Bryce Rudow is a contributing writer for All Things Go
Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here’s five songs, and in this week’s case, a mixtape, we think you should fucking know (this week). Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments too.
New Year’s is the perfect time to make resolutions you don’t keep, yes, but it’s also the perfect time to make predictions about the upcoming year that may or may not come true but are fun to guess about anyway. In honor of 2013, here are four musical predictions that I will either rub in everyone’s face when they turn out right or adamantly deny when they turn out to be incredibly wrong:
Frightened Rabbit – The Woodpile
Prediction: Frightened Rabbit’s new album Pedestrian Verse will finally elevate them to a higher echelon of mass popularity and critical acclaim (as an unfortunate side effect to this growing adoration, their back catalogue will be praised in passing, but ultimately undervalued and undiscovered by far too many people).
A now-ex-girlfriend once told me that even if we ended up hating each other if/when broke up, she’d always love me for having shown her Frightened Rabbit. While there’s a ton of different meanings to pull out from that loaded statement, I get where she’s coming from. Sharing Frightened Rabbit with her was in and of itself an intimate experience because their music, to its core, is so passionate and, basically, intimate; listening to it with another person feels like you’re sharing a part of yourself during the experience, whether that be with a now-ex-girlfriend during the brutally heartfelt “My Backwards Walk” or with a screaming-along best friend during the captivating revelry of “The Loneliness And The Scream”. That intimacy is inescapable because of the sheer emotion, no matter the attached feelings, that courses through every one of Frightened Rabbit’s songs. With their new single, “The Woodpile,” they continue the trend. It’s direct, scorched, and pleading.
Lead vocalist and lyricist Scott Hutchinson has been plugging away with his fellow Scotsmen as Frightened Rabbit for almost 10 years, gaining more and more members along the way and releasing a slew of records that are all, in one word, excellent. I’m consistently shocked that they aren’t more popular than they are, as each album has at least 4 songs that should have snowballed their way into at least niche levels of legendary status.
Their last visit to DC was a sold out show at Black Cat, which tells me there is hope yet, and I’m excited to see the response to their 9:30 Club show in April (BONUS: Super-secret ticket sale link for you). I have a feeling this is the year they really blow up.
Swim Deep – The Sea
Prediction: The ’90s will be the new ’80s. Musically, ’90s Alternative-Pop will be more and more of an influence for upcoming indie-pop bands.
Whether it’s All That being played on Nickelodeon again or a resurrected Boy Meets World spin-off put in development (I’m really, really excited for this), it’s apparent that the ’90s are back in all their nostalgic glory. Their presence permeates today’s television, fashion, and, most importantly for this prediction, music.
I blame the lack of the internet (and its endless music blogs…) for why we as a society in the ’90s never sat down and catalogued the different sub-genres present in music throughout the decade. There was basically just rock, pop, rap, and country; if you were feeling especially fancy, you could break them down as far as categories like “punk” and “metal”, but there is a distinct sound that I last referred to as “college rock” for lack of a better term that often goes overlooked. It’s a vague description to capture the almost cheeky alternative music that looks ridiculous sharing the same genre name as bands like Pearl Jam or Soundgarden but was too snarky to ever be considered pop (Fun Fact: My first email address was [email protected], in honor of the Soundgarden song).
However, the sound is unmistakable, and it’s creeping up more and more. I previously mentioned bands like Lydia Burrell and Win Win as examples, but my next bit of evidence is the enjoyable new single from Swim Deep, “The Sea”. Swim Deep consists of four fairly young kids from Birmingham, England whose sporadically released singles have garnered them enough second-looks that when “The Sea”, without a doubt their best song so far, was released earlier this week, there was a fairly strong ripple throughout the interweb.
They’ve gone so far as to label one of the songs on their Soundcloud page as “grunge pop” , which seems fitting given the fuzzed out guitar that buzzes through the verses. A promotional picture of the alternative boy-band, whose debut album seems promising, casually shows one of the members in a Nirvana sweatshirt. They’re kids that are of a generation that is reaching back to the one just a bit before theirs, one they were alive for but too young to understand culturally. It’s understandable, though, as I remember enjoying things like Top Gun and “I Ran (So Far Away)” (Come on, everyone had at least one “’80s Pop” mix CD). But now I’m old and the hip kids these days are uncovering influences like Harvey Danger (I promise you, one of the best bands…ever. Please just listen to “Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone?” at least once), The Stone Roses, and Weezer, and they’re molding that sound into a more modern package.
Mark my words, this is just the beginning…
Solange – Sleep In The Park
Prediction: Funk will see a resurgence both as its own genre, but more specifically in terms of its implementation in pop and hip-hop songs.
Just like Rock and Roll, I don’t think Funk will ever die. Its almost-animalistic energy and cathartic rhythm is timeless and has been implemented with great success in a variety of genres, whether that be anything from the DFA camp to Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love”. But because of EDM’s explosion into nearly every genre (even T-Swift has a dubstep song), more traditional dance-genres, like funk, have been pushed aside. Until now…
While producers like TNGHT may still be finding new territory to explore as these genres blend, I think that eventually that well will run dry for discernible music fans. While still reliably electro-heavy, Kanye West has been planting funk seeds for a while now in his songs (not to mention his insistence on continually sampling Rick James), and more and more hip-hop artists seem to be following suit, possibly due to a resurgence in old-school G-funk rap influences. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see DJ Nu-Mark be a dark-horse rising producer in the new year.
“Sleep In The Park” was the B-side to Solange’s first single off her new album, “Losing You.” While Twin Shadow may have warped it into a dark dance track that I went nuts for, the original track is a testament to the power and influence funk may potentially have over the future of our pop music landscape. I mean, Solange is new Beyonce, and if this is what she’s bringing to the table, then expect more and more of a throwback to funk influences in commercially popular music, which might mean less work for Skrillex, and that’s never a bad thing (especially after his bizarro cameo on A$AP Rocky’s album, but more about that in a second).
A$AP Rocky – Long. Live. A$AP
Prediction: LONG.LIVE.A$AP will be the Emperor’s New Clothes of releases this year, meaning everyone will feel compelled to applaud it because of an overwhelming sense that is what they’re supposed to do, while ultimately secretly not finding it all that great. HOWEVER, this blind critical acclaim will help A$AP Rocky’s next release, whenever that is, as it will force him to expand into more experimental, possibly more introspective territory in hopes of living up to even higher expectations.
I hid this prediction at the bottom because it’s the most controversial, and, honestly the one I have the most chance of being very, very wrong with. But a few days ago, I snagged an early copy of the album, and I listened to it straight through; I did that every day for 3 days straight, and I kept coming back to the same thought: “This just isn’t that good.” This album has been hyped on par with Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece good kid m.A.A.d city, and, when it all comes down to it, it’s nowhere near that level. There are bright spots, sure, but they are few and far between, and I kept finding myself enjoying the featured artists’ verses more than Rocky’s.
The problem, though, is that there’s too much at stake with this record. As a member of the infamous Club Paradise Tour, he’s expected to succeed, therefore he won’t fail; the mass audience won’t let him, all because of some perverse Sartresque notion. We think, therefore he is.
However, I’m an optimist. And I’m not dumb. I know that A$AP Rocky has talent, but I think he’s also lazy and relatively uneducated musically at this point in his career. With this newfound critical appreciation and mass commercial appeal, I’m hoping that he gets exposed to more diverse inspirations, and ends up incorporating them in future releases. He seems too smart to not adapt to different situations musically, the difference between his mixtape and album show that, so I truly believe that while we may secretly consider this album underwhelming, it will lead to brighter days and better music down the road.