Sometimes, when I’m home alone underneath my blanket fort, I like to think about ‘the game’ of the low-to-mid level music industry that I find myself tangentially — and fairly insignificantly — involved in. Half of the fun when discovering a new band is looking at their ‘ness,’ a catchall phrase I made it up to encompass an artist or band’s general aesthetic, style, marketing, etc. All of it. It’s their ness. If you’d like to learn more about it, please read How Music Works by David Byrne.
I bring that all up because this week’s artists all have very distinguishable, unique ‘ness’es.
You’ll see what I mean after the gratuitous inevitable plug for the Tunes You Should F*cking Know in 2014 playlist on Spotify that you should f*cking follow.
- Ben Khan – “Youth”
His “Ness”: It’s a toss-up. It could be ‘Mysterious Artist That Doesn’t Want To Conform To The Current Industry’s Rules’ or it could be ‘Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Genius than Speak and Remove all Hope’
I originally wrote about Ben Khan back in October when he had just released “Eden,” the follow-up to his debut single “Drive (Part 1),” which at the very least proved that he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder. But in that column, I noted that almost every website that promoted his songs were left falling back on a pretty easy Jai Paul comparison because of Khan’s knack for anonymity.
Now almost a half year later, he’s released the glitchy, wobbly, but somehow incredibly smooth “Savage,” and much more recently, “Youth,” one of my favorite songs to come out of this genre of alt-pop in a while. The keys’ sound has a well-crafted bounce to it, and it elevates the nod-along beat so that things like that lazy guitar line or even the sample from “It Takes Two” feel not just natural but necessary.
More importantly though, Ben Khan gave his first interview.
Speaking to Ryan Bassil of Noisey, Khan made sure to explain himself quickly: “The reason why people are saying it’s like that is because I’ve held it all back. I want to keep the music out there and keep myself to myself.” But he knows we want more. He understands the game, admitting, “You have to open up at some point, if you have a relationship with someone it has to progress, otherwise it gets pretty boring.”
But he’s not going to give us much.
“Explanation can ruin art,” he says, keeping as much of that mask on as possible. And in doing so, making sure that his explanation doesn’t ruin our perception of his art.
The Emperor might be rocking Red Octobers, but he might also just be naked.
Khan tries to explain, “I’m not trying to make revolutionary changes here, but I’m starting from a ground level and I want to open people’s minds a bit. There’s a lot of closed minds out there, and tunnel vision, which will lead people to a boring place. I didn’t get in this music thing to be a big star. I didn’t do it for that.”
But only time will tell what he’s really about.
- Jay Electronica – “We Made It”
His “Ness”: Insanely talented recluse that may or may not even like music.
I need someone to write a book on Jay Electronica.
Ben Khan may be mysterious, but Jay Electronica is a downright enigma.
The 37 year old, who has called everywhere from New Orleans to our very own Washington DC as home, now resides in London, sitting on a debut Roc Nation album that has been reportedly finished for almost three years. Hell, even the track listing has been out since July of 2012.
He’s the kind of artists that will have fans throw angerholic fits online wondering when the hell is album is coming out, but then he’ll release what looks to be the first song off said debut album just because a fan asked him to on Twitter.
He goes out of his way to release even remixes or guest verses hard to find, but he also has Reddit groups dedicated to collecting every morsel of his material.
He comes onto the scene, nearly 7 years ago, with the cult-classic Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), a 15-minute music music experiment set to the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and sampling dialogue from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but then he disappears for months on end.
He may secretly have had the best verse on the industry-shattering song “Control,” but All Things Go wunderkid Justin McCarthy compares him to Andrew Bynum, an NBA player he cites as one that “doesn’t seem to want to play basketball”
He posts a collaboration with Jay Z on his Twitter feed, their first since “Shiny Suit Theory” (thought to be a Diddy diss by the way), then shuts down the Soundcloud page only a few hours later .
But this is the internet and the songs lives on.
Including all the fiiiiixins…
Over Drake’s “We Made It,” Electronica saunters into one of his signature enrapturing flows, casually but emphatically making this beat his own. But if Electronica is Andrew Bynum, then Jay Z is Kobe; a few years past his mechanical, technical pride but stubborn enough to occasionally make a shot land through sheer force of will. In Hova’s case, it’s that nice cheap shot replying to Drake mocking his art collection.
Still though, we’re left wondering what’s going to happen with Electronica in the future.
Or Maybe, in the words of the Kenny Powers sample thrown in between verses, “motherfuckers should just shut the hell up and enjoy the show.”
- Andrew Bird – “Fake Headlines” (New Pornographers Cover)
His “Ness”: “I’m Andrew Bird and I can do whatever I want because I am just that good.”
Andrew Bird is a one-man orchestra who has worked with everyone from Neko Case to My Morning Jacket to Dosh to St. Vincent’s Annie Clark. He was even on The Muppets soundtrack — and that’s when you know you’ve really made it.
So if Mr. Bird wants to do a folked-up cover of the New Pornographers jam “Fake Headlines,” for a compilation album benefiting a charity located in Montreal called the Yellow Bird Project, he’s going to do it. And it’s going to be glorious and wonderful.
And for those interested, that compilation album, which features folk artists such as Dry the River and King Creosote covering bands like TV on the Radio, Beach House, and Hot Chip, has a pretty cool trailer which will probably make you want to buy/stream/illegally download the album in the near future.
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
THE GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Zack Friendly Edition
Editor’s Note: Zack Friendly is one of the editor’s of All Things Go. He was once named one of DC’s most eligible bachelor’s by Refinery 29, which he claims was all a result of him mentioning how much he loves puppies and cheese.
- ODESZA – Sun Models (Ft. Madelyn Grant)
I have been waiting for new material from Seattle producer duo Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight (dba ODESZA) for a hot second, and their newest single–set to appear on their forthcoming sophomore effort–does not disappoint.
“Sun Models” is everything we’ve come to expect from the atmospheric synth-heavy outfit; syncopated percussive claps and bass-kicks, fragmented and filtered vocals (this time courtesy of Michigan native Madelyn Grant), and the perfect dose of vitamin-D as we trudge through a longer Winter than even Ned Stark could’ve predicted. ODESZA navigate through a crowded genre–SOHN, NOCEREMONY, and Delorean come to mind–but refuse to get lost in the crowd.
Have a listen to “Sun Models” below and then go back and listen to “I Want You” and “IPlayYouListen” off of 2012’s Summer’s Gone. Then pop open a Lime-A-Rita and pretend it’s summer already. Then slap yourself in the face for drinking a Lime-A-Rita.