Friday, July 11, 2014

Lana Del Rey. Ultraviolence (2014)

I thought I'd give a listen to LDR's new release, Ultraviolence.  I found Born To Die interesting and was curious as to what she had devised as a follow up.  I did not expect to be knocked on my butt by a major work of art.  Ultraviolence is a massive, immersive experience.  It's full of guilt, regret, arrogance, pain, longing, and a certain type of sour beauty.  I guess you could just play this in the background while tidying up your house or something, but for me it demanded the attention of a David Lynch movie, drawing me in deeper and deeper, filling me with the underlying anxiety that something tragic and disturbing was about to happen.

Ultraviolence can't be thought of as just a new collection of pop songs by Lizzie Grant.  It's an artwork that completely integrates sound, lyrics, and performance to create a vision of a world both glamorous and grim.  It's very Baudelairean in it's evocation of the old Spleen and Ideal concept.  

The sound on this disc is magnificent.  LDR's voice and the instruments are processed through a variety of reverbs and delays, so the music exists in these lush and expansive spaces, but every detail glimmers like a spark.  Some of the guitar sounds are so present, you'd swear guitarist/producer Dan Auerbach was right in the room with you.

By the time I heard the third track on the album, "Shades of Cool," I knew I was in the presence of a masterpiece.

Shades of Cool:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kylie. I Was Gonna Cancel (2014).

The best song on Kylie's new album is probably "I Was Gonna Cancel," by "The Best Dressed Man in the World," Pharrell.  It almost makes me want to forgive him for being a part of the "Blurred Lines" debacle of last year.  I said, "almost."  

It's similar in form to his current smash hit, "Happy."  The formula is, "I got four chords that sound dope together, so let's run them into the ground."  Luckily, you don't get tired of hearing those four chords over and over because, well, they actually do sound as great as he thinks they do.  Apparently, Pharrell wrote this as Kylie was having an attack of anxiety about the session and thought she might have to cancel.

Lyric videos have grown up; this one is pretty spectacular:

Here's the Dance Off version of "IWGC," with Kylie, her dancers, and what appears to be a random assortment of just plain folk.  It's cute.

And just to be complete, here's the final, Official video.  Someone said this may be the cheapest (as in, least expensive) video that Kylie has ever made.  That's probably true, but I think she intentionally went for the simplistic look of white blouse, jeans, and her hair down because (like Bowie) she never does anything that's not well thought out.  (Not sure about the high-waisted jeans here, but I know that's a current trend, so there you go:)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Puzzle Pieces - Various Artists (2014).

This epic retrospective of the Seattle based label, Jigsaw Records, contains 48 tracks on two CD's.  The compilation runs the gamut, demonstrating the wide range of what Indiepop can be, from lo fi, garage-y punk pop, to sweet, soft melodies.  You won't already own any of these tracks, even if you are a fan of the label, because Chris McFarlane made a special effort to obtain rare or unreleased tracks by all the bands he's worked with over the years.  It's a cliché, but there really is something here for everybody.  You'll find tons of catchy tunes, and witty lyrics, that will put a smile on your face.  I am very proud to be a part of this myself, having contributed one of my previously unreleased songs, "No Place to Go," as the second track on CD2.  Only 500 CD's were pressed, so this will probably become a collector's item.  You can also visit Jigsaw for lots of stuff from other labels since they are a distributor of: "indiepop, power pop, indie rock, lo-fi pop, twee, and pretty much any other kind of fun pop music that we fancy..." 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Slowdive 2014

When we think back to the Shoegaze era, many of us mourn the fact that some of our favorite bands will never reconvene.  Cocteau Twins had just started their own label and bought a studio space when they broke up over irreconcilable differences in 1997.  Lush called it a day after the tragic loss of drummer Chris Acland in 1996. Emma Anderson later formed Sing-Sing, but Miki Berenyi just disappeared (breaking the hearts of countless shoegaze fanboys, no doubt, who had massive crushes on her), until last year's surprise appearance with Hard Skin.   However, some dreams came true: My Bloody Valentine toured and recorded brilliant new material in 2013 after a 20 year absence.  Now Slowdive is on a huge tour this year, and may record again as well. 
Slowdive only produced 3 albums, but Rachel and Neil started Mojave 3 after the Slowdive breakup in 1994.  Rachel released a solo album in 2004, Waves Are Universal.  Some of the other members hadn't even picked up their instruments since their last gig in Toronto twenty years ago this month. 

