Bryce Rudow likes music. You can send all hatemail to [email protected] and tweet vitriol at him @btr0218 (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).
Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here are four songs we think you should fucking know (this week).
Before I get to the songs this week, I want to bring up a little anecdote from last weekend. Saturday night, a bunch of local bands including Typefighter, Warchild, and Shark Week took over 9:30 Club, with Black Clouds headlining. Now while I’m one of the first people to hype the DC music scene, the real reason I was going was to support a friend, Jimmy Rhodes, who is the drummer for Black Clouds. I had never heard what they sounded like, but knowing Jimmy and his taste in music, I was expecting something fairly heavy, and a straight-up metal band wasn’t unimaginable. But I’ve known Jimmy since he was the cool senior section leader for the percussion ensemble in high school band back when I was just a freshman, and he’s been known to throw me a free beer or two when he bartends Rock and Roll Hotel’s rooftop (keep that on the DL), so I made sure to do what I could to pay it back to him.
Shark Week had already scared off ATG-editor Adrian and visiting ATG-writer Stephen, but Josh Stewart from Newdust, my friend Kwasi, and I remained resolute and decided to stick around for at least the first song. After they took the stage, with Jimmy in the middle, front and center, they burst into what can only be described as a heavier, aggressive take on Explosions In The Sky. Their anthemic instrumental barrage of sound immediately blew away not only myself, but most of the audience, many of whom I realized were also Black Clouds virgins. Only a few minutes later, Jimmy and his bandmates had the entire 9:30 Club audience fervently engaged. Some audience members were so pleasantly shocked that it looked like they weren’t even blinking during the songs; others, like myself, were carelessly thrashing to the thunderous noises stemming from the men on stage.
For their final song, they began with a roughly minute long spoken-word sample from Maryland ’90s outfit Clutch and I stared intently at Jimmy the whole time; he had his sticks gripped tightly and looked like a tiger patiently but intensely stalking his prey. When the beat kicked in and he pounced, he tore into his drums with a fervor I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It was one of those magical musical moments and when it was finished, I sent Adrian and Stephen a simple text that just, “You missed something amazing.”
I am officially converted into a Black Clouds fanboy, and I urge anyone and everyone to go to their show September 17th at Rock and Roll Hotel.
Now, on to the music!
- Childish Gambino – “Centipede”
We love our stories about dual-personalities; The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Fight Club (spoiler?). But in all those situations, there’s a fairly obvious personality that we as the audience are supposed to root for (if you argue the Hulk vs. Bruce Banner, email me and we can discuss politely why you’re an idiot). The writers make it simple for us because we like our heroes and our villains and we like knowing which is which, even/especially if there’s a fun twist involved. But what if those dual personalities weren’t about a matter of right and wrong, just a matter of difference? And what if those differences, though equally deserving, were still in conflict? How would we react as an audience? Confused? Embarrassed? Angry? And if that is what we as an audience might feel, what would the character with these separate but equal (yikes) split personalities feel like? And what would it be like if that character was a real person?
If you haven’t figured out from the many times I use YouTube clips like this one or this one to make a point, I am an unabashedly fanatic Community fan. I will tell anyone who will listen about how it’s one of the best comedies of all time (Season 4 doesn’t count), citing its ability to not only be hilariously funny but how it’s able to create absurd yet tightly-constructed narratives while still finding ways to tug at the old heartstrings. I am not hyperbolizing when I say I truly believe the world would be a better place if everyone was forced to watch it from start to finish.
I feel the need to drive this point home because I really want to convey just how saddened I am by the fact that Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) has decided to only film 5 of the upcoming 13 episodes for Dan Harmon’s glorious returning Season 5. But I also want to, as this heartbroken Community fan, make it known that I get it. I really do.
For the past few years of Donald Glover’s life, which has seen a meteoric rise to stardom, he’s simultaneously grown a cult following for both his TV personality Troy Barnes and for his hip-hop persona Childish Gambino. While I’m sure the real Donald Glover is a bit closer to Gambino than Troy, he’s still had to deal with the exhaustingly daunting task of living, essentially, three lives. Glover is intrinsically an entertainer, but with two competing forces pulling him in different directions, it’s easy to see how his third life, his true self, was getting stretched thin. Two years ago, he was optimistically telling The Village Voice “You don’t get to where all my heroes were without giving up a part of who you are…I want to be everywhere. I don’t see a limit for me. I want to do everything.” But two years is a long time and almost 28 is a lot different than almost 30. And he’s been hinting about this since at least last year when on his mixtape Royalty‘s opening track, he rapped, “Back of my mind though, I hope the show get’s canceled/maybe then I can focus.”
Well, fortunately for me and unfortunately for him, it didn’t (6 SEASONS AND A MOVIE!). Fate wouldn’t make the choice for Donald; he had to make it himself. So he did.
And he seems so much happier now.
I actually noticed it first when I wrote about his guest appearance on Chance The Rapper’s stellar mixtape Acid Rap. He sounded comfortable. I mean, he’s always had a pretty great flow, but this was him casually flexing like I hadn’t heard since “Freaks and Geeks”. With the choice made, he’s been able to focus on himself and his newly singular goal. And I think that explains his “mysterious” social media disappearance that sent TIME into a tizzy. Yeah, there was some marketing strategy behind it, but for the first time, it was Donald Glover being “Donald Glover who is Childish Gambino” (is your whole brain crying with that one?).
And it’s what makes “Centipede” such a big deal.
