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two bars, three stars: body jam at looking glass lounge

9 Jan

About one year ago, I waxed enthusiastically about what was then one of the best monthly dance parties in DC: Fatback at Bohemian Caverns. Sadly, the end of 2012 also brought the end of Fatback. While I undoubtedly found this news disappointing, all good things must come to an end, and I understand the DJs’ desires to spread their wings on other projects.

I particularly support these DJs pursuing other artistic endeavors when it results in other ill dance parties, such as Body Jam at Looking Glass Lounge.

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Now, Body Jam did not begin as a replacement for Fatback- in fact, it’s been going on for over a year, if I’m not mistaken. However, Body Jam certainly plays a more important role now that we don’t have Fatback to relieve our disco fever every month, am I right?

The musical vibes for Body Jam have a lot of overlap with your favorite Fatback mixes- I’m fairly certain I could hear Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” at either party, and that is a very, very good thing. If I had to totally oversimplify the distinction between these two parties, I would say Body Jam leans more towards 70s/80s exercise video nostalgia versus Fatback’s 60s/70s disco/soul persona.

It is pretty magical how Body Jam DJs cultivate this 80s dance party meets exercise video aesthetic into a truly awesome party. First of all, Looking Glass provides the perfect venue for this sort of event; much smaller and more laid back than Bohemian Caverns, it is literally impossible to lose your friends on the dance floor here. It is possible, however, to take a break from grooving and have a beer with your friends downstairs- a dual experience that Fatback, in all its crowded sweaty glory, could never provide. Not to mention the superior beer list, slightly off the beaten path location (which usually leads to a more intimate crowd), and infinitely interesting decor. Yeah, I love Looking Glass on any old night, even without the musical stylings that are guaranteed on Body Jam nights.

Next, the Body Jam DJs have fostered an aesthetic that is fun, quirky, and full-o’-neon with the whole throwback exercise video vibe. The first time I went to Body Jam, there was a video montage of old Jan Fonda-esque butt buster workouts playing on the walls. If electric blue thong leotards won’t inspire you to do some lunges across the dance floor, what will? Also, word on the street is that soon you’ll be able to enjoy those workout views all year long, as a Body Jam calendar is in the works.

Finally, and most importantly, the tunes. I don’t know how, but with Body Jam, these DJs have given me a playlist that feels exclusively tailored to my personal taste- even moreso than Fatback. Jumping from the Talking Heads to Prince to remixes of The Smiths, I can’t get enough. I never considered myself an 80s fanatic until I heard so many of my favorite songs mixed into one set and realized I couldn’t stop dancing if I tried.

Thankfully, I can tide myself over between monthly parties with the Body Jam Soundcloud, which has been my go-to way to get through the work day with memories of ridiculous dance moves streaming through my mind. And that’s always the best way to get through the work day, isn’t it?

Check out the mixes below (and the rest on their Soundcloud page), and then tackle your New Years fitness resolutions at Looking Glass Lounge for the next Body Jam party.

two bars, three stars: benoit & sergio, new ships EP

15 Nov

Friends, I am ecstatic to inform you that I’ve added a new electronic act to my “DC DJ” repertoire. Don’t get me wrong, I love jamming out to some Volta Bureau, Fatback mixes, Dave Nada moombahton madness, etc- but every once in awhile, it’s great to broaden your horizons and find some new homegrown talent that excites you. This was my experience with Benoit & Sergio last week.

Benoit & Sergio is short for Benjamin “Sergio” Myers and and Benoit Simon, a duo that have played together sporadically for several years. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when Myers had a psuedo-midlife crisis and took off to Europe to pursue DJ-ing full time, that things got serious.

Since then, the two thrust themselves first into releasing 12″s and singles, along with busting out their turntables at clubs in Ibiza, Bucharest, and Edinburgh, to name a few. Their renewed vigor culminated in the release of a solid EP, New Ships, this past month. And-lucky for us- the duo have returned to our district to finish their full album (to be released in 2013) in a hometown studio.

