We’ve all been there. It’s 2am. You’ve been drinking since dusk and you’re just not tired enough to go to sleep. Collapsed on the couch, music plays. You might not be sure how or when it started playing, but there it is. On the turntable. The iPod dock. Maybe a Sony CF530 Boombox. If someone is there, you will tell them “Goddamn, that’s the most perfect combination of mellow inebriation and killer jams in the whole goddamn universe” If someone’s not there, you’ll say this out loud anyway. And you will wholeheartedly agree with yourself.
What if it’s not? What if you’re nursing that ideal buzz and a favorite go-to artist is playing, but that perpetually perfect tune is suddenly wrong, all wrong, so wrong, in fact, it has killed the buzz and all you want to do is go to bed, hide under the covers and listen to the Insanity Workout infomercial because you know it’s on, it’s a constant, 100% guarantee. And at that moment, all you want is the world to make sense. Don’t lie. You’ve been there. We all handle certain liquors differently. So it should be no surprise that the right music can be the lime to your tequila, the salt on the rim of your margarita, the maraschino cherry to your Manhattan… you get the picture.
Craft/Microbrew Domestic Beer
I’m not talking Miller 64. Something with flavor. Brewers like Victory, Great Lakes, Rogue, Anchor, Troegs, etc. Read some Beer Advocate if you don’t know anything about these beers. Educate yourself, hipster. The world should not be fueled by PBR. Level-headed drunks drink craft/microbrews. Excellent, Americana-flavored indie-rock requires an excellent domestic beer. It’s right there on the cover of Delta Spirit’s Ode to Sunshine. He’s drinking, having fun and most assuredly listening to “People C’mon.”
Unfortunately I think we all know what happens to people when they drink American beer-flavored water. We know this because it’s a phenomenon that crosses generations, state lines, racial divides. I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve lived, in bars from Atlanta to Boston. If there’s Budweiser on draft, then there’s CCR on the jukebox and “Bad Moon Rising” on heavy rotation and for good reason. Also based on the album cover represented above, I feel it is safe to assume that there are people in Europe who also drink American beer-flavored water as well. These are the beers that go along with the Chappelle’s Show’s Samuel Jackson beer sketch. People drinking this stuff just want to get drunk (and somewhere along the way they killed all their tastebuds) and sing loudly. Credence might just be part of our DNA because have you ever met someone that didn’t know the words to “Bad Moon Rising?” Even if the say the don’t, they do and just don’t want to admit it.
John Mellencamp (w/ or w/o the “Cougar”)
I want badly to write this off as a category owned by Bob Marley, but Marley has eclipsed typecasting to one kind of liquor. Besides nobody gets toasted on piña coladas and thinks “Damn, I wish I had my Bob Marley records around.” Jamaica. Rum. Rum. Jamaica. Right? Well, only in theory. Reaction to rum runs the gamut of emotions. Rum is one of those drinks that isn’t symbiotic with 30Hz. In drinks like the Cuba Libre, it goes down far too easily. As a solo libation, I find rum intolerable. So what happens when a party degrades to the point that it has gotten rum punched? If you’re squeamish I encourage you to page down right past this one. You may not want to know the truth about rum as I’ve found it retards musical taste more than any other alcoholic beverage. But under the influence of rum, Sublime sounds like a band worth listening to again. Just don’t let those rum goggles continue to influence you the next morning.
Now this is a combination I can wholeheartedly support, inside or outside the tequila bender. Slurred words, little bit of drool and high energy. Once again you’re faced with the logical cultural attractions. Can anyone, however, name one single Latin-inspired artist that really connected with tequila? I’m sure there’s some asshole out there that legitimately loves mariachi music and has a few mariachi bands on speed dial, but nobody actually wants to be a stereotype do they? I’d assume anyone reading my bl-g has more sense than that. Thus, in lieu of allowing a bunch of strange Mexicans in large hats free reign over your house, I suggest a band that’s part Rockabilly and part drunk. It’s not necessarily a logical fit– Rockabilly and tequila– but if you’ve ever been nursing that bottle of Sauza into the wee hours, I’m not sure there’s a better companion than the Reverend.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five
At last a genre of drunk that actually lends itself to colloquial trappings. I’ve been drunk on bourbon twice in my life. I do not fancy the stuff. But it happens. I won’t be as bold to suggest that you listen to bluegrass while drunk on whiskey no matter what Kentuckians might suggest. It’s a slow-crawl drink. Nothing happens quickly, or at all, and banjo-plucking might as well be a jackhammer on your skull. For whiskey you need to slow down, tap into some of country-music’s roots. Drunk or not, nobody should suffer mainstream country music. That last part was a public service announcement courtesy of 30Hz. Anyway, whiskey-drunk: Merle Haggard. You won’t be disappointed.
