If I were you, I would prepare for the holiday season by laying in some provisions in the form of good, hard synth songs. There is no better way to get yourself and your family through cold weather than electronic music, which provides more BTUs per minute than any other type of music. The Pressure is a perfect example: listen to the bounce and pucker (technical terms) of that synth at the start of the song. That's heat. That's energy. Roxanne Clifford's voice, too, is a source of comfort and warmth. (NB, this song reminds me so much of early Belle & Sebastian electronic experiments, like Electronic Renaissance, though I can't tell if that comparison only occurred to me because Clifford recorded this song in Glasgow).
"I loved you/badly/I loved you." Good song, good chorus. Lulu feels like a song that emerged from a tiny kernel, and I bet it was that phrase in the chorus. Hang a drumbeat on that, see what happens. All you need are some notes for decoration, like tinsel, and you're there. Simple, heartfelt, almost accidental. A coming together.
Jay Som is Melina Duterte of San Francisco. I don’t know anything about Jay Som except for the way this music makes me feel: energized and psyched in sort of wistful way; the song makes me feel like it’s possible for a long-unseen acquaintance from the past to suddenly step between the posts of my office doorway and say hi. I’m thankful for music like this, a sweet fall adornment, a momentary respite.
NB: Today's post is a book review. The song above is included merely because it's an awesome song.
Fish In Exile, by Vi Khi Nao, is a novel that's such a great blend of experimental and traditional. I mean, the shape of the story itself is sort of classic--fighting through grief and mourning to re-embrace the world--but the way it's told is all Nao's style, which means having a dozen or so sentences every page that deserve to be underlined and highlighted. Fish in Exile reminds me, at least in terms of execution, of Ben Marcus's more recent stories (and of Flame Alphabet), because he has lately seemed to embrace the momentum of story, but while still preserving his own style, his sentence-level experimentation, etc. The book is so moving. The ending blew me away. I said out loud, "whew, jeeze, so good," when I put the book down after finishing it. Catholic and Ethos are such great characters, I liked spending time with them. And Callisto and Lidia too. The ending is like the ending of Ulysses for speed and power and beauty. Pick it up, it's so worthwhile.
The return of Dante DeCaro! Last seen solo in Johnny and the Moon, which released their debut (and solitary) album a decade ago. That album was incredibly good and came out of nowhere; full of vicious full-band folk songs like “Scarlet Town pt. II” and “Oleanna.” But now, 10 years later, DeCaro is back with a new EP, Kill Your Boyfriend. “Love Like Thieves” reminds me of what he did with Johnny and the Moon, though it’s a little less wild-eyed, a little more controlled than his earlier work. And the whole EP moves in that same way: contemplative, relaxed, but still full of passion.
What's the phrase for word-historical despair? Or species-wide shame? Is there an evolutionary precedent for stepping aside to let another clade have a go at the top? Can we just take a back seat and let some quadrupeds see what they can do? I think I've seen others talk about this before, but I'm reminded of these sentiments by Fujiya & Miyagi's song Outstripping, which is about time passing too quickly and life disappearing, etc., which is the subject of other carpe-diemish songs too, but I think lately that there is something more urgent and real about this kind of message, especially when placed in the context of facts like bees being placed on the endangered species list, or the world passing the 400 PPM of CO2 threshold maybe forever . Anyway, enjoy this great song as you make your plans to escape cataclysm (tunneling into the Earth? Space? Deep-sea habitation? Keep me posted on what's good).
[BUY EP 2]
One of the albums of the year, easy. Paradis have delivered on the promise of all their early singles with a big album full of bright, catchy, fun-as-hell songs. This album has danceable hits (most of the songs), slow-burning sweet-gazing hand-holding ballads (Quand Tu Souris), and intense reflection (Miroir (Un), no pun intended). The closest relation to what Paradis do, I think, is probably something like mid-period Junior Boys, or maybe Phoenix at their absolute danciest, so if that sounds good then you’ll enjoy this a whole lot. It’s in French, which I can understand could be a stumbling block for some folks, but it’s enjoyable even if you don’t know a word of the language; and if you do know even a little bit of French, you can get into the lyrics and walk around singing “Un p’tit peu toi et moi,” or “c’est juste une idee, a considerer,” etc. The album doesn’t seem to be easily purchasable in digital form except through iTunes, though you can go through Discogs or elsewhere if you’re interested in grabbing the LP for the price of a good cut of meat. However you choose to do it, listen to the album, it’s good, you’ll like it.
This is new Faint, taken from Capsule: 1999-2016, a retrospective of the Faint's output. What I remember from the early days of the Faint was that many college radio DJs loved them, and, when I heard the band's music, I could tell why: it offered something both complex and fun. You could talk about it, parse it, etc., and you could dance to it. If you drew a line from the dance-influenced music of the early/mid 2000s back to groups like the Faint, Six-Finger Satellite, Braniac, Turing Machine, et al., it is a tenable position--those bands were the ones who put all that in the air (again). If you never got into the Faint before, now's your chance. Capsule: 1999-2016 is a good collection of their previous work, plus it comes with their 2016 single and two brand new songs (ESP & Skylab1979).
The Blonde Redhead of Masculin Feminin—which came before the Blonde Redhead of Misery Is A Butterfly, and 23, and all their later work—were a spiky Blonde Redhead, an abrasive Blonde Redhead, a more challenging and confrontational band. The early recordings collected on Masculin Feminin remind me a whole lot of early Liars—punky, weird as hell, tons of energy, crazy experimentation. This box set is massive and includes Blonde Redhead’s first two albums plus a bunch of outtakes, live cuts, and demos. It’s always interesting to see the trajectory of bands, like Blonde Redhead, who start off with a more noisy, experimental aesthetic, and then, over time, move towards pop, towards sweeter melodies, towards something calmer and (arguably) more focused (Animal Collective comes immediately to mind as an example). Why is that such a common arc for artists, I wonder? Without doing any research, I’d posit that that sort of aesthetic movement (from avant-garde→mainstream) occurs more often than the reverse (although there is a word, via Thomas Mann, for the artist who is more experimental as he or she grows older: Greisen-Avantgardismus). I don't need an answer to this question, but I would like one.
Pock-splish-tick. Cattail heads beating against a hollow log. Rain collecting in a bucket. Wall boards expanding in the heat. Someone humming. Wind kicks up. This is a stretched-out music, made from delicate, natural components. Cello as landscape. Cello let wild so that it goes to seed. Cello that has to survive on its own. This album is beautiful and dark and bewildering--so many of the songs (e.g. Not Here and Dark Sky, White Water) twist and turn and never settle all the way. It's a thrilling listen.