Ever since Yacht Rock rekindled all of ours’ fascination with the smooth jams of the late 70′s and 80′s, a multitude of bands have tried to make a modernized version of the sound. Side-note: if you haven’t yet watched the Yacht Rock 12-part Mocumentary Series, then stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now. They just re-released it in Hi-Def even. Anyway, I’d say a solid 99.2% of the bands that try to embody this sound in the modern era just all-out totally fail. There’s a reason all those Hall & Oates grooves and Kenny Loggins hits are so amazing, and the key factor is that there’s no sense of irony in them. Thirty years ago, the musical world was a different place, and you were able to completely lose yourself in your own absurdity. It was a time when critical reaction was not on your mind – you could just make music that felt fucking great. Side-note #2: Steely Dan has, still does, and will always blow massive doo-doo rod. But moving on… today’s artists think that there’s something funny and ironic about making smooth music. They’re like the kids born in the 90′s who go see Chromeo, and they show up in day-glo leggings and headbands because they think it’s some kind of 80′s mockery music. They can’t just accept that the tunes are good, and that they should just dance like normal people – instead of pretending they’re doing a skit at their 3rd grade variety show. There is one modern artist however, that is able to fully realize the simpler moments of the smooth groove – Benny Sings.
The main reason Benny Sings is able to abandon all sense of irony is that he is Dutch. Plain and simple. If you’re from the Netherlands, then you’re born with an inherent sense of comical naivety – which sucks if you want to be a stand-up comic, but which is amazing if you want to kick out some smooth-ass jams. I’ve only recently stumbled upon the majesty of Benny Sings, and now I’m basking in all his glory. He;s still bigger in Asia and Europe than he is over here, but the dude is a fucking gem. I really can’ t believe this video for “For Your Love” has under 2,000 views! Dig in…
If you missed the boat 2 years ago when Ariel Pink finally blew up and dropped many a critics’ Album of the Year with Before Today, don’t be too hard on yourself. At the time, it almost seemed too hip for its own good, and those smooth retro jams seemed slightly insincere at first listen to some folk. But now’s the time to go back and catch up, because if not, you’re falling behind on his latest release Mature Themes. Summing up his vibe perfectly in the latest Spin, Ariel claims that “I knew that I was doing something that sounded like the trace of a memory you can’t place.” To me it sounds like music from some parallel universe where 70′s yacht rock made a perfect transition into 80′s pop music – like if Michael McDonald had managed to still stay relevant.
Despite the jumbled ego that he can’t help but emit constantly, Pink really is crafting genius smooth-pop that transcends any and all genre-era constraints. Try to hate it, but the shit is just fucking fly as all hell. This new video for “Only in My Dreams” isn’t ground-breaking by any means, but it continues the low-fi dreamscape which he so embodies. Presumably shot on VHS, and not really following any interesting plot-line, the video is as relaxed and casual as his music – as it should be. He wants some girl, but it’s not really working out – that’s it. Track is great though, so is the album, and the video makes you want to go dig out your too-tight Vaurnet t-shirt and short-shorts, grab a 4-pack of Bartles and James and head for the community pool. Dig it.
The deeper I seep into the new Destroyer album, the more I worry I’m going to wake up in 1982. This is only further evidence that Daniel Bejar needs to focus less on less on his other, less pop-savvy band The New Pornographers, and rather keep a one-track mind on pumping out the dreamy yacht-funk that is captured on last week’s release, Kaputt.
And I’ll say it right now, I hate Steely Dan. Yep, just hate em’ – kinda think they’re two of the most soulless crafters of pop in the history of the game. Don’t try to argue – I can’t be swayed. But regardless, I only mention this because it means I thus have a rather elevated and critical ear for the drifty funk-for-yacht grooves. And with a rather large pallet of hipsters crafting just such sounds at a relatively frequent pace as of late, again my tastes are rather attuned. It takes just the right blend of subtle irony, and true embrace of your inner slickness for me to shout your praise. But if Destroyer knows anything, it’s that when you really hit that groove right, you are legally binded to make a video with girls in 80′s leotards amidst some modern, nerdy twist. Grum of Super Furry Animals went off the same lesson-plan last year. Here’s the two together – headbands required for viewing.