Young Persons Guide

Enthused

Mac The Knife That Could Open Up A Beer Can Or Somethin’

The hype for Mac Demarco’s 2, released on hot-shit label Captured Tracks, began when “My Kind of Woman” was released as a single this past summer.  The song is an immediate mix-tape staple that saw Demarco doing his version of a prom song. It’s a messy track that wants to break apart with every drawled out syllable, but instead tapes together verses and choruses into one of the best tracks of the year. 2, like “My Kind of Woman,” is a beautiful mess, another descendant of Slanted and Enchanted’s slacker doctrine.

2 isn’t the first Demarco release this year, that was the much creepier and sleazier Rock and Roll Night Club. An even more fucked album then 2, Rock and Roll Night Club features Demarco screwing his voice into a lower register. The songs are good, but most seem half-formed, and he’s admitted he finds most of the songs “very funny” in interviews. There’s a stronger sense of the stories he wants to tell now, starting with the first track, “Cooking Up Something Good.”   It presents a dysfunctional family alongside a jaunty guitar line. There’s Mom cooking drugs in the kitchen and Dad passed out on the couch. Demarco does his best to keep a lid on the seeping frustration of not being able to escape this home in stasis, “Oh when life moves this slowly/oh just try and let it go.”

That dissatisfaction is flipped in “Freaking Out The Neighborhood,” an apology to a very different Mom than the one appearing in “Cooking Up Something Good.” This time Demarco is the one “up to no good,” claiming he’ll be the same when he gets home after gettin’ in to who knows what kind of trouble in the big city while his Mom’s worried about him back home. Demarco’s not afraid of his guitar, and you can hear quite a bit of Alex Chilton and Jonathan Richman in his guitar lines. It sounds like a second vocal track on “Freaking Out The Neighborhood,” meandering around his empty promises to his Mom.

Demarco’s got the usually enviable reputation as a crooner because of the low affected voice on Rock and Roll Night Club,but Demarco is adamant that it’s a misnomer. Interviewed by his friend in an unguarded interview with Hearty Magazine, he claims, “I don’t want to write sexy music, I want to write sweet music…I have had a girlfriend for two years, so I’m not interested in making people swoon.” It seems“Annie” and “My Kind of Woman” work as companions, love songs to his sweetheart. “Annie knows how I’m feelin’/and gives me a healin’,” Demarco sings on “Annie.” While the catchy merry-go-wrong sound of “My Kind of Woman” repeats the song title, after he croaks half-defeated “And it just don’t make sense to me/I really don’t know/why you stick right next to me/wherever I go.” After the demented pop of Rock and Roll Night Club and an excellent film-noir(y) “Ode to Viceroy,” it’s surprising to see Demarco get serious. Yet, these are the most assured songs in his catalog. They’re made for slow dances in grubby basements, slowly swaying over stale beer and cigarettes.

Caribou caribou Caribou caribou caribou caribou Caribou caribou

Dance albums can renegotiate the listening space of the audience, bringing the shut in to an imagined club. Others bring them to the walk home, the reappraisal of expectations when you set out for the night, the quickly fading nostalgia for the joyous peaks the night did gift you. Daphni’s Jiaolong, Caribou maestro Dan Snaith’s new album, is a rare reconciliation of the two, heady rhythm tracks that get feet on the floor.

Jiaolong functions as a love letter to a scene, a side-project that is as vital as excellent as the original group. The Daphni project should not be viewed as a departure, you can hear Snaith inching towards dancehalls with Caribou’s Swim, or even earlier with the solar pulse of Manitoba’s Up In Flames. When Daphni released “Ye Ye” on a spilt 12” with old bud Four Tet’s Pinnacles it wasn’t a shock, it was a natural continuation.  “Ye-Ye” makes it’s way on to the album, and is the most menacing track on Jiaolong. Starting with a simple warm drum kick, Snaith then buries the percussion with an icy synth line and a gruff vocal chorus repeating the title at will.  It mirrors Snaith’s adopted home of London, it’s grimy, and you can imagine it filtering out of an open club door into the silvery film of the Thames.

