Aimless art projects with friends. Photo collage. A cassette player. Crafts not aggregated on Pinterest. Can play a song, if pressed. A long ago cherished item: a pin bought at a show in 2000. Remember Heavenly. Loved Marine Research. Archives of mailing lists contain a name, some notes, the most heartfelt words ever typed.
Slow tones. Emanating! See also: 18th Dye, Poolhouse Blue. Snowy white skies. Bonfire smoke. Dead trees (snags in the forest). Cigarettes, walks to and from the creek. Fog in the cemetery. A community assembled around an old kitchen table. Card games, cider, some wine, and a bag of chips.
Sundial is some San Francisco ichor. Or the SF of the past—long, long past. The music of the current San Francisco would be an unending musique concrete track of tenants’ objections and wails of despair as they’re evicted from their apartments; the sounds of people slurping Soylent and nootropics; keyboards clacking; and new portmanteaus like “disruptovate” and “pivotation” spoken in a chilling, quiet tone by an old man. Sundial is referring to a city that no longer exists. It’s a pretty artifact, a recreation, an optimistic sketch.
“Are you something aliquot?” Kevin Barnes asks this question midway through ‘let’s relate.’ Kevin Barnes is a lover of words; I think that’s apparent throughout Of Montreal’s discography. What’s impressive, to me, is the way that he uses that love in the service of creating catchy, weird, sometimes annoying, sometimes incredibly invigorating music. There’s no complacency with Barnes. Of Montreal is the band of an explorer, a tinkerer—and like with a lot of artists who are restless, who try things that they might not be precisely suited to try, there are some works that fall a little flat, and there are others, like this new album, Innocence Reaches, that align successfully with natural strengths. I mean, it's just always fun to hear what Barnes does.
This is some classic, classic, classic-rock radio music distilled down into a kind of viscous syrup. Wyatt Blair has seized the spirit of double-shots, morning zoos, and roughhouse riffs and given that spirit expression on his album Point of No Return. Monday Morning Mess in particular is a great work of late-80s rock homage; it’s like a lighter, brighter Def Leppard (with the synths of Moody Blues’ Your Wildest Dreams (maybe?)). I kind of love it when musicians (and other artists) adore something so much that they recreate it wholesale; this is a work of obsession and devotion.
Pylon Live is a great document, a great record, of a band at an end, one end, of its life. It recalls, in that say-goodbye way, other records of that type—Life Without Buildings’ Live at the Annandale Hotel in particular. There’s a release of tension and worry and (maybe consequently) a lot of energy as well. You can hear it in every instrument and in Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s jagged and electric singing. Pylon Live is all classic post-punk: these songs are wiry, tough, bare, industrial, pessimistic, unrestrained. Music that labors on your behalf. [Here is also a pretty wonderful interview between Vanessa Briscoe Hay and Michael Lachowski of Pylon and Bradford Cox of Deerhunter].
Can you imagine being tailed in real life? Even if it were only during a walk around your neighborhood---how insanely unnerving would that be? I don’t know if I would ever notice, first of all, unless the tailer was very unskilled, or if I would possess the necessary sang-froid to actually evade the tail if I noticed it. I’d probably just try to duck into the first shop that would allow me to linger and browse and sweat in the company of others until the threat passed/got bored.
Joanna Gruesome, a band that reminds me of a Blood Brothers-influenced version of Los Campesinos, were apparently interfered with (possibly by government folks) when they were on tour in the US. This is (depressingly) not super-surprising, given what happened to Godspeed You! Black Emperor not too long ago when they were on tour (and there are other precedents too). Pretty Fucking Sick (Of It All) is the result of the band’s reflection upon their misfortunes here, and it’s a very good song about a very shitty thing. It’s a little Long Blondes, a little Belle and Sebastian, a little Aislers Set, a little steel and jagged anger.
It might be possible to get so weird that you burn yourself down into the face of the earth. To wit: Matthew Friedberger, formerly/forever of the Fiery Furnaces with his sister Eleanor, drove the FFs occasionally to awesome and insane places, then released a double solo album (Winter Women & Holy Ghost Language School), then released what seemed like maybe 1,000 Oulipianishly-contrained songs of wild intensity in the Solos series (what little I’ve heard from that was fascinating), and then Matricidal Sons of Bitches, which I have never heard, though which apparently consists of 45-ish instrumental tracks. Then there was nothing for quite some time (perhaps because Friedberger was recouping his powers), and now—or last year, actually—there was Mr. Fried Burger, I Resume?, a straight-up bonkers sort of rock-opera/song-suite that I only discovered thanks to music message boards. Like a lot of MF’s music, this is supremely unpredictable and almost inhumanly creative, which results in both compelling and not-so-compelling songs. In the former category is this song, I wasn’t working, which is just so, so, so fucking good. Great singing, insane synth and guitar riffs, it rolls and revolves and bursts. Give it a listen and check out the rest of the album.
Some songs are the result of pure inspiration and instinct. A musician says, ‘I picked up the guitar and it came out: a song.’ Other songs are planned, mapped out, wrangled, hacked at, planed, and defined into existence over a long period of time. Stephen Steinbrink’s songs have the pleasantly mannered feel of the latter type—along the lines of Jon Brion’s productions, or maybe even Utrillo Kushner’s Colossal Yes project (or even Sea and Cake, to some degree). Gentle but spirited. Something that was tamed a long time ago, many generations back. Intricate and catchy. Easy to like.
A decade ago, you could send away for masterpiece CD-Rs from labels that existed only as P.O. boxes in Brooklyn, Asheville, South Bend, Berkeley, Chicago, etc. This was a time when a person and a guitar and tape recorder could, and often did, produce music of otherworldly power, particularly when placed for an amount of time in a remote location. A woman and a flute and a mountaintop cabin and a staggering supply of Diet Mountain Dew = a pretty EP of rambling pastoral jams. A man and a sleeping bag and a mandolin and a mini-disc player/recorder and a couple bags of Trader Joe’s pork jerky = a legend is born. This was a rich era for music, and there were so many fly-by-night (in a good way) labels, with gnomic, never-updated websites, and byzantine ordering procedures, that there was always something new to be discovered, some puzzle to solve, some new shipping rate to calculate. Rafi Bookstaber’s Late Summer is exactly all that: it’s pretty, it’s contemplative, it’s full-on slow-flowing riparian jams, it’s freaky, it’s muted, it’s latent, it’s the random disc you take a chance on and end up loving for a long, long time.
One day you wake up to find yourself in a soft-focus universe. Everything you lay eyes on is haloed with golden light, as though the aura of each person and object has been feathered or blown out. Sounds, too, are layered, gauzy, wispy. A voice, coming from a point of origin you cannot locate, calls out to you with a request. You agree to the request. What happens next will bewilder your senses and fill you with a sort of regretful wonder. What happens next will utilize silk wall-hangings, candles, and incense in extremely unorthodox ways.