Licketysplit Vol. 6 - Daniel, 9/9/14

All I wanna do anymore is sleep and watch the Venture Bros.

And listen to the stuff below.

  1. Actually - Pet Shop Boys
  2. Hats - The Blue Nile
  3. Sea When Absent - A Sunny Day in Glasgow
  4. Car Alarm - The Sea and Cake
  5. Screws - Nils Frahm
  6. The Good That Won’t Come Out (single) - Rilo Kiley
  7. The Lord’s Favorite (single) - iceage
  8. Grid (single) - Perfume Genius
  9. Hedwig and the Angry Inch soundtrack (the film not the neil patrick harris version, you heathen)

Review: TV Girl - French Exit

"You like the pretty boy with the pretty voice who’s trying to sell you something, something that you already have"

Pop music is inherently sad.

Behind every plea of “one more night” is the understanding that it probably won’t happen. Every doe-eyed romantic will inevitably be crushed (and release a sad-sack breakup album afterwards).

But pop is a master illusionist. Booming bass and sticky synths blast away the listener’s rationality; every “ooh baby” starts to sound like gospel.

Few bands understand this dilemma better than San Diego’s TV Girl.       Their latest batch of bittersweet bubblegum, “French Exit”, is one of the best albums of 2014.

Their wry takes on love should sound familiar to fans of Belle & Sebastian and Jens Lekman. TV Girl’s characters are confused (“you’d fall in love with anyone who fell in love with you”) and place way too much importance on pop music. ”Lovers Rock” depicts a couple who listen to 80s slow-jams together but can’t seem to actually connect. 

Sounds depressing on paper, but the wonderful production hides that fact. Swooning strings glide over hip-hop beats without feeling forced or overdone.

The music itself sounds amazing, warm bass melting into lo-fi strings and horns. French Exit is the definition of a good “headphones album”.   “The Getaway” sounds like the sweetest 90s hip-hop single you’ve never heard. Meanwhile, “Birds Don’t Sing” turns a disintegrating relationship into sunny indie-pop.

Vintage film samples are cleverly worked into tracks, often serving as parallels to the song’s story. On “Birds Don’t Sing”, the narrator’s romantic predicament is answered with a sample of an actress saying “It all sounds a little sick to me!”. In “Her and Her Friend”, an actress’s yell of “go away, please!” is scratched on a turntable, a silly way of turning the sounds of rejection into a 90s hip-hop throwback.

That one gimmick sums up the album pretty well.

TV Girl blends past fashions (40s film clips, 70s TV soundracks, 90s hip-hop) to make a statement about how people and pop haven’t changed that much. 20-somethings are still clueless regarding romance. Pop-culture is still 99% ridiculous fantasy.

But at least you can dance to it.

9/10

(bandcamp)

Licketsplit Vol. 5 - Alex, 9/1/14

welcome to 4 am

1. Kitty Pryde - Impatiens (EP)

2. Joyce Manor - Joyce Manor

3. New York Philharmonic - Mahler: Symphony No. 3

4. Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances

5. Beat Happening - Dreamy

6. Boards of Canada - Tomorrow’s Harvest

7. Drake - Take Care

8. Panda Bear - Tomboy

Review: CAKE - Prolonging the Magic

Half-Price Books is a cool place. You walk in, and you’re greeted by a rack of clearance CDs. You peruse them for fun. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, you can pass up these CDs; you’re not looking for Selena Gomez’s (not) critically-acclaimed preteen record. But sometimes you find a little gem. Something you haven’t listened to in years. The best part: it costs a dollar. That was me when I found Cake’s 1998 release, Prolonging the Magic.

"Satan Is My Motor" opens the record with a simple groove, lyrics that tell a story of a car and love, a nice layering of vocals, and a wonderful trumpet feature by trumpeter Vince DiFiore—Cake’s known for this. This uptempo track is so simple but so well done and energized. Cake knows how to pick an album-opener.

