Here’s your weekly reminder to follow the Tunes You Should Fucking Know on Spotify. Thank you!
- Frank Ocean, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Diplo – “Hero”
Converse has been doing these “Three Artists One Song” releases for almost 6 years now, and it seems like they’re really starting to understand what makes them great.
While usually it’s pretty easy to deride companies like the uber-huge Converse for attempting to latch onto hip musicians in attempt to make it to the top of the Internet mountain for at least a day, I’ve got to give Converse credit; they understand the real secret to vitality…
That there is no secret.
The internet, and especially marketing on the internet is a total crapshoot. Companies are better off just throwing as much well-liked shit as possible into a blender and hoping the end result is something consumable (see: any Old Spice commercial ever).
And this time, they really lucked out.
Who would have thought Frank Ocean (who just sent Chipotle a very public fuck you), members of the Clash, and Diplo would come out with something so…this?
I mean, all the ingredients are solid, but who would have guessed that this is the kind of song that would spring from the collective imaginations? It swings with a motown vibe, but even the sporadic warps and effects that appear just before the one minute mark don’t foreshadow the intense breakdown that kicks in unexpectedly and calls itself a chorus. And whose idea do you think it was to add the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir? They’re a disorienting but uplifting addition, and they actually help the song transition into Jones’ verse and outro really well. In fact, this song is so strikingly fun to listen to that it feels like a crime when it clocks in at only 2:45.
“For me, the Clash represented really unexpected things with a garage attitude, so that’s where I was going with ‘Hero,'” Diplo told Rolling Stone, and Jones was equally praising of the collaboration, while also throwing in a little bit of Clash zen wisdom: “It’s an instinctual thing; you just follow what you feel, if that’s possible. You try to be at one with the universe.”
It’s unfortunate Ocean had to submit his contributions from afar, as I think he’d garner some real wisdom from sharing studio time with the others, but Geoff Cottrill, a vice president at Converse, says “Hero” musicians are currently working on an accompanying video, so there’s still hope yet.
- Sales – “Renee,” “Chinese New Year,” and “EZ”
I’ve always been a sucker for this kind of song. It’s adorable, but it’s enticing.
And what I really appreciate is the minimal use of electronics and production. They perfectly frame the lead singer, Lauren Morgan’s, voice, which is the real star of this catchy song. It’s obviously a pretty simple formula they’re working with, but there’s no denying they’re pulling it off pretty flawlessly.
I know a lot of groups/artists/singers play around in this genre because it’s so easy to do in terms of writing and recording, but it’s just really fun to hear a group show what it sounds like when it’s really done well. It’s like watching the Spurs play basketball (#gratuitioussportsreference).
And although this song actually came about 8 months ago, it wasn’t until their more recent release, “Chinese New Year”, came across my inbox that I remembered how much I enjoyed it, and I was spurred to check out what they had done in the time in-between.
It turns out they’ve released a couple of sporadic singles, the standout being “EZ,” a sticky smooth song that still again is able to highlight Morgan’s enrapturingly fragile voice impeccably. And it looks like “Chinese New Year” is getting some real Hype Machine traction since its release a few weeks ago, which means this Florida duo comprised of vocalist Morgan and producer Jordan Shih are now on “4-6 Song EP in the Next Few Months” watch.
They seem to be unique and ballsy enough to get creative with their sound, so who knows what a real collection of their songs will sound like. but I do know that I won’t be letting 8 months go by before I think of these guys again.
- Saintseneca – “Visions”
It’s a shame how rarely I watch music videos anymore.
Sure everyone blames their death on MTV for not showing them anymore, but no one watches TV anymore either. In an age where creating, uploading, viewing, and download media is so easy, it’s a little sad that the music video has fallen so far on the “must watch” priority list.
Nowadays, taking the time to watch a music video feels like going to a museum. It might be spiritually uplifting, but it takes a lot of effort and I get it, it’s a band in the forest with their instruments and lots of sunlight, and I’m hungry.
But sometimes it’s worth stopping to smell the roses, minimize the gchats, and check out a well-made piece of videography. It can really capture a different essence of a group.
For instance, this music video for “Visions” by a band called Saintceneca is instantly intriguing and narratively gripping, and the “artistic” quality of it helps bolster the artistic quality of the song behind it. Without it, I might have been more inclined to only skim through listening to it, most likely causing me to chalk this up as another decent song from an obviously talented group that had the misfortune of existing during an era which All Thing Go’s Justin McCarthy describes as “the Mumfordization of Rock.”
Or my first visual encounter with the band might have been realizing that they look like this, which is only okay because they’re from Ohio and God knows they don’t have a lot else to do there:
However, thanks to video director(s) Zenga Bros, I was able to forget all that and lose myself in a pretty mesmerizing video that taps into an organic nostalgia and which highlights the unique, more intimate aspects of this song and this group.
