Bryce Rudow likes music. You can send all hatemail to [email protected] and tweet vitriol at him @brycetrudow (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).
- Mesita – “Future Proof”
Mesita is one of those musicians who creates beautiful music, no matter the genre or style in which a particular song of his happens to live. The intricate melodies, complex layerings, and masterful detailing on even almost-inaudible sounds make for a musical landscape that touches on the essence-of-the-word definition of beauty. It’s not always pretty; in fact at times it’s quite raw, but its earnestness and passion always convey a sense of the truth-is-beauty/beauty-is-truth variety.
I have written about Mesita, aka James Cooley, more than any other artist on Tunes You Should Fucking Know, analyzing the sporadic singles he’s released this year, but finally, after months of patient waiting, he’s released a full album for me to fall all over, Future Proof.
The album opener, “No Future,” kicks off with a jarring clamor that grabbed my full attention immediately, only to quickly orient me with a bang of a bass line and battle-cry thud of a drum line. It’s ballsy to have it settle into the groovy jam that the song becomes, but it paid off by making me understand that this song, and this album, no matter how smooth it is at times, should be approached with an elevated heart rate and an expectation for the unexpected.
In the song, Cooley creates this massive sonic landscape, with ground-level bass lines, high piano riffs, and his vulnerable vocals in between. And he’s patient enough to let the songs develop before tearing them to bits; he lets you wonder in astonishment at their pristine composition, only to start a domino effect of static, heavy breakdowns that shatter it all to pieces with the destructive beauty of a natural disaster.
And Cooley isn’t afraid to throw the kitchen sink of his talents at you right away with this album. He could have done the safe bet and thrown some of his previously-released tracks up front as a fan service to say, “Hey, this is me. You liked this song, please listen to the whole album.” Instead, he delves into two aggressively complex previously-unreleased songs that are, in the best way possible, a little emotionally taxing (the same way listening to say Kid A is). “Firesign” alone is a test of endurance as it re-imagines itself into a multitude of different iterations of unabashed passion.
“Forward,” the next song on the album, is the one that reminds me most that Mesita’s first releases were more folk-based (do yourself a favor and listen to “For The Best,” one of the best breakup songs of all time). It’s also a pleasant respite given its relatively straightforward structure and I felt like I could get back to some sort of homeostasis while it played.
The next track,”XYXY,” one of the first singles off the album, is one of the best songs of the year and does a great job of showing how funky Cooley can be in time. And in the world of indie R&B, having that kind of diversity is a great way to separate yourself from the pack (just ask Fryars, who released both “In My Arms” and “Cool Like Me.” and saw his stare rise immediately). Then, to have it all ease into a jazzy outro is brilliant. Pure and simple.
Another album highlight and another previously-released track, “Hostages,” follows and is probably the most moving song on the album. Discussing his journey of coming to terms with his sexuality, Cooley’s aggressive hostage allusion is torturously heartbreaking.
Relatively buoyant tracks “Damage” and “Creatures” bring the album back to a more stable homeostasis, but only before “Vigilant” really sparks itself into the role of best deep-cut on the record (though “Distance” and its slick guitar line make a strong case too).
But, after a raucous 45 minutes, the album closer “Nothing” is the aftercare I needed. It’s the clearest and most defiant Cooley’s voice sounds on the album, and with tempered instrumentation to carry it along, it’s a comforting exercise in withdrawal to close everything out.
I can’t believe that after more #MESITAWATCH2013 posts than I can remember, we finally have an album, but it was definitely worth the wait. I know I am admittedly a fanboy when it comes to Mesita, but I’d put this up against any “perfect” album released in the past few years.
Truthfully, it’s beautiful.
- Hoodlem – “Through” and “Firing Line”
Yesterday, my friend Sarah shot me over “Through” by Hoodlem and it immediately stuck with me. Sometimes it feels like there’s a whole genre of female-vocaled electronic hip-hop based pop, so when a song in that style is able to not only stand out, but wedge itself deep into my brain, the artist behind it is doing something right.
And while most blogs will tell you it’s a mystery as to who is behind the Melbourne-based Hoodlem, THEY JUST AREN’T TRYING HARD ENOUGH. A bit of creepy detective work (aka Googling her vague press contact on Facebook) led me to discover that the woman behind the voice is Jessica Carroll**, who is apparently also in another band called Secondhand Heart. Einhorn is Finkle, Finkle is Einhorn; case solved. I am Batman.
Anyway, back to the songs…
“Through” is enticing and soulful but tough as nail and belies a strutting bravado throughout it. Those lilting vocals are Poison Ivy-fragile and the Nightcrawler fade-in/fade-outs of the instrumentation are absolutely captivating juxtaposed again them. It was as strong a debut as you’re going to get since the first Spider-Man movie, and I immediately wanted more from her.
