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).
Happy week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day?
I’m still deciding whether I love or hate the whole thing — my current opinion is that they didn’t invent the rainy day, they just have the best umbrella — but you can follow the Tunes You Should Fucking Know In 2014 playlist, which is updated each week with the songs I write about, and then you can have super hip music to listen to wherever you go.
Also, I know the Firefly lineup just got announced, but before any of you go buying tickets to a festival in DELAWARE, just wait until Bonnaroo comes out with their lineup. It’s a much better festival, and I’m pretty sure any act that you’d want to see at Firefly (Outkast, Tune-Yards, Chance the Rapper, Band of Horses, Local Natives, etc) will be at Bonnaroo as well.
Anyways, on to the music!
- Vampire Weekend – “Time To Say Goodbye”
You know that one song you know by Andrea Bocelli?
Andrea Bocelli, the famous Italian opera singer…
I know you don’t know opera, but trust me you know this song….
Fine, I’m going to YouTube it and prove to you that you know it…
Listen to this and try and tell me you don’t know it.
No I couldn’t have just said it was the song from Stepbrothers, you uncultured swine.
Well anyways, Vampire Weekend decided to cover it, and they actually pulled it off.
I didn’t they could do it either, but they do a good job of incorporating the sprawling beauty of the original into their rhythmically-centered, quirky-cute signature style. They even nail the Italian verses.
Nope, they don’t have a new EP or anything coming out (that I know of). This is going to be on a release called Sweetheart 2014, a compilation of covers of love songs by artists like Fiona Apple, Beck, Jim James, and others.
You can download it from iTunes on February 4th, or pick it up from your favorite local record shop, I mean favorite local Starbucks, because they’re the only stores that will be selling physical copies.
I know, I hate it too, but what can you do? The music industry sucks these days. And I have even more bad news, but I’ve got some good news to go along with it…
The bad news is that because this release is locked up by BIG CORPORATIONS, it’s not on Spotify (yet), so it won’t be on the super awesome brand new TYSFK in 2014 Spotify playlist that everyone should start following (yet).
BUT the good news is that I did include a rare B-side of Vampire Weekend’s called “Ladies of Cambridge” to the playlist AND here’s Beck’s cover of John Lennon’s “Love” and Jim James’ cover of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low.”
Are we even?
Now let’s end this bit before we start agitating comment trolls.
- Racing Glaciers – “New Country”
Allow me to plagiarize myself for a moment, but I felt so compelled to write about this band when I heard about them last week that I already scrapped together a little something for All Things Go on Racing Glaciers, and I think I hit the nail somewhere near the head on this one:
“One of the things that makes the really great bands standout in the fairly homogenous indie rock landscape is the ability to deftly tow the edge of smooth beauty and raw emotion. Think of bands like Foals or Frightened Rabbit. Their songs are beautiful and slick, but you always feel like it’s real people playing those instruments and singing those words.”
Anyways, now that I’m on BYT and not ATG, I can get a little more REAL about that statement…
Guitar-driven indie rock has been in trouble ever since aspiring musicians discovered that anything sounds fun on a synth pad, but those that are sticking to their guitar-bass-and-drums guns while innovating that tried-and-true style are making some pretty great music that’s specifically relying on the gripping, sadly novel concept of being composed by real people playing real instruments (side note: Daft Punk saw this trend coming and that’s why we all lost our shit about there being actual musicians playing actual instruments on Random Access Memories).
And that doesn’t mean those bands have taken away the toe-tapping element that’s helped bolster synth pop as a genre to be reckoned with, they’ve just made it organic. Drum machines have been thrown out the window and replaced by the human touch (“I hear you want to make something real“) . It’s what Racing Glaciers does with tremendous results on their upcoming EP, Ahead of you Forever, and it’s a sound for sore ears.
The songs on this record feel tangible.
They’re very well-produced yes, but everything from the emphatic percussion, to the a cappella interjections, to the bluesy guitar solos, to even the french horn interludes feel palpably distinct and real. Plus lead singer Tim Monaghan’s voice has the perfect balance of sweet croon and delicate snarl in it to make these tracks come to life and feel like more than just something to listen to for 20 seconds before one’s Music ADD kicks in.
