What I’m Into This Week (7/17 – 7/23)

Miles Ahead screenshot

I only mention current events in these weekly posts to give context to the words I write and the music I share. The circumstances in which we listen are important. Music might help  buffer the hardness of the world, but he world informs it all the same.

That being said, I don’t even know what to say about what’s happening in America lately. Everyone seems to have lost hope. I know it’s not true, but dark attitudes are in the wind. I’m doing my part to remind those around me that things can and do get better. The fact that there’s always beautiful new music is enough proof for me.

This week I’ve only got two things to talk about, but they’re really important to me: Sade and the new Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead.

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Animal Collective – My Girls

Animal Collective 2009

In the grand scheme of things, Animal Collective’s fever-pitch impact on the internet music world of 2009 isn’t much of a blip, but to my friends and I, living and breathing and freaking out on last.fm, it was the event of an age.

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What I’m Into This Week (3/20 – 3/26)

Dope 2015

This week’s real world brought a deadly terrorist attack in Belgium, while the music world brought the premature death of a hip-hop hero. It was downers all around, and I struggled personally with some dark moments too. At least in my own case, I try to meditate, focus, and seek the healing power of art. This is how I keep perspective.

It’s also how I end up sharing music. Here we go:

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Fishmans – Uchu Nippon Setagaya

fishmansalbum

Have you ever heard of Fishmans? If not, that’s okay, because you’re here. I’m sharing their most incredible album. Uchu Nippon Setagaya is pure dub nirvana from Japan.

As a true believer in dub in all its permutations, I wholeheartedly consider this one of the best examples of the genre. Fishmans lit a constellation spanning the night sky from Kingston and Tokyo, mixing lush electronics, deep, wobbly bass lines, and the utterly distinct, androgynous vocals of lead singer Shinji Sato. Their final album may be the purest expression of this unmistakable sound.

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Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

Cocteau Twins made some of the most unique music of all time. I could hear a two second clip from any song in their catalog and know instantly who it is. This is the only dream pop band that sounds like it came from actual dreams.  People tend to love everything they’ve done, or nothing at all. I’ve been addicted for years.

At the center of that iconic sound is Elizabeth Fraser’s ethereal, incomprehensible vocals. Her voice is so expressive and inscrutable, it conveys worlds of emotion and narrative without the crutch of recognizable vocals. Concrete words float to the surface now and then, throwing the mood into sharp relief. Most of the time, we’re floating along a string of syllables, interlocking melody and tone without language. It’s a real life special effect.

Here’s the title track from their greatest album, Heaven or Las Vegas.

One thing that stands out with this track is the fact that I can actually make out a portion of the lyrics, including the title phrase. It’s a rare moment of total clarity that crystalizes the punchier sound they were going for on their final release for the legendary 4ad label. Heaven or Las Vegas mutated the band’s somnambulent drift with crisper, more overtly electronic production that, to me, teased out the inherent chest-pounding catchiness of their best songs. It’s not exactly club music, but the technicolor dynamic is far better suited for high volume enjoyment with friends.

The band, including guitarist and producer Robin Guthrie and bassist Simon Raymonde, always created a consciousness-defying, holistic sound. Listening to their albums is like hearing a single living instrument more than a group of actual humans working together. With this album, they cranked up the saturation and surrendered to the groove.

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Who have I got to thank for this great musical love? Probably Gregg Araki, director of weird and weirdly tender masterpieces like Mysterious Skin and Nowhere. His aesthetic runs all over the place, sometimes feeling like nihilistic Looney Tunes, but every single one of his films are tied together with perfect dream pop and shoegaze soundtracks. For the last 25 years, Araki has introduced millions of people to the joys of Slowdive, Ride, Jesus and Mary Chain, and of course Cocteau Twins. While I can’t pinpoint exactly where I first heard this Scottish trio, it’s a safe bet that one of my teenage VHS rentals contained a song or two.

This is how I celebrate black Friday: staying in, writing, and listening to old favorites. Seeing some friends later. I’ve done buy nothing day for years now, so it’s usually like this. If you’re out and about in the shopping madness reading this, plug your headphones in and enjoy the oasis. If not, you’re probably already relaxing in your own way. For me, there’s few artists better suited for a peaceful day.

Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden Of Delete

Oneohtrix Point Never has returned with a massive new album you can call G.O.D. It peels up the corner tiles of a thousand realities over 45 minutes, blooming micro-worlds of sound and immediately dissolving in head-on collisions.

For the first time in years, OPN – real name Daniel Lopatin – hasn’t completely restructured his sound, yet I’m feeling the same sense of dizzying vertigo that he’s made a career out of conjuring. In a real sense, the strongest component of his appeal has always been that daring sense of surprise, the act of an artist venturing over the edge of the known music world and bringing back sounds that I’ve never even anticipated, much less heard. More than a style, it’s an idea, a philosophy. In the wrong hands, it can become a cheap trick. This is something far more substantial.

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Oneohtrix Point Never has a new song, first single from Garden of Delete

If you follow this blog at all, you’ll know that Oneohtrix Point Never is one of my favorite living artists. Every time he releases new material, it’s a shock to the system, a completely unexpected delight.

This time is no different. Here’s the song, I Bite Through It:

Supposedly he’s been on an industrial tip after crafting a special set of abrasive material for his tour in support of Nine Inch Nails, but this sounds, typically for OPN, like an utter mushroom cloud deconstruction and reconfiguration of the genre, if anything. It’s too early to fully process this, and like every album of his, we’ll need the full context to truly understand. I’m just jazzed we’ve got something new to enjoy!

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The album comes out November 13 on Warp (WARP266) and you can preorder it from Bleep. I’m doing that right now because I’m a hopeless addict.