Archive for February, 2012


Make The Whole Club Swoon

Young Jeezy featuring Jay-Z, Drake and Andre 3000 “I Do (Remix)”

I realize there is a version of this track that exists without Drake, but I guess I’m just a masochist. Drake’s verse isn’t a total mess, but it’s amateurish and charmless in comparison to the three other rappers on the track. It’s not just that Drake is a terrible lyricist and has a totally uninspired flow – this is pretty much a given – but that he’s just incapable of the warmth and depth of character that comes so naturally to the other guys here. Jeezy, not even a particularly great rapper himself, is very compelling here, particularly as he barks out “I’d do anything to leave here with you tonight, Sherri.” I love the specificity of the name; there’s a touch of vulnerability that comes through in how he says it, like he’s just too weak in the knees to maintain his bravado in that moment. Jay-Z’s verse is intended to sounds like it’s about marriage but is actually about drug dealing, but he’s not fooling anyone – it’s easy to tell where his heart is here.

Andre 3000 is typically excellent in his exquisitely crafted closing verse, which lays out a realistic fantasy about meeting a smart, cool, devout woman and raising a smart, cool, devout daughter. Every syllable of his verse overflows with a humanity and respect for women that Drake entirely lacks – he and Andre both have lines about wanting a woman who will grow old gracefully, but you can tell everything about the difference between the two men by noting that while 3000 wants that woman to do so on her own terms, Drake just wants this for his own shallow benefit. “I just want a woman that looks 30 when she’s 81,” he says, sounding like a total tool. Shut up, Drake.

Gorillaz featuring James Murphy and Andre 3000 “DoYaThing (Full Version)”

It’s a waste of your time to listen to the 4 minute edit of this thing; in the grand scheme of the song, it’s just an elaborate warmup for the spectacle of Andre 3000 freaking out over an extended James Murphy punk-funk vamp. Three Stacks tosses out the meticulous structure of his regular verses to go totally unhinged here, and in the process reconnects with the rock spirit of songs like “Gasoline Dreams” and “Hey Ya.” It sounds like it had to have been a very physical performance – it’s hard to imagine him not acting out and flailing around for this, even if he was confined to a recording booth. I wouldn’t be shocked if he came out of this session a bit bloodied and bruised. Murphy too, for that matter.


Pret Pret Pret Pret Pret Pret Pret

Mouse on Mars “They Know Your Name”

Mouse on Mars have a gift for making their electronic sounds come across like tangible, physical objects that are moving, bouncing, bending and colliding on the track. It’s like pop music rendered in 3D, with all the implied planes blown out to extremes, and the dynamics pushed to the point of seeming disorienting and surreal. They are particularly playful when they integrate vocals on tracks like “They Know Your Name.” They force you to strain to hear words made unintelligible by a seeming Doppler effect, which makes the words that do come out clearly, like the title phrase, take on an ambiguous quality. As the song bops around, the words ping-pong between meanings, going from innocuous fact to paranoid dread and back again.

Buy it from Amazon.


Tearing Me Apart

Azealia Banks “Need Sum Luv”

There are a great many songs sung from the perspective of the other woman (or the other man), and you can split them into two basic categories: Songs like the Long Blondes’ “You Could Have Both” or Pulp’s “Pencil Skirt,” in which the singer and the lyricist know that the character is delusional, selfish and self-destructive, and songs like Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You” or this new track by Azealia Banks, in which the protagonist is straight-up expressing what they are feeling and thinking without any implied irony. While Whitney invests her song with a heartbreaking sweetness at odds with her homewrecking agenda, Banks’ character is diabolical and desperate to get her way. Half the lyrics are rationalizations, but it doesn’t sound like the character knows that, so lines like “you ain’t in love with her, but she still is in your heart / but you be in my apartment tearing me apart” land with a bitter pathos. The character isn’t afraid of hurting these other people, but most of all, she’s not afraid of hurting herself.


Until The Sun Comes Down

Frankie Rose “Gospel/Grace”

Jayson Greene hears the Cure, Laurie Anderson and M83 in Frankie Rose’s second album, and I suppose that’s all there, but the best tracks sound more like a restrained, Yo La Tengo-ish gloss on Fleetwood Mac to me. Not all Fleetwood Mac, but the hazy harmonies and melancholy tone of hits like “Dreams” and “Hold Me.” (Two of the best rainy day songs ever recorded, by the way!) Rose’s voice is somewhere in the space between Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie’s respective affects, and though she doesn’t match their skill as songwriters and she certainly doesn’t have a genius like Lindsey Buckingham arranging her material, she is nevertheless quite good at building simple strands of melody to a gorgeous climax, particularly in “Gospel/Grace.” There’s not much gospel in this song, but there’s certainly a peaceful grace in its steady beat and gentle washes of sound.

Buy it from Amazon.


Where You Wanna Go

Grimes “Eight”

“Eight” is generous in how it provides a series of instantly likeable hooks, but sort of sadistic in how those melodies and rhythms are delivered in tones that are deliberately grating or uncomfortable. The contrast of the pitched-up lead vocal and the mechanical pitched-down loop is fascinating, and Grimes pushes the ugliness to a point that it sort of becomes beautiful on its own terms. It’s certainly one of her most successful compositions – I like that it resolves itself very quickly, and it lacks a regressive, childish tone that I find a bit off-putting in some of her other songs.

