Our picks this week include a Queens DJ whose album flows like a symphony, some electronica from West Africa and the return of one of indie rock’s most polarizing figures.
Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me (Drag City)
The song is called “Easy,” but Joanna Newsom has never made it easy on her listeners. Depending on your taste, her odd and distinctive voice can be whimsical or willful. She’s a kind of modern troubadour, using her harp to accompany often epic-length songs that revel in complex wordplay. Newsom’s latest effort is a 3-CD set, called Have One On Me. It features a lot more piano and at times an almost orchestral sound. But there are still oblique glances at both American and English folk music, too. What should probably be an uneasy mix of indie rock, chamber music, and something far older somehow works for Joanna Newsom. –- picked by John Schaefer
Burkina Electric – Paspanga (Cantaloupe)
Lukas Ligeti is a known quantity in contemporary music circles – a composer, percussionist and son of the modernist classical composer Gyorgy Ligeti. But his new album, Paspanga, features his “African Electronica” project Burkina Electric. It came about from a trip he took to the small West African nation of Burkina Faso together with a German electronica artist named Pyrolator. Burkina Electric is sometimes reminiscent of the exuberant sounds of West African highlife. Others, it features choppy rhythms and spawky sounds. When the music gets a little too dense for its own good, Lukas Ligeti throws in a guitar groove and an infectious house beat. -- picked by Brian Wise
Rob Swift – The Architect (Ipecac)
Rob Swift is a turntable artist from Jackson Heights, Queens, who came up with a DJ crew called the X-ecutioners. His new album, The Architect, flows like a classical symphony, starting with an overture and prelude, and evolving into movements. Highlights include the second movement, called "Rabia," and “Spartacuts,” which slices up Mussorgsky’s “A Night on Bald Mountain.” And like any great performance in classical music OR hip hop, it ends with applause. -- picked by Joel Meyer