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 four 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.
The other day, I read a great piece online about an up-and-coming band from Sacramento. It was well thought out, had an impressive narrative, and showed a deep understanding of the band and their music. And then I got to the comments at the bottom…
Someone whose username was an unfortunate pun off of a Daft Punk song was furious that the writer didn’t realize that one of their songs was a cover of a relatively unknown band from the early 80′s, questioning the authority of the writer in general and effectively dismissing the entire article. It was unnecessary, elitist, and effective in rebutting a stance that I’m guessing the writer never attempted to make, namely that said writer is meant to be an infallible encyclopedic historian.
Now, I’ll confess I was really conflicted about writing about this at all, partially because I empathize with the fact that I am part of the ever-growing unfiltered, unchecked vagueness that is dubbed “online music journalism” (and partially because I’ve dealt with vitriolic commentators myself and am therefore biased), but I think it brings up a great, larger topic about what it means to write about music when there is no real barrier to entry anymore and, more importantly, what it means to like and share music in general.
Yes, part of the job when writing about music is to be the first to know about whatever alternadubstepbrassfolk band is about to blow up while also having an intimate knowledge of “every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978.” And yes, there is a snide satisfaction that comes from knowing about an artist that no one else does, but I’d like to think that feeling is a silent guilty pleasure that no one talks about because, deep down, we know it’s an undeserved victory. And it’s because we realize that with infinite channels to discover infinite sources of music, there will inevitably be gaps in information (until Spotify becomes self-aware and starts a tumblr).
And, most importantly, it’s because loving and knowing about music isn’t about ownership; it’s about finding a song, an album, or a band that shines a light on something inside of you and sharing it with others in hopes of them finding the lights that shine for them. At its core, as much as the iPod is trying to change this notion, music is a communal experience, whether that be making it, performing it, or enjoying it; it’s not meant to be hoarded or used as a means of exclusivity. Remember when people used to make mixtapes (or in my generation’s case, mix CD’s)? Half the thrill of finding out about a new great song was being able to figure out exactly what track number it should be on the CD you were making for a friend/girlfriend/girl you liked but lacked the social skills or standing to properly communicate with. Sure, everyone has a few songs they keep close to the chest and cherish privately, but the best ones are the ones that remind you of a specific person or a group of friends or a whole concert hall full of strangers that enjoy it as much as you do.
So after about a few hundred words too many on the subject, I have to take a lesson from Tina Fey, embrace the fact that some people are just assholes, and just sit back and enjoy the music.
PS: For those that still love a good mixtape, I highly suggest the site www.8tracks.com, it kicks the shit out of Spotify playlists.
PPS: All digital mix CD’s can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
- HAIM – Send Me Down
I occasionally play pick-up basketball, one of the best places for an amateur sociologist. It’s all about how random people behave when forced to interact with, work alongside, and compete against others. One of my favorite pick-up inevitabilities is when someone who doesn’t look particularly athletic joins a game, gets ignored defensivley, and ends up hitting shot after shot until everyone realizes the guy is the best player on the floor. It’s a gradual progression because no one on the court wants to believe it. After one or two good shots, it’s luck; after three or four, it’s a little talent and a little luck; after he’s gone 5-for-5, you make sure you’re covering him tight the rest of the game.
I bring this up because HAIM has just gone 6-for-6. It’s unprecedented. I ignored writing about them or bumped them for something else until now, but, at this point, it’s impossible to not stop and appreciate what they’re pulling off. Starting with their 3-song debut EP Forever and continuing through to the live version of new-song “Falling” that debuted online http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0ovrplcNwXo earlier in the month, they have yet to release a less-than-impressive song. Granted they have been a band since 2006 so they’ve had some time to hone their craft, but the thunderous beauty that swirls around every one of their songs in some way or another is intoxicating.
The three young Haim sisters that comprise the band have a pretty interesting history and resume (Check their Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haim_(band); it’s too much for even my long-winded self to write about), but their musical maturity and complexity is still unexplainably fascinating. They’re most often compared to Fleetwood Mac, which is understandable high praise, but the R&B influences and layered vocal melodies put them into an entirely new category, and the timeless-sounding talent they’ve captured in the six songs they’ve released so far has me drooling at the thought of a full album from them.
