Summertime means many things to Yalies, but to music lovers it means losing access to precious iTunes networks and other musical conduits, and finding music on one’s own — a perilous endeavor. Sure, there are quintessential summer albums like the Avalanches’ “Since I Left You,” but for those hungering for new music, this year’s final issue of scene presents the 10 best bets for the next few months.
10. Human Television: “Look at Who You’re Talking To”
This Florida-by-way-of-Philly indie rock septet has gotten great press from many publications, notably NME (but don’t hold that against Human Television — these folks are no Arctic Monkeys). Their 2005 EP “All Songs Written By” might as well have been from Rhino’s charming and comprehensive Children of Nuggets box set for all the similarities it bears to Posies-esque 80s indie-pop. But their retro sound makes them no less fresh. The band describes itself as “Basic Two-Chord Repetitive Guitar Pop.” Imagine this as a compliment in order to grasp why “Look at Who You’re Talking To” will be great.
9. J Dilla: “The Shining”
Most people have heard a track produced by the talented J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) but may not know it, because he doesn’t leave behind obvious aural tags on his production credits (unlike, for example, the “Just Blaze!” of Just Blaze). “The Shining” is the second of three instrumental records slated from J Dilla this year; the first, “Donuts,” was released in February, three days before the producer died of complications from lupus. A hip-hop instrumentals album may not exactly have wide appeal, but for those interested, “The Shining” will definitely impress.
8. Radiohead: TBA
Radiohead has been in and out of the studio for over a year, but with their EMI record contract over, the band has been in no particular rush to get an album together. Yet Radiohead has planned a series of tour dates this summer that could be the prelude to a new release, and the band has publicly toyed with the idea of releasing tracks online or trying some other sort of release mechanism. One thing’s for sure: The brilliant band behind “OK Computer,” “Kid A”/”Amnesiac,” and “Hail to the Thief” will be trying out their new songs on the road, and at least some of them will end up in the public’s hands somehow.
7. Outkast: “Idlewild”
Speaking of possible summer releases, this film soundtrack was originally supposed to come out last December but has been pushed back so many times that a summer release date is only speculative (since the film, originally to be released last month, now hits theaters August 25). But even the prospect of a new Outkast album is too exciting not to mention. In keeping with the film’s stylistic choices, the album is said to be heavily influenced by ragtime, yet unmistakably Outkast’s own. With Big Boi starring in “ATL” and promoting his Purple Ribbon All-Stars and Andre 3000 doing who knows what, here’s hoping this album (and film) sees the light of day before the insanely talented Outkast finally splinters.
6. The Walkmen: “A Hundred Miles Off”
From the sound of jangling single “Louisiana” (like so much new music these days, streaming only at MySpace) New Yorkers and O.C. guest stars the Walkmen have stepped up their game from the already successful formula heard on 2004’s remarkable “Bows + Arrows.” The band compares the new album’s sound to Bob Dylan and The Band’s “Basement Tapes,” and “Louisiana” bolsters their claim. “A Hundred Miles Off” will prove to be an album of astonishing quality. Interestingly, a song-for-song cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Pussy Cats” is also expected from the Walkmen later this year.
5. TV on the Radio: “Return to Cookie Mountain”
Now that good friends and fellow Touch and Go-turned-Interscopers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have released their second album, 2004 Shortlist prizewinners TV on the Radio are poised to do the same — only people seem much more excited for this album than that of Karen O and co. “Return to Cookie Mountain” (an unmastered version of which leaked earlier this year) picks up where the indescribably amazing “Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes” left off, and improves on their heartfelt and textured sound. This one is sure to be outstanding.
4. The Futureheads: “News and Tributes”
The Futureheads have been favorites at scene since their eponymous 2004 debut. Their follow-up is less frenetic than “The Futureheads” and therein demonstrates the sweet vocal harmonies, on-point angular guitar, and smart songwriting that separate the Futureheads from their less talented NME peers. Leaked track “Skip to the End’ may as well be a spectacular Joe Jackson cover. The double-time tempo may be gone, but the songcraft certainly is not.
3. Lupe Fiasco: “Food & Liquor”
If his guest spot on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky” and his first single “Kick Push” are any indication, Chicago’s Lupe Fiasco is a name to watch in hip-hop. The single succeeds at the seemingly impossible task of reconciling soulful Chi-town hip-hop with skateboarding culture, and rap fans should be excited to find out what else is up this young talent’s sleeve.
2. Art Brut: “Bang Bang Rock and Roll”
This album from brash British newcomers Art Brut was released last year in the UK to immense praise. Self-referential opener “Formed a Band,” featuring the lyrics “And yes, this is my singing voice/ it’s not irony/ it’s not rock and roll,” introduces the 32 blistering minutes of rough but intelligent post punk-inspired rock that is somehow both ironic and sincere. Who else would record a song about rocking out in a museum in ode to modern art? “Bang Bang Rock and Roll” finally hits stateside this May.
1. Gnarls Barkley: “St. Elsewhere”
Cee-Lo Green is, as one of his album titles helpfully indicates, the soul machine. Danger Mouse is the hippest indie producer this side of MF Doom. Together they are the spectacular Gnarls Barkley. With UK chart-topper “Crazy,” Violent Femmes cover “Gone Daddy Gone,” and 12 other sure-to-be-stunning tracks, Gnarls Barkley has soundly beaten the Gorillaz at their own game, from cheeky press photography to inspired hip-hop/soul/pop, with an album that could be the best of the summer.