Algiers, “Cleveland” (Matador). For anyone lamenting the dearth of good, powerful protest songs, Algiers deliver the antidote. "Cleveland" is a chilling cry of rage condemning racist oppression. The song's an eventful agglomeration of anthemic rock, hiphop beats, and gospel backing vocals, elevated by the rousing, soul belting of Franklin James Fisher. Algiers' album, The Underside of Power, was produced by Portishead's Adrian Utley and Ali Chant, and mixed by recently departed Seattle engineer Randall Dunn. Mark my words: This insightful, inciting record is going to end up in many people's top 10s this year.
Hope Sandoval & the Warm Persuasions feat. Kurt Vile, “Let Me Get There” (Tendril Tales). There hasn't been such a naturally copacetic woman/man duet scenario since Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood were sweetening and sweating up studios in the late '60s. Former Mazzy Star vocalist Hope Sandoval and current indie-rock slacker-dude prince Kurt Vile epitomize mellow, dulcet resignation in every utterance, and “Let Me Get There” plays to their strengths. It's basically a loping, glimmering ballad with a buoyant yacht-rock undertow, perfectly balancing pleasure and regret. Never have the words "It's all in the groove" sounded so righteously lackadaisical. (This is the lead single from Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions' third studio album, Until the Hunter. They play Neptune Theatre October 11.)
Filthy Friends, "The Arrival" (Kill Rock Stars). Here's some good old meat-and-potatoes punk-informed rock, with a graduate degree in songwriting. Filthy Friends are a veteran all-star crew consisting of Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, Full Toilets' Kurt Bloch, Young Fresh Fellows' Scott McCaughey, and King Crimson's Bill Rieflin. On "The Arrival," the guitars and bass are chunky and dense and Tucker is her usual riveting self—as defiant and tough as '70s-era Patti Smith. ("The Arrival" will appear on Filthy Friends' debut album, Invitation, out August 25. They play Bumbershoot September 1.)
Cornelius, "Sometime / Someplace" (Warner Music Japan). Turns out that Japanese producer Cornelius is still the master of weirdly charming electronic pop, 20 years after his emergence in the West with 1997's Fantasma. "Sometime / Someplace" abounds with Cornelius's prototypical sugary melodies and crazy rhythms, unexpectedly conjuring thoughts of a bizarro-world samba. Everything's coasting idyllically until two-and-a-half minutes in when a jagged freakout disrupts the peaceful, easy feeling. Yes! I've always thought Cornelius was Japan's Beck, albeit a more mercurial and interesting Beck. This song just strengthens that conviction. It comes from the album Mellow Waves (out June 28). Cross your fingers for a North American tour...
The Dream Syndicate, “How Did I Find Myself Here?” (Anti-). As anyone who caught their incendiary 2014 Bumbershoot set can attest, the Dream Syndicate have miraculously avoided creative stagnation, even 35-plus years into their existence, defying the usual rock-band career arc. Now improbably recording for the Anti- label, Steve Wynn and company return with the title track to their forthcoming album (out September 8), and it's fire. The funky bass and drums interplay sounds like transcendental library-music ensemble the Heliocentrics more than it does anything from the Dream Syndicate's 1982 classic The Days of Wine and Roses. Psychedelically shimmering guitars give the song liftoff, their liquid, lysergic riffs 4th of July-ing all over the stalwart rhythm. The drama never falters over the song's 11 minutes, even ending with a wonky ambient coda that could be off a Biosphere record. What a comeback!
Noteworthy June 23 album releases: Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain (Deluxe Expanded Edition) (GC/Rhino/Warner Bros.); Algiers, The Underside of Power (Matador); Radiohead, OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997-2017 (XL); Laurel Halo, Dust (Hyperdub); Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory (Def Jam); King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Murder of the Universe (ATO); Jeff Tweedy, Together at Last (Anti-); Allen Ginsberg, The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience (Omnivore); EX EYE, EX EYE (Relapse); Bedouine, Bedouine (Spacebomb); Eliot Lipp, Skywave (Young Heavy Souls); Goatwhore, Vengeful Ascension (Metal Blade).