Leaving the City

It looks like I may be right about Joanna Newsom’s forthcoming album Divers being a more experimental work, because this second single (“Leaving the City”) is truly unlike anything else she’s ever done before. That’s not hyperbole. I honestly can’t compare this to any other song or even just general thematic sound from any album she’s done before. This is a flirtation with rock – a surprise coming from Newsom, but a very pleasant one!

Her weapon of choice – the Celtic harp – still has a strong presence throughout the track, but now we also get some kind of synthy sound (a Mellotron maybe? I’ll be honest, that’s based on quick research with little details. I have no idea what that instrument is), a bit of piano, some heavy drums, and something called a Marxophone. It makes for a very dark and sinister song. I was listening some thunder and wind noises from one of my favorite sites and all combined it gave me chills.

Now I’m pretty sure Newsom did move fully from New York City to LA (she bought a house out here a year or so ago with husband Andy Samberg), so maybe that’s what this song is about? It seems likely. “I believe in you./Do you believe in me?/What do you want to do?/Are we leaving the city?” It makes for an interesting contrast to the lilting playfulness of “Sapokanikan” which was definitely about NYC. I don’t think this song is about LA so much as it is about the move though. I am excited to see if she does have a song about LA though! I mean, she’s from California, but Northern California specifically – a teeny tiny little place called Nevada City. So who knows? I’m just excited in general to see what comes next.

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LP1

I think I first heard about FKA twigs about a year ago. There was a review of her first full-length album, simply titled LP1, in Bitch magazine. It seemed like a pretty good review, but then so do a lot of the music reviews in Bitch.  I didn’t really think much of it, until I started seeing pictures of her on Tumblr recently. She had this striking look about her, and this certain aesthetic that made me wonder how it reflected in her music. And so I decided to give her a chance and downloaded her album before I drove up to Big Bear Lake for my birthday last week.

I listened to it three times and then some all the way to the top of the mountain. Wow! This isn’t really like anything I’ve heard before. It’s a witchy fusion of chillout, R&B, and trip hop. It’s at some times eerie and other times seductive. It’s a slow burn but it’s hardly boring. It’s very experimental but seems confident it knows what it’s doing. I think it’s probably a really good sex album.

The album opens with a track just called “Preface” (a lot of the songs on here have rather succinct titles) which sounds like something that would be sung by a coven of witches in the woods at night. The lyrics are just this: “I love another and thus I hate myself.” Very short, but repeated like a chant, with ghostly electronic noises that creep into the tiniest crevices of your brain.

Then it goes into a track that placed itself in my favorites pretty much immediately: “Lights On.” The song starts in kind of an unsettling way with more electronic weirdness and sub-bass pulsing and you’re not sure where it’s going until we get FKA twigs’s hypnotic, deliberate vocals. But it’s the chorus that really seals it: “When I trust you we can do it with the lights on.” Both thematically and sonically (it’s those quiet, spooky electronic noises), it reminds me of “Hidden Place” by Björk, another one of my all-time favorite songs, in that it’s about sharing your vulnerability with someone. Well, and your body too, let’s not mince words here. Also, that car alarm at the end should seem jarring and misplaced…but it works.

“Two Weeks” is another seductive track, and it definitely goes all in. It’s got a lot of gusto for a song that sounds so smooth. You just feel it with your whole body. In the video, twigs portrays herself as a goddess in a temple, though that’s not apparent until we’re almost fully zoomed out. It’s the image you want to project when you’re trying to get someone to forget about their ex and realize how good they have it with you.

“Hours” is another stand out track for me on this album. “I could kiss you for hours/And not miss a thing.” Yes, that’s a thing you want to feel! A very good thing! This song has a fuzzy euphoric glow to it that matches those words. It’s pretty straightforward. But I mean it also sounds like it feels like to be in that state. I mean, it just goes to show you how much this album is, if not a sex album, a makeout album at the very least. Seriously, I feel like if you have someone over and things are going well and you put on this album they will start to go VERY well.

