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).
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Here’s a shameless plug for THE “TUNES YOU SHOULD F*CKING KNOW IN 2014” SPOTIFY PLAYLIST, which you should follow because it’s updated each week with the new music I/my guest writers write about.
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- Sylvan Esso – “Coffee”
“True, it’s a dance we know the moves, the bar, the dip, the woo.”
When I went to DC9 last night to go see Sylvan Esso, I was pretty sure I knew what I was getting into. A girl singer and a guy producing on the fly? I’m well acquainted with the formula. But somehow this was different. It was something new.
Maybe because it was just as new for the two members of Sylvan Esso.
It was less than a year ago that Nick Sanborn of Megafaun — a psychedelic-folk band who sprung from the ashes of Justin Vernon’s pre-Bon Iver band and who released that awesome Arnold Dreyblatt compilation record I wrote about last fall — and Amelia Danall Meath of Mountain Man — a folk band whose loudest moments could still sing you to sleep — decided to explore their respective pop sides. 8 months ago, they released their first record, comprising of “Hey Mami” and “Play It Right,” which originated as a remix of one of Mountain Man’s songs.
However, while there was enough buzz around that release for BYT’s very own Megan Burns to nab an interview with them last summer, it’s their latest single, “Coffee,” that’s really bolstering their upward trajectory.
It was only released two months ago, but it’s already gained huge traction among the various music outlets and blogs and what-have-you’s, and it got enough people curious enough about the band behind it that DC9 was near capacity on a snowy Tuesday night when the State of the Union was also on.
And Nick and Amelia were as shocked as the rest of us…
“Get up, get down. Get up, get down”
I have to imagine it’s a bit weird to embrace an entirely different side of yourself on stage from the one you’re used to. Both artists are accustomed to the tempered nature of folk-esque music when performing, but now they’re being asked to instigate dancing and judged by their charisma as much as their sound.
Nick handled this in possibly the most amazing, most adorable way possible: he went all-in. He accentuated every vocal manipulation that he did, he exaggeratedly swelled and receded with the beats, and he emotively screamed and sung along with his partner in crime (whether he was near a microphone or not). His gyrating lanky frame gave him an immediate charm for sure, but it was his confidence and freedom of expression that was really contagious.
Amelia, on the other hand, unleashed her inner diva. With a voice that sounds like it naturally fits somewhere between Feist and Regina Spektor, she went through a few stylistic costume changes throughout the night, changing her inflections to fit the tones of the instrumentation. At times she was sweet, at times she was fierce, at times she even had a little hip-hop swagger thing going on. And she was masking a shit-eating grin the whole time.
“My baby does the hanky panky. My baby does…”
And the crowd loved them.
Maybe it was because of the close quarters and warm sweaters everyone was wearing, but it felt like an incredibly intimate show, and an immense on-pouring of appreciation and love was thrust upon the two neo-rookies on stage throughout their set. The two performers seemed at times overwhelmed by the surreality of the siatuion, but that just made it feel all the more special.
“Coffee” was the main attraction, though.
At the song’s onset it establishes a simple but enticing structure, and from there it cyclically fleshes itself out with a flinty sensuality and whimsical bells, beeps, and boops. Live, they amplified the drum beat, giving a real credence to Amelia’s command of “Get up, get down,” which the crowd was more than happy to do. And when the “hanky panky” breakdown hit, the audience relished the opportunity to sing along. By the end of the song, there wasn’t a set of still feet in the place.
Of course, like any new group, they have some growing pains to endure, but I’m excited to see how they embrace their new on-stage personas as time goes by. And I have a feeling the next time they come back to town, they’ll be much more familiar with capacity crowds.
- Kendrick Lamar – His verse on the remix of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive”
I always thought Imagine Dragons were like this generation’s Hoobastank, a more marketable version of a critically acclaimed band(s) that was embraced by radio stations and Grammy voters in order to help connect with young demographics that don’t know any better.
And I’m going to continue thinking that without doing any research on the subject because life is too short to research or listen to Imagine Dragons.
But I am going to congratulate Kendrick Lamar on turning what could have been a mailed-in verse on a cash-grab remix into yet another piece of evidence that he might be the best rapper out there, period. Years from now, when Imagine Dragons has devolved into the punchline they’re meant to be, we’re still going to go back and reference this verse.
I can’t even wrap my head around it yet.
The closest thing I can think of is Eminem’s remix of “Dead Wrong,” which is without a doubt in his Top 10 of All Time list (for any of you that disagree, please see his thoughts on the “7 different levels of devil worship”). But that verse benefited from the fact that it was on top of one of the best hip-hop classics of all time. Kendrick did this over Imagine Dragons, a group I can’t differentiate from Alex Clare
And he unleashed it at the Grammy’s.
He took some group that apparently is worthy of winning a Grammy for Best Rock Performance and turned them into his bitch, I mean back-up band (which he should now be touring with at all times). In fact, it’s kind of ironic that he created such an impactful moment at an event which decided Macklemore is the most deserving artist in hip-hop (but let’s not get me started on that one).