The next track is less settling for me. In his poorly-written coming of age novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky wrote “if people were rain, I was a drizzle and she was a hurricane.” The second track of Prolonging the Magic, Mexico, opens in a similarly maudlin fashion: “I had a match, but she had a lighter. I had a flame, but she had a fire. I was bright, but she was much brighter. I was high, but she was the sky.” Despite this corny lyricism, I listen earnestly and try to hear the best in this track. The tambour of vocalist and vibraslapper (yeah, that’s a thing) John McCrea’s voice is almost reminiscent of Jeff Tweedy. The song’s slightly Western feel and drawings on about love help to remind us of Wilco, but less mature. A lot less mature. When I hear the not so tasteful lyrics from the beginning again, I’m finished listening to this lifeless ballad.

"Never There" is next, one of Cake’s most popular songs. "Never There" is great because it shows the influence of other styles in Cake’s music. The fast-paced rock groove paired with McCrea’s (almost) rapping brings something fresh to the table. Furthermore, McCrea’s deadpan voice gives a sardonic bite to his questions about a failing long-distance relationship. DiFiore’s trumpet solo is the cherry on top of this cake (I know, my jokes sucks and I deserve to die), a quintessential Cake song.

The slightly (but only slightly) sad song “Guitar” features the typical short phrases of Cake over a groove and simple chord progression. This track comes to life with slightly fuzzy production, a sound almost like a singing saw, and vibraslap. I wonder how much John McCrea enjoys playing that shit. I certainly enjoy listening to it.

"You Turn the Screws" opens with a beautiful duet of lyrical piano and trumpet. Almost immediately, that act is dropped and Cake settles into the groove they’ve mastered. They mastered it a long time ago and keep using it. Songs like (insert almost any Cake song here) sound the same. "You Turn the Screws" is no different. While I appreciate the use of piano throughout the track, I can’t deny that this song is a lot like other Cake songs…just like all Cake songs.

Scroll up. Read my thoughts on “Mexico.” That’s basically how I feel about “Walk On By” too, except “Walk On By” is faster and there are some country sounding guitar solos. I forgot that when you listen to Cake for more than 20 minutes in a row you start to get mad because it all sounds the same.

"Sheep Go To Heaven" opens with a short guitar solo accented by trumpet. McCrea jumps right in with his inexpressive banter. This more uptempo track is redeeming because it’s more fun to listen to, has less country influence, and includes whistle. Whistle is good. While I’m not completely invested in the inauthentic practice of employing children to sing the chorus in the background, it adds something new to the album, so why the hell not?

The layering of guitar on “When You Sleep” is refreshing. The trumpet is the perfect accent. The Latin percussion that introduces the groove is perfect. The lyrics are very interesting and provide much to think about. Cake uses vocals in a new way, too, building chords and, conversely, singing the melody on a single syllable. The out of key piano is fun. I’m pretty positive about this track. It’s one of the better written and played songs Cake has put out, and I appreciate it in the context of Prolonging the Magic.

"Hem of Your Garment"! This sinister sounding number is quintessential cake, incorporating elements that make Cake and the rest of this record: flat vocals, auxiliary percussion, a simple groove. This is Cake.

The next three tracks are also Cake. I make a point not to review these in more specific detail, because, in blunt terms, these songs sound exactly like all other Cake songs. It’s almost exasperating. While some of these things are well-done or interesting and can be expounded upon for a time, it becomes redundant when you’re talking about Cake. It becomes redundant listening to cake.

With that I leave my final score. (Sorry.)

3/10

Review: Rhye - Woman

image

You know those albums that do it for you? Rhye’s Woman is one of those. This warm, lush album has me in awe.

Rhye is the collaboration of two producers: Robin Braun and Mike Milosh. The pair managed to churn out one of the most graceful, romantic albums with Woman’s release in March of 2013.