“New Country”, the standout from the album, is the first single off the EP but All Things Go head honcho Adrian Maseda has told me that ATG is going to be premiering the next single soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that. I pushed for it to be the album-closer “Wake”, but we’ll see. Fingers crossed?
- Young Fathers – “Low”
“Low” and Young Fathers came my way because I’ve been keeping up with former Guest Writers You Should Fucking Know, the Rukus Rhythms crew.
From the onset, you can tell this song is a bit different. The carnival keyboard and mellowed-out percussion feels like a natural background for the crowing of the first singer, but when you realize this is a hip-hop song once the rap verses come in, it’s a whole different ballgame.
I became so intrigued as to how this kind of indie hip-hop came to be that I did some internet sleuthing, and it turns out Young Fathers are a trio from Edinburgh, Scotland that boast Liberian, Nigerian, and Scottish heritage, and “Low” is one of the first tracks off their upcoming debut LP, Dead, which is going to be out February 4th.
With it’s head-bobbing beat and hypnotizing flows, it’s a nice intro to the group, as their other singles from this album, “War”and “Get Up” are good but a bit less accessible. However, they do have two mixtapes available on Spotify that are definitely worth giving a listen to, especially Tape Two. They contain some pretty eclectic material, and it’s fascinating to see the roots of this young group that seem to be very much on a mission.
Sonically they mesh a variety of influences and styles into their songs, but what’s really interesting about Young Fathers is that even their smoothest songs hint at an underlying angst that in fact courses through most of their material. Listen to the lyrics and/or watch their videos and see what I mean. I don’t want to fall on the easy-but-not-accurate comparison of Odd Future, but when you see a hip-hop ensemble collectively pushing the boundaries of the genre in a certain way, it has to at least be mentioned.
And I know it’s not often we make a point to stay up to date on what’s happening in the world of Scottish hip-hop, but I’ll definitely be checking back on these kids in February when their album is out.
PS: My prediction for 2014 about hip-hop going experimental is looking pretty great right now.
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
THE GUEST WRITER YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW: Derek Jacobson Edition
Editor’s Note: Derek has a shameless teen-girlish obsession with everything Will Sheff does. He once shook his hand and nearly fainted. True story.
- Okkervil River – “Pink Slips”
Okkervil River’s newest album, The Silver Gymnasium, is a gem.
It’s big and heady and nostalgic and sweet as it attempts a raid on the unrecoverable experience of childhood through the lens of adult cynicism. Will Sheff, singer and songwriter behind Okkervil River (and, perhaps, greatest living lyricist currently lyricizing) is writing about his youth in New Hampshire, and the highlight of that backward journey is the song “Pink Slips”.
It begins with some lush, slidy guitars, amplified by blasts of relic synthesizers meant to remind us that we’re in The Past. But as Sheff begins to sing, it’s very clear that he’s talking about these things from The Present. It’s also clear that he isn’t terribly pleased with the intervening years.
“This wish is just to go back, hey / when I know I wasn’t ever ever happy / show me my best memory, it’s probably super crappy,” he sings with his typical colloquial bluntness.
I think it’s a feeling that we can relate to, the sense that the happy past really only serves as a cruel taunting signpost growing smaller in the rearview. We might even be misreading it, but we can’t slow down, or turn around.
And therein lies the song’s central metaphor: the titular Pink Slips, in this case meant to evoke a sort of accumulated currency of failure, a sense that the slow and steady collection of future disappointments is far more certain than any recalled bliss of the past. “Only happy ’til the age of ten is still a gift,” he sings, almost reluctantly, before taking a potshot at Hollywood’s most glaring example of a fallen angel: “Hey, mariner in the dirt trade, oh, postman of the post-apocalypse – from Academy Awards to pink slips!” (to which Kevin Costner reportedly responded, “hey, what the fuck, bro?”).
At this point, the song launches into a stratosphere of breathless, tightly-wound lyrical ejaculations which at first seem like rage, but then, as the song begins to work its way into you, maybe more like abdication; a reluctant, joyous fuck-you acceptance of the one-way current to nowhere, culminating in the Ultimate Pink-Slip.
It is, for my money, the most rip-roaring bit of existential fist-shaking in the musical year 2013.
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.