Posted 4 days ago

Song of the Day: July 20, 2014

HTRK, “Give It Up”

I’ve written about the Ghostly International label before; HTRK (pronounced “Hate Rock”) are just the latest instantiation of what I love so much about the imprint.

It’s almost impossible to discuss HTRK without referencing the tragedy that has stalked them like, well, a ghost: even the press release that announces the return of the Aussies-by-way-of-London-boomeranging-back-to-Oz duo explicitly mentions the 2011 suicide of founding member Sean Stewart during the recording of the band’s second album, Work (Work, Work). So there’s a pall hanging over the album before you’ve even heard it.

But that’s where it ends; maybe the best comparator I could make for this record is Massive Attack vs. Mad Professor’s “No Protection,” which took the group’s breakthrough “Protection" album and filtered it through a dub blanket that rendered it almost unrecognizable (and perhaps a tad sunnier, if more blunted) vs the original. 

This is where the surviving duo of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang get to bury their, uh, ghosts — upbeat and expansive where HTRK’s preceding albums were dour and claustrophobic, “Psychic 9-5 Club" essentially feeds the banalities of life through a shower of happy pills, sunshine and surf, delighted to still be alive and finding itself surprisingly optimistic despite being surrounded by constant reminders of the cruelty of everyday life. One of my favorite albums of the year, informed as it evidently is by the minimalist exercises of Tarot Card reading, fasting and the sunnier clime of Sydney, HTRK’s latest demands to be heard in its quietly determined way. (CdB) 

Posted 5 days ago

Song of the Day: July 19, 2014

Grimes, “Go” (featuring Blood Diamonds)

So: supposedly Canadian witch-house purveyor Grimes, having spent the last year-plus surfing the pop culture momentum wave and now freshly signed to Roc Nation, wrote this track for Rihanna, who turned it down.

Ri-Ri doesn’t make many huge errors, but taking a pass on this track mighta been one of ‘em. KEXP DJ Kevin Cole debuted this on his afternoon show yesterday, riffing that there is a fall full-length in the offing.  Think: Zep’s “Battle of Evermore” spliced hard/fast with a white label that wouldn’t sound at all out of place at 4 am on Chester’s dance floor in Berlin. Already lining up for that, at least, in my mind. Girl don’t play. (CdB) 

Posted 1 week ago

Song of the Day: July 15, 2014

Flares, “Ruinum”

Here I go, hearing something amazing online and then immediately leaping to a Burial analogy given how little I know about the artist in question.

Flares is Baltimore, MD-based electronic musician and producer Marc Alan, and “Dimensions Divide Us" is his full-length debut.  What I hear, here — bits and pieces of Massive Attack, Sigur Ros, orchestral pop somewhere deep inside the Fripp/Eno continuum — makes me emotional. In the best possible way. Reflective, sweeping, evocative… and just totally timely. Dude’s twitter timeline is fairly funny (in a dry sort of way) so there is evidence of humor embedded within the DNA strand of water-drip majesty that leaks across these tracks.

Watch this space — I have a feeling we’re going to learn/hear more about this guy. (CdB)  

Posted 1 week ago

Song of the Day: July 13, 2014

Mndsgn, “Eggs”

If you spend any time listening to urban radio, it’s fair to say that a prefab category like “underground hip-hop” still exists (compared to lazy garbage a la, say, Waka Flocka Flame or some such).  And is still utterly welcome and totally vital to the survival of hip-hop as an art form.

Mndsgn (“mind design”) is the LA-based producer Ringgo Ancheta, a dude rooted squarely in the DJ Shadow/Avalanches/Kid Koala tradition of cratedigging, trippy found sounds and disorientation-as-design point. “Surface Outtakes" is his latest release (supposedly a precursor to a proper full length on Stones Throw later this summer) and "Eggs" is pretty typical of the affair; wobbly Fender Rhodes ladled over almost indiscernibly slowed-down vocals and drowsy, blissed-out beats, not altogether different from some of Madlib’s stoned soul picnics. The perfect soundtrack for the not-so-endless summer. (CdB) 

Posted 2 weeks ago

Song of the Day: July 9, 2014

Fairport Convention: “Who Knows Where The Time Goes”

On the eve of my birthday, I thought this was an appropriate track for today’s SotD. The cliche of time speeding up as you get older sure does feel real to me. Remember how long summers felt when we were young? How eternal a year seemed? How long a day could be?

