This is some class-A mope-around jamming from Death Cab, taken from their best album (for me), The Photo Album. This was the top of their game. I knew it. I told Ben in an open letter that I posted on the DCFC message board*. I was like, ‘hey man, this is the best you’ve ever been. Over Christmas break from school, I was at home, shoveling the shit out of some horrible snow, and I listened to this album on my Discman. Hard. In the cold. With actual icicles dangling from my numbed-out hands as I shoveled chunk after chunk of wet and heavy snow with my family’s bullshit toy of a shovel. This album kept me warm, in a way, sort of conceptually, as I miserably cleared our driveway and sidewalk, and as I mentally audited the mistakes I had made in my recent relationship. Movie Script Ending, man, that spoke to me–like a friend putting a hand on my shoulder and being like, ‘everything sucks. remember that. Women are hard to figure out, like a puzzle that’s running away from you and telling you to fuck off.’ Don’t ever change the band. Keep making this.’ They did not keep making this. Transatlanticism was fine and good, but I didn’t really enjoy it as much as the Photo Album, and then after that I stopped paying attention for whatever reason. The Photo Album is still pretty fun to listen to.
Dude is a genius, not that I’m taking a bold stance by saying that. But I think Aphex Twin is capable of pretty much anything in terms of soundcraft, melody, rhythm, etc. I can imagine handing him a stack of complex musical thought experiments, produced by thinkers and musicologists around the world, like, say, “A planetoid is discovered to be hollow. What sort of percussive noise would it produce when struck by a storm of micro-meteorites?” or “All the cars on a highway, for no known reason, erupt in a sort of horn-song for the duration of the drive from one exit to the next, a distance of four miles. Edit the resulting horn-song into four compelling up-tempo hits.” And then he comes back a month later both with music that matches the criteria and then some extra music that he just thought of on his own; he started from the thought experiments but then added other, stricter, weirder constraints as well. There is artistic ambition and restlessness and then there’s what Aphex Twin does, which is a whole other game.
The Dodos played San Francisco not too long ago, in the middle of the fall–October, maybe. It was a small hometown show at The Chapel, a totally charming and pretty venue in the Mission. I’d never seen them play live before and I was hoping that their songs, which I love, would come through as strongly in person as they do on record. They did not disappoint. This was the most physical show I’ve seen in a long time. I think sometimes that good musicians are able to transmit to the listener (or watcher) the tactile pleasure of their virtuosity, the enjoyment that they take in playing their instruments and making music and doing it all so well. The Dodos definitely are able to do this–on record and even more so in person. Individ, their new record, exhibits this aspect of the band especially well. After Carrier came out last year, I had thought that maybe the band was done, particularly in light of comments that Meric Long had made. But when I saw them play, they looked happy, they were into it, and there was actual joy. Logan Kroeber spoke about how they’d been together so long and how lucky they were to play together. Individ is a totally companionable (and fun) record and one that makes you grateful for bands like the Dodos.
Death Grips released Fashion Week, an all-instrumental album, as a free download a week or two ago, and it is–as one would expect from them–pretty wild and thoroughly engaging. The instrumental part of Death Grips’ music has always been (for me) the best part of what they do–I love MC Ride’s vocals and all, but I find the kernel of their songs, twisted, hard, dark, serrated, to be what fascinates the most. Runway A and Runway H are pretty representative of the bleaker/harder parts of the album, and both are really really fun to listen to. This band has done some (debatably) dumb stuff and some great stuff, but it all contributes to a feeling (for me) that I’m listening to the audio equivalent of samizdat every time I listen to Death Grips. There aren’t many acts or bands anymore that exude ‘danger’ in the same way that DG does, and I’d say that, overall, that’s a bad thing–we need more like this.
Holidays are over and people’s faces are starting to sag. But it’s still winter! There’s time for a second Christmas and, like, three more New Year’s celebrations. Observe your holidays as many times as you’d like. No one will stop you. I for my part am still drinking quarts of egg nog on a daily basis. I try to project a real and fevered joy, and I think I succeed. Many of my most important declarations appropriate a melody from one or more carols. My mistletoe budget is big. My second Christmas tree for second Christmas occupies most of my bedroom and some of my bed.