Album Roundup: May+June 2016
April was always going to be a dogshit kind of month. Not just because of the lilacs mixing out of the dead land, but because Record Store Day falls right in the middle and so the indie labels can barely get their vinyl pressed as majors fill the plants with ridiculously unnecessary reissues—Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Springsteen—to soak up those Barnes & Noble dad dollars. Plus RSD ties up so much indie store cashflow for the three weeks leading up to RSD that they have nothing left to put into buying new stock, so any smart label just takes the month off.
It’s entirely possible that RSD, combined w/the major labels going all in on the ‘vinyl revival,’ is actually helping to destroy independent music culture even faster than it’s already destroying itself. But this particular column is no place to get into all that so I’ll direct you to The Quietus if you want to read more.
And this happens twice a year now. Couple all that with an indie/underground that only champions stuff with the right connections—that is to say, money—behind it, and you have a perfect meltdown for the underground as we’ve known it.
May’s looking a lot better though. So if you don’t like this month’s column I guess maybe blame it on the calendar. And if you’re someone who lives for music, embrace Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel’s message: Don’t Give Up.
All albums scored on the Infamous Fanzine Binary Scale. Because bipolarity, in its extreme ping-ponging between genius & madness, is the only appropriate artistic response to our age.
Album Of The Month:
Beyonce – Lemonade (Tidal? HBO?)
I’m starting to think that maybe Pop has run its course—not in the sense that Pop is over, but that its time as the dominant musical form, i.e. where the most interesting stuff is happening, might be coming to an end. Since 2002 or so, Top 40 radio has been the place where you heard the newest/strangest sounds, but it seems to be turning into a predictable formula. Because as great as the new Beyonce is, and most of the new Kanye, and none of the new Drake, we aren’t hearing any of it on the radio. All these ‘exclusives’ mean that these songs don’t get to have a public life. With the biggest, and most interesting, artists restricting their music to certain streaming services, Pop is losing one of its main power sources, its ubiquity.
Because one thing I learned working at a public library next to a middle school: If it isn’t on YouTube, and it isn’t on the radio, then kids aren’t listening to it. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only people listening to these albums are critics, or the privileged class (same thing most of the time, sadly). Rightly or wrongly, Twenty-One Pilots (btw have you noticed on ‘Stressed Out’ how much 21P’s singer sounds like Panda Bear?)is reaching millions more people than Lemonade. In an age of informational abundance & unlimited access, taking yourself off the grid doesn’t create more demand. It just takes you out of the culture.
If most of Pop’s best & brightest go mostly unheard, then Pop radio only gets to play the scraps, which these days make it sound derivative, devoid of imagination, and ultimately—Pop’s greatest sin—boring. And if all people hear is a Top 40 devoid of energy & ideas, then it won’t be long before they change the station. It’s just a shame that the underground these days is so flaccid & corrupt, so conservative & cowardly, because if there was ever a time for something different to plunge through the radio, grab us by our throats and rearrange our collective reality, that time is now.
Having said all that, this has to be Album Of The Month (even the conjunction & article get capitalized b/c the 21st century is no place for modesty, not even in grammar). Pop as Greek tragedy. And if I ever inspired someone to make something so painful & blood-soaked I’d rip my eyes out and bury them under ten feet of sand.
Misplaced Hype Of The Month:
Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Rough Trade)
So I’m listening to the new Parquet Courts and yeah it’s fine enough for what it is, esp. the song ‘One Man No City,’ but it’s doing nothing to avert this sinking feeling I get lately when I engage w/the culture, this feeling that everything’s been filtered through this flat polite middle-class voice. So instead of anger I hear mild anxiety, instead of desperation I hear muted longing. Instead of kinetic energy, I get endless passive reflections that congratulate themselves on the depth of their reflection.
Instead of people with something to say, we get endless people wanting to be heard.
