you could criticize lcd soundsystem‘s music for being derivative (then again, what music isn’t?), especially in their latest album this is happening with more than obvious nods to talking heads (the spiraling polyrhythms of “pow pow”), joy division (the “transmission” guitars on “all i want”) and of course the velvet underground (“drunk girls” as an updated dance version of “white light/white heat”). one thing james murphy and co. execute quite originally, though, is their swagger, which is in turn rather impossible to replicate. you sense it right at the start of the record when the low levels of the first three minutes of album opener “dance yourself clean” trick you into turning up the volume. only they could pull off something like that, and only hopeless fans like us could fall for it.
in the nine-minute epic “you wanted a hit”, the cockiness goes a level up with murphy turning his nose up at record execs and fans alike (“you wanted a hit?/maybe we don’t do hits“), playing down the glorified state of music (“there’s lights and sounds and stories/music’s just a part“) whilst questioning the illusive demand for truth and reality. it’s a self-deprecating sort of swagger that’s unapologetic of its own shameless use of gimmicks (“no, honestly, we’re never smart/we fake it all the time“), urging you to not take it too seriously or read too much into things. it all sounds awfully liberating, perhaps as a parting short of sorts since this is supposed to be their last album. gimmick or not, there’s no better way of saying goodbye. - dan.
mp3: lcd soundsystem – you wanted a hit
this is happening is out now on dfa records.
She has never been the most convincing singer, but I must admit I really enjoy listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg warble her way through her most recent album IRM. With its chilly ambience and the subterraneous unease present in the songs, the IRM experience feels a bit like eavesdropping on a menagerie of rainy day women. Beck Hansen’s collaborative presence in the overall scheme of things is rather critical here, both in terms of elevating IRM’s pop sophistication and also for the high caliber of retro flavors he brings to the album production. The skiffling rhythms and chalky strings of “Dandelion” evoke ever so deftly the sense of transport into an illusionary realm that’s out of joint with basic realities, Gainsbourg’s thin vocals adding a rather sensuous edge to its spidery notion of mystery. It also conjures a mood of vague and indefinable perils, of being momentarily seized by dark impulses that are unlikely to be benign. - keith.
mp3: charlotte gainsbourg – dandelion
IRM is available on because music.
i was just finishing up listening to caribou’s swim on my itunes when the player spilled over to the next song on the playlist – carlon‘s “cantaloupe”. i can’t remember how or where i got this song, but i love moments like these when something unexpected hits you and grabs your attention immediately. “cantaloupe” is a straightforward five minute southern folk ballad, achingly delivered amidst sweeping layers of psychedelic textures. it plods along wearily, keeping in step with its theme on the painful drudgery of living a life marked by buried lies and conversations run dry, in turn revealing what it really is – a breakup song that dwells not on the common responses of angst or vengeance, but on a hauntingly earnest reflection of past regrets and the very real present question of why. - dan.
mp3: carlon – cantaloupe
“cantaloupe” is taken from the band’s debut album johari window. get your copy now from cd baby.
for one trained in ornithology, jonathan meiburg’s choice of naming his band after a bird is hardly surprising. but settling on shearwater – a variety of seabirds – couldn’t be more apt, especially in the golden archipelago. like its namesake, the band delves into the album’s singular but expansive theme of island exploration from a bird’s eye view, unafraid to be guided by the winds, and content to stay as long as the magic of discovery remains. it’s a perspective that takes us “over the ocean/winging low” as narrated in album opener “meridian”, which unveils the new horizons by bringing us to that “first wave/and the flares that fall/like fireflies/on the islands“. utterly absorbing. - dan.
mp3: shearwater – meridian
the golden archipelago was released earlier this year on matador.
unlike the previous months, we don’t know that much about the singaporean band we’re showcasing this time. but we’ve been enjoying the great empty‘s music all the same, so do check it out and pop down to their bandcamp page for a free download their ep desire the creator. this feature is brought to you as always by our local music ambassador brian koh, who selects a singaporean band every month alongside almost 40 other bloggers from all over the world. enjoy!
update: jason, who initiated and runs MAP, has just had his blog the pop cop indiscriminately shut down by blogger/google. you may read more about what happened here, and show your support by joining the facebook group. do also check out brian’s post about this, which captures perfectly our respect for the work jason has done, and our outrage at blogger/google’s actions.we hope to see you back soon, jason!
