A woman tears a strip away from an old newspaper and blots her lipstick—that she’s just applied out here, in the hallway—before she knocks on the door of her friend’s apartment. She knocks three times on his door, a dactylic rap. You can’t stand to see what happens. Will he answer? She bites her lip and knocks again. You could stand here for an eternity waiting to see what happens.
(This is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums of 2015)
This is where you can get weird, with Mark McGuire. These are sonic blooms, not booms, that Mark is offering. Do not refuse his generosity. Riffs blaze through the ether of this song like fireworks or, if you're a little more sci-fi inclined, lasers. "Sons of the Serpent" is bonkers, in a great way, and if you need music that is very much unlike what you usually listen to (unless you listen to a lot of Mark McGuire already), give this a chance, it's great.
I have always liked Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and I like them even more now for rolling out this beautiful Orange Juice/Felt homage, Hell. This almost sounds like it could have been on the second side of You Can't Hide Your Love Forever. The guitars, applied in such a painterly way, are perfect. This EP (also called Hell) consists of one original song--the title track--and two covers, Ballad of the Band (Felt) and Laid (James), the ideal blend for an EP, really.
Dagan Harding—leader of the late, lamented Despistado and the EP-releasing Geronimo—has released a solo record called Best Times. For anyone who loved Despistado (or heard Geronimo at all), this record is for you, though it’s a lot less abrasive, I suppose, than Despistado’s stuff. But if you’ve never heard Harding’s music, there probably aren’t a lot of easy comparison points—maybe late Blood Brothers, especially the poppier songs from Crimes or Young Machetes—but the dude is an inventive songwriter. There is a lot to be said for musicians who keep a song moving, changing, and turning in interesting ways, both lyrically and musically. That’s something that Harding does exceptionally well. His songs are never boring and they’re almost always catchy.
How can you quantify the energy that flows through a song? Where are the big data advances for aesthetics? We need stats. I want to be able to definitively say precisely how annoying George Ezra’s “Budapest” is, or what the expected enjoyment level would be for someone coming to Aphex Twin’s music for the first time. Cymbals Eat Guitars create music that is 10+ SAR (songs above replacement level). Etc. I say this because Beach Slang’s new record is so good, it makes me wish that I had numbers to back me up. This album just FLIES by too. It’s like going for an almost-reckless ride in a friend’s jeep, it’s quick and rough and open-aired and bumpy. A Philly band that reminds me a lot of the spirit of Philly—passionate, hungry (?), defiant, weird. This album is awesome and loud and fun, and you should get it.
Wolf Eyes are, besides Liars, the most 'Halloween' band I know. This is a band that traffics in creepiness, disturbances. All of their songs are unsettling in one way or another and they do not seem to relent from the pursuit of their aesthetic, from what I've heard (though they have released like 1000+ records, so I can't say with total certainty). There are no 'soft' songs, no attempted crossovers. Wolf Eyes stick to the program and that program is intense and wild and willful and weird. Enemy Ladder, from their new LP I Am A Problem: Mind In Pieces, is a little more traditional only in the sense that it sounds like the flowing jams you'd hear on Amon Düül II's Yeti pushed into a kind of slant-rhyme rock song, which is to say that it sounds like no one else but Wolf Eyes, but turned up, clearer, right there in your face.
Slow and sweet and dreamy. You like to envision your life as a montage of interstitial scenes taken from 80s-era teenage rom-coms. Everyone is dressed in exquisitely bright colors. Music is everywhere, in your bedroom, in your car, in wide-open fields, especially on the streets where you walk purposefully through throngs of gray-suited and gray-panted whoevers. Drama attends your every utterance. In the end, someone will come to save you.
There are some Kinks songs that I never think of as Kinks songs, and Sunny Afternoon is one of them. The Kinks were such a protean band, changing their style and approach drastically from their early output to their later records (in some ways, this is what Steely Dan did as well--they also started as kind of a straight-ahead rock band and delved further into their own idiosyncrasies in their later discography), but even that doesn't fully account for the disconnect I have when I listen to this song and think about it coming from the Kinks. There's a funny kind of melancholy here, filtered through the narrator's character, but also hammered home by that descending bass (etc.) riff--and while the Kinks did melancholy well, I don't think they ever made it so bleak, musically, as they made it on Sunny Afternoon. It's another reminder of how good this band was and how easy it was for them in their heyday to churn out finely wrought pocket masterpieces.
I knew Neon Indian for songs like Deadbeat Summer (which, while an OK song, I associated so strongly with shithead blogs and other attendant grossness that I could not get into it at all) and Polish Girl, which I enjoyed when I heard on the radio--but this song, this whole album, is so enjoyable and fun and advances such a defined aesthetic that it makes me want to go back and listen to what I missed out on before. VEGA INTL. Night School seems like a sophisticated re-packaging or appropriation of the best of the chillwave (or vaporwave) aesthetic--the sounds seem disposable and mediated but they're arranged with such purpose here; this album creates a world in the same way that great videogames create a world--with a lot of atmosphere, color, ambient texture, and compelling details (it is a weird world, sure, but it's also fun to spend time in it). There is something very 'arcade' about this album--it's dirty and sordid in some ways, dark and goofy too, but it is also a total pleasure-delivery device. Almost every song on the album is a highlight.
Donald Barthelme once said (in a story), "Some people run to conceits or wisdom, but I hold to the hard, brown, nutlike word," which, with a little tweaking, applies to the song under consideration here. Moiré's Gel EP is four tracks of stark, dense beat-matter. I believe Moiré holds to the simplicity of the beat. And permits himself a small indulgence of synths at times too. But there is a tough foundational beat always present, providing structure. Gel is delightful--all four tracks are little raw workouts in their own way. There's a lot to love here.