Youth Lagoon -- Wondrous Bughouse
Go down the rabbit hole and find a seat at the Wondrous Bughouse, the textural psych-pop carnival ride that rips holes in the gauze of mortality and peers inside with fascination rather than fear. On the second track, "Mute", singer Trevor Powers reveals, "The devil tries to plague my mind / but he can't quite get inside / I'll place my jar in a burial grounds that only I can find." The album is a dream so tonally rich and charged with clicks, hisses, and scrapes that if you listen to it on headphones the sounds will find their way into the once-tidy folds in your brain.
Dan Deacon -- America
Electronic music is often pigeonholed as dance music with one purpose: to move bodies in a loud room. One listen to America will blow that notion out of the club. The complex range of emotions on America is dizzying if not schizophrenic. Sure, you can dance to many of these songs, but with influences ranging from Philip Glass to Can, the songs and arrangements are also given room to breathe, to contemplate, to be anxious, to be human. Deacon blends live instruments with electronic sounds seamlessly throughout the album, especially on "Prettyboy", which appropriately sits at the center of the track list.
Yo La Tengo -- Fade
The weirdness of Yo La Tengo lies in their use of disparate, sometimes dissonant sounds that still manage to turn out sounding beautiful. On album opener, "Ohm", the buzzy wash of guitars contrasts the soft, lilting melody that almost falls off the rails toward the end. On the next track, "Is That Enough", they overlay lounge vocals and saccharine strings with an undertone of fuzzed out guitars that practically sounds like it's being played in the next studio over. Sometimes I wonder if I'm in on the joke with this band, but I'm always glad I went along for the ride.