There almost wasn’t a Jiaolong according to Snaith in an interview with Spin’s Philip Sherburne; “I wasn’t even planning to release a Daphni album until a few months ago. There are loads of Daphni tracks that aren’t going to see a release that I’ve just made to DJ with. That’s what all these tracks are made for. It wasn’t until a few months ago, when I put a bunch of my favorite ones together, that I thought, “This actually is coherent as an album.” At times you can see the seams, but those moments are few. Sometimes, like on the sunny intro to the outstanding remix of Ne Noya’s track “Cos-Ber-Zam,” which presents a clash against the dark and propulsive first track “Yes, I Know,” only to have those clashes disintegrate with a synth flash. On “Cos-Ber-Zam” Snaith mentions, “I just sampled that loop from the record, just a drum loop and a voice.” The sample, featured on a compilation from label “Analog Africa,” is a find. The vocals are joyous and confident, while the drums wind around the sample until it changes its tone on a dime, a celebration turning sour around the halfway point. It’s an example of what Snaith is getting at when he says, “Hopefully, there’s a feeling of excitement and spontaneity in these Daphni tracks.” It’s a clever moment on an album filled with them.

Later track, “Ahora” is one of the most straightforward club tracks on Jiaolong, an elastic rhythm that trades in a drop for a sharp spike. It’s probably the most fun track on the album. Snaith mentions, “I’m certainly not trying to be obtuse or obscure in any way. I love playing a big tune in the middle of a DJ set that has other weird music in it. I love those moments. Who doesn’t love being in a club when everybody’s got their hands in the air?” The fat handclap rhythm section on “Springs,” seems like a conceit at first, but then it collapses around a spazzy laser-gun melody that dissolves into banshee shrieks and squawks. That it remains fun is a testament to Snaith’s skill at crafting traditionally “difficult music” into something you don’t realize is difficult.

When Four Tet released Pink this past summer, it was a culmination of a series of 12’’ singles that created a whole greater than it’s parts. Daphni released much of Jiaolong the same way, with more than half of the tracks seeing release on 12” singles before the completed album saw it’s release on Merge this week. It feels like a throwback, a forced absorption of the album at a snails pace. This was a slow process, and in the end, a successful one.

Easy Does It

Death Grips leaked their new release, No Love Deep Web, on October 1st after giving an announcement on twitter claiming their Sony owned label, Epic Records, wouldn’t give it a release date. While at first this seems logical for a band on a major as “difficult” as Death Grips, I wouldn’t be the first to say this seems convenient. Impose Magazine, in their article “#DeathGripsGate,” points to the self-manufactured hype surrounding the release to fit in with their general aesthetic as a band. It’s guerilla marketing masquerading as music Robin Hood-ism. Whether or not this thing is an authentic “label fucks over innocent creative band” scenario doesn’t change that they presented it as one, and it doesn’t change the amount of attention No Love received by music outlets last week.

Even if this album never makes it’s way onto shelves, in a tweet recently the band said they had no idea if No Love would get a physical release; the hype is a definitive win. With all the positive reviews The Money Store received earlier this year it doesn’t seem necessary, but it doesn’t hurt for your much-anticipated follow-up’s story be about a label fuck up rather than something dull about overcoming stress on tour or working with a big name producer.

After all the press, we’re left with an album that sounds quite a bit like The Money Store. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and not surprising considering how closely No Love followed it.  MC Ride still sounds like he’s trying to expel some trauma with blunt force, Zach Hill is still constricting the space the band works in with his frantic drum fills, and Andy “Flatlander” Morin is still crafting neo-apocalyptic synth skeletons for Hill and Ride to hang their oversized personalities on. Death Grips have set themselves up to be terrifying. There is no such thing as a passive listen to one of their albums, the listener becomes immediately provoked to listen to every spiked frequency, every snare and cymbal hit.

