left off the tracks.

Archive for the category “Sensational Songs”

electroGroove… Holly Herndon’s “Chorus”

…today I find myself repeatedly looping and returning to this intertwining lush series of electronic loops and juxtapositions by Holly Herndon.  It has that dual yet rare quality of inspiring a blissed-out attentive hypnosis (oxymoron?) and pulsating danceable rhythms.  both engrossing and calm inducing, i can’t help but returning to and disappearing into its all-encompassing groove. for those that love the intersection between minimalist music, experimental electronica, and dance beats, this is for you… think Glass & Reich meets Grimes. perhaps you’ll fade into it too…

for more info about and music by Holly go to: http://www.hollyherndon.com/projects/chorus.html

a.a.

The Year in RearView (Pt. 3): Favorite Songs of ’13 Everything I Love is On the Table (a playlist)

…and now the songs that wormed their way into my ear in 2013.

everything i love

2013 in RearView: Everything I Love is On the Table

What follows is a list of 100ish songs that I couldn’t get enough of and to which I kept returning. Although I didn’t really “rank” songs, I definitely placed those that achieved “Most Favored Track” status at the beginning of the playlist and worked on making this more of a mix. (But feel free to listen in whatever order, manner, or mode you desire.) I’ve left the longer, odder, and more experimental tracks to the end. Along with the songs, listed below are some passing observations, odd thoughts, reason(s) for inclusion, favorite lines (in italics), and miscellaneous marginalia. Typical editing faux pas apply. Oh and sorry no Daft Punk (boring to my ears) or Robin Thicke (stupid and demeaning).

Last year, I did this thing where I limited myself to one song per artist; this was both foolish and disingenuous. I’ve revised that approach but limited myself to only two songs per artist at most. (Still, I could easily have three or four songs from the National, Haim, Chvrches, and Waxahatchee on this list.  Just listen to each of their records instead.)

