Monday, May 10, 2010

The Xx's Intro

It's after midnight and I'm speeding down city streets, the air is cool, and fragrances of desert flowers are in the air. I contemplate the last few years I've spent trying to find myself, purpose, and love. Air brushes so swiftly across my face it's difficult to breath and the Xx's song
Intro is playing on my stereo. Without words this song describes exactly how I feel, cold on the outside yet hot in my heart, sad but deeply at peace, but mostly contemplative. There comes a point in your life when everything you've seen, felt, and accomplished leads to the realization that being a good person and happy is not enough, there is something else that must be present to bring one peace. I once heard that by 22, Ghandi had 3 kids; Motzart, 37 symphonies; and Buddy Holly was dead. What got them through despite hard circumstances was they believed in what they were doing, they knew they were creating something important. For many, including the Xx's, the need to create is that peace even when the world feels it is in turmoil. I think when you don't have that peace of mind, despite great effort, one feels a crushing desire to flee. Some nights before I fall asleep I get an itch too get in my car and drive. To move across deserts, into the plains, past oceans, then through to the south hiding somewhere media doesn't follow and dreams come to die. This desire to accomplish yet also to escape, despite experiences of love and passion is what the Xx's album is all about. Described as the voice of young London for good reason, many of their songs were written when the band members were between 16-19. The band expounds that many tracks were recorded late at night in garage studios helping us to understand their hushed vocal duets and a brilliantly inventive use of samples. The Low-end frequencies produce stark, sweet, melancholic pop.  The Xx's post wave sound is interesting considering their style is part goth part London punk and a splash of mod. There is an overwhelming sentiment that their music has sex as a central theme as even described as "makeout music for cool kids"... and I tend to agree. This summer's good music, is not in your face like years past, but subtle  and almost a background soundtrack for our lives. While not a household name yet, the Xx's have been featured widely in the media and noted as rising stars.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pirate radio

Documenting London's underground music movement, VBS.TV feature Pirate Radio is a fascinating look at music promotion and broadcasting in the face of established sources.



It's early morning far beyond sunset yet hours until the sun rises. I'm thinking about passages from Beautiful Boy, a father's novel on his son's drug addiction. This year I read a piece about Connor Oberst in Rolling Stone, saw an interview with Stephan Jenkins, and read His Bright Light, biography of Nick Traina on their experiences with life and drugs. Subtle but pervasive is an undercurrent of influence in tones of drugs, aimlessness, and at times a disenfranchised youth coming into our culture. Capturing the experiences and thoughts of this generation quite well, folk can be captivating and deeply personal. The Wooden Sky is folk rock at it's best and perhaps one of the best bands you've never heard of. The 2009 release of If I Don't Come Home I'm Gone uses acoustic melodies, a touch of blues, and well written lyrics to guide you through the lyrics inspired by frontman Andrew Wyatt. Sometimes dark yet candid, personal, and beautiful; TWS is a great contrast in folk to fellow musicians like Ray Lamontagne or Dawn Landes whose song Lullaby For Tony is included. Something Hiding For Us In The Night and When Lost at Sea are among my personal favorites of TWS



Swedish producers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg combine forces with American songwriter Andrew Wyatt to create sensation Miike Snow. With singles "Animal"," Silvia", and "Black and Blue" featured in gossip girl and MTV's The Buried Life, Miike Snow is quickly crossing into American Mainstream. Enjoy the remix by Emalkay of "Silvia".



Psychedelic Surf

I heard Congratulations, MGMT's sophomore release, and at first had mixed feelings, unsure if I liked the new style and sound. Andrew and Ben decided as a means of creative expression, not to release any of the songs as singles. They instead chose to allow the media to release songs at their discretion. While this will be confusing for industry folks in radio, I think it will be an exciting experiment. Giving the new tracks a second chance with several more listens, I was pleasantly surprised. Congratulations plays like a psychedelic surf-rock album in which pieces of songs may stand out more than the songs as a whole. Subtle in sound many of the songs are more personal and mature, moving away from their previous DIY format. Unlike Oracular Spectacular,Congratulations is a concept album and is best heard straight though as a whole for the first time. I liked it overall and was impressed with how catchy, "I Found a Whistle" to be with feelings of opiatic highs and tinges of loneliness in its melody. Another tune that is nonconventional yet interesting was lengthy track "Siberian Breaks" not for those with a short attention span. Overall there will be mixed reviews, but I find that an indication of good art and not a reflection of failure. The Album drops April 13'th.



