KING BRITT, King Britt Presents SYLK 130 Re-Members Only (Six Degrees) By now, even kids in Sequim know that the media's trend dial has been>"/>
KING BRITT, King Britt Presents SYLK 130 Re-Members Only (Six Degrees) By now, even kids in Sequim know that the media's trend dial has been set full speed ahead for '80s nostalgia. Off-the-shoulder Xanadu looks rule the runways, saggier but still rockin' versions of Bon Jovi and Boy George are packing venues—hell, even the hopelessly dated Mr. T has found a paying gig hawking 1-800 COLLECT to Gen Y-ers. So it follows that Philadelphia DJ/producer King Britt's SYLK 130 should be more than timely. The liner notes call the album "[a] sojourn through the 'me decade' . . . just imagine the funkiest, freshest radio station on your FM dial, WISH 130, is having the party of the century—the 'End of the Eighties Extravaganza.' And you're invited." Unfortunately, it turns out to be the kind of party where you spend the whole time at the snack table inhaling the Cool Ranch Doritos and wishing there were someone more interesting to talk to. The decade's synths and syncopated grooves are there, but they seem to have gone all, well, hair salon-y. What was once main-floor stuff sounds like aural wallpaper here; pleasant, but Britt doesn't exactly kick out the jams. Even a cover of Nu Shooz's bouncing bubblegum classic "I Can't Wait" becomes a decidedly sedate, medium-funk affair in his hands. Silky-smooth production or not, it still sounds, in the end, like the "funkiest, freshest station" got slipped a third-millennium Quaalude.—Leah Greenblatt
TROUBLEMAKERS, Doubts & Convictions (Guidance) I'm not gonna lie to you: I love France. And French people. I'm not alone, either, so keep your Francophobic comments to yourself. Two of the most inspired young writers in America, David Sedaris and Adam Gopnik, have recently published books stating that France's culture makes ours look like a McDonald's Playland, and two of America's best actors, Johnny Depp and Mira Sorvino, now call France home. As if smart people such as myself needed further convincing, the spate of fantastic albums by French artists (see Air, Laurent Garnier, Mellow) continues, with this one from Marseille's Troublemakers. The trio's Doubts and Convictions tap-dances around such generally unappealing genres as downtempo and lounge, always remaining sophisticated enough to avoid any pitfalls—save for the occasional overreliance on bongos. The disc slides down smoother than a frosty margarita, with funk-drenched beats becoming subsumed in disorienting synth swells, while vocals vary between oddball samples (in English or en fran缯I>ais), soulful crooning, or clipped toasting. It's mostly dark, entirely chic, and in tracks such as "Fatigue Universelle," so damned groovy that you might find yourself looking into becoming a French citizen yourself. Allez-y!—Richard A. Martin
LITTLE CHAMPIONS, Transactions + Replications (Barsuk) My family isn't exactly known for producing geniuses, but I was pretty surprised when, at a recent family gathering, my cousin from California had the balls to say, "So, the music scene in Seattle is really dead, huh?" Jeez. If I could get ol' cousin Steve to listen to Transactions + Replications—the surfing guitars, dark bass lines, oblique but poppy male/female vocals, and layer upon layer of musical movement—it would smack solidly against his ears as well-deserved punishment for asking such a stupid question. They don't make a bucket big enough to catch all of this city's sounds and they don't make one strong enough to carry all the bouncing and banging in the Little Champions' rock-and-jive. So on their second full-length, the local quartet line up their retro-fitted ideas and influences like ducks in a shooting gallery and then blow them all to pieces. "Kind Radio" breaks lonely, escaping vocals and jarring cello over toylike drumbeats and repetitive plucked notes. By the end of the track, the samples start their screeching and the whole thing is rendered a brilliant mess. "Half Inhaled" follows, teasing relentlessly with its Sleater-Kinney-like instrumentation and tempting refrain, "You show us yours/and I'll show you mine." "The Idiot Seat" starts off with all the unruly clamoring, bottom-heavy charge, and dirty grit of a B movie starring the Fall's Mark E. Smith and Kate Pierson of the B-52's. In fact, all 14 songs parade an astute sense of inspired indie inventiveness through our very own backyard, and dammit if any of us will be able to just sit there and watch.—Laura Learmonth
AIKO SHIMADA, Blue Marble (Tzadik). We have John Zorn's fascination with all things Japanese—and the New Japan imprint of his Tzadik label—to thank for the fact that Seattle singer-guitarist Aiko Shimada has been given such a (relatively!) high-profile showcase. And with beautifully insightful production from part-time Seattleite Eyvind Kang, Shimada more than earns her place among Downtown's highest creative company. Blue Marble is compact and totally gripping; every surface reflects. While Shimada normally performs with trumpet, bass, and drums, Kang surrounds her in a kind of chamber electronica: thready strings, drum loops, washes, thumps, cymbals. Each song has a stark and strange arrangement that finds new drama in Aiko's already tense compositions. On "Toki Wa Sugi" and "Busy Rabbit," he records her so close and unembellished, you feel like you are halfway down her throat. Other times we hear her distant and multiplied among Kang's layered violins. She sings only in Japanese, with a precise and ceremonial quality, purified of folk singer embellishments and more compelling for it. She does not command your attention so much as arrest it, with melodies that are lovely, unreachable. It's been a while since I've heard a record that sounded so original and so sure of its complicated vision.—Mark D. Fefer
Aiko Shimada plays the Rainbow Thursday, April 12.