August 22nd, 2014 3:49am
These girls are putting up a bratty front in this song, and you can tell they’re pretty excited to push the envelope a bit by singing “eat me out to American Beauty. That’s fun, but what really makes this work is that they’re not too cool for their own song and are singing very genuinely about lust. There’s a tacit acknowledgment in this song of the willingness to be vulnerable in order to follow through on that, and the way you can try to keep some defenses up even after you have.
August 21st, 2014 3:18am
It’s funny to get this song in the same week that Taylor Swift dropped a single in which she describes a totally conventional pop 4/4 as a “sick beat.” This track actually does make good on the promise of a sick beat, and taps into the same manic, surrealistic pop aesthetic of this trio’s South London contemporaries – A.G. Cook, Sophie, the general PC Music crew. Whereas Cook’s tracks feel like they could veer off in another musical, tonal, or lyrical direction at any moment, “Sick Beats” is a lot more linear. This is more about energy and color, and the way the lyrics slip in and out of English, and keep flipping between inane, silly nostalgia and lines that clearly come from a mature, feminist perspective.
August 19th, 2014 4:06pm
The first line of the chorus of this song should resonate with, well, most any human being who has moved on from a relationship: “I don’t know what came along and tricked me into believing that you were the only one for me.” There’s a lot of ways you could deliver a sentiment like that, but Nicholas Krgovich and his collaborators undersell it a bit, and make it feel like the sort of rational hindsight a few years after it all goes wrong, rather than the immediate aftermath. The entire song is lovely and calm, but the airiness of the arrangement is offset by the blunt rhythms played on the piano. That gives it some oomph and texture, but also makes the emotion of the song feel very strong and grounded.
August 14th, 2014 12:24pm
Who knew that Kimbra, the girl from that “Somebody That I Used To Know” song, had it in her to make a solid art-funk album that legitimately sounds like late ’80s Prince? I like these little surprises in life. “Madhouse” is the most overtly Prince-ish track on the record, but there’s echoes of a lot of music he’s made or inspired over the years throughout the album. (I hear Erykah Badu, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson, of Montreal, Spektrum, Janelle Monaé in there too.) But despite belonging to this lineage of freaky funk pop, it doesn’t feel rote or devoid of imagination. The production feels very fresh and contemporary, and her persona is different. She’s not a big character like a lot of the artists I’ve mentioned, but she has a distinct tone to her voice, and a way of implying that she’s at a simmer, but about to roll over to a boil.
August 13th, 2014 12:34pm
Back when Mr. Twin Sister was known simply as Twin Sister, the band’s best material were the tracks where they strayed away from shoegaze-y indie stuff and embraced a very mid-90s moody sophistication. They wisely have kept moving in that direction, and “Blush,” a single from their forthcoming record, nails this aesthetic better than anything I’ve heard them or most anyone else do in recent years. “Blush” falls somewhere between early, straightforwardly soulful Erykah Badu and the rich, smoky atmosphere of trip-hop era Portishead – this is so obvious that virtually all descriptions of the song mention this, but it’s such an inspired combination that it now feels shocking that no one has done it before. I hope this isn’t a fluke for them, because it’d be fantastic to have a full album of songs in this vein.
August 12th, 2014 12:21pm
Cam’ron is a rapper who has aged very well on record in large part because his vocal style has never been about projecting youthful vitality or energy. He has a very NYC kind of laid-back cool, and his cadences always feel relaxed and lived-in. My favorite thing that he does with his voice, and you can hear it on this track for sure, is add a light smirk to end of his lines that sounds both defiant and affectionate. Even when Cam is angry, he never sounds like he’s mad at you, and that he’s letting you in on something.
August 11th, 2014 11:44am
Look, it’s not easy to choose between this version of “Fiona Coyne” and the original mix by Saint Pepsi. They both have the optimistic vibe and perky groove, but they come at it from different angles. The remix is nearly half as long as the original, and starts off feeling a bit loose and spacey before shifting into a more assertive and direct groove accented by keyboard horn hits. Like a lot of Saint Pepsi’s music, the song really thrives on tapping into a classy-kitsch aesthetic, and approximating the sort of clean, digital interpretation of disco that was big at the beginning and end of the ’90s.
