No, Stereolab, the long-running and influential indie-pop band, is not necessarily "back." (In fact, the band is still reportedly on indefinite hiatus.) The near-hour of music found on Not Music comes from the sessions that produced the 2008 record Chemical Chords. The band, or its record label, must have felt this material just had to get out in the marketplace.
The good news is that the high points are quite high -- especially the driving, 10-minute album centerpiece "Silver Sands," a song whose music wouldn't out of place on the soundtrack to one of John Carpenter's 1980s movies.
Elsewhere, Stereolab revisits the neo-lounge, Space Age bachelor pad sound they more or less pioneered 20 years ago as well as doing some synth-funk and cutesy twee pop, to varying degrees of success. The one unwavering strength is, of course, the vocals of Laetitia Sadier, whose drily melodic voice (think of a stronger but subtle version of Nico) still sounds as good as ever.
Stereolab seemingly emptied the vault for this one, and thus, a tighter edit might have produced a more digestible album. As such, I feel left to cherry-pick the handful of highlights and delete the rests. Stereolab nuts will surely disagree and argue it's all great. To me, it's essentially a totally non-essential Stereolab cash grab. Not that I can blame them for trying.
Best song: "Silver Sands [Emperor Machine Mix]" and the fuzz-guitar gem "Sun Demon" (posted above). Rotation: Low-medium Deja vu: Staying up past your bedtime, trying not to wake the house. I'd rather listen to: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Grade: B-
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here. The "Nothing Not New" Archives: