Two weeks ago, Sharon Jones released her latest incredible soul album, I Learned the Hard Way, on Daptone Records. The album is decidedly defiant and powerful, a certain step up from the already excellent 100 Days, 100 Nights. The first single is the album’s title track, filled with funky grooves, dirty horn licks, and the vocal perfection we have come to expect from the group. Jones’ vocal performance is particularly gripping–convincingly delivering her own version of “I Will Survive” by defying her lover and rising strong. This album, along with the rest of the Dap-Kings’s discography, directly ports 60’s and 70’s funk music to the 21st Century and manages to sound just as good, if not better, than any George Clinton record.
The way a new Caribou album always works, it should have been preceded by a “transitional record.” In the time between Andorra’s baroque-pop and The Milk of Human Kindness’ neo-psych, continuity would tell us that this artist born Daniel Victor Snaith would need a few messy experiments before arriving at the airy wallop on 2007’s “Melody Day” from the overt DJ overtones on 2005’s “Pelican Narrows.” I’d imagine there a few GBs worth of Caribou experiments, whole lost albums built up in practice, anticipating the final release to pull off another shape-shift.
To account for the last three years between Andorra and Swim, there are probably a few dance records taking up storage on a laptop somewhere as Caribou’s latest release hits stores today. At first glance, Swim and first single “Odessa” appear to be skirting the trends that have prevailed into the new decade, slathering polyrhythms in swashes of color and sampled horns, undressing the flustered production that used to announce a Caribou track. But what initially comes off like a grasp at relevancy begins to reveal itself as a deconstruction of the dance tracks Caribou has been shoveling production onto for the last decade: “Odessa” takes a microscopic look at his usual flighty psychedelia and studies the obtuse, despairing beat that grounds it. Add in impersonal lyrics detailing a woman leaving her man and “turning around the life she let him siphon away” and you have one twisted summer jam. The hardest part of breaking up is…
Dubstep? The question mark is important; that beat sure ain’t 2-step. But if dubstep is going to grow into something else entirely – something for the mainstream album listeners – let’s hope it’s as good as this pulsating, emotive epic. It’s like listening to Skream’s awesome remix of La Roux’s “In for the Kill”, except it doesn’t have La Roux on it (and that’s gotta be considered a huge improvement, right?)
“Sunnyside” is the kind of song that I’ve been waiting for from Kaki King.Stripped down and honest, it’s her first song that aims right for the heartstrings. She’s had material that has come close, but it has always missed the emotional mark due to a greater concern with showing off just how good a guitarist she is. Not only is “Sunnyside” an F-you to those that proclaimed her just another songwriter playing shallow background music, it may just have the best use of the word “wiener dog” in the history of music.
Why yes, that is the Talking Heads you’re hearing aped on James Murphy’s “One Touch” off his upcoming juggernaut This Is Happening. Doesn’t really matter though, does it? Murphy’s Byrne-esque monotone and quasi political lyrics (“People who need people to the back of the bus”) slide effortlessly over polyrhythmic percussion and tense competing synths to create a seriously slick tune. Won’t tell you much more than this, but here’s a thought: on an album filled with jams that threaten to rule your summer, this here’s the front-runner.
Try as I might, Bruce Springsteen’s music has always been somewhat of an impenetrable wall for me. He should resonate more strongly with me. From his workman-like roots to his 80s shlock, right back to the grizzled folk of Devils & Dust, Springsteen’s career trajectory is right in line with what I’m often drawn to outside of the metal bullshit readers of this site would probably associate with me. Yet throughout my admittedly limited experience with Springsteen, only one of his album’s has really stuck with me (Nebraska), and even then only one song really “hits” me where it “hurts”.