Listen to the way MC Ride loses his breath around the halfway point of “Come up and get me” the first track on No Love. It’s the exasperation of someone who can’t break through with his intended audience. Whether that’s Epic or an audience who constantly paint the group as self-destructive or unhinged, it’s one of the lynch pins of No Love. After yelling about Jimmy Paige’s castle and rummaging through abandoned buildings, Ride’s gasp for air is refreshing; it’s a brief break for an album and a group that can be aurally exhausting. Even songs that are more melodic, like “Black Dice,” lurch sinisterly forward with a synth line that starts bouncy but gets more terrifying with every repetition. Hell, “Whammy” has a lyric about climbing out of yourstomach, a refusal to abide by any conventional rules of personal space between band and audience and a throwback to one of their first tracks, on the mix tape Ex-Military, “Taykon.” On the 2011 release MC Ride growled, “Subatomic penetration, rapid fire through your skull.” Two albums later, Death Grips still aim to be as affective as possible, to the point of parasitically feeding on your insides, and throughout No Love, they succeed. Now let’s see who releases their next album.

Grizzly Bear- Shields

Grizzly Bear has always been a band concerned with filling spaces and redefining them. Yellow House was more domestic and introspective, while Veckatimest seemed blown-out, ready to engulf the small island it was named after. Grizzly Bear’s new album, Shields, is more preoccupied with time spent apart, the album length mish-mash of influences and experiences separate from each other and the excitement that emanates from bringing new ideas to people you’re very familiar with but haven’t seen in a while.

For a band coming off their biggest tour of their careers after Veckatimest, time off seems to have been necessary. While the band is notoriously well-adjusted and down-to-earth, like turning a recent feature with Spin into a cozy barbeque, a year and a half is a long time to spend with four people. Ed Droste speaks frequently of the break in a preview piece with Pitchfork, “I needed to be back in my life with my friends and my spouse, and live a day-to-day existence that had nothing to do with music.” The rest seeped into the recording, creating something fresh and direct. It would have been a mistake to try an pack Shields with “Two Weeks”-like singles, instead Shields patiently buildsand swirls around, echoing the past but taking the reverberations and bringing them in different directions.

Taking cues from Daniel Rossen’s excellent EP, Silent Hour/Golden Mile, released earlier this year, Shields sounds spartan in comparison to their past albums. While Veckatimest and Yellow House relied on murky atmospheres, frequently relying on multi-tracked vocals to convey something BIG, Shields relies more on the singular voice. First single “Sleeping Ute” is rooted in Rossen’s locomotive guitar work, constantly picking around the ups and downs of his voice. Next track picks up with Droste taking lead, and a callback to the space-flang that marked Veckatimest. The back and forth between Droste and Rossen makes it’s way into single tracks, like late album “What’s Wrong,” which sounds like a David Lynch themed prom, a stoic band in the background amongst the eerie lighting and arms length distanced away couples. The collaborative spirit began in recording, as Rossen describes in the New York Time’s piece on the band, the goal was to “write and make music that is as collaborative as possible, so that we have a product that we all feel a sense of authorship over as a collective.” For a band that has been together as long as Grizzly Bear, it’s a nice step to take. It feels more cohesive than previous albums, more accomplishedand it’s harder to pick out influences or contemporaries; they’ve finally grown into something wholly themselves.

Shields doesn’t lack highpoints. Fourth track “Yet Again” feels like a celebration of everything Grizzly Bear has become in 2012, a band capable of writing something buoyant, ooing and ahing while setting up a comfortable smiling audience for a guitar feedback freakout. The last track “Sun In Your Eyes” may be the happiest thing they’ve written. It sounds like a coronation, a victory lap for the easy comfort and lack of anxiety around those you spend the most time with. Rossen quietly sings, “Silver and silent rushing on/ Endless abundance overflows/Always surround you, always glows,” and then the band rushes back in with the chorus. It’s a nod back to some of their past singles, “While You Wait For The Others,” and “On A Neck, On A Spit” that surprise you with a wall of sound.

The distance between their image as buttoned up choir boys and their lack of reservations about getting LOUD are part of what make Grizzly Bear vital. They surprise in the best way and continuously write great songs while piecing together outstanding albums. I don’t see that ending anytime soon.

Generation xx

When The xx’s debut self-titled album came out in 2009, there wasn’t much known about them past a striking album cover with a cutout white x on a stark black-ground. To see a band begin with a strong sense of who they’re going to be with both their image and sound is rare, making this bit of posturing welcome and even a little bit refreshing. On Coexist, like xx, the band is like their logo, exuding the kind of symmetric sterile-ness that highlights in bold any four-on-the-floor exertion.

