Bryce Rudow likes music. You can send all hatemail to [email protected] and tweet vitriol at him @brycetrudow (or follow him to make him feel more popular while getting access to random new music he doesn’t have the time to write about).
Holy schnikes, happy 2014 everybody!
My apologies for the disappearing act last week, but Newdust head Josh Stewart and I were busy getting into a car wreck on the way home from skiing in Vermont and had to spend the night at a snowed in hotel in Lake George, NY. It was a great way to start the new year.
But I have some great news…
First: WE’RE ON SPOTIFY!
Yes, as I mentioned two weeks ago, I finally caved and put together a Spotify account. Now you can follow the brand new TSYFK 2014 Playlist, which will be updated weekly with the new TYSFK for that week, and rock out to my great music taste wherever you go.
Secondly: IT’S TIME FOR MY PREDICTIONS FOR 2014!
Last year, I Nostradamused that Frightened Rabbit would reach a new level of stardom with their most recent album, that 90’s alternative rock would be a major influence in music, that funk would see a reemergence as a genre, and that we would ultimately view Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city as superior to A$AP Rocky’s LONG.LIVE.A$AP.
With the exception of the funk prediction, I’d say I pretty much nailed it, so while I’m feeling cocky, let’s move onto this year’s predictions…
PREDICTION #1: Punk, Pop-Punk, and Emo Are All Coming Back
A few weeks ago, I got a chance to see Diarrhea Planet live at Rock and Roll Hotel. The young Nashville rockers slayed through a riotous but tight set, but as I leaned up against the far wall of the venue trying to not be the annoying tall guy, I kept focusing more on the crowd as opposed to the band.
Sloppily formed moshpits housed awkward yet ecstatic teenagers dripping with so much sweat that the underage black X’s on their hands were beginning to melt. With every chorus and every breakdown, these 30 or so fans reacted as if they were receiving Holy Communion. I had been them before and now not even a decade later, I was enjoying the cyclical nature of music’s decision to let punk rock rise like a phoenix from its ashes once again.
And make no mistake about it, punk and all its many subgenres (90’s “emo”, pop-punk, et al) are seeing a major resurgence.
It’s like an entire generation of musicians just decided to pretend like the 2000’s never happened and are trying to get back to what bands like Rancid or Sunny Day Real Estate—as diverse as those choices might be—were toying around with.
Diarrhea Planet’s frontman Jordan Smith and I were chatting before their set and he described it by saying, “I feel like music is trying to pick back up where the 90’s left off. I feel like rock and roll and punk went into this super weird territory in the 2000’s and everything fell apart and it became really shitty. Everyone was trying to do the same thing and none of it was stuff that was massively appealing to anyone.”
So now you have a variety of bands springing up that went searching for inspiration from a generation that didn’t vote “Nookie” to the number 1 spot on TRL, and they are starting to latch onto some pretty diverse influences under the greater “punk” umbrella. That’s why we have bands like the gruff and raw Gnarwolves coming up at the same time as the cheeky emoish The Front Bottoms (both of which have albums that are worth checking out).
And because the internet is a wild west town, these eclectic influences have led to some pretty interesting final products. I got a chance to hear You Blew It!’s upcoming album Keep Doing What You’re Doing before its release and half the fun of going through it was hearing traces of old disparate favorites like Jawbreaker and Early November simultaneously leak into their songs.
But there is one thing that is going to really separate this new wave of punk bands from their predecessors: their self-awareness in terms of the music industry at large.
The industry is too transparent for any aspiring musician not to at least have some basic concept on the dollars and cents of it all. And it’s why Jordan can casually mention to me the non-realization that “there’s no such thing as a middle-class musician anymore.” They recognize that something is going to have to be different than it was last time to let this movement succeed.
Fortunately, it seems like all of these groups are willing to bust their ass in terms of touring and output—a true punk staple—in hopes of finding out what that magic bullet might be. For shits and giggles, I threw out the idea of organizing a more hip version of Warped Tour to Jordan as a way for these bands to actually make some money, and it was worth it just to see his excitement at the possibility:
“How hard would it be to throw something together, like an old school Lollapalooza that’s actually a tour? I would be all for that! Get a ton of really cool bands, and hit the road, and do 16 dates in the US for the first year. It couldn’t be that hard.”
I wouldn’t be shocked if something similar but on a smaller scale does end up happening, whether it’s Diarrhea Planet behind it or not because mark my words: PUNK IS BACK.
PREDICTION #2: Hip-Hop Is Going To Get More Experimental
Back when Jack Black was funny, Tenacious D released a song called “The Metal,” in which they describe all the different genres—like grunge and new wave— that have tried to kill metal music in the past, only for metal to survive time and time again.
This is where hip-hop is at now.
Pop music has done its best over the past decade or so to boa constrict hip-hop to death, enveloping it with half-talented female vocalists and saccharine beats and coaxing it into producing lazy, mass-appealing verses. But that makes sense. Hip-hop shares a lot of the same DNA with pop and the two have seen mutual success when paired together.
But EDM’s attack on hip-hop has been a different story all together.
EDM is like the super virus that the world wasn’t ready for. It spread quickly and took over most of pop music’s world faster than you can say Avicii. Then it set its sights on hip-hop…
And it was smart in its plan. It lured hip-hop in by flaunting its dancefloor-ready beats and disguising simple Ableton parlor tricks as bold new instrumentation. Even those like Lupe Fiasco, who is considered a fairly creative hip-hop artist, fell for the trap (see: Friend of the People).
