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).
- Arcade Fire – “Reflektor” (Video)
*We can’t embed the crazy video experience thing for “Reflektor” so check it out here: https://www.justareflektor.com, or just enjoy their secondary video for the song below:
Arcade Fire is no stranger to awesome, cutting-edge music video experiences (see The Wilderness Downtown or Sprawl 2, but with the video for “Reflektor,” the first single off their upcoming album of the same name, they’ve listened to all the stupid strategy presentations I endured in my old job in digital marketing and have gone mobile.
Made in collaboration between the band, filmmaker Vincent Morisset, and a team from Google helmed by Aaron Koblin, who has worked with the group previously, the experience syncs a user’s smartphone or tablet with their webcam, which allows the user to then control certain special effects in the video*. Overall, it’s a pretty nifty bit of technology that sucks a person into the video (and song).
*It feels really weird to use the word “user” to refer to a listener/viewer, but this is the 21st century and Millennial, iPhone5S release, HBOGo, adfljadslkajdsf. My nose is bleeding…
However, the really interesting thing about the whole experience comes during the climax of the video. Just as the novelty of your phone being a magic wand begins to wear off (we are a cynical people…), the truth of the experience finally breaks through and freely reveals itself (catch that pun, people that have already gone through it once?).
And we haven’t even gotten to the song itself yet…
Musically, it is the funkiest thing the band has done to date. The deep horn lines, harsh licks, and soaring strings fuse together throughout the toe-tapping track, which is sprinkled with sporadic tones and erratic glitches that help layer the soundscape. All the while, the vocals are emphatic but tantalizing.
And if some of those vocal lines sound Bowie-esque, it’s because that is David Bowie on the track (confirmed in an overly-detailed post on Facebook which you can see here). And if some that production sounds James Murphy-esque, it’s because it is James Murphy who produced the track (discussed in an interview he did with NME, which you can read here).
Is this when we start the “So the most popular indie band in the world, a rock legend, and a dance-music icon walk into a bar…” jokes?
All hilarious bar jokes aside**, this is a musical collaboration that I didn’t even realize I needed until I heard that it happened. Letting James Murphy have the reigns for an Arcade Fire album? Be still my beating musical-elitist heart. Of course, Mr. Murphy described the new record by downplaying his involvement (which is immediately noticeable on the single) and says, “It sounds like Arcade Fire in the way that only Arcade Fire sound like Arcade Fire, you know? It’s really fucking epic,” which only has me giddy for more material to be pushed out in advance of the 10/29 release date for the album.
And since God loves us, wants us to be happy, and rewards impatience, they’ll be the musical guest on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on September 28th, with Tina Fucking Fey hosting. Good things are coming…
** “So I says, ‘Pitch-Modulator, I love you, but you’re bringing me down!'”
- Wildcat! Wildcat! – “Mr. Quiche”
I know most music fans like to rebel against The Man for the most part, but sometimes the man gets it right. If the name Wildcat! Wildcat! sounds at all familiar, it might be because they were the up-and-coming band that tested well enough to star in a “documentary” produced by Taco Bell about a show the band was doing with Passion Pit at SXSW*. The commercials were everywhere…
Don’t hold it against the L.A. trio though, because with a solid debut EP that was just released yesterday, they’re definitely worth checking out. Songs like “Mr. Quiche” and “The Chief,” which have been out for a while now, saw some Hype Machine traction when they were originally released, but now that they’re bolstered by tracks like the pulsing “Garden Greys” and the sweeping “Please & Thank You,” the band really has a complete offering on their hands.
They’re an easy sell for Passion Pit fans both current and past, but if they finagle it right, they could really capture a much larger audience thanks to modestly complex and confidently mature songwriting. It will be interesting to see who as an audience latches onto them both originally and over time, especially now that they’re on tour opening up for a red-hot MSMR. I guess for now, we’ll just have to Live Mas and wait.
*I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the band was told they had the opportunity to do this. Did anyone balk at the idea of jumping in bed with a corporation who thought calling their music initiative “Feed The Beat” was a good idea? I’d like to think that on a scale of “We’re Not Worthy” to “Stillwater’s T-Shirt Fight,” it was leaning just a bit towards the Jason Lee’d, “We have got to get control of what’s happening!”
- Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People – “Black As The Night”
It’s hard to sing simple, heartfelt songs with just an acoustic guitar and not sound like a douchebag. There’s just a stigmata attached to what I am now going to coin as the “bro folk” genre. And it’s not unwarranted; while it might not be musical heresy to say that you like the Counting Crows (which BYT homie Stephanie and I do), you would get smacked in the face by any self-respecting music fan if you tried to still claim allegiance to Dave Matthews (except “Crush”) or OAR (except “Crazy Game of Poker”). Especially charming and talented artists like Jack Johnson and John Mayer made it through with most of their musical credibility intact, but for the most part, our collective Douchebag Radar goes off anytime a guy starts to get brofully-soulful with an acoustic guitar. I still have memories of someone at my college orientation telling me we should jam out in the hallways because “chicks will dig it.” I found another activity for the evening, but he was totally right. He had girls eating out of the palm of his hand for four years. Bastard…
Somehow, though, Nahko Bear is able to elude any sort of scrutiny I’d want to instinctively bestow, ESPECIALLY when I realize his music’s message is so unabashedly positive (I truly believe good love songs and social-movement songs are the hardest kinds to write). But there he is, carefree in the back of a truck, a musical shepherd, pied-piping his movement of peace with songs that were built for campfires, impervious to misanthropy.
As one Amazon user said in their review of his album, ” It has a freshness to it of mountain air…”
Then again, there was also a review on there that read, “If you’re looking for an elixir to carry you across that divide from who you are to who you think you can be, this is it.”
I think the real truth is somewhere in between the two…
So while it’s always fun to discuss the elegance in the subtleties of shoegaze, sometimes it’s a great reminder that good music can be made with nothing more than an acoustic guitar — and that the person making it isn’t necessarily a douchebag. So if you’re feeling at peace with yourself and want more, enjoy a link to Nahko Bear’s Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/nahko). Namaste.
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
THE GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Adam Sharp Edition
Editor’s Note: Adam Sharp is the Chicagoan behind a supremely underappreciated blog called Songs For The Day that I pilfer from constantly, and his Twitter feed is one of the best places for new music. You can follow him @asongfortheday.
- Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
There are some things I just don’t/can’t understand: people who like lima beans, fruit cups or Good & Plenty’s, why anyone would use the word moist unless they are talking about turkey or chicken and, perhaps above all, dubstep and the obsession with ‘the drop.’ I think you get the point- I’m a man of discerning tastes and someone who disdains things that are deserving of disdain.
Back to that dubstep/drop thing. As a fan of music that isn’t dubstep, I’ve always just thought of ‘the drop’ as that moment when shit actually starts to happen- you know, drums kick in, loud guitars start swirling, banjo starts being picked… stuff of that sort. Which is all to say that yes, I do feel like a gigantic asshole for focusing my, and your, attention on ‘the drop’ in ‘Hey Mami’ by Sylvan Esso, but seriously, you guys- that moment at 1:33 when the full beat finally drops? That’s pretty goddamn phenomenal. Even without it this song would be spectacular- its addition and subtraction of layers throughout (to say nothing of Amelia Randall Meath’s exceptional voice) makes it one of the most interesting, compelling songs I’ve heard this year- but that crushing, distorted beat drop just takes it all to some tremendous new level. Maybe I understand ‘the drop’ now?
This all feels weird. I think I’m going to go grab a fruit cup and some Good & Plenty’s and think about just who the hell I am and what I believe.
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.