I’ve always been a casual fan of Yo La Tengo. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the hell out of them, but I haven’t yet fully absorbed their 30-year catalog. I did play the hell out of I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass when it came out in 2006, but I’ve been slow at diving into their other 12 albums past that. And admittedly, while I love the vast diversity of tunes they put out on each album, I always find myself skipping to the softer, more delicate tunes. That’s why I’ve been loving the fuck out of their newest, Fade. Their new record does something none of their others ever have – it nestles into a specific pocket and stays there. There’s no flip of the game from stretched out punk rockers to ethereal drifters. Rather, the whole record stays in that whispering stillness that is known to frequently permeate their sound. This is the kind of mellow music that Grizzly Bear tries with all their might to create, but has never really pulled off. While the kids in Grizzly make incredibly boring albums with no direction, and then bitch about not getting nominated for a Grammy, the brilliant hearts of Yo La Tengo make amazingly melodic songs that draw you in, wrap their arms around you, and squeeze out your darkest fears and comforts – and I can guarantee they couldn’t give two shits about winning any awards. And mind you, this is a simple indie-rock band fronted by Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley – two brilliant and gentle folks who have been married for 3 solid decades and who seem to have no other desire than to make music and be joyous with one another. And with the recent bummering divorce of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Ira and Georgia have become the go-to couple for the definition of true indie love. But what’s really amazing is how they write songs, especially on Fade, that touch so perfectly on the emotions of fear and uncertainty when it comes to love and life itself. In other words, these people keep it more real than the cracks in your driveway. As its title suggests, this is a record that could seemingly fade out at any point, but instead it lingers, and it multiplies, and it echoes back into itself thematically and emotionally. It’s one of those albums that when you listen to in solitude late at night, you let out those big sighs where you admit to yourself how great it is to be human – one of those albums where you reminisce on lost love and feel blessed for the lessons you have learned. And in many ways, Fade is the definitive realization of what 2013 sounds like… the world didn’t blow up, we’re still here, shit’s pretty fucked up all over, there’s a lot of shit we need to fix, but we can all accept ourselves for ourselves. There’s no need anymore to hide or even to put on a show – this is the time to be. Just to be. So despite how epic people may tell you 1993′s Painful is, or how brilliant 1997′s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is, Fade is the first truly essential Yo La Tengo album of their career. You don’t’ want to not have this record in your heart. Don’t let it pass you by.
Here’s the video for “I’ll Be Around” from Fade - one of the most beautiful music videos I’ve ever seen.
Well, I’m about 14 listens into the new My Bloody Valentine album, and I can already feel it restructuring my genetic make-up. I’ve always adored Loveless, and as crazy as it seems to me that I may actually enjoy this record even more, I can’t deny it. Listening to mbv is like watching water rush down an empty riverbed – it works its way into every crack and fully consumes everything, creating a new unified entity with the previously dry ground beneath it. This is the first album I’ve ever tried to turn my Bose computer speakers all the way up for, and they totally had not a lick of balls to get to the point I needed. I need to drown in this shit – that’s the intention of the music, and not letting it fully wash over you is a complete disgrace and disregard to its power. You can read my full review of the album HERE at State of Mind, and here’s the last paragraph of it.
…Somehow, thank god, Bilinda Butcher’s vocals are still as ethereal and illusive as ever. After all this time, I still have no clue what one word of the lyrics she sings on Loveless is, and 22 years from now I’ll still have no clue what any of the words on mbv are. But complaining about that is like complaining about not properly knowing what hue of indigo lies within glacial ice — some things in life just are entities solely unto themselves. I could go on and on… how perfectly imperfect the guitar tone is in “Who Sees You”… how “New You” is the most eerily beautiful anything of the past decade… how the drums on “In Another Way” sound like a syncopated stampede of rabid yak… how “Wonder 2″ is most assuredly the sound of Neptune’s rings… To simply delineate the enormity of this music into something so trivial as “shoegazing” is like classifying your life with a haircut. mbv is not only a testament to the potential triumphs of great bands lost along the way, but an ode to the authenticity of rebirth in general….
