This week was very, very good in music. First, one of the only artists I’ve enjoyed since my teenage years had a quietly triumphant return. Next, I saw an incredible film called The Lobster. Finally, a couple big surprises hit me. Sure, a lot of hours were spent with the Underworld back catalog, but there was plenty of time to discover new stuff. I heard the incredible rebirth of an artist I’d forgotten about, and had my perceptions blown away by another.
Let’s go over the good stuff:
Bullion – Loop the Loop
I had no idea that Bullion was back with a new full length album. I’m actually really surprised that this managed to slip by me so completely. Just the other day, a friend and I were talking about how huge Pet Sounds: In the Key of Dee was, what a mindblowing record it was, despite being “only” a mashup of Beach Boys and J Dilla music. That mix not only showed the chops of a great producer, but the fact that he has a seriously sharp ear for pop sensibilities.
The London producer, real name Nathan Jenkins, always remained in my heart, if not always on my radar. Still, I jumped at the chance to hear anything new. His subsequent releases, few and far between, fleshed out his talent for hooks and evolved his beat construction. But nothing felt as vibrant as that mashup until now.
Loop the Loop is a giant leap, a new introduction for Bullion. At 43 minutes, it’s his longest release by far, allowing him room to stretch out and inhabit his fully revealed role as a preternatural pop sculptor in the mold of Brian Wilson. The major connective tissue is a wiry, tropical production sound that’s cut through with tangible elements like violin and Rhodes piano. Songs like Unless skate into full-on beached out bliss, arcs of sunshine splitting azure synth beds while the Beach Boys inspired vocals reverb into infinity.
I’m reminded of the ancient rush I felt listening to The Russian Futurists a decade ago. Back when I discovered that maximalist, harmony-laden pop was still being made in the weird corner bedrooms and basement apartments of the world. It felt important and huge
You can listen digitally on the Bandcamp page or on vinyl pretty much anywhere.
Torn Hawk – Feeling Is Law
This song was surprising in the same way Bullion’s new release was: a well liked but nearly forgotten artist hit me out of nowhere with something incredibly new. Torn Hawk was, to me, the guy who made vaporwave epics like Born To Win (Life After Ghostbusters), yet here I am listening to a song that pulses with horns, spare guitar arpeggios, tribal percussion, weaving a tight narrative with a grand sense of adventure.
I guess I’m reminded of artsy bands like Talk Talk or Japan, or even the quiet ambition of The Durutti Column, but it’s a giant leap into fresh territory for Torn Hawk, aka Luke Wyatt.
The album drops May 13 but you can order it from Mexican Summer already.
Underworld – Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future
I wrote about this album earlier this week, so I’ll just quote myself with a pair of bookends from the much larger write up:
Instead of grasping onto their old footholds as the greatest dance sculptors on earth, the group is embracing their role as a metaphysical soul band. Instead of the ecstatic rush of Born Slippy, we get the wobbling hum of Motorhome. Instead of transcendent club burners, we get meditative weirdo pop for the 23rd century. It’s perfect in its own way.
While each of the seven tracks on this album burns with its own distinct energy, they all share a deep seated empathy for the lost things in life. Underworld has always made anthems for loners, losers, and the hopelessly lost. With Barbara, they’ve finally shed the impulse to call these souls to a new place. They’ve finally become the band they’ve been all along, hiding just below the surface.
This film hit me out of nowhere. I had no idea that Yorgos Lanthimos, the director of Dogtooth, had released a new film in 2015 until a review of The Lobster appeared on my Twitter feed, timed to its wide release. I can’t remember where it was, but I watched the trailer and felt a powerful urge to see the movie as soon as possible. It turned out even better than I’d hoped.
The humor is pitch black in this dystopian love story about a society in which people must be paired up with a partner by a certain age, or be turned into an animal. Seriously. Colin Farrell is a man beginning his final 45 day quest for love at a resort for those desperately facing their transformation. Rachel Weisz is a woman he’s not even allowed to flirt with. Léa Seydoux is also in it and she’s as enigmatic as she is beautiful. It’s not a traditional romance at all, but a deeply weird rumination on the tyranny of love itself in culture. At least, that’s my take on it. I haven’t felt so refreshed and energized from a film in months.
So that’s it for this week.