There’s a lot to like about Benoit & Sergio’s vibe. For one, their EP title is a T.S. Eliot reference (big ups from this English major). Second, they pull off that brilliant mixture of dark (or ironically dark) lyrics and upbeat instrumentals that is often hard to strike. It recalls bands like New Order, LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles who balance this paradox perfectly.

Also, in this age of digitized sounds and live shows that involve nothing but a laptop, I respect that Myers’ includes his own vocals in many tracks. Sure, these vocals might be more like repetitive one-liners than actual lyrics, but I’m excited to see how this might translate in a live performance. On that front, the duo have said they’re interested in including more live-band sounds in their sets, which would only enhance the experience.

Below is two great tracks from the EP, but you should really check out the whole thing- and be on the lookout for the album next year. Oh, and I’ll definitely shout if I see any upcoming local shows- sadly, it appears they’ve played very limited shows in the States for the majority of their short career. Come back to us from Europe, guys- DC wants to see you!

on my boombox (at the gym): RwR workout playlist 2012

30 Oct

If there was one music blog post I was born to write, it is a workout music post. Among the bevy of ways I spend my free time, “exercising” might only be second to “listening to music” at #1  (and “struggling to lift my bike up stairs” would probably be #3). I love working out and have pretty much done it all when it comes to fitness routines: half-marathons, booty-kicking cycling classes, soul-cleansing yoga, embarrassing Zumba dances, and lazy, hungover elliptical sessions.

I will go out for a run no matter the time, place, or weather (even if I whine about it). I don’t  travel without my running shoes (even if I don’t always use them), and I will scope out the hotel gym the second I arrive somewhere. I am not crazy, I am simply an endorphin addict (and trust me, I have the appetite to match it).

However, I will also never workout without music. Instead, I will spend $18 on junky headphones at the gym when I forgot mine, and I’ll risk getting my phone snatched during the “no-music-allowed” Army 10-Miler, because lord knows I wasn’t getting through that without Spotify.

Admittedly, I sometimes listen to some seriously outdated, terrible music while working out. I firmly believe that no guilty pleasure music is off limits at the gym, so if Katy Perry gets your heart pumping, then go for it. But workout playlists need not be composed ENTIRELY of top 40 throwaways. Everything from indie tunes to classic rock to cutting-edge electro remixes can be the perfect tunes to get your butt moving

Thus, I am pleased to introduce the first RwR Workout Playlists. I’ve composed them in Spotify, so if you have the Spotify mobile app (as all of you should), then just download and go. For those of you who use iPods or something else, check out the lists and download the ones that strike your fancy.

Some notes: The scope of this playlist is large; it has everything from indie to gangsta rap to dubstep to Beyonce. Don’t be surprised if you don’t love every song, but there is something in it for everyone. Also, I’ve noted DC music (or DC-represented music) with a *.

1) Warm-Up:Some lower-key james for your walk to the gym, your first few minutes of cardio, or a gentler weight-lifting, yoga, or pilates session.

Alex Winston – Sister Wife
Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Architecture In Helsinki – Contact High
Bassnectar – Here We Go
Best Coast – Boyfriend
Cherub – Doses & Mimosas
Chromeo – Bonafied Lovin
Cut Copy – Take Me Over
Dismemberment Plan – A Life of Possibilities
Hot Chip – Look At Where We Are – Major Lazer remix
Justice – Civilization
Juveniles – Hard Working Girl
K-OS – Crabbuckit
Kid Cudi – Mr. Rager
Kid Cudi – Up Up & Away
Lotus – Molluskunk
Nervo – We’re All No One (Edit) [feat. Afrojack and Steve Aoki]
Of Monsters And Men – Six Weeks
Ra Ra Riot – Boy
Salt-N-Pepa – Get Up Everybody (Get Up)
Santigold – Lights Out
Sbtrkt – Wildfire (feat. Little Dragon)
Talking Heads – This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)
Yelle – Que Veux-Tu – Madeon Extended Remix

2) Intervals: One of the most effective ways to increase the intensity of your cardio is to incorporate sprints or other bursts of speed and energy. I find this much easier to tolerate if I can just follow along with the tempo of my music, so I have particular songs that I use for intervals- when the beat drops or the chorus gets fast, it’s time to dial it up. (Note: This playlist includes a lot of dubstep- bass drops are ideal for intervals. If dubstep isn’t your jam, then skip em).