The sudden arrival this weekend of the first My Bloody Valentine album in 22 years caused music-heads the world over to unexpectedly shoot their loads all over the goddamn place. Most indie-kids had gotten so used to living with the half-chubbed boner that Loveless left them with in 1991, that they had become completely oblivious to the fact that they had spent the past two decades in constant half-aroused anticipation. When Kevin Shields decided that the unannounced arrival of his band’s new record would be the ideal drop, tens of thousands of folks worldwide had an inner sonic explosion akin only to the greatest prepubescent ejaculation of their childhood years.
But seriously, the release of m b v is a huge fucking deal. Imagine if after The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965, they waited til 1987 to release Revolver. That’s the equivalent gap between moments of magic we’re currently experiencing here. And yes, believe it or not, this new record totally lives up to it’s long-lost father. If this record had come out in 1993, it would have been met with just as much equal praise as it is today – a worthy successor to a breakthrough moment in rock’s history. Sure, there’s a touch more sense of melodic flow to the new album, but it still quintessential My Bloody Valentine – quivering echoes of electric squeeze, and the definitive calling cards of everything we like to call shoegaze. What’s most impressive though, is that despite the hundreds if not thousands of indie-rock bands that have tried to sound like MBV over the years, this is the only time there has ever been new music that is unmistakeably this same band. Despite every hip girl on the planet wanting to, nobody has ever sounded like Bilinda Butcher, and amazingly her voice sounds just as ethereal, and spookily heartwarming here as it did half a lifetime ago. Most importantly though, this band has possible one of the greatest legacies in rock history. And to have the confidence and skill to not fuck that up is one of the greatest accomplishments any band has ever pulled off. Think about how much you hung your head in shame when Jane’s Addiction started recording horrid new music. And think about how stoked you were when Pavement returned and played nothing but their old shit. So hats go way the fuck off to Shields and company here – good to have you all back.
“People in Portland never laugh at jokes. It’s cuz you don’t have sales tax. You don’t even have heroin in this town anymore. Um, go Blazers.” – That was a mere smidgen of the poetic turns-of-phrase that came out of Bradford Cox Monday night in Portland. Sonically, the lines between Bradford’s band Deerhunter and his solo work as Atlas Sound have blurred together a lot more lately. Last year’s Parallax was a lot more melody-oriented than any of his prior solo seances, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from this set – luckily, he didn’t seem to know what to expect either. I’d say 65% of the show was all completely off-the-cuff, and it was spectacular.
Readings from a gay poetry book, posing like Lou Reed for the camera-happy, hilariously loving comments of Portland, and oh yeah, some of the most brilliant drone and echo manipulation you’ll ever see any human being on earth perform. Here’s a snippet of my review at State of Mind and you can read the full thing HERE.
“The evening began with a reading from A Lover’s Cock, a book Cox had bought that afternoon at Powell’s and which was totally comprised of graphic, homosexual poetry. A passionate boner soliloquy grew into an enormous droning vocal-loop before landing in “Recent Bedroom” from 2008′s Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, which itself than melted into another space-drone accompanied by a sonnet about the beauty of a man’s ass. The thing is, as crazy as all this sounds, what he is doing with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, and a loop machine is honestly magical. He’s able to take half-second snips of harmonica or vocal notes and turn them into elegant drones — not just the sweet loops you and your buddy make in your garage after too many bong-hits, but instant moments of sonic art by a true master of his craft. More than just a genius of echo patterns though, Bradford is a master of formulating himself and his whole persona into the main instrument. There’s this twisted innocence inside him that is the heart of his sound. You could put him up there with a wooden spoon and a stack of dirty laundry, and he would somehow be able to tweak some harmonies out of them.”