Talking Heads wrote about the air, Parquet Courts writes about the dust. These guys are The Band to Pavement’s Dylan—a more mid-tempoed, deliberate, self-serious version of wild genius—so maybe that’s why they appeal to mid-tempoed, deliberate, self-serious people? I don’t know. Sure, this is better than anything Malkmus has done in 15 years, but then so is silence.
So Human Performance is just more tasteful & smart rock for people who aspire to being perceived by others as tasteful & smart. Taken one song at a time it sounds good, but taken as a whole it makes me want to scream. Or die. Or destroy something.
It’s as dangerous as a night of binge-watching—streaming not DVD, natch. And maybe that’s appropriate b/c it reflects the times we live in—late-stage capitalist free-market implosions, the exhausted spiritual that is the hidden center at the heart of the neoliberal end-of-history dream. If we’re living in an age of restricted freedoms, of everyone endlessly self-conscious & self aware, why shouldn’t our art & culture reflect that?
But, y’know, sometimes art can be more than just a passive mirror. Can do more than tell us stories about ourselves we already know, stories which we are in fact desperately trying to transcend. Sometimes art can change the world.
Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing (Bayonet)
28 minutes of humble spoke-song so unassuming that it feels rudely assumptive. I know P4K is an easy target, but they’re one of the big boys and the most powerful always deserve the most criticism (punching up v. punching down) so go read the bullshit they wrote about Next Thing and see if maybe you can hear any of what they’re talking about. I mean, it takes a special kind of dumb to compare her writing to Lydia Davis, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Maggie Nelson. It takes an even specialer kind of dumb to label those three writers ‘poets,’ and then provide this as evidence that Greta Klein (d/b/a Frankie Cosmos) belongs in that company:
Now it would be bedtime if
I could close off my mind
It just flops onto you
Wet and soppy glue…You know I’d love to
Rummage through your silky pink space cap
The writer then goes on to compare Klein favorably with Sappho, and responds to the couplet I haven’t written this part yet/Will you help me write it? by swooning that it ‘invites radical participation from a listener. Even though the song may end after two and a half minutes, it never really ends.’ And yeah, it’s true the album does feel like it goes on forever in its tediously twee self-examinations that are all skin and no blood, but I don’t think that’s what he meant.
The only reason this didn’t get Misplaced Hype status is because it really isn’t worth talking about at all.
Horse Lords – Interventions (Northern Spy)
We’re running the fuck out of time and why is everyone going so slow. Is it the anti-depressants, the marijuana, the information overload. Horse Lords make music for our time by managing the cool trick of sounding totally frenetic and meditative at the same time—like that beta brain state you slip into scrolling through your twitter feed, or embarking on a YouTube derivé. The album closes with ‘Never Ended,’ a kind of audio verite/manipulation thing in the vein of Steve Reich and Luc Ferrari, up to & including the politics. This is what Post-rock was supposed to be, simultaneously contemplative & on fire.
M83 – Junk (Mute)
clutter, debris, rubbish, rubble, trash, hogwash, litter, miscellany, offal, refuse, rummage, scrap, waste.
Map 71 – Sado – Technical – Exercise (Blue Tapes)
Intensely slamming filtered electronics fronted by dystopian sing-speak from a female Mark E. Smith type. This comes from Brighton UK, a city where the residents are always in motion, though that has as much to do w/the lack of convenient parking as anything else.
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (WEA)
This album’s so fucking NPR-ready that it should come with a free tote-bag. I can dig the first few minutes where it weirdly sounds like Waylon Jennings singing in The Wizard of Oz (weird is good), but then the simulacra soul of the Dap-Kings kicks in and everything goes Americana Idol; and as a soul singer, Sturgill’s not only no Otis, he’s not even Sussudio. Then there’s the Nirvana cover, which is such a badly pulled-off gimmick that it makes his other tricks—sincerity, and um…more sincerity—feel like gimmicks too. Because the problem w/Postmodern Sincerity—that is to say, sincerity with a wink—is that the two modes usually negate the best parts of the other.
