Bryce Rudow is a contributing writer for All Things Go
Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here’s five songs, and in this week’s case, a mixtape, we think you should fucking know (this week). Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments too.
- AlunaGeorge – Your Drums, Your Love
Disregarding the fact that I feel like a failure for just now hearing about “UK’s Most Blogged Artist of 2012”, I am instead going to spin this into a brief commendation of Britain’s ability to consistently produce great artists. Ever since Handel became a British citizen at the age of 42, the UK’s square-footage to talent ratio has been untouchable. We find it crazy when areas like Brooklyn, Asheville, or Milwaukee pump out a handful of good acts in a short period of time, but the land of the Union Jack, an area almost 3 times smaller than the state of Texas has been doing this forever (and with a diverse array of scenes and styles to boot). It’s kind of amazing to think about. And now that I have successfully diverted away from the fact that I should have been on top of this earlier, I can actually write about the song…
Sometimes, I understand where older generations are coming from when they lambast popular music these days for all sounding the same. The advent of easily-mastered electronic music-making technology coupled with the rebirth of the synthesizer has led to a fairly uniform sound dominating the musical landscape. There’s such a fine line between the memorable songs that rise above the noise and those left in a sea of bass drum kicks, keyboard lines, and reworked vocal samples. So how do I distinguish between the great and the not-so-great? To quote Justice Potter Stewart’s famous explanation on his view of the obscene, “I know it when I see it,” or in this case, hear it.
Alunageorge is one of those great ones. “Your Drums, Your Love” is a minimalistic pop song that relies on seductive vocals and a simple but hearty beat to carry it along. The absence of clutter in it makes the exceptional moments of the song stand out that much more, whether it be the elevator-music sounding keyboard that fits just right into the background of the verses or the way lead singer Aluna Francis coos the the word “wrong” around the 0:56 mark. Producer and band member 2-of-2 George Reid cites minimal hip-hop like the Neptunes as a huge source of inspiration, and it shows in the pulsing, but not overpowering, beat that makes this song easily repeatable.
While this song, and the more timely new single “Diver,” cement Alunageorge as a force to be reckoned with, what blew me away (and what originally turned me onto group) was their ballsy cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You” that they performed 1Xtra’s Live Lounge. The disco influence they brought to the song is unexpected, but somehow completely works; and don’t even get me started about how much I enjoy the natural handclaps during the chorus. It takes true talent to take a already-iconic song and spin it into something new and equally enjoyable, and these two Brits have done just that.
Their debut album Body Music will be released in June of 2013, but expect singles to leak out until then.
- Pulp – After You
Apparently, Pulp was an important band in the mid 90’s. They released a few well-respected albums that have been remastered and re-released recently, and are important enough to warrant lead singer Jarvis Cocker admittance on the S.S. Coachella this winter. However, I did not know this when I came across “After You”, a song that apparently is their first release in over a decade, but enjoyable even without that superfluous information. After doing some musical backtracking, it’s a solid addition to their catalogue, with more boisterous, confident vocals than I’ve heard on previous albums and a swagger that is stripped of their previous works’ melancholy.
The reason I listened to this song in the first place, though, is because it was produced by life-hero James Murphy, and everything he touches turns to gold/I miss LCD Soundsystem terribly; I suspect I’m not the only one who was unaware of Pulp, yet eagerly clicked on the link after seeing Mr. Murphy’s name attached. We as an information-hungry society are constantly plagued by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out, for those abbreviationally unaware), as there is nothing more deserving of shame than being the only person at the proverbial water cooler to not know about the latest whatever it is. I’ve realized, however, that as I start writing more and more, and referencing more and more bands, I have come down with/discovered FOMO’s hyper-active twin (think about it like ADD and ADHD): FOMOOWAH (Fear of Missing Out on What Already Happened).
I enjoyed going back and listening to Pulp’s music, whether it was 1995’s Different Class, which in hindsight marks a stark transition between the 80’s post-punk dance and 90’s alternative/Britpop genres or “Party Hard” off 1998’s This Is Hardcore, which sounds like a mix of Morrissey, early Radiohead, and Holy Ghost, but a nagging part of me wondered that if I had missed out on this apparently-important band because of the whole being 8-11 when they were popular, what other groups was I missing out on? There’s a large gap that my admittedly sometimes cool parents, uncle, and friends’ older brothers missed when passing down their musical knowledge to me.
After a minor freakout and a few Google searches for “best unknown bands of the 90’s”, I realized I just had to let it go and stop being such a FOMOphobe and trust that The Fates would let me discover those artists if and when I really needed to. Enlightenment stems from acceptance…or something like that.
- Kids These Days – “Bud Billiken”
I had a hard time picking what song from Kids These Days phenomenal debut album, “Traphouse Rock”, I wanted to feature. These 7 kids from Chicago have crafted one of the most refreshingly diverse hip-hop albums I’ve heard in a long time. Honestly, how many hip-hop acts do you know have a brass section and make room for guitar solos in-between verses? Their songs vary from the single, “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” that growls along until exploding into a vicious roar to the floating near-ballad that is “Doo Wah,” featuring their female vocalist Macie Stewart (definitely one of those girls that you’d fall in love with about 2-3 songs into their set even though you never saw it coming). I went with “Bud Billiken”, though, because I think it does the best job of running the gamut of their musical style. Rapper Vic Mensa’s introductory verse over the old-school piano line lures you in, but does nothing to let you expect the sonic explosion that occurs when the full band comes in. Evolving to a fuzzed out beat that Pharell would be proud of (2nd Neptunes reference in this article, for those counting at home. Throw up the Spock fingers), sighing into a horn-based reprieve, and finally culminating with a shredding guitar riff climax, this track has it all.
And that’s just this song. I cannot stress enough how much this album deserves a listen. As I was replaying “Bud Billiken” while writing this, the song “Who Do U Luv” came on afterwards, and I was again floored at the sheer scope of their music; Andre 3000, The Black Keys, and Travis McCoy (I refuse to call him Travie) could be jealous they didn’t write that song.
Between my penchant for well-written hip-hop, my high school-based love of ska, and my appreciation for courageous creativity, I almost think this band was specifically built for me. I will be sufficiently stalking this band and drooling over everything they release from now on.
Azealia Banks v. Angel Haze
Angel Haze – “On The Edge”
Azealia Banks – “No Problem”
Angel Haze – “Shut The Fuck Up”
I love Twitter. When it’s well-curated, it’s one of the most innovative news sources out there. Or it can be used to spark and fuel terrible and unnecessary rap beefs…
Azealia Banks and Angel Haze are two up-and-coming female rappers that, despite a lot of their differences, are relatively similar and fairly equally talented. However, when one took offense to the other criticizing people repping New York when they weren’t from said city, the feud was on. Terms like “charcoal skinned bitch” were thrown out and then apologized for, text messages were leaked and then deleted, but the damage was done. Even Perez Hilton got involved and became a central figure in the whole messy narrative.
While the songs themselves are pretty solid, it’s sad to see that this is the state of the rap beef. It’s no longer anxiously awaiting Biggie’s response to Tupac or wondering how Jay-Z was going to come back at Nas after “Ether.” It’s two girls using the immediate, unfiltered nature of Twitter to catfight, which unfortunately elevates their popularity while undermining their cred as artists. Take a lesson from Jay-Z, choose your responses carefully, and you’ll end up looking like the winner when it’s all said and done.