I may hate DC’s festival offerings sometimes, but good lord I love me some DC blog-curated showcases, and there are two solid ones that I want to give the Aural Fixations bump (it’s a thing):
Deleted Scenes’ album release party tomorrow night at Rock and Roll Hotel, brought to you by DC Music Download!
Deleted Scenes are one of those DC bands that you have to sort of be in the know to realize they’re a “DC band,” but after digging through their past two albums Birdseed Shirt and Young People’s Church of the Air once I was introduced to them via “Stutter,” the in-your-face first single off the album we’re about to have a party for, I can tell you that we as a city should be holding on to them for dear life.
Their new album, which they had the presence of mind to leak to me early on the chance that I would fanboy out about it before their release party, is an eclectic batch of songs that still somehow fit together (most of the time); it almost feels more like Dan Scheuerman and his bandmates were testing their range with this one. Sometimes they exceeded their expectations, sometimes they missed the mark, but it’s still a fascinating listen (and re-listen).
I’d keep rambling about Deleted Scenes and this show and their respective awesomenesses (thank you Stephanie and DMD!), but my friend and now fellow BYT writer Alex Tebeleff covered it all pretty well in his DIT column yesterday. A snippet:
“I’ve seen Deleted Scenes more than almost any other band from DC and they continue to impress. I’d venture to say that there isn’t a better band from DC over the past decade, and that it’s one of the most creative and emotionally powerful contemporary rock bands from anywhere.”
But not to be outdone, former guest-writer and friend of the column Natan Press and DC Deli Mag has put together an…
I emailed Nate a while back asking him about the show, and he wrote me back the absolute most charming, sweet bit of digital correspondence I’ve read in a while:
“DC has a storied music history, but for the last couple decades it seems like DC’s other interests have taken priority. So much so that musicians in other cities often see DC as a difficult place to book, and consider it best avoided altogether.
Recently, however, there has been a lot of motivation towards change in the DC music scene. The DIY scenes in the area are seeing a resurgence (with efforts like Homestage DC, and The Lab promoting house shows and other alternative spaces). DC wants a vibrant music scene. It’s just a matter of proper promotion, encouraging participation, and spreading this new wave of excitement. The show on May 24th, at Rock and Roll Hotel, is the first true All DMV Night and it features bands from each of the three major cities in the DMV. I picked these bands because they’re good, professional, represent their communities well, and because they may be interesting to even casual fans of music. Each of these bands have potential for individual success and the potential to draw greater attention to the scene.”
Big hugs to the DC scene, and please follow the Tunes You Should Fucking Know in 2014 playlist on Spotify.
Now onto the music!
- Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
I don’t really have a cutesy angle when it comes to talking about Sylvan Esso’s debut self titled album, but I just want to take the time to mention how pleasantly unsurprised I am with how good it is.
I mean, it’s like really good.
Early singles “Hey Mami” and “Play It Right” showed they had talent from the get-go, and “Coffee” solidified that they were capable of a great song (and it’s still my personal favorite), but hell’s bells this is just one really good record.
The byproduct of two artists who are more known for their restraint and instrumental prowess, Amelia Randall Meath from Mountain Man and Nicholas Sanborn from Megafaun, this album feels like one long cathartic head-nodding session. It’s not hypnotic — that’s too easy a word — but it does create a sonic template that is really easy to get lost in if you want.
Those that grant it a bit more attention will hear some lovely production flourishes from Sanborn, who seems to really enjoy the craft of creating moving instrumentation, and injections of emotion from Meath, who looks to have truly begun owning her front-and-center role — something she was just happily coming to terms with when I saw them charm the pants off a sold-out DC9 show a few months ago right as “Coffee” was taking off.
And fortunately for all of you, they’ll be in town opening up for the lovely tUnE-yArDs (whose new album is serviceable with flashes of greatness) at 9:30 Club for two nights in a row. Unfortunately for me, it’s the same weekend as Bonnaroo so I will most likely be somewhere in the middle of Manchester, Tennessee wondering how long it takes for peyote to wear off. Even still, I couldn’t recommend a show more if you’re in town.
These two deserve all the success that’s going to come their way.
- Sego – “20 Years Tall”
I miss this kind of music.
Only I’m not even really “missing” it, per se.
