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New Music Week 3


John Grant – Grey Tickle, Black Pressure

Grant’s new album kinda sounds like if Beck had decided to stick with the funky surreal route after Midnite Vultures. With ‘sick’ beats and real weird lyrics, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is a cool new album that’s sure to please anyone who misses the time when really strange stuff was popular (i.e., the 90s) or people who aspire to one day wear green sweaters and own a tons of cats.

RIYL: Midnite Vultures era Beck, The Czars, Magnetic Fields The Beastie Boys

Tracks: Voodoo Doll, Grey Tickles Black Pressure, Guess How I Know, Disappointing


Balthazar – Thin Walls


Dark pop seduction in a bottle. Made with the help and experience of Jason Cox (Gorillaz) and Ben Hillier (Blur and Depeche Mode producer). Vocal styles of two leads balance nicely, like a slurring Jekyll and reserved Hyde. The whole album is about when it’s late and you’re horny like wolf.


RIYL: Arctic Monkeys, Lana Del Rey, Stand of Oaks, Lou Reed

Top Tracks: Decency, Then What, Nightclub



Music From The Summer Of 2015

Ducktails – St. Catherine


On his latest solo album as Ducktails, Matt Modanile of Real Estate fame returns with the jangly, summer guitar pop that we have all come to love. While decidedly unadventurous, St. Catherine is Modanile’s most cohesive and mature album yet, featuring tasteful production flourishes from the likes of James Ferraro and Elliot Smith producer Rob Schnapf. Matt Modanile seems to be on a quest to write an album that perfectly captures the feeling of driving by your ex highschool girlfriend’s house on a hazy summer day. And while St. Catherine isn’t that album, it still comes pretty close.

Top Tracks: Headbanging in the Mirror, Heaven’s Room, Reprise
RIYL: Kurt Vile, Real Estate, Mac DeMarco



Hinds – The Very Best of Hinds

I’m not entirely sure if it’s fair to create an album of only the singles you’ve released and call it the “Very Best”. Luckily, I’m willing to forgive Hinds since their songs are actually pretty great. They combine the “lofi California punk rock” that’s so prevalent nowadays with a more acousticy sound and somewhat nonsensical lyrics. Overall, this six song best of is fun to listen to, and the lyrics are simple and catchy enough that you’ll soon be singing along with your friends.

RIYL: Mac Demarco, Ty Segall, Together Pangea, Juan Wauter, any kinda retro sounding band
Tracks: Bamboo, Davy Crockett, Trippy



Mac Miller's GO:OD AM: A Review

When I first listened to Faces, Mac Miller’s spacey 2014 project, I was convinced he was gone for good. Its chromatic instrumentation and Mac’s drug-plagued slang illuminated the narcotic purgatory in which he had taken up residence. The mixtape’s aura was bleak, casually despondent, and the rapper seemed to acquiesce to his hedonistic habits too easily. But for the first time, it felt like he had some creative coherence; the winding, multifaceted project was excellent. Rumors that Mac had been tweaking his technical rapping abilities were substantiated in the most gratifying way possible.


It was so good, in fact, that Warner Brothers signed Mac to a $10 million dollar deal in October 2014. Fans of the Pittsburgh rapper and his Most Dope Family grew anxious. What would this mean? Was Mac, after an impressive, extended run with independent labels, finally selling out? The few freestyles and soundbites he released on SoundCloud, though very good, revealed nothing.


GO:OD AM, which dropped on September 18, is an elegant shift from Faces – not an about-face, but close. Things had changed. Mac had access to all the resources in the world compared to his independent-label releases. He had massive expectations to live up to. He was clean, for the most part, which he accomplished by holing up at Rick Rubin’s house in Malibu for weeks at a time. And for a 23-year-old, he had been through a lot. The biggest question for listeners, especially after Faces, was the vibe. What kind of attitude would Mac bring to the project, his first on a major label?




Perusing Spotify this summer, I noticed that a band I had seen recently was no longer showing up in my searches. I scrolled through my old radio playlists, finally stumbling across the time period when I could not get enough. Instead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., though, Spotify had changed the name to simply JR JR. I was alarmed and confused. I googled and I googled trying to figure out when and why the name had changed, but hilariously enough, the only articles that appeared were nascar related stories about the band’s name change, and how Dale Earnhardt Jr. was bummed. When a band changes their name from a gimmick to a nickname fans have given them, you’d assume that the style might shift along with the name change. Well, thank goodness that turned out not to be the case.

The sound may have shifted slightly, but their eponymous album released has the classic JR JR tropes and sounds, while also incorporating a number of different musical styles. Though few of the tracks they include on their albums (including the new release) are highly electronic remixes, JR JR often releases dope remixes on soundcloud, so if you’re like me and enjoyed the new album, keep your eyes and ears peeled. https://soundcloud.com/dale-earnhardt-jr-jr/war-zone-absofacto-goldenboyz Back to the album, though.


Spotlight: Gorge

use toms.

don’t say it art. 
say it gorge. 
Gorge is a subgenre of Japanese electronic music that loves toms. An insular group of bootists (Gorge-makers) have been releasing manic, cyclical tracks on net labels like gorge.in and Terminal Explosion since about 2012. As the genre has matured, the bpm has increased and the music has splintered off in different directions. There’s Gorjuke, a tom heavy, maximalist vision of Chicago-area Juke and Footwork, and Gorap, which, unsurprisingly, is Gorge with people rapping over it, usually in Japanese.