  • “The Mother We Share” by Chvrches* …the euphoria and optimism that radiates from Chvrches songs music is what I crave from all pop music, plus this track just makes you want to let loose
  • “Falling” by Haim …so many gems on this album but I’ll go with this track as it showcases that lovely blend of soulful vocals and R&B tinged pop/rock that makes this band such a revelation and joy
  • “Sea of Love” by The National …when I had my down moments this year, this track always brought me back:  an anthemic, fist-in-the-air all out rock song that encapsulates the bitter sweet nature of living and loving
  • “You” by Bibio …every evening should end with this track; the chillaxing bliss blends exquisitely with the sentiment of the song…”find somebody just like… You”
  • “Open” by Rhye* …the montage in my mind: images of lovers, ex-lovers, new lovers in various states of disrobing anticipating, regretting, and wondering
  • “Misery Over Dispute” by Waxahatchee …the vitriol that comes through in Katie Crutchfield’s vocals perfectly captures the sentiment of choosing to stay in a destructive relationship.
  • “Old Skin” by Olafur Arnalds …I want to be enveloped in the peace and euphoria this track evokes in me… always
  • “I Don’t Know How” by Best Coast …about as perfect as pop song gets…from remorse to blissful abandon
  • “Song For Zula” by Phosphorescent …a sprawling majestic blanket of sound filled with a wanderer’s existential musing on love and its discontent(s)
  • “Chamakay” by Blood Orange …sultry, smooth, and sweet, this duet seeps into my skin and simply makes me want to groove
  • “How Come You Don’t Want Me Now” by Tegan and Sara …perfectly encapsulates the “end” of love; another album with multiple tracks to choose from.
  • “Take A Fall For Me” by James Blake with RZA …a downbeat juxtaposition of smoky earth vocal from RZA and ethereal, blue-eyed soul of Blake’s production; bass pounding into your bones.
  • “Byegone” by Volcano Choir … pregnant with unbridled emotion, yet moody, laconic stream-of-consciousness storytelling that builds into an ecstatic release; this music makes me believe in something more
  • “Honey” by Torres … bone chilling, electro-folk that explodes into a wall of wondrous anger
  • “End and End” by Their/There/They’re … this sentiment:  “the long life that we desire, the short life that we will settle for”; this is called maturity and wisdom?
  • “Sonsick” by San Fermin …a mini-baroque musical filled with explosive horns and percussion and the angelic vocals from the ladies of Lucius; I think this is the internal monologue of a latter day Nora Helmer wondering about choosing a drab and routine life.
  • “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” by Superchunk … two minutes of perfect, blissed out power pop about the powerlessness of art in the face of death and real-world obstacles
  • “Only A Clown” by Caitlin Rose put your record on let the band play a song all about love and believing
  • “Teenage” by Veronica Falls driving late at night I’ll let you listen to the music you like, then I’ll drop you home
  • “The Perfect Life” by Moby …oh my. Wayne Coyne getting preacher like, a gospel choir, an epic build up and raucous ecstasy throughout!!!
  • “Emkay” by Bonobo …just chill. Just chill
  • “Dust to Dust” by The Civil Wars …a stripped down sparse duet that is burns with unspoken utterances and emotions
  • “Oh Yeah” by Foxygen …a paisley, psych, blues infused party of a track
  • “New York 2017” by Party Supplies …keep the dance party going to the sunrise!
  • “Sex” by the 1975 …another pop-rock piece of genius; a latter day Cars-esque sound
  • “Turn It Around” by Lucius …50s girl pop brilliance with baroque indie production
  • “Red & White & Blue & Gold” by Aoife O’Donovan …that voice. spellbinding. intoxicating.
  • “Never Wanted Your Love” by She & Him …Brill building pop brilliance. I’m so tired of being clever, everyone is clever these days.  Amen sister!
  • “You & I” by Local Natives …another gorgeous rumination on the end of love that embraces and envelops you in its epic expansive emotional abyss
  • “Always Forever” by Vondelpark …music that feels like you are plunging into a warm body of water, floating in bliss
  • “Team” by Lorde … Don’t get me wrong “Royals” is a good song but the beats on this track and Lorde’s voice sinks into my bones; favorite line of the year: I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hand’s up in the air… so there. Ditto.
  • Hold On, We’re Going Home by Drake …is there anyone in the HipHop/R&B world making sexier music than Drake? No.
  • Cover Me Up by Jason Isbell …Isbell’s voice is piercing; this line just destroys me: someone needs medical help more than magnolia’s bloom.
