Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here’s four songs we think you should fucking know (this week). Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments too.
One of my proudest moments as a concert goer happened only a few weeks ago. I was fortunate enough to get tickets to Solange’s show at Black Cat. The place was packed and had a fantastic energy buzzing before she even hit the stage. When the house lights dimmed and she finally appeared, a sea of white light immediately erupted from the crowd…Everyone had their cell phones hoisted high.
I assumed everyone was getting their obligatory snap of stardom for the night, but as she kept on singing, the crowd kept their phones up. I couldn’t believe how many people were watching the talented songstress and her band through the 5 inch screen in front of their face. It completely distracted me from being able to enjoy the show myself, which was a shame because Solange absolutely killed it.
But after having accepted that this was the new normal for the night, I finally began to let myself relax and take in the younger Knowles’ Motown pop. Then, out of nowhere, some dude had the audacity to raise his iPad in the air and begin recording the show. HIS iPAD!!! (Even when caps-lock screaming, I feel the need to keep the “i” lowercase). I was irate (along with the 8 rows of people between he and I). Being the Batman fan that I am, I decided to be the voice of justice…
I handed my beer to the friend I was with and parted the crowd in front of me with a resolve I’ve rarely ever felt. I approached the selfish technophile and grabbed his arm, spinning him around. “Put that down!” I commanded, only to be rebuffed with indifference. “I fucking working here. Put that down or you’re out of here,” I embellished in my best “angry bouncer” voice. After a brief pout, he acquiesced, and as I made my way back to my friend, I was given nods of approval and polite taps on the shoulder from the grateful crowd behind him. I felt like a true vigilante hero the rest of the night, and let the wonderful set wash back over me.
But why did we as a (small sampling of) society decide that an iPad is where we draw the line? When did we decide that it was socially acceptable to turn our camera phones into a constant extension of our daily lives, capturing as much data and possible and chronicling every possible event with our iPhone?
Maybe it’s just because I don’t have an Instagram account, but I can’t see the point in the excessive live-scrapbooking that our culture has become obsessed with. There is going to be a point where there will be so many “priceless” photos and videos to sift through that they all end up losing value and meaning.
So why do we do it? Because we have been told that “sharing” is the new social currency. We are only as cool as the number of Likes we receive, times we’re @mentioned, or repins we get. Social networks have become a way of validating our offline lives. You’re only as pretty as your profile picture. You’re only as hip as the last place you checked-in at. But this has got to stop. When we’re only defined by what’s curated into what we can cram on a webpage, we become disingenuous representations of our real selves. Mario Chalmers feels me.
When Louis CK, possibly the most honest person alive, did a Reddit IAmA, he was asked about people approaching him on the street, and he gave a great answer: “”I refuse to ever take a picture with anyone. I just say no. I don’t do that. But I shake their hand and I talk to them for a bit. Because I like that. I can tell this disappoints people for a second but as we talk they feel okay about it. People who just want the picture and don’t want to connect get a little pissed off. But that’s okay. They can’t always have what they want. And I get to say no to a thing I really don’t like, especially that is asked of me a lot. And now with that boundary in place, I feel absolutely no inhibition with folks. I am glad to meet everyone that says hi. EVERYONE. I learn a little about a nice person several times a day. And they are kind to me.”
This constant documentation has killed our ability to just internalize a moment and enjoy it for the current feelings it brings. I know I’m guilty of it too, but can we all start trying to enjoy ourselves without having to prove that we’re doing something enjoyable?
This was a pretty long rant, and I apologize, so I’ll keep my song descriptions short, I swear. But I will leave you with this…
Life hero Rembert Browne wrote this as part of his SXSW writeup on Grantland: “When something great is happening on the stage, I can’t stand still and take a picture or shoot a video. I’m an active participant. All I want to do is dance. Or sing along. Or yell. Or cry? I’d try, managing to document for about 10 seconds, and then become so overwhelmed I’d shove my phone in my pocket, completely forgetting I had a job to do. I refuse to get jaded by the music world. Not yet, anyway.”
