The Kleptones 24 Hours (Kleptones)
The Kleptones are more than the sum of their samples. They do what's called “mashup” or "bastard pop," where super-geniuses clip moments of well-known songs, then layer vocals and parts of other famous tracks on top. The further away the genres are from one another, the better the result. For instance, Simon and Garfunkel get down with The Cure. Peter Gabriel sings “Land of Confusion” with Edwin Starr's “War,” (you know, “What is it good for?”) in the background to create stunning results. The best part is how well these things line up, like they were meant for each other. The other best part is this brilliant double disc is free if you go to www.kleptones.com.
nearLY reminder (Kufala Recordings)
Some folks get grouchy. Others go glum. nearLY is downright grim. It's a stone castle—with gargoyles—on a stormy seaside cliff. Loops of simple piano or violins plod through rolling drums and de-tuned guitars. All that melancholy is the pet project of ex-NIN drummer Jerome Dillon, who based the album off a recurring nightmare, according to its slick little press release. The singers (Claudia Sarne and Greg Dulli) would be interesting if they had been given something interesting to vocalize. This CD is shooting for concept, for soundscapiness, but falls short into the semi-shapeless moat of muck. It's not my cup of gloomy tea.
The Dresden Dolls Yes, Virginia (Roadrunner Records)
Critics love this duo. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't. They're right this time. Amanda Palmer plays the piano the way one might spank a child. She's stern. She's forceful. And she's short of brutal. Paired with no-holds-barred vocals, these tracks aren't always easy, but they're riveting. And there's no topic she won't take on with comrade Brian Viglione at her side. This skintight pair examines everything good artists have always scrutinized, but it's the particular Dresden Dolls cabaret spin—twisted playfulness, unlikely love—that makes it something worth hearing again.