  • “Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend …cheery, up-tempo, Elvis Costello-like ditty about burning in hell for not being a “believer”.  Brillz.
  • “Crazy” by Au Revoir Simone …I just want to sway to these dreamy voices
  • “Gustavo” by Mark Kozelek …masterful storytelling
  • “Grins” by Charlie XCX …many great dance tracks on this record but I love how dynamic and busy this song; Charlie’s voice exudes longing
  • “Holding On” by Classixx …just. a. phenomenal. dance. song.
  • “Half Angel Half Light” by The Men …muddled, fuzzy country-punk rock for letting it all out
  • “In the Kingdom” by Mazzy Star … man did I ever miss Hope Sandoval’s gorgeous voice and Mazzy Star’s sprawling dreamscapes
  • “Chain My Name” by Polica … that smoky quality of Channy Leaneagh’s voice
  • “My Number” by The Foals …electro-clash rock returns?!?! YES!
  • “Bad Kingdom” by Moderat …feels like a dark Depeche Mode dance tune filtered through groovy drones
  • “Everything But” by The Range …adore the euphoria and bliss in this track juxtaposed against all the spacey, minimalist trip hop-y dance elements
  • “Great Lake Derelict” by The Appleseed Cast …consciousness and soul expanding
  • “Down Down the Deep River” by Okkervil River …Will Sheff channeling early 80s Springsteen here and it’s exquisite
  • “Smother” by Daughter …this line: Sometimes I wish I’d stayed inside my mother, never to come out… (ugh, punch to the gut)
  • “Follow Your Arrow” by Kacey Musgraves …a great piece about the double standard women face in this world and the wise admonishment/advice to simply live life on one’s own terms – not your typical Country song material but what refreshing reversal, no?  Perhaps the good old boys are losing their grip.  Hope so.
  • “All I Know” by Washed Out …blissed out chillwave
  • “Your Fine Petting Duck” by Devendra Barnhart …most unexpected, genius transition, just wait for it
  • “We Want the World” by Icona Pop …an anthem for the all night-dance party generation
  • “Ego Free Sex Free” by Autre Ne Veut …okay, there are a lot of voices saturated with a sexy sensuality on this mix, what’s wrong with that?  Find a dance partner and get grooving
  • “I Remember You” by Rilo Kiley …technically an older song but released this year and makes me miss RK
  • “Home” by Austra …Austra’s voice is just mesmerizing and takes this desperate lover’s plea to operatic proportions
  • “Roar” by Katy Perry …yes, Katy Perry.  Why?  Because I love the sentiment of this song: believing in oneself and assertive self-empowerment. Plus, the production on this track with the retreat and explosion at about 3 minutes is perfect pop.
  • “Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt …the beat is sick, trance inducing; Earl’s rap is genius
  • “Wanderlust” by the Weeknd …again, all kinds of crazy, sex, cool with angelic Prince-like falsettos and 80s synth
  • “Upstate Blues” by Into It. Over It. …from the opening note I am remembering long drives, mixtapes, and snow covering the Merritt Pkwy.
  • “Weight”  by Mikal Cronin …the well-made indie/alt-pop song: Exhibit 1
  • “Husbands” by Savages …aggressive post-punk rockers from the UK; the breath-y, shrill gets me every time
  • “Bound 2” by Kanye West …see what I did there? Also, I think the juxtaposition of all the different samples is pure genius.  Why not higher up?  Just felt right at this stage.
  • “Attracting Flies” by AlunaGeorge …time to get grooving again.
  • “Pretty Boy” by Young Galaxy I know you feel isolated and I feel what you don’t say
  • “Funeral For My Children” by Anna Von Hausswolf …if Anna’s voice and organ playing were filling churches, I would join the flock.
  • “Isjaki” by Sigur Ros …difficult to choose just one song from their most masterful record since Takk… but this is perfect distillation of the Sigur Ros style: grandiose, epic, majestic, transcendent.  One of the best live acts you might ever see.
  • “Houdini Crush” by Buke & Gase …another track that takes me back to memories of dorm rooms, dark clubs in the northeast, and late night chats
  • “Peace and Quiet” by Waxahatchee …the strain of righteous indignation that permeates is exquisite.  Also see above.
  • “In the City” by Caveman …retro, baroque 80s pop in the late Roxy Music vein
  • “Dream the Dare” by Pure Bathing Culture …lush melodies and dream vocals; yeah I’ve got a type.
  • “Honey & I” by Haim …a Fleetwood & Mac infused ballad that further showcases the Haim sister’s deft songwriting and rich vocal work; “The Wire” or “If I Could Change Your Mind” also could have landed here.
  • “I Need My Girl” by The National …that opening guitar chord haunts (and scores) my dreams
  • “You’re Not Good Enough” by Blood Orange …Dev Hynes is a retro 80s genius; this track is a silky, sexy track that is somewhere between a Prince and Whitney Houston jam – why didn’t that ever happen?
