AwardsWatch Weekly Music Roundup: Week of October 14, 2013
Looking for your new obsession in the music world? Want to know what everyone at AW is wagging their tongues about? Look no further – at our weekly roundtable, you can take a listen to a wide variety of genres, songs, albums, and artists, all of which come personally recommended by our amazing music team.
The Weekly Roundtable was created by the wonderful Zac Nuccio, and would not be possible without him.
What Haley Anne is listening to this week:
The Roots of Emocore
I recommended a track off of Fall Out Boy’s latest, Pax Am Days, last week, and in listening to the whole album, it has a definite throwback feel to the early days of emocore, a split from the hardcore punk movements happening in small pockets all over the United States. In particular, I spent a lot of time listening to what can be considered the frontrunner to most current emo albums, Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary, and a collection of emocore tracks from other pioneering band Rites of Spring. Rites of Spring have a harsher, more DIY sound than Sunny Day Real Estate, exemplified in tracks like “All There Is,” a three-minute blast of sound that juxtaposes both chaos and order with a catchy melody covered up by dense guitar work and Guy Picciotto’s cracking, screaming vocals. On the other hand, Sunny Day Real Estate crafted an album in 1994 that wouldn’t sound out of place in today’s marketplace, with plenty of musical surprises. A great introduction to Sunny Day Real Estate would be “Seven,” a dark rock track with a wonderful hook and appropriately wrenching lyrics: “the tide breaks a wave of fear/and brave songs disappear/the secret voice of dawn/this last time.” Other great, classic emocore bands worth looking up are Texas Is The Reason, which shares a lot in common with Sunny Day Real Estate; The Get-Up Kids, who directly influenced bands like Jimmy Eat World, and Placebo, a British export whose atmospheric tracks are reminiscent of early My Chemical Romance.
Marilyn Manson’s Cover of “Personal Jesus”
There’s a wonderful alt-rock radio station in my area that plays pretty much anything that could be remotely considered “alternative”, and goes back to the seventies to create their musical schedule. I relistened to Manson’s “Personal Jesus” because of that station, and, though there are few differences between it and the Depeche Mode original (besides a whole lot of ambient feedback sound), I’ve been keeping it on personal repeat since. Manson’s pseudo-industrial metal sound works very well for the song, making it much more of a warning than the original. Touching faith never sounded more alluring, even though Manson’s trademark growl-singing also makes it sound like a bad idea in the making. Hearing the song on the radio again also made me want to dig into his back catalog, something I plan on doing in the next week. Rebellious twelve-year-old me is so excited!
What Shahab Yunus is listening to this week:
From producing a string of pop-heavy albums of middling quality in the 90s to spending most of the aughts either at Las Vegas residency (kind of death knell for artists.) From participating in public wig-snatching and bitch-fights in tabloids to a puzzling, soporific unnecessary performance at Emmys this year of Home Again, I would never have thought that I would be ever interested in Elton John‘s music. Hardcode fans and astute followers would say that given his last output The Union he never went really away but then that was a collaboration between not two but 3 forces: Leon Russell, T-Bone Burnett and Elton John rather than a pure solo Elton. Believe me when I say that, I am most surprised myself more than anyone while admitting that I think that John’s latest ‘The Diving Board’ is a wonderful, heartfelt and melodic record and one of the best so far of the year, which showcases him and Taupin, with help from T-Bone Burnett producing (who I think never go wrong) going back to what they do best i.e. excellent songwriting and piano. The songs are sparsely produced but that does not mean that they lack harmony or catchy hooks or are simple. The influence of Burnett is every where but it seems to have moulded itself into Elton’s old style rather than overtaking it. But perhaps the best thing is that piano is back. It is in the center stage, and you can see that instrument through and through the record, whether it being the main sound in almost or songs or the the instrumental interludes and Jon is as comfortable with it as ever. It is bluegrass, it is folk, it is soft-rock, it is piano, it is story-telling, it is Americana. The alternating piano and cellos of “Oscar Wilde Gets Out” (reminiscent of The Union both in terms of dense, storyteller lyrics and production) or the Gospel/country infused ‘Take This Dirty Water” and mysterious “A New Fever Waltz” or the shakers and drum in ‘The Ballad of Blind Tom‘ are hard to not get like or hum along. Even “Home Again” from that misplaced performance sounds different. It does goes along a bit too along and the lower end is comparatively dull. But given the above mentioned qualities and the confessional, pensive, wistful mood, looking back at life on songs like the title track “Voyeur” and “My Quicksand”, it is doesn’t matter much.
