Alan Vega, “DTM” (FADER). Well, fuck. Suicide vocalist Alan Vega passed away last July, but he and his wife Liz Lamere were working on music right to the end of his eventful life. The result is a posthumous nine-track album called IT; what's astounding is how goddamn vital and venomous the late septuagenarian sounds on it. Vega makes most musicians 50 years his junior sound tepid in comparison. "DTM" ("Dead to Me") is an ornery stomp abristle with dental-drill synth grinding, on top of which a phlegmy, bilious Vega rants about myriad injustices and evils. The rusted-out-factory beats splat with malevolence, recontextualizing death disco for a new, unworthy generation. The killing irony is, IT sounds more alive than most records you'll hear in 2017.
The Clientele, “Lunar Days” (Merge). Whenever the Clientele release a new record, I inevitably think, "Why do I need to listen to any other gently melancholy indie-rock band? Nobody will ever surpass the Clientele's preternatural grasp of the form." And once again, "Lunar Days" confirms my bias. The song adheres to the British group's beloved pattern of beautifully subdued melody, subtle orchestration, Alasdair Maclean's hushed vocals, and evocative, romantic lyrics about walking the streets alone with longing in one's heart, all of which coalesces to envelop your heart in lavender velvet. "Lunar Days" is a coming attraction for the Clientele's September 22 LP, Music for the Age of Miracles. You long-range planners should mark November 9 on your calendars for their show at Neumos.
Man Forever with Laurie Anderson, “Twin Torches” (Thrill Jockey). Oneida drummer Kid Millions's side-project-turned-main-gig Man Forever explores the manifold pleasures and intricacies of rhythm in a wild and artful manner. Unexpectedly, Millions (aka John Colpitts) here enlists the legendary performance artist/composer/filmmaker Laurie Anderson to play violin and intone gnomic lyrics over tumultuous drum sorties and distant guitar explosions. Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble's chillingly angelic choral chants add crucial layers of eeriness to the song. "What is my new name?/Name one night/Name one star," Anderson deadpan whispers, her voice sanded with understated foreboding. This phantasmal piece comes from Man Forever's album Play What They Want, which you should put on your want list.
Chris Cheveyo, "A Letter" (self-released via Bandcamp). Seattle auteur Chris Cheveyo wasted little time getting back his songwriting mojo following the abrupt split of his great psych-folk-blues group Rose Windows in 2015. His new album, dreamhouse, finds him toning down RW's grandiosity and opting for a dulcet, melodious rock style that works a slyer sort of magic. Cheveyo taps into classic Marc Bolan/George Harrison-esque songwriterly traits with neatly submerged hooks and luscious guitar and keyboard tones geared to make you hit REPEAT on your playing device. "A Letter" is the hardest-rocking number on dreamhouse, evincing a gliding linearity and brisk 4/4 beats that make you want to sprint over verdant fields. Sounds like a hit single to me, but perhaps it's too good and low-key to chart in the current climate of inane electronic pop.
Glenn&Seth, “New Sky” (self-released via Bandcamp). Seattle electronic musicians Glenn&Seth boasted in an email sent to The Stranger: "We Sound Like: Boards Of Canada/Fripp & Eno/Harmonia." Extravagant self-hype like this ordinarily triggers skepticism, and experienced critics learn to roll their eyes at such promises, which 99.8 percent of the time go unfulfilled—often horribly so. But Glenn&Seth, while not quite yet in the league of the aforementioned gods, are no joke. Their debut EP, Jargon, flaunts enough rugged rhythms, menacing atmospheres, and fascinating dynamics to merit rapt attention. Of the three artists they liken themselves to, Boards of Canada are probably the closest reference point. But, overall, Glenn&Seth possess a more boisterous, less Vaseline-lensed touch than do the influential Scottish duo. "New Sky" carries subtle kosmische aspirations in its buoyant synth motifs, but the beats slam with a brutal funkiness that would make mid-'90s Chemical Brothers nod their heads in appreciation. The contrast of these elements creates a very pleasing friction, revealing Glenn&Seth's ability to avoid obvious compositional strategies. I'll be keeping close tabs on these Greenwood-based studio boffins—and you should, too.
Noteworthy June 16 album releases: Big Boi, BOOMIVERSE; Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up (Nonesuch); Beth Ditto, Fake Sugar (Virgin); Ride, Weather Diaries (Wichita); Com Truise, Iteration (Ghostly International); UMFANG, Symbolic Use of Light (Technicolour); 2 Chainz, Pretty Girls Like Trap Music (Def Jam); Lorde, Melodrama (Universal); Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, On the Echoing Green (Mexican Summer); Jason Loewenstein, Spooky Action (Joyful Noise); Young Thug, E.B.B.T.G. (300 Ent.); Royal Trux, Platinum Tips and Ice Cream (Drag City); Moby & the Void Pacific Choir, More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse (Mute); Goldie, The Journey Man (Cooking Vinyl/Metalheadz); Ekoplekz, Bioprodukt (Planet Mu); Chihei Hatakeyama, Mirage (Room 40).