Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now
This week's curator: Kyle Ryan of The A.V. Club.
Every week, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their album recommendations. Kyle Ryan is managing editor of The A.V. Club, the pop-culture wing of The Onion. He lives in Chicago, where he has a giant poster of the city's skyline drawn by Wesley Willis hanging proudly on his wall. You can see him on The A.V. Club's new web series, Inventory.
1. Louis C.K., Hilarious
To belabor a pop-cultural dead horse: you can strike comedian Louis C.K. down, but he will only grow more popular. His underrated HBO sitcom, Lucky Louie, was canceled after a season, but since then he's been on an unstoppable hot streak, beginning with his 2008 special, Chewed Up, then into his awesome hit show for FX, Louie, and most recently with Hilarious, his CD/DVD. Plenty of comedians do "edgy" material, but more often than not it's calculated and pandering — that's not the case with Louis C.K. Now in his mid-forties and divorced, he's found a fearlessness that's electrifying. The result is one of the most brutally honest and hilarious stand-up albums you're ever going to hear. I hope C.K.'s hot streak never ends.
2. Robyn, Body Talk
I'm undoubtedly a rock guy, one who tends to favor punk and its offshoots, so no one was more surprised than I to find the Swedish dance-pop queen's trio of EPs — the final one, Body Talk had new tracks and the best from the others — atop my 2010 best-of list. (She shared the no. 1 spot with Scottish indie group Frightened Rabbit, whose The Winter Of Mixed Drinks I can't recommend enough.) But one of my co-workers is a big fan of Robyn, and I was hooked when I saw her at last year's Pitchfork Music Festival. I'm a huge sucker for hooks, and Body Talk has tons of them, often built around big, fat synth lines. Robyn makes endlessly fun (but neither crass nor brainless) dance-pop, and she's an amazing performer. Katy Perry just tapped Robyn to open for her huge North American tour, and I can't wait for Robyn to blow her off the stage every night.
Listen: "Cry When You Get Older"
3. Matt & Kim, Sidewalks
Speaking of big hooks and synths, Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim trade almost exclusively in them, and Sidewalks (their third album) is their most accomplished to date. It's nothing complicated: keyboardist Matt Johnson sings, adorably smiley Kim Schifino plays drums, and the duo crafts thoroughly charming, highly energetic indie-pop. Sidewalks has more polish than its predecessors, but that suits them — and nothing on Sidewalks could be described as "glossy." Live, the pair looks like it's having ten times more fun than any other band, which really makes Matt & Kim stand out at festivals — as they did at last year's Lollapalooza.
Listen: "Block After Block"
4. Forgetters, Forgetters
One of my all-time favorite bands was Jawbreaker, the San Francisco punk band that was among the most heralded indie outfits of the '90s. Forgetters is Jawbreaker frontman Blake Schwarzenbach's latest band, and it's the closest he's come to his old band's sound since it broke up in 1996. That may sound dismissive of Forgetters as a nostalgia act, but this stripped-down, heady, melodic rock suits Schwarzenbach so well. The band self-released a four-song double seven-inch last year, and "Too Small To Fail" is its standout track, alternately brooding and cathartic, hitting Schwarzenbach's sweet spot of literate songs chronicling relationships and their entanglements. Plus it has one of my favorite lines of the year on it: "Put your camera down, this is not a zoo."
Listen: "Too Small To Fail"
5. J Church, Society Is A Carnivorous Flower
I don't know if this is a cheat because it's from 2004, but I just wrote about J Church for one of The A.V. Club's AVQ&A columns, and not a week goes by without me listening to one of their many, many albums. The AVQ&A was about "one-man cults," artists who are generally overlooked but for whom we carry torches individually. I've long been an outspoken zealot for J Church, a poppy punk band that formed in San Francisco in the early '90s. Frontman Lance Hahn — the only constant in the band's nearly two-decade career — had a knack for highly literate (and in some cases, esoteric) lyrics paired with versatile, punk-derived rock. No one else on earth could write a fifteen-minute suite about the 1968 French Socialist revolution — punctuated by the call "The trade unions are coming!" — and make it so damn catchy and enjoyable. Hahn died at age forty in 2007 after years of health problems, and I miss him like crazy.