My first intention in writing this blog was to choose Justin Townes Earle’s cover of “Atlantic City” played as part of the A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series, and I’ll still do that below. But “Atlantic City” as I now want you to hear it is a more unique take on the Springsteen classic. For “Undercover”, Earle strums frenetically, replacing the original version’s pain-struck backing howls with a heightened pace and added sense of vulnerability and nervousness. Then, right as I was about to publish this blog, someoneDAVEDESYLVIAtold me the video didn’t work.
In seeking out an alternative video-feed of the A.V. Club rendition, I eventually stumbled upon a live cover from March the 10th of this year. In it, Earle, accompanied by Joe Pug and his usual backing band, says—not long after citing alcohol as an influence for the ensuing performance—that if you don’t like Springsteen then you don’t…
It seems I’m making something of a habit of posting whimsical, folksy music from the north of Ireland.
A couple of weeks back, I blogged ‘You’ve Been Released,’ the new single from London-based Sligo musicians Yngve & the Innocent. This week, I’m focusing on Belfast four-piece John, Shelly and the Creatures – who, by happy coincidence, will support Yngve & Co. at their record launch in Dublin on April 23. Don’t you just love it when a good plan comes together?
Today’s Track of the Day, ‘Long May You Reign,’ was the group’s debut single, and was buoyed by a prominent appearance in the Discover Northern Ireland tourism advertisements across the UK and Ireland these past months. ‘Long May You Reign’ is the driving force behind the band’s one and only album, Dinosaur, which was released back in March of this year, and is the perfect showcase for the group’s ethereal brand of folk, blues and rock n’ roll. Frontman Walter’s layered, hushed vocals are reminiscent of Elliott Smith, while the song’s earthy acoustic guitar, prickly piano and crazed slide licks recall ’70s singer-songwriters of the Harry Nilsson and Jackson Browne ilk.
John, Shelly and the Creatures – ‘Long May You Reign’
Alright, so I guess the “rule” for song of the day is that the song has to be upcoming or just released, but shit, have you guys heard “Seeds”? Much hullaballoo was made when “Colouring of Pigeons” dropped in anticipation of The Knife’s Darwinian Electo-opera, Tomorrow, In a Year, but the critical reception to the project has been mixed. You don’t need me to tell you again how I think the naysayers are wrong and that this is one of the most forward thinking releases of our generation, but I do want to call your attention to the best song off the project, “Seeds.”
This hyperelectronic house jam is the most “Knife-ish” thing off Tomorrow, In a Year, but that’s not why it’s the best track. “Seeds” is a slow burning tune that marks the climax of Tomorrow, In a Year: the project. It morphs slowly over time, rocking an 808 beat and yes, opera vocals. Remember that scene in The Fifth Element with the blue chick? This is kind of like that. I’m not gonna give anymore away- you guys should really just get the whole thing and don’t be a pussy about it- but yeah, “Seeds.”
Mark your calendars guys, May is going to be goddamn awesome. I mean, when four of your most anticipated albums drop in three weeks, how can it not be? The 4th will see Minus the Bear and Broken Social Scene release Omni and Forgiveness Rock Record. On the 11th, The National releases High Violet, while the 18th marks the release of Wintersleep’s fourth studio effort, New Inheritors. And that’s just as far as indie rock is concerned. Nice!!
Of the two songs Wintersleep has released thus far (the other being first single, “Black Camera”), “New Inheritors” more closely follows the sound Wintersleep established on Welcome to the Night Sky, though perhaps a little more on the mellow side. Regardless, it’s a fantastic cut, and if it’s at all representative of the album, we should be in for something special. Tell all your friends.
We’re all just too geographically, musically, and culturally disparate for it to ever happen, but if Sputnik actually did have an office, The Tallest Man on Earth would be hogging our stereo pretty badly right now. Even as early as April, The Wild Hunt looks like a shoe-in for our year-end top 5, with no less than 10 members of staff already giving at least 4 stars.