Bassnectar – Upside Down
Bassnectar – The Matrix
Bassnectar – Blast Off
Bassnectar – The 808 Track (feat. Mighty High Coup)
Beyoncé – Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Crystal Castles – Not In Love
David Guetta – She Wolf (Falling to Pieces) [feat. Sia]
David Guetta – Memories (feat. Kid Cudi)
Deadmau5 – Raise Your Weapon (Madeon Remix)
The Hold Steady – You Can Make Him Like You
Janelle Monáe – Tightrope – Feat. Big Boi
JAY-Z – On To The Next One [Jay-Z + Swizz Beatz] – Explicit Album Version
JAY-Z – Public Service Announcement (Interlude)
Kid Sister – Pro Nails (Rusko Remix)
The Knocks – Make It Better
Lykke Li – Get Some
Madonna – Hung Up
Major Lazer – Hold The Line feat. Mr. Lex & Santigold
Nicki Minaj – Super Bass – Clean Version
Nicki Minaj – Starships – Explicit Version
Rihanna – We Found Love
Rusko – Somebody To Love
Santigold – GO! – feat. Karen O
Simian – We Are Your Friends (Original Mix)
SOJA – To Whom It May Concern
Summer Camp – Better Off Without You
Tiësto – C’mon (feat. Diplo)
Twin Shadow – Five Seconds
Wynter Gordon – Dirty Talk (Laidback Luke Remix)
Yellow Ostrich – Elephant King
Zedd – Spectrum – Radio Mix

3) Long Run: This could also be called the “general” category. It’s a mix of tunes that are chill enough to help you zone out on a long run, with others that are more intense and high-energy to sustain any workout.

Adrian Lux – Teenage Crime – Radio Edit
Architecture In Helsinki – Heart It Races
Beyoncé – Get Me Bodied – Extended Mix
Big Boi – Shutterbugg
Big Boi – Tangerine
Big Boi – You Ain’t No DJ
Big Gigantic – High Life
Childish Gambino – Outside
Chromeo – Hot Mess
Chromeo – Tenderoni
Chromeo – Fancy Footwork
Crystal Castles – Untrust Us
Crystal Castles – Vanished
Cut Copy – Lights & Music
Daft Punk – Digital Love (Boris Dlugosh Remix)
David Byrne – Miss America
Deadmau5 – Some Chords
Deadmau5 – Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff – feat. Rob Swire
Diplo feat. Billy The Gent & Long Jawns – Butters Theme (feat. Billy The Gent & Long Jawns)
Dismemberment Plan – What Do You Want Me to Say?
Dizzee Rascal Feat. Calvin Harris & Chrome – Dance Wiv Me – Radio Edit
Ellie Goulding – Lights – Bassnectar Remix
Ester Dean – Drop It Low
*The Fly Girlz – Welcome 2 Brownsville
*The Fly Girlz – Fly Girlz
Friendly Fires – Hurting (Tensnake Remix)
Genius/GZA – Gold
Handsome Furs – I’m Confused
The Hold Steady – Stuck Between Stations
The Hold Steady – You Can Make Him Like You
Hot Chip – Look At Where We Are – Major Lazer remix
*Imperial China – Mortal Wombat
Janelle Monáe – Tightrope – Feat. Big Boi
Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built
JAY-Z – Show Me What You Got
Kelly Rowland – Motivation – Diplo Remix
The Knocks – Blackout
The Knocks – Dancing With the DJ (Dave Edwards Remix)
Lady Gaga – Electric Chapel – Two Door Cinema Club Remix
LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends
LCD Soundsystem – Dance Yrself Clean
Lil Wayne – Let The Beat Build
Los Campesinos! – You! Me! Dancing!
M.I.A. – Galang
M.I.A. – XXXO
M83 – Kim & Jessie
Madonna – Like A Prayer
Major Lazer – Get Free
Major Lazer – Sound Of Siren
Matt and Kim – Lessons Learned
Prince – Little Red Corvette
Robyn – Indestructible
Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
Robyn – U Should Know Better
Robyn – Cry When You Get Older
Robyn – Dancing On My Own
Salt-N-Pepa – Shoop
Salt-N-Pepa – Whatta Man
Santigold – L.E.S. Artistes
Santigold – Creator
SBTRKT – Wildfire (OVO Remix feat. Drake)
SOJA – You Don’t Know Me
Spank Rock – Car Song (feat. Santigold)
Spank Rock – Bump
Summer Camp – I Want You
Tiësto – Feel It In My Bones
Tune-Yards – Gangsta
The White Panda – Midnight Life
The White Panda – Your Woman (Remix feat. Dorrough)
The White Stripes – Icky Thump
The White Stripes – Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
Wolfgang Gartner – Illmerica (Extended Mix)
Wu-Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck
Wu-Tang Clan – Bring Da Ruckus
Yellow Ostrich – Marathon Runner
Yuksek – On A Train – The Magician Remix

