Kelley Deal, of the Breeders, and Mike Montgomery, of Ampline = R. Ring. “Fallout & Fire” is a pocket-sized song, eminently portable. It’s got an easy melody, a few simple filigrees, and guitars that function clearly and without bluster. This song is a comfort in troubling times, hypnotic in the same way that a bonfire’s flames are hypnotic.
I wrote about this song seven years ago, which seems unbelievable. I have a distinct memory of listening to this mixtape, “…Is The Black Hand,” during my daily commute from Richmond to Williamsburg, VA, which is about an hour-long trip. The mixtape was actually on CD, and I remember the disc’s label being some kind of glittery paper (though I can’t find any way to confirm this, since I lost it long ago, in Florida). So much time has passed since I first heard it, but I still love this track. How many other songs exist that reference the man who started World War I? Did Rollie ever perform with Franz Ferdinand? That would be something.
Jóhann Jóhannsson did the soundtrack work for Max Kestner’s film Copenhagen Dreams, about Copenhagen, but there is an earlier work that this piece seems to have an affinity with, and it’s not a film, but it is, similarly, about the interaction between people and a city (Rilke’s “Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge,” which is all late-night elegy, man vs. city, aimless yearning, mournful appreciation of what remains and what was lost). What’s so impressive about Jóhannsson’s work is that it stands as a piece on its own, separate from the film, which is somewhat tough to do, especially for work that’s within the classical/electronic/modern music spectrum–think how many ‘scores’ are just limply there in the background of movies (e.g. I could never, and still refuse to, understand how a friend in college could listen to the Braveheart soundtrack over and over again while studying. I suspect that would be a shortcut to an onrushing type of dementia). This soundtrack, much like Max Richter’s soundtrack for Henry May Long, is beautiful by itself and haunting too. This is the time to listen to this, in cool weather.
The Royal Concept, who used to be known as the Concept, sound like Phoenix. That’s been remarked upon, pretty much everywhere. The first time I heard this song though, on the radio, I definitely thought it was a Phoenix b-side, or one-off, or demo, and after I figured out that it wasn’t Thomas Mars et al., I started thinking again about the role of substitute bands. For me, a long time ago, there was Muse’s first album in place of Radiohead (between OK Computer and Kid A), and Starlet (Swedish band) in place of Belle & Sebastian (between Fold Your Hands Child…and Dear Catastrophe Waitress. I’m not counting Storytelling)–soundalike bands that could hold me over while I waited for new records from the ‘real’ bands. But that’s sort of unfair to both Muse and Starlet, who went on to differentiate themselves (in Muse’s case, wildly so) from the artists with whom they shared a sound, or a vibe, or a love of falsetto, etc. So the Royal Concept sounds like Phoenix now, in a case of musical Batesian mimicry (maybe), but in a couple years they probably won’t. When you think about it, it’s not a bad way to start. (Even Radiohead, I think, were called something like ‘The British Nirvana’ around the time of Pablo Honey, which seems laughable now, for many reasons.)