Okay, well, maybe some tracks are not so sexy lyrically (but who is listening to the words during makeouts?). Like “Pendulum” for instance, which is about feeling insufficient in your relationship because your partner has basically told you so. The video is gorgeous to watch at least and features some amazing (hair) shibari and suspension. It reminds me a bit of the video for “Pagan Poetry” by Björk but without the nudity and…extreme…body piercing. A different kind of kink then.

“Video Girl” is the creepiest song after the intro track, I’d say. This sounds like a song about a cheating partner (Is she the girl that’s from the video?/Stop, stop lying to me), but it’s really about twigs herself! She started her career as a successful backup dancer in music videos for several big artists (Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, and Jessie J to name a few) and was kind of stuck in this role when she was trying to break off and make a name for herself as an artist (yay! She succeeded!). The video is even more unnerving, and features her watching and dancing on top of a man being put to death by lethal injection, like she’s some hallucination or succubus. There is some more creepy though not quite graphic imagery, like the stuff you see at the edges of your mind when you remember a nightmare you had, so just a heads up about that. (Oh, also also it starts with “Prelude”!)

I really like the track “Numbers” a lot, even though, again, it’s not thematically very sexy. “Was I just a number to you?” I mean, that says it all. But it’s so trip-hoppy and hypnotic, it just pulls you right in. It’s bitter and pining and devastated and seething with barely contained anger. There are also a lot of little creepy noises and whispers. It sounds like there’s a poltergeist in this song at times.

“Closer” makes for a pleasant follow-up track. It’s got this sort of church choir sound to it. Like a hymn or something. It’s definitely full of joy and praise, run through twigs’s trippy chillout stylings. It’s not my favorite track, but it’s a very nice one!

The next track, “Get Up,” is nice too, but it’s sad. You know, with a lot of these songs, I can imagine a unique dance assigned to them. I mean, twigs was a backup dancer after all, and a very good one at that. This one is graceful like a ballet and tragic too. I’m no choreographer, but I can feel my body moving to this one in a very particular way.

“Kicks” is the final track and it seems to answer the thesis set by the intro. Where twigs started hating herself, she now practices self-love. Literally. It seems like she’s hesitant to do so at first, but eventually she justifies it to herself. Because she deserves it, dammit! “When I’m alone/I don’t need you/I love my touch/Know just what to do.”

I’ve been thinking about what kind of person I would recommend this album too. I think if you like Björk, especially Vespertine, you would like this album. If you like iamamiwhoami (haha, how many people would that be again?), especially bounty, then you would probably like this album. I think you have to have a little patience to like LP1 because it’s not an album you jam to. It’s a good background album. It’s a good headphones album too. There are lots of interesting noises going on here, as I’ve mentioned multiple times. Sorry, I just really like music with subtle, interesting noises! It’s one of the reasons Vespertine is one of my favorites, and it’s why I draw so many comparisons between that one and this one. While I don’t think LP1 has quite as much lasting power as Vespertine, I think it’s still worth the listen and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the comparisons.

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Even More Music That Made Me

I bought some records recently and one of them (which I’ll get to momentarily) made me reflect on some more music that made me when I was growing up. The record that started this trip down memory lane was…

1) Weezer, Weezer (aka The Blue Album)

Yep, their debut album! The vinyl I got has the original master recording, so it sounds even better than I remember it – but then I think I ripped it from a burned CD when an old childhood friend visited years ago. I think I was in high school but this album came out when I was a kid and had no idea who Weezer was. Really, when I first heard of Weezer (again, in high school) it was the singles from their third album (also titled Weezer but better known as The Green Album) that I was familiar with. These were mainly “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun.” But my friend didn’t have The Green Album and so I burned The Blue Album. It would stick with me for several years and today still I enjoy coming back to it.

