Tei Shi has described her songcraft as a communion of many jams, tributaries of ideas meeting on a flood plain to the wide open sea. You can climb inside the layers on a track like 2013’s “M&Ms,” let the stuttering beat of 2015’s “Basically” blast from your imaginary boom box as weird thoughts bounce off your skull on the train ride downtown. And on Crawl Space (Downtown), the Argentina-via-New York City artist’s debut full-length, it’s this kind of stylistic pointillism that’s the name of the game. It’s a headphones record, speaking of train rides; Tei Shi’s vocals drift in from one channel in harmony, while they fill the middle space with Prince screams and hooks to set off another treated blast of brass or a well-timed percussion squall. “Justify” from Crawl Space kicks off this edition of Frontier Justice, and the low-end growl’s nearly as cool as Tei Shi’s multi-dimensional vocal trading barbs with that skittering effect over top. Let it get inside of you.
Spotify: Frontier Justice 3/25/17 (34 songs, 1 hr 59 min)
Speaking of multiple dimensions, Gorillaz have returned from the Fornax Cluster just in time to collaborate with a billion more tastemakers. Reggae has always been central to Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz star map, and here his drowsy vocal meshes well with the melodic chat of Jamaican dancehall hot shot Popcaan. The craziest thing about Gorillaz is how much it always sounds like Gorillaz, no matter what posse of guests Albarn’s rustled up. Perfect example? Jehnny Beth, fearless leader of Savages, leads the pulsing “We Got the Power,” which stands strong on its own even as it’s built from Gorillaz’ signature tool kit.
Debbie Harry has never stopped being cooler than everyone, and “Long Time” is the new proof. Written with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and feeding on the genetic material of “Heart of Glass,” it’s one of the lead tracks from Pollinator, out May 5, which will also feature collabs with Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), Johnny Marr, Sia, and the homie Charli XCX. Sitek is also the man behind the curtain on the hazy remix of “Hot Thoughts,” the title track to Spoon’s new record, appearing here alongside MØ, who herself worked with XCX for “Drum,” which certainly bears the British singer-songwriter’s sixth sense for brash pop hooks.
Helium is back! Mary Timony has brought back College Me’s favorite band, and Current Me couldn’t be more excited. I mean, Ex Hex was and is awesome. So was Wild Flag, for that matter. But for my money, it was always Timony’s work as Helium that helped define what indie rock could really do — twisted tunings, elliptical lyrics, crunchy riffs, and the feeling that you were in on the big secret. Timony is reissuing everything Helium ever did on Merge this Spring, including “Hole In The Ground,” originally issued as a 7” in 1993.
As a further foray into my college radio past, I couldn’t resist a cut from Stereolab. “Metronomic Underground” was the percolating opener to Emperor Tomato Ketchup, which I bought on clear gold vinyl at Radio Kilroy in Grand Rapids, Mich. in March 1996. Stereolab’s joined by cool, weird new stuff from Sydney’s Ninajirachi (“Pure Luck”) and Oyama (“Handsome Devil”) out of Reykjavik, Iceland.
Elsewhere on FJ, there’s new stuff from Wavves (“Animal”) and Alexander F, whose “Call Me Pretty” actually sounds to me like Phoenix if they were covering Wavves. We also hear Bleached with “Flipside,” from their new one Can You Deal? (best album title for today’s political hellscape?), and Angel Olsen covering Connie Francis for the Man in the High Castle soundtrack. Sigrid also re-casts her incredible “Don’t Kill My Vibe” as a tender acoustic stunner. After seven years Jamiroquai has returned, too; “Cloud 9” seems destined to drift out of a few open windows. You got me now, game set and match. Speaking of open windows, thrill to the effortless, endlessly evergreen cool of CSS. “Move” sidles up on the dancefloor next to the quirky, electronic-addled hip-hop of Toronto MC Ty Senoj. And Tinashe also gets into the warm weather act, dropping the thrill of “Flame” from her (forthcoming?) Joyride. The latest incarnation of the Millennial Whoop proves it’s still a force.
So there it is, another two hours of jams for your Spring. And if you are curious, there’s more FJ over at my Spotify page. The 3/28/17 set explores the experimental side of things with the powerful work of Johann Johannsson for the Arrival soundtrack, the creepy trip of “Gifted” from Cristobal Tapia De Veer (have you seen Girl With All the Gifts? Just when you thought the zombie trope was played out…), and some incredible stuff from Julia Holter off her recorded-live new album Silhouette. (If you caught Holter’s terrific set at Pitchfork 2016, this is recorded with her kicking live band.) Stick around, too, for new material from Nite Jewel, Amber Mark, Sarah Davachi, and psych heroes Moon Duo.
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Apple Music: Frontier Justice 3/25/17