The Juan MacLean
The title's not a joke: "You are... excellent" is the chorus, and the Lite-Brite piano riff and ticklish bass line just sweeten the pot. After the harder-nosed, overtly funky stuff of the Juan MacLean's debut, Less Than Human, this is a left turn, though given the giddier, headier direction his label has been taking so far this year (see Hercules and Love Affair), maybe that's not so surprising. Each of the three mixes is more impossibly perfect than the last: the brilliantly sustained 12-minute original ("Is it going to crack?" I kept wondering... nope) is followed by a consistently eventful 10-minute dub by Prince Douglas. "You are... excellent," indeed. But that chorus is almost nowhere to be heard on Lee Douglas's six-minute remix; instead, that version hinges on the line, "Launch me into space," to which Douglas responds with disco clavinets and vapor-trail effects so big-room lush they make the other two sound like warm-ups. Who dosed the punch over at DFA? And whoever it is, how can I get them to swing by my next house party?
Big Boi, ft. Andre 3000 and Raekwon
Big Boi begins this leak from his upcoming solo album in a surprising voice—a high, keening drawl that sounds blocks away from his usual calm, conversational, low tone. He sounds excellent, boasting freely and cutting the president; Raekwon sounds less so; and both kindly leave more than half the song to its real star (who now also goes by the name 3 Stacks) to speak his piece. In a couple of lines, Andre veers from a crack metaphor the Clipse will undoubtedly sample on their next mixtape hook to a snap on street-tough shortsightedness to, no shit, "The Hokey Pokey"—not to mention the advice, "It's easier to run the street than walk in the sand." Hurry up with the next OutKast album already.
"Our Bipolar Friends"/ "The Houseparty Scene Is Killing You"
My favorite rock album so far this year is the new Blood on the Wall, and this trio from Birmingham, England, is in the same general lineage of early '90s spazz-pop indie squall. Only Johnny Foreigner's brisk tempos also put them in the vicinity of the Thermals, with male and female co-lead singers Alexei and Kelly (I think—no last names on their MySpace) juicing things hard once the A-side revs up. The B is less combative and less memorable. Both are worth any indie fan's time.