The Blue Nile’s A Walk Across the Rooftops is one of the crown jewels of ‘80s pop. Paul Buchanan plays a cold, cruel character who’s enough of a romantic to understand the allure of the dolce vita that sprawls before him. “There’s a red car in the fountain,” he sings on center- and masterpiece “Tinseltown in the Rain,” and it’s hard to say if he’s describing a scene of yuppie decadence or saying, “Fuck it—let’s go.” Wait until you hear what he sings on the chorus; has anyone ever sung something so brutal with such heart-on-sleeve passion?
As Lone, Matt Cutler has spent the past decade-plus marrying his candy-colored chords to just about every drumbeat he can program: instrumental hip hop, house, breakbeats or no drums at all. Always Inside Your Head, his first album in five years—and his first for Greco-Roman Records after leaving the disgraced R&S label—feels like a culmination of all these threads just as much as it feels like a fresh start. It’s his warmest and most organic-sounding record yet, assisted by a hyper-compressed mix and the atmospheric vocals of Morgane Diet.
Rapper and visual artist Old Grape God has the most surreal punchlines in Portland, but how he delivers them is just as important. He raps elastically but with great gravitas, remembering that the rapper’s voice is just as much of an instrument as a delivery method. (He also plays drums with his feet sometimes.) Da Fence Less is his 33rd release, a 23-minute head trip with skeletal beats that hark back to golden-age milestones like LL Cool J’s Radio. “It ain’t funky if I can’t smell it,” he says. Da Fence Less reeks like a fire in a cannabis field.
German techno lifer Wolfgang Voigt initiated Love Inc. as a tribute to the glam rock bands he grew up on as a kid in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The group’s sole full-length, 1996′s Life’s a Gas (available on YouTube or the Earquake box set), stretches and distends samples of classic glam tracks until they become environments. The 15-minute title track is a proto-vaporwave milestone, but Life’s a Gas works best when Voigt finds common ground between the stomp of glam rock and the relentless rhythm of techno, as on his monster remix of T. Rex’s “Hot Love.”