  • “Return of a Queen” by Dawn Richard …more lush and moody R&B
  • “Closer” by Tegan and Sara all you think of lately is getting underneath me; all I dream of lately is how to get you underneath me. Thank you Tegan and Sara for reminding us that you can be cleverly coy and sexy without being crass and demeaning
  • “We Sink” by ChvrchesI’ll be a thorn in your side until you die… love that line
  • “Nobody Asked Me If I Was Okay” by Sky Ferreira …so yeah there is a little Kelly Clarkson thing going on here; every once in a while I need that, I make no apologies.
  • “Light Out” by Javelin …the optimism and brightness in this song; we could use more lighthearted and celebratory music in the world – says the boy with all the dark and melancholic selections
  • “Other Plants” by Drop Electric …I also have a think for sprawling, expansive songs that explode into euphoric crescendos.
  • “Ragtime” by Neko Case …every time I listen to Neko Case sing, it feels like an intimate experience surrounded by good friends in a cozy dimly lit room, oh yeah… the Hideout
  • “Bird Balloons” by Lady Lamb the Beekeeper …a heavyweight emotional fight of a song that leaves me emotionally spent in the best way possible
  • “Loretta’s Flowers” by Swearin’ …takes me to a basement full of bittersweet, lip biting memories
  • “Diane Young” by Vampire Weekend …so many clever, witty songs on this record but I love the modernized Buddy Holly, barbershop feel of this one
  • “Sacrilege” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs …for a brief moment it felt like this could be vintage YYY blending their art-punk aesthetic with a gospel choir.  This song is exquisite
  • “Bar” by San Fermin …I love his compositions.  They are like mini-musical dramas
  • “Comrade” by Volcano Choir …yeah that Justin Vernon guy’s voice is pretty insane, right?
  • “How Loud Your Heart Gets” by Lucius …best closing track on a record of the year; a majestic powerful explosive ode to the unrelenting quest for love
  • “When Winter’s Over” by Torres …Mackenzie Scot can just pierce you with her voice
  • “Track ID Anyone?” by DJ Koze …downtempo grove time
  • “You & Me” by Disclosure …late 90s house/dance with Eliza Doolittle getting sultry
  • “Reprise” by Gold Panda …the scratchy LP sound on top of this dance-trance beat, brilliant choice
  • “3 Days” by Rhye …the story of a tryst? A hopeless love affair? A passing fancy?
  • “Come Here” by Talib Kweli & Miguel …the interplay between Talib’s rhymes and Miguel’s soul is sweet music to my ears
  • “Come Walk With Me” by M.I.A. …brilliant reworking of Blur’s Ballad of a Charming Man
  • “Wasting My Young Years” by London Grammar …smoky sweet Goth-y pop
  • “Hello Stranger” by Julia Holter …a song in movie about a dream or a dream within a song about a movie or a movie about a song from a dream?
  • “Mute” by Youth Lagoon …the quirky mix of psychedelic and spacey reminds me of early Flaming Lips; let’s hope he follows a similar career arc!
  • “Are You With Me Now?” by Cat Le Bon … a sort of latter day Francoise Hardy
  • “Every Weekday” by Camera Obscura we’re gonna make a record and sail around the world, we might not storm the charts completely but we’ll do our very best, as long as I’m with you, I’ll have a friend so true; Glaswegians always seem to have their priorities straight!
  • “Concession Speech Writer” by Their/There/They’re …man these guys just make me smile
  • “Walking on a Perfect Day” by Kurt Vile …a nine minute guitar laden reverie from one of the finest players out there; this a lazy summer afternoon track and record; hints of Dean Wareham and Shoegazer rock with 70s rock all bundled together
  • “Keep Your Head Up” by Cults …three dream pop tracks follow: (!!!)
  • “Gravitron” by Au Revoir Simone …(swoon)
  • “Sorrow” by Frankie Rose …(sigh)
  • “He Is a Sorcerer” by Rainbow Arabia …ah the sweet joys of synth
  • “Kissing the Machine” by OMD …and more synth from 80s giants
  • “Far From the Roses” by Minor Alps …the dream of the 90s is alive
  • “Try To Explain” by Flaming Lips …all of The Terror has this layer of fuzzy, drone over moments of delicate and gorgeous melodies; it sonically evokes the idea that our happiness and joy rests on the brink of tragedy and vice versa
  • “The Beauty Surrounds” by Houses …the title pretty much encapsulates the song
  • “Cadillac Desert” by William Tyler …without a single word, Tyler’s music takes me to distant horizons and abandoned vistas that leave me awestruck; this track as with many on the record will take you on long journeys without taking a single step
  • “Sun Harmonics” by Jon Hopkins …11 minute electronic downtempo trance or meditation inducing pleasure to wind down
  • two additional tracks without any commentary.