Saintceneca’s new album, which “Vision” is on, is called Dark Arc and will be released on 4/1. I’m going to be really interested to see how far they go to set themselves apart from their similar-sounding peers — and bright orange mustaches don’t count.
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
THE BAND YOU SHOULD KNOW MORE ABOUT:
Last Tuesday, I had the immense pleasure of seeing Public Service Broadcasting, a charming duo out of London, take over the backstage of Black Cat.
I know I already went on a huge rant about how amazing they are only a few weeks ago, but seeing them live is a completely different experience. The group is comprised of pseudonymed J. Willgoose Esq and Wrigglesworth. Wrigglesworth handles the drums, and is a wide-smiling, quick laughing kid with a mop of hair, while Willgoose handles basically everything else, and his appearance can best be described as Dr. Who chic. And while neither of them had spoken a word on stage, they just ooze British wit out of their pores (smells like English Breakfast tea…)
But during their set, it’s hard to keep focused on them, as masterfully cut old PSAs and documentaries are spliced together to compliment the group’s instrumental bombastic songs. Occasionally, my view shifted to seeing Wrigglesworth lose himself or Willgoose delicately adjust some knob or proficiently strum a chord progression, but for the most part, this show was about getting lost in the moments in the music. There were patiently-built crescendos that beamed through the small room when they hit their zenith, and there were moments of such intricate melodic structure that at times the audience was just awestruck.
All of this without either of the two saying a word.
Well, sort of…
Willgoose did control a pre-recorded robot voice that occasionally buttered up the crowd with a robotic “Thank you Washington D.C.” or even an emphatic monotone “Yes. Yes. Yes.” It was just enough to knock down the wall between them and the audience, and it somehow created a vibe that we were all kind of experience this together; each song almost felt like a catharsis. Plus, it seems that All Songs Conidered’s Bob Boilen is a big fanboy of the group, and when the coolest guy in the room is going nuts up front, it makes everyone else let their hair down a bit more.
Anyways, I got a chance to sit down with the after their set, and after I stopped fawning over their charming accents, we talked about some cool stuff:
It’s hard to ask the “What kind of music do you play question” when it comes to you guys and your unique sound, so let me try it this way: When you go home for Christmas and you see your aunt who is old and doesn’t know anything, and she asks what type of music do you play, what do you tell her?
When asked, I say electronic. It’s fundamentally electronic music but with live instruments when possible.
You have a very distinct sound and in terms of even just stick out from the billions of our bands out there, that has to help. Do you consider your nice style an advantage?
Obviously we don’t have a singer, which sets us apart form about 90% of other bands, but I don’t think musically we’re doing anything new or groundbreaking. I think we’re doing what a lot of successful bands have done before and taking a lot of different kinds of styles and distilling it into something that sums a lot of them up, hopefully, in a cool way.
I think we do stand out though, because of how it’s framed. Conceptually, it’s very strong. I think a lot of bands might have good songs and decent music but I think they might struggle to have a sort of story, I suppose. It’s pretty self evident that we do.
As you say, you have no singer, and you two are pretty insular while performing, but there’s a real connection that takes place between your performance and the audience. How do you think that happens? What am I connecting with, or who do you want the audience to attach with?
Good question! I think having the footage so prominently placed and such a central part of the show suggests that we know we don’t have a focal point frontman kind of thing. We don’t have a very charismatic, possibly extmrely egotistical frontman — I’m certainly egotistical, but I’m not that charismatic…
But the whole thing is built around making weaknesses into strengths. You don’t have that kind of appeal on the stage? Well, make the fact that you’re reasonably shy and reclusive characters, make that into what you’re doing. Regarding not speaking to the audience and having the voice do the in between songs stuff, that wasn’t there from the start. That just kind of arose gradually. Poeple were saying, “You need a mic,” but I kept going, “Ummm…I don’t want it, I don’t like it, I would just mumble…” but I just thought the voice fit. Gradually we built a repertoire around it, so that we can improvise with it.
Is the next album going to be the band that still grabs PSA’s? What’s the next evolution of this?
[After they jokingly teased a swing album and collaborations with Michael Buble….]
You don’t want to get stuck in a rut when doing the same old-same old, so we’re looking at ways of making it broader but still in the same concept, moving it forward as they say. We need to keep ourselves interested as much as anything.
I certainly think the album we’ve done, we couldn’t do another one like it in a very long time because it is what it is; it’s a scattershot and a snapshot of all these things we’re interested in and all these kinds of music we’re interested in. But I think in terms of the next thing, it’s got to be a bit more focused, have a bit more narrative to it. Maybe be just a bit better than this one.”