Chris Martins



  • Serengeti, 'Family & Friends' (Anticon)

    Serengeti, 'Family & Friends' (Anticon)

    This Chicago MC earned buzz as a sausage-horking, Bob Swerski-esque superfan on his 2006 character-parody album Dennehy. Now he's the target of his own satire, playing a wry Bill Murray-type sad sack in the midst of various untoward scenarios: His deadbeat dad moves back in with him ("Long Ears"), a tryst evolves into exhausting polygamy ("Godammit"), and he blithely admits that he's washed-up as a rapper. Ironically, spitting over minimal head-knock beats from WHY? and Advance Base, Serengeti sounds reborn.

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    Breaking Out: Washed Out

    I like an even-keeled, slow-paced job," says Ernest Greene in his quiet Georgia drawl, a voice well suited to his original vocational goal. The Washed Out mastermind holds a master's in library science from the University of South Carolina. "I was gonna work in a university, but no one was hiring." Good thing. In the summer of 2009, he moved back in with his parents and returned to an old hobby -- music. Within a couple of months, he had himself a career. Washed Out's beautifully melodic dreamscapes emerged as touchstones of the chillwave genre after blogs found Greene via the MySpace page of his ?college buddy Chaz Bundick, a.k.a. ?acclaimed synth-popper Toro Y Moi, and began spreading his music. For a guy raised on 30 acres of peach orchards, the attention -- any attention -- was start- ling.

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    Iron & Wine Expand Into R&B and Jazz Jams

    It should have been a sign that Sam Beam and his 10-piece backing band coolly strutted onto Bonnaroo's Which Stage to some vintage, Superfly-styled funk. Iron & Wine's Sunday afternoon set was one of the festival's most surprisingly eclectic, and found the Austin-based bandleader pushing his project's folksy roots into the otherworldly via bouts of soul, jazz, and Afropop. As the band members took their places behind an arsenal of horns, percussive devices, guitars, banjos, keys and drums, a stately, suit-wearing Beam had only a few key words to share. "We got a lot of music to play," he offered in a curt-but-easy drawl, "so we're gonna get to it." A gust of organ and voice blew forth announcing "Tree By the River" from Iron & Wine's newest, Kiss Each Other Clean.

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    Stills, Furay, Young Reunite Buffalo Springfield

    It's easy to forget that one of the '60s folk-rock movement's most influential acts existed for just two years. A classic supergroup-in-reverse, Buffalo Springfield formed in Los Angeles in '66, released three albums and plenty of influential tunes, then in '68 dissolved into a string of far more successful projects helmed by members Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Richie Furay (Poco). The little group left behind a hulking legacy, so it came as something of a surprise when Young announced on Saturday that Bonnaroo was "the biggest gig this band has ever done." It was only Buffalo Springfield's seventh show together since they put aside decades-old quarrels earlier this month to bring their eclectic California sound back out on the road.

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    A Sober Lil Wayne: 'I Ain't Sh-t Without You!'

    It's been seven months since Weezy was freed. Seven months of court-prescribed sobriety, and seven months of speculation over whether the embattled rapper can maintain without his precious green matter and purple drank. But at Bonnaroo of all places, where temperance isn't exactly the norm, he quashed any doubt about his clear-headedness. Backed by a five-piece band, a dance troupe, and a handful of Young Money up-and-comers, Lil Wayne was spry, sober, and swaggerful as he tore through 32 songs for the tens of thousands who crammed the field in front of the Which stage Friday night at 1:30 a.m.. There was no Nicki Minaj to spar with, and no Drake to croon hooks, but Wayne was present enough to make up for both of them.

  • Hail Mary Mallon, 'Are You Gonna Eat That?' (Rhymesayers)

    Hail Mary Mallon, 'Are You Gonna Eat That?' (Rhymesayers)

    On their new group's debut, New York indie-rap mainstays Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic make like Freemasons, hinting at an arcane world that's supposedly hidden in plain sight with a barrage of inscrutable screeds delivered over blustery boom-bap production. Indeed, the architecture dazzles, as these fast-rapping masters of assonance and alliteration spit nifty stuff like "Hotel motel, holy ghost / Razor blade jailbait overdose." And although the pair do recall an alternative version of Ghostface and Raekwon when detailing a gonzo car chase on "Holy Driver," they never approach the infectiousness of their Typhoid Mary namesake.

  • Sondre Lerche, 'Sondre Lerche' (Mona)

    Sondre Lerche, 'Sondre Lerche' (Mona)

    For album six, this notoriously restless Norwegian flouts expectation in the oddest way yet: He repeats himself. Offering a slightly subtler take on the style-shuffling of 2009's Heartbeat Radio, Lerche somehow never loses cohesion. Chalk it up to his honeyed voice and unfailing pop craft, whether he's playing taut Bacharach chamber folk ("Ricochet"), Costello-clever pub rock ("Private Caller"), bluesy Lennon-esque psychedelia ("Tied Up to the Tide"), or frenzied synth strangeness ("Go Right Ahead").

  • Dawes, 'Nothing Is Wrong' (ATO)

    Dawes, 'Nothing Is Wrong' (ATO)

    "You've got that special kind of sadness / That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles," sings Taylor Goldsmith in the opening moments of the second album by these L.A. folk rockers. Ironically, the pain in these songs stems from time spent on the road, where the balmy Americana bum-outs ("My Way Back Home") and upbeat ramblin' numbers ("How Far We've Come") were written. Though restlessness is the dominant lyrical theme here, Nothing Is Wrong sounds familiar and comforting (see the airy, aching "Fire Away," featuring Jackson Browne).

  • Atari Teenage Riot, 'Is This Hyperreal?' (Dim Mak/Digital Hardcore)

    Atari Teenage Riot, 'Is This Hyperreal?' (Dim Mak/Digital Hardcore)

    The Berlin breakcore ?terrorists reunite for their first album in 12 years (minus MC Carl Crack, who died of a drug overdose in 2001), thrashing ears and minds with leader Alec Empire's trademark blend of anarchist propaganda shouted over processed guitar blasts and punky techno-jungle beats. That means plenty of high-energy/high-concept pummellers like "Activate," featuring gonzo guest rapper CX Kidtronik. But this time around, ATR's protest platitudes ("Are you ready to testify?") and electronic skronk-thud ("Digital ?Decay," with female member Nic Endo holding forth on Internet freedom), sound awkwardly dated.

  • Gang Gang Dance, 'Eye Contact' (4AD)

    Gang Gang Dance, 'Eye Contact' (4AD)

    As a proudly underground entity, Manhattan's Gang Gang Dance seemed bent on creating one long celestial psych jam. But for 2008's Saint Dymphna, they pared down the dubby dance experimentation and reaped the rewards (namely, a record deal). Less woozy and intoxicating than its predecessors, that album was a gateway drug into what now turns out to be an even wilder and murkier milieu. GGD's fifth album and first for 4AD, Eye Contact opens with the 11-minute "Glass Jar," a freewheeling mass of synths, cymbals, and high moans that withholds the beat far beyond the halfway mark. The song also contains a key clue: a man's voice declaring with Sheen-like clarity (and/or inscrutability), "It's everything time." While Dymphna divvied up the band's influences over ten identifiable songs, here their entire spectrum of styles gets blasted constantly, each track bleeding into the next.

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