and if you want to see me cry, play Let It Be or Nevermind.

happy listening

a.a.

* Technically these tracks were released on the internet in 2012 but weren’t available on a physical EP, single, or album until 2013 unlike “Don’t Save Me” by Haim or “I Love It” by Icona Pop, which appeared on EPs, otherwise they would be on this list.  Feel free to disagree with my way of classifying but I’m just explaining.  

on the dance floor: Party Supplies’ Tough Love

For some time I’ve been searching to fill the void that LCD Soundsystem’s “retirement” left in my musical heart.  You know that infectious, unbridled nerdy dance music that drives a body to the dance floor?  Well I’ve finally found an antidote for my longing!

party-supplies-beautiful-girlTough Love the debut record by Party Supplies (a fitting name) brings the unfettered, uncomplicated energetic joy James Murphy mastered through his transition from DJ to producer to music maker, fusing early 90s pounding dance rhythms with the 80s synth and New Wave/Pop sensibilities (think also Hot Chip).  Following the pattern of foregrounding the beats while muddying and retreating the vocals on the mix, this record is all kinds of guilty and frivolous pleasures, which is good because we all need a reason to escape and let go.

The opening track “New York 2017”* is the “jam” I’ve been furiously searching for all year/summer that has the dynamic variation and euphoric dance pop relief that has been sorely lacking from the “heavy hitters”.  Sure there are plenty of phenomenal electro-pop bands at work (See Chvrches, their brilliant full length will be the subject of a forthcoming post) but this track has everything to either start or finish a memorable night.  It feels like a late night/early morning rooftop track with a perfectly paced rhythm fit for any mood that inspires movement and chill ambulations.  You don’t need to have killer dance moves to groove to this or any track on this album; all you need to do is understand and appreciate the joy of celebrating the immediacy and fleeting joy of the present.  It’s the energy that passes through “All My Friends” (a watershed/climatic moment in the infusion/infiltration of electro/dance into indie/rock) inspiring youth to burn the night away like firecrackers in the sky.**

Listen and groove to Party Supplies’ Tough Love

* A definite top track of 2013! Other stellar tracks include “Love Song” and “Going Back to New York” both of which take me back to late night sweaty dance clubs on the East and Third Coast when DJs actually DJed and dance music wasn’t so predictable.

**this album may engender smiles and smirks . . . enjoy without recriminations and don’t question.

Smitten with an Alien: Books of Love’s “Space Time”

books-of-love

One of the best things about being sick when I was a young child was getting to watch the local access television’s morning lineup.  Years before Nick at Nite or TVLand, I would get myself wrapped in a blanket with some chicken soup and 7UP and get ready for Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and My Favorite Martian.  All had a whimsical a temporal almost surreal charm.  Listening to the newest project from Katy Goodman of La Sera/Vivian Girls fame, Books of Love, I find myself transported back to those romanticized, halcyon days of Hollywood Land both in feel and look.  Watch the gorgeously grain-y trompe across L.A. looking for a certain curios character.  It’s a splash of sunshine and frivolity.

Now pass me the remote control,  I think there’s a Bewitched marathon about to start!!!

 

a.a.

Dancin’ in the Streets…a quarterly mixtape

Callin’ out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer’s here and the time is right for dancin’ in the street.
Dancin’ in Chicago (dancin’ in the street)
Down in New Orleans (dancin’ in the street)
[San Francisco]*

All we need is music, sweet music,
There’ll be music everywhere

- Martha and the Vandellas

Recently, I had the good fortune to travel down to New Orleans with a couple of friends for Jazz Fest. Although there are many songs and styles more intimately connected to NoLa (“House of the Rising Sun” or even the more apropos “City of New Orleans” given my point of origin and very memorable night which I’ll reference further below), this is the one that always comes to mind first because it is the vision of the city I always had: a city pulsing with life and energy such that one was inspired to dance at any given moment, even on the city streets in the plain light of day. (Something that pleases me, given my propensity to shimmy at the slightest provocation.) Despite some intermittent rain and unseasonably chilly weather, I was pleased to find that folks were undeterred by the weather, moving with fervor and relish through muddied fields and muggy air. And the music… it poured forth from every corner as though it too could not be tempered by even the slightest of inclement skies. It was a revelation to a first time visitor, who will surely return anon.

...all the streets are a stage.

in NoLa, all the streets are a stage.

…but this is not a collection of New Orleans inspired songs or the music it nurtured and shared with the world. It serves as inspiration and catalyst for my thoughts about the year to date: a topsy-turvy and unexpected serious of fortunate and curious events. But, such is life isn’t it? And, so I share with you a collection of songs that have been the soundtrack to my trips, excursions, and wanderings for the past couple of months; an admittedly odd combination of artists to share a single “bill” yet for those that follow my musical dalliances, not totally unexpected. Whether it’s Karen O channeling Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”, Bored Nothing’s invocation of Elliott Smith, Waxahatchee’s plaintive wail, Wayne Coyne’s existential ramblings, DJ Koze and Bonobo’s entrancing groves, Kacey Musgraves and Caitlin Rose’s pleasing Americana, it all blends perfectly in my mind and consciousness. I hope it will please you too. And, help you discover something new or reconnect with an old memory or friend, as music so often does for me.

Without further ado, it’s time to drop the proverbial needle on the turntable and listen to dancin’ in the streets – a 2013 quarterly mixtape.

…as always your thoughts and comments are welcome, I like to know you are listening. I encourage you to share with friends and spread the music… because music has a right to be everywhere.

a.a.

* I love you New York but you’re bringing me down… and for my fellow New Orleans travel mates.

...won't you join me for beignet next year?

