If there was a year where music met the digital, it was 2011. It was the year where the persona encompassed the artist to the point where it mattered more than the music. The obsession over identity explains the rise of Odd Future, the polarizing Lana Del Rey, Kreayshawn, and countless other hyped artists. Though it’s been said, many times, many ways, Twitter and social networking have changed the perception of our favorite artists forever. Who would Tyler, the Creator be without @fucktyler? How could The Weeknd have emerged without Drake tweeting about them and without their ability to create an initial image through a free, downloadable mixtape and smoky, hazy static-image YouTube videos. Would ASAP Rocky have gotten a $3 million record deal?
That being said, my favorite music of 2011 largely stays out of these battles. With the possible exception of The Weeknd, there was no artist who leveraged their ability to construct an identity through the digital age and embody that space in their music. That’s not an easy task, and to date, only Kanye pulled it off last year with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Strictly musically, 2011 was a year where every genre flourished, and I became more and more invested in hip-hop as the most culturally important genre around right now. It’s another product of going digital, with more and more artists gaining enough publicity for us to notice. More and more artists have the tools to create music. It’s a wonderful time for…
Thrice have posted a lyric video (?) to another song from their upcoming album, Major/Minor, entitled “Promises”.
Stupid lyric videos aside, “Promises” shows Thrice continuing in the direction they took on Beggars, away from the experimentation and expansiveness that led to Vheissu and The Alchemy Index. It’s another straightforward, four-minute rock song, and while it’s something that Thrice has done better than anyone for years now, it still feels a little underwhelming to hear them play their cards so close to their chest. Major/Minor is shaping up to be exactly what Beggars was, an album of tight songs that hardly expand the band’s sound palette.
Das Racist, the joking-but-not-joking rap group from New York, released their first paid single to the world yesterday in the form of “Michael Jackson”. It comes from their upcoming album Relax, and brings a lot to unpack, from the Wingdings-inspired album art to Heems’s RZA reference to the meaning, if there is one, to the song’s anthemic hook: “Michael Jackson/ A million dollars/ You feel me?/ Holla.”
But all I really have to say is this: “I’M FUCKING GREAT AT RAPPINGGGGGGGGG!”
Saturday’s schedule was underwhelming to say the least, a day filled with artists I never bothered to check out and bands that seemed undeserving of Pitchfork’s raves, but their mass coverage of the artist before the album seemed to predicate them attaching a best new music tag to the group’s album or single — artists like Gang Gang Dance and Julianna Barwick. Fittingly, I saw Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast walking around during the day.
I didn’t bother showing up until No Age played– again, one of those bands I just never got around to. Their two-person punk rock was energetic, but the show made me wish I was watching the more energetic, anthemic, and impressive Japandroids. Guitarist Randy Randall’s rig was nothing short of impressive, with three huge cabinets and a massive array of effects pedals, but he only ever seemed to use one distortion sound and, at the beginnings of songs, would occasionally loop and delay the feedback that inevitably ended every song. Perhaps I missed something due to the sound levels; clearly, the engineers were still tuned in to dance act Chrissy Murderbot, who had played the Red Stage before No Age, as the only thing audible for a good half of No Age’s set was drummer and vocalist Dean Allen Spunt’s bass drum. Indeed, bass-heavy mixes were a complaint for most of the festival.
Following No Age, I vaguely watched Gang Gang Dance, but aside from “Mindkilla”, they did almost nothing exciting, even with…
The Pitchfork Music Festival is strange. It’s strange because unlike so many other festivals around the United States, the organization behind the festival has its own ideas and its own opinions – opinions that are widely known. Indeed, Pitchfork could be considered the MTV of the 21st century blogosphere, a tastemaker and a major influence on the popularity of bands in the indie scene and, increasingly so, in the hip-hop scene. Whereas a Lollapalooza or a Coachella will book a group based on the number of fans it can attract, Pitchfork looks to not only attract visitors, but also showcase their taste. It comes as no surprise that a vast majority of the artists playing at Pitchfork have received the publication’s coveted “Best New Music” tag, either on an album, track, or reissue. So when multiple acts thanked Pitchfork for their “generous support” or “continued enthusiasm” or what have you, the gesture seemed a bit stranger, and it seemed that the artists had a more intimate relationship with the publication that they might have with Bonnaroo’s organizers.