Apparently, the reformed group is sounding good live, and getting some serious love from fans and critics.  The Guardian said their "unexpected return may prove one of this year's most welcome surprises."  Here they are performing earlier this week at the first gig of their tour:


Rachel is quite active on Twitter, and the band has an official Instagram page.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Twiggy. "When I Think of You," (1967).

Twiggy, one of the first international supermodels, was called "The Face of '66," and she seemed able to do almost anything by 1967, including sing.  By 1972 she had won two Golden Globes for her role in the musical, The Boyfriend, but her earlier pop records have an adorable, quirky charm that render them quite distinctive.

"When I Think of You"

"I used to be a thing; I'm a person now."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Beatles VS Stones

I've always thought the comparison of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones was ridiculous, they are two completely different entities.  For those of us who are old enough to remember, the real rivals of The Beatles during the early days of the second British Invasion were The Dave Clark Five, and time has certainly favored the former of the two in that battle of the bands.  The thing that really bothers me though, is the stereotype of the Stones as the rockin' bad boys and The Beatles as charming pansies.  So, let's test that theory with these performances from the 60's (and I promise I won't even bring up "Helter Skelter").  I think the Stones' performance is completely live, while the Beatles video has live vocals and the instruments on tape.

The Rolling Stones: "Lady Jane."

And now, "Revolution," from The Beatles:

So, that's that. There is even a new book by John McMillian called, Beatles vs. Stones, which I haven't yet read, but plan to.  By the way, I'm not trying to take anything away from the Stones.  I think their (Jagger and Richards')  observations on society and class were more acute than The Beatles' ("19th Nervous Breakdown," "Mother's Little Helper,"even "Satisfaction").  But after the firing and death of Brian Jones, the Stones sort of became their own tribute band, especially after Sticky Fingers.   

Oh, and here are the real contenders, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Dave Clark Five!!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dum Dum Girls. Too True (2014).

Over the last couple of weeks I've bought every release by Dum Dum Girls.The lo-fi aspect of Dee Dee's earlier work sounds practically experimental in nature.  Without vocals or drums, some of those early tracks could almost be mistaken as something by Christian Fennesz.

The new album by Dum Dum Girls, Too True, is slick, glamorous, and lush, filled with reverberant magic spaces.  More glaze than daze.  

Dum Dum Girls evoke a few things at the same time: I hear Phil Spector, the Ronnettes, 70's punk, and some 80's Indie Pop. Dee Dee prefers the Stones from the Brian Jones era, which I am totally sympathetic with.  I love how Kristin Welchez decided to become a character, which she would call Dee Dee Penny, who plays in an imaginary band called Dum Dum Girls, before she even had a band. 

Anyone who's followed Dum Dum Girls from the beginning is aware of Dee Dee's development from bedroom 4-tracker, to signing to Sub Pop, to fronting a full touring band, to performing on major network TV (Letterman).  You've no doubt loved the dichotomous nature of her work: innocent/gritty, sunny/dark, tuneful/noisy, retro/au courantToo True is a major leap forwards, which might not please her oldest fans, but I appreciate her desire to create something as rich and sophisticated as she did with this album.

Here's a good example of Dum Dum Girls' love of opposing points of view, from the 2010 debut album, I Will Be.  They dance (kind of) on a summery, psychedelic beach.  The video is full of over exposed pastel colors; but they are dressed most funereal, in black leather and lace:

Here is the title track from the new album.  It's so swoony and alluring (both the video and the song); almost sounding like Cocteau Twins meets The Cure, mixed with some late period Siouxie and the Banshees thrown in for extra enchantment, and there's nothing wrong with that.