June 30th, 2014 11:20am

This Much Happiness

Museum of Love “Monotronic”

Museum of Love is a new band led by Pat Mahony, the drummer from LCD Soundsystem. Mahony is hardly a James Murphy clone, but you can definitely hear how working with Murphy has influenced the way Mahony writes his own music, or maybe it’s more that you can hear how they were very simpatico to begin with. A lot of the first Museum of Love record feels like the more low-key LCD songs, but with even more space and a more relaxed tone. Murphy couldn’t help but be bold and extroverted on even his most pensive songs, but particularly on a cut like “Monotronic,” Mahony seems gentle and a little distant. The vocals are a big part of the song, but it sounds like he’s made them seem smaller in scale to the rest of the music, which feels like this wide-open, oceanic space. He doesn’t just sound like he’s being humble – it’s almost as though he’s forcing this humility upon himself as his thoughts go kinda zen.

Buy it from DFA.

June 27th, 2014 12:36pm

Get Your Mouth Open

FKA Twigs “Two Weeks”

FKA Twigs’ music very often puts a higher priority on interesting texture and ambience than melody, but “Two Weeks” shows just how incredible she can be when the melody and lyrics are as engaging as the surface of the track. The hooks in “Two Weeks” are still relatively subtle for a pop song, but the way the track unfolds is very seductive, which is ideal for a song that is in fact about seducing someone. The lyrics strike a very interesting balance between aggression and submission – she’s in complete control, but is demanding to be acted upon. Her voice is soft, but the words are hard.

Pre-order it from Amazon.

June 25th, 2014 12:48pm

That’s All That Love Is

A Sunny Day in Glasgow “Crushin’”

I’ve been listening to A Sunny Day in Glasgow for a long time, and I think they are always at their best when Ben Daniels takes a relatively conventional sort of song and then cracks it apart and rearranges the layers without totally sacrificing the form of it. The core of “Crushin’” – the vocals, the bass, a keyboard motif – is very pop, but everything that orbits the main melodies feels unstable. The song makes you feel like you’re standing in place, but the ground keeps moving beneath you. There’s always a sense of being a sensitive, passive person in ASDIG’s music, but this feels less like you’re being acted upon and more like you’re just lost in a feeling. And in this case, that feeling would be sweet, confusing love.

Buy it from Amazon.

June 24th, 2014 12:31pm

Make A Real Promise

Clipping featuring Cocc Pistol Cree “Work Work”

The complaint I’ve seen around about Clipping is that the quality and character of the group’s production style is greater than the actual rapping on the record, and I think I can agree with that up to a point. I have no problem with the rapping on the album – it’s definitely not bad, and certainly a notch above competent. But yeah, there’s no question that the raps are the traditional element at the center of music that otherwise pushes in willfully strange or outright abrasive directions. I think this makes sense, though – to really make good use of unusual musical ideas, you kinda need a basic structure. Clipping aren’t really asking questions about the possibilities of rap; they’re more interested in the possibilities of how you can frame it. A song like “Work Work” isn’t even that alien or cut off from tradition, it’s just like “how about we put this otherwise very catchy and accessible rap song in a track that sounds like a busted Four Tet song?” And of course I’m going to like that.

Buy it from Amazon.

June 23rd, 2014 12:25pm

Sound Like A Floral Bouquet

Tune-Yards @ Webster Hall 6/22/2014
Hey Life / Gangsta / Sink-O / Real Thing / Powa / Time of Dark / Real Live Flesh / Stop That Man / Bizness / Water Fountain / Find A New Way // Fiya

Tune-Yards “Water Fountain”

This was the first Tune-Yards show I’ve seen in some time, and the first show I’ve seen Merrill play with her new expanded band lineup. There’s a lot of good things about the new band: They add a lot of layers of sound that Merrill previously would have needed to build up in loops, and cutting out a lot of that looping time frees up some time in the show. The strange, unexpected result of this is that her performances with the new players seem a lot less immediate than when she’s just playing with bassist Nate Brenner. Those songs – pretty much all the cuts from nikki back – felt a lot more restrained and over-practiced than the older numbers, which were mostly performed as they always have been. Merrill remains a fierce and charismatic vocalist, but I couldn’t help but feel that the edge of the band had been dulled down by the additional musicians. I’m not quite sure if it’s because there WERE additional musicians – probably not? – but because the particular players were good but not quite on Merrill and Nate’s level. I mean, at least in the sense that those two have such musical chemistry that they can improvise a lot in the moment, and that didn’t seem as much like a possibility when the band filled out.

Buy it from Amazon.

