after the storm in union square, dude in the middle-left has skis
Listening to a musician speak intelligently about how they conceptualize their place in the music landscape or where they are at a given point in their art always keeps my rapt attention. This interview with Kelela, who’s debut mixtape Cut 4 Me came out early last month on Night Slugs’ sister label Fade To Mind, is a prime example of this.
Most of the electronic music I’ve been listening to lately is admittedly tame compared to the stuff that introduced me to the genre. As much as I’ve loved the new albums by artists like Moderat, Darkside, Machinedrum, and The Field – and I do love those albums – they don’t really hold a flame to the gristle of Atari Teenage Riot or Skinny Puppy.
Honestly, the roughest electronic stuff I’ve been into has been Kanye’s Yeezus. Who else is making material like “On Sight“? Maybe Factory Floor. But as great as their album is, I’m more likely to sit down and zone out when a song is eight minutes long than hang on every second like I do when it’s edited down to 2:30.
Yeezus brings me to Gesaffelstein. It also brings me to Daft Punk, Brodinski, TNGHT, and Arca, but it’s Gesaffelstein who’s really intrigued me the past couple of months. The easiest way for me to describe what I’ve heard so far is that he’s starting where Justice left off and giving it the repetition and razor-sharp edge that techno owns.
His latest single, “Hate or Glory”, starts with a monotonous bouncing synth that collides with a 4/4 scream. It then builds piece by piece adding more distorted synths and high hats sitting way up front. Everything drops twice throughout the song just telling you that what you thought was loud and rough before was tame compared to what’s coming. Boy does the final onslaught deliver. It’s everything from before plus more of everything before. It’s great. It’s about what I felt when I heard “Waters of Nazareth” for the first time.
While Jay-Z’s latest album was mostly filled with disappointment, it did include this gem of production by Timbaland and J-Roc. The part that interests me most though is how closely it taps into the stuttered 8-bit sound that dominated Zomby’s One Foot Ahead of the Other EP. Not that Tom Ford is a ripoff, but it makes you wonder what Zomby could do if he tried to produce beats to be rapped on.
It’s just about June, and even though I should probably wait for the end of the sixth month, yesterday a friend asked me what my favorite songs of the year are so far, so here they are. I’ve tried to not have a single genre dominate the list (even though I’m listening to way more pop and electronic music these day), and although some of these songs were originally released last year as singles, all of them were at least put out on an LP in 2013.
The list in no real order:
Maybe not the best song to begin with, but as Long. Live. A$AP came out just two weeks into the year, so it starts the list. I love when the beat to a song is a hook in and of itself. The vocal sample and the lazy, eroded drums that bookend the song have been stuck in my head even more than 2 Chainz’ actual chorus – which has been stuck plenty on its own.
I can get into ambient, noisy stuff. But layer some pop structure and catchy melodies on top and I really can’t resist. That’s pretty much the recipe IO Echo followed for “Ministry of Love.” Every element of this song seems to be complementing every other element: the bass pumps up the fuzzed guitar which blends in with the mid-to-high end drums, and the vocals just ensure that you have something to sing along to – simple but effective.
It’s pretty clear that 2013 has more super-insanely-hyped “semi-comeback” albums than any year in recent memory. The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual is one of those albums. Never a band to align itself with the rest of what everyone else is doing, The Knife went way into left field with this one, as evidenced by the fact that “Full of Fire” is one of the more accessible songs on the album.
It’s a ten minute unfolder that starts with drums that evolve and change at and in every bar. The warped vocals and stuttering synths come in at the same time, and continuing on everything builds and bends while the drums become the synths and the synths become snares and high hats and bird chirps. It’s unnerving in the best way. Every part of the song gets warped and layered until the twenty seconds when everything but the drums drop and Karin plays on Salt ‘n Pepa’s “Push It” by chanting “Let’s talk about gender, baby/Let’s talk about you and me.”
