Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now

This week's curator: Jessica Suarez of Stereogum.

Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Stereogum's Jessica Suarez.

I don't believe in acquired tastes or guilty pleasures. None of my picks are the latter, but I don't see them as the former either: they're just five albums, released in the past twelve months, with weird or unusual singers. These singers make me think of Nerve's list of sexy ugly people — the things that are repellent about them are the things I'm attracted to the most. Putting Yoko Ono on here is kind of deferring to the master. Ono once said, "Everybody's an artist... It's just that they're inhibited." I'll give the benefit of the doubt to her and these other four artists and say that their voices are not contrivances but the result of their uninhibited natures. All these artists sing in tune, but sound as if they missed or ignored vast eras of music history. (And, like, all of American Idol.)

1. Moonface, Dreamland EP: Marimbas and Shit-Drums

Moonface, Dreamland EP: Marimbas and Shit-Drums

Moonface is Spencer Krug's mini-project, away from his main bands, Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown. In January he released Dreamland EP, featuring songs made up entirely of marimbas and terrible canned drums, mixed into a single, twenty-minute track. I don't like it as much as Wolf Parade's new album, or Sunset Rubdown's last one, but I listen to Dreamland a lot when I'm trying to focus; it's so minimal and repetitive that it helps. The whole EP is based on dreams he's had, and there's something feverish about it, as though he's sharing observations in real-time — a feeling that his line "I can say this and you'll believe" confirms.

2. WU LYF (World Unite / Lucifer Youth Foundation), Play Heavy Pop EP

WU LYF (World Unite/ Lucifer Youth Foundation), Play Heavy Pop EP

WU LYF is an acronym that changes according to the mood of the band members. Sometimes it stands for the above, sometimes "What Up / Loving Young Females" (yuck), sometimes nothing at all. They're an intentionally mysterious band from Manchester, England — no names, no recordings except for some 12-inches and this EP, no real press photos or members' names. But they're a good band, even if you find the reclusiveness gimmicky. "Heavy Pop" is both their best song and an apt description of their sound. "Tortured," though it's over-used, is the correct adjective to describe the singer's voice. It doesn't just sound anguished; it sounds as if he's been abused all day, and the vocal is the last thing he did before collapsing.

3. Wild Beasts, Two Dancers

Wild Beasts, Two Dancers

Kendal, England's Wild Beasts has two gifted singers, both able to hit devastating falsetto notes well above their natural ranges. They're odd, strange falsettos, too. I can't think of any other voices like them, except that they're like each other. This is more surprising considering their regular ranges (bassist Tom Fleming sings with a low baritone and Hayden Thorpe has a more fluid tenor). Just like people start to sound the same when they scream, the band's singers start to sound the same only when they're euphoric. Like their first album, Limbo, Panto, this one (which was just nominated for the Mercury Prize) mixes faded glamour with a sense of joyous depravity. But Two Dancers is structured in a way that places their vocal theatrics at center stage.

4. Scout Niblett, The Calcination of Scout Niblett

Scout Niblett, The Calcination of Scout Niblett

Scout Niblett works with Steve Albini a lot. I think he understands her anger more than her aesthetic. But she's not an Angry Woman in the screaming, cathartic sense. Most of Niblett's songs feature just her voice, her drums, and her guitar. Her tense whispering and resolutionless melodies make me feel as though there's an explosion waiting at the end of the next verse, but it never comes. In that way she's a lot like another Brit, PJ Harvey. It's no coincidence that Harvey made her best albums with Albini too.

5. Yoko Ono, Between My Head And The Sky

Yoko Ono, Between My Head and The Sky

Yoko Ono headlined the Pitchfork Music Festival a couple years ago, and it was clear that she still divided people. Some audience members were rapt, others left to beat the traffic. Many in that first group (myself included) felt they were watching an icon rather than a working musician. That's why I was surprised when she released Between My Head And The Sky, the first album under the Plastic Ono Band name since 1975's Shaved Fish. Not many musicians in their seventies are this willing to jump back in the studio and try new genres. "The Sun Is Down," is my favorite because it sounds like LCD Soundsystem under Ono's own free-form lyrics and vocal ticks. It's amazing how well her squeaks and sighs fit with the song's squelchy keyboard.

