Don’t Stop
Totally/Smalltown Supersound

Debuting in 2005 with Anniemal, Norwegian chanteuse Annie (nee Anne Lilia Berge Strand) arrived primed to be the latest hotshit pop diva, even with singles like “Chewing Gum” coming off a tad more churlish than the stuff to which the mainstream was normally accustomed. The aforementioned track and minor hit “Heartbeat” possessed a suitably elastic bounce, though, the remainder of the album lacked the same fizz, and by comparison, seemed flat. As such, she failed to make a big splash this side of the pond with Anniemal, her expected ripple never making it past music press geeks and other coastal in-the-knows.

In contrast, Don’t Stop, Annie’s three-years-in-the-making follow-up, seems everything Anniemal was and more. “My Love Is Better,” a collaboration with Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, may be concocted from the same elements as “Chewing Gum” (radiant pop melody + hyper-pitched vocals), but it’s surrounded by cuts that place Annie’s alluring coo in a number of contexts. “Hey Annie” juxtaposes a big voodoo beat with techno-shined tones. “I Don’t Like Your Band” isn’t as big of a kiss-off as the title would indicate, with Annie stressing, “I like you, but I don’t like your band.... I feel bad,” over overlapping oscillating synths. And “Songs Remind Me of You” taps a similar thematic vein, while musically, it’s rooted in Italian and other flavors of post-disco electro-pop. But it’s with “Bad Times” that Annie shows her hit potential. A combination of twinkling keyboard nodes and melodic guitar lines, this is (without trying to sound salacious) “Annie does New Order,” and its her best look, even if not her most creative. With Don’t Stop, Annie has found the wherewithal to imbue each stylistic alteration with her idiosyncrasies—a playful wink and a dash of malaise—a mark of the singer coming into her own.
Stephen Slaybaugh

Tape Deck Mountain

You have to admire the ambitions of San Diego native Travis Trevisan, even if his debut as Tape Deck Mountain ultimately falls short of the album’s intended impact. For one, Trevisan arrives with the gall to self-proclaim his project as “mid-fi,” as if he’s found some common ground between the home-recorded aesthetes that manage to craft with next to nothing and the full-studio practioners who have the universe at their disposal. But little on Ghost achieves that delicate balance. If anything, he’s found a way to mesh genre (a cup of sensitive slacker pop diluting a powerful gallon of atmospheric post-rock) and disguised it as a falsely intriguing production prop. Ghost isn’t wrapped in an identity crisis as much as it is trying to have the best of both worlds, all the while forgetting to pay attention to the make of the songs, which incidentally float by in fleeting moments.

Only on “Ghost Colony” does Trevisan succeed, surrounding a two-chord lullaby with a sea of lulling guitar crests, calming reverb and the illusion of an infinite horizon. Here there is a nuanced dynamic at work, somehow not rehashing the typical quiet-loud, quiet-louder routine and instead imaging what Explosions in the Sky might sound like were they helmed by TV on the Radio. Judging from the rest of Ghost, Trevisan might be better off transforming Tape Deck Mountain into an instrumental outfit, as the album works best on tracks like “80/20” and “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie” where a sonic exploration through feedback and orchestrated noise trumps the heart-on-sleeve songwriting found elsewhere. While “On My Honor” is rewarding as a blend of junk-box bossa-nova beats and heavily distorted guitar blasts, Trevisan’s cringe-worthy lyrics and precious cadence spoil it as a whole. Unfortunately, that side of Tape Deck Mountain dominates Ghost, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of promise in Trevisan’s awkward vision of where “mid-fi” could potentially take us.
Kevin J. Elliott

MP3: “In the Dirt”

Cozza Frenzy
Amorphous Music/Child’s Play

Most people familiar with beat chieftain Lorin Ashton know him from Burning Man shows, Santa Cruz raves, and for being voted San Francisco’s top DJ. But Ashton and his collaborative sound project known as Bassnectar strive for a meatier association: to broaden the borders of hip-hop. His eighth album, Cozza Frenzy, which took three years to produce, is his strongest hip-hop-esque contribution to date. Packed with socially aware grindacious elixirs, it delivers in both turbulence and spirituality. The album’s title track features spoken word artist Seasunz and roils in Bassnectar’s trademark dubby breakbeats, while “The Churn Of The Century” cracks genre barriers through haunting Balkan brass. “Backpack Rehab,” featuring Cates & DPL, and “Teleport Massive,” with MC Zumbi (of hip-hop duo Zion I), are tempered, fierce and smooth. Remixes of Mr. Projectile’s “Love Here,” DJ Double You’s “I Am A Laser,” and Fever Ray’s “When I Grow Up” sound like what you’d hear at a W Hotel on a Friday night while sipping $16 mojitos.

Bassnectar exudes the most freeform delirium during live performances, but Cozza Frenzy comes remarkably close to reaching a similar level of rhythmic fury. Either way, the former San Jose commune kid continues to resist classification by appealing to hardcore urbanites, weekend hippies, and everyone in between. If there’s an ass attached to your body, it’ll likely bounce to his transcendental groove.
Alexandra Kelley

MP3: “Cozza Frenzy”

DJ/Rupture and Matt Shadetek
Solar Life Raft

DJ/Rupture, known to his mother as Jace Clayton, is the genre-jumping three-turntable technician who holds little regard for global or musical boundaries. Matt Shadetek is a like-minded DJ producer who is best known for his work as half of Team Shadetek. Now after forming a label together, the cheekily named Dutty Artz, they’ve joined forces music and dropped Solar Life Raft.

While Solar Life Raft blurs the lines between mixtape and artist album, it very much plays like a cohesive album. The record is like a sonic travelogue with Rupture and Shadetek blending the various songs so deftly that half the running time of the album is over before you realize it. The unifying sound of the record is dub-style reggae with just a slight undercurrent of dubstep. The result is a sonic tension that threatens to explode at any moment, but never quite gets there. Instead of being a frustrating aspect, it’s refreshing that Rupture doesn’t go for the obvious. Even when the beats are let loose, as on “Green Disorder,” there’s a tasteful restraint that amps up the energy, but doesn’t disrupt the flow of the record.

And while reggae is the major touchstone of Solar Life Raft, there are many other flavors that sneak in—from straight noise breakdowns to the new wave musicbox sounds of “Blue Night.” It’s a very smartly put together record that doesn’t try to dazzle you with its cleverness. While other producers may be content to try to wow you with how a track is put together, Rupture and Shadetek are more focused in keeping things moving.

With an album that flows together so well it seems strange to highlight any one song over another, but special attention should be given to “Laying In Bed, Overture: Watermelon City (Acapella), Autumn Rain” a song that features Obama inauguration poet Elizabeth Alexander. It plays like a weird newsreel crossed with roots protest song that showcases the anything goes, throw out the rules approach that the record basks in. But honestly the best thing to do is to start the record at the beginning and let it ride. Simply put, if DJ/Rupture and Matt Shadetek’s Solar Life Raft comes floating by, it’s in your best interest to hop on.
Dorian S. Ham

MP3: “Laying In Bed, Overture: Watermelon City (Acapella), Autumn Rain”