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).
- Flume and Chet Faker – “This Song Is Not About A Girl”
Last week while writing about Chet Faker’s amazing new single “Talk Is Cheap,” I casually mentioned his collaboration with the Australian hit producer Flume like it was concrete common knowledge. Then, over the next few days, I had a few friends message me asking about this collaboration/reminding me that I sound like an asshole when I forget that not everyone wastes their lives searching for the most random music they can find to write about.
Well this is my mea culpa.
And to make up for it, here is the best track of Lockjaw, their 3-song collaboration, “This Song Is Not About A Girl.”
It doesn’t have the innate raunchiness of “Left Alone,” their previous collaboration that was a highlight of Flume’s self-titled album, but it’s just as dark and sexy. Sonically, it’s an adrenaline rush that flirts with just a hint of “Your Woman” by White Town in the vocal effect, but it feels much more urgent than the classic 90’s jam. And with that hypnotizing beat, the self-aware lyric of “They won’t listen to the words I decide on” sadly might be accurate.
Anyways, enjoy. Next time, I’ll try to remember what Nick Carraway’s dad told him about people and advantages.
- Bear Hands – Distraction
Quirky is probably the most common adjective you’ll come across when perusing articles about Bear Hands. Their sound, though very much rooted in alternative rock, isn’t easily identifiable, lead singer Dylan Rau’s voice isn’t conventionally pleasing, and they play with just a tinge of self-aware cheekiness.
It’s that quirkiness that got people excited about their debut LP, Burning Bush Supper Club, and it’s joyous raucous anthems like “What A Drag” and “Crime Pays.” And it’s that quirkiness that helped smooth over the rough edges that are inevitable when a band like them follows that kind of LP with a very politically-centric 3-song EP.
But with their new album, Distraction, released yesterday, that quirkiness has evolved into something grander.
Rau’s unique charm is still present in both the lyrics and his delivery, and the band is still confident enough to throw in unexpected instruments and instrumentation, but it’s wildly apparent that this Brooklyn-based foursome has grown up in the years since that debut LP. Distraction is a diverse mix of rock/pop/and all things in between. I’ve read comparisons to everything from Hall and Oates to Supertramp to Jimmy Eat World, and I would even throw in Talking Heads, and even then none of those feel right at all. At times, it can make for a disjointing effect, but taken song-for-song, it’s a solid sophomore effort with a few moments on it that are better than anything the band has ever done.
“Moment In Silence” is an interesting album-opener choice, as it’s a pretty blunt introduction the band’s more mature sound; it’s tempered, it’s sprawling, and it’s emotive. But the more I listen to this record, there’s a chance this could be the best song on the album (and if I was a betting man, I could see a side-project that explores this direction in the future). The only song that might challenge it is the one that directly follows it, the previously-written-about “Giant.” From there, it’s “Agora,” the most recent single released from the album and probably the “quirkiest” of the songs on the album, and then a dip into the sonic territory they explore on that politically-centric 3 song EP, Songs From Utopia Volume One.
But they’ve added something almost glamorous to their sound.
The glitzy keys on “Grave Digger,” the buzzy bass on “Bad Friend,” and the swankiness of “The Bug,” all hint at it. It’s an evolution of that quirkiness and the band has the talent and balls to effectively pull it off.
The album does dip a bit near the end, though. All the tracks are enjoyable enough, but their relatively unmemorable deep cuts until you get to the album closer “Thought Wrong.” That song, with its digital high-hat splashes and harp-like strumming, goes for the Bon Iver “Beth/Rest” move and throws sincere emotive weight behind a cheesy prom instrumentation. And while it may not have the gravitas of Mr. Vernon — but really who could? — it leaves the perfect last taste in your mouth after a fairly eclectic album.
DCers, Bear Hands is playing at DC9 on 3/4, which is unfortunately the same night as Public Service Broadcasting at Black Cat, but this album sounds like it was meant to be heard live and DC9 is the perfect venue for these guys.