“My Number” is probably the closest thing to their earlier work that exists on their new album, which isn’t to say that I don’t like the direction that they are evolving in, but I really do love how well their songs can bounce (see Balloons, Total Life Forever, and Two Steps, Twice.) This is just a fun song that exemplifies their best abilities to make indie rock really pop-friendly.
Maybe I’ll go into more detail later, but as far as this album goes, I’m in love right now, and I think that’s going to build over time.
Just looking at this song though, THAT GROOVE! There aren’t many songs that I would listen to on repeat because I’d rather just go through an album, but this song could continue for an hour and I’d ask for more. There isn’t a part of this song I would change. The progression of the beat to the guitar to Pharrell’s vocals to the vocoded panning vocals and on, I love it all and it fits like a glove. This is going to be up there on my favorite songs of the year, no doubt.
PS: I know that the lyrics are simple, but I find enjoyment in whether the song is suggesting that you have to lose your inhibitions in order to really dance or whether dancing is what causes you to forget your worries.
The most chill song on this list. Maybe the most common line you’d read about this new group is how singer Mike Milosh sounds like Sade, and while that’s true, that doesn’t change the fact that this music could so easily fall into banal lounge-y stuff. Luckily, Rhye stays clear of that trap by taking their warm and relaxed sound and placing small flourishes of plucked strings, drawn out ambient ooohs, and switch ups that keep the songs from lingering.
Boy do I wish I could have had multiple songs from this album to choose from. At least this lead single delivered. Is the gospel choir at the end a cheap tactic? Is the build tongue in cheek or just easy? Why am I fine with one verse and two-line chorus for four minutes? I don’t know, but I like this song. It’s possible I’m just falling for it though.
Yeah, I know this came out a year ago. But so did half of the songs on the album, and that came out this year, so I’m counting it. What Charli XCX lack in vocal strength she more than makes up for in production and sheer ability to layout hooks in every single song she releases. There seem to be a solid number of female indie pop singers releasing material right now (Little Boots, Kate Boy, Charli, etc.), but none of the others have this glitter-goth thing nailed quite like she does. There’re probably four or five songs on the album that I was picking from for this list; it’s a strong one.
Let it be know, I’m very much still processing this album. Everything I read about Savages restates something along the lines of “there’s nothing new here”, “they wear their influences on their sleeve”, or “look! girls playing stuff that isn’t riot grrrl” while at the same time laying crazy amount of praise on the group. Put simply, I like the raw sound, and this song is catchy. But again, still getting into it.
And here we are at the end with The Juan Maclean bringing house into the fold. I could have put a lot more electronic music on this list – notably Hot Natured’s “Reverse Skydiving”, Factory Floor’s “Fall Back” and Atoms For Peace’s “Default” – but they haven’t hit me quite like the rest of songs on here. Also, I’m trying to keep the list eclectic.
But back to Juan. This song really typifies the house-ier side of DFA Records: spacey synths and Nancy Wang on vocals. Live drums would’ve been the kicker, but the song is probably stronger without them. I like that this song is long, that it builds, but also that the meat of the song hits sooner than it does on “Happy House“. I hope Maclean has more in store for us this year.
It’s here. It’s great!
A few weeks ago, I went to Crosstown Rebel’s Rebel Rave when it stopped here in Brooklyn. I distinctly remember the moment when this song came on. Infinity Ink was a good way into their set and then this groove dropped… it bounces so perfectly. I couldn’t make out everything that the vocalist was singing, but I caught “this is what I feel when I’m reverse skydiving” and I typed it out on my phone so that I wouldn’t forget to look it up.
Turns out the song is a new piece by Hot Natured and won’t be officially released until May 6th.
In related news, I got an email today from HARD saying that they’re putting on a show at Terminal 5 here in New York with Hot Natured, Jamie Jones, Lee Foss, and Infinity Ink! Sweet lineup, I think, but what has this Hot Natured done other than put out a snippet of a future single? And who the hell are they that they’re topping a bill over Jamie Jones?! Turns out Hot Natured is simply all of the guys on the bill. Guess that makes sense.
Just two tracks that I found amongst the eclectic playlists posted on one of Radiohead’s Office Chart playlists.