April 24th, 2015 12:25pm

What A Disgusting Feeling

Car Seat Headrest “Kimochi Warui (When? When? When? When? When? When? When?)”

Please don’t be put off by the title of this song. It is a such a good song, and the lyrics are so good. Trust me on this. The strange thing about this is that while the title is very cryptic and precious, Will Toledo’s words in the actual song aren’t that way at all. In a voice that’s both drowsy and endearingly romantic, he’s singing quite directly about angst and existential dread. The subject matter is as melodramatic as it gets, but his delivery and phrasing is all very matter of fact. This is how it can be when you’re depressed – every emotion blurs into blah grey nothingness. Toledo’s music is fairly low-fi and the instruments sound cheap, but it really works for this song in the way it grounds everything in a drab, mundane setting. His arrangement is great, though – it’s always moving in some interesting way, and pushes him towards moments of shabby grace as the song reaches its climax.

Buy it from Bandcamp.

April 23rd, 2015 12:51pm

Safe In Moonlight And Fear The Sun

Moon King “Secret Life”

“Secret Life” seems to conflate a secretive, probably closeted romance with the idea of a child having an imaginary friend. It’s sung from the perspective of feeling exhausted by having to keep up appearances, and to hide a profound connection – actively burying the part of you that feels most open and alive. The sound of the track really plays up the melancholy and anxiety at the core of the lyrics and vocal performance – it’s slow, brittle, and has a vaguely mysterious atmosphere, but then the pace will suddenly pick up like your heart race when you’re forced into a lie.

Buy it from Amazon.

April 22nd, 2015 12:19pm

Stomping On Your Lungs

Leikeli47 “Two Times A Charm”

It is baffling to me that Leikeli47 is not the most hyped thing in music right now. Maybe that’s by design – this is an artist known for performing in a mask – but just on musical merit, her first mini-album is worth freaking out about. The easiest artist to compare her to is M.I.A., since they share a very feminine type of aggression and ferocity, and perform with the energy of people on the outside of hip-hop and are hell bent on being heard in that genre. But where M.I.A. draws on music from the Third World, Leikeli47 is more firmly rooted in hip-hop’s recent past. This is very much a post-Yeezus record – it’s there in the abrasive textures and the urgency of the tempos, and in the unambiguously confrontational nature of her performance. But it’s not all rage and fire. One of the most interesting things about her music is the way it will swing suddenly in the opposite direction, like when “Two Times A Charm” shifts briefly into straight R&B and she reveals a very sensual and empathetic side that is no less fierce.

Buy it from Amazon.

April 21st, 2015 12:05pm

There’s Nothing Else

Built to Spill “Never Be the Same”

Doug Martsch has spent so much time working on big lumbering epics hat it’s a really nice change of pace for him to put out a relatively simple, jangly folk rock song like this. All of his songs are very tightly written, even when they seem to jam out a bit, but this one feels especially compact – it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was revised several times until it was nothing but hooks. The lyrics seem straightforward but are just as deceptively clever as the music itself, with Martsch flipping the perspective on his subject’s wanderlust and relationship with time and change every few lines. I particularly enjoy the idea of zooming in on someone’s motivation to keep doing new things and zooming out on a world that only changes at a glacial pace. This isn’t a new theme for him, though. His best song ever ends on essentially the same thought: “This history lesson doesn’t make any sense in any less than ten thousand year increments.”

Buy it from Amazon.

April 20th, 2015 1:52pm

Beat The Devil By A Landslide

Donnie Trumpet featuring Chance the Rapper and Jamila Woods “Sunday Candy”

It seems like Chance is settling into a niche – he’s the rapper who specializes in soulful, optimistic, uplifting music. It’s not a particularly crowded niche at the moment. I can’t imagine a better use of his voice, though – his rhymes are always so melodic, and when he half-sings his parts he sounds very Stax to me. The music of “Sunday Candy” is rooted in gospel, and Chance runs with that by turning the entire song into a tribute to his devoutly religious grandmother. This is an exceptionally warm and affectionate song, to the point that the kindness and love at the core of it can feel a overwhelming. But that’s how gratitude works – when you consider how much someone like a parent or guardian has given to you, it can really knock you over.

Get it from DJ Booth.

April 16th, 2015 12:43pm

This Life Ain’t Like A Book

Alabama Shakes “Sound & Color”

Man, this song just sounds like it’s begging to be sampled and turned into a rap track, doesn’t it? I’d bet the band actually was influenced by sample-based rap in arranging this – it’s drawing on a lot of ’60s and ‘70s soul music, but the way the elements click together feels very post-turntablism to me. It’s in the negative space, and the way the guitar part kinda lingers half-formed in the background like a looped artifact, and how the string parts near the end feel like they’re being imported from some other song entirely. It’s a gorgeous piece of music, and Brittany Howard’s vocal performance is pitched just right – a little understated compared to a lot of her stuff, but sorta wounded and emphatic right when it matters most.