Even more problematic, the album’s dominant lyrical theme—Holy Shit I Just Became A Father—is mostly just mundane observations & unearned simple truths. If Time and Distance are the biggest challenges you face as a new father, then you sound more like someone doing a lot of algebraic word problems than taking care of a human being. So instead of stuff about say, seeing the face of your abusive parent reflected back at you through this new bundle of joy, or the resurfacing of long-buried childhood memories, Sturgill gives us Fatherhood as Hallmark card. Or a commercial for long-distance telephone service—and yeah that last reference is anachronistic, but believe me, anachronisms are appropriate when talking about this album. Like do sailors even exist anymore as anything other than symbol?
Autolux – Pussy’s Dead (Columbia)
Maybe they should try giving it mouth to mouth? Autolux has loads of ideas—some of them are even good ones—but this album feels like it was created by an AI prototype and for once I don’t meant that as a compliment.
Cate Le Bon – Crab Day (Drag City)
Apparently not the daughter of the Duran Duran singer as I’d lazily assumed all these years (to be fair, there’s a lot of famous musician offspring out there). If we have to pick a date to celebrate Crab Day, how about March 3rd? The 3/3 kind of resembles a crab, don’t you think? Anyway, the couple tracks I heard were pretty good, but Drag City doesn’t allow streaming, and this didn’t grab me enough that I wanted to download it, and Drag City never responded to my e-mails a few years back to be put on their mailing list (this happens a lot when you write mean things about records), and The F-Z doesn’t pay enough to warrant actually, you know, buying it, so I haven’t heard the rest of the album. Still, the stuff I did hear was cool in this angular (more acute than obtuse) pop mode that, coupled w/lyrics that are artsy & smart, suggest you’d probably like this, and so I feel it’s my duty to acknowledge its existence here.
Score: 1 (inferred)
Drake – Views (Apple Music?)
Web traffic is measured by viewing the traffic statistics found in the web server log file, an automatically generated list of all the pages served. A ‘hit’ is generated when any file is served. The page itself is considered a file, but images are also files, thus a page w/5 images could generate 6/hits (the 5 images and the page itself). A page View is generated when a visitor requests any page within the website—a visitor will always generate at least one page View (the main page) but could generate many more.
Brian Eno – The Ship (Warp)
When you use systems & theories to create your art and everyone you talk to thinks you’re a genius, the worst-case scenario is you become complacent. Which leads to becoming boring. Which is what happened to Brian a long time ago. More ambien than ambient. More background than groundbreaking. For 40 years now, Brian’s been refining his theory that the less of yourself you put into your work, the more there is for the listener to experience. It’s an interesting theory. And he did a couple of albums (Discreet Music, Music For Airports) that justified it. But the returns have been diminishing for so long now that they, much like his music, barely even exist. In the process, he’s removed everything that once made his music special—wit, melody, innovation, soul—to the point where I’d rather listen to Coldplay.
Well maybe not that bad. But in 1974 Brian Eno made an album called Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) that still sounds like it came out tomorrow. It’s all of the things that this album—and this month, and this life—is not.
PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project (Island)
A concept album! PJ travels around the world looking at poor people. Unfortunately, while PJ’s real good at spotting effect, she’s not so good at spotting cause. She almost pulls off the whole poverty tourism thing on ‘The Community of Hope,’ which pushes the ironies so far—joyous music (saxophones going toot-toot!) coupled w/brutal observations and poor-shaming (she calls a Washington DC school a shithole)—that they shatter & collapse. There’s something in the song’s cruelty, its callousness, that’s more honest & alive than the hyper-serious hand-wringing on the rest of the album (sample couplet: ‘How to stop the murdering? / By now we should have learned’),
At least ‘The Community of Hope’ feels alive in its tastelessness. Because while nobody thinks we ‘should have learned to stop murdering by now,’ a lot of people do think that DC drug addicts are ‘just zombies.’ And the line where she makes fun of the fact there’s only one restaurant in Ward 7 (a Denny’s, apparently) embodies/implicates white privileged liberalism in a way that makes you stop & think in a way that the rest of the album doesn’t even attempt. Naturally the reviews, mostly written by white privileged liberals, attack Harvey’s poor taste instead of the politics that made/make DC a shithole in the first place. Which I guess means that PJ and her critics deserve each other.
