James Murphy is the David Eckstein of music. He’s an unassuming schlubby looking guy. The sort of dude you expect to see in line in front of you ordering a dozen Jelly donuts. He’s the kind of guy everyone calls the “backbone of a team.” Of course, by everyone, I just mean the Rapture. Meanwhile, his voice is nothing to write home about. Flat. Off-key. More of a bray a croon. Simply put, this guy has no right to be this good. But with Sound of Silver, Murphy has transcended his limited vocal capabilities and fully broken out of the dance-punk ghetto he’d formerly been lumped into, to win a world series MVP/produce one of the year’s best albums.

From the start, you can tell that the man’s been listening to his Berlin-era Bowie and Here Come the Warm Jets-era Eno, as the cocaine-detached vocals maintain an unemotional yet strangely powerful resonance, slanted against jittery propulsive drum machines. “Get Innocuous” opens up the album with a skittering beat and Murphy’s ghostly voice moaning in the background, occasionally floating to the front talking about things that you “once believed in/now you see it sucking you in/to string you along with the pretense.”

The album shifts into high gear by track three, with the album’s first single (and worthy heir to “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”), “North American Scum” which succeeds in that by June it’s guaranteed to have thousands of Misshapes hipsters along to lyrics like “New York’s okay…if you have someone to pay your rent.” Needless to say, I have visions in my head of guys in headbands, skinny jeans and ironic tees, singing and writhing with the full weight of their 122 lb. bodies, trying to make out with girls in striped shirts and leopard makeup to this very song. Leotard Fantastic, get ready.

Beard. Check. Blazers. Check. Glasses? C’mon James…Put on a Pair of Cheap Plastic Glasses and Make Me Happy

“Someone Great’s” moonlight twinkles and rubbery bass lines pack more emotion into 6 and a half minutes than most artists can put into an entire album. Snippets of the track appeared on last year’s similarly awesome 45:33 album that Murphy did for Nike and on Sound of Silver, it fits perfectly, as Murphy intuitively understands the right moment to shut up and let the music swell, enveloping the listener in white shrouds of nostalgia.

The clarity of Murphy’s vision becomes clear with the album’s centerpiece and finale, its lament to the death of NYC: “New York I Love You.” Think of it as Murphy’s diss song on Frank Sinatra’s. He might’ve loved New York once, but now he’s disgusted with the post-Guilani era, where monthly 1-bedroom rents can cost more than yearly home mortgages in Texas. In the course of his rant, Murphy goes buckwild, issuing a sarcasm-dripping diatribe taking on Bloomberg, crooked cops, NYC paranoia and foolish trust-fund hipsters. While it’s sure to send some eyes rolling, I find it awesome. Dude’s calling out name’s. Maybe he isn’t dance music’s David Eckstein. Maybe he’s just dance music’s 50 Cent.

Listening to this album, I couldn’t help but think about how much better this is than the the about-to-be-released RJD2 album. Both Murphy and RJ possess prodigious production talents, yet with Sound of Silver, Murphy has created a work that seemingly maximizes his many strengths and shuts down his shortcomings. He never tries to be a pop star for the masses. Murphy understands his niche and made a perfect album for a small sub-set of ultra-literate, ironic big city kids. Yet because of his decision not to over-extend himself, this album will inevitably find Murphy finding a wider audience. Murphy’s publicly expressed his desire to make this record hit #1, and while that seems a bit of a stretch, it’s not inconceivable that he will find himself crossing over. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if this Silver goes gold. It would certainly be deserved.

Rating: A

MP3: LCD Soundsystem-“North American Scum”

Stream The Entire Album at LCD Soundsystem’s Myspace

Bonus: Video for “North American Scum”

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