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2) Moby, Play

I mentioned this one in my first Music That Made Me post. It was an honorable mention at the time, so here I’m giving it a full mention. I played this one A LOT in high school. I wasn’t really aware of how big an album this was at the time. I just saw the music video for “South Side” on MTV and liked Gwen Stefani and so I bought the album. Looking back, it makes sense and seems right that this would be one of the greatest albums of its time. (I think it still holds up even now.) Every song was like an audio landscape to me. They’re so distinct from one another and yet they belong on the same album. It’s like a quilt, and it’s one of my favorites as such.

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3) Harry Connick Jr., 20

This one seems kind of random, eh? I went through a period where I really liked jazz (I mean, I still like jazz) and somehow I got ahold of this album. It belonged to my parents, but I had it in my walkman a lot for a time. I really liked how expressive a solo jazz piano could be. This album doesn’t have a lot of singing on it – well, less than a general pop album would, I guess – but it didn’t need a lot of sining. And even when there was singing, it flowed really well with the piano. Because I don’t forget the music that made me, I have a couple of Harry Connick Jr.’s other albums, but none of them quite did it for me like 20. I never stopped liking jazz, and I still love this album.

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4) Dido, No Angel

Another album from high school! Like most people, I was introduced to this one via the single “Thank You” – the actual single, not the sample from Eminem’s song “Stan.” But “Thank You” wasn’t even my favorite song. The album overall is painted with sad tones and themes, but there was something very independent about it too. Dido’s presence was very strong throughout, and it made an impression on me. I don’t think I’ve heard the whole thing from start to finish in quite some time, but I think I may need to change that. This was a great album, start to finish, and I think anyone who likes a quieter pop album would really appreciate this one.

Angeldido

5) Coldplay, Parachutes

Should I say it again? Another high school era album for me. I mean, of course the music you listen to in high school has the greatest influence on you. Coldplay has been big practically from the start, but this was before they got really, really big the way they are now. Seeing as how I liked Dido, it makes sense that I liked Coldplay too. I mean, I guess I still like them! I have a few of their other albums that followed. But this one made the biggest impression on me. It was the quietest, yet it was just as powerful as the albums that would follow, for me anyway. I played this one a lot, a lot. But again, it’s been awhile since I’ve listened to it start to finish.

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I’m looking from the top of the list to the bottom and I guess I’ve unintentionally listed them in the order I’d go back and listen to them – from sooner rather than later to later rather than sooner. I don’t want to say I’ve outgrown these albums – they’re still good and they were important to me – but I guess my musical tastes aren’t as fulfilled by these ones. It’s kind of weird to look back on these and think of the albums I play a lot now and how different they are. I don’t really see a pattern in my music that made me. Just an evolution, I guess.

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BoJack Horseman

Another week skipped. Oh well, here I am again, with a quick post! And it’s about…TV? Well, sort of. It’s about the music featured on a TV show, or at least a particular song. (Oh, I’ve done this a few times before!)

I started watching BoJack Horseman on Sunday and I haven’t been able to get the opening theme song out of my head. It doesn’t really have a name. It’s just called “BoJack Horseman Theme.” It’s performed by Patrick Carney and features Ralph Carney on the sax. That’s about all the hard facts I have on the song.

Wow oh wow does that opening punch me in the gut. The visuals are pretty straightforward. It’s just the title character staring ahead with a look that hardly changes while we watch his background change constantly over the course of an entire day. It’s monotony clashing with dynamism, and that’s great. I mean, I’m only halfway through the first season so far, but it makes perfect sense for the show.

I couldn’t get enough so I found a longer version. The full version even!

There’s just something so hypnotic about it. I love that weird, twangy sound and the reverb on that guitar. The drums make it feel like a meditation, and then that sax comes in and just blows my mind. It’s just so good. It’s painful and plaintive and a little soul-crushing, but in such a good way. Maybe that’s just me over-interpreting it. Or maybe, if reviews I’ve heard of the show in its entirety are true, I’m spot-on. We’ll just have to see.

