Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here’s four songs we think you should fucking know (this week). Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments too.
THE SHOW YOU SHOULD FUCKING GO TO:
- Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union
This month, there’s a different twist on the monthly Show You Should Fucking Go To Award. For May, it is temporarily the Show I Should Fucking Go To, as I know almost nothing about the band and have been told that my first introduction to them shouldn’t be via their recorded material, but in-person, where their energy, passion, and sense of community can truly be felt.
Titus Andronicus, a special band for a diverse lot of people, hail from New Jersey and are named after Shakespeare’s first tragedy and least respected play. There’s probably something deep to connect to that, but since I’m going in deaf, I’m not the one to make it. While the only real fact I know about them is that their second album is a concept album about the Civil War, enough trustworthy people have told me that they are a band not to be missed live. So the May Show You Should Fucking Go To Award goes to Titus Andronicus’ show Sunday night at the Black Cat.
For those that need a bit more proof, check out Newdust’s Josh Stewart’s review of them the last time they were there or that time we took them on a picnic-interview and ate burgers. And worst case, The Max Levine Ensemble is opening and they’re always a good time.
TUNES YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW:
- Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
For those of you emerging from the rocks you were living under that haven’t gotten a chance to listen to it, it’s streaming on iTunes. Enjoy!
Well. It happened. It’s here. We’ve made contact…
Early Monday afternoon, I received an email from Jared Silva, one of the All Things Go writers with the subject line: “omgomgomgomgomg or: new Daft Punk leaked.” My eyes widened and I gleefully clicked on the download link. As soon as I could, I passed the link onto co-workers and close friends with the obligatory “keep this link private, please,” attached, knowing full well that the cat was officially out of the bag.
I decided to wait until after work to actually click play on my iTunes, but throughout the day I enjoyed poking around Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to see how excited the musical world at large was for the surprise gift they’d received to brighten their Mondays (PS: Unbiasedly, BYT did a hilarious job recapping Twitter’s reaction to Random Access Memories).
What I found was that not only music nerds and their close friends were posting about it, but instead it seemed like the whole world was devouring the new album, collectively consuming it all at once. It was kind of a beautiful thing to see.
Finally, after a stressful work day, I went home, plugged my laptop into my good speakers, lit a joint, and laid down on my living room floor; but as I went to turn my phone to silent, I received a text from my friend who lives hundreds of miles away, lets call him Austin to protect his identity, that said “Literally smoking myself stupid in my apartment and listening to the Daft Punk album.” I let him know of my parallel plans and then hit play…
Now this is where I’d usually share my thoughts about the whole thing, but I honestly don’t think I can yet. They’d be quarter-baked at best, and I feel like an album that had this much effort and care put into it shouldn’t be judged by the hasty listens and re-listens I’ve crammed into the past day and a half. Otherwise I might end up spewing analogies like “something a heartbroken vacuum cleaner might drive around to at night in Detroit,” like GQ did.
Do I think it’s perfect? No way. Do I think it sucks? Not a chance. But I’m not able to figure out where on the spectrum to place it just yet, and I don’t think I will be for a while.
But what’s really amazing is that the critical response to this album isn’t actually the most noteworthy thing about it.
While reading some of the interviews and features about Random Access Memories, I came across Pitchfork’s epic cover story on them. In it, Thomas Bangalter, explains the duo’s mysterious way of doing things: “When you know how a magic trick is done, it’s so depressing. We focus on the illusion because giving away how it’s done instantly shuts down the sense of excitement and innocence.”
But as the ever-knowing Morgan Freeman explains in the “this actually looks decent” trailer for Now You See Me, “The more you think you see, the easier it will be to fool you.”
The real magic trick that Daft Punk pulled wasn’t in the music itself, but in its delivery. Whether we like to admit or not, it is a singles-driven music industry nowadays. The album has gone the way of the newspaper; people select bits and pieces but ignore most of the content. But in leaking Random Access Memories, Daft Punk gave already eager fans the means, opportunity, and (most importantly) motive to listen to the entire album, straight-through, within the same general timeframe as each other. They spun the world backwards to a time pre-internet when audiences were forced by the constraints of physical releases to consume an album all together within the same general window of time as one another.
Bangalter and his partner Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo continuously heralded the use of real humans playing real instruments in lieu of computers on this album, emphasizing that it was the communal aspect of the process that was most important. But that was the trick we thought we saw. When we jumped on the leaked album enthusiastically, that’s where they really fooled us. They used the internet against us to force us all to enjoy the near-lost experience of listening to an album, straight-through, as a community of fans.
The last song on Random Access Memories is without a doubt one of its triumphs, and as I became swallowed in its massive crescendo, I took immense pleasure knowing that Austin, at that moment, was experiencing the same thing as me when I sent him the simple text, “Oh my God. ‘Contact’.”