Picks: Voyeur, Oscar Wilde Gets Out, A New Fever Waltz, The Ballad of Blind Tom, My Quicksand
While between getting arrested in Texas for drug related charges and throwing a fit and walking off a stage during a Japanese performance due to inattentive and discourteous fans and going on a foul-mouthed rant against media (specifically Perez Hilton and TMZ ) for mispronouncing her father’s last name, Fiona Apple is (thankfully) still managing to be creative and making new music. At least it seems to be the case from what I hear, as two apparently news songs have recently popped-up during her in performances as part of her US tour with Blake Mills. The first reportedly titled “I Want You To Love Me“ sounds like a regular angst-ridden-tortured-soul-Apple affair but the more intriguing item and which has piqued my interest is the song, again reportedly titled, ‘Tipple’ (recording below) which features Blake Mills as well and sounds more a folk-indie song, something akin to Frank Turner. After all with Hot Knife, Apple has shown that she can let loose and shakes up things as well, if she desires. Right now the quality is not great but hopefully this becomes a reality (thanks to Consequence of Sound for the tip.)
Psychic is the debut LP of Darkside, a producer combo of Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington. Popular in underground live electronic/industrial music scene for a while now they have been producing stuff here and there. This full-length effort picks up from their EP from 2011 and takes those ideas and themes and results in a record which is all-encompassing and creates an enveloping atmosphere which is intoxicating but never overpowering or overbearing that you get lost in it, unable to appreciate or enjoy. It takes it time, moves slowly, patiently and seductively takes you into its multi-faceted, enticing arms which are too hard to resist even if not completely apparent. The whole record has a layered approach where organic, more conventional rhythms, sounds and instruments like cello and piano are contrasted with purely electronic or mechanical sound effects like static and distortion. This constant duel of moods, of natures, of tones, keeps the listener interested and curious and it never gets boring. Whether it is the short, South Asian inspired ‘Sitra’ with it s simulated water drops effect or its the traditional guitar rock riffs and piano fighting it out with raw static in ‘Freak, Go Home’ and ‘Heart’. This stratified approach of different kind of sounds working in tandem is perhaps most intriguing (and almost thematically reaches a climax) in ‘Greek Light’ where the man-made takes over the natural as the white noise of static is made to sound like waves hitting on a beach and flute-like instrument sounds like squawking of seagulls on that same mirage of a beach! Only low point is whenever the musicians try to sing and add vocals. Dark and forbidding, augmented with a conflict of smooth and rough, something suitable for a Cronenberg, Lynch or late digitized Kubrick.
Picks: Greek Light
What Zac Nuccio is listening to this week:
-The constant gifts Quarter 4 will almost certainly bear
Technically,we’re already a couple weeks in and the years final quarter already given us a hotly anticipated major release in Miley’s Bangerz, and a surprise third LP from Sleigh Bells with Bitter Rivals. For some, myself included, these are two of the better releases of the year, and the remainder of 2013 is on track to continue serving healthy portions of exciting releases from all sides of the musical spectrum. It’s typically the same story every year (holidays=dollars, etc.), but 2013 seems to be particularly abundant with potential quality. We will hear the return of Arcade Fire (Reflektor, Oct. 29), Sky Ferriera’s is-this-really-happening debut Night Time, My Time (10/29), Katy Perry’s follow up to her massive Teenage Dream (Prism, 10/22), and producer du-jour (see: Yeezus) Gesaffelstein’s first solo outing, Aleph (10/28)by the end of October alone. The rest of 2013 will bring follow-ups from Cut Copy (Free Your Mind, 11/05), M.I.A. (Matangi, 11/5), Lady Gaga (ARTPOP, 11/11), andBritney Spears (TBA, 12/3). Latyrx even has the aptly titled The Second Album–their first LP since their 1997 classic–coming on 11/5, complete with production from tUnE-yArDs. This is just a small sampling of what’s to on the way, and doesn’t even take into consideration the other promotional avenues artists pursue to compliment their respective albums. To be perfectly honest, I’m finding it all to be quite overwhelming.
–George “Shadow” Morton & The Shangri-Las
Did you know you the entirety of The Shangri-Las discography can be consumed in barely an hour and a half? They’re as seminal to the 60s as they are to the general evolution of pop, so get your hands on their 3-disc Remembered collection from 2008 and go to town. Going back to what Michael Ward mentioned last week, I find these girls–and their contemporaries–a pertinent constituent of my autumn and winter playlists (yes, I realize this is the second week I’m talking about the weather). During my most recent retrospective, I paid more attention to producer George “Shadow” Morton, responsible for their most memorable tunes (“Leader of the Pack,” “Remember (Walkin’ In the Sand)” to name the obvious), who died in February this year. The soundscapes he creates with such minimal technology is completely and immediately transportive, and oft-overlooked compared to the likes of industry giant Phil Spector. I discovered Morton grew up in Brooklyn; and having recently moved to the city myself with plans to produce, on top of finding his work highly influential, I took comfort in the coincidence.
–New Young Pony Club’s four letter reinvention.
