BRIGHTON, MA Brighton, MA | Loose Tooth Records
When I say Brighton, MA's debut EP sounds ambitious, I don't mean they're "pushing their boundaries" or "developing their sound." I mean it seems like they're fixing to go pro. Brighton, MA is a big-sounding record, with a strummy folk-pop foundation supporting a grandiose architecture of epic, echo-y guitars and keys. It's not hard to come up with a probable list of influences--there's some Dylan (and maybe some Dylan-via-Conor Oberst) underlying stratospheric arrangements appropriated from the Psychedelic Furs, U2, and other delay-pedal-loving "big music" bands that erupted out of the UK in the 80s. It's kind of a crib job, for sure, but the songs are animated by a palpable feeling of longing and postadolescent world-weariness; they're perfect soundtrack songs waiting for a story.
COPPERPOT WYLA? | EV Productions
With a slew of guests drawn from the ranks of jazz musicians and backpacker-approved indie rappers, WYLA?, the sophomore album from local hip-hop producer Copperpot, has all the earmarks of a self-important mess, but surprisingly it actually bumps. The erstwhile Daniel Kuypers uses his instrumentalists--a jazzer-approved lineup including Frank Rosaly, Josh Abrams, and Tortoise members Jeff Parker and Dan Bitney--to flesh out soul-inflected beats built from greasy bass lines and J Dilla-ishly diced guitars. A bit too boho for the club, probably, but custom-cut for backyard barbecues. And while KRS-One is as didactic as usual, most of the other guests--Prince Po, Psalm One, Masta Ace--give even their preachier bits an appropriately good-time delivery. A personal fave: "Demo," where British rapper Braintax slams amateur demos for their low-end CD mailers and half-assed artist bios, once again confirming that England produces the funniest rappers in the world.
WARHAMMER 48K An Ethereal Oracle | Permanent Records
An Ethereal Oracle opens with an ersatz shortwave broadcast detailing the grim atmospheric conditions for a postapocalyptic midwest. Things only get freakier from there as Warhammer unleashes an often brilliant, occasionally confounding, vision of Terrordome rock. Veering from metallic grind to Krautrock hypergrooves to eerily desolate acoustic meditation, An Ethereal Oracle is a disorienting spiral into psychedelic confusion. Warhammer's digressive nature sometimes gets the better of them--they're wont to let songs trail off into some supremely fucked-up flavor of background music--but the band always manages to pull out of its noodley nosedives and into something totally unexpected. This is what punk's going to sound like after civilization collapses.
SHARKULA The Diagnosis of Sharkula | The Secret Life of Sound
For those who don't know him from the homemade tapes and CDs he's sold or given away on sidewalks all over the city, Sharkula (aka Thigahmahjiggee) is Chicago's poet laureate of whacked rap. With a flow that combines Ol' Dirty Bastard's growl with "huh?"-inspiring lyrics a la MF Doom, Sharkula weaves stream-of-conscious wordplay--"Sharkula / sparkula / after-darkula / spectacular"--with enough hints at an underlying thematic structure to keep you listening for some kind of meaning to it all. Here's a tip: you probably won't find any. But despite the atmosphere of insanity around him, dude isn't a nutjob sideshow act. He's just doing his own thing on a level most people can't even touch. Straitlaced rap fans will probably be put off by Sharkula's free-range id, but more open-minded folks--and the just plain blunted--have a new treat. "Play tennis / play racquetball / play gorilla," indeed.
DUDE 'N NEM "Watch My Feet" | TVTTWISTA "Pimp Like Me" | Atlantic
Between "Chicken Noodle Soup" and "Aunt Jackie," the resurgence of hip-hop songs with associated dance moves have been centered in Harlem for the past year and then some. The local duo Dude 'N Nem (known individually as Upmost and Tragic) are trying to move the country's focus to Chicago with their single, "Watch My Feet," with lyrics and--even better--a video showcasing footwork, a turbo-speed dance style that came out of the city's juke scene. The song is a bipolar blend, with verses rolling over a lazy, seat-back groove that doubles up into a four-on-the-floor juke beat for the chorus. The sampled "Watch my feet / w-watch my feet" that stutters over the fast parts could be the hook that draws in listeners from out of town, but Dude 'N Nem's fuck-it charm and the mind-boggling dance moves in the video are what might make them a sensation.
Twista's also looking to export juke to a bigger market. "Pimp Like Me" isn't the first single from his upcoming album, Adrenaline Rush 2007, but its debut on his MySpace page is what people are talking about. The track, produced by Tight Mike, follows the same basic structure as "Watch My Feet," alternating between eerie gangsta verses and hedonistically pumping choruses. The transitions are more abrupt and maybe slightly less satisfying than in "Watch My Feet," but Twista's already famous fast-rap flow could get juke in a lot more ears.
MICROFILM After Dark + Blueprints | Fiche
By the time the local electronic duo Microfilm had released their first album, After Dark, last August they'd already gotten the attention of some of the more forward-looking people in the dance-music scene. After Dark was a coolly nocturnal blend of house, IDM, synth-pop, and EBM that could work equally well in a postelectroclash DJ set or at goth night at Neo. Microfilm initially sold the album exclusively through iTunes, but recently they've remastered, resequenced, and reissued it as an actual CD. As a bonus they've thrown in Blueprints, a second disc of remixes. After Dark holds together in a way that dance records rarely do, sustaining a prolonged mood of twitchy robo-sexual decadence tinted with electronic alienation; the remixes are less satisfying. While Arthur Rimbaud's tune-up of "Young Adult Fiction" and Monologic's take on "Versus" heighten the experience with a hint of discotheque sweat, the other remixers tend to lose the thread on excursions into undanceable IDM or defanged smooth house. Microfilm works a perfectly uncouth formula and the last thing their tracks need are good manners.
For more on music, see our blogs Crickets and Post No Bills at chicagoreader.com.