Shrouded in mystery—no mean feat in our present information-overload age—this Northern Ireland-based venture produces what I think of as harsh, inflamed-dermis noise. There's a desperately dry, itchy-scratchy texture to this steroid-infused fuzz that lends it an unusually paranoid edge; it suggests polygraph machines going haywire, turntable needles damaging records, detoxing junkies convulsing through withdrawal.
The Dead Weather
"Die by the Drop"
If I were a hit man who specialized in knocking off spouses, or an undercover cop who specialized in posing as that kind of hit man for police-sting purposes, "Die by the Drop" would totally be my theme song, my ringtone, the background music on my land-line answering machine.
Ben Folds and Nick Hornby
"Levi Johnston's Blues"
Just the very idea of this pair of cultural skewerers throwing Bristol Palin's opportunistic baby-daddy under the bus is so perfect and hilarious and cosmically preordained that rollicking piano ballad "Levi Johnston's Blues" doesn't actually need to exist, almost. But thank Wasilla it does, if only for wry bread crusts like "So we talked, and it turns out we're against abortion."
Hell Rell "Standing Ovation
Nyah-nyah-nyah, knuckleheaded/contemptuous Dipset boilerplate that's surprisingly top-shelf. And, really, when's the last time you heard anyone spit bars about HIV? "You die, who gon' bring the flowers and come to your grave/You never know, that pretty face might come with some AIDS," Rell warns, later adding "You ain't got Magic Johnson money."
Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon remind me more and more of the Killers. Maybe it's that admixture of bombastic chords and the unapologetic milking of quasi-religious themes, but KoL at least seem sincere about what they're projecting. And for "Radioactive" they brought in a choir; it's almost as though the final piece of some aesthetic puzzle has snapped into place.