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Sapokanikan

Stop the presses! Joanna Newsom has started making noise again! Gosh, how did I almost miss this one? Well, when an artist goes five years between albums (and doesn’t have any social media accounts or even their own website – just a page on their record label’s site), I guess it takes some time before the news reaches a fan. All I knew over those past five years was that she got married to Andy Samberg and bought a house in LA that Charlie Chaplin used to live in.

And so we have “Sapokanikan,” the first single from her upcoming album Divers!

It reminds me a lot of her very early work, at least vocally. There’s a lot of acrobatics and lilting and wild abandon going on here. Yet lyrically it makes me think of Ys. Though this track isn’t nearly as long as the shortest one on that album, it still has that epic poetic lyrical structure – there’s hardly a pause between verses. It’s really hard to pin down this one. It sounds like this album is going to be more experimental.

It’s hard for me to say what any Joanna Newsom song is about. This is usually because of that epic lyrical structure I mentioned earlier. It usually takes a lot of listens before I get a feel for it. And even then, a Joanna Newsom song requires more research, as she makes a lot of references to history, literature, and myths. Yeah, it’s a little hipstery, but if you can get over it, it makes for great music that transcends the casualness of most rock and pop. I’m sorry, that sounded pretty hipstery too. I can say that Sapokanikan refers to the Native American name given to the land that eventually became Greenwich Village in NYC. So it seems that this song is a musing on the history of the area. If you want a good breakdown, I’d head over to Genius. They’re usually pretty good about this kind of stuff.

As for the video itself, it makes me think of Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” but in NYC, of course. It’s somehow fitting for Joanna Newsom to be prancing and skipping through the big city as she sings. The song certainly doesn’t make me think of NYC, but that just makes it all the more interesting. She should seem out of place and overwhelmed (coming from the little bitty town of Nevada City, California) but she’s not phased at all and seems comfortable as she winds her way through shops and parks. I like it.

This is probably not a good starter Joanna Newsom song for a newcomer – but if you’re a fan and you, like me, have somehow missed out on it, get to listening! And prepare yourself for something very new and different. I’m excited to see what October 23rd brings.

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Girl Gang

Everyone has that one song (or more) they love and sing along to every time – only to finally look up the lyrics and realize they’re completely different. Not many people then go and make that song with their misheard lyrics as a cover. But that’s what Kate Nash did when she heard the song “Cocaine” by FIDLAR and turned it into “Girl Gang”!

Not much changes other than the name (and every instance of it in the song). It’s a straight up cover, and a great one at that. Definitely makes me want to don my old patch covered jacket, find some brass knuckles, and dare someone to mess with me.

I saw Kate Nash a couple of years ago at the Troubadour here in LA and she actually played this song. She even explained that the song did indeed result from misheard lyrics as I mentioned at the top of this post. She’s a big fan of FIDLAR, an LA based punk band, so much so that her bass actually has their inscription. Or did they give her their bass? I can’t remember exactly. But they’re well-acquainted with each other and she’s even performed on one of their songs.

Anyway, I love what she’s done with the song. It definitely fits in with her current riot grrl style/aesthetic/image. She even turns it into a sort of feminist track. I wish this one had made it onto a single as a B-side.

So it’s common knowledge these days that you should never look at the comments, and yet against my better judgement, I’ve done it anyway! They mainly consist of a three types of people:

  1. People who hate punk
  2. People who hate women
  3. People who miss “the old Kate Nash”

I’m really not sure who to roll my eyes hardest at here. Here is an example of type 1:

“She is trying really hard to sound ‘punk’ which kind of goes against the punk aesthetic, she has a genuinely nice voice and is just pushing really hard to ‘grunge it up'”

Also various disagreeable comments on how she “ruined” the original. Never mind the fact that this is a straight up cover and I’ve heard the original and they’re doing the exact same shouty/screamy thing so I guess you just hate punk – I don’t know what to tell you, Mansplainer McGee. (Yes, we’ve got some bonus mansplaining going on here!) This is just totally ignoring that the voice is an instrument, so she can (and SHOULD) test her range and push her limits and do whatever the fuck she wants which, last I checked, is pretty goddamn punk.