- Betty Who – “Heartbreak Dream”
In my quest to prove that me calling Lorde’s commercial breakout was not a fluke, I’ve been on a personal mission to make another great breakout pop artist prediction. Two weeks ago, I wrote about a french duo called As Animals, which have all the right tools to make the leap if they have a bit of luck on their side, but this week I’m going with a sure thing:
When I first wrote about Betty Who and her Movement EP, I used the simple phrase of “Katy Perry over 80’s beats” to describe the Sydney-born, Boston-living pop singer, calling her album a “wonderful concoction a lush instrumentation and Orbits Sweet Mint levels of bubblegum vocals.” Her latest release, “Heartbreak Dream,” doubles down on that formula and is just as guilty-pleasure sweet. I hate that I don’t hate it.
And Katy Perry may currently be one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, but as even she knows, she’s reaching a (relatively) more mature level of her career. There’s room for someone like Betty Who to swipe in and be the young pop star of our are
Teenage Heartbreak Dreams. I’m feeling pretty darn confident about this one, so let’s go ahead and make it official:
I, Bryce Taylor Rudow, on Wednesday, February 19th 2014, am predicting big, big things for Betty Who.
Prove me right, Betty.
- Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
So we’re going to do something a little different with the GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW section this week. You see, for the past two weeks, I’ve been really digging Bombay Bicycle Club’s new album So Long, See You Tomorrow, which is really surprising because I never thought much of Bombay Bicycle Club.
And I don’t mean that in a negative way. In fact, there are more than a few songs by them that I know and enjoy, and I’ve even gone out of my way to see them when they’re at festivals I’m at, but they just never really resonated with me.
And resonance is the secret to success.
Thanks to Spotify we have access to bazillions of songs, and for $9.99, we can let our Music ADD run wild like an 8 year old on a sugar high. For a song, let alone an album, to resonate with a mass audience these days, it has to be something really special.
And So Long, See You Tomorrow is.
But, as I’ve admitted, I don’t know much about Bombay Bicycle Club.
Fortunately my girlfriend/former Guest Writer You Should Fucking Know/benefiter of nepotism, Mollie, does. And as John Mulaney once said, “girlfriends are like having lawyers for everyday life” because they can point out obvious things that guys might not notice because they’re dumb guys with dumb penises or something. Anyways…
She had a lot to say about the band and the album the other night when we were talking about it, so without her knowing, I just started writing down what she was saying, figuring they would be good talking points to research later.
I was right.
“This is their fourth album, and I think it’s doing really well commercially”
In fact it is! It debuted at #1 in the UK.
This is one of those stories that I would love to see redone Almost Famous style. I mean, how often is it a mid-level band’s fourth album, one in which they dramatically change their style, is the one that catapults them to fame? There’s a great story here. How did this happen? Was everyone on board with this new direction? What small midwestern town did they do too much acid in? We deserve to know.
“The lead-singer traveled extensively while writing this, and you can really hear some interesting sounds and influences on songs like ‘Overdone’ and ‘Feel.’”
It turns out frontman Jack Steadman visited Holland, Turkey and India while making the new release. He spoke to NME about it, saying “whether it’s an Indian song or something with Thai chanting, you should never deny that inspiration just because it sounds silly or because the thought of it is weird.”
“But all of those influences and new things they brought in, like those world influences, the female singer, the use of samples and electronics, etc have all been incorporated really well. None of it seems overdone or overblown.”
This might be the most interesting aspect of this new album, and why it’s so successful. All of these new elements are swirled in so organically that it almost feels like they should have been there all along or that this was the inevitable next step for the band. Yes, there are some moments that are clashing and frenetic, but it’s never disjointed and always has a center.
“The song “So Long, See You Tomorrow” is somehow both the saddest and happiest song I’ve ever heard. It’s such a great last song for the album because all I want to do is sit and reflect after it’s done.”
And isn’t that really all that resonance is?