What Zac Nuccio is listening to this week…
After over half a decade of solid EP releases, excellent one off singles, and sustaining countless delays and obstacles, Sky Ferreira found a fitting match in producer Ariel Retchtshaid and delivered an immense album with Night Time, My Time(yes, the title’s a Twin Peaks reference). It was released on Oct. 29, and it’s a must listen- so, get to it if you haven’t already. After about two weeks of digesting it, I’m still having a hard time seamlessly getting my thoughts together, so here’s some highlights of the ridiculous comments chronicling my first listening session, as texted to my posse:
“Yessss this feels so good”
“It’s so evident how much care went into creating her own universe with this sound.”
“This could be album of the year if she keeps it up. I’m stunned.” (SPOILER ALERT: She does, and it’s more than album of the year)
“But srsly what is happening to my ears.”
“Welcome to Sky’s dive bar…it’s loud as fuck and everyones having sex and rejecting each other.”
“This is ah(r)t darlings. Accept it and move forward.”
“K ITS OVER. STARTING AGAIN. WHO CARES ABOUT SLEEP.”
Anyway—I’m pretty confident we have something here that will be talked about and remembered as time passes. It’s deliberate and flippant, emotional and and full of warmth. She wears her influences proudly on her sleeve, which is a definite plus when that means the likes of Madonna, PJ Harvey, Courtney Love, Suicide, and general 80s reverb-soaked bliss.There’s a collection of b-sides on the way within the next couple weeks, and I can’t wait to see how her career plays out from here. Get on the train, people.
So, yeah—“Work Bitch” is fun, and, as a fan, I’m happy it exists. But, back to Pop. Britney just released the second single from her upcoming Britney Jean, “Perfume,” and I’m hoping it’s just taking everyone a little time to 1. Hear it. 2. Buy it and make it massively successful. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if the artiste herself decided to up and actually promote it in the coming weeks, too. The music video is on its way (don’t eff it up, Team Britney), and she’s rumored to be performing in LA at the end of November; it’d be a wasted opportunity if she didn’t offer up a stellar live version of this (we’re gonna need live vocals, Brit Brit). The current pop climate and current seasonal shift seems to welcome a release like this with open arms, and here’s hoping America (and Britney) don’t let this song flounder. It’s a side of Britney she hasn’t graced us with in a while, and it feels like precisely the right type of song at the right moment in her career.
What Jeffery Berg is listening to this week…
For a few months, I’ve been spinning the savvy, smooth-voiced Hot Chip member Joe Goddard’s latest EP, Taking Over. I love the way he mixes a warm, organic sound (engineered to sound as if you’re live in a living room) with classic, tuneful melodies and experimental electronic flourishes. There’s more of that here, kicking off with upbeat dance number “Step Together”— recalling the sprightly house songs of his side project The 2 Bears. The lyrics may be a bit corny but I’m all for songs about coming together to low-key disco in these fragmented times.
British singer / songwriter Mara Carlyle shines in swirling epic “She Burns.” The shimmeriness of her voice (sounding a bit like Debbie Harry) is set against Goddard’s mechanical, siren-whirring, ambient house backdrop. The funeral prep video for the track is eerie and beautiful (in a clinical way) like Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In.
Moving in the more experimental realm, “Bassline 12” is a 9 minute electronic breakdown. A stuttering drumbeat sets the tone and a dreamy cluster of synths joins in. Best of all is the title track, which rides on the repetition of a simplistic yet insanely catchy guitar riff. Another solo EP is in the works and I’m looking forward to Goddard’s next album which he says should be ready by next year.
What Haley Anne is listening to this week…
Grunge is not a genre I’ve explored much in the past, mostly because I was not very old when it hit its heyday. As a name, grunge seems like a misnomer – and to that end, the female-tinged end of grunge has much more in common with the first wave of punk than anything else. Case in point: 7 Year Bitch’s Sick ’em, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of all time. Combining fast and loose playing with socially conscious lyrics that dig deep into the state of women in music at the time, 7 Year Bitch’s debut is well worth a listen. A personal favorite of mine is “Knot”. A seedy track with heavy instrumentation, the song details what it takes to “survive” as a woman in the recording industry. It’s a messy, powerful piece of music. Also worth a mention, and with somewhat lighter subject matter, is “Tired of Nothing”, a track that explores a futile, ultimately useless relationship, where everything, from the threat of the future to a simple request to be held, is met with the complete indifference of the narrator’s partner.
Returning to Panem
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is due out this month, with a star-studded, glittery soundtrack to go with it, featuring the likes of Christina Aguilera and Coldplay. While the lineup for the album is impressive, the two tracks that have been released, while strong, leave me a bit cold. However, the soundtrack for the first film, The Hunger Games, is an incredible musical distillation of both the novel and the (flawed) film’s themes. One has to look no further than the soundtrack’s biggest hit, Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars’ “Safe and Sound”, a dystopian lullaby speaking to a world where “darlin’, everything’s on fire”, and the only way to block the fear out is to trust that “come morning light, you and I’ll be safe and sound”. Multiple other tracks from bluesgrass and folk contemporaries like Punch Brothers evoke the desperation and survival-minded ethos of the Hunger Games world, but as far as I’m concerned, no other track could capture the emotion of Katniss’ mental journeys and anguishes quite like Birdy’s ethereal “Just a Game”. The teenaged chanteuse slowly breaks down from terrified new recruit to someone who’s found her only hope, a male recruit – but that doesn’t mean she’s found love. “And now I know my place/We’re all just pieces in their games”, she sings at the end, bringing the album to a close on a note of both certainty and cynicism. And just think how close we were to Academy Award-nominees Arcade Fire, for their driving folk-alt contribution to the soundtrack, “Abraham’s Daughter”!
