In self-promoting music news:
– The All Things Go Fall Classic was a huge success and watching Samuel Herring of Future Islands perform was like watching Tom Hanks do the greatest musical one-man show of all time. He was taking emotional truths out of his head, examining them in his palm, and then sending them adrift like a dandelion over the crowd. It was magic.
– Apple heartlessly discontinued the iPod last week, but here’s the eulogy it deserves.
– This a Spotify playlist of all the best songs from 2014. Follow it.
New music time!
- J Lima Foxtrot – Wishy Washy EP (sorry Bandcamp embeds look funny)
Mike Birbiglia has a great track called “Delusion” on his comedy album Sleepwalk With Me about the nature of stand-up comedy crticism:
“With stand-up comedy it’s not like a movie or a play where if people don’t like it, they can go, ‘We didn’t like the set or the script or the costumes. With stand up comedy, if people don’t like it they’re basically saying ‘We don’t like you….ya know, your personality.'”
And I think at this point in musical history with the mass surplus of synth pop and indie pop and indie pop rock and whatever groups all playing around with the same basic structures, that’s what it really boils down to: does this group have a (unique) personality that you like or not? That’s what separates the Kishi Bashis from the other serviceable-but-not-memorable crap. That’s why someone like Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards could basically will her band to success. That’s why HAIM has turned their concerts into a personality-driven variety show.
And that’s why I like J Lima Foxtrot’s new EP Wishy Washy so much.
I may not know DC-metro-area’s own Ms. Foxtrot save for a few Facebook messages back when I wrote about her song “Bullseye” last year, but after 3+ listens through this 5-song EP, it’s impossible to not feel like I know her somewhat intimately. The lyrics are too raw, the vocals are too distinct, and her personality is bursting through every note. Self-recorded and produced (impressively well) in her home-studio, she tells me that “This batch of indie-pop songs was inevitably written after recent heartbreak and relationship mind-fucks,” which if you listen to the lyrics feels like an understatement.
But not only are J Lima Foxtrot’s lyrics gripping, her “batch of indie-pop” also boasts some wonderful, personality-infused instrumentation, with acoustic guitars bringing out the emotion in cold synth keys and ever-changing rhythms giving each songs multiple movements and moods.
I threw up the 4th and 5th track on the album for the column because I think that’s what you should hear first and they’re the best examples of what Foxtrot does best, but definitely definitely go listen to/pay what you want to buy the whole EP over at her Bandcamp page.
Also, she’s going to be playing at Galaxy Hut (one of the few venues worth going to Virginia for) September 28th at 9pm, and she’ll also be a part of BYT Editor Brandon Weatherbee’s wonderful 8×8 series in November at the Black Cat.
Yay great DC acts!
- Sunboy – “A.B.C.D.N.A.” (and “Highway Screamin'”s video again because it’s awesome)
Speaking of acts I wrote about a year ago, Colorado’s Sunboy is back with another single after releasing the woozy, rocking “Nu Religion” last month, this one called “A.B.C.D.N.A.” It has a bit more of a beat to it, harkening back to their first release, the psychadelic “Anxious Peoples,” but the samples and production tricks are a well-placed step even further in that direction.
Justin and Jordan, the two barely-legal guys behind Sunboy, seem to have a natural chemistry that give this up-and-coming band a very confident sound despite their relatively short time as a band. Justin tells me that they’ve been playing as many live shows as possible, which has got to be a contributing factor.
In terms of future stuff, he also let me know that there are “a few new things in the works,” with a possible EP “of all the older material (Anxious People, Aphrodisa, Highway, and some unreleased songs from that “era” of Sunboy tunes)” and then possibly a few A-side/B-side track vinyl releases for new songs until they have enough for an album, which I personally have very high hopes for.
BONUS: If you want to learn more about who they are and where they come from, I interviewed them for All Things Go when they first came on the scene, and I will say that they seem like a pair of very genuine, interesting dudes.
Run The Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
I wanted to go 3-for-3 on “wrote about this group a year ago and here’s new stuff” and I had it narrowed down to Run The Jewels (whom I also just wrote about like two weeks ago) and two other acts. I really wanted to rule out El-P and Killer Mike because I had just written about them so recently, but after seeing their ridiculous new Kickstarter packages that they’re offering to promote Run The Jewels 2, their very quickly written sophomore album, I couldn’t not include them.
For $25,000, you can get the ‘Show and Tell’ Package:
– “Run The Jewels will fly to your town and accompany your child to show and tell at his or her school on an agreed upon date (and in the United States) where we will answer any questions the children have about marijuana, rap music and global politics.”
For $35,000, you can get the ‘Housesitters Deluxe’ Package:
– “Run The Jewels will spend an agreed upon weekend at your house where we will smoke all of your weed, listen to your stupid fucking music, and let your mother cook for us.”