The multi-part hip-hop concerto flows seamlessly through a voyeuristically raw a cappella introduction, aching piano-backed verses and choruses, a brutally honest breakdown that explodes into Yeezus-like fury, and a confrontational spoken-word outro. It is everything that Gambino, who has Donald’s full attention now, is and can be. He gets to play the role of crooner and rapper, soulful bard and swaggered thug, beaten down victim and resilient conqueror. The schizophrenically-composed song, while dissimilar in style, all still underline that Gambino is not only talented, but aware of where he sits post-Decision. He’s read the shitty Pitchfork reviews and he’s heard that Dan Harmon has said that his leaving Community is “devastating. It’s heart-wrenching.”
But as I write this essay, I see that he’s posted a trailer for something called “Clapping For The Wrong Reasons” featuring cameos by Chance the Rapper, Trinidad James, Danielle Fishel (aka Topanga), Flying Lotus, and Abella Anderson, and it’s apparent that the choice to be Gambino, not Troy, isn’t about choosing acting over music. It’s choosing one path over another, the one that he believes will be most fulfilling. I’m sure there’s a strong argument to be made for choosing the different path that leads to a life at Greendale (and I’d be happy to make it), but if you listen to the words of “We Ain’t Them”, “I got the same speech when I left 30 Rock/My mom was like ‘Why you wanna leave a good job?’/My dad like ‘Do your thing, boy, don’t stop‘,” you realize he’s heard it all before.
And he seems so much happier now.
- Born Gold – “Hunger”
I’ve been a fan of Cecil Frena for a few years now since back when he was still making his unique breed of “yelp pop” under the moniker Gobble Gobble, and I actually wrote him about him last October when, through his new and current nom de plume Born Gold, he released the two-part musical journey that was “I: Ferocious Body” and “II: Against Silence” in advance of his record Little Sleepwalker. The twin songs incorporated trance, hip-hop, shoegaze, ambient, IDM, you name it to build an instrumental tunnel of sound to explore. It was wildly inaccessible but a pretty interesting trip for those willing to take it.
But now, Cecil seems to be returning a bit to his more pop-centric roots with his latest single, “Hunger”. It actually reminds me of an old cover he did as Gobble Gobble of The Dream’s “Nikki”; he warps a simple pop sound into something a bit more sinister while still retaining a sense of inherent catchiness. In a recent post on his tumblr, Cecil explains that for now, he is putting the crazy production stuff (aka the inaccessible trippy instrumental stuff) on hold to focus on what he calls “twee-industrial-rave…that would be totally sui generis.” I don’t know if I can top that type of description, but I can tell you that with “Hunger” he’s put together one of my favorite and most re-listenable tracks of his career.
It sounds like he took a house music soundkit, threw his signature blown out erratic bursts of noise in there, layered a cooing pop vocal line over it, then chopped and screwed the whole thing. I don’t know how it works, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love it every single time I hear him emphatically claim, “Still the hunger rises from the, hunger rises from the, hunger rises from the…”
He claims that the album this will live on, I Am An Exit (due out this fall), is his “emo record,” but if this is his spin on emo, then let me pull out my old Something Corporate shirt, and let’s get emo.
PS: For those looking for a little light sociological analysis, last year Cecil wrote a pretty stellar piece on irony and how it affects one’s relationship with music that you can read here.
- Jungle – “Platoon”/”Drops”
A few months ago, the London-based Jungle released a video for their (/his?) first single “Platoon” that went indie-viral (coining it) mostly thanks to the adorable young girl in it who happens to be one of the most badass breakdancers I’ve ever seen. And then there was the phenomenal dark, funky dance song playing behind her that’s about as haunting as a dance song can be. It swung underneath rattles, thuds, and jangles that were juxtaposed with soulful vocals slightly reminiscent of TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and starred a volatile guitar line flaring over a smooth-as-hell bass line.
Accompanying “Platoon” on a double A-side release (Is this really a thing? Are we allowing this to be a thing?), is the silky “Drops.” It finds the same temperamental clean guitar lines, but it sets them over long-winded but marbled keyboard lines in order to set the stage for a sensual falsetto-driven dirge that somehow turns a creaky door into the perfect percussive instrument.
Jungle is one of those enigmatic producers who doesn’t use social media in order to “add to his mysteryyyyyy,” but no one can hide from this much buzz forever. I’m sure we’ll hear more about him, and hopefully from him, soon.
And now, it’s time for another edition of…
GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Shauna Alexander Edition
Editor’s Note: Shauna is my moon and my stars because she was the one who originally gifted me this column (she’s regretted it ever since). To make life come full circle, I begged her to guest write for it and after only minor groveling, she happily obliged.
- White Lies – “Getting Down”
It’s well documented all over this website of my love of bands with a deep-voiced frontman and a hearty rhythm section (especially these guys). However, what surprised me most about the newest track from London-based rockers, White Lies, was their choice to embrace the guitar. Previous efforts of theirs have mostly stayed shrouded in the mysterious, bass-heavy riffs of previous post-punk English outlets (and I’m going to kick myself for writing this next part) like Joy Division, The Editors, etc. But it’s with “Getting Down” we feel a bit of that ’80s rock star glam come forward, backed by bright synth play.
True to form, frontman Harry McVeigh sings of the darker side of life, with haunting chants of revenge from a former lover and I wouldn’t have it any other way. White Lies is the kind of band I turn on when I want to maintain a smile on my face while telling the rest of the world to fuck off. They’re not afraid to let their pop roots show, but maintain enough edge in their lyrics and drum beats to still keep me as an eager listener. Their third record featuring this single, Big TV, comes out on August 12th through Fiction Records in the UK and Europe, and on August 20ththrough Harvest Records in the US. Preorder it now via these handy links in either digital or physical format.
If you/someone you know is up for the task of writing non-sequitered musical ramblings, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected], tell me I look pretty, and convince me why you should be a Guest Writer We Should Fucking Know.