And here’s “Te Amo” – one of the songs he fully performed the other night and a great example of what he does with his pedals.
London producer, performer, and electro-wizard, Gold Panda has just released a free new track to download off his website at www.iamgoldpanda.com. If you’re not aware of Gold Panda, I’d put him at the top of the modern organic-electro scene along with Caribou, Atlas Sound and Four Tet. Maybe Flying Lotus too, as well as some other wielders of the modern knightly sword. And by that previous odd descriptive moniker which can lean in several directions, I refer to the fact that he makes music that while entirely electronic is very projective of human emotion. He uses a beat-sampler as more of an instrument than a loop-tool at times, but more importantly there’s just an overwhelming natural sense coming off of him – much more of an artist and musician than others he gets lumped in with.
This new track, “MBP” is a little intimidating if it’s your first glimpse of the man. Jetsons-era wind-chimes fall into a fairly intense overlay of scattered xylophone licks before it moves into a meditative bug-zapper kind of thing. GP’s tunes fall into 3 categories: the ambient drift, the glitchy late-night dance beat, and the future molding sound-pattern attack. “MBP” falls more into the 3rd category. Last year’s Lucky Shiner was his first full length album, and easily made my top 10 list last year. This year’s Companion is a collection of all the EP releases from the year or so before the album, and it’s proof that he has been on point from the get-go. His music is magic, and most of the time incredibly beautiful in a more absurd way than you’ve ever heard beauty in anyone before. If this free track intrigues you, get Lucky Shiner, then Companion, then wait like the rest of us for the next LP hopefully due out near the end of the year. Here’s a cut of the much more reserved track “Fifth Ave” which is a perfect audio grab of the solitude of New York City in a steady dark rain.
So yeah, yeah, I know – Halcyon Digest came out last September, but now that everybody’s year-end best-of lists have been fully digested, I can’t help but comment on how over-rated this album is. Pitchfork had it at #3, Spin at #2, random tail-grabbers had the nerve to put it at #1. First things first, I friggin’ love Bradford Cox, and I think his oddly stretched out body has one of the most intriguing musical minds of our modern era. But God, I hope he never makes another album like this ever again.
While Deerhunter has been constantly evolving into a more fearsome embrace of the post-trance, organic drift-off vibe, Halcyon has gone one step too deep into some of the most incredibly boring music ever made. Honestly, if you can put this on your headphones any time after 9 p.m. without falling asleep, then I owe you a nickel.
Now admittingly, I had it at #28 on my personal top 40 list, but my real gripe isn’t with the album but with the unforseen embrace of it. What it seems to me has happened is that a whole shitload of people completely missed out on 2008′s Microcastle releases. So they had seen the Deerhunter name on other people’s blog and best-of lists back then, and had initially said “Fuck whatever band names itself after that creepy movie.” But then a year or so later, they finally heard it and were like “Oh shit, now I get it. I’m such a late-bloom new-release noob.” So then when Halcyon Digest came out, these same people said, “Oh sweet, now I can be one of the hip in-the-know peeps by putting this on my best-of list.” However, this act was done in complete disregard to the actual inert quality of the album, which pales in comparison to may of the other great releases form last year. Sure, it’s cool , it’s mellow, it’s rough – it’s good even. But it doesn’t belong in anyone’s top 10.
So despite it being both a critical success and a really cool album, the real aclaim is due more to hipster class wars than actual music. And that unatural out cycle of love unfortunately only leaves me with more disdain for the actual product. Sorry Bradford, not your fault I guess. Just get back to the shoegaze bud, ok?
If you’re completely unaware of Deerhunter then start with the 2008 bonus disc Weird Era Continued, then hit Microcastle, then 2007′s Cryptograms, then the new one, then the old one. Here’s my favorite cut off Weird Era, “Dot Gain” which actually has Lockett Pundt on vocals rather than Bradford.