SHAMELESS PLUG: They will be playing All Things Go’s Valentines Day show at U Street Music Hall. I will most likely convince myself that this is the perfect way for Danielle Haim and I to meet, fall in love, and elope.
- Justin Timberlake – Suit and Tie
While doing a little research about this song, I came across tons of “Look How Far JT Has Come” articles, all brimming with collaged pictures of N’Sync-era frosted tips and destroyed denim suits. I hate to beat a dead horse now, but Jesus, LOOK HOW FAR THE MAN HAS COME. The bleached-blonde boy-band lead singer found a way to continuously evolve with the times and is now comfortably situated in the role of respected musician, actor, and professional baller (not to mention the fact that he just had some crazy fancy wedding to a certified babe).
What will always come first on that list, though, no matter how many Omeletteville sketches or Sean Foster impressions he does, is “musician”; and he is not only a very good one, but he’s a smart one. That was evident ever since the earth-shatteringly awesome “Cry Me A River” (snaps to the great music video as well) and re-solidified a few days ago when he released this teaser video. Justin is coming at this with a purpose and passion that is hard to have the patience for in the world of pop music, and when he remarks about “2 albums in 10 years” so casually, he comes across as an elder seeing the bigger picture. When he declares, “I’m the one who sits and obsesses about it,” I believe him. And that is why I feel comfortable saying that I don’t love “Suit and Tie”.
EDM has infested pop music and anyone who is anyone in the pop charts knows their way around a 4-to-the-floor bass drum. But we know that, eventually, hopefully, pop music will find a new genre to borrow from (I’ve gone on record predicting funk), and we’ll be left laughing at ourselves when we look back about thinking Calvin Harris was saving pop.
Justin Timberlake knows that too and goes for the exact opposite musical style and goes lazy lounge for his opening single. With this song, he’s flexing his swagger muscle. I have a theory that he intentionally knows this is, at best, an unmemorable song and is just having fun messing with us. There’s some history of him releasing underwhelming first singles and we know he has a penchant for making the media squirm a bit. I think Mr. Timberlake has a bigger plan in mind.
While not a blowaway single, “Suit and Tie” elevates JT above the current pop-music riffraff (A quick aside: Bieber, who has been trying to mature himself by following a very Timberlakean footpath, must be PISSED about all this. He now comes across as a kid trying on his older brother’s clothes). He does what he does because he can pull it off. You can almost hear the phone call Timberlake made to Hova when recording this: “Hey Jay, I’m releasing a new single, can you send me whatever rap you have in the back of your closet. Thanks bro.” He got Jay-Z on his song because he is Justin Timberlake and Justin Timberlake can get Jay-Z on his song.
There is a method to his madness. And that is why it’s still in Timberlake I trust.
- Wildarms – Full Hearts
Wildarms is the project of Duncan Cooper, Brooklyn native and writer for The Fader. His debut album, Clear Eyes, and it’s standout track “Full Hearts” can’t lose (See what I did there? God I miss Friday Night Lights). It literally spells out at the beginning that Wildarms is someone worth paying attention to, though that may just be a nod to the strong hip-hop influences that are pervasive throughout the album. I’m pretty sure I even heard a Gucci Mane sample thrown in there at one point. Though in the same general arena as instrumental beat-makers Gold Panda or rising-star Clams Casino, he comes at it more like a chillwaver that can shape a beat and enjoys a good drop every now and then.
He’s gone on record saying he’s already writing more material, and though we will probably never see the Friday Night Lights‘ relationships-inspired EP he once had in mind, I expect that when Clear Eyes drops, its going to make a big impact. Go Panthers/Lions/Pioneers.
- Mausi – M O V E
Mausi will forever be etched in my heart because their first single, “sol“ was All Things Go’s second release ever as a record label (and it was a pretty great song). Finally, months later, the Newcastle quartet fronted by brother and sister Thomas and Daisy Finetto has released a second song. With “M O V E”, they borrow “Sleepyhead“‘s schizophrenics synth and blow-out the production, igniting a casually enthralling dance track that feels out of place, but not unwelcome, in the dredges of winter.