Well that’s no more. With fiscal quarters always on my mind, currently planning for Fy15 and strategizing 3 year plans, sometimes I forget about the ‘now’, the ‘today’. Maybe that’s my birthday resolution (to paraphrase that Mancunian sage) to Be Here Now.

But back to today’s SotD. Easily in my top songs of all time list, my favorite Sandy Denny vocal and the Richard Thompson guitar is amazing without the need for pyrotechnics (as usual). I literally well up almost every time I hear it (and I’ve forbidden myself to play it while drunk for that very reason!).  

And as noted in my will: This is the track that will be played at my funeral (not too soon, I hope!) once all the time has gone. So Music Warriors I give you permission to bring a boom box with this on it and disrupt the service by doing a Gothic Lloyd Dobler if somehow it gets left out of the program. (mize)

Posted 2 weeks ago

Song of the Day: July 8, 2014

Ryan Adams, “Miss Sunflower”

I’ve been a fan since Whiskeytown and only just discovered this track yesterday, when my bootleg copy of “The Suicide Handbook" finally arrived (this was the record that was supposed to come out immediately following "Heartbreaker," but Adams’ label deemed it "too sad" and instead marched him toward what would become "Gold,” a compromise if ever I’ve heard one).

If I was a sunset, I’d want to lay on your bed, 
And watch the Hollywood lights flicker as it started to dim. 

Another classic Adams track buried somewhere deep in his back catalog, findable only via the interwebs and uber-fans. But worth the effort. (CdB) 

Posted 2 weeks ago

Song of the Day: July 5, 2014

Death Grips, “Guillotine (It goes Yah)”

RIP, Death Grips. It would seem we hardly knew ye.

For those of you not hip to this Sacto crew’s unique admixture of the weirdest of Def Jux and the most outré bits of the Butthole Surfers, it’s already a little too late, as the band just executed one of the most epic breakup maneuvers ever.  ”DEATH GRIPS WAS AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN A CONCEPTUAL ART EXHIBITION ANCHORED BY SOUND AND VISION, ABOVE AND BEYOND A ‘BAND.’” If not, ya know, a bona fide musical act capable of performing every night without utterly falling apart (or failing to show altogether, by design or by dint of self-destruction). 

Peace out, boys. We’ll be here, keeping it legend for ya. (CdB) 

Posted 2 weeks ago

Song of the Day: July 4, 2014

Elliott Smith, “Independence Day”

A classic Smith composition about patience, wisdom and perseverance that has nothing whatsoever to do with July 4th but sounds pretty damn great on a beautiful holiday weekend anyway. 

Don’t go too far, stay who you are… (CdB) 

Posted 3 weeks ago

Song of the Day: June 29, 2014

Dalhous, “Success Is Her Sensuality”

Back in Merry Ole once again and heard this playing overhead last night as we crawled across London. This track is evidently from a forthcoming album, Will to be Well, inspired by the radical psychiatrist RD Laing, who (among other extreme forms of treatment) advocated for LSD as a therapeutic tool. The Scottish electronic duo’s music is open-ended and expansive, a logical extrapolation of the question “What if you made music not only to be danced to while under the influence of acid, but was actually ABOUT being high on acid?”  So. Very. Meta. (CdB) 

Posted 4 weeks ago

Song of the Day: June 25, 2014

Whiskeytown, “Somebody Remembers the Rose”

Sometimes, a song is so beautifully, perfectly, simply captured, you can’t do any more justice to it than just let the lyrics and music speak for themselves:

"Somebody remembers the dress
How it was hand-sewn,
Beautifully pressed
Would all the dangers
Would all the dangers of love
Lost to a stranger

Honey, I’m out of service
For a while
Damaged heart’s been manufactured
And everyday this one never works, anyway.”