And thank God he recorded at least a verse of that monster for an official remix.
I wish I could just put that verse on the Spotify playlist and listen to it on repeat for a few hours, but you’ll have to imagine some dragons for 2 minutes and 38 seconds until Kendrick comes in and shatters everything you conceived possible in the universe with the last four lines:
Fuck, look in my eyes, tell me I died, tell me I tried, to compromise
Tell me you love me, tell me that I, don’t give a fuck and can barely decide
Wishin’ good luck on my enemies, all of my energy go to the almighty God
I could drown in a bottle of Hennessy, fuck your amenities, I’m gettin’ better with time
All hail Kendrick.
- The Notwist – “Close to the Glass” and “Kong”
Last week, the Notwist released the second single, “Kong,” from their upcoming album album Close to the Glass, which alerted me to the fact there was a first single released two months ago, also called “Close to the Glass.”
Now I got into The Notwist circa 2002 when their seminal album Neon Golden was popular, and it’s amazing to see the kind of sonic change they’ve gone through as a group. And while I will always love “One With The Freaks,” I find myself really enjoying what they’re doing these days.
“Close to the Glass” is a quirky electronic pop song while “Kong” is a more straight-forward indie pop/rock tack, and they both have me very curious to se what Close to the Glass will be like as an album.
I’d speculate more, but I’ve learned not to even guess anymore when it comes The Notwist; we’ll just all have to wait until February 25th, when the album comes out. Besides it’s time for a very special edition of…
THE GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Kevin Kline Edition
Editor’s Note: Kevin Kline is the infamous Kevin from my Bonnaroo adventures last year. I had the good fortune of camping next to him and his friend Archie, and he became a lovely peer and sherpa to traverse Bonnaroo with. He also happens to be in a very talented Detroit folk group called The Woven Tangles that he would never selfishly plug but that I of course will.
- Blessed Feathers – “Hey! All You Floridians!”
My obvious and cliché theory: Music has the amazing power to bring strangers together and facilitate experiences they likely wouldn’t have otherwise.
In 2013 this odd trend formed in my life where I would be shown/discover some groovy music and subsequently realize that the same band/group was playing in my area (Metro Detroit) in the very near future.
One of the groups I had the good fortune of being introduced to this way was Blessed Feathers, a fascinating and talented duo from Wisconsin. A few enjoyable weeks into listening to them, I stumbled upon a post saying they would be playing at the Magic Stick in Detroit. When I found out tickets were still available, I immediately called a good friend of mine and asked if he wanted to accompany me.
*Side Note #1: I find those few moments where you attempt to sell a friend on a band/movie/anything you’re vibing with so interesting and a rather vulnerable moment.
Anyway, it turned out my friend couldn’t join, at which point I contacted another, who couldn’t either. After my third “no,” I was faced with an interesting #whitepersonproblem, do I still go to this potentially awesome show and face my fear of being the lonely, awkward tall guy standing by himself or do I stay at home cursing my friends’ names for not being available at the snap of my impatient indie fingers?
** Side Note #2: Is it conceivable that when you make a call to a reserve friend, they can detect that they are say third or fourth in line? That’s always in the back of my head as I am giving my promotional speech to them on why they should come out.
Wisely, I bit the bullet and drove downtown only to be severely early. So I did what any weird, excited fan boy would do and stood around like a lonely, awkward tall guy. Fortunately Donivan from Blessed Feathers walked by and after introducing myself, we ended up having one of the most organic conversations I’d had in sometime. Shortly thereafter we were joined by his fiancé Jacquelyn and the three of us spoke calmly and at length just as old friends would.
Soon enough it was time for them to perform, and as they took the stage in its full trippy lighting glory, they transformed from my old, fast friends, into professional musicians. As expected, their performance was nothing short of awesome, chock full of catchy melodies, intimate harmonies, some really interesting banjo work and subject matters that grabbed me just as they did when I first heard them.
After their set (of which they dedicated a song to me *blush*) they invited me backstage where our conversations continued to unfold. All told, going alone was the best thing I could’ve done, as it opened me to talking to Jacquelyn and Donivan, and it simply confirmed the feeling I had when I first started to pick out some of their lyrics, that they are two down to earth, talented individuals both reflecting on and pondering existence, all while blessing us with beautiful tunes to spend our time with.
So that’s my story, one that left a strong impression on me, the night I became friends with Blessed Feathers and felt just that much more alive and in the moment.
I’m going to end with a quote from the song that resonated with me immensely from that show. I find it to be a good example of the relatable topics/thoughts that are peppered within their songs that end up being nuggets of enjoyment. Being a 90’s child, my family went to Disney World and the like in Florida, and in retrospect all we did was contribute to this big money machine whilst taking part in this big act, all of which is supposed to make us kids happy and in turn the parents feel good for making us happy etc. etc. Blah.
“Hey all of you tourists, who come down here to throw a fit, there ain’t a single reason that you have to act so childish, I’ve never known you, but I respect you, for spending all that money trying to find your family some happiness”
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