January music playlist – courtesy of Drowned in Sound

We’ve got a new monthly playlist feature for you, put together by our good friends over at Drowned in Sound. If you’re not aware of DiS, it’s a music community which has been doing an amazing job in providing opinions and recommending records since 2000. Each month, the site’s founder will compile a link-laden playlist for you featuring 20 of the previous month’s finest releases, primarily from the ‘alternative’/indie-rock/electronic sphere.

So, here’s the first playlist in this series Drowned in January 2010 playlist and the commentary from Sean Adams:

1) Owen Pallett ‘Lewis’ Dream’

Plink, plink. Kicking off this playlist is something slight. This gentle and genteel track is from the violin-wielding former Arcade Fire and Last of the Shadow Puppets collaborating man formerly known as Final Fantasy, whose new album Heartland was released via Domino Records this month, read DiS’ 8/10 review of the album here.

2) Frightened Rabbit ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’

Fans of indie-rock royalty The Shins and The National who haven’t got The Winter Of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat) scribbled in their diary on March 1st, do so now because if this song and a few others I heard live are anything to go by, these Grey’s Anatomy-soundtracking Scots have a real treat in store. Read our interview with the band about the album.

3) Paul Simon ‘Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard’

Brooklyn’s angular indie-popsters Vampire Weekend released their second album this month but try as they might, they still haven’t bettered this classic track from the legendary Paul Simon. However, they did write a a great director’s commentary-like guide to Contra for DrownedinSound.

4) The Ruby Suns ‘Cranberry’

Ever wondered what it would be like if colourful flamenco street parades wandered across the lakes and mountains of New Zealand, and if Brian Wilson recorded a soundtrack to it? With bleeps, harmonies and watery swirling, Auckland’s The Ruby Suns seem to have asked themselves that random question, to create this otherworldly summery-pop. They recently gave this track away as a teaser ahead of their third album Fight Softly.

5) Yeasayer ‘Ambling Alp’

Keeping things in the weirdie corner, and perhaps sounding a touch like the-blog-band-of-2009 Animal Collective, are Yeasayer, with this slice of pop from a parallel universe. With its refrain of “Stick up for yourself son, ne’ermind what anyone else done,” this is sort of like a self-help meeting, taking place in some back room, with Prince’s Purple Rain on the stereo. This is the first single from the album Odd Blood which is released on Feb 9th via Mute/Secretly Canadian (read our review). If you think this is weird, check out the video for ‘Ambling Alp’, because it is somehow more bonkers than the song itself.

6) Eels ‘Gone Man’

Eight studio albums in and his imagination hasn’t stopped raining. As this song attests, the troubled blues countryman known as E is still top of his game with new album End Times (Review).

7) The Magnetic Fields ‘We Are Having a Hootenanny’

With the incredible opus 69 Love Songs (literally 69 songs, spanning three CDs), New York-dwelling singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt achieved wide-spread acclaim for his fuzzy – and often very funny – brand of alt.pop. With new album Realism (Review) there’s still the same made-for-TV-movie-soundtrack feel but, with concept tracks like this, he takes his merry band on a saunter into the deep South, creating something which ends up sounding not unlike something off the O’ Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

8) Beach House ‘Norway’

Unsettlingly reassuring is the best way to describe this duvet of sound from Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House. Perhaps it’s the way it undulates like a siren song, pulling you in with its uh-uh-uhhing but never revealing the shipwrecks on the rocks. ‘Norway’ is taken from the album Teen Dream (Review) which is out now via the Bella Union label.

9) These New Puritans ‘We Want War’

Gothic hip-hop, now that’s a series of words I never thought I would write. With swords, broken-beats and brass, TNPS from Southend, England’s inventive sound is as much indebted to the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and beat-genius J.Dilla, as it is to art-rockers Sonic Youth or dreamscape architect Brian Eno. It’s a bold, brave and dark sound but most of all it is inventive to the point of sounding scientific, as if they went into a chemistry lab, rather than a recording studio. The result is an album which sounds as fresh and unique, as it does menacing, which is why Hidden is DrownedinSound’s album of the month.

10) dÉbruit ‘Nigeria What?’

