Pens, Luciano, Wildbirds & Peacedrums
Pens, Luciano, Wildbirds & Peacedrums Credit: Luciano by Baldur Kristjansson


“Put Your Hands on Me” featuring Kardinal Offishall and Carla-Marie

(Southern Fried)

“Put Your Hands on Me” (Hudson Mohawke remix)


Italian steamroller-house It boys the Crookers got a big boost from the “Day ‘n’ Nite” remix they did for Kid Cudi—released last winter, it’s only just barely starting to go away—and now they’re finally coming out with a debut LP, Tons of Friends, due in January on Southern Fried. The debut single is less generic than you’d expect after the 100 or so cookie-cutter Crookers productions, each of which, sadly, has begotten 1,000 imitators. “Put Your Hands on Me” tones down the over-the-top Ibiza vibe; it’s built for the club and weekend-night hip-hop radio, and will make nice sandwiched between a Pitbull song and the new Missy, whenever that drops. The real get is the Hudson Mohawke remix, which deconstructs the track’s glitzy bombast, adding a tubafied bass line and slowing and stripping it down till it sounds like a chopped-and-screwed Micachu song.


“I Invented Sex” featuring Drake


I’m really into post-Trapped in the Closet smooth R & B, where the narratives are like Mad Libs that invariably involve sex in a luxury auto: “And then I _____,” “Then we _____,” etc. Trey Songz works some of the same raunchy-but-nonthreatening post-teen-idol business as Chris Brown—all his songs are about how he loves and understands you—but he’s actually way better than Brown. He recently dropped his third album, Ready, on whose cover he appears shirtless and sultry a la D’Angelo. Its second song, the gorgeously inorganic “I Invented Sex,” has a synth-bass line that sounds like crickets and a chorus where Songz boasts, “Girl, you gon’ think I invented sex / ‘Cause I do it like I did.”



(De Stijl)

Is there anything better for making being in a band sound like the funnest thing on earth than a calamitous all-girl British postpunk outfit? Maybe the Slits and Raincoats have primed my ears for this sort of thing, but playful London trio Pens are the latest great enticement—the sort of band you wish lived across the hall, so you could be BFFs or at least get invited to their parties. The fidelity of their debut full-length, Hey Friend, What You Doing?, is so casual it makes the Gories’ first singles sound like the new Beatles remasters—maximum scuzz ‘n’ spazz for maximum joy.


“Raindrops,” “Feelings Gone” featuring Sam Sparro, “Saga” featuring Santigold


Basement Jaxx followed their first two albums, both pretty genius, with two that couldn’t even get over on the novelty of their guest appearances. Their fifth and latest, Scars, is a return to form and an update of the classic Jaxx sound, outclassing any and all comers in contemporary maximalist house. In the face of a zillion hollow refixes that reference nothing beyond the state of post-MGMT bloghouse, it’s almost overwhelming how composed and melodic and musical Scars is. The manic ska of “Saga” and Sam Sparro’s house-diva turn on “Feelings Gone” give the album real gravitas—the sense that Jaxx are working with reverent and historical knowledge of dance music in all its most jubilant forms.




Iceland’s third most influential export behind Bjork and Sigur Ros, Gus Gus have a new album! With longtime collaborator Jimi Tenor! And it’s on Kompakt, the label that can do no wrong! I hate to be the bad news phone tree, but 24/7 doesn’t merit even the exclamation points. I know the 90s are back, but what made Gus Gus special and interesting back then now makes them sound like they got faxed to 2009 from a Moby-curated chill-out tent on the island that electronica forgot.


Tribute to the Sun


Germany and Chile have been in a tug of war over which country is at the forefront of minimal dance music, but with his new Tribute to the Sun Swiss-Chilean DJ and producer Luciano should shut down the debate. His second studio long-player does more to expand microhouse than any other release in the past five years. Replacing the genre’s trademark steely understatement with sensualist grace, he ropes in the sounds of different diasporas—African, Jewish—and just as in his DJ sets, he builds and builds, layering impossible, complex combinations into one hot colossus.


“Lil’ Girl” featuring Fatima, “Nirvana”

(Plug Research)

On En’ A-Free-Ka, the solo debut from Shafiq Husayn of the LA trio Sa-Ra Creative Partners, muted Afro-funk horns and air-raid sirens mingle and skronky rootless dub slish-sloshes the hooks around, floating and meandering and eventually latching onto the beat. Everything I’ve read has called this record “jazzy hip-hop,” which usually just means you’re in for something that sounds like a Roots outtake, but Husayn is definitely more chilled and less channeled—he occasionally forgoes hip-hop entirely for eclectic neosoul fusion.


“My Heart” (Weapon Family remix)


Swedish drums ‘n’ vocals duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums are ripe for remixing—there’s so much space in their songs that you can reconstruct them into any kind of music you want. The Weapon Family remix of “My Heart,” originally from the 2008 full-length The Snake, imagines the band as thunderous, soulful, and deeply indebted to Missing Persons—without diluting the track’s raw, naked power.