Gil Scott Heron
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
So here’s the thing about gin: Gin is supposed to be a staple for the classy cocktailer. But have you ever seen what happens to people who’ve been drinking gin all. night. long? If you haven’t seen the effects of a full night of gin drinking, I encourage you (legal disclaimer: but do not endorse!) to try this on an acquaintance. Watch them devolve from a cerebral, witty caricature into a sloppy Peter O’Toole. Gin will convince you that opening a restaurant at the bottom of the ocean is a good idea. You’ll also be missing a shoe. But in my mind, there’s nothing better for a gin daze than jazz. Specifically Ella Fitzgerald, because scat-singing sounds just as intelligible as regular conversation.
Vodka holds the drunken world together, man and woman, bingers and sippers. Pairs with juices, Red Bulls, Vitamin Waters. If it’s in your fridge, there’s a good chance that someone’s paired it with vodka. But if it’s good with everything, consumed by everybody, how can you pigeonhole such an all-purpose libation into one artist? By justifying that artist as the hippest, chillest and most sampled artist in electronic music. And if you’re chill, you’re drinking from a squat glass with a clear liquid. Kraftwerk, like vodka, is the ultimate mood enhancer. Not too high, like tequila or rum… and not too low, like whiskey or gin.
Booker T. and the MGs
A Tribe Called Quest
Hall & Oates
If you’re of a certain generation and you get a little more than tipsy on Peach Schnapps, chances are you’re going to be listening to this guy and considering it a raucous evening. And quite frankly, I can’t blame you. Tom Jones makes that Schnapps worthwhile. Hell, I’d drink the schnapps just to justify the Tom Jones.
Sometime Tom Waits doesn’t sit well, like bad sushi. Blame the bartender for watering down the drinks and you having too too many too quickly or your friends for enabling the consumption of mass quantities. When this happens, and you’ve blown right past the Tom Waits threshold, there’s only one place to turn. And, again, I must warn you… if you’re squeamish, turn back now. Stop reading. If you’ve never been this drunk and still conscious, then maybe you don’t want to know the truth about flat out, dumb, stupid tipsy. I wouldn’t blame you. But if you’ve been there. You most likely found yourself in a karaoke bar. And if you went dumb, stupid tipsy and found yourself in a karaoke bar, someone in your group, perhaps all of you, sang the Spice Girls.
More often than not lately I buy tickets to shows just because I want to see the opening act. I went to see Hospitality and stayed for Here We Go Magic. I make the easy agreement with myself that if I’m not enjoying the show, I have my own 100% permission to bail, no guilt. But I don’t bail because more often than not I find something in the live act that I’d not heard previously on the studio recordings. So it went, most recently, with Here We Go Magic. I’d always liked the band, but heavy rotation wasn’t in their past, present or future. Now I have Here We Go Magic’s debut record in the easy-to-access stack of vinyl next to the turntable.
I’ve been following Yellow Ostrich since I heard John Richards spin a track from their EP Fade Cave on KEXP in 2009 (stream the radio station on www.kexp.org). Smitten, I downloaded both the EP and full length Mistress without hesitation.
Side note: listening to KEXP is the always the worst thing for my music budget. On any given day I’ll hear three or four new bands that I buy or toss on my wishlist. It’s a disease. Also, I trust John Richard’s taste in music more than my own. Dude is absolutely infallible. By the way, I’m listening to him now as I write this and just threw the new Exitmusic release in my to-buy list. And now he’s playing the Cure. If I were more awesome, I’d be John Richards. But I digress.
Sunday, Yellow Ostrich opened for Welsh pop-punkers Los Campesinos! (though none of them are originally from Wales), a band I perpetually enjoy but never love. A few tracks have really grabbed me.