4) Audial Gatorade: Your edge. Your limit. Your “omg get me out of this gym/off of this bike/over this hill/out of this pose NOW” feeling. When you hit those moments, you need what I call “audial gatorade”- those tunes that can turn you from brink of death into superwoman (err, or at least make you keep going).

Avicii – Fade Into Darkness – Vocal Club Mix
Avicii – Levels – Radio Edit
Azealia Banks – 212
Beyoncé – Crazy In Love feat. Jay-Z
Big Freedia – Booty-Whop
Bonde Do Role – Marina do Bairro
Chromeo – Night By Night
Darude – Sandstorm – Radio Edit
Diplo feat. Nicky Da B – Express Yourself (feat. Nicky Da B)
El-P – Drones Over Bklyn
Eric Prydz – Call On Me – Radio Edit
The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
*Imperial China – Corrupting the Integrity of the Grid
Justice – D.A.N.C.E. (MSTRKRFT Remix)
Kreayshawn – Twerkin!!! featuring Diplo and Sissy Nobby
Lil Wayne – 6 Foot 7 Foot – Explicit Version
Madonna – 4 Minutes – feat. Justin Timberlake And Timbaland
MSTRKRFT & N.O.R.E. – Bounce (feat. N.O.R.E.) [Extended Version]
Prince – 1999 [Edit]
Prince & The Revolution – Let’s Go Crazy
Reptar – Orifice Origami
Rihanna – We Found Love
Skrillex – Bangarang – feat. Sirah
Skrillex – Kyoto – feat. Sirah
Three 6 Mafia vs. Tiësto with Sean Kingston and Flo Rida – Feel It – Explicit Album Version
Walk the Moon – Anna Sun

5. Cool Down: The best part of any workout- your endorphins are flowing but you are D-O-N-E with the huffing and puffing and pain of the workout itself. So, relish your accomplishment and listen to some down tempo tunes to bring down your heart rate. These could also work during any of your more chill (read: more hungover) workouts.

AWOLNATION – Sail
Calvin Harris – Feel So Close – Radio Edit
*Deleted Scenes – Fake IDs
*Deleted Scenes – Take My Life
Diiv – Doused
The Dodos – The Season
Drive-By Truckers – Heathens
Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day
Earth, Wind & Fire – September
J Cole – Work Out – Explicit Version
Kleerup – Until We Bleed – Feat. Lykke Li
Mc Solaar – La Belle Et Le Bad Boy
Phantogram – Don’t Move
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
PJ Harvey – Down By The Water
Queen – You’re My Best Friend
SBTRKT – Right Thing To Do (feat. Jessie Ware)
SOJA – Here I Am
TLC – Creep
TLC – Waterfalls
TLC – No Scrubs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero

guest post: in defense of best coast (playing July 14 at 9:30 club)

13 Jun

Two guest posts in two weeks, how lucky am I? See, I’m not lying when I proclaim that my musical knowledge pales in comparison to my friends’. Below, enjoy a longer-form piece written by my friend Ravi Katari, as he tackles a genre that causes me more inner torment than most: dream pop.

