December 5th, 2013 1:32pm
Jessy Lanza’s debut album Pull My Hair Back is the kind of excellent record that can be easy to ignore – it’s extremely low key and a bit chilly, and though it’s full of very pleasing melodic parts, it doesn’t really cross over into the realm of “catchy.” Most of it feels like a very aloof late ’90s/early ’00s R&B record, with Lanza singing over tracks by the Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan that are always moving, but feel as though they progress in slow motion. “5785021″ is particularly great – she’s basically imploring someone to call her, and she shifts between being sweet, funny, and a little desperate in a way that feels entirely natural.
December 3rd, 2013 1:01pm
Tim Hecker’s new record steps away from the rotting, melting treated sounds of his most recent works in favor of exceptionally eerie live instrumentation. “Virginal I” reminds me a lot of Steve Reich – the piano performance seems to collapses over itself as parts fall out of phase, and synthesizers overtake the foreground of the piece. It’s disorienting, but also quite beautiful.
The Range remind me of a lot of late ’90s IDM – clearly indebted to dance music and hip-hop, but built to rework elements of that music for solitary, introverted experiences. “Loftmane” feels particularly insular: It’s like getting lost in some mental groove, and everything feels safe and warm. It has the pensive quality of the slower tracks on DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing…, but it’s all filtered through the more abstracted electronic glitches of, say, Autechre or Aphex Twin.
December 2nd, 2013 1:22pm
I suppose the best way I can describe this song is by asking this question: What if TLC were from the early to mid 80s, were waaaay more smooth, and all three of them sung and rapped in Korean? I have a decent idea of what this song is about from reading translations of the lyrics, but it’s sort of unnecessary – the melody and bounce of this is all you really need to dial into a very good and specific lovey-dovey feeling. This song may have the best chorus I can’t sing along to all year.
This is the ideal balance – a very accessible R&B/pop tune with a deeply weird arrangement in which all the music sounds like rubber getting pulled and shaped and bounced off the walls. I can imagine a more conventional remix of this blowing up, but I just want to live in a world where this original mix is what catches on. I am really down for this kind of weird rubbery sound – I genuinely adore this bizarre remix of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” – and I’d really like for this sort of sound to become a thing.
November 27th, 2013 1:15pm
Octo Octa is so good at hitting this midpoint between dreaminess and excited energy – listening to “His Kiss” feels like being awake and totally thrilled in the middle of a particularly great dream. A lot of it comes from his taste in synth tones – everything just sparkles and floats, it’s almost too bright and light and perfect to be real. The vocal loops are great too – “now his kiss, now his kiss…” without filling in the rest of the thought, making you wonder when the kiss is happening, or if it ever does at all.
November 26th, 2013 1:13pm
Charles Bradley’s voice falls somewhere in the gap between a lot of the best male soul singers of all time – a bit of James Brown, a bit of Otis Redding, a bit of Al Green, a bit of Syl Johnson, and on and on. The downside, if there is a real downside to that, is that he can seem more like the idea of a soul singer than a distinct character in his own right. The upside, though, is that his range and mix of influences can be the best of all worlds. I think that’s certainly the case on a cut like “Strictly Reserved for You,” which runs through a lot of tricks and tics to put across this incredibly warm song about wanting to hide away from the world with the one you love. There’s no arrogance to this performance – it’s just a guy with a lot of talent and very little fame pulling out all the stops to convey a simple, sweet feeling.
November 25th, 2013 2:03pm
Factory Floor have a fairly narrow range – all of their songs follow more or less the same template of a repetitive groove that grows increasingly tense and heavy – but they are absolutely brilliant at what they do. “Here Again” is the closest they come to a pop song, partly because the vocals are very prominent, but mainly for the way it keeps adding bits of harmony along the way. The music seems to be gradually rising the whole time – there are bits that feel like you’ve just ascended to a new level, but it just keeps shifting up and up and up. But despite that, at the end of it you seem to be right back where you started without ever really “falling.”
November 22nd, 2013 1:16pm
It is very strange for me to read reviews of Four Tet by dance/electronic music specialists because it seems so much like their entire concept of what Four Tet does is just drastically different from my own. Most of all, it is baffling to me that people can listen to a record like Beautiful Rewind and hear “dance music.” It’s waaaay too slow, there’s not a lot of bass, it’s just far too lost in this cerebral zone. I have trouble picturing even people deliberately going to a Four Tet DJ gig actually dancing to this. But like, that’s fine! I like Four Tet for what it is – expertly made, beautifully layered electronic music with an adventurous approach to rhythm and an excellent ear for vocal loops. This is very introverted music, it’s very good for moments when you’re lost in your head and maybe doing a couple other things at once, but the music is not just in the background. It weaves its way in, and scratches at some emotions that are just under the surface.
November 20th, 2013 1:09pm
It took me a while to get into Danny Brown’s Old, and for a kinda strange reason: It’s all about the same level of quality, so it was hard to pull out a few particular tracks to focus on and digest first. It’s all very good, but nothing exactly screams “I AM THE BEST SONG.” “Dip” certainly sounds like a single, though – it’s definitely the best chorus on the record, and I’m not really into choruses on rap records generally – and it’s a good showcase for the most charmingly obnoxious extreme’s of Brown’s voice. A lot of Brown’s appeal comes down to just the sound of his voice, and the way it whines and snaps around his otherwise pretty basic rhyme schemes. This isn’t to say that he’s not good on technical level – he’s fine – but that he has such an overwhelming charisma that he doesn’t really need to ever impress anyone on that front. I’m happy to just hear this guy go on about molly over a trap beat as long as he’s going all the way with it.
November 19th, 2013 12:49pm
Tricot is a bit unexpected: an all-female math rock band from Japan in 2013. Their songs have all the tightly interlocked guitar patterns and shifting rhythms you’d expect from their genre, but the vocals and lead melodies have a softness that feels just slightly incongruent, but very beautiful. That hyper-feminine quality keeps the music from ever seeming too clinical, even if the execution is so clean and precise that it can sound as if it was created by machines designed to make new Don Caballero songs.
November 18th, 2013 2:47pm
Paul McCartney is so good that a late period record like New, which comes over 30 years past his prime as an artist and is only a little better than his past few solo records, still is drastically better than most every pop-rock album released in the same year. “Queenie Eye,” a cut produced by Paul Epworth, is particularly great and comes off like the sort of McCartney tune that Noel Gallagher has been trying to write since the mid-90s. The amazing – and maybe vexing? – thing about McCartney is how easy it all seems to him, like he’s just been walking around for five decades looking at everyone else and wondering why they don’t get this cosmic secret of pop that he’s just intuitively grasped since he was a teenager. I think a lot of effort went into making “Queenie Eye” sound fantastic, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is what just flows out of McCartney when he’s not even trying too hard. I’m in awe of that sort of thing.