Apropos of nothing, my friends became enamored with a diner in town called The Very Best, which meant that they dragged us down there every loose afternoon to talk, study, and read. It was unclear, even after I spent what amounted to whole days there, whether or not the diner’s name was intended as assurance for the customers, or more as a reflexive shot in the arm for the owners. The diner had a flat, sad façade, all faded glass and thick paint, and it sat between two vacant storefronts, one of which still had a ghostly marquee that read ‘Forever Appliances,’ that struck me then as subtly heartbreaking. To get to the diner, we had to descend from the school, down a flight of maroon stone steps, to High Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, and then walk five precarious blocks, in tight formation, to the long, forlorn shopping center that housed our little hotspot. On our way, we passed shuttered coffeeshops and luncheonettes, slick hairdesseries, a fenced-in tool and die, and several off-brand department stores, not to mention ambling packs of male and female street toughs, and flocks of pensive stoop-sitters. High Street, as we knew, was the definitive border between town and gown. When we finally arrived at the diner, and had installed ourselves in one of the high-backed wooden booths, we were usually all flush-cheeked, windblown, and hungry. This was the time for talking.
Before this year, Paradis had already released 4 classic songs, and now, in gearing up for their LP (which will presumably come out sometime next year), they released Garde Le Pour Toi (in June) and they've just released Sur Une Chanson En Français--both are incredible and continue their perfect run. Garde Le Pour Toi, though, might be the best statement of Paradis' aesthetic yet--it's at once melancholic and downbeat and kinetic and neon-bright, somehow. It's that division of labor between the sweet, sorry vocals and the blazing hot synths and percussion. This is one of my favorite songs released in 2014--not just for the craft of it, the willingness to push the music into ever more frantically active modes, but also for the band's dedication to making conistent stylistic collateral to accompany their songs (with their videos, their artwork, photos, etc.)--I get the feeling that Simon Mény and Pierre Rousseau are communicating a complete sort of 'world' with what they do, one that's like a futurist noir, a place of alleys, fog, smoke, midnight, spilled drinks, and despairing glances.
Pas/Cal produced more highly catchy songs than bands that were around for twice as long, and there is a high degree of, I don't know, stickiness to their songs as well. All I have to do is think of the title of "We Made Our Way, We Amtrakked," and the song will play in my head, beginning to end, as though I had a whole quadrant/lobe devoted to its preservation. This band could write some tunes! And Casimer Pascal has such a beautiful voice, all sighing ephemerality. Dear Sir, the title track of the band's last EP, is a little more muscular than what they'd done before, but it's a nice showcase for their vibe-work, they way they can keep something sinister and upbeat at the same time. Wake Up Wake Up Wake Up is a tiny song, so short, but totally enchanting, quiet, rising, an exhortation by the bedside. Handbag Memoirs is one of my favorite songs of theirs, and it has to be one of the best about the kind of ex post facto jealousy one might feel when thinking about a significant other's past (where they were and what they did before they met you). And Last Christmas is a pretty and generous reworking of the awesome Wham song, which is a stone-cold classic, but Pas/Cal stretch it out, have fun with it. Casimer is still making music--not with Pas/Cal, but with his nephew Casimir as Casimer and Casimir.
You could potentially imagine a song like Fault Lines if you were given instructions to place yourself within the general sonic overlap between early Junior Boys and solo Thom Yorke--though it's important to note that you'd still be surprised by this song, by how it opens up and expands partway through. Look, Beacon is here to entertain, to divert, to connect. And they succeed. Good December music, this deserves an audience of merry-makers.
We're remaking War and Peace--not the movie, but the book. Set right now. The war is the one with ISIS. The peace is that which comes with making correct and advantageous purchases of high-end electronics. Not a lot of philosophy this time around. More in the vein of so-called g-chat realism, i.e. real as fuck. This will be crowd-sourced. Contribute text through our shared docs. Contribute to the production of the book (and, God willing, the eventual movie) through our Kickstarter. The peace will be amped up. The war will be discussed. This is an important book that deserves to be adapted for and put into the hands of a new generation. Help us make a new War and Peace for everyone.
There was a famous day at the beach. They decided to go to Venice Beach because, when they woke up, they woke up drenched in sweat. "It's so hot," she said. "I know," he said. They got dressed, prepared their swimming accoutrements, packed some folding chairs, and drove out. When they arrived, it was hotter, somehow, than it had been in the city. Metal seemed to be melting. The sea gulls looked tired and sad. They ate two slices of pizza from a place on the boardwalk, then walked around to check things out. They passed the dudes in the muscle-making enclosure. She decided it was time to swim. "Let's bath here," she said, using an idiom from her native language. They set down their chairs and got in the water. She marveled at the waves and the clarity of the ocean. They both dove under the breakers and went out as far as they could. The strap of her swimsuit fell off her shoulder at one point, and he thought about telling her, but he just looked away instead. Then looked right back at her.
Calla and Can, an alignment of strong rhythms and subductive bass. This live version of Mother Sky, which Calla also covered on record for a split EP with the Walkmen, is quiet but urgent--a hissed whisper. It's too bad that Calla isn't around anymore, because there weren't many bands like them, and they had a sui generis sound, abrasive/seductive, and somehow both stark and lush.
Mr. Dream are gone, but, hell, what a tidy body of work they left behind. The band released Ultimate in Luxury, the post-break-up LP, this past summer, and songs from the record have been tumbling around my brain since then: the flex zone torque of "Making Muscles," the sleazy lurch of "Loud Tools," and the shiny pulse of "Fringy Slider." This one, though, "Cheap Heat," is my favorite Mr. Dream song. It's so compressed, so fast, and so willful--I love the way Adam Moerder sings the chorus, "Everybody cheap heat," as a powerful exhortation. The label that grew alongside the band, GODMODE, has been releasing some pretty incredible music, and all three Mr. Dream members, Moerder, Nick Sylvester, and Matt Morello are still making music in various ways (Fitness for Moerder, Montreal Sex Machine for Sylvester and Moerder, and Morello plays in almost every band on the label).
The Flag is Ted McGrath, former member of These Are Powers (!!), and you can hear his past in "Bad Blood," especially in the percussion, which echoes that early-Liars lineage of his former band. "Bad Blood" is one of several standout tracks on GODMODE's Common Interests Were Not Enough to Keep Us Together compilation, and it aligns pretty sweetly with the label's aesthetic, especially the abrasive/mesmerizing combo heard in, say, Yvette's music. I don't know, "Bad Blood" is pretty fantastic, like a super-catchy pop song clothed in Black Dice sound effects, but better than that description sounds.
Posit: Your ears need a break from the predictability of 'human' music. Dilemma: How can you abstain from human music when most, if not all, common music is created, at least nominally, by humans? Resolution: You listen to the fine works of Keith Fullerton Whitman, a man who tries to step outside the bounds of anthropocentric tunes and make music that is, well, like Automatic Ping--texture and tone and difference. This is more superlative soundcraft, pleasing to behold.
Amelia Fletcher could sing the vilest curse and have it sound beautiful--a paragraph-length profanity full of gross blasphemations and scatological fantasies and it would still hit your ears like a kiss. Marine Research only existed for a short time, but long enough to produce an excellent LP, Sounds from the Gulf Stream, whose first track, "Parallel Horizontal," might be its best. Great album--and one that I think is semi-forgotten, at least for anyone who didn't live and breathe this brand of British pop.