If you agree with Ravi’s assertions, go see Best Coast at 930 Club. Despite my conflicted feelings about dream pop, I’m confident that will be a great show.

***

When Crazy For You was released by indie-pop duo Best Coast in the summer of 2010, the response was overwhelmingly positive.  The blogosphere instantly fell in love with the lo-fi beach melodies that evoked Phil Spector’s work with 1960s vocal acts such as The Crystals and The Ronettes.  Indie mandarins adored the fuzzy guitars, the humid reverbs, and the sun-soaked ennui of lead singer Bethany Cosentino’s amateur reflections.  The record is a perfect soundtrack to the kind of lazy summer most people stop having around the age of 18 when financial and materialistic concerns become more prominent in their lives.

What distinguished Best Coast from dream-surf contemporaries such as The Drums, Beach Fossils, Wavves, and Tame Impala was the potent nostalgia of youth carried in Cosentino’s soaring vocal melodies and lovelorn obsessions.  She herself commented in an interview that “nothing makes [her] happier” than “playing to two rows of 16-year-old girls that are all singing every single lyric to her song” (1).   And in that capacity, the debut LP received high praise from major reviewers including The Los Angeles Times (3.5/4), Pitchfork (8.4/10 BNM), and Robert Christgau, the dean himself, who gave it an A- (2) (3) (4).

Because the band was categorized with outfits like The Drums and Wavves, her ostensibly bratty, shallow, and simple lyrics were well-received and added to the band’s appeal because they resonated so well with the surf-pop and youthful nostalgia narratives.  However, that kind of appreciation is predictably unsustainable.  Like a comic-book superhero movie, Crazy For You was basically deemed a thoroughly enjoyable seasonal albeit perfectly forgettable and unsuited for deeper literary or acoustical investigation.

It was within this context that Best Coast’s follow up, The Only Place, was received in mid-May.  For this go-around, the band hired producer Jon Brion to advance their sound to the next level.  He is known for his production work with Kanye West and his graceful soundtrack work on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  This effort found the band dropping the damp, lo-fi sound for a cleaner and more polished sound that puts more focus on tempo, instrumental precision, and Cosentino’s absolutely stunning vocal talent.  Indeed, the production upgrade allows the listener to fully acknowledge her song contributions that were somewhat stifled in Crazy For You.

The reaction has been expectedly lackluster.  With a 2/5 score in the Guardian, the reviewer laments that the lyrics “about being bored and lazy become cloudingly familiar” and that the record “needs more sunshine” (5).  Similarly, a 6.2/10 review by Pitchfork opined that the departure of the original summer haziness emphasized the “weakest quality” of Best Coast: the lyrics (6).

Unfortunately, the duo was pretty much doomed from the release the first LP.  They suffered from a grave miscategorization that the band itself was likely unaware of.  Though Cosentino’s simplistic declaratives and yearning melodies were understood as enhancements of the overall beachy lo-fi vibe, they were not correctly recognized as the principally redeeming aspects of the band’s work.  The first record was great not because it was a solid addition to the surf and dream pop catalog of Wild Nothings and The Drums, but because Cosentino achieved something extraordinarily intelligent and creative.  While evoking the sound of 1960s era girl groups and rock bands, she simultaneously explored themes of postmodern feminism, rebellion, and adolescence that didn’t exist for the Shangri-Las.

The bipolar narrator in “Crazy For You” is a free and independent girl reflecting on her own irrationality and possible insanity which is not an exaggeration.  The other verses on the record are the ramblings of an intoxicated, erratic, jealous, and bored ex-girlfriend.  However, even though she had 16-year-old girls in the front row of her shows that might relate to this identity, there’s no doubt that present, too, were males of all flavors.  There was something deeper that was more compelling than just fantasizing about boyfriends.