It's the winter of 2002 and I'm standing in the middle of a dispersing crowd waiting for the next act to start. Nearly a century old, the Sunshine Theater was originally a massive movie theater constructed in 1924 bolstering feelings of desert culture and decay. There is a static in the air, typical of shows in Albuquerque. The crowd is restless waiting in anticipation. Crammed behind two large bodies, I struggle towards the bar area when suddenly I'm struck by a song so unusual I decide to instantly switch direction and head to the DJ booth. The song is synth, high in syncopation with dark melodies, it's captivating. When I get to the booth chaos around us, all I can hear is a part of a name, something... "cheeba". The exact song would allude me for the rest of my life, but not it's style or origins. I would find it's home midway through 2006 in the UK garage scene. Mary Hobbs would bring it to the public via Radio 1 in London.

It's summer of 2009 and I'm attending dance parties in NY, LA, and Alb. Electronic music has taken root and sees no sign of slowing down. Synth pop is leaking into American mainstream and while there is something new about it, the sound takes me back to that song I heard years before. 

Today I'm listening to West Wickham's Oliver Jones AKA Skream. Brilliant in the art of dubstep, he has taken the London scene by force, producing music since age of 15. Jone's has gained notoriety for his remixes; including La Roux's "In for the Kill" and "Midnight Request Line", dubstep's most recognizable crossover hit. Today I feature his collaborative work with Dave Gahan from album, "Hourglass". I Saw is a beautiful and captivating piece that reminds me of underground parties in the warehouse district in Manhattan. As synth and dubsteap become more popular I predict an American following in Skream's work similar to that in the UK or Germany. Enjoy, the fade into 1:32 on this track, its filthy.


Future Islands

Future Islands will take you by surprise. Startling in appearance and sound but bursting in gritty captivating vocals, frontman Sam Herring's 3 year project is guaranteed to leave an impression. Claiming both NC and Baltimore as their home, Future Islands' sound has combined elements of southern rock blues with synth-pop. Like Wesleyan Mafia members MGMT, Future Islands is a group of friends and art students who broke new ground in self proclaimed "post wave" music. Audiences will likely enjoy "Tin Man" or "Vireo's Eye". ⌘ copy will stand behind "Beach Foam" as their best track yet. Inspired by the death of a close friend, "In early 2006, right before we started writing songs for Future Islands, after funeral ceremonies, me, William [Cashion, bassist] and our friend Kim went to the beach to smoke and reminisce about Jim. When we got out to the water there was [sic] one to two feet walls of foam in parallel lines as far as we could see in both directions. I'd never seen anything like it and, of course, in our fragile states we saw it as some divine providence. The song was penned a week or two later. The song isn't about death. It’s more about looking out into nothing and everything, just wanting something... which in a way, when a friend passes, you always look for answers wherever you can." - Sam Herring on "Beach Foam". The song speaks for itself, listen once hate it, listen twice fall in love. It is difficult not to respect the authenticity of this song in the context of living in fast times with simple dreams and living it with humility. Future Islands is sometimes a hard sell but ultimately a band you won't want to part with.

April 4 – Brooklyn, NY @ Glasslands (w/Air Waves, Guardian Alien)


Jonsi is the nickname of Jon Thor Birgisson, openly gay Icelandic post-rock band singer of Sigur Rós. Well known for their beautiful and haunting melodies highly acclaimed and winner of best MTV video 2003. This week Jonsi drops "Go" a predominantly acoustic and string arrangement composed by Nico Muhly. The album takes you through a journey that is serene, beautiful, and haunting with songs like Tornado. 


"Although disguised

I know you

you grow like tornado

I wonder if I'm allowed ever to see

I wonder if I'm allowed to ever be free

You sound so blue

You now are gloom

I wonder if I'm allowed just ever to be" 

Sometimes hard to understand because of his ambiguous lyrics and falsetto voice, this album will take you through a journey of lighthearted tones from "Animal Arithmetic" to the somber "Tornado" which I think to be about love and hardship. I agree with writer Chris Azzopardi in that "Go" says,

"Life is beautiful. Live it. Feel it and Make out".

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