It takes some sort of an emotional blow to hold on to every word being sung, like it was the gospel of truth itself.
So maybe I’m not in the best place emotionally, and this song started as something hopeful, something to embrace were it to play at my favourite indie club, but now I find it’s full dread, and there’s a part of me that will always want to remember what I was trying to forget.
They should still play this, near the end of the night, just as you start to feel the perspiration across the nape of your neck. A cold wind blowing to sweep the excess feelings of euphoria and regret, mixed together into the incense that you offer to the machinations of irony and wish it all away in one fell swoop. – Brian.
I want to forget / I want lights to / Blind me / I want to / Want to disappear / Oh DJ ease my mind will you / Play that song again / Because we were in love / Before / Before the rain begins / And if I cry / Cover my ears
mp3: Niki & The Dove – DJ, Ease My Mind
“I did not become someone different that I did not want to be, but I’m new here“.
With Bill Callahan‘s deadpan delivery, these words don’t elicit much empathy. Instead, they operate in a normalised, everyday context, an idealised Smog world celebrating the commonplace, where being new is but one point in an ongoing, repeated cycle of living and reliving, just as it is.
Under Gil Scott-Heron‘s interpretation five years later, those same words take on very different meanings. Stripped of their comforts, they sound slightly upsetting. Who didn’t you want to be? What had you become? What are you doing here? For Scott-Heron, turning around isn’t about returning, but becoming something, someone new. There is redemption, and hope of true transformation, just like his own.
I was skeptical about Jamie xx‘s remix, but my intuition couldn’t be more wrong. Was a remix of a cover necessary? Clearly not, yet it shows itself to be the most surprising. The audacity of sharing that ‘newness’ with Scott-Heron and rearranging his lines seems to actually render that transformation complete, going as far as making redemption the sweetest thing, just as we like it. – Dan.
mp3: Smog – I’m New Here
mp3: Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here
mp3: Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx – I’m New Here
Smog’s A River Ain’t Too Much To Love (2005) was released on Drag City. Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here (2010) and Jamie xx’s remix album We’re New Here (2011) are out now on XL.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Caracal – Bears
Brazen smatterings of post-hardcore and hard rock are the name of Caracal’s game, something they do exceptionally well. There are shades of Underoath, Fugazi and mewithoutYou all over their straight-shooting, swashbuckler of an album, Bear. Shark. Wolf. Even if the music’s genre isn’t your cup of tea, one thing you can never fault this young band on is how proudly they wear their hearts on the sleeves, beating loudly for all the world to sit up and take notice. – Brian.
To download all 36 songs in one file click here
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Tagged caracal, map
The opening two songs of Furniture‘s long-awaited sophomore album They Made Me Out of Dreams You Forgotten seem intent on presenting two very different sides of the Malaysian band. While “Once Set in Stone” opens the album as a fairy tale, sweet and at times whimsical, “Entrails” turns, turns, turns things around, providing a stubborn antithesis with its harsher edges and dischordant experimentation with yes, the lovely squall of those horns.
Even so, these two seemingly divergent paths aren’t as well defined as they would appear. Fairy tales end on a bittersweet note with the resolution to “leave the ever-afters behind”. And whilst “digging for something real”, the band really does seem to find what they’re looking for amidst the chaos. Surprisingly, perhaps in line with the album’s greater clarity of production and vision compared to the band’s hazier shoegaze debut Twilight Chases the Sun (2005), these opposing trajectories are resolved rather early by track three.
Misleadingly titled “False Start”, this is in fact where Furniture really takes off. The intro reins in the once wayward horns into a willing collusion, setting a blistering pace despite the opening admission of age and cynicism spent. This is also where the band’s indiepop inclinations, channeled through the Labrador-school vocals of Ronnie Khoo, is bolstered by a tight, rocking, and magically paced rhythm section. It’s a song that rewards you for staying the course with a rousing finale that turns out to be the opening fanfare for the rest of a thoroughly enjoyable album. – Dan.
mp3: Furniture – False Start
They Made Me Out of Dreams You Forgotten is available from Furniture’s Bandcamp Page.
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Tagged furniture, malaysia
The National have already got a few memorable albums under their belt, notably their 2007 indie breakthrough Boxer, but here is my favorite song by the band by some distance, released some seven years ago on their Cherry Tree EP (2004). Performed in a detached register, there is something less than cogent about the musical arrangement of “Wasp Nest” that nevertheless evokes an intoxicating late-night cadence compatible with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose. Picture Matt Berninger, in character, making a quick study of the spiral of uninteresting strangers at some party, then setting his sights on the girl with the immaculately bobbed hair, only to lament in his weary baritone about “all your wrath and cutting beauty, you’re poison in a pretty glass”. – Keith.
mp3: The National – Wasp Nest
Don’t miss The National’s first-time performance in Singapore on March 15, as part of the Mosaic Music Festival 2011.
How rad is the new Lykke Li record? The 24-year-old Swedish singer has got style and confidence in spades, and her second album Wounded Rhymes is an enthralling excursion into a hardboiled wonderland of melodies and desire. Musically sturdier than her debut Youth Novels (2008), the ten songs on Wounded Rhymes color her portraits of heartbreak and loneliness with a new palette of sophisticated, shape-shifting sounds – in the form of the vamped up exuberance on lead single “Get Some”, the baroque swoon of “Love Out Of Lust”, and the understated melancholy of “Unrequited Love” and “I Know Places”.
Recorded during a stint in California and apparently while she was ‘romanticizing the idea of Los Angeles when the Doors, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young were hanging out there”, Li’s vocal performance on Wounded Rhymes reverberates with a sensual energy that manages to both transcend and deepen the sense of romantic restlessness captured on the new songs. “Paris Blue”, the non-album B-side to the “Get Some” single, is recorded pretty much in the same vein of Wounded Rhymes – a somewhat Lynchian torch ballad that effortlessly conjures up a vertiginous mood of yearning. And so empires crumble, republics founder. But fools must go on. – Keith.
mp3: Lykke Li – Paris Blue
Wounded Rhymes is available directly from lykkeli.com
Colin Stetson plays a variety of woodwinds. On his recently released New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, he plays a solo saxophone, recording his tracks live in a single (and usually, first) take, accompanied sometimes by the guest appearances of Laurie Anderson and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden. The latter delivers a vocal performance of a lifetime in her cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes”, dripping with soul and affection, enveloped by Stetson’s signature unceasing mourn.
But the focal point of Judges has to be Stetson’s delivery, captured in its immediacy and spontaneity with an array of mics positioned throughout the studio room, clustered around the air of the horn, inside the instrument, and even on his throat. The sensitive recording arrangement, though, is merely a platform – and a highly refined one at that – to capture the musical breadth and emotional depth of Stetson’s playing, which reminds me of the playful free-spiritedness of Ornette Coleman and the woe-stained expressionism of Charles Mingus.
In “The Stars in His Head”, Stetson’s saxophone forms a pulsating, circular structure upon which he builds throughout the track, developing a quick-stepping percussion and a varying dialogue between the wordless cries of his throat and the increasingly frantic reactions of the horn. It’s amazing how one man practically manages such a seemingly impossible task, but what proves to be even more stunning is Stetson’s foresight in envisioning and delivering a work as beautifully complex as this. – Dan.
mp3: Colin Stetson – The Stars in His Head (Dark Lights Remix)
New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is out now on Constellation.