A little bit of contemplation makes clear that the band’s original record was more than just the soundtrack to a lazy summer.  Given the overarching themes of Cosentino’s musings and repetitions, her lyrics were far from ordinary and even further from being the weakest quality of the album.  It’s a rare postmodern exploration of ennui and the liberated mind.  It’s important to note that the conflict is internal to Cosentino: she’s singing to herself.  And her bipolar erraticism is not unlike Dostoyevsky’s Nastassya Filippovna from The Idiot.  Her self-destructive nature is prominent on the first record while the compassionate and pitiful elements are explored on the follow-up.  It’s only within this proper context that the follow up record can be regarded as the worthy piece of work which it really is.

The Only Place, lyrically, is the meditation of a maturing young adult.  Though it was attacked for cheaply celebrating a return to the band’s Californian roots and rehashing familiar topics of laziness and heartbrokenness, a closer listen reveals an existential sorrow that was not present on Crazy For You.  Gone is the carefree ennui and newly present are themes of taking responsibility and real appreciation for the familiar concept of home.  The original sun-drenched intoxication has been replaced with the quiet clarity and regret of a post-hangover reckoning.  It isn’t the Thom Yorke’s despair; rather, it’s closer to Nicholas Cage’s character’s struggle to reconcile real life with his obsessive compulsive disorder in the 2002 film Matchstick Men.  Indeed, some of the lyrics sound like the sober musings of the Alcoholics Anonymous variety: “I used to wake up in the morning and reach for that bottle and glass but I don’t do that anymore…kicked my habits out the front door.”

And yes, in some ways, it is a drug-recovery record.  And in this sense her burnt out sentiments recall Iggy Pop’s Berlin-era wok.  But Cosentino succeeds by employing her incredibly emotive voice and raw honesty: “My mom was right, I don’t wanna die, I wanna live my life.”  As she repeats this refrain in a distinctive Best Coast manner, it’s difficult not to be overwhelmed by sympathy and solemnity upon first listen.  It certainly was for me, so I’d suggest trying it for yourself.  It’s doubly gut-wrenching when juxtaposed with the childish frivolity of some of her past lyrics: “I just want to tell you, that I’ve always missed you.  I just want to tell you, that I’ve always loved you.”  Though we may remain skeptical at her newfound seriousness, she sings confidently: “Cause you seem to think you know everything, but you don’t know why I cry.”  The complex reconciliation of two opposed personalities is food for thought.

The reality of her journey into adulthood is encapsulated in perhaps the albums strongest verse: “What a year this day has been…what a day this year has been.”  Regardless, even if the revamped lyrical context isn’t sufficiently convincing, the record is still redeemed by its fantastic pop-sensibilities and vocal melodies.   The delicate and gentle guitar arpeggios of “How They Want Me To Be” recall some of the finer moments of the underrated Wincing The Night Away by The Shins.  And the refreshing gentleness extends to pretty much every track.

As a standalone record, it most certainly holds its own.  I suspect that the negative reviews were likely the result of incorrectly evaluating the merits of the first record which everyone was hoping for a extension of.  Careful and sympathetic consideration, however, demonstrates that the two can be and ought to be viewed as companion pieces that color in the existential drama of the Best Coast’s young adult.  Best Coast is not a zeitgeist or an acoustic innovation, but they have certainly crafted an poignant narrative that nourishes the imagination that contemporary acts such as Frankie Rose and Real Estate don’t even attempt.  It’s sorrowful in a way that makes part of me wish I had never heard it.

Note: this piece was also published by OpEdNews.

weekend roll out: demons (diplo remix)

25 May

Weekend roll outs before three-day weekends are always especially joyous. I hope you all are as thrilled as I am to kick off summer (and, soon, summer outdoor concert season woop!)

Anyway, I’ve been reading/watching way too much internet stuff about Electric Daisy Carnival that went down at Metlife Stadium in NY last weekend, partially seething with envy and partially geeking out over the beats that were dropped at that festival. Many of the DJs really whipped out the big guns for that fest, and it shows.

One stellar performance that I’ve read about and listened to is none other than Diplo. And, double awesome, he remixed perennial RWR favorite, Sleigh Bells. Back in my pre-blog days I hyped Diplo’s remix of Sleigh Bells’ “Tell Em” via my gchat status and Facebook, but now I have a slightly bigger microphone through which to shout about this remix of “Demons” from his Electric Daisy performance. Check out both for your weekend roll out pleasure.

