While the season's transitional weather lends plenty of opportunities for staring-out-the-window-at-the-rain songs, spring's soft sunshine also inspires a feel-good faster pace—so that we can get it all done in time for dreamy do-nothing summer days. For those ready to get things started early, we threw in a few cathartic jams too.
Menahan Street Band: Home Again!
Perfectly blending smooth, jazzy horns and peppy percussion, play this one as your soundtrack for walking like you have somewhere to go but don't really care if you're 20 minutes late. Download it from iTunes.
LCD Soundsystem: I Can Change
Yes, the most pop track off the album already makes us cringe when we hear people sing along to it, but we can't say no to a song that's so irrepressibly danceable—in fact, we're pretty in love with the whole album. On James Murphy's third album, he continues to make music that draws on an obscure past to come up with a fresh sound for the ages. Or, as Murphy put it in a recent New Yorker interview, "LCD is a band about a band writing music about writing music." Add live shows with so much energy it feels like the place may explode—a problem we're fine with so long as the unlikely frontman is there with us—and we're totally sold. This is one where you should definitely actually pay for the whole album—do it on iTunes.
Jai Paul: BTSTU
A tip-off from the band and tightly-edited music and culture blog Superhumanoids, this gritty track keeps it minimal while hooking any 808 addicts with heavy bass. Not much is known about the unsigned Londoner, yet this track has already become a current club fixture worldwide.
Twin Sister: I Want A House
Beginning with a sparse, percussive heartbeat that anchors Andrea Estella's woozy intonations for shelter and love, this track then makes way for a tighter-than-tight guitar hook, heavenly multi-tracked vocals and a hazy instrumental coda. Download it on iTunes.
Cults: Go Outside
This anonymous group pulls out tender, glockenspiel-heavy melodies with the ease of a spring breeze only rivaled by the simple purity of their lyrics. Originally spotted on Street Carnage Radio, Cults let the music speak for itself with no more online presence than a bandcamp site for downloading their three-track album.
Janet Jackson: Escapade
The 1989 hit from Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 album ushered in a defining '90s sound that, thanks to perfect pop production, still holds up for nostalgia-tinged warm weather romps around town with the windows down and the speakers turned up. Her controversial album (Jackson wanted to express her hopes that we would one day live in a nation "that would have a positive message and that everyone would be free to join") also still has particular relevance today. Pick it up from iTunes.
Big Boi: Shutterbug
A contender for this summer's club anthem, "Shutterbugg" is the first track from Big Boi's solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. Producer Scott Storch's trademark boom-clap and needling synths are all over this one, along with a momentary refrain of Soul II Soul's "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)"—but when it comes down to it, we really just like the way it jumps off with the beat. Get it now on iTunes.
James Murphy: People
LCD Soundsystem's superlative new LP, This Is Happening, is enough to keep us occupied all season long (see our review of "I Can Change" above). However, the soulfully downtempo "People" from James Murphy's first film score is a noteworthy detour. Hear the rest of the Greenberg soundtrack from iTunes.
Gorillaz: Superfast Jellyfish (Ft. Gruff Rhys & De La Soul)
In the mad world of Gorillaz, anything is possible, even an oddball collaboration between De La Soul and Super Furry Animal's Gruff Rhys. Damon Albarn's funhouse production gives De La Soul's nutty wordplay and Rhy's idiosyncratic, sunny delivery equal billing. Order the track on iTunes.
Wild Beasts: Empty Nest
Frontman Hayden Thorpe's gorgeously sad song sounds more like an intricate web than an empty nest, weaving his words as he does to a tune we don't mind getting trapped in. Pick it up from iTunes.
Junk Science: Really, Man
An offshoot of Brooklyn's Nuclear Family (and friends of CH), the Junk Science duo's laid-back, lyrically amusing track (from their new album A Miraculous Kind Of Machine) comes with an equally humorous John and Yoko-inspired video that we're debuting below. Pick up the album from iTunes.
Vybz Kartel: Better Can Wuk
No summer warm-up mix in New York would be complete without dancehall, and one of Jamaica's leading emcees keeps it appropriately daggering-friendly with "Better Can Wuk." While it's not officially released yet, check out the video on YouTube. (Thanks to yo_matty for the tip.)
Pavement: Gold Soundz
It's no surprise that the 1994 "Gold Soundz" would be included on the recent Best of Pavement album, Quarantine the Past. The stream-of-consciousness lyrics, broken only to alert the band of the coming chorus, are a big part of what makes the band's entire catalog so compelling—but it's the surprisingly understated instrumental section that always does me in. A smattering of guitars rise and fall with graceful ambiguity, blooming in the middle in a fit of unexpected ecstasy only to collapse drunk on the floor. Beautiful. Find the Matador reissue on iTunes.—Rory Carroll
Written in a small cabin in rural Upstate New York and recorded in Malibu, the title track off the Brooklyn band's sophomore album mixes dreamy psychedelic sounds with introspection for a light-hearted—but self-aware—look at fame. Like the record as a whole, the way "Congratulations" pretty flawlessly modernizes a vintage genre in a complete departure from their debut album, suggests the group knows exactly what they're doing. Pick it up from iTunes.