Tacocat – Lost Time (Hardly Art)
This is where their schtick becomes disposable, to be repeated over & over until market demand dries up (when the next album comes out), whereupon they’ll break up and be forgotten forever.
Sam Kidel – Disruptive Muzak (The Death Of Rave)
The concept’s all this has going for it so let’s explain the concept. Guy calls government centers, plays his muzak over the line, records their reactions and plays it back over the muzak. Too bad this all takes place in England, so the people on the phone are polite & boring to a fault. Next time he should try pulling that shit in Texas. Anyway, the music’s nothing special, and while it’s fun enough to listen to (and can support any sort of ‘life in 21st century bureaucracy’ artistic statements you want it to carry), it’s not nearly as much fun as, say, The Jerky Boys (go ask your grandparents).
Not much out there worth talking about this month. Ask any archaeologist worth their trovel, and they’ll tell you that every excavation is marked by a series of lulls. The past resurfaces at its own pace, and sometimes that pace is the pace of a glacier.
Ariel Kalma – Musique Pour Le Reve Et L’Amour (Black Sweat)
Total godlike Terry Riley-esque ambient phasing. Perfect for your next psychedelic experience, but this one’s good enough to make the psychedelics optional.
I usually write these intros while deliriously peaking on a late-morning caffeine/sugar charge after a sleep-deprived night, but our little baby’s been sleeping through the night so I’m feeling a little less, uh, feral than usual. He’s even sleeping good on Thursday nights, which is the night before my writing day, and which up until lately he’s had a tendency to wake up at 2am long after he’d finally begun sleeping through the night, which is why I wrote him out of my will a couple of months ago, and why he can expect a long list of household chores as soon as he’s able to reach the sink and safely operate a lawnmower.
All albums scored on the infamous Album Roundup BInary Scale. Because we live in an age of extremes and we deserve a critical mode that mirrors our age.
And they were all released in May.
ALBUM OF THE MONTH:
CE Schneider Topical – Antifree (OSR)
All you have to do is wait and eventually an album comes along that’s so special (and so likely to be overlooked) that it validates all the endless sifting. I’m going to break w/tradition here and go ahead and post a link to the music.
Hyperconscious, hypermodern, and intensely busy like dedicated insects, the most magical music I’ve heard in a long time comes from CE Schneider Topical, a two-person band out of NYC via Vermont who seem like they’d let you play on the record if you asked them nicely. There’s a friendliness to their experimentalism, a down-to-earthness, that’s refreshing. At a time when so much music, even the underground, is obsessed w/market positioning & maximizing their dollar potential to the point that their music sounds narrower & narrower—as narrow as the Minnesota Twins’ chances of winning their division this year and every bit as gruesome to watch—CE Schneider Topical (I like to imagine the last word pronounced w/an accent on the last syllable, like it’s spoken in Spanish, all anapestic bliss) chases after the esoteric & strange. But this isn’t some kind of grim modernist slog. There’s heart in these records. An actual person speaking to you, one who sounds aware of your existence and very much interested in this shared experience called life.
Frontperson Christina Schneider sings songs of alienation & loss in a whimsical sing-speak that’s alternately hilarious & disturbing. ‘Seeing Eye People’ might be the funniest song I’ve heard all year. It might also be the saddest. This music reminds me of so much: the freedom of the Shaggs, or a Casio-based Beefheart, yet it’s carried along by a fierce intelligence you don’t much find in music these days, overflowing w/ideas & idiosyncratic as fuck. Too bitter to be childlike, and too good to be true.