Yellow Ostrich did not disappoint. I put up a little write up for the band’s new release on my intermittent 30Hz Recommended posts and wrote the review for Spill Magazine. From that review:
“Strange Land is the intersection of the familiar with the surreal. Frontman Alex Schaaf, a mad musical professor, under the moniker Yellow Ostrich, recorded the Fade Cave EP and The Mistress at his home in Wisconsin. In 2010 he moved to New York, released The Mistress on Barsuk Records and found himself a legitimate full-blown three-piece band, adding multi-instrumentalist Joe Natchez and drummer Michael Tapper. The songs on The Mistress are minimalist, vocal loops and solo instrumentation mixed into something raw and personal. Schaaf’s journey from the familiar (Wisconsin, working solo) to the surreal, the strange (New York, bandmates) influences everything on Strange Land, an album that embodies the schizophrenia of a man caught between two worlds.”
Schaaf and co. didn’t disappoint. Their live orchestration was tight and Schaaf’s performance made it clear that he pours his soul into his music. Every song sapped his energy and only the promise of performing the next one revived him. I’d been most curious how the full band would handle Schaaf’s compositions from his earlier, solo work from Mistress and Fade Cave. Both “Whale” and “Mary” sounded very similar to Schaaf’s solo mad-scientist recordings but with more depth. A live performance with more musicians, inevitably, has that effect. Just hearing the live version of the fragile “Whale,” in particular, made the show worthwhile. That was the song that caused me to buy the small Yellow Ostrich catalog back in 2009 and it still stood out as a unique and brilliant song among the new material.
After the Yellow Ostrich set, as I have made a habit of doing, I hung out by the swag table to buy a record and chat. Schaaf hung around for a few minutes receiving some much deserved fan adulation. I only chatted him up for a few minutes about his abbreviated two week tour with Los Campesinos! that concludes in Miami of all places. He lamented the termination as the band must then spin their van back back down the long road from Florida to New York City while Los Campesinos! hops on a plane back to the UK. He seemed like a genuine guy with an easy sense of humor.
Los Campesinos! bounds on stage. I knew very little about the band’s makeup. Suddenly there’s a flood of musicians on the tiny Brillobox stage. If you’ve been to the Brillobox venue here in Pittsburgh, imagine a cluster of seven musicians on that miniature platform that’s more like a soap box. Led on stage by lead singer Gareth (an apparent well of infinite enthusiasm despite claiming to have been exhausted by taking to a Southside pub for the afternoon football match), the band launches into their opener and the crowd immediately begins fist-pumping and bouncing and screaming lyrics. Easily the most energetic crowd I’ve witnessed at Brillobox and probably the loudest show. Seven bandmembers, seven instruments play loud but the cacophony somehow doesn’t overcome the long, rectangular space. Their brand of indie-pop is raucous with a post-punk twist. Think Built to Spill with Joy Division and a dash of the Clash and Belle & Sebastian.
Between the two- or three-song blocks, Gareth once pauses to berate the crowd for being “so damn nice” (and he follows this by clarifying “And that’s not a good thing”) and mocks the gathered for cheering whenever he says “Pittsburgh.” “It’s such a silly American thing, all this irrational civic pride” he says and from there on refers to Pittsburgh as “the place that shall not be named.” His banter is good-natured and very British, which allows him to get away with saying pretty much anything he likes. He has the shiny, happy hipster crowd of 120 eating out of his hand. By the time the band plays “You! Me! Dancing!” the venue erupts and I’ve got to wonder what the show sounds like to those gathered in the bar downstairs. The floor bounces and the united patrons scream the chorus in perfect synchronicity.
“You! Me! Dancing!” off Hold On Now, Youngster (2008) is just pure joy. I couldn’t find a live version with decent audio. A shame.
It’s one of those live music moments you’ll want to bottle and remember every time the song plays. The band milks the live show for everything they’ve got. It’s no wonder they’ve built such a positive reputation for their shows.
Every time I hear Los Campesinos! I’ll still have that live performance informing all of those studio recordings. And now the previously flat music has a life and vigor that didn’t exist previously. If this tour happens to stop in your town, just go. Hang out, have a drink and enjoy some great music the way it was meant to be heard.