So I couldn’t have been more relieved when I saw that she had another song out, “Firing Line,” which was actually only released earlier this week. Sonically, it’s more tempered, with severely compressed instrumentation allowing for Carroll’s tantalizing voice to gain most of the spotlight. It’s already a head-nodding track from the beginning, but when its repetitive, poppy chorus cycles through to become a hypnotic outro, it’s just as addicting as “Through,” and it left me now craving even more new material from this NOW NOT SO MYSTERIOUS Aussie.
*I was able to sneak four superhero references and an Ace Ventura clip into 5 paragraphs. Where’s my Pulitzer?
** This has been adamantly denied by Carroll, but something is fishy. I’m going to get to the bottom of this. Because I’m Batman/Sherlock (BBC version).
- Clementine and the Galaxy – “Robot” (Big Data Remix)
Last week, I made an exception to my usual No Remix policy because of a stellar re-imagining of Big Data’s “Dangerous” by NYC duo Clementine and the Galaxy, and it looks like the guys from Big Data returned the remix favor, which is so adorable I can’t not write about it.
I also promised in my write-up that I would check out Clementine and the Galaxy in the near future, and it’s been a pretty enjoyable journey. First off, I did not think they would take on, much less pull off, a cover of “Heart Shaped Box,” but they did it, and they did it so well, I almost made it the song I wrote about instead. Seriously, did anyone expect that one?
Secondly, their debut self-titled EP is an outstanding bit of genre-bending art pop that dances with a variety of sub-genres of pop and dance music while even flirting with rock at times. It’s at times saccharin, at times moving, and, consistently, it’s incredibly, toe-tappingly catchy.
But Big Data’s remix of “Robot,” the first song on the EP (and which has a great music video), strips away the jovial guitar lines and ecstatic house synths and focuses on exposing the cold starkness of robotics alluded to in the song’s lyrics, building a chaotic, at times harsh, electronic confession. It’s actually a pleasant bit of fair play considering how dark Clementine and the Galaxy took Big Data’s funky “Dangerous.”
Clementine and the Galaxy have an interesting bio but you should read BYT NYC’s very own Megan Burns interview with them to learn about it because I can’t do it justice (it involves jingle-writing). And if you’re in the NYC area, they’re playing tomorrow (10/10) as part of the CBGB music festival and will be hitting up some CMJ showcases next week (get tickets here).
And now, it’s time for another very special edition of…
THE GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Ben Wormald Edition
Editor’s Note: Ben Wormald is a web producer who thinks that music blogs are the reason why indie music is dying. He is also a contributor for All Things Go, which happens to be a music blog. One time we split a bottle of Pinot Grigio on the dancefloor of a house show in Takoma Park.
- Oliver Wilde – “A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears”
Today I listened to Miley Cyrus’s “Bangerz” twice. I enjoyed neither listening, but that didn’t matter. I listened less because I wanted to and more because I needed to. Because as a twentysomething Gawker obsessive and occasional music blogger, how was I not going to partake in this significant moment in pop culture?
On a whole it was an exhausting and annoying experience that doesn’t warrant recounting here, but what is most bothersome about slogging through “Bangerz” is that once again I’d been sold an album as An Event and it left me underwhelmed. This has happened at least three other times this year; Daft Punk, Kanye, and Drake’s albums are all very good, but by the time I listened to any one of these albums, I had already read five articles on what it meant for cultural appropriation or disco or fatherhood. The narrative is already decided. You know what you are supposed to hear, when you are going to hear it, and what it means. The medium gets lost in the message.
So for the relative academic merits of dissecting pop albums for their cultural significance, it can be a pretty joyless exercise. It doesn’t hold a candle to the ‘holy shit’ moment that is watching Independence Day hungover on a lazy afternoon and realizing it’s a perfect movie or listening to that David Bowie song on your parents’ car radio when you’re 13 and you know that this is what good sounds like. And honestly, stumbling upon something by chance that you know immediately that you will love for a long time to come is the reason why I continue to listen to music.
Enter Oliver Wilde’s “A Brief Introduction To Unnatural Lightyears.” I’d love you to experience it as blissfully unaware as I was, so I’ll be purposefully opaque and note that the guy is a British record store clerk who (unfortunately? fortunately?) looks nothing like Olivia Wilde and adds to modern music what’s been missing since Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous passed away. His songwriting is ambitious yet humble, his sounds alien yet relatable and ultimately comforting. He makes the kind of music you always knew existed but didn’t know where to find. “A Brief Introduction…” provided me the first honest and refreshing listening experience I have had in a long time, and it’s one I wish I could have more often.
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.