I am the reason black metal purists hate Deafheaven. The genre has occultic origins, a much-recycled murderous backstory and a purebred fixation on ghastly shades of black, white and grey. So here comes a band that dresses suavely, skips the whole Satanic bit and names its pastel-colored second LP (out this week) after basking in sunlight, all while pushing black metal’s blisteringly intense sonic framework further into the dream-pop ether. I adore this record, and I lead Bible studies for God’s sake.
Dance music has at least as many niches as metal, and I would be kidding if I told you I was immersed in the world of UK garage (pronounced “gehr-edge” — thanks, SPIN!) that spawned hits across the pond around the turn of the millennium. Until last week the name MJ Cole meant nothing to me. But this Disclosure record, Settle, has me vibing out at my desk constantly. I saw them at SXSW this year too, and even back then it was clear that these young brothers from Surrey value songwriting as much as rhythms and textures.
Fat Tony, Smart Ass Black Boy
Suffice it to say Houston rapper Fat Tony (a moderately wise, frequently wisecracking everyman proponent of food, booze, sex, weed and armchair philosophy) and his in-house producer Tom Cruz (a minimal, melancholic madman) should be on your radar and in your iTunes.
Kanye West on “Saturday Night Live”
The best SNL performances are the ones that leave you wondering how that just happened — think Fear or Sinead O’Connor. My favorite is Radiohead in 2000 right after Kid A came out, when Thom Yorke stalked the stage like a rabid man-child. But Yeezus gave Yorke a run for his money with the magnificently staged, (un?)righteously angry “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves,” the most exquisite middle finger in recent memory.
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
I haven’t heard another album this year that matches this one in terms of melody, arrangements or emotional resonance. I would not have expected such excellence from Vampire Weekend, who previously struck me as either a pleasant curiosity or a dreadful annoyance depending on my mood. But here they are, cleverly and thoughtfully grappling with death amid effervescent pop music that sounds wonderfully alive even amid the crystalline sheen. This album is great. Go listen to it.