If you’re at a bar noted for its selection of microbrews and craft beer do not stride confidently up to the bar and order “the cheapest, shittiest beer you’ve got.” When a great beer, on tap, costs $5, it’s just weird. I really wish I had a picture of the guy that hopped up on the bar stool, made this request and then sat there sipping a can of Modelo (which, btw, was the cheapest, shittiest beer they had).
If you go to these shows in Pittsburgh and you see some asshole standing by himself using Twitter as company before a show, it’s probably me. Feel free to say hello, unless you just hopped up on the bar stool next to me and ordered something “cheap and shitty” because I’m probably Tweeting about you.
I paraphrase everything. Don’t think that just because I’m using quotation marks around a phrase spoken by the lead singer that I’m repeating anything verbatim. Because 1) I’ve been drinking. 2) I’m not recording the show because I see the guy that stands there recording everything on his phone and he always looks like an asshole. Just enjoy the show, dude.
Yellow Ostrich frontman Alex Schaaf recorded a re-imagining of Radiohead’s Kid A using two pianos, two violins and two cellos. It’s pretty fantastic. Listen and download here: Schaaf’s Kid A
Also, for reference, a picture of the Brillobox stage.
In the spirit of World Music Day, or because I just happened to stumble across this release in the KCRW Spotify App on World Music Day, I’ve got to journey to the highest mountain and spread the word about Curumin’s Arrocha. And by journey, I mean take a break from work for a moment. And by highest mountain, I mean my bl-g, which is more of a glorified mole hill. The Brazilian artist Curumin combines jazz, samba, bossa nova, hip-hop and bleeps and blips into something entirely unique and essential. World Music rarely excites me. In fact, the term seems like a misnomer and reeks of American ethnocentrism. It’s not worldly, it’s just “other.” You speak the anglo or you don’t. True World Music, it seems, should bridge cultures and musical genres. Thus, in the spirit of true Wordly Music, I give you São Paulo’s Curumin.
The rap concert is an unnatural phenomenon. Rap is a Frankenstein genre, cobbled together from samples and beats and lyrics culled from life, other songs, other genres. Beats are made. Rhymes are written. And then all is combined and mixed in a studio. The system is not unlike any other style of music; however, rap differs because the subsequent components of a rap record are rarely organic. Rap has more in common with the electronic- and DJ-fueled genres, yet rappers perform in traditional concert venues because they are unshackled, unpredictable and the beating heart of the Frankenstein monster. For all its posturing, rap music is less a spontaneous creation than a practice of restraint and calculated excess. Rap concerts have a tendency to take on a life of their own, for better and for worse. The Wu-Tang Clan created the most influential rap album of the last twenty years, yet I attended a concert of theirs in 1997 that I recall as perhaps the worst exhibition of “music” I’ve ever seen. The phrase herding cats might as well have been “herding stray Wu-Tang Clan members.” ODB just didn’t show up. Method Man was late and the rest treated the performance like a freestyle battle gone horribly wrong.
1 million sold, m’f’ers.
To further confuse the balance of spontaneous art and beats/production, the platform supports vanity entertainers with regularity. This introduces that final silent component of rap music, reputation and swagger. How else can you explain Shaq Diesel going Platinum? That’s one million copies sold. Allan Iverson, Chris Webber, Ron Artest, Roy Jones, Jr. have also all tested the rap game with lesser success. Therefore, at face value, it’s easy to be skeptical when Donald Glover, a comedian and notable TV actor and writer (for 30 Rock), releases a record. A quick sample of his Camp LP dispels any questions you may have had about his intentions (even more so when you learn that he’s been creating beats and writing music for more than six years, having already released three independent records prior to Camp). Glover is a capable beatsmith and MC (even if he borrows much of his style from the Kanye-school of swagger) but where he excels is his creative wordplay and rhymes. He alternates brash with hyper-sensitivity. His songs are laced with pop-culture references and cynicism regarding the genre’s predictable tropes. Personal themes of childhood bullying, alcoholism and failed relationships are littered throughout. As Childish Gambino, Glover is a self-aware artist that refuses to break the “Fourth Wall” – to borrow a term from film theory. Despite being an excellent stand-up comedian, the Renaissance man in Glover refuses the audience a campy wink-wink of acknowledgment. What he’s doing is serious business and he’s doing his damnedest to ensure that he’s accepted as an artist who excels according to the rules of each of his endeavors. He does not succeed as a rapper because he is an actor. He does not excel as an actor because he is a comedian. Each talent exists in a separate vacuum, a truly remarkable feat of career management.
