Naturally 7, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” (BMG Rights Management). New York vocal troupe Naturally 7's cover of "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” is well-timed with the 25th anniversary of Digable Planets' Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space). The hit single from that excellent debut LP, "Rebirth of Slick," has become a paragon of jazz-infused hiphop. Naturally 7's miraculous cover of it is executed simply (and complexly) by using only their voices to simulate the original track's instrumentation. The seven members each handle a different element of "Rebirth of Slick," and they not only capture the essence of Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler's sampladelic composition, they alter the arrangement and mellifluously sing the raps. While being respectful to Digable, Naturally 7 also transform the cut into something grandiosely other. It's a tour de force performance. "Rebirth of Slick" is not on the group's new album, Both Sides Now (which, yes, includes a cover of that Joni Mitchell song), but it's worth seeking out and putting in heavy rotation.
Ruler, "Petrified" (Barsuk). Rare is the indie-rock song that grabs me in 2018, but Seattle's Ruler (led by Matt Batey) have blindsided your critic with a rousing yet poised power-pop jewel whose melodic contours and genuine vocal ebullience destroy years of hard-won cynicism toward this sort of music. Born out of fragility but instilling strength, "Petrified" is simply well-written and solidly played rock that fizzes and soars in all the right places and at all the right times, filling you with that strange feeling known as "hope." The song appears on the Winning Star Champion album (out May 25).
Vive la Void, "Red Rider" (Sacred Bones). Vive la Void is the solo project of Sanae Yamada, vocalist and synthesizer manipulator of Moon Duo, and if you enjoy that group's tunnel-visioned, linear Suicide-meets-Hawkwind effusions, you may also dig Vive la Void. That being said, "Red Rider" is more subdued and overtly melancholy than most Moon Duo output, as Yamada opts for a cool-browed, hypno-synth glower ballad that carries chilly yet intimate Space Lady vibes. The track comes from her debut album, Vive la Void (out May 4).
Eomac, "Language Has Failed Us" (Eotrax). Half of the excellent experimental-electronic duo Lakker, Eomac (Ireland's Ian McDonnell) has returned with his third solo album, Reconnect (out April 27), and it's a brutal excursion into post-human, post-club techno that leaves you feeling at once exhilarated and drained. "Language Has Failed Us" exemplifies the record's suffocating air of tense conflict and rhythmic restlessness. You've not heard the traditional Irish frame drum, the bodhrán, used like this before. Fans of Autechre's claustrophobic complexity and Cut Hands' relentless, voodoo-influenced beat concatenations should find succor in Eomac's elemental grind.
Michael Rault, "I'll Be There" (Wick). The news here is that Daptone Records, which is known for its emphasis on new soul bands who sound like they were transported from the '60s and '70s, has released an album—through its Wick subsidiary—by a white rocker, one Michael Rault. The better news is, Rault's new album, It's a New Day Tonight, is shockingly good. Subtly funky and winsomely psychedelic, Rault's music insinuates itself into your pleasure centers instantly and shaggily. It's a New Day Tonight is produced like an early-'70s record, not in the loudness-wars/compressed-to-hell nightmare manner that mars most new rock releases geared for big audiences. That means each instrument has room to breathe, and that archetypal "analog warmth" pervades and uplifts every song, including the glorious "I'll Be There" (not a Jackson 5 cover, although that would be awesome, too). Sounds like a perfect hybrid of the James Gang and Badfinger, which is not a hybrid you hear much of these days.
Noteworthy April 20 album releases: DRINKS, Hippo Lite (Drag City); J. Cole, KOD (Dreamville, Inc.); François Hardy, Personne d'Autre (Arts Music); Melvins, Pinkus Abortion Technician (Ipecac); Kimbra, Primal Heart (Warner Bros.); The Who, Live at the Fillmore East 1968 (Polydor); Sting & Shaggy, 44/876 (A&M/Interscope); A Perfect Circle, Eat the Elephant (BMG); Thievery Corporation, Treasure from the Temple (PledgeMusic); Alexis Taylor, Beautiful Thing (Domino); Ras G & the Afrikan Space Program, Stargate Music (Leaving); Shuggie Otis, Inter-Fusion (Cleopatra); Distractor, This Time I Got It Figured Out (Burger).