Does anyone remember them? They had a minor moment back in the early-mid aughts, a serviceable sophomore album back in 2010, and have been relatively quiet ever since. They just released their third LP; Condensing their name to acronym (NYPC) and scaling back their members to its principal founders: Tahita Bulmer (vocals) and Andy Spence (everything else), with the two splitting production duties as well. Their sound remains in place (catchy, electro-inflected synth-pop) while still making the proper adjustments to fit into the sound of 2013. While it may be far from a revelation, it’s more than adequate. The last two tracks (“Everything Is” and the clever Gary Numan sampling “L.O.V.E.”) and album opener (“Hard Knocks”) are especially noteworthy to my ears. You can stream the whole thing over at NME.
What George Portades is listening to this week:
If there’s one song you should definitely hear in your lifetime, it’s this gem by the incredibly talented Aslyn Nash (nee Mitchell). It’s a reflective piano ballad that illustrates her light sense of humor but also showcases her sweet upbringing of not growing up in a suburban neighborhood. Her soaring vocals reel you in, and by the time the song ends, you may be left pondering the kind of childhood you had.
Lee DeWyze “Fight”
DeWyze released an excellent new album this year (titled “Frames”) and while it retained elements of his previous records, it also incorporated some of the new folk/acoustic sound that’s out today. One of the best examples of this is his latest single “Fight” which is such a foot stomping jam that you almost forget that it’s a song about feeling unsure in a relationship. With recent similar-sounding releases by Gavin DeGraw and Phillip Phillips becoming hits, this is a record that deserves the same chance to be succeed and be heard. In addition, the album itself is a release worth checking out, especially the deluxe version which includes the whole album done acoustically on a second disc.
Frankie J, Tienes Que Creer En Mi/Take a Chance on Me
He released two versions of the song (of which the Spanish version featured on his latest album “Faith, Hope y Amor”), and while I love being able to sing along in English, I actually prefer the Spanish version more. It’s a very epic uptempo piano ballad, that heightens the mood every time the chorus hits. Complete with Frankie’s wonderful vocals and a melodic instrumental, it’s nice to know he’s still consistently making great R&B records.
Mandy Moore, Can’t You Just Adore Her?
If you only know Ms. Moore by “Candy” or her acting roles, then you really should give her a shot and discover her incredible progression from simple Pop music to an assured sense in folk, country, and adult contemporary. This Country-tinged track off her album “Wild Hope” is definitely one of the best songs of her career, as it merges her love of classic records (see her “Coverage” album) with her rediscovery as an artist. From the opening lines of “She likes chocolate in the morning. She drinks her coffee late at night.” and the following lyrics about an interesting yet odd girl, you can’t help but fall for Ms. Moore’s charm. Thank you Mandy, for changing my mind about you, and for delivering one of my all-time favorite albums.
What Michael Ward is listening to this week:
Oh Land’s Wish Bone
It’s no secret that Scandinavia knows pop music. It’s the land that brought us patron saints of pop, ABBA, and such tremendous contemporary acts as Robyn and Lykke Li. Oh Land is a Danish act (now residing in Brooklyn) who’s staking her own claim to pop goodness. Her previous self-titled album was a gem and her newest LP, Wish Bone, is a little slice of pop pleasure, too. It’s an album that feels rather modest in scale and ambition, an amuse-bouche as opposed to a full-blown course. But amuse it does. The songs are nuanced and charming, full of sharp, staccato percussion and gauzy synths. With its intimate scope and intricate production, there’s a delicacy to even the more energized tracks here. A pop album that plays as a pleasing, excited whisper in your ear. You can stream the whole album if you just scroll down a bit to find it over at The New York Times’ Press Play.
Chvrches’ The Bones of What You Believe
I’m hardly the first to sing the praises of this album, but I couldn’t resist adding my two cents. In a year where I’ve struggled to find that one album that really speaks to me, that really socks me in the gut, The Bones of What You Believe finally arrived and knocked the wind straight out of me. In a year for me that was a bit of a musical haze, Lauren Mayberry’s voice was a beacon of light cutting straight through the fog. That’s also an apt description for the way her voice sounds on the album, in context. The soundscapes that Chvrches create are by no means mild or meek—these are boisterous, ecstatic synthpop tracks. But even through the power and dynamism of the production, Mayberry’s voice rises above with a searing clarity that truly lights the songs on fire and animates the whole album. This is an invigorating LP and the best I’ve heard this year.
What Jeffrey Berg is listening to this week:
Old Love / New Love
Twin Shadow’s “Old Love / New Love” from the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack blends striking piano chords, melancholy melodies and harmonies with a pulsing hi-NRG throwback beat.
I’ve been loving Movement’s single “Us” for a while. There’s a nice tension between the lyrics with the Sydney trio’s smooth vocals and spare synth soundscape.
Young Folks & Doin’ It Right
Canadian producer Wolf Saga & Lemon. have crafted an alluring little electropop remake of Peter Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks.” It doesn’t have the iconic whistling of the original but it’s still catchy and irresistible nevertheless. I’m also loving Wolf Saga’s playful, drum-heavy remix of Daft Punk & Panda Bear’s “Doin’ It Right.”