Ryan does this little trick better than most.  An old Whiskeytown track that’s not particularly well-known but certainly is well loved and remembered by the faithful.

Yeah, I know you. (CdB)

(Source: Spotify)

Posted 1 month ago

Song of the Day: June 24, 2014

Grouper: “Living Room”

A counter to Corey’s sunny song, here’s little grey music for a grey morning. If you don’t know Portland’s Liz Harris, who records as Grouper, its worth checking out “The Man Who Died In His Boat” and (my favorite) “Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill”. Pitchfork calls it ‘charred ambient’ which somehow says a lot. (mize)

Posted 1 month ago

Song of the Day: June 18, 2014

Velvet Underground, “Who Loves the Sun?”

This song just kinda felt right after the announcement we made with Arizona State this week.

The most “pop” thing the Velvets ever recorded, at least to my ears.

Who DOESN’T love the sun?  (CdB)

Posted 1 month ago

Song of the Day: June 17, 2014

Negativland: “The Letter U and the Numeral 2”

What else would we post today? RIP Casey—keep reaching for those stars! (mize)

Posted 1 month ago

Song of the Day: June 13, 2014

Prelude, “After the Goldrush”

It’s nearly Father’s Day. 

Mine hasn’t been around for more than a dozen years. But I still think about him pretty much every day.

My folks were essentially SoCal hippies with proper day jobs. There are family photos of mom protesting the Vietnam War with me on her back in some kind of prehistoric Baby Bjorn device. Dad was a teacher who had summers off; we used to load up the curtained VW microbus (srsly) every summer with surfboards and whatever trendy natural foods were around and head down to Baja to catch waves and rays for weeks at a time. 

High school kind of felt like one very long episode of Family Ties, with me in the role of Alex P Keaton. I even had the repp ties to prove it.

Neil Young represents, in many respects, the apogee of the 60s peace/love/dope mentality. “After the Goldrush” has as many interpretations as listeners, but its past/present/future construction, fixation on silver spaceships and Mother Nature on the run and general air of existential armageddon marks it as a signal that the hippies had lost, the moneygrubbers were poised to take over and that the dream had died.  Altamont was inevitable; Woodstock was a lie; the whole thing had been a capitalist ruse. 

This version — by an English folk group, singing the song a cappella — inexplicably made a bigger impact on the pop charts worldwide than Neil’s ever did. It’s incredibly wistful — more so than Neil’s, by a country mile — and never fails to remind me of my dad.  So this is for him. (CdB)  

Posted 1 month ago

Song of the Day: June 12, 2014

Spoon, “The Rent I Pay”

They’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

It’s been four long years since the release of Transference, and the new Spoon long player, They Want My Soul, flaunts not only a newfound R&B influence (think: classic Motown, with a postmodern lyrical sensibility) but also a new band member, Alex Fischel, straight out of frontman Britt Daniel’s ultrafine Divine Fits side project. 

Spoon have become the ultimate critic’s band — I don’t know a single set of sophisticated ears (musician, critic, retailer, anyone) that aren’t highly tuned to this Austin quintet’s idiosyncratic blend of skeletal melodies, propulsive beats, studio trickery and Daniel’s uniquely torn/frayed voice. They’ve never come close to releasing a bad record and my first-blush response to what I’m hearing on Soul has both my feet moving and brain engaged — always a good sign. 

There’s a ton of pent-up demand for the record and the band’s highly energetic stage show — Spoon is hitting the festival circuit hard this summer (including Capitol Hill Block Party in July) so these songs are going to get a good workout in front of pumped-up crowds these next few months. 

"Out amongst the stars and the stones/every kind of fortune gets old…

And if that’s your answer, no I ain’t your dancer.”

Welcome back, Britt. You were missed. (CdB)