Stolen Jars’ new album, Kept, is percussively adventurous (pop) music. Maybe not quite like Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead, but think: All Tiny Creatures, Local Natives. Stolen Jars put forward an emphasis on sonically interesting rhythms, because why not? There are not enough new bands who take the time to explore actual sound craft—that seems to fall more within the purview of straight-up experimental (and then, more often than not, electronic music) acts, but this band seems at least somewhat dedicated to trying to carve out their own sound, which is pretty great and admirable. Kept reminds me, come to think of it, of some other catchy and curious experimentalists—Dirty Projectors, though maybe without the same whiff of seriousness that seems to accompany that band’s albums.
This whole split EP between Owen and Into It. Over It. reminds me of very late 90s/early 2000s guitar rock and in the best ways. Like this EP could sit comfortably beside Jets to Brazil albums, or a single from Geoff Farina, or a 2002 Barsuk compilation. It's 4 songs long and it's riveting, though I suppose one's rivetability for this would depend on how much you love the sound of the music from that time period. For me, hearing the hard chords and earnest singing of Into It. Over It.'s Local Language is as much a signifier of those years as things like Discmen, Napster, and music listservs. Local Language is such a forceful but tidy song too--unexpectedly accomplished. The whole EP's a pleasure.
Someone from Radiohead—either Jonny Greenwood or Ed O’Brien—once said that handing over their songs to be remixed was like, “giving your dog to a stranger to take it for a walk, and then the stranger returns with a completely different dog.” That quote applies here, because Mark Fell’s remix of Lakker’s Oktavist is a bent and burnished version of the original. On the album, Oktavist is a slow-moving beauty, languid and delicate. Fell takes the pith of the track—the pulsing bass—and sets it on its own. He makes it harder, faster, narrower. One of the best things about remixes is getting a different perspective on a song—understanding the original choices that the artist made, and then having the opportunity to listen to the way that someone else hears the track, what they were attracted to, what they thought was worthy of notice. Lakker’s recent album, Tundra, is a great record, and this companion remix LP offers some great (and weird) takes on the original tracks.
Recommended if you like. Endurance. Dryness. Static. Secret melodies. Blooms. Songs/not songs. Music with a certain proportion of newness.
"Back Home" begins with Dan Snaith's resigned vocals and a synth palette similar to one of Boards of Canada's downer songs. He's speaking to someone he loves, or used to love. He doesn't know where they stand, really. When Dan says, "Does it mean you're leaving me?", the song explodes. "Back Home" is a big, desperate song on an album full of dramatic and emotional songs. If you haven't listened to Our Love, do yourself a favor and give it a spin, it's the kind of record that just runs and runs.
Assuming that a lot of folks already know about this band, or at least the folks (~13) who still read this blog, but I want to write about them anyway. Sheer Mag is from Philly, which already counts very much for them, but they are also super fun to listen to, in the same way that Free Energy (the first album) and especially Exploding Hearts are fun to listen to--that is, the fun that this band is having playing these songs is transmitted directly to you, the listener, and you get to take part vicariously in the casual energy and sweatiness and roughness and celebration of these songs. Whose Side Are You On is particularly wonderful because it does not have the exact blown-out jet-engine quality of the other songs on II; it's a little calmer and more declarative, but no less powerful. It's a catchy summertime song, and god knows there aren't enough of those in the world, so why not embrace it for what it is.
Is it possible to father or mother a child to such an extent that other parents, with their shoddily raised children, defer to your supreme wisdom in instances of public tantrum and/or fussiness? Can you parent perfectly? What happens to a child who is birthed, nursed, caressed, played with, diapered, tutored, gently disciplined, spoken to, danced with, and attended to as mindfully as it is humanly possible to do? Does their infancy then become the high point of their entire lives? What of the folks who cannot take the time or who cannot afford to do the same things with their kids? What if giving your child the best possible start does not, in fact, result in the best possible life for them in the long run? Will you have failed as a parent? Will all that fetishization of your own child's childhood have gone to waste?
Painted Palms return. With an enhanced sound. They rightly believe--as many do--that the early part of the millennium was a wonderful time for music. Their second album, Horizons, celebrates that moment. I like the fact that Painted Palms are not afraid to poke around in not-too-distant trends and examine what might be worthwhile to revisit, revise, and modify. "Disintegrate" is good and bodes well for the rest of their new album.
A letter on cicadas: Dear ---, on the train ride back from D.C., I began to be afraid. The news had spoken of a dangerous brood that was due to emerge from their underground holes that very night. The normal 4-hour train ride became, for some reason, a 7-hour train ride. We circled around Richmond for what felt like several days. The territory of this brood extended all through the Mid-Atlantic, i.e., all the states I love and travel through. All I could picture was roads covered in carpets of cicada bodies, their red eyes blaring--making noise somehow--in the lights of oncoming cars. I imagined them lined up at my door, waiting to pounce on me. I had heard they would be aggressive. Not actively attacking, I guess, but actively being aggressively dumb, flying blindly into whatever, which would include me and my own personal, screaming head. Trees would become coated in cicadas. The noise would be deafening, like a million petulant toddlers detonating at full whininess at once. I did not relish the idea of going for a walk in the park unprotected. But it all turned out to be an exaggeration. The only one I saw that summer was a dead carcass on the trunk of a friend's parents' tree.
This is as summer as it gets. Or at least the peaceful side of summer. The tranquil parts. The Clientele’s first album is like a bottle of beer (or wine), a blanket, a grassy hill, and a beautiful sunset—it is the distillation of the best of those experiences, the highlight reel. This album just about made me swoon when I was 20 and it does the same things to me today, 14 years later. What it did then and still does is make me think of the miraculous nature of life, the freakish and hard otherworldly beauty of nature, rain, bicycles, beer, night, and twilight. This album is a monument.