Commentarium (23 Comments)

Jul 28 10 - 9:51am

I really like the concept for this list.

Jul 28 10 - 12:00pm

Is listening to intentionally bad, atonal music the equivalent of growing an intentionally ridiculous mustache?

Jul 28 10 - 12:08pm

Yoko Ono? Really? PASS.

Jul 28 10 - 12:16pm

Every list is the same...mix it up!

Jul 28 10 - 1:08pm

Inspired list. Scout Niblett is brilliant.

Jul 28 10 - 1:11pm

Good tip with the Moonface, excellent work music!

Jul 28 10 - 3:11pm

I gave the first three a listen and they weren't my bag. Yoko Ono I dismissed out of hand. She's banned from my ears for having a hand in screwing up the Beatles. But you got my attention when you mentioned Steve Albini. He produced two of my favorite albums, "Surfer Rosa" and "In Utero". Scout Niblett was a great suggestion.

Jul 28 10 - 5:05pm

Say what you will, grumpy moustache-haters, but I think this is the one of the better lists to come out of this feature. Scout Niblett = the best live show around.

Jul 28 10 - 7:53pm

lame list

Jul 29 10 - 12:15pm

Someone here really thinks Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles? Read your history books please. The Beatles grew up and decided to do their own things. But if simple minds must put the blame on someone, put it on McCartney. Simply put, Ringo gets pissed at Paul, and quits, Paul begs him back. George gets pissed at Paul, George returns. Paul wanted to go back on the road, and suggested this and that, and the other three were uninterested in his ideas. There were management problems as well. Then John quit, and they agree to keep it secret (Let it Be release). It was then Paul who put the nail in the coffin. Lennon was an Ono fan - her work on Double Fantasy was the most interesting work on the album - Walking on Thin Ice, an innovative pop masterpiece. Her latest work, featured above, has been very well received, is a great aural experience, is thoughtful, crazy, interesting... she has always and continues to be a brave and adventurous modern artist.

Other than that - Scout Niblett rocks.

Jul 29 10 - 1:11pm

trust me, mitch knows his beatles... almost as well as he knows his youtube videos ; )

Jul 29 10 - 1:29pm

Put the blame on McCartney!? McCartney's the only reason they lasted as long as they did!

Jul 29 10 - 1:53pm


Jul 29 10 - 2:30pm

hello ray. youtube videos?

Jul 29 10 - 2:37pm

whoa... guess i thought you were another mitch, who has a tendency to rave abt the beatles at great length. (he also loves showing people lots of youtube videos.)

Jul 29 10 - 2:41pm

@PeterSmith ...Not personally putting the blame on McCartney. As I said, the boys grew up and their interests changed, but if simple minds need to blame one individual, etc. etc.... No doubt McCartney wanted them to stay together, and I stated that - but there was resistance to Paul and his ideas, and a good many clashes. It is written.

Jul 30 10 - 11:18am

"Having a hand in" obviously means I think there was more than one reason for the Beatles breaking. Yoko Ono's influence on Lennon was one of many. Ya know, sorta like the Civil War wasn't just about slavery? Just because she wasn't the top reason doesn't mean I have to like her. There's many reasons I don't like her. For instance, blemishing an otherwise perfect album by influencing John to write "Revolution 9", then helping to overrule George Martin and Paul when they objected to putting it on The White Album.

Aug 02 10 - 7:47pm
Monika E.

I personally like Yoko Ono and her music. Too many people put the blame on her for the Beatles breaking up.

Aug 02 10 - 11:44pm

the real Paul was killed, the ''replacement" paul was just following quota

Aug 03 10 - 11:33am

wild beasts for lyfe! amazing.

Aug 03 10 - 12:39pm

Hipsters rejoice! Scout Niblet is good. The rest... shit.

Aug 05 10 - 5:57pm

WU/LYF; how dare you! amazing band that I haven't got my head round but they excite me more than any other band. Proper doing their own thing not giving a shiznitch

Aug 08 10 - 3:03pm

People be bitchty and whiny about music. I think this list is nice, but no one is subjected to listen to it so you don't have to comment that it is bad, yo.