The band’s best weapon has always been Jamie Smith, the producer behind the white x’s on stage. After an album remixing the late Gil-Scott Heron, releasing his own 12” Far Nearer, and producing the title track on Drake’s smash Take Care, it seems he’s cashed the checks on confidence and equipment. Armed with a brand new rig, Jamie creates space for vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim to breathe and coo in. The two don’t spare words, their lyrics looks like exercises in white space on paper. Part of their appeal has always been that sparseness, the fill in the blank attitude that lends itself well to their mostly young audience, the ability to plug in your own meaning with the romantic failings of the late night and early morning.

Coexist begins with “Angels,” a showcase for Croft. The xx’s label, Young Turks, released a video of the band performing the song in Tokyo. It’s mainly a bit of aspirational promotion, a young band performing in a “Lost In Translation”-y hotel looking on at the light-soaked city through the windows. The only person doing anything in the video is Croft, Smith and Sim look on from the floor and bed. While Croft sings the barely-there tune, the camera focuses on her fingers, sliding up and down the fret-board gently. It’s an outlier, the song that shirks Smith’s production and leaves the track bare. It’s an interesting move for a band whose success is so wrapped up in their rhythm section, but the time spent missing drums only makes their appearance in the next track a welcome respite.

Where xx depends upon long builds, Coexist is more tactful, coming upon revelations suddenly. In an interview with The Creator’s Project, Smith mentions the time spent clubbing between the two records and the effect on the recording of Coexist. You can tell in the breakdown on “Fiction, “ when the air-horn shouts, as if to announce to the crowd something big and large and hopeful is coming. “And if I just might/wake up alone” turns into a painful joy, a celebration of disheveled mornings. It’s the difference between being surrounded by people, and being surrounded by your bedroom.

 There’s plenty more highlights, enough so that around halfway through Coexist, during “Reunion,” you know they’ve avoided a come down from their Mercury Prize winning debut. While they’ll never surprise us like they did with xx, appearing as a symbol more than a band who just happened to have great songs, Coexist is in many ways a more accomplished album. While the xx had an amateurish charm to it, Coexist is painstakingly put together. In a piece on Grantland, Amos Barshad highlights the self-aware aloofness in the two vocalists, but a structured seriousness in Jamie. “He left doors open during sessions, letting street sound bleed into the mix. But he’d also spend endless hours perfecting the sound of every instrument during recording, rather than going back to fix anything with studio wizardry. He wanted it to sound homemade and immaculate.” Usually this leads to the overblown and monstrous, but instead of adding more, more drums, more vocals, a string section, this perfectionism has led to less. Coexist is whittled away until it’s at its most direct and affecting. Choruses on tracks like “Sunset,” with Croft singing “I always thought it was sad/ how we act like strangers” over a fat mechanic drum sound, could easily drift into something fit for stadiums, instead the trio hold back, soon smothering the poppy drums with layers of distortion.

For a guy frequently described as soft-spoken and reserved in interviews, Jamie Smith did manage to eek out a boast in the Grantland piece. “”If the record is successful, people aren’t going to think about when it was released. They’re just going to think of it as a classic.” The drum sounds Smith meticulously crafted over and over in his bedroom years ago, along with his childhood friends Croft and Sim’s nightbus confessions, have become entirely trademark for the band, yet they keep finding new ways to tell the same story. Coexist is a continuation, but in an exciting way, they’re building their canon piece by piece.

 

64 Colors

Ariel Pink is weird, or at least that’s what he’d want you to think. His look, the unsharpened Crayola hair and refusals to wear shirts under vests certainly fits the hype, but the music he makes comes out of an intensely structured pop place. Enough writers have pointed out that the “pop”-music artists like Pink have been tenuously constructing over the past decade is misremembered. Yet, it’s become so entwined with what people who didn’t live through 70’s and 80’s am/fm radio believe was the case that it doesn’t matter at this point. This newly perverted world of radio is filled with Roy Orbison’s waffling voice, enough fuzz to make you adjust the dial, and strictly Fab-Four melodies. Pink has just replaced Rocky Raccoon with a practically monk like ode to Schnitzel on the latest record, Mature Themes.

