July 16, 2013
"Human Nature," when spoken of in songform, is usually something to do with going forth and multiplying; the desire to spread one's seed or 'share the love' an impulse beating from deep within. The simple repetitions of Chicago duo Gauntlet Hair's shrine to the instincts stirring deep within our genes may or may not be so straight-forward; they so simple that they're wide-open to interpretation.
"Baby, I make you smile one time a week," Gauntler Hair frontman Andy R. warbles, "one time a week." He's so very specific about this weekliness —"one time a week" is repeated, endlessly— that it starts to seem little to do with heaving desire, something far more scheduled. Like a softball-league match, or band practice, or dance class. Or maybe date night, I guess.
It's hard to know whether making this other person —pop music's eternal "baby"— smile once a week is a glorious victory or horrible tragedy; whether it feels like a recurring sweetness or a brief respite from an otherwise-horrible relationship. But that only makes the noisy, washed-out song —coming from a 2nd GH LP, that comes produced by Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra/Blouse— seem all the more malleable.
"Universe Is Blessed"
June 25, 2013
Pop music is full of songs about getting one's drank on, but "Universe Is Blessed" turns the convention on its ear. Christopher Laufman changes up the "double martini with two olives on the side" to a dose of "rat poison with a side of turpentine"; with the phrase "I'm gonna drink until I'm done" given an ironic, suicidal spin.
As Wise Blood, Laufman is a student of maximalist R&B production: florid samples and punchy beat programming pirouetting through a song whose slurring sounds and wobbly swagger have a drunken —or, y'know, poisoned— feeling.
Photo © Marcus Lawrence
"Bugs Don't Buzz"
May 21, 2013
"The cheesiest songs all end with a smile," Devon Welsh sings, at the commencement of "Bugs Don't Buzz," with the straightest of faces. The figure behind Montreal's Majical Cloudz barely misses a beat before delivering a solemn promise: "this won't end with a smile."
Instead, "Bug's Don't Buzz" —which follows "Turns Turns Turns
" and "Childhood's End
" as singles from Majical Cloudz' great new LP, Impersonator
— lures listeners into a "slimy, wet darkness"; with Welsh's belted-out vocals and the starkly-minimalist piano-preset chords creating an airy, eerie mood.
Whilst there's a recurring insectile motif (and a gathering whirr of noise that sounds as much like a plague of locusts as a tape-machine shorting out), "Bugs Don't Buzz" is etched with the same kind of forceful sincerity and existential ache that resounds throughout Impersonator
. "If life could be forever one instant," Welsh carols, in one particularly profound couplet, "would it be the moment you met me?"
Photo © Sarah O'Driscoll
Julianna Barwick's new album, Nepenthe
, will be released August 20. It's her first album for new label Dead Oceans, and the follow-up to the magical The Magic Place
, which was my #1 album of 2011
was recorded in Iceland with Alex Somers of Sigur Rós-related offshoots Riceboy Sleeps and Alex & Jónsi, and finds Barwick's first-ever collaborations with other musicians: string ensemble Amiina, Múm guitarist Róbert Sturla Reynisson, and "a choir of teenage girls."
The teenage girls take on a semi-starring role in the 'album trailer' for Nepenthe
, which is soundtracked by the astonishing song "Forever," on which they appear. It's an exciting taste of the forthcoming record, sounding as beautiful and ethereal as anything Barwick's ever done.
Nepenthe Track List:
2. "The Harbinger"
3. "One Half"
4. "Look Into Your Own Mind"
8. "Adventurer of the Family"
9. "Crystal Lake"
10. "Waving to You"
Like Care Bears Trucking:
June 18: London, England - Meltdown Festival
July 14: Kingston, NY - BSP Lounge
August 28: Brussels, Belgium - Feeerieen Festival
September 1: North Dorset, England - End of the Road
September 4: Paris, France - Les 3 Baudets
September 5: Utrecht, Netherlands - Night of the Unexpected
September 6: Amsterdam, Netherlands - Night of the Unexpected
September 7: Vlieland, Netherlands - Into The Great Wide Open
September 19: Minneapolis, MN - The Entry
September 21: Chicago, IL - Constellation
September 22: Detroit, MI - Museum of Contemporary Art
September 26: Toronto, ON - Double Double Land
September 27: Rochester, NY - Visual Studies Workshop Auditorium
September 28: Cincinnati, OH - Midpoint Music Fest
September 29: Bloomington, IN - Russian Recording
October 1: Pittsburgh, PA - Andy Warhol Museum
October 2: Asheville, NC - Apothecary
October 4: New Orleans, LA - AllWays Lounge and Theatre
October 5: Baton Rouge, LA - Mud and Water
Photo © Derrick Belcham