Woman opens with one of Rhye’s most popular songs, “Open.” For hopeless romantics like myself, the lyrics are intriguing and accurate: “I’m a fool for the shake in your thighs…I’m a fool for the sound in your sighs…I’m a fool for your belly…I’m a fool for your love.” Milosh’s vocalization of these tender lyrics is like honey. His sincerity can be felt as he sings about the ephemeral nature of love: “mmm but stay, don’t close your eyes.” Gorgeous strings open this number; synth production sweeps the listener from his feet. Rhye has managed to inspire emotion in the first track alone.

Thematic content stays the same in the album’s next track, “The Fall,” another track about a fleeting lover. Milosh begs “Make love to me one more time before you go away. Can’t you stay? Oh my love, come home to me. Just for a while… Don’t run away. Don’t slip away, my dear.” Yet again, Rhye has produced a track that tugs at heart strings while gorgeous instrumentals-both synthetic and acoustic-usher the listener into a new world of pleasing sounds. “The Fall” adds more pep to the album, with upbeat instrumentals, and then it ends almost abruptly-perhaps in the same way the woman or man who inspired this song left.

The album continues with another energized number in “Last Dance.” The groove is heavy in synth, slow, and sultry. Mislosh’s smooth voice croons “game on, game on…” Last Dance is one of the sexiest songs on the record, while Rhye’s ingenious vibe stays consistent from the first tracks to this one.

"Verse" is Milosh’s chance to showcase the whisper within his beautiful voice while unconventional synth production adds an air of sophistication, ethereality, and seduction. These feelings continue in "Shed Some Blood" while Milosh hums "move my way."

In “3 Days,” Rhye paints the picture of lovers who can only be together for a short time-“we got three days to feel eachother; we got three days to sing a song”- through the most tantalizing metaphor: “I’m famished, so I’ll eat your minerals. A rabid beast at a foolish feast. I’ll steal hour breath. Twisted thief with a a mangled glove…I’m killing you.” Interspersed is the insightful gem: “Love is terminal not built to last. Burn bright, burn fast.” This fast track, like others on the albums, presents the dilemma of short-lived love in such a beautiful way.

"One of Those Summer Days" is possibly one of the most unique tracks on the album. With its slow tempo and simplistic lyrics, the listener can easily be consumed by beautiful chords and a plethora of instruments in the background. However interesting this piece is, my first complaint comes in here. Although perfectly styled for jazz, the saxophone solo seems out of place and over the top. The saxophone is, to be blunt, distracting from the other-worldly intentions of the song.

The album recovers with “Major Minor Love.” The music is centered around Milosh’s beautiful, beautiful vocalizations, and production is much simpler than the production of other tracks on the album. This structure puts more emphasis on the tempting lyrics that run throughout this gem: “I’ll lace your thighs with beautiful lies, kidnap your mind. I’ll help you find a gentle pain that runs through your veins.” This song will leave you craving.

"Major Minor Love“‘s foil is present in the upbeat, almost peppy, "Hunger." This track is lackluster compared to the passion of other songs on the album. Something about this track lacks the raw emotion characteristic of Rhye; it could have been easily left out.

The albums final track “Woman,” opens with production that doesn’t quite match the tonality of the rest of the album. However, as Milosh’s voice is blended in as he sings over and over “woman,” this track begins to warm up. Just as quickly, the track is over, leaving you abruptly wanting more of the Rhye sound-you’ll have to listen again.

Listening to these tracks is a journey into the nature of love. Rhye’s presentation of this journey is honest yet never maudlin. Woman offers mastery of lyricism, mature production, genuine passion, romance, and heartbreak, and a unique sound that will have you spinning this record over and over again.

9/10

Licketysplit Vol. 2 - Daniel, 7/4/14

Another 4th of July, another chance to celebrate the glorious experiment that is America!
Like most experiments, its results leave a lot to be desired (to say the least)
Consider this mix a tiny consolation prize for how bad those results are.

• My Country - Tune-Yards
• American Boy - Estelle (ft. Kanye)
• North American Scum - LCD Soundsystem
• This Land is Your Land - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
• Anti-American Graffiti - J Dilla
• American Music - Violent Femmes
• No More Kings (Schoolhouse Rock cover) - Pavement
• A More Perfect Union - Titus Andronicus
• Fourth of July - Galaxie 500

special patriotic bonus!!!