If Before Today was the star turn, the major-minor label release on 4AD and the 9.0 rating from Pitchfork, well then MT is an extension of his newfound major-minor profile. While his live shows are studies in disorganization, the lead singer as a volatile and uncompromising figure in front of a chagrined band, on Mature Themes Pink is about as studied and ordered as can be. The two singles making the rounds in advance of the album’s release date have practically been covered in bubble gum. “Only in My Dreams” cops some of the atmosphere of “Can’t Hear My Eyes” to solid results, but the true standout is the cover of recent Lights In The Attic excavation Donnie & Joe Emerson’s “Baby”, which puts Haunted Graffiti in their shabbiest prom tuxes. “Baby” doesn’t necessarily fit the rest of the album’s tone and almost sounds tacked on, it doesn’t even appear on the vinyl copy of the album, but it makes for a great mixtape track.  “Baby” is an actual connection, some sort of clue into what actually makes Pink tick. In this case it’s a record from the late 70’s that barely left the Emerson’s house, which sounds about right for the guy.

Pink claims Mature Themes was the record he wanted to make during the recording Before Today. Whether or not this is complete bullshit is all part of Pink’s deal. He’s old fashioned in the sense of being a hassle, someone outside of the pleasant, down-to-earth lead singer that’s taken hold in the past few years. Pink is most definitely not down-to-earth, he’s a teen-beat polka dotted caricature of a rock star that would probably love to read that. In the lead-up to Mature Themes, it seems like there’s been a new out-there Pink quote blog cycle. A few months ago he announced he “broke up the band” on facebook only to have his publicist smooth it over soon after. The other day he said he was just a regular joe who wanted a family and a wife in the kitchen, which is the biggest bluff of all for the dainty man who appears on the cover of the August issue of The Wire with the tagline of “The Coming of the Beta Male.” We’ll see where MT takes him, but it’s probably not far from where he is now, which is about as good as it gets for someone trying to follow up their breakthrough.

James Murphy Wears The King Hat

When LCD Soundsystem announced their last show at Madison Square Garden in early February 2011, I took my place in the virtual queue to try and snatch tickets. I didn’t get a chance to complete an order that day, instead, it’s gone down as a long past white whale, a concert river-monster that I’ll never catch up with. When the show streamed on Youtube, I couldn’t bring myself to hit play on the feed, I felt like I was cheating the show to end all shows by filtering through my small laptop screen and headphones. Shut Up and Play The Hits is a chance at reconciliation, a chance to see what the LCD family have done with the many camera angles, the hours of footage from MSG, all on the big screen with a crowd of fans seated neatly and quietly around me.

There’s just enough concert footage, just enough James Murphy in New York post-show, and just enough of his French bulldog cozying up to his shoes while he ignores his phone to keep your attention for the just under two hour run-time. The show footage is pretty spectacular. We’re treated to all the jerky movements of the band necessary to play Murphy’s hyper-kinetic tunes, while the shots of an audience unafraid to push themselves off the shoulders of complete strangers give you a small window into the large-scale catharsis a LCD show provided. The band’s live shows were always a gear-head’s dream, with enough wires, keyboards, and drumheads to completely fill a club stage to the brink of total domination. But inside what Murphy marvels as “a boxing arena,” they’re allowed to breathe. This was a band ready for a bigger stage from the start, but the band wanted to play dance clubs instead, a chance to play to perpetual flailing young limbs of the world. That they turned into a rock band capable of filling that boxing arena to the back corners is a feat unmatched by new-ish bands not named Arcade Fire or Phoenix.

Watching the band one last time (heh, we’ll see I guess) I kept going back to all the times I saw LCD. The glazed look on my face must have been disconcerting for anybody walking through the aisles to get popcorn, but Shut Up And Play The Hits sent me back in a pretty visceral way. Whether it was James Murphy in a white suit wielding a champagne bottle at Coachella opening for fucking Jay-Z, the traffic on the way to Toronto when the New Order track I put next to Hot Chip on a mix went so well together l I thought I had found my next calling in life, or the naked guy running through the bottom of the Bonnaroo crowd. While I didn’t become a dj, that naked guy ended up getting tackled by Wayne Coyne side-stage, and James took off the white suit jacket mid-set, they’re memories that I’ll remember as high points of my life. Seeing the crowd’s faces in the theater and on the floor of MSG, I’m sure others see it the same way.

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