And for $40,000, there’s the ‘Meow The Jewels’ Package:
– “Run The Jewels will re-record RTJ2 using nothing but cat sounds for music. You are free to profit from this album in any way you see fit up to 100k in net global profit or 3 years (whichever comes first).”
This is on top of Killer Mike telling anyone that will listen about the importance of staying informed with national and global politics.
Oh and this song is pretty awesome too.
I love this group.
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
AURAL PLEASURE WITH FRIENDS: Marcus Dowling Festival Review Edition
Editor’s Note: The incomparable Marcus Dowling reviewed the All Things Go Fall Classic Festival for BYT and while you may have already seen it, I am incredibly proud of the All Things Go guys (confession: personal friends of mine since high school) for putting together a festival that not just they but DC as a music scene can be proud of, so I’m going to syndicate it here. Don’t like it? Tweet at me and offer to guest write; I’ll probably say yes. Jesus Christ, Future Islands was so good…
“At a time where many music festivals in the DC Metropolitan area deal more with turning up, feeling the beat or dropping the bass, Saturday afternoon’s All Things Go Fall Classic was a pleasant shift in direction towards what is now considered more in line with a “classic” festival ideal.
As a day on the onset of fall turned from dreary to crisp, rising alt-rock acts including Tove Lo, Haerts, Bear Hands and Future Islands – Baltimore-to-America’s favorite Late Show (with David Letterman) to “love fest” story of 2014 – played for an appreciative throng at shopping destination-tuned-premium Northeast DC musical locale Union Market.
Proceedings kicked off with a decidedly less-than-ideal chill in the air and rain in the sky. Opening acts like the ironically (for the conditions) named Young Summer, Panama Wedding and Sun Club brought their breezy indie vibes, Panama Summer in particular having a sound that in tunes like their well-regarded single “All of the People” having an appealing pop sound that brought a brightened mood to the early-arriving crowd.
Unlike the recent spate of EDM-centered festivals that have overtaken live event lineups nationwide, the draw wasn’t so much a music that creates a community of disparate people as much as it was a community of people driven by a desire to be communal in the presence of what is agreed-upon as good music. That’s a different set of people entirely than what dance has done of late, and the importance of the city being able to have music-driven events that can serve a plethora of distinct fanbases is of absolute importance.
Locally renowned and nationally respected favorites U.S. Royalty were on the lineup here, playing some well conceived newer material from a forthcoming release. Their sound is more mature than ever before, owing more to just straight up, hook-driven songwriting and feeling more in tune with the Pacific Coast Highway vibes of pop-ready 70s rock than ever before.
As well, for indie rock traditionalists, Bear Hands’ post-punk style was a welcome addition to the festival lineup, as in abutting US Royalty on the lineup, the two acts (aside from the headliners Future Islands) presented the overall most seasoned and entertaining performances of the afternoon.
A key point of interest from Saturday’s proceedings were the sheer number of pop star ingenues present. Brooklyn-based Haerts is fronted by Nini Fabi, Sweden’s Tove Lo is a meteoric-rising vocalist, with DC-based Young Summer rounding out the trio. In this way, the All Things Go Fall Classic felt like a South by Southwest showcase wherein all of these things are all like each other, and one of these things will be a breakout superstar.
As cool as it is to have the moment of seeing a rising star while they were still rising, when the differences between three acts are in the not-so-terribly dissimilar tonalities in three female vocalists singing over lo-fi minor key synth-led rock songs, there’s an issue. While yes, it means that the festival is entirely mirroring industry trends, it also means that the festival itself may run into points where the acts – though talented – may feel as though they are dragging in energy. While yes, they aren’t, as a whole production a festival is a study in balancing and creating disparate energies, which was not quite so apparent, here.
There aren’t enough positive words to use as a rock critic to describe what is happening to Future Islands. There were those in the crowd who have seen Sam Herring and crew perform in front of 50-plus people in Baltimore, and there are those who saw him perform in front of five million-plus people on Late Show with David Letterman in early May. The simple genius of Future Islands lies in a crowd somewhere in-between, erring somewhere greater than 50 but in the range of the thousands packed into Union Market on Saturday night.
Yes, Future Islands sound is heavy enough for your metal bros, yet bright enough for your girlfriend. Sam Herring is thus the perfect frontman for such a group in that between gesticulating like Joe Cocker doing the Twist, growling like Metallica’s James Hetfield and singing with the wholly pop-accessible feel of Dave Matthews, he’s everything to everyone. Songs like “Seasons (Waiting for You)” are well delivered by a tremendous band-as-ensemble and hit everyone’s pleasure centers. However, these songs amazingly don’t feel like cloying Forever 21 anthems (which is unfortunately what so much indie rock becomes). Thus, the hour-plus Future Islands performance was a free-dancing love in. Girls in couture danced next to “happy drunk” bros and tattooed indie kids in skinny jeans tapped their feet in too cool approval. As a close to a day where the sounds were oftentimes more blissful than the weather, it was the event’s most cohesive and agreeable moment.”