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).
I originally was just going to start this review with a cliche little, “Everyone has an opinion on this album, so I feel compelled to do it too,” to defend taking on THE Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, but before I even sat down to listen to the record, I was gnawed at by Klosterman-y thoughts about what Arcade Fire really means (I know. I hate me too when I write things like that).
Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of the band. I listened to the first album enough to thoroughly enjoy the familial comfort of songs like the “Neighborhood” tracks, “Wake Up,” and “Rebellion (Lies),” and there a few songs on Neon Bible that I consistently come back to like “Keep The Car Running” and “No Cars Go.” I’ll even admit that The Suburbs is actually a pretty solid album from front to back, but even still, the only song I specifically seek out three years after its release is “Sprawl II.”
So why did I at one time feel compelled to learn these albums backwards and forwards? Why do I feel the need to speak at least semi-intelligently about a band that after going through their entire discography for this article, I can definitively say I only marginally enjoy? Why am I going to waste the majority of my column on them now?
Because Arcade Fire, through the even more cliche perfect mix of magic and talent, was anointed a long time ago as THE indie rock band that was going to be universally liked. One day, it just happened, and we’ve been admiring the Emperor’s New Neo-Cowboy Attire ever since.
While speaking to a past Guest Writer You Should Fucking Know, Ben Wormald, I asked him how he thought it came to pass that they won this title, and he pointed me to a pretty interesting article written by Richard Beck over at n+1 that brings up Pitchfork’s effect on the music industry. After reading it, it isn’t a stretch to realize that Pitchfork’s full embrace of them in 2004, (a time when the internet was just starting to really come into its own in terms of file sharing, YouTube, etc) was the electricity that allowed Arcade Fire to shine brighter than the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpols, and Broken Social Scenes also floating around out there in the ether at that time.
Now, almost 10 years after the debut release that catapulted them onto a wave they have ridden incredibly well, they’ve released what might be their most divisive record.
However, I haven’t read anything about the album yet… I know that James Murphy handled some of the production, which sounds like a dream come true. But I also know that a lot of people have a lot of hard opinions, both positive and negative, about this album. I mean, I currently have Chris Richards review, a response to it, and a third party response to the response saved as tabs on my Chrome window that I’m just dying to read.
But first, I want to take this album on with a tabula rasa.
Any background information or external opinions are just going to taint how I listen to the record, and this kind of blind approach seemed to work out pretty well when I took on Bowie’s most recent album (by that I mean my friend Claire who is a Bowie fan said I did a good job).
So strap in because you’re getting a 100% pure review of Reflektor, and it could crash and burn miserably.
One of the reasons seeing LCD Soundsystem live is so fun is because James Murphy is the ultimate showman. And he’s able to captivate a crowd with his every minuscule move because of one simple thing: He always looks like he’s having the most fun in the room. We are always guests at the James Murphy party, happy to just be in attendance.
So it’s understandable that after getting farther and father away from the more electronic heavy ways of their past, Arcade Fire were eager to let Mr. Murphy teach them how to dance. I know he is listed as only handling some of the production, but his attitude and influence pervades this entire record. Everything is done with the confidence that comes with being the life of the party. It lets them extend themselves into places that is charming to hear them explore. There are the moments when they pull off something you never expected out of them so well that its awe-inspiring, and sometimes they fall flat on their face.
But all I can picture is someone learning to dance for the first time. It’s sometimes clumsy, sometimes wonderful, but it’s always charming. It doesn’t excuse some of the filler on the album, but it’s a nice rose-colored lens to see the record through.
There’s a hidden track, discovered when you rewind from the first track, that develops into a back-talking fuzzed out wormhole that starts out the album and is (and I know this word gets thrown around a lot) truly hypnotic. It warps and buzzes with a kind of rhythmic subtlety that reminds me of Beck’s spaced-out catalogue, and it planted a seed in my head that this album was going to be something a little different than what I might have been expecting from this band.
And this album is at its best when it fully embraces that difference; specifically those new, dance-heavy influences that Murphy seeps into everything he produces.
Hidden introduction aside, the album positively pops to life dripping in DFA’s juices. The percussion-heavy rhythm is hip-shaking and lead-singer Win Butler’s usually haunting wail sounds almost sensual the way it sneers at times (I like to think that at some point James Murphy sat Win down and taught him that trick like when dogs learn to howl for the first time).
Even something a bit more loungey like the next track, “We Exist,” keeps a steady, funky bassline under everything, adding a pulsing energy to the song. Plus just listen to Win savor snaking out his s’s on this track. The whole group seems to be eating up the opportunity to groove a little more than usual. It’s how they end up doing a Prince impression on “It’s Never Over” on top of instrumentation that sounds like the cousin of LCD’s “Someone Great.” It’s why they made an ambient dance song called “Porno.”
They’re enjoying themselves.
And their apparent enjoyment is what makes some of their missteps forgivable, like their attempt at a Talking Heads song with “Normal Person.” You just have to laugh it off and go, “Yeah I remember when I got into Talking Heads too.”
