One-man bands Telekinesis, Toro y Moi soar; Xiu Xiu sinks into musical madness

Telekinesis – ‘Effluxion’
Telekinesis (singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Michael Benjamin Lerner) comes back with their (his) fifth.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Lerner took his time and crafted a bright tight indie pop record recalling contemporaries such as Born Ruffians and Local Natives and even vintage Matthew Sweet and Wilco The other person I kept harkening back to throughout “Effluxion” was early 70’s studio/pop wunderkind Emitt Rhodes. Rhodes was doing everything on his own records almost 50 years ago. And the two men’s similar styles reach across the decades.
But “Effluxion” is NOT a retro throwback. The record is fully grounded “in the now.” However, great intelligent pop knows no specific eras. It’s simply good music, and Telekinesis have created just that once again. The album also accomplishes a lot during its economical 31 minutes. There isn’t an ounce of fat on well-crafted catchy rockers like “Running like a River” and “Suburban Streetlight Drunk.” Lerner knows his stuff and is only improving with each subsequent release.
BUY IT?: Yes.

Toro y Moi – ‘Outer Peace’
Toro y Moi (singer/songwriter/producer Chaz Bear) throws a house party on his sixth.
THE BAD: Yet another shift in direction, but Bear makes those work. Be prepared.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After releasing 2017’s “Boo Boo,” Bear decided not to tour in the traditional sense. Instead, he spun DJ sets in various locations and wholly embraced club culture. That decision definitely influenced the music and production of “Outer Peace.”
“James Murphy’s spinning at my house.” Here we get a 30-minute mix session; songs blending beautifully, creating a seamless set that pulsates in the beginning (“Fading” bangs), slows down across the middle (the melancholy “New House” is a warm welcome surprise), and picks up speed again for the conclusion (“Freelance” takes its frustrations out on the dance floor).
“Outer Peace” isn’t very close to anything the man has given us before. Yet it’s still distinctly HIM. The set also breathes new life into the work just in time for Bear to kick off a second decade making music.
BUY IT?: I would.

Xiu Xiu – ‘Girl with Basket of Fruit’
Experimental indie outfit Xiu Xiu (California singer/songwriter Jamie Stewart and a revolving door of collaborators) returns with a confrontational eleventh.
THE BAD: Where does the avant-garde end and self-indulgence begin? I asked that question a lot.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Usually, a Xiu Xiu record will give the listener something to embrace amongst the madness. This time, “Basket of Fruit” immediately launches into the weird and abrasive strains of the title cut, and the din is truly fascinating. After a few more songs though, fascination turns into frustration.
Stewart once again puts heaps of emotional baggage on display, but the backdrops are far too chaotic. We get some strange form of beat poetry spread over scratchy strings, synth squiggles, hammering rhythms and otherworldly noises. “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy” almost brings the proceedings out of the proverbial ooze with better beats and fetching (yet still kooky) melodies, but that newfound momentum is soon squandered as the record plays on.
BUY IT?: Not this time.

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