Photo of James Pants
By Mawuse Ziegbe
Recently, I've discovered two bands who've made me want to slap my mama...out of joy of course. There's lots of buzz about shiny new bands brimming with spunk and glamour. But for The Kills and The Whitest Boy Alive, dizzying laptop-critic buzz is old hat. I absentmindedly downloaded "Cheap and Cheerful" after hearing journos in the American Apparel media (Nylon, Fader, Pitchfork etc) yapping about the platonic punk pair Alison "VV" Mosshart and Jamie "Hotel" Hince. Can we talk about the rowdy that song is? The pouty vocals, the snappy lyrics and snarly guitars, all kicked off by a phlegm cough from "VV." Their latest, Midnight Boom, is twinkly lo-fi - moody and spare with moments of spry wit and petulant kick. I thought I was all on the pulse only to learn this is their third album. Drat.
And when I stumbled onto The Whitest Boy Alive I was straight-up sore that no one invited me to the party earlier. The Whitest Boy Alive is actually several (four) white boys (German to be exact) who pump out plucky electro rock. Think the bastard child of Peter Bjorn and John and The Rapture. Sorta like beach music for the city. Sunny jams like "Figures" and "Burning" make their 2006 album, Dreams enjoyable. But the shadowy laments of heartbreak and smoky soul on tracks like "Golden Cage" and "Done With You" make it memorable.
I wish someone had hipped me to The Kills and The Whitest Boy Alive earlier but with the glut of music the average listener is faced with, things slip through the cracks. Here are some newbies whose hype you should believe wholeheartedly. Listen hard when their publicity machine comes grinding in your direction.
You may have first seen her in the sunny clip for Outkast's "Morris Brown." Diddy got wind of her fabulousness and now she's on a joint deal between Bad Boy and Big Boi's Purple Ribbon labels. Tiny and uncontained, the ex-drama kid brings a genuine sense of theater to her performances. Her peppy sound bounces between breezy, plush lounge and something that sounds like punk rock for fairytales. No tired torch songs here just cryptic yet poetic lyrics about aliens and androids - you know, girl stuff. And can we talk about how homegirl keeps a reserve of spankin' fresh saddle shoes? That alone is worth a marriage proposal.
You should check out: "Violent Stars / Happy Hunting"
Let's not pretend that name isn't a head turner. It smacks of gimmicky desperation. But praise MySpace their skills extend beyond a flair for catchy name-selection. The five members of Black Kids (only two are actually black) hail from Jacksonsville, FL. That may account for the balmy guitar that cloaks the tracks on their 2007 EP, Wizards of Ahhs. Their appeal lies in their irreverent teenaged cool ("it's Friday night and I ain't got nobody so what's the use of a making a bed?"). Only bad thing is that they're currently soooooo cool that they've got a hit song in the UK ("I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You") and they're touring all over Europe with nary a stateside date on their MySpace. Boo.
Check out: "Hurricane Jane" www.blackkidsrock.com
So Muhsinah is a name that has been peppering my favorite media outlets like nobody's business (check out the power-fawning over at Okayplayer.com). At first listen her appeal is very basic: lots of dreamy soul with liberal use of horns, flutes and dusky percussion. But the DC native mixes it up on her album Day.Break. Bless her for weaving together sensual Bossa Nova with steely beats on "Only and Always." The project is entirely self-produced, shaming a lot of the children cluttering the Hot 100. Her knob-twiddling style is reminiscent of both Nicolay and J. Dilla and her vocals can be disjointed yet comforting. She's a bit subtle for the meatheads but that's always a good sign.
Check out: "Only and Always" www.muhsinah.com
James Pants is pretty much my favorite producer, music-maker and funny-picture-taker right now. He churns out splashy noise that at first sounds like a racket but when the melody settles in...ooh chile. Pants is a chubby-cheeked producer-singer based in Washington who clawed his way up from intern to artist at Stones Throw and homeboy has got some soul. His sound is flossy disco topped with a healthy dollop of shimmery tambourine-laced sound effects. Imagine if Gary Wilson wrote and produced for the Bee Gees. His money-hungry single "Kash" came out last year and since then he's dipped his funky little toe in everything from rowdy garage rock to moody new wave. At this rate, next year he could be doling out hip hop polkas with finesse. And I need to hear that.
Check out: "We're Through" www.myspace.com/jamespants