…won’t you join me for a beignet or three next year?

p.s. for the curious. . . The memorable night occurred eight years ago when Jimmy Buffett played at Wrigley Field soon after the tragic destruction of Hurricane Katrina. As an encore, he sat on the bleachers of Wrigley Field with guitar in hand and did a cover of “The City of New Orleans” to bring our thoughts and prayers to the people in New Orleans. The gesture was even more poignant because it was written by his friend and longtime Cubs fan Steve Goodman, who unfortunately passed many years before. Even for those who don’t care for Mr. Buffett, his music or the culture that surrounds him, it was a touching and moving moment. And, in the fascinating ways of the internet, it is captured below. Enjoy.

Hockey Night in North America – A Musical Ode (of sorts)

. . . or How Propagandhi Helped Alleviate (Some of) the Ethical Concerns Around my love of Sports

But I guess it comes down to what kind of world you want to live in. . . Propagandhi

Along with my unabashed love of music, I also am an ardent sports fan, but it comes with many recrimination and caveats.  At their purest level, the games I follow celebrate team-building values, individual excellence, and tell an unfolding national and cultural history, drawing connections between past and present and across cultures.  How can you not love watching the kid or kids from various towns rising to the largest stage, carrying the weight and expectations of countless fans, whether a city, a state, or a country, to the pinnacle of their field?

But, the reality is unfortunately not so simple or story book.  All sporting events, whether professional or collegiate, are subject to the same capitalistic, opportunistic, exclusionary, and oppressive strains that exist throughout history and culture.  One simple example in the fantasy alluded to above is the fact that the kid or kids on the screen or in the papers are usually men.  As a society we are still amazingly behind in equality of the sexes in the sporting world (not that other industries or sectors are that much better).

But, we improve or strive to improve over time.  Yesterday, in fact, was another important chapter in the progressive evolution of sports with Jason Collins’ announcement, the first active professional athlete to come out.   It is definitely a great story and hopefully the beginning of more to come.   However, I also wonder why Jason Collins’ announcement was more widely reported than Brittney Griner’s (Baylor Grad, NCAA Champion and soon-to-be WBNA #1 draft pick) similar announcement weeks back.  I think I know the answer to that but more than anything it reveals what is true about sports and the culture and media surrounding it:  it’s a complicated area.

On the eve of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I am eager for weeks of playoff hockey but, as always, my excitement is tempered with concern and the question “why do I care about something so ostensibly frivolous?”   (Now don’t say that to the rabid Blackhawks fans that I’ll likely be cheering with.  But for me it’s true, and, this is coming from a boy who has cried on countless occasions when his sports teams choked.  #noshame)

What does this have to do with music?  Listen to this song by the phenomenal Canadian Punk rock band (and equality activists) Propagandhi*, “Dear Coach’s Corner”.  It is a little palliative for those of us who engage in the internal struggle of being a thoughtful and/or progressive individual and a sports fans.  We love the game(s) but cringe at the culture and circus surrounding these kids’ games**.

Off the soap box and into the frying pan,

… and go Hawks!

a.a.

* The gentlemen of Propagandhi are no strangers to politically themed or driven songs.  Check out their fantastic Less Talk More Rock or Today’s Empires Tomorrow’s Ashes.  Whether you agree with everything they fight for or not, I will say that they do manage to package their message into some powerful art with a health dose of self awareness (i.e., “…and yes I recognize the irony that the system i oppose affords be the luxury of biting the hand that feeds…” from another song with a hockey allusion).  “I was a Pre-Teen McCarthyist” has always resonated quite a bit with me.

** No disrespect meant to professional athletes.  You get to live out the dreams of countless children and adults(-like children like myself).

Madchester Redux? The 1975’s Sex and Music for Cars

And this is how it starts… again.

After a rather extended absence, what better way to jump back into the fray than an adrenaline inducing track filled with amorous yearning that hits on every pleasure point of a stellar Indie-Pop/Rock song.

From the opening notes, “Sex” will incite even the most callous and world weary “grown-up” to eschew maturity and responsibility for a brief reverie into the joys of youthful pining, the unquenchable desire of the unattainable lover, at least according to the script cause after all “she’s got a boyfriend anyways…” The song progresses at an unrelenting pace like the beat of one’s heart in the throes of infatuation, a slave to the intoxicating power of passion, whether you are currently caught in the maelstrom or in the calm center of the eye, it is a feeling like none other. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the opening line recalls almost verbatim the opening of LCD’s Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” – a generation defining song and narrative. (And, pay attention to the video for some choice background images of great bands and artists we all love. . . or at least I think we do.)