• Minimum Wage - They Might Be Giants

Review: Alex Calder - Time EP

image

This incredibly flourishing Brooklyn indie scene is overwhelming.

Tonight, thousands of hipsters will raise their glasses of shitty Walmart wine by an eclectic smorgasbord of candles while listening to artists like Mac DeMarco, Tonstartssbandht, Shorts, and Alex Calder.

Each artist has their own developed, singular sonorous identity. Tonstartssbandht is your prime example of vintage gypsy rock (?!?!?!?), DeMarco provides the cute, yet sensual indie pop rock, and Shorts provides a hybrid dream pop/shoegaze + indie rock. 

Calder works in a very interesting manner of indie. Bear with me, it’s still indie. Just very - scary.

He boasts an impressive musical background from Canada, like his cohort DeMarco. Calder played drums in the capricious Makeout Videotape during its brief life, and retained a solid camaraderie with DeMarco throughout the following years; it was solid enough to prompt DeMarco to include Calder in his video for “Passing Out Pieces”. 

His debut release, Time, as put by Pitchfork reviewer Zach Kelley, is “a demented take on 1960s flower pop”. 

With his proficient use of echo and reverb coupled with his spunky, ebullient guitar, try-hard vocals, drums that could rattle a house and not wake a baby simultaneously and steady, dad-behind-the-wheel bass, I don’t think there’s a better way to describe it.

His EP opens with a cute little indie sonnet to a “Suki”, who seems to be having a much better love-life than 67% of Americans. His grand canyon vocals titillate the track to an uncomfortably suitable level. Seems strange to find such a haunting effect on such a love-enfused track. 

Following with similar vocal effects and a very tight-knit-party feel, “Light Leave Your Eyes” serves as the only music video-worthy track on this EP. There aren’t too many songs that emit the “single” vibe, but if there’s any on this EP, it has to be this one. This is the fortunate son of the EP, the one that did things correctly. Unfortunately, this is not an emotion easy to describe. Sort of one of those “you-have-to-get-it” moments. Another reason why reviews suck.

"Location", the next track, seems to be a humble reiteration of his reverb-drugged vocal effects. This track introduces the listener to Calder’s excellent usage of sound effects, which continue for the rest of the EP. Often, that is said in a negative connotation. This time, not so much. He’s got a leg up on the indie competition with his 2spooky grabbag that encompasses the record dangerously. Black coffee, anyone?

The EP carries on with “Time”, the EP-named epitome-of-his-genre track. This has all your basic elements of an out-there flower-pop hit - your static, delay-driven guitar riffs, bass mimicry, and of course - Calder’s personal favorite - the most spacey vocals you’ve ever heard in your goddamned life. Cutting in at a deft 2 minutes and 14 seconds, this baby-faced glamour shot of Calder shoots u into the skyyyyyyyy………….way past Mars, Jupiter, Venus…….

A once-again vacuously powered sugar-pop-gone-horribly-wrong number, “Captivate” rolls the EP along like a pizza dough. It’s here, however, where you’ve got to recognize the fact that this pizza is never going to be baked. 

Calder’s gimmicks have run their course. While he’s surely the dude to do his thing, his thing is getting a little annoying. His inundating usage of echo-driven vocals and boogaloo guitar seem to find their way on to every track, including the next two, “Fatal Delay”, and the final track, with an impossibly fitting title - “Lethargic”. 

Calder has the workings to become a very omnipotent figure in indie music. He’s just got to open up his palette.

This circumstantially becomes ironic, however - for while Calder has the abilities to become a key figure - sadly enough - it’s of the most droning music genre ever.

He’s doing everything adequately for his people, but enough translates to some for others. In this instance, he’s got to diversify massively, or else he’ll trip into the history books as the most happy-sleepy indie artist ever. 

Easier said than done.

6.5/10