Buy it from Amazon.

April 15th, 2015 12:34pm

A Million Moons

The-Dream “Fruition”

I suppose the new EP by The-Dream isn’t quirky enough for some people, but I can’t say I’m bothered by that. I’m not particularly invested in him as some maverick artist and am fine with him doing pretty straightforward R&B music. The-Dream is a perfectly fine singer, but the real draw of his music is in the songwriting and production, and the way he laces strong compositions with melodic, rhythmic, and tonal elements that stand out without getting in the way of the vocal melody. You get that in each of the songs on Crown, and in the case of “Fruition,” you find it in that lead guitar loop that seems to slowly spin around at the center of the track. It’s a slight bit of tension in the middle of a song that otherwise feels extremely comfortable and sort of weightless. He’s singing about being in love with a wonderful person he had to work hard to find, so maybe that element is there to represent a lingering fear about messing it all up.

Buy it from iTunes.

April 14th, 2015 1:02pm

Life’s Ironic And It’s Simple

Action Bronson “Terry”

The Alchemist’s production on this track is straight-up gorgeous, and in a way that is very specific to sample-based rap. The sounds are cobbled from a variety of sources, but the main thing is that lovely, melancholy guitar sample pulled from Asha Puthli’s “Let Me In Your Life.” It’s chopped up a bit, but Alchemist makes it all feel organic, like it could actually be a live band playing in a room. But like the best sample-based music, it’s not entirely seamless, and you can sense the artifacts and the fabrication. It’s part of why a lot of this music has a sad, nostalgic feeling to it – you can’t help but hear the quotation marks around the music, and the way it all seems like a fading memory. Action Bronson does a good job on this track, but of course he would – his voice and style is so similar to Ghostface, and Ghostface figured out a long time ago that this aesthetic suited him better than anything else. It’s something about the plaintive timbre of their voices, maybe.

Buy it from Amazon.

April 13th, 2015 1:04pm

So Far From Sane

Charly Bliss “Urge to Purge”

It’s such a thrill to see a rock band arrive seemingly fully formed. I saw Charly Bliss open up for Colleen Green and Unrest at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn on Friday night, and I’m glad I arrived early, because they were a far better live act than either. (Green is excellent on record, but not quite as much when she’s only got a guitar and a drum machine.) Charly Bliss are a straight-up ‘90s alt-rock band, and you can easily just listen to their stuff and trainspot all their influences – that melody is The Breeders, that bass line is Pixies, that bit sounds like that one Bush song, that hook is Letters to Cleo, a whole bunch of it is Veruca Salt. There was even one song that somehow made the leap from Built to Spill to No Doubt in the space of a few measures. They’ve got the sound down, and I won’t lie – this isn’t just nostalgia for me, it’s full-on Pavlonian. I am a sucker for this very specific type of rock music. But there’s been a few bands aiming for this over the past few years, and none of them have connected with the sound and the spirit of alt-rock as much as this band. It’s not just in the shape of the music, it’s in the way they move on stage, and the way they play and sing and interact. Great alt-rock music always moves between slack and tension, a shrug and a shout. Despite all the angst, there’s a lot of joy in alt-rock – it’s very physical music, and it’s all about taking great pleasure in dynamic shifts. Charly Bliss gets it, and they do it. I’m excited for what they’re going to do next.

Buy it from Bandcamp.

April 9th, 2015 11:59am

Holographic Jesus, Come To Me In My Sleep

Doldrums “Blow Away”

Airick Woodhead spends the majority of The Air Conditioned Nightmare, his second album under the name Doldrums, wondering why he feels so ill at ease in situations that are designed to be comfortable. It’s not so much an attack on modernity as it is a meditation on anxiety and distrust of the mundane. “Blow Away,” a song that seems like an obvious radio single to me but is for some reason not being promoted at all, provides the thematic center of the record. It’s essentially a song about feeling weirded out by comforts, whether they’re sexual, material, or mindless. I don’t totally agree with the point of view in the song, but I understand it. It’s paranoia, really – this constant feeling that anything that feels good must be some sort of trap. But what really makes this song work on a thematic level is that while Woodhead is yearning for some sort of authentic experience, he seems to have no idea what that experience could be like. And maybe that’s a trap too?

Buy it from Amazon.

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