We should all of us be more unique than ever and yet for some reason so much music feels conformist & beige. Antifree shatters the self-imposed panopticon in 17 different directions, and in a better world the world would never be the same.
MISPLACED HYPE OF THE MONTH:
White Lung – Paradise (Domino)
Sometimes a scream can sound cathartic & life-changing; other times it just sounds oppressive & thin. On Paradise, White Lung singer Mish Way sounds like the worst parts of Katy combined w/the worst parts of Courtney. Meanwhile, the band plays tuneless coke-rock hair-metal thrash behind her and makes the whole thing totally unlistenable.
I know nobody cares about lyrics, but Way leans so heavily on unattributed personal pronouns that halfway through the album I start laughing as I hear one more ‘I’ singing about yet another ‘it,’ or ‘this,’ or ‘you.’ Just check out this chorus from the only song w/a memorable melody, lead single ‘Below’:
I want to take it all down
Burn in the waste you have found
I want to throw it around
Back where the sea meets the ground
Or the histrionic drivel of Sister’:
Collapse your brain into rivers
My heart is pure, vain surprise
He swore he loved only the back of you
I choked and bathed in the lie
But let’s ignore the lyrics, which are terrible to the point where it feels mean to keep quoting them, and go back to the sounds, which are painful & grating—think emergency dentistry, drills, chainsaws, that kind of thing—but not in a way where the aesthetic reinforces the content (which I assume is what WL’s going for: our music is painful b/c life is painful). Instead, the clean slickness of the production undermines whatever force the music is trying to generate. So the drums are gated, every instrument’s coated in a treble yell, and it all ends up sounding like Poison trying to play Metallica (that’s Poison the band, not ‘Poison’ the Bell Biv Devoe song, which might actually sound awesome), but in splitting the difference White Lung ditches Poison’s pop fun and can’t come close to Metallica’s power.
And like, what’s the point of that? The (extremely vague, always implied) feminist politics? Jesus people, go read a book. This is just Lita Ford w/ pretensions, which is to say even worse than Lita Ford. Or a more histrionic Pink, only without the songwriting team behind her. But Spin thinks it’s ‘raw and muscular’ so what the fuck do I know.
Anohni – Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian)
This is easily the most beautiful, moving record I’ve heard all year. Anhoni, f/k/a Antony d/b/a Antony & the Johnsons, has made an album that is dramatically political and louder than a bomb. Call it ‘Fear Of A Dead Planet.’
Hopelessness is as good a protest record as has ever been made. It’s about the struggle to remain human in an inhuman world, all delivered by that voice, which is still as open-throated & goosebump-inducing as ever.
So in one sense it’s the only album I need this month, but in another sense the album leaves me slightly cold, easier to admire than love, filled w/quibbles about the sameness of the tempos (emphatically mid-), and the lack of pop hooks. But jesus what an immersively bleak & beautiful record. The fact that it’s pedestal art when I’m longing for termites—that shouldn’t be held against it. There’s still a need for masterpieces. And this, most decidedly, is a masterpiece.
Marissa Nadler – Strangers (Sacred Bones)
Maher Shalal Hash Baz – Hello New York (OSR)
More OSR stuff. As best as I can figure—and when it comes to music this wonderful & strange, I like to know as little as possible—MSHB is the brainchild of Japan’s Tori Kudo, and since 1991 he’s been developing an aesthetic that combines Mayo Thompson and free jazz into a stew of inspired amateurishness. Or as Kudo puts it, ‘Error in performance dominates MSHB cassette which is like our imperfect life.’