Sego may remind me of my favorite band, The Dismemberment Plan, what with their cacophonic guitar riffs and dichotomous sing/speak-into-bright-melody vocals, but since I was 12 when Dismemberment Plan released Emergency & I, I was always experiencing that band second-handed and after the fact. Even LCD Soundsystem, the other band that your brain is going to jump to when hearing this — see: “A bet is a bet/a bet is a bet” v. “Read all the pamphlets and watch the tapes” — dissolved well before my still-developing pallet could really appreciate them. And yes I still hate myself for not scrounging up the $400 to see their last show…
But here’s Sego.
An unknown band out of Utah that All Things Go premiered on Monday which has found a way to blend some of my favorite just-missed-them artists (let me also throw a possible Eels influence into the ring while we’re on the subject) into something that sounds new and unique but that also rekindles some old dance-punk embers I thought had finally fizzled out. I have no idea who these guys are, what they’re about, or what else we can expect from them, but for right now “20 Years Tall” is enough.
I missed this kind of music.
- Tati Ana – “MRI”
I can tell we’re creeping towards the max capacity of words you can read in a given sitting and Sego was probably difficult for some of you, so let’s make this one pretty simple.
A girl named Anna Stodart of GoLightly, one of the rare Music PR People I Trust, sent me an email about Tati Ana a few weeks ago, and when I forgot to include her in last week’s column, Anna even had the balls to give me a polite nudge about it.
And while it’s sort of her job to give that nudge, she at least knew that she had an act worth nudging about this time; Tati Ana is really talented.
“MRI” is a punch in the mouth in terms of a song opening and it doesn’t even hint at letting up its onslaught until Tatiana Kochkareva’s sultry voice chimes in a good 30 seconds later. But even as she begins her cooing verses, there’s still a monumental force behind it all that grows as the song progresses. When it all culminates at the end of the song, it’s absolutely goosebump inducing.
Her other two released tracks, which both came out about 7 months ago, showcase a darker, more brooding attitude, but if she can temper that with the kind of sonic impact she delivers in “MRI,” she’s going to be dangerous in the very near future.
Curt enough? Awesome.
Because it’s time for another very special edition of…
AURAL PLEASURE WITH FRIENDS: Mollie Woods Edition
Editor’s Note: Mollie Woods has strong adamant opinions on music-related subjects, and she doesn’t believe in nepotism.
- Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband
It’s easy to understand why Sweden’s Little Dragon might have been admittedly ‘a bit self-conscious‘ over the years about trying to follow up “Twice,” the hauntingly and painfully beautiful opener from their eponymous debut album, over the years. “Twice” is one of those career-defining kinds of tracks that creates an immediate personal connection and evokes heavy strong emotions (I have cried to/during it at least the number the song indicates, probably more).
But what do you do when you reach your high-water mark for a particular type of song with your very first single?
If you’re Little Dragon, you put it off tackling the issues as long as possible.
The majority of Machine Dreams, their follow-up album, veered toward icy electro-pop, showcased best by tracks like “My Step.” Save for a slowed down track or two included on Machine Dreams, the band seemed to shy away from anything slow or even downtempo, and their best attempt at a slow jam was surely “Thunder Love,” a song in the same minimalistic and spooky vein as “Twice,” although in all honesty there is really no comparison.
Then the band really hit their stride with their third album Ritual Union, doubling-down on their R&B-meets-electropop aesthetic with tracks like the standout “Ritual Union” or cuts such as “Little Man” or “Shuffle A Dream.” Musically, this album feels more reminiscent of fellow Swedes The Knife or even Santigold at times. But despite seeming to have found their sound on this album, they still sidestepped any real attempt at a “Twice”-like slow jam.
Now, with their fourth album Nabuma Rubberband, released on May 13th, they’ve taken another stab at it.
Unfortunately though, there’s still a palpable self-consciousness during the slower songs that’s irksome to fans who know what the band is capable of. Fans like me who were drawn in by “Twice” may have trouble digesting Nabuma Rubberband‘s “Pink Cloud” and “Only One,” neither of which are all that but which aren’t that memorable either; even the addition of the string accents by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra on “Pink Cloud” can’t keep me from hitting the next button.
Don’t get me wrong, the album itself isn’t forgettable, but it does require a little more patience. The influence of back-catalogue Prince and Velvet Rope-era Janet Jackson infuses their sound with a rather alt-pop dynamic but it also helps anchor a sense of familiarity. I particularly like those tracks that explore the dichotomy between dance and downtempo, such as the percussive-heavy “Klipp Klapp,” and my (current) favorite, the grimy “Killing Me.”
Ultimately this is a record for fans that can appreciate Little Dragon’s understated R&B electro-synth-pop, but casual listeners are going to have a hard time grasping on to the less-accessible branches of this album.