Buy it from Amazon.


Got To Get Up And Be Somebody

Black Bananas “TV Trouble”

Black Bananas, the new band featuring Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux, opened up for Sleigh Bells last Friday night. I was pretty excited to see her perform – I have loved Trux for a long time but never saw them in concert, and I quite like this Black Bananas album, much more so than the music she was putting out as RTX. Unfortunately, the performance was a total mess. The songs, so catchy and urgent on record, were pretty much unintelligible on stage. Herrema was charming in a stoned sort of way, but got progressively more loopy and mush-mouthed as the show continued. Sad.

Like a lot of the best Trux material, the songs on Black Bananas’ debut album Bad Times Express IV fall into an appealing midpoint between straight-up classic rock grooves and warped surrealism. “TV Trouble” is essentially a pretty straight forward song, but Herrema’s character and the sound of the recording push it all to a cartoonish extreme. It’s goofy, weird and fun, and very disorienting. It’s like Herrema is just trying to show us all what it’s like in her version of the world. It’s a cool place to visit, for sure.

Buy it from Amazon.


Six By Six By Six

Sleigh Bells @ Terminal 5 2/17/2012

True Shred Guitar / Born to Lose / Riot Rhythm / A/B Machines / Kids / End of the Line / Comeback Kid / Tell ‘Em / Leader of the Pack / Straight A’s / Treats / Infinity Guitars // Rill Rill / Demons / Crown on the Ground

I reviewed Sleigh Bells’ excellent new album Reign of Terror for Pitchfork. This concert was broadcast online, so you probably know what it was like. It was awesome. Let’s talk about “Demons.”

Sleigh Bells “Demons”

If you go into Reign of Terror expecting it to be a party like Treats, you’re going to be let down. That record was all energy and extroverted nonsense, and if you read the New York Times profile on the band that ran over the weekend, you know that it was essential Derek Miller’s way of escaping from very depressing things going on in his family life at the time it was made and released. Reign takes the template of Treats and fleshes it out with dark, complicated emotions. It’s not a downer – it rocks, it’s fun, they still provide these endorphin-rush hooks. It’s cathartic, especially on songs like “Demons,” which expertly channel the aggression and physicality of metal without a lot of metal culture baggage. Miller has said that this song in particular was inspired by Def Leppard, and I totally get it – both bands are great at drawing on the most elemental appeal of metal while staying firmly in the realm of simple, catchy pop music. I’ve never been a metal guy, but I find so much music in the genre to be tuneless and overly complicated – I want this rock power, but I need it to be connected to melodies and rhythms that are just as overwhelming as the sound. “Demons” is one of the most thrilling pieces of music I’ve encountered in a while, and I would love for there to be more stuff coming out now that pushes in this direction.

Buy it from Amazon.


All Of Us Move On

Ceremony “Adult”

The guitar chords in “Adult” stab at you like long sharp knives, but it’s the words that really slice you up. Ross Farrar attacks the listener with the cold reality of maturity, bluntly reminding us that “we have to give up on things we love,” repeating the phrase a few times over before amending it with a “sometimes” that makes the message only slightly easier to stomach. But in one way or another it’s true, and one of the worst things about growing up, whether it’s distancing yourself from a dream or having to cut off a relationship that has gone toxic. A lot of punk rock culture is built on trying to reject this notion, so it comes out sounding like a challenge to that audience, but also a strong-willed fight against compromise.

Pre-order it from Amazon.


Come Up With These Truths Instead

Sharon Van Etten “Kevin’s”

“Kevin’s” conveys a lot of warmth and empathy, but there’s a touch of tough love to it, particularly as Van Etten sings the line “buried in masculine pain all the time.” When she puts it that way, his experience seems alien – something that she wants to understand, probably, but also something that obviously frightens her. It sounds like she’s trying to help someone out of their own traps, but doesn’t quite understand how the traps got there. The music sounds like a lifeline, but her vocal performance indicates that she’s pulling him up, but isn’t quite on solid ground herself.

Buy it from Amazon.


On Behalf Of All Men: Thanks

Himanshu “Womyn”

Heems is very good at sneaking clever, complicated ideas into essentially dumb music. In this song he makes a lot of silly jokes – mostly at his expense – about how much he likes ladies, and while it basically sounds like any number of goofy hip-hop songs about chicks, the real message slowly sinks in: This is a song about genuinely appreciating women and recognizing them as people who have lives, thoughts and opinions. Which is very “no duh,” but in the context of rap, it’s a weirdly radical thought. So one hand, the song is pleasant, light-hearted and sweet, and on the other, it’s a bit confrontational, forcing the listener to wonder why it’s generally rare to find positive, healthy, respectful attitudes toward women in hip-hop. It’s very impressive that Heems can get that across without seeming even a little bit heavy or sanctimonious.

Download the mixtape for free from Seva NY.

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