Pitchfork’s opinions have not gone without criticism and controversy. Anti-domestic violence demonstrators picketed outside of Chicago’s cozy Union Park, where the festival is held, to protest the appearance of rap group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. (In response, Odd Future gave them cupcakes before their show). Pitchforkreviewsreviews.com, a website cryptically run by a guy named David, used to review the reviews that Pitchfork posted everyday. Now, David has taken to analyzing…
Kristian Matsson, The Tallest Man on Earth, released a new single on Friday through the Adult Swim singles series entitled “Weather of a Killing Kind”. It’s what you might expect from Matsson – a wistful folk song that beautifully weaves it way from start to finish with sweeping vocal melodies and gentle, finger-plucked accompaniment. Matsson has a style, and he’s not ready to let go of it just yet.
But the song is also something new for Matsson; it’s topical. “Weather of a Killing Kind” makes no particular dedication, but you have to believe that Matsson had at least one of the recent natural disasters on his mind when he penned the song. The earthquake in Japan, the Las Conchas wildfire in Santa Fe, or the floods in Pakistan, perhaps. What came to mind for me, perhaps because it hits closer to home, was the tornado in Joplin, MO; today, authorities announced the 159th confirmed death to come of the disaster. “I see the clouds, I see the shadows/It’s rainin’ wolves outside our door/We stand and watch through hesitation/’Cause they’ll be spread out there forevermore,” Matsson sings in the first verse, announcing the impending doom.
But it wouldn’t be a TMoE song without everything turning despairingly personal: “And I feed the clouds, they are my shadow/’Cause I have raised the cubs myself alone.” In the final chorus, the lyrics are transformed: “Here is my weather of a killing kind.” The song is full of beautiful poetic twists and turns, and while…
If anyone has been in the Sputnikmusic room on turntable.fm while I am DJing, you probably know that I like Portuguese kuduro group Buraka Som Sistema. A lot. Like, if the room gets remotely dancy, I’m putting on a Buraka song immediately.Black Diamond, released in 2008, remains one of my favorite dance albums of the past decade. Their Essential Mix for BBC rules. Their FabricLive album rules. “Restless”, the single they released in 2009, rules.
Point is, if Buraka Som Sistema doesn’t get you dancing, you are probably a really self-conscious person who doesn’t like to dance.
“Hangover (BaBaBa)”, their first single from Komba, their second studio album set to be released this fall, has one of the most annoying choruses of all time, but I’ve been singing it for the two months this song has been available. Although signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent and getting promotion from not only Diplo but also M.I.A., Reso, and other big names in the English-speaking dance world, Buraka have struggled to find an audience in the U.S. due to their tendency to feature Portuguese and Angolan rappers who alienate the U.S. fanbase. “Hangover”’s chorus, in essence, is a response to that language barrier. “BaBaBa” is global and undoubtedly infectious.
If nothing else, watch the video for “Hangover” for the dog at 1:30. That dog kills it.
John Legend posted a cover of Adele’s hit song “Rolling in the Deep” for instant download to his Soundcloud page on Wednesday evening. The cover is entirely a capella, and continues to rise Legend’s stock in my book. The harmonies are smoky and perfectly minimal, setting the perfect tone for Legend’s famously soulful pipes to belt the song’s memorable melody.
BBC’s Radio 1 premiered another new Fleet Foxes song set to appear on their forthcoming album Helplessness Blues. It’s not quite the warm, sprawling title track released a month ago, but further establishes that Helplessness Blues will be more of the same good old folk that made everyone fall in love with their debut album. I’m usually one to criticize a stagnant sound, but personally, I’ll never tire of Robin Pecknold’s voice.
If that headline got you clicking, you either already know what follows or you just want to know what could possibly bring these three popular British artists together. Or you just clicked. Whatever.
Four Tet and Burial have already produced music together with “Moth”, but today, the three announced a new 12″ single with two songs on it, titled “Ego” and “Mirror.” Later tonight, Four Tet premiered the tracks on his radio show on Rinse FM.