Anyway, this sounds like they went to NYC and recorded this album the night before their return flight home. So we get the Sister Ray riff w/new lyrics and semi-surreal call & response vocals (‘alienation will become salvation now’ provokes ‘I will make politics cultural’, later ‘You should have not have been born’ is countered with ‘It is words that gave birth to me’). Inspired amateurishness and deep thoughts. Some songs stop before they even get started; others last an eternity and are still over too soon. Every song drips w/fellowship & skronk, buoyed at times by a feeling of what can only be called love. It’s every bit as fragmented & falling apart as the world around us, and yet this record fills me w/optimistic calm every time I listen. My mind opens up and I can feel an infinite number of creative possibilities stretching out before me in a way that makes, say, a band like Parquet Courts seem cloying & cloistered & vestigial & square. On the right night, an album like this might save your life.
Pikelet – Tronc (Chapter Music)
It’s not that the world is coming to an end, it’s just feels that way. I mean the most popular light reading among teenagers—and we’re talking early adolescents here—is about dystopia, apocalypse, disease, and monsters. That’s a long way from The Chocolate War and no wonder they’re all voting socialist.
It’s a shame they probably won’t get to hear ‘Interface Dystopia,’ the first song on Picalet’s new album, which is as real & dramatic (‘everything is poisoned, everything is torture’) as the most intense coming-of-age experience.
It also sounds like a labyrinth of synths, and Pikelet’s voice is one minute robotic and the next overflowing w/emotion in a way that feels so true to millennial experience that it hurts. The rest of the album’s pretty good too.
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
As tediously overwrought & undermelodic as the last 4 albums. Whatever cool parts occasionally pop up—the Can-like groove of the opening track for instance—get immediately subsumed by Thom’s long, tuneless wandering wail. The tracklist runs in alphabetical order and the band still sounds like they get no joy whatsoever out of playing music, not even in spurts. This is what happens when you start making rules in your band (no more anthems! no more rocking! no more guitars! no more songs in 4/4! no more hooks!) as a reaction to your band’s success. Your integrity becomes a millstone around your neck and your music sounds like someone drowning, if not already drowned.
Old Maybe – Oblio (Apollonian Sound)
More music from the future. Go find this on Bandcamp. Old Maybe finishes what Trumans Water started, and does it w/o any of that band’s aggro hardcore taint. And unlike most bands w/an inherent distrust of traditional rhythms, OM’s not afraid to put their heads down from time to time & lock into a straight-ahead groove. Remember freedom’s only freedom if it includes the freedom to follow the rules now & then if you feel like it.
Oblio is one more reminder this month that there is a world beneath mass-market indie that’s overflowing w/ideas & wonder & the kind of strangeness that makes you believe the world is a more interesting place.
Cloud Becomes Your Hand – Rest In Fleas (Northern Spy)
Of course just because you’re doing something different, or you enthusiastically embrace hypermodernity in your music, doesn’t mean you can’t still be boring. I like it okay when the singer’s singing, but everything else is just shitty video game music.
Spartan Jet-Plex – Touch Tone (Fox Food)
This is all the things that Frankie Cosmos is advertised to be—intimate, DIY, personal, intelligent—but Spartan Jet-Plex costs less and delivers more. If you don’t trust yourself, you can at least trust the economics.
Civil Union – Seasick, Lovedrunk (Melted Ice Cream)
At times Civil Union sounds like Jonathan Richman fronting the Bad Seeds, which is a very fine idea, but then the improbably named Alessandra Banal takes the lead on ‘Love Makes Slaves Of Us All’ and Civil Union sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
Oh shit. Hold on.
I accidentally had ‘Close My Eyes’ by Feels playing at the same time in another tab. And now that I’ve closed it, Civil Union just sounds hyperserious & dull. Never mind.
Feels – Feels (Castle Face)
Of course now ‘Close My Eyes’ sounds less overwhelming w/o the atonal shredding of Civil Union transforming their straightforward guitar-pop into something more chaotic & dionysian. This still sounds pretty fine, but maybe a little too straight. Anyway, if I find time to do a mashup in the next couple of days that comes anywhere close to what I was just hearing, I’ll post it on soundcloud and include a link
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Matador)
When the last CSH album came out, I joked that every generation gets the Kleenex Girl Wonder they deserve. On the first song here, he sounds more like Davey Von Bohlen (Promise Ring), the second song like James Murphy, and so on & so forth. But despite all the retro-quibbles, Will Toledo is undeniably not completely untalented. He’s got a head full of ideas driving him, if not insane, then at least slightly agitated. And the fact that he just cost Matador $50,000 is such a sweet bonus.
