it's not shareable at the moment. Nevertheless, "Beehive" also certainly stands out on the ex-Screaming Trees vocalist's new album, Gargoyle (released today). A diversion from Lanegan's familiar lugubrious troubadour mode, "Beehive" oddly sounds like an early-'90s Jesus & Mary Chain song. It's a mid-tempo chug with a surreptitiously danceable beat and radiantly chiming guitars. Lanegan seems to be in a sanguine mood. Who'd've thunk?
Bardo:Basho, “Orbiting” (no label). Seattle producer Bardo:Basho (aka Kirsten Thom, co-head of the outstanding Elevator promotional crew) returns with one of her most epic tracks. "Orbiting," a 12-minute journey into Fourth World, slow-motion techno. Thom infuses the track with distant, ethereal vocals, heartbeat bass pulses, and twinkling synth exhalations, ever so gradually building the intensity and excitement as the track progresses. Perversely, the tempo doesn't really pick up till about nine minutes in, and then it recalls those heady days when Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia were percolating at peak sublimity. There's a deceptive amount of intriguing sonic data wriggling within what is ostensibly a minimal track. "Orbiting" extravagantly rewards your patience.
Hound Dog Taylor's Hand, "Murder Room (KTM)" (no label; Creative Commons). Seattle power jazz-rock trio Hound Dog Taylor's Hand return with a piece that mutates the ominous, avalanche-causing riff from Jane's Addiction's "Mountain Song" (or from wherever JA lifted that part... maybe a Led Zeppelin or Willie Dixon jawn?). Anyway, it's the closest HDTH have come to a lighters-in-the-air anthem, and I'd like it pressed to a 12-inch ASAP. Thanks in advance.
Noteworthy April 28 album releases: Gorillaz, Humanz (Parlophone/Warner Bros.); Thurston Moore, Rock N Roll Consciousness (Caroline); Drake, More Life (Island/Republic); Willie Nelson, God's Problem Child (Sony Legacy); Feist, Pleasure (Universal); Van Morrison, The Authorized Bang Collection (Legacy/Sony Music); Mark Lanegan Band, Gargoyle (Heavenly); Colin Stetson, All This I Do for Glory (52hz); Ryuichi Sakamoto, async (Milan); Juliana Hatfield, Pussycat (American Laundromat).