Genres like ‘glitch-hop’ and ‘bump-hop’ may sound somewhat ridiculous but when you hear this delirious adventure to a land of tribal drums fractured with modern technology you won’t know whether to dance or to stroke the nearest beard. This release from Parisian Xavier Thomas aka dÉbruit was one of our singles of the week, this month.

11) Gold Panda ‘Back Home’

Welcome to the world of fizzing, jolting and joyous electronica from Derwin aka Gold Panda, who is one of my new music tips for 2010. His post-Kid A music promises to rise in prominence this year, with my fellow journalists placing him within the BBC’s Sound of 2010 critics poll – which for those of you not from the UK, is a democratically voted chart, aimed to pick the stars of tomorrow. Fear not, Gold Panda isn’t some hyped up fad and as you’ll hear, he makes lush Four Tet-like soundscapes which sound both organic and digitised, juxtaposing IRL found sounds with computer wizardary. His debut album follows later this year.

12) Chew Lips ‘Solo’

These synth-loving Londoners will charm the Karen O corner of your heart, whilst the backdrop blips away like a Commodore 64. Their debut album Unicorn is out now (Review).

13) Yeti Lane ‘Lonesome George’

A widescreen jangle of the Velvet Underground inspired guitars meets a piano whirling like cult-heroes Flaming Lips beneath a soaring Morrissey-esque croon. Their French band’s self-titled album is out now (Review) via the shoegaze-loving Sonic Cathedral label.

14) Uffie ‘MCs Can Kiss’

As loved as she is hated by the blogs, Uffie is as divisive as they come. Perhaps best known for her appearance on Justice’s electro-hit ‘THHEE PPAARRTTY’, Uff’ is a gobby American gal living in Paris. She’s equal parts hipster fashionista and pop debutante but with her ‘rapped’ references to her self in third person and lyrical retorts to ‘the h8rz’ on the web, she’s incredibly unique. Love her, hate her, she doesn’t care and her disinterest in what you think is what, for me, makes her era-definingly (and defilingly…) special.

15) Ke$ha ‘TiK ToK’

She’s had Cher’s vocoder implanted in her throat and ‘borrowed’ Uffie’s style and lyrics, minus the ranting, yet this is one of the biggest songs of the past month. By big, I mean, playing in every shop in London and selling 3million+ downloads in America. It’s likely this song will turn out to be this year’s PG-friendly ‘I Kissed A Girl’ cheap-thrills, with talk of boys wanting to touch her “junk”. The 6/10 album Animal is out in February and available to those of you with Spotify premium.

16) Jaga Jazzist ‘One-Armed Bandit’

And now for something completely different… Math-rock shape-shifting and Battles-esque proggy-dance weirdness combine in this exploration of dancefloors on alien planets. The Norwegians album of the same name is out now via Ninja Tune (Review).

17) Hot Chip ‘One Life Stand (Joris Voorn Dusty Flower Mix)’

This fantastic dance remix eventually sounds like the Hot Chip you might recognise from their previous geek-soul-disco records. You can download this remix for free from DrownedinSound.com.

18) Spoon ‘Nobody Gets Me But You’

We make no secret at DiS in unashamedly loving American indie-rock and bands like Spoon have a special place in the hearts of our staff and community. Thankfully, they continue to churn out albums as great as Transference (Reviewed).

19) Tindersticks ‘Black Smoke’

Feel the pace decreasing… For this penultimate track I’ve included something new from cult favourites Tindersticks. If you like this quivering Scott Walker-ish croon, you’ll love discovering their vast back catalogue.

20) Nick Cave & Warren Ellis ‘The Road’

Those of you familiar with Nick Cave’s work with noizy-rockers Grinderman or bluesy-rockers The Badseeds, might not be aware of his soundtrack work with Badseed, Warren Ellis, and this graceful instrumental may take you by surprise. (Soundtrack Review).

Right, that’s it for this instalment. We hope you enjoy this inaugural playlist and discover some music you’ve not heard before. You can find loads more Spotify playlists compiled by DrownedinSound.com here, including our weekly Spotifriday playlist, guides to various niche genres, a 101 Nordic songs, tracks of 2009 and lots more. I often share Spotify links to songs, albums and playlists I like on Twitter, follow me @seaninsound.

Listen: Drowned in January 2010.