Then we have an example of type 2:

“No soy machista… pero esta canción en mi opinión no queda oara nada bien cantafa con la voz más fina de una mujer. Simplemente no me gusta”

Which basically translates to:

“I’m not sexist … vut in my opinion this song is not at all well sunf with the beautiful voice of a woman. I just do not like it”

I included the typos so you can get the full experience of Manly McWomen-Hater here. Do I need to say anything else? I really could have stopped at “I’m not sexist … vut”. There’s no need to go further.

And finally there’s type 3:

“As of late she’s gotten a little anti-man or something but her previous work is good, she’s awesome not this song. :p”

Here we have a superb example of “I Don’t Understand the Meaning of Feminism”, which is really a bonus to type 3. Yup, Kate Nash hates that fictional male character in her music video for no gosh darn reason! I mean, he looks like such a nice guy! Did anyone who listened to My Best Friend Is You really not see Girl Talk coming? Scratch that, reverse it: Did anyone who listened to Girl Talk not look back at My Best Friend Is You and say to themselves “Huh, guess I should have seen THAT coming”? Go back and listen again and if you don’t like it, you’re more than welcome to listen to Made of Bricks on repeat; your ignorant ass is forbidden from listening to My Best Friend Is You ever again.

Gosh, these are just a few precious gems. What’s that saying again – that every comment on an article about feminism only justifies the need for feminism? We’ve got poetry in motion right here, folks.

Anyway, enjoy the song and just imagine the duder in the video is one of these commenters. Check out the original FIDLAR track and video while you’re at, just for comparison! It’s silly (and NSFW) and it’s got Nick Offerman in it, which works perfectly. I’m off to rally up the girl gang.

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Swords

((Sorry for my two week absence! I had a really bad pain in my neck (literally) and then I came down with an awful cold. I’m taking it easy for now, so this will be a quick post.))

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Well, it looks like M.I.A. is back in the swing of things! I’ve been seeing these random teaser videos on her Facebook page, and a few weeks ago an actual song finally dropped. It looks like audio visual albums are the big thing now, as that’s what this next project, Matahdatah, is shaping up to be.

Right now, it looks like you can only watch the video on Apple Connect, but you don’t necessarily have to sign up. You can also just buy the thing on iTunes if you want. I just bought the single but the video is very cool and you should definitely go watch it. It also features a video she recorded for her song “Warriors” from her previous album Matangi.

The video for “Swords” is amazing. Not quite as jaw-dropping as “Bad Girls” but I’m still pretty flabbergasted at how deftly these young Indian girls handle swords (and staffs) that are nearly as big as they are – like they’re simply a third limb. Where did Maya find these girls???

There’s not a lot of information out there (the album only has an unlinked mention on the discography section of M.I.A.’s Wikipedia page – not even on the discography section itself), but this Stereogum article gives us enough for now. I’ve been through this audiovisual concept album thing before with other artists (iamamiwhoami in particular) so I’m looking forward to see what she does with it. Maya’s always enjoyed turning her camera on other people from around the world, specifically people we don’t see a lot in the mainstream (i.e. “world’s sexiest” A-list celebrities from developed Western countries). I’m pretty excited to see what other countries and people will feature in these future “scrolls,” as I’m guessing they will be called.

The song itself is pretty great too. I like that she recorded the sword strikes to use as a beat. If this is an indicator of the theme, then this album may turn out to be pretty upbeat, which is the mood she wanted Matangi but her record label didn’t like that. I’d like to hear an upbeat, empowering album from M.I.A. For now, we just have to wait and see what comes next!

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