Four Tet, There Is Love in You (Domino)
Rare is the electronic artist who makes you feel like you’re roving alien landscapes. London-based Kieran Hebden (a.k.a. Four Tet) serves as your starship captain, transporting you to a place fraught with cosmic beauty, where songs have jettisoned all clichés and instead settled on a fragile star of pop splinters, nightclub shards and chunks of hazy vocals. Such is the composition of There Is Love in You, Hebden’s fifth full-length and easily his most accomplished effort to date. From the artificially textured keyboard march of “Plastic People,” to the angelic harpsichord-plucking of “Circling,” to the pots-and-pan-clattering indie-rock crescendos of “She Just Likes to Fight,” this CD is ideal for afternoon road trips from Vegas to L.A. and back, the desert whizzing by like a desolate dream. For the adventurous electronic or dance music fan only—or for anyone seeking out the best in today’s post-rock scene. – Jarret Keene
Sade, Soldier of Love (Sony)
Sade’s first album in a decade finds the British songstress at the peak of her R&B powers. Her songs are timeless, whether you’re talking about a deep cut from her shimmering 1984 debut, Diamond Life, or a track off 2000’s Lovers Rock. Every note in Soldier harbors palpable desperation, leaving one to speculate that perhaps the geopolitical fallout of the aughts—in which the singer has confessed to focusing on her child and garden—has darkly impacted her songwriting. The title track, with its extended metaphor of martial danger and in which she mourns being “at the borderline of my faith,” is violent, while “Skin,” with its erotic pledge to “peel you away” (plus a heartfelt Michael Jackson reference), troubles the mind like a nightmare. Conversely, “Babyfather,” about the responsibility and blessings that come with parenthood, is arguably her most uplifting construction. An Amazon of modern soul. – J.K.
Surfer Blood, Astro Coast (Kanine)
Who can’t appreciate a band that mixes the echoey guitar slashings of The Jesus & Mary Chain with the wave-running popcraft of the Beach Boys? There’s no mistaking that Surfer Blood hails from coastal Florida, where shark attacks, orange groves and urban sprawl mix rather uncomfortably. However, whereas Vampire Weekend seems more concerned with tossing in ethnic flourishes to prove they’ve fulfilled the necessary diversity credits at their Ivy League institution, Surfer Blood brings in Caribbean rhythms one might easily encounter in the band’s hometown of West Palm Beach. Breakout single “Swim” boasts a soaring reverb-drenched hook to rival any of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound smash hits. “Floating Vibe,” meanwhile, drifts into ebullient moments of late-’80s shoegaze. “Twin Peaks” reads like a love letter to David Lynch, as the band attempts a Roy Orbison imitation after downing too many piña coladas. Retro and deliriously modern, Surfer Blood hangs a nearly perfect 10. – J.K.