Roll ouuut (three days this time).

on my boombox: chromatics, kill for love

23 May

When lamenting “the state of music today,” musical purists often bemoan the lack of attention paid to full albums in our ADD, singles-obsessed culture. One could argue that this change set in motion as early as the start of MTV, and was perpetuated by everything from TRL to Napster to Youtube to Lana Del Rey.

I can’t claim to be a purist who completely shuns singles. I am a sucker for a catchy beat, and my short attention span sometimes leads me to only focus on an album’s best tracks. That said, there is simply no musical experience that compares to listening to a holistic, well-crafted album in its entirety, start to finish, every time. You know what I mean- those albums that are so good you wouldn’t even consider skipping around. These albums tell a story, and you wouldn’t pick up your favorite novel and just reading the 15th chapter, would you?

So when a band more or less forces you to listen to their album holistically, it better tell a damn good story. The songs should be so cleanly woven from start to finish that breaking it up would only detract from the art as a whole.

Recently, the Pacific Northwest-based band Chromatics has done just that with their latest album, Kill for Love. The album is a 90-minute opus, and it is available on Soundcloud as a “complete album blended together for your undisturbed listening pleasure.” Thankfully, the album backs up its command for your undivided attention with music that’s worth your undivided attention.

It made a lot of sense when I read that Chromatics’ front man Johnny Jewel contributed several tracks to the stellar soundtrack for the movie Drive, because  that’s exactly what this feels like: a soundtrack of synth. The album is heady and abstract but still entirely accessible. It also starts slow and builds for that whole 90 minutes, getting better and better with each track- it’s as if listeners are rewarded for their patience. Chromatics’ ability to draw pop gold (for example, the title track) from meandering, abstract synth-pop will undoubtedly draw comparisons to M83, and I reckon there are few fans of one who wouldn’t be fans of the other.

So, dear readers, I challenge you: for 90 whole minutes, listen to this album. Don’t skip around. Don’t hunt for the good parts. Don’t hit pause to watch various cat-infused Youtube videos and forget to keep listening. Do this successfully, and you will have just soaked up a truly beautiful piece of music. And who knows- maybe you’ll even recapture some of your desire to seek out not just catchy sounds and songs, but great albums. I long ago came to the conclusion that finding the latter is a far more rewarding experience.

Chromatics, Kill for Love

on my boombox: an internet round-up

8 Mar

Alright friends, I have a lot of random music that’s exciting me lately, including some artists conveniently playing in DC this week, and I just want to share it all with you. So, in no particular order: the tunes I’m streaming over and over on Soundcloud this week.

First, let’s talk about Beach House. In 2010, Beach House helped popularize the ambient, blurry, dream-pop sound that now saturates indie music with their nearly perfect third album, Teen Dream. The tunes were sad, pensive, and oh-so-pretty, tailor made for nighttime walks and the soundtrack of a Zooey Deschanel movie.

After a two year hiatus, murmurs of a new album started circulating in recent weeks. True to form, the group reentered the game in achingly subtle fashion, simply tweeting “Hello again” with a link to their new single, “Myth.”  Welcome to your makeout anthem of spring 2012:

Beach House, “Myth” 

Next up: Niki and the Dove. This Swedish duo has been rocking my world with all of their drama and witchiness and storytelling since October 2011 when they dropped The Drummer EP. The  video for their single “The Fox” perfectly illustrates their intrigue–it’s a fantasy sci-fi synthesizer head trip, and I can’t get enough.

DC residents, how lucky are we? Niki and the Dove are in town tomorrow night for All Things Gold 008 at U Street Music Hall, along with Gordon Voidwell and Lightwaves. Happy Thursday!

Niki and the Dove, “The Fox”

Lastly, a cover involving two artists I love so much I nearly screamed when I found this. I’m sorry guys, I can’t hype this- it’s too much awesome already.    

Sleigh Bells, “Irreplaceable” (Beyonce cover)