Danny Brown opened. While I’m warming to Brown’s lyrical style (which seems to be a mish-mash of Das Racist and Shabazz Palaces), his strength is also his creative use of humor. The performance, however, lacked energy. Other than the moment when he pulled a fan up on stage (a hipster Chris Elliott), Brown and his DJ seemed oblivious to the crowd. Hipster Chris Elliott rapped along the entire time and Brown lent him the microphone to punctuate particular phrases. Still, the unusually attentive crowd (for an opening act) ate it up.
When the very first beat from “Outside” dropped, Glover turned the attentive but lax sold-out crowd at Stage AE into a fist-pumping party. His stage act is frantic and high-energy. “First time in Pittsburgh. We gotta do this right,” he proclaimed early on, and throughout the show Glover beckoned the audience to keep the pace. Backed by a full band, the music filled the space with more than just an obligatory distorted bassline. Two drummers, guitar, keyboards and the occasional violin. The musicianship transcended a standard hip-hop show.
I’d always wondered about the identity of the Childish Gambino fan demographic. These are things about which only those who write about music wonder. And as I nodded along with the beat appreciatively, I couldn’t help but take an unofficial and superficial survey of the demographics. Those most enraptured by the performance were A) Young; B) Twenty-something; C) Caucasian; and D) Female. Not what I had anticipated. If I’d taken a picture of the crowd you’d never have guessed the act. It was a cross-section of Pittsburgh youth culture. Glover requested a roll call of minority females in the crowd before “You See Me (UCLA)” and had to search to locate a few of them, including the one Indian girl who Glover called out for hiding from him. Welcome to Pittsburgh, Donald Glover.
Anyway, back on track. Surprised as I was by the overwhelming reception for the Childish Gambino act (as I mentioned, a large, sold-out venue), I was more surprised by the knowledge of his back catalog, all independently released. Chalk it up to an Internet-savvy generation with too much time on their hands. I don’t particularly have an excuse other than having mild OCD. Also I don’t sleep much. While Camp favorites “Bonfire” and “Heartbeat” received raucous welcomes, it was tracks from his older releases that lit a fire with the audience. Much of the crowd knew the words “Freaks and Geeks” and “Culdesac” and sang right along, prompting Glover to offer the microphone to the crowd to jump in during the chorus on a number of occasions.
While I should have just been proud of Pittsburgh for coming out and actively supporting a quality artist, hip-hop or otherwise, I was still just a little confused. Who are these people? The last notable hip-hop act to come through Pittsburgh was Shabazz Palaces and I doubt more than a handful of this crowd knew Shabazz at all. I don’t intend this as a knock on Glover or the fans of his music, just that Childish Gambino has attained a crossover appeal that’s difficult to label. Is it because Glover is unintimidating? Small in stature? That he’s “hard,” but not too “hard?” That he raps about universal human conditions rather than drug abuse, objectification of women and violence? Or is it merely that he tells jokes and plays Troy Barnes on Community?
And though the comparison lacks realistic connectivity, I couldn’t help lament that fact that if all of these people watched Community the show wouldn’t be on such tenuous ground. But, again, I digress. The only explanation for his widespread appeal is that despite Glover’s ability to maintain separation of music and television stardom, he is incapable of escaping (nor does he necessarily want to) the connectivity to the global idea of “fame.” Music and image, after all, go hand-in-hand, like beats and rhymes. And fame can be wielded in many different ways. The only way for Glover to continue to succeed independently in TV, music and comedy is to continue pretend that he is three different people, each operating freely, without the baggage of his alter egos. Fans will continue to be drawn in by the idea of his fame as long as he pretends to recognize that it doesn’t exist. But however it is you’re doing all that you’re doing, Troy Barnes/Donald Glover/Childish Gambino, don’t stop doing it because you are a true entertainer.