For no reason other than I stumbled across a cool video while doing research for this article, here’s one grand Daft Punk pianist (I actually snickered to myself writing that; I have no shame).
- Lorde – “Royals”
I’m confused by Lorde’s place in the world. She has over 30K likes on Facebook (I work in digital marketing, these things matter to me), her Soundcloud page features songs with over half a million plays, but none of the more mainstream underground (oxymoronic, I know) music sites/blogs/whatevers seem to have found her yet (*writers note: as I edit this to send it in, it looks like the internet’s favorite gay stereotype Perez Hilton spotted her). In fact, I only came across the TEENAGE New Zealander thanks to my roommate, whose musical tastes also include Philip Philips (someone from American Idol) and fun. (with all apologies to Nate Ruess). All he can tell me is that he heard it while on a rooftop party for Cinco De Mayo, so I’m considering it a Cinco De Mayo Miracle that my ears were graced with her fantastic pop sound.
Her debut EP, The Love Club, isn’t that cohesive, as it bounces from the gothic pop album-opener “Bravado,” which reminds me of Sweetlife-slaying MS MR’s Lizzie Plapanger (whom I might actually be in love with after their performance this weekend) to the bubblegummy “The Love Club,” which is overly cute (though even respectable artists like Regina Spektor suffer from that occasionally), but the album’s many bright spots shine incredibly bright.
With all of that said, until Lorde really takes off, she will be known for “Royals.” It checks off everything an earworm of a pop song should be: a simple hooky beat, just enough bounce and wobble to make it fun, a snippy articulate pre-chorus that could fit in a hip-hop song, and a sweeping bombastic chorus. It’s the kind of the song that is easily put on repeat but is also one solid remix away from being the dance hit of the summer. It reminds me of the first time I heard Icona Pop, actually. Capitalizing producers, you’re on the clock…
It’s just a matter of time before we won’t be able to escape this strikingly pretty (is it legal for me to say that?) New Zealander. Be prepared.
- Keith Top Of The Pops – #ProperMusic
Before James Murphy, was JAMES MURPHY, he put himself on the map with the jocular, self (and scene) aware “Losing My Edge” that caused as much introspection as it did dancing in between name-drops and rather astute cultural insights. It was a literal slap in the face (watch the music video, you’ll get the pun), to an “indie” scene growing more and more pretentious with each evolving iteration.
I would say that Keith Top Of The Pops’ “#ProperMusic” was trying to hitchhike along that same route with his latest single, but it’s his entire persona that is built around that tongue-in-cheek dismantling of the music industry. I mean, his name is literally Keith Top Of The Pops.
With a debut album titled Fuck You! I’m Keith Top Of The Pops that featured tracks like “Two Of The Beatles Are Dead” and “I Hate Your Band,” it’s apparent that Keith is well aware he’s not going to please everyone, but, like an indie-rocking Seth MacFarlane, there’s a boyish charm and impressive wit that dilutes the sting of all his venom; and that’s not even taking into account that his songs are startlingly well-written and catchy. Like a stand-up comedian, Keith mixes sociological observation and disarming humor to get his point across.
On his sophomore, recently-released album, TOTP2, songs like “Morrissey WIll Never Forgive Me” and “Stupid Rules For Stupid People” are perfect examples of his amusing yet astute social commentary. Obviously a student of the UK rockers before him, Keith channels all of them just enough to find an enjoyable balance between homage and mockery. However, it’s not all condescension for condescension’s sake, as on the previously mentioned “Stupid Rules For Stupid People” he preaches, “Listen up kids, just do what you like,” while taking the piss out of pompous judgments like, “Don’t wear that t-shirt if you’re seeing that band,” and “Don’t tell me you like that song,” (did I slip that Britishism in well enough?). If James Murphy was approaching the subject from the viewpoint of a confused elder, Keith Top Of The Pops seems to cast himself in the role of a frustrated older brother upset at how his younger siblings are acting.
While there are some better songs than “#ProperMusic” on the album, it’s the best insight into what Keith Top Of The Pops and His Minor UK Indie Celebrity Backing Band are about: Snarky cultural analysis delivered over well-played instrumentation that are both dripping in angst and passion. All the spoken word bits are actual tweets from the Twitter hashtag #propermusic, which range from comedic to depressing, making the emphatic chorus belted by Keith all the more satisfying.
Louis CK once said that comedy is “just a big excuse to say awful things,” which really means, an excuse to say the awful things we’re all thinking. Keith Top Of The Pops has found a way to take that mantra, throw some strong rock behind it, and put together an album that’s as thought-provoking as it is catchy.