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).
So the Sweetlife lineup was announced and maybe we should all just let out a collective sigh for how lackluster it is and at least appreciate the fact that it’s apparently NSFW day on BYT so I can be a little creative with how I feel about all this.
First off, Sweetgreen/Sweetlife has been awesome to BYT to the past and vice versa, so all of the following is said with the intention of being positive criticism.
Secondly, WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS LINEUP?
I hate to get all out of demographic right now, but this is the Los Angeles Lakers of festival lineups: a mess of too-old veterans, over-hyped big names, and unknown-for-a-reason midlevel players clouding and overshadowing any bright spots of real talent.
Foster the People and Lana Del Ray as headliners are literally a slap in the fucking face to a DC music scene that is doing it’s best to re-establish itself while also fighting off poachers like New York City and LA who keep stealing our homegrown acts.
Just look at the line-ups for the past few years:
2011: The Strokes, Girl Talk, Lupe Fiasco, Crystal Castles, Cold War Kids, Ra Ra Riot
2012: Avicii, Kid Cudi, Explosions in the Sky, A$AP Rocky, fun.
2013: Phoenix, Passion Pit, Kendrick Lamar, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Solange, Holy Ghost!, MS MR
The headliners were big stars, the pop acts had broad appeal, the hip-hop act selections were ahead of the curve, and the up-and-coming slots were filled with acts that all had indie popularity but that were just flirting with spilling into the mainstream.
This year, the headliners are two acts desperate for a second chance, the pop acts are skewing younger than ever, the hip-hop slot is by a guy who should never have more than a guest verse on a song, and the up-and-coming acts look someone put Hype Machine on shuffle and made a list of the first 5 artists.
To take a bit of venom out of this vitriol/make me seem like less of a troll, I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a bit and possibly prove that everything I just said doesn’t really matter. Here we go:
The Sweetgreen guys are not dumb. They took some money that they had at their disposal as young entrepreneurs and wisely invested it in everyone’s desire to pay way too much to feel healthy quickly, then they built a cool music festival built loosely around that whole vibe/brand. But now Sweetgreen is receiving $22 million in funding and becoming a BRAND that needs to start looking at attracting an audience that is more than just semi-elite hipsters that live and work in the city.
They need to reach the people who really like that indie rocker Bastille’s new song and who don’t know to mock Foster the People for performing like shit on Saturday Night Live/being Foster the People. They need to cater to the college kids that can’t wait to Instagram themselves at St. Lucia (#Sweetlife2014). That’s their job now.
And we’ll all still go to the restaurants. We’ll feel like maybe it’s us that aged out of going through the hassle of finding a ride out to Columbia fucking Maryland to get day drunk and smoke weed in close proximity to high-schoolers. But we’ll still go to the restaurants because holy hell December’s season salad was fantastic.
So this is what makes sense for Sweetlife.
Even if it means that acts like Bombay Bicycle Club, who have a great new album that you will read more about next week, and Spirit Animal, who have melted my face off before, get thrown to the wolves of an audience that will be skipping their sets to see Capital Cities play that song that’s unescapably everywhere.
It’s the inevitable transition for a festival that was always built from one singular brand. It has to evolve as that brand does.
So Sweetgreen/Sweetlife guys, I get it. And I’ll almost definitely still go. But just know that this kind of shit isn’t cool for the people that helped build and support the previous festivals in good faith thinking we were all in this together. If this is the kind of festival you want to build, build it. But don’t be surprised when it turns into the next DC101 Chili Cookoff.
And I know I went long on that diatribe about Sweetlife, so I promise to be short for the rest of the article (if you promise to follow the TUNES YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW IN 2014 Spotify playlist). Cool? Cool.
- Public Service Broadcasting – Inform, Educate, Entertain
I was turned onto Public Service Broadcasting a few weeks ago because they have a great PR team, but I have been absolutely hooked on their album Inform – Educate – Entertain. Ever since my first listen, I’ve been craving them like Selma Blair’s character post-first coitus in Cruel Intentions. The duo, pseudonymously comprised of guitarist/banjoist/electronicist J. Willgoose Esq. and drummer/pianist/electronicist Wrigglesworth, use samples from old public information films, archive footage, and propaganda material as vocals to lay over their auralgasmically complex instrumentation.
Now, I very rarely listen to instrumental music, and this technically doesn’t even qualify, but there’s something about the determined nature of the songs being played that makes me understand why classical music supposedly helps heighten brainwave activity (speaking of, apparently vibrators are good for classical singers). You can get lost in these songs but you can also find incredible direction and motivation with them.
Public Service Broadcasting’s songs, and the album as a whole, work in waves of rhythm and melody, dabbling in genres that float from dark disco to vintage rock and roll to the melodic celebratory rhythms of something like early YACHT. And when you throw in the fact that they somehow take these seemingly disparate vocal samples and create compelling narratives out of them — just check out the song “Everest” to see what I mean — it gives their music a send of epic grandness.
Apparently their live show isn’t to be missed either, and fortunately we don’t have to.
They’re playing Black Cat on March 4th, and even though Bear Hands is playing DC9 that night as well, I am going to find a way to see both of those bands, even if it means having to clone myself, and even if that means I have to start experimenting with incorporating that clone into me and my girlfriend’s sex life.
- Chet Faker – “Talk Is Cheap”
Chet Faker, who made a name for himself with his Thinking in Textures EP and his more recent collaboration with Flume, released a blogger’s wet dream of a song a few months ago called “Melt,” which was the first single off of his upcoming debut LP, Built On Glass, due out April 11th. It got all the right kinds of attention and had everyone waiting to see what Chet Faker had in store for us next.