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Great Empty – Intro (Pattern & The Essence)
Great Empty are an experimental, instrumental band. One of the most beautiful aspects of their music is the raw simplicity that lies at the heart of all their tunes. There is no need for grand opuses, or pitch-perfect production quality. I think flaw is their gift to the realm of music, to ache and bleed out the last vestiges of honest emotion beyond the limits of control. It is heartfelt music, something that’s worth remembering and listening to. - brian.
the only bill callahan album i’m familiar with is his smog release of a river ain’t too much to love. and it’s just as well, since his recent live album which i’ve been listening to quite a bit lately – rough travel for a rare thing – features a rather generous selection of songs from that record. the outdoor themes he loves to explore (particularly horses) is usually lost on me, a hopeless city dweller who’s only ridden on a horse once in his life. yet, the way he performs the songs, especially live, captures perfectly the ebb and flow of the moods, emotions and yearnings of the country life i’ll never fully understand. in “let me see the colts”, his sense of pace and timing is impeccable, and his simple use of repetition in melody so entrancing, especially when delivered with his trademark deadpan baritone that speaks knowingly of a wearisome drudgery while echoing in the stillness of the air. - dan.
mp3: bill callahan – let me see the colts
rough travel for a rare thing is out now on drag city in both vinyl and digital formats.
we spent much of last night reading more than a year’s worth of jens lekman’s online journal. i’ve loved his music for quite a while, that humorous, romantic personality of his that inhabits each of his songs, but never had i ventured to read his online writings. i’ve always found it a little weird following the musings of a stranger. it seems to give us the false impression that we know someone who we really don’t.
yet, reading jens’ journal is quite a different thing. as we concluded at the end of our marathon reading session, we see that same lovable personality in the things he writes about, and we get a glimpse of the bizarre way his mind works, but there’s this feeling we still don’t really know him, and that distance remains, probably for the better.
that’s not to say i don’t identify with jens. his writings, as with his songs, speak to me on a personal level, and it’s hard not to when he shares his memories and anecdotes like any good friend would. at the same time, though, he avoids becoming confessional by blurring the line between imagination and reality, not with any intention to deceive or conceal, but simply because that’s what the best stories are made of, something which becomes that little bit more magical when you hear it in song. - dan.
mp3: jens lekman – i saw her at the anti war demonstration
It’s probably fair to suggest that one can’t listen to Teen Dream, the terrific third album released earlier this year by Beach House, without being besieged by feelings of unbridled nostalgia. The best of Beach House’s songs are situated in the kind of soporific dream state where deep desires are set into rhyming motion with the tinge of vulnerability always inherent in their music; incidentally, singer Victoria Legrand has professed in a recent interview that she wishes people would have sex while listening to Teen Dream.
“Better Times” is executed in the same vein but there seems to be a more profound melancholy at work behind the whirring organ and Alex Scally’s thawing guitars. The music’s bittersweet tone is echoed by the raw intimacy in Legrand’s singing part here, her vocals sounding elegiac and yet brittle as she rhapsodizes about the transience of love and relationships. The song rekindles the sense of guileless romantic longing that has been ever present in all three of their records – even if Legrand sounds wizened by unconsummated romance, “Better Times” still draws its grandeur from the residual memories of being in the arms of someone who once made you feel younger than yesterday. - keith.
mp3: beach house – better times
Teen Dream is Beach House’s first release on Sub Pop.
I simply cannot get enough of the Crystal Castles sound. Sometimes, when life is a swirling mess, you try looking for the most complimentary music to go along with your soundtrack, and the vile concoction of Ethan Kath and Alice Glass is the perfect mix to start your day, like two gins every morning.
“Baptism” is exactly what it is, a baptism under fire into the psychotic world of Ethan Kath. His programming on this particular track is a mindbending cacophony of euro trance, minimal tech and house, coupled with the psychosis of Alice Glass’s vocals that grate like it was crushed in your ear. It’s not pretty, I don’t even know what she’s singing about, but it makes sense. And sometimes, that’s all you’re looking for. - brian
mp3: crystal castles – baptism
Crystal Castles will be out physically on May 24 on Fiction Records. In the meantime, you may purchase the digital version of the album on Itunes.
shaking tokyo is bong joon-ho’s contribution to tokyo!, an anthology of three short films, each involving surrealist/absurdist plots set in that city. bong’s protagonist is a hikikomori or hermit who’s walled himself in his apartment for a decade, driven by his aversion to human contact of any sort. his perfect world, painstakingly self-sufficient and obsessively ordered, is shaken both by an earthquake and the concurrent appearance of a fellow hikikomori who he falls in love with, and for whom he faces the unthinkable dilemma between staying in his fortress or leaving it to face the blinding light of the outside world. this tension, already epitomized in a certain song title by the clash, is revisited in more accessible terms more recently by cults with their debut 7″ single, “go outside”, which dwells on the conflicting desires of going outside to “see the day” and holing up at home to “sleep the light away”. you don’t have to be a hikikomori to know that feeling. - dan.
mp3: cults – go outside
the cults 7″ is sold out, but is available for free download on their bandcamp page.