The early favourites seem to be “King of Spain” and “Kids on the Run”, but for my money, the album’s highlight is the tortured “You’re Going Back”. Rather than the obvious reference points of Devendra and Dylan, this vaguely unhinged, end-of-tether melody recalls the best of Tusk-era Lindsey Buckingham, in the way it suggests that the writer has an unwavering belief in love even as it tears their mind apart.
Taken from their latest two-track EP, Tastes Like Magic, Three Red Birds showcases mr. Gnome’s most appealing characteritsic; their gorgeous handling of the masculine vs the feminine. While this would make sense, seeing as this is a male/female duo, the actual execution of the theme is impressive. Sludgy, aggressive guitars sparring with the haunting, delicate vocals of Nicole Barille make for an immediately engaging listen that should have you rifling through the rest of their discography. Kinda like a heavy Land of Talk, sans the boring.
Starkey is a Philadelphia producer who is releasing his second full-length LP, Ear Drums and Black Holes, on April 19 with Planet Mu Records. Starkey’s bouncy, major-key sound is a bit out of place on the usually abstract Planet Mu, but the convoluted details in his production and the active, heavy beats fit in nicely. The two tracks below represent the two distant poles of Starkey’s sound. “OK Luv” is ever-changing and throbbing like any good club banger, whereas “Stars” is introspective and sidereal, which works well with Anneka’s guest vocals. Make sure you also check out the Lala sidebar because I’ve uploaded an alternate version of “OK Luv.”
Starkey – “OK Luv”
Starkey – “Stars”
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t attracted in the least bit to Best Coast because of their music. This isn’t because their music is bad, of course (well, it mostly isn’t) – “The Road”, found on the band’s Something in the Way EP, is one of the best songs of this young year. But what intrigued me was that Bethany Cosentino, the muscle behind the project, was also affiliated with a Cali band called Pocahaunted, which is a totally psychotic psych-folk band that doesn’t sound like it should have any associations with something as phosphorescent as a band like Best Coast. Questions brewed in my mind: why would someone like Cosentino want to take part in a lo-fi, unapologetically trendy project like this? For fleeting recognition from bloggers? (She succeeded in that regard.) Or, perhaps, and this is what I believe to be the case, Cosentino got hung-up in the confines of Pocahaunted, a band so experimental that doing something more traditional would seem like a cop-out. Thus, a new moniker, and a new beginning from those who don’t discover your music through means that involve your former band, was born.
It won’t surprise me, however, if Cosentino totally defies her past allegiances; “The Road” is a step towards doing so. While “Something in the Way” and “Wish He Was You” were sunshiney to the point of being vexatious, “The Road” is immediately a different beast: its opening riff is hard and instant, and propels the rest of the song…
Last month, Pantha Du Prince released “Stick to My Side”, a collaboration with Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) of Animal Collective, as a single. The song comes from his superb February release Black Noise. With the single came five remixes, two of which are posted here. The former is a Four Tet remix, which brings the song closer to a dancefloor jam a la “Love Cry” with enhanced bass and synths. The second takes a completely different spin on the song and makes it more of an Explosions in the Sky cum Toro y Moi affair, emphasizing the hidden guitar riff in the song and altering Panda Bear’s vocals with heavy delay and modulation. Both are excellent interpretations of an already great song.
Blame it on my peers (who have been a bit slow to this new genre reveal), but dubstep has been infecting the air lately. Spreading to this disease is former Seattle-based producer Deceptikon (Zack Wright), whose latest release Mythology of the Metropolis has dropped the womp-womp kick right into his chill electronic work. The result is nod-worthy tracks like Mythology’s propulsive opener, “Tokyo Burning,” which shows just how far dubstep has come at creating a legitimate and uniform sound, and how artists like Deceptikon are splaying it across their own influences. “Tokyo Burning” even bangs a bit like old school hip-hop, flopping seamlessly between a woodpecker beat and a two-step jig worthy of the illest Biggie verse never recorded. Makes one wonder what might happen if Flying Lotus decided dubstep was his thing.
Mythology of the Metropolis was released March 16 on Daly City Records