Yo dudes. Spring is here! Just came back from a nice swim in the London Fields Lido, feeling light, limber, and crisp, so I’m going to roll with it and casually throw some tunes up here that I’ve been vibing on lately. Enjoy!
1. “SNARL” – 18+ ft. AIDS 3-D
I generally have been pretty obsessed with 18+ since my friend Adam Harper (who also happens to be a fancy music critic) put another song of their’s called jet$ on a mix for me. They are a mysterious duo no one knows that much about, but they have a considerable following on YouTube (their preferred platform for dropping new tracks). Their music videos are hilarious, weird, hyper-sexualized, and awkward in that whole spectrum of intentionally early Internet-aesthetics genre where everything looks like it was made on software from 1996-1998.
This track in particular is totally relentless in terms of the bass (laptop speakers will not do it justice, turn on your subwoofer!). It is also probably my favorite of theirs lyrically. The opening line features a female voice seductively singing, “I’m a doggywog…“, and then launches into a half-rap/half-sung segment that is semi-violent: “Kick her in that throat”, aggressive: “he said lick you feel, gonna make you real, gonna tweak your chunk, fuckin’ deep your trunk“, subtly seductive: “honey, I wanna race, you know my name” and totally jokes: “warm you up and up like that pecan pie”. I mean WTF is even going on in this song?
The end is *perfectly* executed, with a simple, understated “Oh shit…” muttered to herself at around 2:03, a few seconds of silence, the sound of glass breaking, and the bass drops one last time. It’s satisfying, confusing, and addictive. Which is probably why the YouTube video has 10,000+ views and (at the time of this writing) not a single “dislike”. Perfection.
2. “Play by Play” – Autre Ne Veut
Oh god, where to even begin with this guy?? I first became aware of Arthur Ashin (aka Autre Ne Veut) a couple of years ago when my friend Chris of LUNA Music in Indy gave me his song “OMG” back in 2010. I was instantly captivated by it as it didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard. It also managed to capture that weird, edgy, but kinda euphoric feeling of knowing you are falling for someone, and that they are falling for you, and you don’t have to talk about it, but you both know you can’t be together for whatever reason “cause there’s something there that just ain’t right” and you also don’t want to hurt the person: “I don’t wanna hold you back, I don’t wanna hurt your body”. Very few songs so elegantly capture this anxiety-provoking middle ground between “friendship” and “relationship”.
Anyway, I sort of forgot about him TBH until his new album Anxiety came out and W-O-W, I mean, this might be one of the few albums that on first listen completely blew me away. Despite being quite a different kind of record than his first, it managed to retain the kind of manic, compulsive (maybe borderline desperate?) energy that I originally found so moving on “OMG”. However, the production no longer embellished Ashin’s vocals under a ton of layers, revealing that he actually has a remarkably strong voice– like “giving Justin Timberlake a run for his money”-strong. A voice that puts him in a totally different class to other “lo-fi r&b”-type projects one might initially be tempted to lump him in with (e.g. How to Dress Well, The Weeknd etc). This is not some guy in his bedroom dicking around on Ableton with layering falsetto vocal loops over obscure early 90′s r&b samples he ripped off cassettes, Ashin is the real deal. The production is crisp and clean, more hi-fi than lo-fi.
Ashin also stylistically draws from many more areas of music than r&b, and in unpredictable and interesting ways. There are elements of classical instrumentation, soul, pop (of course), electro-rock guitar-driven segments reminescent of Ratatat (Don’t Ever Look Back), and I might be crazy but I think I detect some Boris/Merzbow -esque noise/drone going on in the lead up to the breakdown in World War. One of very few records of the last 5 years that is undeniably a step forward for experimental pop music. (Oh and just in case you’re wondering, he is just as good (if not better) live. I saw him perform on two consecutive nights in London and he gave more than 100%, you will not be disappointed.)
3. “HOTEL TAIWAN WELC☯MES U” – 情報デスクVIRTUAL
One of the things I find the most fascinating about the tumblr generation is their ability to reappropriate basically anything and make it into an interesting sub-sub genre that will last 6 months (or less). Think of the sort of music you would expect to be in the background of, like, hotel lobbies in Tokyo in 1994 and airport terminals in Denver in 1995. Muzak that was commissioned as a product at some point by some company to just be unnoticed and subliminally enhance your experience in alienating public spaces. Now take that music/zak, and imagine a bunch of kids with ADHD messing with different combinations of hypnotic loops based on samples drawn from this collection of sounds we were never supposed to be listening to this closely in the first place, and you basically have a really crude construal of a new sub-sub genre called “Vaporwave”. The results are a totally fascinating kind of doom sonic art.
Note: Adam Harper more elegantly personifies it in his Dummy magazine article as a “doomed Japanese businessman roaming the halls of the virtual plaza with a vacant grin on his wrinkling face”. Genius.
4. “Five Seconds” – Twin Shadow
[WARNING: Video is pretty uhh... violent, so maybe NSFW?]
Many of you will already be familiar with George Lewis Jr. as Twin Shadow, a longtime favorite of ours since his brilliant album Forget was released in 2010 on Terrible Records (the Brooklyn-based indie label, co-run by founders Ethan Silverman and Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor). This is the first single released from his follow-up album Confess, and it continues with the 1980′s/Morrissey vibe, but takes it totally next level into smooth-talkin motorcycle dude territory. Lewis appears to evolved into a somewhat tougher/slicker character here, but without sacrificing sincerity or accessibility. Solid Solid Solid.
5. “Entertainment” – Phoenix (Blood Orange Remix)
TBH I’ve been over the French band Phoenix since Lost in Translation came out, but this remix by Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) benefits from being reworked by the powerful vocals of the original Sugababes line up, singing the chorus lyric “I’d rather be alone” as well as a beautifully integrated and arresting guitar solo from Hynes that conveys exponentially more emotion than the original mix. A lesson on how production can truly make or break a track.
That’s all for now. Watch out for PART II coming soon!