What’s the Frequency?

4 minute read
Douglas Wolk

For the house party that drives the neighbors berserk

Hot Chip, In Our Heads

This British electronic dance group has tongues firmly in cheek and beats firmly tethered to the new-wave era. Remember: you can’t spell hipsters without hips. (6/12)

For the houseguests who have overstayed their welcome

Chris Brown, Fortune

Over the past six months, Brown’s been turning up as the guest star on R&B singles by pretty much everybody, including Rihanna, the ex-girlfriend he battered so severely she had to be hospitalized. But none of the songs released so far from his sequel to last year’s F.A.M.E. suggest that he’s got much beyond belligerence to offer these days. (7/3)

For ultimate-frisbee games on college lawns

Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan

2009’s loopy, brainy Bitte Orca sent thrilled shivers through the alternative-rock world, and David Longstreth’s songs here are acrobatic battles between creamy harmonies and flourishes of dissonance. (7/10)

For the road trip to the CBGB Festival in New York City

Patti Smith, Banga

National Book Award winner and old-school Downtown NYC rocker Smith is a dedicated memorialist. Here, she pays tribute to Amy Winehouse and the victims of the 2011 Japanese tsunami. (6/5)

For the day you planned to go to the beach, but it hailed

Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do

The “Criminal” ingenue is in her mid-30s now, and her onstage previews of material from her long-awaited (and longer-titled) fourth album have had audiences raving. Its subdued but deeply freaked-out opening track “Every Single Night” sounds like a music box hallucinating after 24 straight hours of Tim Burton movies. (6/19)

For a night indoors

Usher, Looking 4 Myself

The seventh album by the reigning emperor of R&B is lighter than air and sexy as hell: it’s been previewed with songs called “Scream” and “Climax.” (The latter has already hit No. 1 on the R&B chart.) The tormented, confessional tone of Usher’s recent albums lingers around the new songs, while his radiant falsetto lets him turn on the come-hither even when he’s singing about breaking up. (6/12)

For the Fourth of July BBQ

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Americana

The veteran Canadian rocker’s first album with Crazy Horse since 2003 is a high-concept head scratcher: a set of American folk standards, from a full-throttle electric rendition of Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susanna” to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” concluding with a rewritten version of the British national anthem “God Save the Queen.” There’s also a children’s choir involved. (6/5)

For weather so hot and muggy, you’re pretty sure you’re hallucinating

Neneh Cherry and the Thing, The Cherry Thing

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from “Buffalo Stance” singer Cherry, but her collaboration with a Scandinavian jazz trio isn’t a total non sequitur. She was born in Sweden, and her stepfather was jazz cornetist Don Cherry–one of whose compositions she covers here, alongside songs by New York synth punks Suicide and hip-hop weirdos Madvillain. (6/19)

For the afternoon there’s nothing on TV but conventions

Ry Cooder, Election Special

Roots-rock guitarist and Buena Vista Social Club mastermind Cooder has been cranking out a string of politically charged songs over the past year, like “The Mutt Romney Blues,” sung from the point of view of the presumptive presidential candidate’s car-roof-riding dog. Will this quickie swing undecided voters? Questionable. Will it swing? Almost certainly. (6/26)

For the girls’ night out

Justin Bieber, Believe

As of this March, Justin Bieber is 18. He is old enough to vote in his native Canada. He can legally drink in Quebec. He has more followers on Twitter than there are people living in Chile. His new album’s first single is about what he would do if he were your boyfriend. Its second single is dedicated to his mom. (6/19)

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