1975 sex epHailing from the hallowed English town of Manchester (home to The Smiths, the Stone Roses, James, The Happy Mondays, aka bands I was obsessed with as an adolescent), The 1975 have an amazing ability to toe the line between a deft pop-rock sensibility (see “Sex” (above) or “Chocolate” from Music for Cars EP) and artful, emotionally packed, and layered orchestral rock pieces (see “You” and “Me” – I appreciate this amusing juxtaposition that can’t help but be intentional). Also, in keeping with the inevitable reemergence of R&B infused pop, “Head.Cars.Bending” evokes the feel of Prince track but remixed by Discovery or an M83/Hot Chip/How to Dress Well mash up. In other words, these guys have an amazing panache for running the gamut of styles and bringing them together in a crowd-pleasing package. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually tap into a broader audience.

So catch them now and listen to

The 1975′s Sex EP (2012)

and Music For Cars EP (2013)
the1975musicforcars

See you on the b-side,

a.a.

p.s. Thanks to Sweet the Sound who planted the seed about these guys some time back.

Track Stars with Devendra Banhart, Olafur Arnalds, Savages, and Marnie Stern

“track stars”… songs that stop you in your steps and demand your full attention (or songs that I am obsessed with at the outset)*

* and because I can’t always find a witty title (or at least attempt a witty title)

Old New Ways: Devendra Banhart – “Your Fine Petting Duck

Gifted artists always manage to impress and surprise you. To me, Devendra Banhart has always been a source of pleasure and joy, exploring the curious realm of neo-folk music with a shaman-like mystical ease, characterized by lush, earthy songs and orchestration that draws inspiration from traditions across the globe. His albums are epic explorations into the fantastical and a celebration of the diversity of life yet always tinged with a hint of questioning. In a way, a Devendra Banhart record is almost an invitation to take a trip back in time. So it shouldn’t come as no surprise that his latest full length, Mala, goes back even further than is previous time travels (as if his his music was like Mork, aging in reverse). Well sort of. Mala as a whole is still simmering in my consciousness but this ditty that begins with an almost barbershop girl-group dreary dream quality has totally caught my ear. Two amazing juxtapositions are at work on this track. First the music shifts from the downtempo doo-wop to a pseudo surf rock to an odd French pop dance track, as though Serge Gainsbourg got remixed by late 80s New Order on downers. It’s at once quirky yet totally mesmerizing, at least for those, like myself, who enjoy when the bottom drops out on a song and turn itself inside out. Coupled with the dispassionate, ennui ridden narrator who implores his ex (that is longing for his return) to remember that, no matter how bad her current beau might be, he was just as if not more awful of a partner. Add to this, the almost derisive and mocking “wah wah wah” in the tracks’ mid-point and you have this odd anti-love song. I am not down on love, but there is genius in this romantic nihilism.

In a meditative way: Ólafur Arnalds – Old Skin

… to prove that I’m not totally bleak these days, here is the lead single from Icelander* Olafur Arnalds, “Old Skin” is a gorgeous rumination on what can be and the paths we choose. Like fellow countrymen Sigur Ros, Arnald’s music is delicate, ethereal, transcendental, and totally engrossing. Listen as the song builds from a pensive opening to an ever growing crescendo on the precipice of exploding.  Also, watch the video which captures that moment of total euphoria and bliss one senses when the music truly hits you. Unlike Sigur Ros, Arnalds does not sing in the choir boy falsetto of Jonsi but has a soulful strain in his sound recalling How To Dress Well with the woodsy vocals of Lost in the Trees.

*seriously if there were per capita rankings of genius musicians, I think Iceland would be ranked #1

For a little aggression and shreading: Savages and Marnie Stern

I am totally smitten with these next two tracks and with each spin the crush grows deeper. Words really get in the way of just the joyous adrenaline rush these songs provide both drawing inspiration from different strains of late 70s rock.

On “She Will”, the Savages conjure visions of post-punk heroes Joy Division and Wire but with a vocal performance reminiscent of Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, or Karen O. Yeah, I know those are really bold comparisons, but give this song a listen and see if you really disagree with me.

