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.
Deerhoof vs. the Hives. Deerhoof absorbing the Vines. Deerhoof take the genome of garage rock and apply generous amounts of fucked-up enzymes and amino acids to arrive at something both twisted and fun, like a miniature woolly mammoth that can sing in human language. All of Deerhoof’s new album, the Magic, is like this. They are definitely the kind of band that you know what you’re getting with their music--and what you're getting is unpredictability, and they never disappoint.
Aloha’s new album is built around a sense of escape. It’s in the music, the lyrics, the track titles too: Signal Drift, Faraway Eyes, Ocean Street, Flight Risk. This is, I imagine, the same kind of appeal by which Jimmy Buffett’s insane shtick works (though let me add here that Aloha’s music is infinitely more elegant, subtle, and enjoyable than Buffett’s (I know many people love Buffett, but he, like Don Henley, is a way gross leathery suntanned satyr who exists as a sort of emblem of all the failures and, let’s say, weird and disgusting exudations of Boomer-era capitalism—no offense, Parrotheads)), i.e., drop your shit and let’s go. Leave work. Drive to the beach. Or get on a plane. Or board a boat. It’s time to leave behind all the worries and shit. In that sense, you can bet that this is a fun/appropriate album for summertime excursions (pedestrian or reckless).
Do you want to experience a simulation of the vibrant/volatile emotional texture of an existence in which most events precipitate states of intense joy or incandescent anxiety or seething anger? Depending on your answer to that question, you may absolutely love the Hotelier’s new album, or you may wish to merely dabble in it. This is music reminiscent of early & mid-00s stuff that showed up on the mixtapes exchanged by the brooding, the overwrought, the passionate, the sullen (myself included), e.g. Saves the Day, Piebald, Juliana Theory, Gloria Record, Braid, Jets to Brazil, which is all maybe not quite canonical emo, but close to it. Much like Into It. Over It.’s recent record, the Hotelier’s (great) album doesn’t so much recreate that era’s music as it does nod to it on its way to doing something else. This record is mostly bright and optimistic: a summer spent outdoors; drinking beers in the park; an unexpectedly pleasant road trip; you catch the fireworks from a hill way up above town; you find peace in everyday pleasures, the ones you used to take for granted.
Part of the dynamic of “Stronger”—maybe that move from the verses to the chorus—reminds me of Fleetwood Mac, though the actual components of the song don’t resemble FM (if that makes sense—it’s like the ‘shape’ of a Mac song is hidden in here, somehow, like a weird sonic Easter egg. The spirit of Christine McVie is present). Or I could be hearing this all wrong, which is a very real possibility too. Anyway, it’s a good song, it’s catchy, it’s almost summer, what more do you want? Blast this from your shoulder-perched boombox.