Sometimes life is awesome.
The website you write for hooks you up with a backstage pass to Bonnaroo and tells you that, somehow, it’s actually your job to go to Manchester, Tennessee for a few days, inhale more marijuana smoke than oxygen, and then write a few thousand words on it. And since I’ll be spending my long weekend on a farm wondering how long it takes for peyote to wear off, next week will be guest-written by someone with much better taste and writing ability than myself.
But sometimes life isn’t awesome.
One afternoon it feels like your contact is a bit dry and 12 hours later you’re at Georgetown Hospital being told you have an ulcer in your eye that the doctors describe as something “incredibly serious” but “something that just happens sometimes.” You have to spend a few days in a Codeine haze in a dark room and when you’re finally out, you have to decide if your light sensitivity is worse than how you’d feel wearing an eye-patch around…
But to make this more relatable to you, this means that while I got to hear tons of music as I sat in the dark this past week, I’ve only been able to look at a laptop screen for 2 minutes at a time, so we’re going to shake the format up a bit today.
Instead of 4 songs with way too much writing about them, I’m going to just throw a bunch of new music at you and keep the descriptions short (i.e. what I think BYT editor Brandon has wanted all along).
I just hope we see eye to eye on this compromise…
Please forget I made that awful pun and follow the Tunes You Should Fucking Know in 2014 playlist on Spotify.
Tiny Victories – Haunts
When Greg Walters from Tiny Victories shot me Haunts a few weeks ago, it took me only a few listens before I texted him back, “Congratulations, you made one fantastic intelligent pop album.”
Now my lack of textual punctuation skills means I left out what my 8th grade English teacher Mr. Fleming would say is a very important comma separating “fantastic” and “intelligent,” as they’re both describing “pop album,” but after Greg wrote back “intelligent pop? I like it,” I realized that phrase actually makes more sense when describing this band.
“Pop” itself as a word has a slightly negative connotation — thank you every “pop star” ever — and it really does feel necessary to say “Yes this is a pop album but….” because there really is so much more going on with this band and with this album. There’s too much work put into the textures and too much soul infused into the vocals to let it just settle under the “synth pop” umbrella next to bands like Panama or even someone a bit more “respected” like Tanlines.
We’re getting long on description when I promised you brevity, so I’ll let the music speak for itself, but I reserve the right to come back to this album in greater detail at a later date.
It’s worth it.
Kishi Bashi – Lighght
If Tiny Victories wrote an “intelligent pop” album, Kaoru Ishibashi (aka Kishi Bashi) wrote a “prodigy pop” one. His technical prowess and orchestral songwriting abilities have never been utilized with such sheer accessibility in mind. And while there is a consistent tone with Lighght, he takes on a variety of styles, hinting at sounds that other synth-pop groups have been playing with for years but extrapolating them to expose their true potential.
Kishi Bashi has always been one of those artists you have to respect because of his musical expertise, but it has been never been this much fun to do it.
ACME – “Girlfriend Tonight”
It’s no secret that ACME is one of my favorite bands in DC, even though they’re only just now coming into their own. The first time I heard “All Around The World,” I knew there was something special about these guys, and after we got to know each other as part of the whatever-happened-to-that-thing “Who The F*ck Are You?” interview series, I made sure to always keep an eye on what they were up to.
Well it looks like they’re arming up for a summer of singles, and they just dropped a music video for their first one, “Girlfriend Tonight.”
Watch it and try and tell me that lead singer Che Brown isn’t giving Prince a run for his money in the “funky singer belting it out in a smokey room” department.
Mausi – “Bound 2”
The other morning, Mollie and I were getting ready for work and she had her Spotify playing soundtrack. As I came around the corner into our bedroom, I heard the unmistakable chorus of The Raised By Wolves’ “Freddie Freaker,” and my heart swelled a little thinking that she must have read one of my write-ups on them and liked what she heard.
But when I made a remark about it, she replied, “Oh you know them? They’re really good.”
It turns out she had stumbled upon Dusty and Ben’s song completely absent of my continuous prodding, and it was one of those nice “Wow. I guess they’re all grows up, all grows up” kind of moments.
All that was a nice way of introducing the fact that a friend of mine from college shot me the cover of “Bound 2” by Mausi, a band whose debut single was released on our very own All Things Go record label a few years ago and who I was always unsure would be able to turn the corner in terms of lasting ability, and it’s a really pleasant surprise to hear from them again. I just never expected it.
But here we are, on the precipice of summer, and they’re crushing Kanye covers. Close your eyes and let those words paint a thousand pictures.
Marlene – “Indian Summer”
You know how I’m obsessed with proving that me calling Lorde’s mercurial rise wasn’t a fluke? Well I’ve got my latest candidate for “next inescapable pop star.”
Her name is Marlene. Say hi Marlene…
She isn’t exceptionally talented and “Indian Summer” is wildly mediocre, but it sounds just enough like that song “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis and it threw in enough random catchy crap like those chanting “oh oh ohhh”s to be that song that you somehow know every word to without ever actually listening to yourself.
So let’s make it official: On June 11th, 2014, Bryce Taylor Rudow states that he believes “Indian Summer” will make it as one of the Inescapable Pop Jams of the Summer.
God help us all.