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New Music Friday, Sept. 16, 2016: Mykki Blanco, Die Antwoord, Against Me!

Lots of great stuff this week, toplined by two trans artists—the debut of Mykki Blanco and the seventh release from Laura Jane Grace’s punk rock band Against Me!

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September 16, 2016 :: 10:22 AM

Mykki Blanco – Mykki
Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. doesn’t want to be known as the gay or queer rapper; he’s not a drag queen, so don’t call him that; and he’s more multi-gender than transgender. So I’m not quite sure what pronoun to use here, but he’ll probably be okay with superstar. His long-gestating debut finally drops and it goes quite a way towards fulfilling that dream. He’s a fringe-dweller encroaching the mainstream, but on his own terms. And his progress – or perhaps the resistance he will go up against – will be fascinating to observe. (“Loner feat. Jean Deaux,” “Highschool Never Ends feat. Woodkid,” “The Plug Won’t”)

Trentemøller – Fixion
Danish producer Anders Trentemøller’s fourth studio release is the distillation of his icy Northern goth, with female vocalists (as usual – though this time only three of them) and a low-key confidence. It may also be his best. (“Redefine feat. Marie Fisker,” “River in Me feat. Jehnny Beth”)

Phantogram – Three
This week in electropop…and, having never warmed to this NY duo before, I’m happy to report that their third is more than all right. It’s tough, catchy, a welcome development. (“You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”)

AlunaGeorge – I Remember
See above, replace NY with London, but here’s the difference: I still don’t hear the appeal. (“I Remember”)

Die Antwoord – Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid
These Cape Town cartoons have long passed their sell-by date, but at least they’re still (at times) funny. (“Fat Faded Fuck Face”)

El Perro del Mar – KoKoro
Swedish indie pop going strong since 2005. (“Breadandbutter”)

Robert Glasper Experiment – ArtScience
American jazz musician making commercial inroads in a banner year for him – first with his sweet Miles Davis homage/collaboration Everything’s Beautiful and now with this undefinable genre meshing experience. (“Find You”)

Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine
Throw all the pejoratives you want at this white rapper, but he sure is well connected: CeeLo Green, Ty Dolla $ign, and the current king of rap Kendrick Lamar all make appearances. (“Dang! feat. Anderson .Paak”) 

Sin Fang – Spaceland
More proof that indie pop has no boundaries, this project of Sindri Már Sigfússon (also of Seabear) features a few of his Icelandic homeboys and those gentle grooves and melodies that define the genre. (“Candyland feat. Jónsi”) 

Usher – Hard II Love
Still horny after all these years… (“No Limit feat. Young Thug”)

 Keaton-Henson

Keaton Henson – Kindly Now
The recorded output of this eccentric English troubadour has been maddeningly inconsistent since his 2010 debut Dear…. Yet there’s something in his tremulous delivery and breathy vulnerability that has made me stick with him over the years. Kindly Now, his sixth, is the most coherent – 12 tracks of gentle pining perfect for sound-tracking your latest crush and/or heartbreak. Smart film and television programmers would seem wise to make his acquaintance immediately. (“Alright,” “The Pugilist,” “Old Lovers in Dressing Rooms”)

Still Corners – Dead Blue
Third album of compelling indie dream pop from U.K. duo. (“Lost Boys”)

Seth Lakeman – Ballads of the Broken Few
More than a cult in Europe, where he’s a pretty big draw, this English songwriter with the model-perfect cheekbones might just be the perfect gift for your friends with a bent for the Celtic. I’ve run hot and cold with him since 2002, but his latest is a strong effort. (“Willow Tree”)

The Handsome Family – Unseen
Brett and Rennie Sparks have been ploughing their field of gothic alt-country since 1994 and you’d think they’d have exhausted their material by now. But album ten is just as redolent as the first one, while their eye for observation and empathic POV remains undimmed. (“Gold”)

Deap Vally – Femejism
Rocking California duo’s sophomore record: great noise, great tunes, great energy, and – so far, at least – really great album titles. (“Gonnawanna”)

Preoccupations – Preoccupations
The debut of this Canadian band – when they were still called Viet Cong – was bracing: state of the art alt-rock with roots in the past and an eye on the future. Having come to their senses about that name, they’ve been rechristened Preoccupations (way less incendiary), but their forward motion is the same, though maybe a bit more reflective second time out. (“Anxiety”)

Bad Suns – Disappear Here
Second album from SoCal indie rockers; mainstream yet full of energy, and, I predict, it’s only a matter of time before they become huge (and we can all hate them). (“Disappear Here”)

Loch Lomond – Pens from Spain
Portland concern under the aegis of Ritchie Young – singer-songwriter with a hint of chamber pop and whatnot. Very nice. (“Pens from Spain”)

Ian Hunter & The Rant Band – Fingers Crossed
The 77-year-old rock icon still has plenty on his mind, but the nostalgia is rife here. That’ll happen as you get older, especially when the genius that gave you your biggest hit single is still fresh in the grave. So he earns his look back, and the right to eulogize David Bowie in his own inimitable way – which is to remind us of that giant hit in his homage. (“Dandy”)

Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die
Five albums in and this much loved local band is starting to come into its own. (“When the Tequila Runs Out”) 

The Monochrome Set – Cosmonaut
English cult artists who released one great record in 1980 – their debut, Strange Boutique. 36 years later, they may have just pulled off a second one. (“Cosmonaut”)

Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust
Kaoru Ishibashi’s third studio release finally realizes the strain of electronic chamber pop his best work only heretofore hinted at. His sweet falsetto and ubiquitous violin shines through; in this ambient electronic context he does for his violin what Active Child has done for the harp: he makes it sexy. (“Can’t Let Go, Juno”)

 Against-Me

Against Me! – Shape Shift with Me
Seven albums in – and two since a very public change in perception – these Floridian punk rock lifers wear their new responsibilities as transgender activists as easily as they did their disaffected youth when they were simply trying to get the hell out of Gainesville. No doubt their xenophobic fan base was much confused when Tom Gabel became Laura Jane Grace, and what the hell were they going on about with this Transgender Dysphoria Blues stuff!, but now that the dust has (kind of) settled, it’s easier to see (and hear) the song craft that’s always been the basis of this fine rock quartet. Certainly the band’s concerns have been permanently altered – that’s addressed here in “Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be” as well as in their inspired cover of The Replacements “Androgynous” recently with Miley Cyrus – but they’ll bring understanding to other disaffected youth not stupid enough to have already given in to their homo- and/or transphobia. Rock and roll. Fuck yeah. (“333,” “Crash,” “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts”)

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