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New Albums for a New Season

Benjamin Smith

Let me tell you something, Daytonians: spring is overrated. Sure, I like the idea of rebirth as much as the next guy, but this season is also synonymous with violence, crap weather and terrible fashion. Spring is the lunatic you screw before having a fling with the real thing. Summer is the top, that tropical time of sunshine and Oregon District patios. I know she won’t be here for a few months — June 20, to be exact — yet if you stare at a picture of palm trees and listen to these albums from across the ocean, summer will make her balmy presence felt in premature, subtle ways. Let the leisure begin.

Album: Personality
Artist: Scuba
Label: Hotflush Recordings
Release Date: February 2012
Country: United Kingdom/Germany
Website: www.hotflushrecordings.com
Perfect For: The Cad
Enjoy With: Champagne and Random Sex

The best summer music is often mindless, and tuning in to the new record by Scuba — a.k.a. British DJ/producer and Berlin resident Paul Rose — requires zero mental exertion. There is little of substance here, just energetic Euro-groove optimism. Think urban, not urbane. Indeed, this collection of dance-electronica should serve as slick accompaniment to downtown cocktail hours or long nights of bed-breaking. Soak in the beats peripherally and savor your surroundings, but don’t focus on the monologues, laser blasts, dated synth stabs and vocal samples shipped straight from the C+C Music Factory (other points of reference seem to include Technotronic, Underworld, Faithless, and Jane Fonda workout videos). Poignantly, the most memorable part of Personality is the short, simple, and decidedly piano solo on the last track, “If U Want.” The rest of the record remains vapid and vaguely sexual. Perhaps the title is all too appropriate.

Album: 120 Days II
Artist: 120 Days
Label: Splendour
Release Date: February 2012
Country: Norway
Website: www.myspace.com/120days
Perfect For: The Cosmonaut
Enjoy With: Smoke and Starlight

The Universe is a work of marvelous beauty. Sometimes we forget this — and that we’re a part of it. To correct this perception, I suggest you do the following one July night: drive to a faraway field, get blitzed, lie on the grass, stare at the sea of stars above and listen to 120 Days II. If you don’t end up feeling One with All — or at the very least, a Martian for a moment — then you’re a troglodyte. This is first-class cosmic electro-rock. Opener “Spacedoubt,” the alien love child of Primal Scream and Pink Floyd, launches the album on target, while the surging “Dahle Disco” propels the listener towards retro galaxies of groove. Not every song is a star (“Sleepless Nights #4” ironically sounds like an oblique dream the Kasabian lads had about Syd Barrett), but this four-piece has to be saluted for aiming at the firmament and beyond. If Personality is all about spreading legs, 120 Days II is all about expanding horizons.

Album: I Start To Believe You
Artist: Lola Kite
Label: Excelsior Recordings
Release Date: March 2012
Country: The Netherlands
Website: www.lolakite.com
Perfect For: The Romantic Hipster
Enjoy With: Anchor Steam and Drunk Texting

Summer is infamous for tragically brief romances. The 2004 indie film Love And The Weather presents a fictional one in faux-documentary style: a clone of the lead schlub from Death Cab For Cutie meets a socially-awkward girl with Buddy Holly glasses at the beach. They bond over Lost in Translation, argue about music (he worships Grandaddy, she the Flaming Lips), touch the naughty bits, and ultimately break up. Cue the final words: “Indie nerds can never love.” Actually, Love And The Weather is fictional too. However, if it were real, this miscellany of ‘80s keyboards, drum machines and guitars would be the proper soundtrack, complete with soaring choruses (“Energy Could Be Our Closest Friend”) and blue introspection (“Island Smyland”). Catchy stuff overall.

Album: NZCA/Lines
Artist: NZCA/Lines
Label: Loaf
Release Date: February 2012
Country: United Kingdom
Website: nzca-lines.com
Perfect For: The Funky Anglophile
Enjoy With: Club Drinks and The Economist

First time I heard this album’s opening track, “Compass Points,” I laughed out loud, proclaiming it the worst thing I had ever heard: a Prince jam sung in falsetto by a London paper salesman. Second track “Okinawa Channels” opened my eyes, and behold, I saw clearly that NZCA/Lines — a.k.a. Michael Lovett — had created excellent synth-and-Brit-laced R&B. This is no trivial feat. One common adage in music is that America defines, Britain refines. NZCA/Lines proves the adage correct. Here we have a work that should make Hot Chip envious, New Order proud and Rihanna dance. Forgo the standard Stateside R&B and pop sludge this summer, and give the crisp and refreshing NZCA/Lines a try. If it’s good enough for London, it’s good enough for Dayton. At least, that’s the word on 3rd Street.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at BenjaminSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com. 

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