Wow. The Peter Silberman-led Brooklyn trio has made a crushingly beautiful and sad concept album - a short story of bad dreams and realities even harsher, set to gauzy, poignant indie rock. A cancer-ward patient has every right to be miserable, and she is, lashing out at the person who gives her care. In his almost weeping falsetto, Silberman explains on the unforgettable Kettering: "Because you've been abused by the bone that refused you, and you hired me to make up for that." There is a disguised tinge of doo-wop on the dynamic Sylvia, which alludes to the suffering, suicidal poet of that name. The album's shimmering, white-noise sonics add an antiseptic tone; the mood is daunting. If this disc, issued earlier in the year independently, does not affect you in some profound way, check your own vital signs. Brad Wheeler
The Antlers play Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern on Thursday.
Man on the Moon:
The End of Day
Sometimes where you're from matters as much as what you do. KiD CuDi (Scott Mescudi) raps in an introspective, self-deflating way ("I try to run, but see, I'm not that fast"), records with lush strings or with electronica guys such as Ratatat (who feature in the standout single Alive), and flirts with sounds and styles that we're used to hearing from Vangelis or Barry White. In CuDi's hip-hop community, all this looks revolutionary. His much-anticipated debut album does indeed contain many thought-provoking moments, in its lyrical content and blithe skill at juggling so many different modes. Where I keep running aground is on the blank tedium of his melodies, and the lack of any brio in his delivery. He must have the flattest sense of rhythm of any rapper alive. Perhaps he should go the opposite way to Kanye West: Drop the rapping and songwriting, and just concentrate on production.
There's no shortage of amusing gambits on this album by Toronto trio Toca Loca, of composed responses to all things pop. Aaron Gervais's Shoot Like a Film Star animates a snippet of junk e-mail text with energetic flourishes of voice and instruments (pianos and percussion), reinventing Dada for the spam age. Andrew Staniland's Made in China worries over small musical aggregates while we soak in a phrase that contains a world of consumer goods. Juliet Palmer's Five riffs on a song by Alanis Morissette, sending up pop's insistence on repetition by writing canons that step on each other's heels. Nicole Lizée's Promises, Promises is a slippery, sharp-edge rumination on the passage of stylistic time, while other composers cut and rearrange elements of pop song structure. Nobody can resist the urge to complicate pop, though what would be really interesting would be to write something that's as simple as pop, but that says more. R.E.-G.
Toca Loca plays Vancouver's Western Front on Oct. 15.