Twin Peaks – Down In Heaven
Bullshit album from a bullshit band with a bullshit name who think if they don’t take themselves too seriously and constantly signal their lack of artistic ambition, then no one else will take them too seriously either and they can skate by on some kind of slacker goofball charm. But even Evan Dando had a soul, and one Mac DeMarco in this world is already one Mac DeMarco too many.
Kaytranda – 99.9% (XL)
Warm psychedelic stuff that’s way too genre-busting to simply call hip-hop. ‘Bus Ride’ out dillas J Dilla, and ‘Drive Me Crazy’ is totally mind-blowing. Yeah, it gets a little tedious as it goes along but then so don’t we all, even this column.
All reissues get scored w/a resounding 1. Once the shit gets flushed you don’t make a trip to the sewage plant to see what happened to it. You just let it go and hope it doesn’t come back.
Vivien Goldman – Resolution 1979-1982 (Staubgold)
Members of Slits, PiL, Raincoats, etc. contribute to this, which automatically makes it essential, but then Goldman’s contributions are pretty great too. Her vocals & lyrics do the artful artlessness thing that pretty much defines post-punk—mundane subject matter like going to the launderette (laundromat for all you Americocentrists) gets invested w/all kinds of importance while geopolitics is discussed in the tone of voice most people use to talk about the weather. It works so well this makes you wonder why more people today don’t just write lyrics about things that are important to them. The profound can be simple, and the simple profound. Sadly, there’s only 25 minutes of music on this, and the best songs are at the beginning. But then ‘Private Armies’ features the line if you can’t get a hard-on get a gun and what could be more relevant & great than that?
Glenn Branca – Symphony No. 1
Branca, an Emerson College alum (Go Lions!) with really cool hair, moved to NYC towards the end of the 70’s to do theater but got sucked into music instead. Member of the seminal & charming no wave pop band Theoretical Girls, he moved towards classical music in the vein of Reich, Glass, etc. but Branca was inspired by volume & sonic violence as much as minimalism, and he ended up making this—one of the greatest compositions of the 20th century. Brutality and beauty are indistinguishable from each other, and the whole thing makes Metal Machine Music feel like the work of a fumbling amateur. Masses of guitar and drones that build and build into a sustained ecstasy. Also great writing music if you’re stuck for inspiration.
Various Artists – Space Echo: The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed (Analog Africa)
So the backstory behind this one is either stranger than fiction or a delirious hoax. A ship transporting some late 1960’s state-of-the-art electronics gets lost and lands on the island of Cabo Verde. The press release goes on to talk about tribal elders, international investigations, and finally the instruments getting distributed amongst the tribesmen, whereupon their children take to them like ducks to disney hockey. Anyway, the music’s almost as incredible as the story behind it, and its easy grooves & bouncy synthlines make it perfect for your summer—most likely the hottest summer on record since the last one.
The Lines – Hull Down (Acute)
The Lines were a late-70’s/early-80’s UK band who seemed to hear all the incredible music going on around them and want to play it all back at once. Which made for great art even as it meant a quick ride to obscurity. Which is a shame, because their song ‘Blow A Kiss’ is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. That one’s not on here. This is from an unfinished third album that’s been put together in the wake of the 2008 reissues of their earlier stuff.
Sadly, this marks the last release from Acute, a label that’s put out reissues of Fire Engines, Theoretical Girls, and The Lines that were essential, life-changing records for me. And I’m now going to go check out everything else they ever released because I could use some essential, life-changing experiences today.
And judging by the way you’re sitting there fidgeting, constantly shifting your posture, so could you.