Listening Booth

I’m ashamed to say that I completely missed out on The Dirty Projectors’ Rise Above when it came out last year. What could I have been thinking? Or doing? I honestly have no idea. Watching Law & Order reruns perhaps? Endlessly spacing through items in Google Reader? Staring numbly at Ikea catalogs? Pondering the possibilities of brain-to-brain (B2B!) text messaging? Thankfully, such stupidity is behind me now, as, for the last few weeks, I have been spinning the record (in a virtual sense) pretty regularly — some might say obsessively. And they might be right.

The great thing about the band is that they’re accessible and familiar, and yet seem, simultaneously, to totally defy categorization. There are hints of soul and R&B, psych-rock, acid jazz, hippie folk, trip hop, dance pop. The best I can give you is this: Imagine a cross between The Beatles, Sufjan Stevens, and Xiu Xiu… No, I wouldn’t know what that sounds like either. Fortunately, though, we have the internetz to fill in the gap.

Speaking of Xiu Xiu, the band has a new album coming out as well — Women As Lovers. I haven’t heard all of it yet (who has time?), but it appears to be expectedly intimate and awkward and discomfiting and generally both off-putting and creepily fascinating in the way of, say, a man in standing the middle of the street weeping loudly over the death of his pet snake. That’s a good thing, by the way.

And guess what? Nada Surf has a new album about to hit shelves, called Lucky. And it’s really, really good. These guys ought to be just as, erm, popular as fellow Barsukians Death Cab for Cutie. They’re just as gentle and melancholy and romantic and catchy and very nearly as fresh-faced and cute, which I suppose matters. Just try listening to “See These Bones” and imagining it on MTV as a bunch of teeny boppers giggle and shout. OK, so maybe they don’t sing about girl trouble quite enough, and maybe they lack the requisite upbeat, poppy hit to really break out. But why these guys don’t have a bigger following is totally beyond me.

Further listening: The USA is a Monster (frazzled, melodic indie rock with a grind/math element — as if Lighting Bolt started playing pop songs) and Atmosphere’s new free internet EP, Strictly Leakage, which is probably the group’s best record since God Loves Ugly — and totally free!

Warning: Gratuitous 90s flashback below.