I am still a bit confused and bemused how no one clued me on to Marnie Stern before I came across here cleverly titled new record (The Chronicles of Marnia) on NPR’s First Listen. For those that love really excellent guitar work with insane finger picking and big hooks, Stern is your gal because she does it without sounding trite or played-out. On the lead single, Year of the Glad“, Stern just sounds like a kid in a musical candy shop having fun making pristine guitar pop for us “kids” to dance around to with willful abandon.  Can’t wait to see her at the Brooklyn Vegan show at the Empty Bottle April 17th!  Join me if you live in Chicago.  (Also if you are a DFW fan, the title of the song some pleasant smirks.  I doubt this is an allusion to Hal Incandenza’s opening emotional break down, but who knows…)

Who needs caffeine to start your day when you can get some serious rocking out?

a.a.

Sophmore Sensational: Youth Lagoon & James Blake

Unequivocally two of my favorite discoveries and albums of 2011 were the English dub-step wunderkind James Blake (James Blake) and the Idaho lo-fi dream-folk of Youth Lagoon (The Year in Hibernation).  Both are back in 2013 with new tracks and forthcoming records.

yl bughouseYouth Lagoon struck first in early January with “Dropla” but is teasing us even further with another pleasant number filled with YL’s textbook muffled, echoing vocals sounding like something between an adolescent daydream and aural kaleidoscope.  But where The Year In Hibernation was an inward-looking personal exploration and recollection, the first two tracks from Wondrous Bughouse (click to pre-order) are exploding outwards into the universe for answers. Trevor’s newest single “Mute” begins with a sunshine infused sheen that explodes into a mix of aural gears and shifts that turn  from optimistic to quizzical to searching.  For a young artist who found a corner of the musical universe un- or under-explored, it is exciting to see him pushing into a new realm of experimentation.  (Something about the new songs recalls the Flaming Lips in the pre-Soft Bulletin psych/pop eccentricity.)  Also, really digging the youthful Chagall/Kandinsky looking cover art.

James Blake’s “Retrograde”: When I first heard James Blake’s debut record, I thought “what is all the fuss?”  After giving it an additional listen and hearing his beautiful intimate and shiver inducing live set at Pitchfork in 2011, I not only understood the fanfare but became a pseudo proselytizer myself.  Blake’s music was a revelation calling to mind Portishead‘s Dummy — a record that helped popularize and educate us cross-Atlantic novices on English Trip-Hop, Downtempo and Ambient music (it was our gateway).  Traversing the realm of intricate, tightly packed downtempo contemplative sounds with a soulful flair, Blake continues that tradition but breaks down the form with even more intricacy and moves between deep crooning to choir-boy falsetto; it has a bone-chilling effect on record just as in performance.  “Retrograde” the newest single is no stranger to what came before but moves closer to a more recognizable deep, sultry R&B, playing and toying with the orchestration.  At times, Blake’s voice is the charm that brings the music to life, the instruments try to keep pace with the odd and unanticipated tempo changes, but then concede and flow into their own curious adventures.  As with any dub-step track, wait for the drop and relish in the release.  Only two months until Overgrown is released.  I’ll be counting down.  Hopefully you will be too.

Do you wonder about Sound and Vision? Beck does…

If there was a prize for most audacious and unpredictable musician in the field of popular music, I think Beck might clean up in this category.  Sadly awards are more often driven by record sales and industry considerations.  It is a shame, but so it goes.

In the last year, Mr. Beck has not only released his Song Reader, an album composed of sheet music for fans/musicians to perform and play with in their own way, but also curated and composed a track on a compilation devoted to Philip Glass (see Rework_Philip Glass Remixed).  Now, he is at it again this time covering and reconceptualizing the work of another great innovator and firebrand:  David Bowie.  In this 9 minute video, Beck gathers a rather diverse set of musicians (from Gospel Choir to classical string section to yoddler) to put together a rather impressive display of showmanship and spectacle.  It is definitely worth spending the time to watch Beck strutting around looking like folky Dylan but with a purple sequin jacket that recalls a mid-80s Michael Jackson.  It’s a cooky over-the-top performance all on the dime of the Lincoln Car Company and some rather nonplussed, yet hip-ly attired audience members (except for a couple of folks who are grooving from the get go, like the dude in the baby blue sports jacket).  I can’t help but also think that on top of their musical proficiency, someone from central casting came in to do the wardrobe for these musicians  because they are so precisely eclectic.

All my slightly snide comments aside, this is quite cool and really impressive.  I suggest expanding the picture to full-size to get a sense of the whole performance.

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