Some bands thrive, while others, inexplicably disappear. The glory days of 80’s minimalist synth comprised roughly the years from 1982 until 1985 with fits and spurts every since. This trend has often been called Minimal Wave. For the sake of brevity, I’ll consider it a legitimate micro-genre and not enter into any broader discussions about whether it deserves its own classification outside of the more common but equally maddening delineations of Synthpop, Electropop, Synthpunk and Coldwave. Well known bands like Kraftwerk or Front 242 that fit the profile transcended micro-genre classification because they simply gained popular appeal. Staples of the genre included elementary musical structure, relatively unpolished production (part and parcel with the “I’m-trying-so-hard-I’m-not-really-trying facade) and the use of analog synthesizers and drum machines. Minimal Wave sounds mechanical and often repetitious to the point of numbness. Let it be said that this is not a nostalgia post. 97.9% of this style of music proved disposable, but from within these Dogme-like constraints, a few artists recorded brilliant lo-fi sounds of 80’s-era emptiness and disillusionment. It should come as no surprise to any fan of 80s music that Germany became an epicenter for this style of music. And it is from Germany that today’s forgotten band of the 80’s hails. Jyl (pronounced: Jill), named after lead singer Jyl Porch, deserved a better fate than a one-record catalog and total anonymity by the turn of the decade, particularly since Klaus Schulze, electronic-music legend and one-time member of Tangerine Dream, produced the record. Jyl shares a vocal kinship with notable front-women like Annie Lennox and Siouxsie, but her more even-tempered crooning fit the electronic bleeps and blips perfectly. This album really is a gem and if you happen across it in any secondhand record shop or flea market, buy it immediately. You won’t regret it. And I will be jealous because I am still searching for my copy.
I’d love to offer more information on the band or their subsequent projects but I’m finding very little information of note. Okay, I’m finding nothing at all. The part about being German doesn’t help my cause. They just seem less prone to the frivolous sharing of information. No sales numbers, no singles charts. I’ve got nothing other than a few blogs out there on the Interwebs that have dedicated pages, not entirely unlike this one, to the cause of bringing Jyl back to some music fans that might indeed like to discover something old and fresh.
My daughter turns three years old today. Unbelievable, really. I find this particularly unnerving because my first concrete memory comes from my third birthday party. Up until now I’ve been living under the assumption that if I screwed something up, she wouldn’t remember it anyway. Now, I’m in danger of going on record… and while I’m sad that another year has passed and she’s developing that whole free will thing, I’m excited to finally, hopefully, start to make some lasting memories that she’ll remember when she’s 33 and reflecting upon her own childhood. Hopefully, she’ll remember this summer and maybe even the summer jams of 2012 (with some fondness), just as I remember the summer of 1981 and the timeless Hall & Oates track “Kiss On My List.” This track sticks with me and immediately recalls those early memories. Anyway, my memory, if you’re curious, is of finding a massive and wrapped box on the lawn and subsequently opening this beautiful beast:
I'm pretty sure mine was of some green variety.
…and now for the jams…
The Walkmen – Heaven
No recent album requires an open window and a cold beverage more than this one. You’re outside on the patio sipping a margarita? Pump the Walkmen through to the outside. Maybe it’s evening. You’re inside with the windows thrown open with an uncoastered mojito leaving a sweat ring on the end table? The Walkmen, on simmer in the background on repeat. More understated than prior albums, Heaven might underwhelm at first, but give it another chance to creep in under your skin and induce instant mellow. This isn’t a sad sack record for sad sack indie worshippers. This is a laid-back record with something for anyone. It’s good enough to force a pause, to take a moment so that you might listen more closely to the music.
The Quakers are a full-frontal assault. If you don’t dig the Quakers, you don’t dig hip-hop. And that’s cool, but goddamn you’re missing out on some exciting new music. The Quakers redefine the term supergroup. The collective consists of 35 different members, summoning powers and talents from artists as varied as Portishead, The Pharcyde, Aloe Blacc, Prince Po and Coin Locker Kid. These 35 artists turn 40 tracks into a brilliant and cohesive record. Impossible, you say? I thought so too. Rumor has it that the three producers of the record, Fuzzface (Portishead’s Geoff Barrow), 7-Stu-7 and Katalyst, had all grown disillusioned by the state of modern hip-hop so they set out to create a record they’d want to listen to. As it turns out, it’s a record we all want to listen to… with the windows down, hoping the kid in the back isn’t realllly paying attention to the lyrics.