What Shahab Yunus is listening to this week…
Dum Dum Girls are releasing new album (Too True) in January, and, last week, released a new single (“Lost Boys and Girls Club”) as part of a H&M Young Artist initiative, which is completely in sync with the current trends i.e. going back to 80s whether they are synthesizer dominated tracks, or dark rock and punk anthems. In Dee Dee Penny’s case it is the latter. With this record it seems she has let go the indie genre of her past work and is going for bigger, bolder tone and heading to the stadiums rather than underground smoky clubs. The track is sensuous, dark and forbidden with seductive and pleading backing vocals in the main chorus. It is slow and takes it time to rapt you in with loud guitars and digital drums. The sounds of Cure, Heart, Siouxsie and Blondie (the producers are common by the way), are all here.
Broken Bells / After the Disco
Apparently the collab band Broken Bells—consisting of Brian Burton of Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins—was not a fluke. They are are back with their sophomore effort (After the Disco) coming out in January, and dropped the first single (“Holding on for Life”) last week. The lyrics and the topic is typical Mercer: talking about facing the reality and lost hope and could-have-beens and morning-afters, but the production is not. More surprisingly, for Mercer rather than Burton, the sound is pretty dance-y and pop (those keyboards!) and here, the chorus is like the Bee Gees have been called back from the dead. Only towards the end you could see The Shins’ string arrangements, otherwise it is bittersweet 70s disco beaming through a 21st century filter. Equally interesting is this piece about the evolution of the song by the creators.
Robyn made a spectacular comeback few years back with the one of its kind “Call Your Girlfriend,” a smart, uber-catchy, pop classic. Now, folk-rock singer/songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche (yes, of the famed Wainwright family who gave us Rufus, Martha and Loudon) on her latest record There’s a Last Time for Everything (the rest of the record is solid too with collabs with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Colin Meloy of The Decemberists), covers this and turns into an almost-acoustic, utterly stipped-down gem which keeps all the worthy characteristics of the original but changes the mood upside down. It maintains the empowering theme of the original, but the power dynamics are now more calm and peaceful, no rush or urgency. This version, which is nothing like myriad of other covers littering Youtube, is more than a minute longer than the original and has a certain shyness and care which makes it a sweeping, romantic country-folk ballad. It seems to realize that calling your girlfriend after all is not going to be that easy.
George Stanford / “Downriver”
“Downriver” is one of those iconic tracks that you can’t help but want to make everyone you know sit down and listen to it. George Stanford started out singing in the band Townhall before embarking on his solo career 6-7 years ago with his debut album Big Drop. While he’s released a couple EPs (Roll Away and Las Palmas) since then, it’s this track that still holds the title for my most favorite song of his ever created. I was finally able to see him perform live for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was an incredible show highlighted by his soaring vocals and a well-handled band. If you ever get to see him live, be sure to get ready for his performance of this track, which can usually silence a whole audience due to its very hypnotic beginning. Going back to the track itself, it features stunning guitar work and a build up that flows in and out. Hopefully more people will gain notice of this track, and the very talented artist who’s behind it.
I first discovered this band as they opened up for singer Jennifer Knapp in San Diego a week ago, and I was awed by the incredible vocals by the lead singer. As they played some new songs in addition to some rousing covers (“Isn’t She Lovely,” “Valerie”), I ended up purchasing their debut album Love Stories this week and haven’t stopped listening to it since. My favorite track off it right now is “Hollywood Bungalow” which is such an amazing ballad. With bluesy vocals by Tiffany Jane and the perfectly orchestrated music, I can’t help but feel like I’m in a big movie scene (or even the ending credits), which is such a great feeling to get. Anytime a song or artist can make you feel something positive and wonderful, it’s a plus. As they’re still continuing to tour here in San Diego, I hope to catch them again, and I eagerly await their next album.
It’s been six years since her last studio album, the jazz effort Lovely Standards and an additional year since her last R&B album Morning. Coming back with the awesome title Ice Cream Everyday, her album was preceded by two digital singles (“Orange Glow,” “Don’t Let Me Down”) about 3-4 years ago. While the album’s current lead single “Afraid” is a nice mixture of her previous material (and her Groove Theory days) with a mid-tempo feel, the track that I really got drawn to was “I Do Take.” It’s a nice, slow tempered jam that features such great lyrics as well as always-lovely vocals from Amel. While it isn’t a complete ballad like her incredible “Make Me Whole” from her debut, it slightly exceeds that track for me because of the interesting blend/changes throughout the song. The rest of her album is pretty solid as well, with “A Million Sapphires” and “Have You” as two more notable standouts for me.