BUT THERE ARE SOME MIS-STEPS THAT ARE UNFORGIVABLE… (Spoiler: rant coming)
“Here Comes the Night Time”’s raucous intro is a little shocking, but it might be a good thing, because the surprise softens the blow of having to hear Arcade Fire do a Discovery-meets-George Michael song. I honestly can’t think of why this song is on here. It’s terrible. Do you know when you see a really, really shitty TV show and you think “So many people saw this along the way and said ‘Yep, I think it’s a good show and a great use of our money,’” and it just blows your mind? A lot of people should have said no to this song and didn’t, and I can’t understand why that is.
So in the end, I can see how Reflektor is divisive. It’s different, it’s a little bizarre, it over-extends itself at times. But it’s not a bad record. It has a few songs I like and even has a few songs that could really grow on me, which would be the ultimate Murphy touch.
Ok, now that that’s written in digital ink, I get to enjoy reading about how “wrong” I am by at least one half of the music community.
- Flume f. Ghostface Killah & Autre Ne Veut – “Space Cadet”
Included on the DELUXE EDITION of Flume’s stunning self-titled debut is a rework of one of the trippier tracks on the album, “Space Cadet,” by Ghostface Killah and Autre Ne Veut.
For those that don’t know Flume, you can read BYT’s interview with the ascending Australian producer here; for those that don’t know about Autre Ne Veut and my love for him, you can read my gushing review of his album Anxiety here; and for those that don’t know Ghostface Killah, you can learn what Method Man is going to do you and your ignorance here.
Knowing all that about all of them, it’s still only in my wildest, most Ambien-fueled music wet dreams that I would have ever thought to put these three together on the same track. But dear lord it works well.
Ashin’s carnal, emotive vocals slide perfectly over Streten’s beats, and Ghostface’s hard-as-fuck verse gives this wobbled haze of a song the edge and credibility that only a Killer Bee can supply. I know this was a one-off thing, but they’ve settled in right behind Child Rebel Soldier on the list of my favorite three-artist collaborations.
Pitchfork has their greedy hands all over the deluxe edition mixtape stream, but with artists like Killer Mike, How to Dress Well, and Twin Shadow appearing on tracks, you have to check it out.
- Misun – A Farewell
I know I’m one of the more biased people out there, but I truly believe in DC’s music scene. We have some pretty amazing bands stewing around here, and after CMJ, it looks like some of them are finally getting some national recognition.
As a scene though, our biggest problem isn’t a lack of talented bands, but the inability to keep those talented bands here. The bigger, brighter pastures of New York and California consistently outshine our legendary DIY history and unignorable urban development. Personally, I think it sucks that the nation’s most powerful people flock from all corners of the country to dick around on Capitol Hill, but yet our biggest export as a city is creative talent looking for more recognition and opportunity elsewhere.
So it’s with a sad, heavy heart that I add local-favorite Misun to the list of bands that have now left the District.
Yep, they recently made the move to the City of Angels, and DC is a bit less funky for it (PS: Please watch the ridiculous new 30 Seconds to Mars video that’s linked. You’ll be glad you did.).
Over the past year, the trio of Misun Wojcik, Andrew Wallace (aka Nacey), and William Devon have blown up thanks to a strongly-eclectic but ever-enjoyable slew of singles, so it’s with confident optimism that I wave goodbye to them. But it still feels like just yesterday I was writing about “Coffee” for one of my first ever TYSFK columns. Now, they’re getting written up on Pitchfork and are being called one of the “breakout acts of CMJ.” How the time flies…
To celebrate and honor their time with us in the nation’s capitol, I threw in some of my personal favorite Misun jams for the column this week, so click play, wipe the tears from your eyes, and keep your dancing shoes ready for their eventual homecoming show.
Good luck, guys.
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
THE GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Ruckus Rhythm’s Edition
Editor’s Note: As I mentioned last week, the Ruckus Rhythm crew sent me an email letting me know that they felt they should get a guest writing spot. They cited their popular “playlusts,” described themselves as “young DC / NYC 20 somethings with nothing to loose (sic) and no money on the line [who are] just trying to facilitate your lewd listening and music polygamy”, and then signed off said email with a comically threatening “Get on our Level.” After all that, how could I not give them a chance?
- Sonnymoon – “Every Summer Night”
We think directors Adi Putra and Carlos Landa may have been inspired by both The Crucible and The Outlaw Josey Wales in this recently collaborated effort with Sonnymoon, and the outcome is strangely perfect.
This isn’t just a music video; it’s a tension-filled short film, set in a haunted, dust-filled town with pulsating grooves in the drop (check the percussion change-up around 1:30).
Anna Wise and producer Dane Orr have been making music under the moniker, named after the Sonny Rollins track “SonnyMoon For Two”, since 2009 when the two met in Boston. The experimental duo now pairs her sultry vocal tricks with his synthy beats in San Francisco, where their third LP is currently in the works.
You may have heard the soothing textures of Anna Wise’s croon before, as she’s featured Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. These two are hip-hop heads and cite J Dilla as a big influence in their production. They also played around with the chord progression on Drakes “Houstoatlantavegas,” and it’s still one of their most popular tracks.
We threw a sexy remix of this jam by M. Constant (grab it for free here) on a new playlust “L U S T Y L U S T – VOL. II” set to drop this Friday. The L U S T Y L U S T – VOL. II features over an hour of beat driven sensual tunes to make it to. And the vocals from Sonnymoon help to set the mood just right.
The Ruckus Fam’
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.