- Vampire Weekend – Diane Young
Sometimes we define ourselves by what we are not. We may be NON meat-eaters or NOT support the ending to Sopranos; we let these disagreements shape who we are. For a long time, I was NOT a Vampire Weekend fan. It wasn’t out of any sly, pretentious reason that was based solely in anti-establishmentarianism (or antidisestablishmentarianism for that matter). “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” aside, I just became disenchanted with their first album pretty quickly. The follow up, Contra, came and went for me, with only “Giving Up The Gun” earning repeat listens.
But that’s all changed, and I’m having to eat my words/opinions. Vampire Weekend’s two songs that they recently teased out in anticipation for their third album, Modern Vampires of the City, are fantastic. “Diane Young” is so far above and beyond anything they’ve previously released that I’m still picking my jaw off the floor. It sounds like they gave Elvis a 2013 production studio, a slew of effects pedals, and a machine gun, and then they laced his weed with coke. It’s blaringly catchy while still being recklessly experimental. When partnered with “Step“, their Simon and Garfunkel homage, it makes quite a strong statement about what we can expect from Modern Vampires of the City, an album that might just convert me into a full-fledged Vampire Weekend fan.
- SOHN – Bloodflows
SOHN, the moniker for the mysterious Vienna-based British artist, played their/his first show ever a little over 8 weeks ago. His first song, “Oscillate” is only a few months old, and the comparably cheerful “The Wheel” is only a few weeks more recent than that, but already SOHN is seeing hundreds of thousands of Soundcloud spins and rode a solid buzz wave into South By Southwest last week.
He describes his music as “very much about spaces between words…and very vocal-led…and very synthesizer-led…and about longing…and loneliness…and space.” Vague descriptions aside, SOHN’s music is captivating.
These days, it’s pretty easy to make average electronic-based R&B; Logic and all the other music software programs have made it pretty hassle free to compose a beat to drop crooning lyrics over. But all that mediocrity makes it even more exceptional to see the genre done well. Repeat listens of SOHN’s songs are rewarded with intricate details and a technical precision that should be given due appreciation. “Bloodflows” especially flows between finely-tuned movements so well that it’s a shame when the song actually ends.
I’m throwing a huge spotlight on SOHN and will be following his next moves very closely.
- The Family Rain – Trust Me…I’m A Genius
The Family Rain are unapologetically cocky when it comes to their rock and roll. And with good reason. “Trust Me…I’m A Genius” is two and a half minutes of confrontationally good blues-driven rock. The three Walter brothers from Bath that make up The Family Rain told NME that they, “want to bring the excitement back to guitar music,” and they’re definitely backing up that proclamation.
Their more recent single, “Carnival,” which is a demo recorded in their basement and sounds like a rockabilly Strokes that infuses the saltiness of Jack White and the exuberance of Fang Island, only helps drive their point home when they say things like they are all about putting on a show “that blows your head off.”
If you find yourself as swept up with this band as I currently am, also check out their dreamy b-side, “Waterfall.”
- Pixel Fix – Lake
Some internet sleuthing turned up that about a year ago, there was a lineup change in Pixel Fix and a new direction was to be explored in terms of their musical style. While I haven’t found anything pre-lineup change, I’ve got to say I’m okay with the direction they’ve chosen to follow.
Their first releases post-lineup change, “Rome” and “Rosa” showed a heavy Minus The Bear influence, and as a huge Minus The Bear fan, I always appreciate hearing their style echoing through new music. There’s more to them than just Minus The Bear’s post-punk/math rock sound though. It’s easy to hear a strong hip-hop vibe in their beats and the vocals are gentle enough, even during their most aggressive, that I can’t help but think of Two Door Cinema Club’s Alex Trimble at times.
“Lake”, their latest song, is a perfect example. It’s a well-manicured hybrid of all those styles, and the end result is a mature, rich sounding single that will definitely be a standout on their 5-song self-titled EP that you can pre-order over at iTunes now before it’s April 15th release.