But hip-hop is finally catching on that’s something is up and is doing it’s best to rebel by going avant garde.
You could argue that this trend has been building for a while, maybe starting with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, or channel ORANGE, or Odd Future’s releases, but hip-hop has been getting weirder lately (and it’s been awesome).
Kanye’s Yeezus, Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris, Childish Gambino’s misfire Because The Internet, and even Chance the Rapper’s phenomenal Acid Rap mixtape all stretch the limits of conventional hip-hop into previously unthought realms. It would be hard to argue that it’s been with complete success, but after a fairly long stagnation in terms of stylistic evolution, the fact the genre is pushing the envelope again is a great sign.
To keep this DC local, a few weeks ago I got an email from a Virginia rapper that goes by PHZ-Sicks who wanted me to check out his album The Moment. Since I have all the time in the world for DC area artists, I gave it a chance and was pleasantly surprised to hear what I expected to be a straightforward hip-hop album delve into some fairly bizarre territories. There were complex song structures, experimental instrumentation arrangements, and an overall cinematic feel to the whole thing.
PHZ-Sicks explains, “The constant change of dynamics intrigues the listener to see what comes next. I aimed to implement that with breakdowns all throughout the album to keep it a constantly moving and filled with emotion.”
Fortunately for PHZ-Sicks—and hip-hop as a whole—creating songs as opposed to just laying down raps has never been easier. Unlike rock music, which has been watered down by the emergence of user-friendly professional music software, hip-hop artists get the benefit of being able to relatively easily craft songs that are more than just verses laid over samples. Honestly, it’s probably hip-hop’s greatest asset in its fight for individuality against the evils of pop and EDM.
And it doesn’t hurt that some of the biggest names in mainstream hip-hop are all venturing out of their comfort zones. I mean, we’ve got rumored releases from Outkast, Kanye, and Wu-Tang all somewhere out there on the horizon. You’re telling me you expect any of them to be throwing fastballs down the plate at this point in their respective careers?
PREDICTION #3: One Of The Following Bands Will Breakout In 2014:
I have been unabashedly waving the Tiny Victories flag since I was first brought on to start writing this column. I just truly believe this relatively obscure band out of NYC is one of the most talented, most enjoyable bands out there, and it boggles my mind that they haven’t been discovered by “the internet” yet.
But that might all change this year.
I caught up with Greg Walters and Cason Kelly, the duo that make up Tiny Victories, at Bonnaroo last summer and they were already giddy about the new album they were working on at the time. Handling mixing duties is a man named Alex Aldi who ran the controls for bands like Passion, Holy Ghost!, and The Walkmen, and they were positively gushing about what he brought out of them.
In a text I got earlier this week Greg said, “This record damn near kicked my ass but now that it’s finished, I think it’s the best thing either Cason or I have ever done.”
Considering their debut EP posted above is still on repeat for me almost two years later, I’m absolutely salivating for them to really make their mark when this album is released sometime in early to mid 2014.
I’m embarrassed for us as a collective music-listening public.
The fact that we haven’t lavished Yellow Ostrich with the kind of hyperbolic praise they deserve by now is a travesty.
Since 2011, they have released a good album (The Mistress), a great album (Strange Land), and a haunting EP that showed exactly what kind of range this band had (Ghost).
And now they’re at it again.
With the release of the first single “Shades” last month, the countdown is on for their new album Cosmos to be released in February. The new song feels like both a maturation and liberation from their previous material, and its unapologetic attitude and woozy looseness is so infectious that it might be just what Yellow Ostrich needs in order to get the attention they’ve been deserving for far too long.
San Fermin the band actually started as just the product of one Ellis Ludwig-Leone.
Ellis is a Brooklyn-based composer and songwriter who retreated to an artist community in Colorado after his graduation from Yale to write what became San Fermin’s debut album, which was released in September of last year.
The album itself is one of the best releases of 2013, having drawn comparisons to The National, Grizzly Bear, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Feist and winning over superfans like NPR’s Bob Boilen, but San Fermin’s live show is something special that must be seen in person to truly be appreciated.
Because this album was written in its entirety before it was ever played live, there is a cohesiveness and theatricality to it that allows the live performance to be a very unique experience. As Ellis told me before their set at DC9 a few months ago, “There’s this freedom in the songs because when I was writing the album, I didn’t know if there would ever be a band actually playing it, so if I wanted to do a 3 minute long trumpet solo, I’d just throw that in there.”
Yet somehow, his brand of exquisite baroque pop isn’t pretentious or off-putting the way one could easily see it being. Instead, it’s almost universally appealing. The songs on the album are diverse enough that it’s impossible not to like at least one or two, and they range in execution so much that according to Ellis “it can be played at a party for fist-pumping bros or it can be played at a sit-down venue for classic music.”
Much the way Gotye and his quirky spin on modern pop was unanimously accepted by every one with an iTunes account in the summer of 2011, there is a strong chance that San Fermin will be similarly adopted en masse. Ellis even told me, “If you can make something your mom likes and random fans and your boss and whoever…if you can reach different people with your music, that’s the Holy Grail.”
Something tells me that Ellis and the rest of San Fermin are closer than they think to that grail, and with a second album already in the works 2014 should be a big year for the young NYC composer.