Well, “Talk Is Cheap” is the follow up to that, and it’s a soulful, sensuous track that actually tops “Melt”. It also would make no sense soundtracking this totally NSFW, incredibly violent scene from Kill Bill, but mute the video and do it anyway; it’s fun:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bD5TMdAtmQs
- SPEAK – “Be Reasonable Diane”
“Be Reasonable, Diane” by Austin quartet SPEAK sounds just enough like tour-mates RAC to help you convince yourself that this isn’t in fact Vampire Weekend, but there actually is a bit more going on here than a few bright synths and disco beats over Cambridging vocals. They aren’t afraid to let bass riffs wander, they steal Cake’s guitar sound around the 3 minute mark, and if only for a split second at the very end, they aren’t afraid to drop it an octave and give just a glimpse at what it sounds like after that vampiric weekend ends.
And SPEAK’s done some interesting things in the past, like releasing a faux-acapella cover album featuring songs like Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” and Fiona Apple’s “Every Single Night” that is lushly satisfying. And there’s real talent there.
But they really have to worry about being stuck in Related Artist Limbo when it comes to sounding so similar to the indie rock juggernauts. It will get you Spotify and Pandora plays, but it won’t win you diehard fans. “Be Reasonable, Diane” does just enough to feel unique, but I’m intrigued to hear what the rest of their upcoming album sounds like when it’s released later this year to see how far they’re willing to branch out.
Oh and to make this NSFW, here’s a GIF of a girl who might be named Diane being more than reasonable…
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
THE GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Nick Guarino Edition
Editor’s Note: Nick Guarino is a buddy of mine from college who happens to be one of the more elite hip-hop heads I have ever met. He also has a knack for improv murder mystery comedy.
- Hilltop Hoods – “The Hard Road”
- The Funkoars – “Vamoose” and “It’s All Good”
Hip-hop is strange. It’s a weird form of music that doesn’t quite fit in with every other genre. It’s essentially glorified public speaking, isn’t it? You don’t need a voice coach to help you to show you how to sing “from the diaphram, damnit!” You don’t need to know how to shred a face-melting guitar riff. Hell, you don’t even need to be able to read a note of music. Why wouldn’t you try? It requires almost nothing to do. It’s the soccer of the music world. And this deceptive quality is probably why so many try and the vast majority fall so very, very short.
You do need something; many things, actually. To be a great you need to know more than just how to make ape-like noises to fall out of your mouth, you need a mastery of language. You need the ability to craft concise sentences, limited by so many factors (of which rhyme is only one), into a narrative, a story. You need to be a true wordsmith, craft verses with the dedication and skill of a…uh…a…guy who makes words good… Whatever, you get the point. You need not only weave that story over a beat, you need to be able to use the beat to your advantage, fitting each beautiful note to each meaningful word until they are one in the same, flowing as one fluid body and lashed together with that final X-factor: passion. When an artist truly believes in his story, in his craft, it’s clear to anyone listening. When it’s there, side-by-side with a vibrant, palpable story and a hard, gritty beat, you just feel it. Your whole body feels it. The hair on the back of your neck stands up. Chills ripple over your scalp at the end of each sentence, your mind on the edge of its oblongata, wondering what brilliant twist of the tongue is coming around the next corner. You can’t help but start moving. Your body refuses to sit still, legs bouncing, head bobbing. And a beautiful energy wells up from the depths of your body, growing, making you want to crank the volume up to eleven and hop on the back of a giant flaming dragon with Macho Man Randy Savage and soar through the heavens through cocaine clouds while firing your bazookas towards God.
It doesn’t come often on this earth, which is why you need to expand your horizons as far as possible. For the love of all that is holy, expand your mind, for once. Get off the fucking couch. Actually, never mind, sit back down. I forgot about the internet. That nearly infinity interweaving of webs across which we can discover the best music from all corners of this world. Also boobs, but I digress.
In my ever constant search across the Interwebs for that hip-hop high I stumbled upon two Aussie groups, both under the same label, who have made me realize America’s monopoly on rap is not absolute. The Hilltop Hoods and the Funkoars, although having been around for many years, are rarely heard state-side. It wasn’t until the ripe age of 25 that I first heard them but I am real happy I did.
The Hilltop Hoods have notoriously fiery, deep cutting beats. Their thoughtfully crafted lyrics inspire but stay true to their blue collar roots. The Funkoars are true students of American hip hop. Almost every song has some kind of homage to the greats like Notorious B.I.G, KRS-One, Cyprus Hill and Nas. Not to mention their beats sport some killer samples (check out the hook in “Vamoose”).
Are these dudes from down under the saviors of rap? Well, they’re no Biz Markie, I’ll say that, but they are the kinds of rappers that make you believe in hip hop again. They put their whole self behind each track, each verse. They have the type of beats and lyrics that make you open your eyes and think, “Yeah. Alright. Show me what you got, Monday morning.” It’s the type of music that gives you the wherewithal to leap out of bed on a weekend and hurl yourself valiantly across the room to shut the shade so you can crawl back into bed for another half hour. Suck on that ambition, hangover.
The Hilltop Hoods and Funkoars may not make you quit your job and start a career teaching hip-hop to deaf kids or something, but there is no doubt they will can be a little “Icy-Hot in your jock strap,” if you know what I mean. Worst case, at least they are something new to bring your white, hip-hop snob friends the next time you’re in Bed-Stuy.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that their home country is like 95% desert Hellscape, or maybe just because their toilets spin the wrong direction (that’s a thing right?) but these guys will be in my repertoire for a long time coming. So lie back in that Dorito-accented sofa of yours, throw on the best excuse for a pair of headphones you have, and switch the safety off those bazookas. Let’s take it to 11.