June 19th, 2014 12:23pm

The World Won’t Know

How to Dress Well “See You Fall”

Am I wrong to hear The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” lurking underneath the pretty, delicate layers of this song? You catch it in some pauses, when the saccharine vocal melody and the gentle tinkling of piano keys recede, and you feel that slight dissonance and anxious pulse. Without that buried beneath it all, this wouldn’t be quite as effective – lovely, sure, but not as moving. With it, we get a context for emotion, and a suggestion that everything Tom Krell is singing is a lot darker than he’s telling you in his words.

Buy it from Amazon.

June 17th, 2014 3:50am

Everything Is So Scary

Priests “New”

Priests are a punk band, and they’re good at it. This is important to say because the sort of things they do very well – convey urgency, project defiant aggression, give off a general vibe of violence and danger – are all conventions of the genre that many untalented bands can barely handle. The thing that frustrates me about a band like this is that while they nail these things, they seem indifferent to pushing beyond convention. And I think that’s a fair enough thing a lot of the time – most music is part of some tradition or another – but that eagerness to conform to expectations seems at odds with the sentiment of the music. This is the problem of punk rock, really – people are so brainwashed into thinking that it’s all transgressive and cool that most people working within it don’t realize how conservative their art is. There’s a lot of power and venom in this band, but they’re still new – I’d like to think that they might do something more bold with their music later on. I’m not gonna count on it, though.

Buy it from Amazon.

June 16th, 2014 2:05am

How Do I Get Close To You

Alvvays “Adult Diversion”

My relationship with twee and “indie pop” has always been a little tricky. I mean, I definitely love particularly artists in that realm, but for the most part I have no particular sentimentality or reverence for that canon. I tend to think of indie pop artists as cutesy underachievers with a willfully narrow range of musical influences. In other words, a song in this genre needs to be exceptionally well made and charming to appeal to me. This song is one of those: The tonality and melodic style is familiar, but the execution is fantastic. Like a lot of the best songs in this genre, it’s effective partly because the wistful tone of the song matches the relatively small emotional scale of the lyrics. This is basically just a song about a crush, and not even a particularly intense one. She’s trying to understand it, but there’s no particular urgency. This could be a bad thing for some songs, something that forces your to think “who cares???”, but “Adult Diversion” really connects with the vague pleasure that comes with having this kind of non-problem in your life.

Buy it from Amazon.

June 12th, 2014 1:06pm

His Strange Weather

Lana Del Rey “Shades of Cool”

At least part of Lana Del Rey’s success is owed to the fact that she’s pretty much the only notable artist in pop music who is entirely devoted to performing melancholy ballads and torch songs. That style of pop has been out of fashion for so long that the irony in her music is necessary – the audience’s associations with this particular sort of melodrama and sentimentality are removed from historical context. The music has to be a commentary on its own genre because it’s such a self conscious and contrary thing to embrace, and the modern details in the lyrics should be slightly at odds with the tone of the music. She’s gone overboard with the winking in the past, but with her third album Ultraviolence, she’s found a way to dial down the irony and focus more clearly on the emotion in her songs.

“Shades of Cool” is particularly great because it takes on a very James Bond theme sort of grandeur while keeping the lyrics very direct. This is very plainly a song about a woman who is dealing with a severely emotionally unavailable man, and reckoning with the reality of the situation. She has no illusions about him – the most powerful moment of the song is the part of the chorus in which she sings the words “You’re unfixable” with this odd, trilling tone – but she’s still holding on to some hope that things will work out. It’s a simple and lovely sentiment, and entirely merits this melodramatic arrangement.

Buy it from Amazon.

June 11th, 2014 12:19pm

Take This From You

xxxy “No More”

I went to the Governors Ball festival over the weekend, and when I was there I had to reckon with the reality that if you want to see dance/house music in a setting like that now, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of asshole bros. Like, a LOT. I tried to enjoy Disclosure but I just couldn’t, it was too unpleasant and aggravating. And while I get how this happened on a lot of levels, it’s still weird to me because Disclosure’s music is not particularly aggressive or macho. But it is physical, and it is what would be played a lot of the clubs where these people go, and I never do. I like the idea of a dance club in the abstract, but my experience with dance music is more personal — I listen mainly on headphones, the physical experience is limited to things like sorta-dancing in an inconspicuous way at my desk, or walking a little faster down the street, or accelerating a bit on an elliptical machine. In the case of dance music like xxxy, my experience is actually not that different from shoegazer indie music – it’s something to daze off to, to just feel on a musical level that doesn’t necessarily intersect with active thought. I know I’m not alone in this sort of thing, but it still feels like something I should apologize for on some level, as though there’s something bad about enjoying something made for a specific utility in some other way. It’s dumb, but I do.

Buy it from Amazon.

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