When Die Antwoord played Coachella in 2010, the South African duo of Ninja and Yo-landi Vi$$er -- a gyrating, potty-mouthed sprite -- shocked, confused and delighted the crowd, already hyped to their tricks via a rabid Internet following. Nearly two years later, they've built on -- or exhausted -- their project, which is somewhere between performance art, hip-hop worship and massive cultural joke. Their second album, "Ten$ion" is due Feb. 7; "I Fink U Freeky" is the record's first single, which kicks off with Yo-landi's warm feelings about playboys, bad boys, et al. It's got some appealing synth grinds -- the digital equivalent of vocal fry -- from DJ Hi-Tek but the biggest problem with this song is that there's not nearly enough talk about ninjas. "I think you're freaky and I like you a lot?" OK, but you still haven't mentioned ninjas. Moving on...
In 2008, after various stints in the music industry as a songwriter and fronting her inventive rock band Stiffed, Santigold released a self-titled debut album that slowly but surely turned into a sleeper hit, fusing together dancehall, punk and new wave. She now returns with her first single from her forthcoming "Master of My Make Believe," recorded partially in Jamaica and due out this spring. Over a clattering stomp from Portugal's Buraka Som Sistema (co-producing with frequent M.I.A. collaborator Switch), "Big Mouth" is a high-energy diss -- and if the video's animation by Cody Critcheloe is any indication, at least a little bit of its ire is directed at starlets Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Some have complained that this sounds too much like M.I.A., which is a fair critique, though hopefully the rest of "Make Believe" takes its own tack.
Despite the name, Miike Snow is not one man with a fondness for vowels but a trio from Sweden that made its official debut in 2009. The synth group is anchored by the producing team of Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, also known as Bloodshy and Avant, who made their names long before being a performing group; they have worked with Madonna, Kelis, Kylie Minogue and on one of the best Britney tracks from her pre-breakdown years, the elegantly menacing "Toxic." With the fantastic "Paddling Out," one of the singles released Thursday from their follow-up "Happy to You" due in late March, Miike Snow has taken the same "Toxic" qualities and injected it with a happy house racing pulse, giddy but still polished. Picture Grace Kelly losing control at a glittering Euro rave and you're somewhere close to the smart charms of this addictive song.
-- Margaret Wappler
Photo: Die Antwoord posing on the streets of Los Angeles. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times