August 7th, 2014 11:53am
If someone had lied to me and told me that the forthcoming record by Love Inks was a new album by Young Marble Giants, I would have believed that without a moment of hesitation. Love Inks draw on more or less exactly the same formula – extreme minimalism built upon the implication of tension in an empty space, all sense of movement coming from simple drum machine programming, and a very particular vocal tone and cadence. Love Inks feels just a bit colder somehow – maybe it’s the difference between digital and analog, maybe it’s in the way Sherry LeBlanc sings with a more confident, measured tone than Alison Statton. But either way, they decorate the void at the center of this track very well.
August 6th, 2014 12:03pm
A lot of the best recent Weezer songs – and there’s really not that many, so we’re talking about a small sample size here – are basically just Rivers Cuomo singing about his job. And that’s a strange thing for a guy whose most famous work connected with audiences because they saw themselves in his lyrics, even when he was being creepily specific. (Especially when, in the case of Pinkerton fanboys.)
“Back to the Shack,” the first single from the band’s forthcoming ninth album, is a self-consciously “back to basics” song with lyrics that sound like a musical press release announcing the band’s intention to reconnect with their lapsed fans. The entire first verse is an apology, with Rivers saying that he regrets taking his core audience for granted and making some ill-advised moves in the hope of chasing new fans. At face value, this is a terrible idea, but somehow he makes this work because he delivers these lines with his characteristic blend of earnestness and goofball wit. He’s just being himself, and unlike a good chunk of the band’s more recent catalog, it doesn’t seem like he’s dumbing himself down or acting like someone trying to emulate the feelings of a normal person. The song comes across as emotional and sincere, and maybe we can’t all relate to this directly in terms of being an aging rock star, but it’s not hard to connect if you think about it as an expression of regret about losing touch with what you see as your most authentic self.
The thing about this song is that it can easily set up a disappointment. The chorus is fantastic, but it’s also a promise that the band might not be able to keep. Will this new Weezer record fully reconnect with the spirit of their early years? Or is that just something they have to say in order to get anyone interested these days? This is a good song, but it’s really just a jingle advertising the next record, and while I don’t personally have a lot invested in this, it’d be nice if they followed through on this promise.
August 4th, 2014 3:12pm
Spoon @ McKittrick Hotel 8/3/2014
Knock Knock Knock / Inside Out / Small Stakes / The Beast and Dragon, Adored / Do You / Don’t Make Me A Target / Outlier / Who Makes Your Money / Rent I Pay / Got Nuffin // I Turn My Camera On / You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb / Black Like Me
There were a lot of moments in this special Spoon show where I was just thinking about how they are almost definitely the best existing rock and roll band. Yes, there’s a few rock bands who are still together who are in the same league as artists, but they aren’t quite “rock and roll,” and I think that matters a lot. Most of the best rock bands of the past two decades are in some way embarrassed to be rock at all, and either do whatever they can to distance themselves from cliches, or introduce some element of irony to it all. Spoon don’t do either of those things. They hold on to a lot of the best elements of rock that have fallen away – raw sexuality and swagger, direct passionate emotion, pure physicality – and filter it through a distinct and modern approach to arrangement, performance, and production, so it all feels fresh. Their magic is being able to simultaneously convey wild spontaneity and total formal mastery. It’s a rare and special gift, and they pull this off just as easily in the more abstracted space of a studio recording just as well as they can on stage.
“Inside Out” is a song about gravity, both metaphorically – Britt sings about being locked into a woman’s romantic orbit – and musically, as the elements in the arrangement all respond to the implied gravity of the bass line. Spoon do this a lot, but the negative space in this track feels especially vast. But still, despite that, it feels remarkably intimate. Maybe it’s because Britt sings so much of it like a soulful whisper. Or perhaps it’s the way the bass pulses in a way that feels like hearing someone’s heartbeat through their chest. Sort of distant, but also so close.