My classic jams list could never be complete without a rediscovered classic sneaking into the countdown. I’d always been a fan of the Foxx-fronted Ultravox. “Reap the Wild Wind” is a timeless charmer. But rarely had I ever heard any solo work by John Foxx. During my regular record-crate diving, I came across a sealed copy of John Foxx’s Garden for $4. An easy purchase. A pristine, unheard solo LP from an 80’s (near) icon. I expected to enjoy it, but holy hell was I surprised. John Foxx deserves more respect. Garden is more smooth Ultravox than John Foxx’s prior release: Metamatic (a stiff, cold offering). If you don’t know John Foxx and/or Ultravox, there’s never been a better time to discover one of the 80’s forgotten gems.
Somehow, Hot Chip has merely skirted big-time recognition. In Our Heads represents their fifth full-length album, and if this doesn’t strike a chord this summer, I’m not sure there’s any hope for civilization. Hot Chip creates electro-lounge-pop with a beat. And if you get caught up in the bounce, it’s very danceable. My now 3-year old can attest. The album drops next week but after having heard the album stream online, I believe quite strongly that there are a few tracks on this record that are among their most infectious. Hot Chip just understand the groove. No more self-conscious use of the world jam regarding this record. It’s a legitimate jam at the intersection of dancehall, indie and electronic music. Indiepoptronica, perhaps.
Named after a specific moment in the Melvins’ “A History of Bad Men,” this sister-duo made a splash with the Scarlet LP and have carried that promise into their full-length, self-titled debut. They’ve been dubbed nu-gaze (a sub-genre of my favorite non-genre “shoe-gaze), but if you’re looking for a definition that means something they’re PJ Harvey and Warpaint with an extra dash of 90’s-era guitar fuzz. Frankly, I shouldn’t like this… but it works. And I can’t stop listening to their radio-friendly single “You’re Early.” Plus the band has still got that anonymous quality that makes you feel like you’re one of the first in on the ground floor of something big.
I didn’t know I needed another St. Etienne record but there it was and I had to listen after catching a few tracks on XM. Sure it’s vintage St. Etienne, bouncy, synth-laden electro-pop with pristine Sarah Cracknell vocals. Words and Music is a return of sorts. Though I’d never taken a moment to wonder: Saint Etienne where have you been for seven long years? That begs the question: did we even miss them? Yes. I guess. I dunno. I’m so conflicted. I always thought they were cheesy. Did I change or did they? Because I like this album. I like it in the way that I can leave it on and not notice it’s there. In and out of the house, here and there, pick up where I left off. Did I miss something? It’ll come back around. So if these albums are the soundtrack of my summer, Saint Etienne must therefore be the score because I don’t see Danny Elfman around anywhere.
If you listen to one new band this month, make it Dry the River. I’ve been plugging this band on Twitter and I just can’t help but give the UK quintet another chance to win over one, maybe two new fans. I have serious pull. What can I say? Think Mumford & Sons, but distinctly British. Though they have energy in their repertoire, Dry the River’s ballads display remarkably lush musicality (given depth by a pervasive violin) and restraint. There’s nary a pinch to be found on the entire record. And even though Shallow Bed has been out for awhile now I still keep going back to it. The sign of jams that aim to set the mood for the coming season.
This band always reminds me of summer. Every year I seem to put Pylon on the speakers and let it ride. I have no reason to associate it with summer any more than the next fellow. But something about these post-punkers reeks of warm weather, beer and doing stupid shit that one might possibly do during the summer and regret during the winter. Is it just me or does Pylon not get a lot of buzz anymore for just being a great rock band? People think Athens, GA, they think R.E.M. Not me. I’d rather have a beat, some creative shredding and Vanessa Briscoe Hay. The albums have all been remastered with extra, previously unreleased tracks that are actually very good. Bonus bucks.
I will save this picture on the off chance that one day I can build my DREAM house and find this architect and this decorator and tell them to make me a dining room like this. I think it's one of the first formal dining rooms I've ever really liked.