Lurking in the background is the Japanese tradition of Taiko, or kumi-daiko, drumming, which connects these very forward-looking producers with an ancient, ancestral past. Hard to really know how much to make of that connection, but it does fit nicely within a broader sense of theoretical minimalism and self-imposed restraint at play in the genre.
Aesthetically, Gorge is fond of appropriating caving and climbing stock images, images of mountains, spelunking, etc. Rocks and other sublunary things. It’s also pretty deep into the net art scene. The genre is supposed to have started in the mountains of Kathmandu, Nepal. It's all very intentionally opaque, but mountains are important.   

As far as beginnings, hanali’s Gorge is Gorge is the right place to start. It was released in August of 2012 and is a good touchstone for gauging how much has changed since then. I’ve provided links to some of the heavy hitters in the genre (Ax, kamingcar, Yuko Lotus, ToM Network, etc.), a few of my favorite tracks, and some record labels that put out Gorge as well. Dig in!  

Racism & Homophobia in Disco Criticism

It took me 20 years to get into Disco. This lackadaisical process wasn’t the result of a passive listening lifestyle or growing up in a non-musical family (I consider myself a pretty serious consumer of music / my mother is a cellist, my father is a Post-Punk aficionado, my brother started his own record label). Rather, I suspect something far more sinister.

Looking back I realize that I had always been taught that Disco was a “funny” or “weird” art form. Everybody (my siblings, parents, friends, et cetera) presented it to me as cultural comedy. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this - just think back to your early encounters with the art: I guarantee that Disco was only ever “taught” to you through its (admittedly eccentric) customs, media presence, drug culture, pant styles, and hairdos. Can any of you honestly remember a time when you deeply contemplated the Disco music itself between the ages of 5 and 15?

I wasn’t upset upon first identifying this musical void; I just thought that I’d come to the party late like anybody getting into any older genre or band. That all changed when I took a music course last term that included a two-week section on Disco music. It was a listening-based class and thus I spent a lot of time deeply contemplating the form, production traits, songwriting styles, and cultural influence of Disco songs. Upon emerging from this segment, I was astonished by the (seemingly-infinite) well of music that had been written off by society throughout my whole life.  These tracks were revolutionary in their envelope-pushing studio techniques (just listen to those hi-hats!), inspiring in their harmonic artistry (many Disco bass lines border on profound), and just so positive in nature that I couldn’t believe they’d been obscured from me and my peers for so long.


Instrument Spotlight

The following is a fictional personal anecdote about the hydraulophone. The anecdote is designed to incorporate interesting facts about hydraulophones (and bonus facts too!) and leave you with an understanding of an instrument you may have never heard of. The setting is Ontario Science Centre, Canada. The weather is warm with a slight breeze coming from the northwest. My reason for travelling so far from home: to hear the Ontario Science Center’s hydraulophone in action with my own two ears. I arrive on the scene, the wind still waltzing, dancing with my hair and the bellbottoms on my jeans. The hydraulophone arrives within my sight, and I notice it is taller than the ones I have seen in water parks and hot tubs, other places where ambitious artists and engineers have erected them. It’s certainly more elegant than the lego shaped hydraulophone at the entrance to the legoland waterpark in Carlsbad California. 


NeW MusiC WeeK 8

Fool's Gold - Flying Lessons

Fool's Gold bouncing, delightful third LP is a perfect summer album. Sounding like a mixture of Vampire Weekend and Remain in Light-era Talking Heads, Fool's Gold blends African inspired rhythms with American pop sensibilities to create catchy jams.  While the vocals of this release are disappointingly in English as opposed to the rumbling Hebrew of their first release, they still do well framed by the shiny guitars and organic sounding drums that make up the majority of the instrumentation on this record. All of this is complemented by excellent and airy production that lets each note ring out.

RIYL: Vampire Weekend, Talking Heads, Devo
Top Tracks: I'm in Love, Break the Cycle, Another Sun

Du Blonde – Welcome Back To Milk

Psychedelic folk star Beth Jeans Houghton has decided to completely ditch her odd sound acoustic tracks in favor of a new name and distortion driven rock songs. Mostly, it works. At its worst, Welcome Back To Milk can sound like something you would hear at 2 in the afternoon on a classic rock station when they only play 80s glam rock. At its best, however, Du Blonde proves she can write a really solid rock song.

RIYL: David Bowie, Beth Jeans Houghton, Glam rock
Top Tracks: Black Flag, Raw Honey, If You’re Legal, Mind is On My Mind



New Music Week 7

Shamir - Ratchet

Shamir's first album positions the 20 year old singer at the forefront of the burgeoning electronic r&b scene. Following up his  first EP, Ratchet is dazzling. Crisp, spacious production that emulates old school Detroit techno by producer Nick Sylvester highlights Shamir's almost impossibly high voice that seems to straddle the line between feminine and masculine. These two work together to create create incredibly catchy pop that emulates the best of Michael Jackson or Prince.

RIYL: Michael Jackson, FKA Twigs, Justin Timberlake, Sylvan Esso
Top Tracks: On the Regular, Call it Off, Youth

Chappo - Future Former Self

This Brooklyn group's newest album is an ambitious blend of traditional psych rock and experimental production. Making full use of autotune, glowing synthesizer, and something that seems almost like rapping but not quite, Chappo sometimes falls short of making perfectly coherent songs. But when this album does come together, it does so beautifully, with tracks like Orange Afternoon and I'm Not Ready putting forward some of the better psych rock I've heard recently.

RIYL: The Flaming Lips, MGMT, Temples
Top Tracks: Orange Afternoon, I'm Not Ready, Hey-O