• VASHTI BUNYAN

    By the time AnCo collaborated with the English folksinger Vashti Bunyan on 2005's Prospect Hummer, she'd spent the majority of the previous 35 years on the Irish countryside raising children and animals. During the break, her debut 1970's Just Another Diamond Day grew a cult following. Like AnCo, Vashti's impeccably gentle sense of psychedelia is rooted not in outer space but the strange and beautiful life found in her backyard. Later in 2005, she released a second album, Lookaftering. Some artists mellow with age and sound lackluster; in Vashti Bunyan's case, mellowing only made her music more what it promised to be in the first place. Back to the Centipedia glossary NEXT: Burial

  • SCOTT WALKER

    Noir balladeer Scott Walker is an unlikely connection. In the '60s, he made theatrical music tackling unmarketable subjects like family men who only feel alive when scoring hookers, and his more recent albums have been radically unpleasant affairs featuring the sound of people punching beef. What Walker and Animal Collective have in common is a seductive approach to horror: In the darkest corners of their music are things you can't look at but can't look away from either. Ironically, it was Panda Bear — the gentle one — who sampled Walker on Person Pitch's "Take Pills." Back to the Centipedia glossary NEXT: Hildegard Westerkamp

  • Yeasayer

    Yeasayer, 'Fragrant World' (Secretly Canadian)

    Yeasayer's new album, Fragrant World, is different from their last album, 2010's Odd Blood, which was different from their first, 2007's All Hour Cymbals. Difference, and the band's restless attempts to attain it, is both the Brooklyn band's best and most irritating quality. What started out as vaguely psychedelic, liberal-arts worldbeat has ultimately morphed into what could roughly be called synth-pop, but wait: This synth-pop is filled with unstable rhythms and weird noises. It is progressive, curious, and almost painfully calibrated to blend things that might sound familiar to you and things that might not.

  • The English Beat in 1982 / Photo by Michael Grecco/Getty

    Best Reissues of July 2012: Fat Boys, English Beat, and More

    Fat Boys Fat Boys (8) Traffic Entertainment Yes, they were sort of a novelty act, but at the root of novelty is a desire to entertain, which takes as much skill and integrity as supposedly higher-minded goals. Though they were undoubtedly rappers, their forefathers weren't in rap but in black doo-wop and early rock groups like the Coasters — acts unafraid to put themselves at the butt of a joke, acts unafraid to make fart noises with their mouths. When they rob a pizza place, it's not for the money, but because they're hungry for pizza. "Don't You Dog Me" features several samples of actual dogs. But they have rhythm, too, and heart. The tough con of another rapper's narrative turns into a lonely boy waiting for a letter, and when they peacock for the ladies, it's with the caveat that just because they're fat doesn't mean they're unbreakable.

  • Frank Ocean

    Frank Ocean, 'channel ORANGE' (Def Jam)

    If you are one of the thousands of Americans wondering why the R&B singer Frank Ocean is becoming "famous," here's a partial answer: Frank Ocean is a story we want to tell ourselves. When he migrated from New Orleans to Los Angeles shortly after Hurricane Katrina, he became a story about triumphing over circumstances. Once in L.A., he was signed to Def Jam as a solo artist under his birth name, Chris Breaux. After years of feeling stifled and ignored, he released a free album called Nostalgia, Ultra under the name Frank Ocean, as a member of Odd Future. Suddenly, Def Jam was very curious to find out who this Frank Ocean person was. This made him a story about artistic independence beating out a business too slow and dumb to recognize talent that it had already paid for.

  • King Tuff / Photo by Getty Images

    King Tuff, 'King Tuff' (Sub Pop)

    Kyle Thomas is a 29-year-old glam-rocker who recently moved from Brattleboro, Vermont, to Los Angeles, California. One place is a town of about 12,000 people on the Connecticut River known, in part, for its relaxed take on public nudity; its 2008 vote to indict President Bush and Dick Cheney; and its maple syrup. The other is L.A., the city of dreams, of brightly colored convertibles and Hollywood movies, of palm trees and anal bleaching. Basically, a city that thrives on the myth of itself.King Tuff, Thomas' second album under that name, easily could have come from either place. On one hand, it's catchy, upbeat, and superficial. On the other, it sounds like the product of a guy who has spent a lot of his free time lying around listening to catchy, upbeat, superficial records made 40 years ago by other people.

  • Beach House / Liz Flyntz

    Beach House, 'Bloom' (Sub Pop)

    The most important instrument on Beach House's fourth album is the drum kit. Not Alex Scally's wet, shimmering guitars or music-box synths; not Victoria Legrand's husky voice; but the drums, big and booming. That's important not just because they're drums, but because drums are a symbol of music as a primal force, the instrument most capable of imitating hips and pelvis. The album, after all, is called Bloom, a process that ends in flowers but starts in sex. The duo's self-titled 2006 debut was the musical equivalent of dried glue, thin and ephemeral, flaking off and peeling away from itself. For years, they only seemed to work with two templates: "Wild Horses" and "Brahms Lullaby." Beauty, for Beach House, was a byproduct of being very tired. I have, at times, suspected that they recorded only after charity sessions at the local blood bank.

  • Codiene / Photo by Michael Galinsky

    Best New Reissues: Codeine, fIREHOSE, Pantera, and More

    Codeine Frigid Stars (7) Barely Real EP (7) The White Birch (9) (Numero Group) Codeine's jagged, exquisitely slow music is the embodiment of a particular kind of Fuck It, or maybe even the silence that stands in when Fuck It takes too much effort. There's an excellent Greek word for this, and the word is anhedonia: the condition of being unable to experience pleasure. This isn't the same thing as saying Codeine made miserable music, because they didn't — misery would be too clear a feeling, a feeling defined by a presence instead of an absence. The band's ancestry is in Black Sabbath and "Wild Horses," but the product is closer to jazz: confidently performed but vague in its intentions, marked by mumbled vocals and big, open guitar chords blowing in flurries across the mix.

  • Lil B / Joseph Schell

    Lil B, 'God's Father' (Self-Released)

    No single album by the rapper Lil B matters for the same reason that no single painting by Andy Warhol matters. It's less their art than their approach to making it, which is generous, carefree, and unedited. In Lil B's Basedworld, quantity is quality, because quantity is evidence of a continuous and Zen-like passion for the present. Yes, he reminisces about the past — he's a rapper; it's required. The difference is that the past for Lil B isn't some bygone era, but February 2012. In 2011, he released 13 albums and mixtapes — last month is history enough. You could say that's flooding the market, but you can't call it a market if there's no money exchanged, and with Lil B, there rarely is. He doesn't make you pay for it, in part, because he loves you. He makes a point of saying this regularly and in exceedingly general terms.

  • [Photo: David Corio/Redferns; Stephanie Chernikowski/Redferns]

    Diggin' in the Crates for Untold Treasures From Mantronix, Underworld, and More

    Mantronix Mantronix: King of the Beats (Anthology 1985-1988) (Traffic Entertainment) Kurtis Mantronik's productions represent a time in the mid-1980s when rap still meant synthesizers and drum machines. Instead of the comforting, continuous sound of funk breaks and vinyl static, listeners heard the mean punctuation of silence; instead of grainy horns and soul choirs, they heard the burble of the 808's tom-tom and the brash syncopation of digital bells. By the late-'80s and early-'90s, this was all deeply out of fashion. In the rearview, though, Mantronik was a visionary — one of those artists whose sound feels common and unremarkable, until you realize he invented it. Compared to the beats on Mantronix records, the rapping (mostly by MC Tee) was quaint and nervous. It's there to move the party. It's there to rock your body.

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