This is after you've been strung out on Women, Fels-Naptha, Androgynous Mind, Cindy Lee (all Pat Flegel), and Viet Cong (Matt Flegel). You find Faux Fur, the now-sadly-defunct band of Matt and Pat's little brother, Andrew. Faux Fur sounds more like Women than any of the other post-Women bands. More like Public Strain-era Women than anything else that's come after Public Strain. Which isn't to say that Faux Fur sounds exactly like Women, but it's pretty close. This band is more playful than Women ever were, which is probably a good thing, and they know (or knew) their way around a tune. Almost all the tracks on their second album (self-titled) are catchy and feature that same sort of wirework guitar tone that you can hear on Women's albums, in Chad VanGaalen's work, and in parts of the Viet Cong album. "Stoop" is one of the best songs on the album, so sinuous and defiant. This album is well worth your time---it sounds like glamorous evil. It's too bad Faux Fur's gone, but let's see what happens next.
Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes goes way real on Aureate Gloom. Telling secrets. Talking some hard talk in Bassem Sabry about "a master's voice," and how he's never followed it. There's chatter about how this record is a true record of some tough times in Barnes's life--and no doubt, you can hear it--but he's not navel-gazing here, or at least he doesn't indulge that impulse entirely. Barnes seems like he's mourning not only his own personal relationship-failures and nadirs and bummers and fuck-ups, but also ours, all of ours, our horrible bullshit tendencies to destroy and consume and hate and burn and kill everything, why not. Thinking hard about the inherent shittiness of human beings is bound to produce some downer tunes, though Barnes does well to keep things steady, hummable, and wild.
God sent St. Anthony a robot, express, to help him pass the time in the desert. The robot arrived on a Tuesday morning, outside Anthony's mountainside tomb-home which lately had been disturbed by turbulent sandstorms. God had not told Anthony that he was sending the robot, for He wanted it to be a surprise. He wanted to see the hermit's face when he stepped out of his tomb for his morning micturation and saw the automaton standing there, attentive and personable, ready for fellowship and conversation. Anthony's expression when shocked--his bearded rictus of surprise--was known throughout Egypt for effecting joy and delight in all who perceived it, so genuine was the emotion displayed on his face that those who saw it could not help but partake in the experience remotely. "Like the surprise of Abba Antonius," was a common saying in Alexandria at the time, a figure of speech used to denote something that was without guile or disguise.
Sauna is the easily the most accessible album that Phil Elverum has released in a while, or at least it's one of the easiest to listen to. So pretty, all the way through. I like the way that he characterizes this album as almost an assemblage of things he's been thinking about, or was thinking about when he recorded it last summer. His records occasionally feel a little like books--and this one does especially, with a mix of influences fed through a unique sensibility to produce something aesthetically remarkable. There's a bit of the darkness of the last three records, but also some of the insane melodic invention of It Was Hot..., Glow pt. 2, Mt. Eerie, Dawn. I can see why he referred to it as the "ultimate" Mount Eerie record, since it definitely feels like a summation of everything he'd explored previously. Perfect winter record.
Walking walking walking walking, tree root, stone, walking walking walking walking. Ridge, draw. Valley. Frozen stream. The fabric-fall poof of pine boughs shedding clouds of snow. White, gray, filtered white, harder white, dirt. Wandering, walking walking walking walking.
This is some class-A mope-around jamming from Death Cab, taken from their best album (for me), The Photo Album. This was the top of their game. I knew it. I told Ben in an open letter that I posted on the DCFC message board*. I was like, 'hey man, this is the best you've ever been. Over Christmas break from school, I was at home, shoveling the shit out of some horrible snow, and I listened to this album on my Discman. Hard. In the cold. With actual icicles dangling from my numbed-out hands as I shoveled chunk after chunk of wet and heavy snow with my family's bullshit toy of a shovel. This album kept me warm, in a way, sort of conceptually, as I miserably cleared our driveway and sidewalk, and as I mentally audited the mistakes I had made in my recent relationship. Movie Script Ending, man, that spoke to me--like a friend putting a hand on my shoulder and being like, 'everything sucks. remember that. Women are hard to figure out, like a puzzle that's running away from you and telling you to fuck off.' Don't ever change the band. Keep making this.' They did not keep making this. Transatlanticism was fine and good, but I didn't really enjoy it as much as the Photo Album, and then after that I stopped paying attention for whatever reason. The Photo Album is still pretty fun to listen to.
*Not really, but if I had, I'm sure it would've been something like the above.
Dude is a genius, not that I'm taking a bold stance by saying that. But I think Aphex Twin is capable of pretty much anything in terms of soundcraft, melody, rhythm, etc. I can imagine handing him a stack of complex musical thought experiments, produced by thinkers and musicologists around the world, like, say, "A planetoid is discovered to be hollow. What sort of percussive noise would it produce when struck by a storm of micro-meteorites?" or "All the cars on a highway, for no known reason, erupt in a sort of horn-song for the duration of the drive from one exit to the next, a distance of four miles. Edit the resulting horn-song into four compelling up-tempo hits." And then he comes back a month later both with music that matches the criteria and then some extra music that he just thought of on his own; he started from the thought experiments but then added other, stricter, weirder constraints as well. There is artistic ambition and restlessness and then there's what Aphex Twin does, which is a whole other game.
The Dodos played San Francisco not too long ago, in the middle of the fall--October, maybe. It was a small hometown show at The Chapel, a totally charming and pretty venue in the Mission. I'd never seen them play live before and I was hoping that their songs, which I love, would come through as strongly in person as they do on record. They did not disappoint. This was the most physical show I've seen in a long time. I think sometimes that good musicians are able to transmit to the listener (or watcher) the tactile pleasure of their virtuosity, the enjoyment that they take in playing their instruments and making music and doing it all so well. The Dodos definitely are able to do this--on record and even more so in person. Individ, their new record, exhibits this aspect of the band especially well. After Carrier came out last year, I had thought that maybe the band was done, particularly in light of comments that Meric Long had made. But when I saw them play, they looked happy, they were into it, and there was actual joy. Logan Kroeber spoke about how they'd been together so long and how lucky they were to play together. Individ is a totally companionable (and fun) record and one that makes you grateful for bands like the Dodos.
Death Grips released Fashion Week, an all-instrumental album, as a free download a week or two ago, and it is--as one would expect from them--pretty wild and thoroughly engaging. The instrumental part of Death Grips' music has always been (for me) the best part of what they do--I love MC Ride's vocals and all, but I find the kernel of their songs, twisted, hard, dark, serrated, to be what fascinates the most. Runway A and Runway H are pretty representative of the bleaker/harder parts of the album, and both are really really fun to listen to. This band has done some (debatably) dumb stuff and some great stuff, but it all contributes to a feeling (for me) that I'm listening to the audio equivalent of samizdat every time I listen to Death Grips. There aren't many acts or bands anymore that exude 'danger' in the same way that DG does, and I'd say that, overall, that's a bad thing--we need more like this.
Holidays are over and people's faces are starting to sag. But it's still winter! There's time for a second Christmas and, like, three more New Year's celebrations. Observe your holidays as many times as you'd like. No one will stop you. I for my part am still drinking quarts of egg nog on a daily basis. I try to project a real and fevered joy, and I think I succeed. Many of my most important declarations appropriate a melody from one or more carols. My mistletoe budget is big. My second Christmas tree for second Christmas occupies most of my bedroom and some of my bed.