The Internet provided, almost immediately, radio rips of the tracks, and they sound much like you would expect. Dark, introspective, but at the same time pretty uptempo. Yorke sings with his typically spaced out, reverberated vocals as Four Tet and Burial combine on the production. “Ego” sounds more in Four Tet’s vein while “Mirror” takes a huge cue from Burial’s album Untrue, using the same rim click backbeats found on “Archangel”. They’re also really good.
After three long, agonizing years of stark Robin Pecknold demos and hit-or-miss J. Tillman solo albums, Fleet Foxes as a whole finally return with their announcement of a new album, Helplessness Blues and stream of the album’s title track, which hints at an album that sticks to the sound that brought Fleet Foxes to their indie stardom in the first place. Part “Ragged Wood” and part “Mykonos”, the song divides evenly into two sections: a pastoral acoustic section and a more grandiose rock section. The song’s weakest point is the transition between these two sections because, frankly, there isn’t one. The acoustic strumming slows a bit, and the second section enters with the bluntness of a sledgehammer. The mixing between these two sections is pretty awful, so hopefully, Helplessness Blues won’t have these same issues throughout the album, considering the brilliant production that characterized the group’s self-titled debut.
Remember when all that crazy news about Justin Vernon working with Kanye broke? Remember how we didn’t know what to think? Had Vernon sold out, or was Kanye collaborating with people who could really bring his vision to fruition? Well, Yeezy released “Monster”, which was the first taste anyone got of the Vernon/West collaborations, but it was a sort of after-thought verse tagged at the end of a bloated song. Nicki Minaj had already turned in the best verse of her short career, and Vernon’s slow-burning melodicism was perhaps too much of a contrast.
Now, “Lost in the World” has leaked, and it’s a true monster. The song begins innocuously sampling Vernon’s auto-tune experiment “Woods”, but quickly, it becomes a dark, twisted dancefloor jam that samples Gil-Scott Heron and hardly even features aside from some sing-a-long and a concise but consistent verse. “Lost in the World” is easily the best track to come from Kanye’s lengthy, prodigious leak campaign to promote his latest album (wait, what is it called again?).
I’d attribute the source of the leak, but I think you can figure it out from the most annoying tags since Beggars. Someone forgot a “w”.
You’re probably going to need an hour-long EP to get through this, so start listening.
Anyone remotely connected to the indie music world knows that Sufjan Stevens surprised the world last Friday by releasing an hour-long EP completely unannounced. Even more surprising was the mode of release. Instead of putting it on iTunes (although it did reach other digital stores on Monday), Sufjan and Asthmatic Kitty Records decided to upload the EP on Bandcamp. And it was probably the smartest decision they could have made, considering Sufjan’s usually tech-savvy fanbase who, if the EP had premiered on iTunes, would probably have pirated the EP if only to avoid the awkward file format used by iTunes.
To compare the world of digital music stores to the world of Internet browsers, the iTunes Store looks more and more like Internet Explorer–widely used but antiquated in many ways, rendering them completely unusable to anyone who does not use iTunes. iTunes has also faced numerable phishing scams, including a very recent one that came about the same time as Sufjan’s EP.
Bandcamp, in keeping with the web browser analogy, is the Mozilla Firefox of digital music stores–not necessarily the fastest, but the one with the most customizable options. On Bandcamp, the musician or label simply uploads their master files, and the service converts them to any file format you could possibly want: 320 kbps mp3, VBR mp3, FLAC, Apple Loseless,…
Color me confuzzled. Someone, apparently a Milwaukee group named Photon Wave Orchestra took Justin Bieber’s “U Smile” pumped up the reverb and slowed the song down 800%. The result is probably the best ambient track you’re going to hear all year, although the slowed down drums can get kind of annoying after a few minutes. Joke or not, what the track proves is, at its finest, ambient music takes all of the simplicity that makes pop music so accessible and lays it bare before us. It’s what Hammock does, it’s what Sigur Ros does, and apparently, in the second level of Christopher Nolan’s dreamworld, it’s what Justin Bieber does as well.