José González's music has always maintained a timeless quality. In the realm of contemporary folk, there is no competition for his soothing yet soulful tones and melodic, plucking guitar. On Vestiges & Claws, the first solo album he's released in 7 years, a new kind of electrifying energy is at play. Melding the intimately personal with the overwhelming impersonal, González takes us on a journey with him, creating the kind of depth that elevates a folk album from pleasant background music to a collection that will stay and grow with you -- as it has evidently stayed and grown with him -- for a long time.
Jose Gonzalez - Vestiges And Claws Album Review  

In a universe consisting of four percent matter and ninety-six percent negative space, absence is the dominant substance. With the right frame of mind, a void can be an endless possibility. Disappears' fifth album pounds that clay into a sonic metaphor. Gloom is one thing, but seeing darkness -- an...

Folklorists like to romanticize blues music as being a pure expression of culture, but recorded blues music was carefully marketed to its intended audience from its very beginning. As early as the 1920s, music aimed at African-Americans was labeled as "race music", and the best way to advertise it was in the pages of African-American newspapers. These newspapers had a wide circulation among urban African-Americans and even in parts of the South, where they were treated as contraband and discretely shared. While living in Arkansas, the singer Big Bill Broonzy recalled furtively reading the most famous of these newspapers, The Chicago Defender, and he made the move to Chicago in part because of what he had learned in the newspaper. Broonzy said that Black readers of the Defender were seen as brave, as it was a newspaper that promoted Black migration to the North, criticized racism in the South, and pushed for social change.1
Liars' 2012 full-length, WIXIW, dwelled in doubt and anxiety, pressed against a curtain of murky fragility. Even if one only looks at the cover art for the band's latest follow-up, Mess -- a robust mass of multihued string that looks like the Love Forever Changes hydra head grew dreadlocks -- it's evident that in 2014, the band is in a more positive, confident, and even silly headspace. Mess's stock in trade is industrial dance music -- and although Liars' beats are as primal as they've always been, their music is now a little too emotionally in-check to properly identify as synth-punk.
"What do you mean I don't get it? I'm a genius, I'll understand it; I just need to break it down is all. Now let's see, something about fish sticks interacting with me, makes me a gay fish. Alright now -- what do we know about fish sticks? They're breaded; they're fried; they're frozen. Then under me we have rapper, genius. Hmmm. Then gay fish -- homosexual and they swim...." - "Kanye West" on South Park
Kanye West Yeezus (2013) Def Jam Recordings Kanye West - Yeezus Album ReviewI've never given one solid shit about Kanye West. Perhaps I assumed he would be relegated to the fading collective memory of that awful decade, the '00s -- a waning image of yesteryear, alongside Rudolph Guiliani, Suicide Girls, and Shitty Movies Ben Affleck. He was, after all, the star of one of the greatest events in '00s history, when he hijacked a live telethon for Katrina victims, went way off script and declared "George Bush doesn't care about black people!" A couple days later, a heroic everyman citizen told Vice President Cheney to go fuck himself, right to his face: a butterfly effect Mr. West can be proud of.
And now, here we are, 2013! Holy shit, how 'bout 2013? If someone told me in 2005 that in 8-years-time, Japan would be melting from radioactivity, Daft Punk would make a yacht rock record with Nile Rodgers on guitar, Barack Obama was a two-term president and he too was a war criminal, and Kanye West from the Katrina telethon just dropped one of the best records of the year (and... oh by the way... it's experimental and grotesque like In Utero -- only nastier -- or Pink Flamingos -- only funnier)... I might have shit myself right there. Ah 2013! I mean, what the hell? There are no rules on this island. It's taken me a while to dig in, but Yeezus is fresh as hell.

 

As far as I'm concerned, pop music is the most exciting frontier for musical innovation. From the mainstream radio-friendly mash-ups of Beyonce, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber down to your favorite neighborhood indie pop band or danceable electronic act, pop music is encompassing of a wide world of sounds, full of ground-breaking firsts. Yet it's safe to say that in the current indie music climate, with its constant breaking and building of narrow-minded subgenres like dream pop, vaporwave, chillwave, and the like, oversaturation often leads to myriad bands which sound more or less identical. Of these, most lack a truly distinguishing spark that makes them stand out. Which is why I get really excited upon the discovery of pop bands who don't easily fit in anywhere, and are able to -- if not reinvent it -- at least give the wheel a furious and energetic spin. My latest and greatest finding lies in Royal Canoe, a group of musicians from the uncommon birthing ground of Winnipeg, Canada. While undoubtedly considered "indie pop" by any wide-casting use of the term, Royal Canoe aren't actually easy to define, especially with non-abstract terminologies. With two drummers, two keyboardists, and four vocalists, the six-member band is kind of all over the place stylistically -- yet somehow, it just works. Royal Canoe Band Interview After talking to Royal Canoe's vocalist and guitarist Matt Peters, I came to realize that what sets Royal Canoe apart from other indie pop bands is not exactly the genre tags they fall under -- of which there are many -- but their fascinating communal character. For a pop band, they are remarkably tenacious. They make a point of having extremely high standards for creation and performance, in service of being the best musicians they can be. Any self-imposed rules they have set for themselves are balanced by a willingness to share artistic duties, as well as an openness to inspiration and experimentation.
"I think everyone definitely has an appreciation for letting their voice be heard but also trying to reach a greater good..." -- Matt Peters

 

Los Angeles via Portland dance band YACHT are always staying busy, but the attention they're receiving is next-level as of late. This compound post samples the music video for their newest offering, "Le Goudron" -- a cover of a song by French singer Brigitte Fontaine -- and their current front-page-of-Hulu fame.

 

FROM YACHT'S PRESS RELEASE: "Le Goudron" is a surrealist revolutionary song originally recorded in 1969 with The Art Ensemble of Chicago; YACHT has reinvented its naive-apocalyptic candor for a neon-soaked dance floor, their preferred autonomous zone."... Of the song, YACHT says, "we can only hope that our frantic, starry-eyed cribbing of Brigitte Fontaine makes us better people. In the meantime, we wanted to pay homage."

YACHT - "Le Goudron" (Briggite Fontaine Cover)

YACHT have transformed Briggite Fontaine's acoustic track into a dancefloor single, in the name of reviving a revolutionary dance anthem. See the French lyrics, with a rough English translation, below; this is not a revolutionary song in the political sense, but in the sensually-aware sense.

 

Download YACHT - "Le Goudron" MP3 Briggite Fontaine - "Le Goudron" (Original)

 

Huh? The album art for British singer-songwriter J. Spaceman's newest album Sweet Heart Sweet Light dons a white background, the outline of a stop sign, and the phrase "Huh?" It's an interesting icon, especially for a man who has made his life's work dodging media and disrupting critics, all the while releasing some of the most cherished music of the past few decades. Is it meant to confuse listeners? Should it signify a new direction for the band? More likely, it's Spaceman's subtle shrug of indifference to every listener.

But sadly, the album's cover is the most interesting word or phrase used throughout the entirety of Sweet Heart Sweet Light. Lyrically, the album is a huge step back for J. Spaceman, otherwise known as Jason Pierce. Spiritualized's lyrics have always been immediate at best, but there was a more heartfelt nature about them on past records. When Pierce sings, "I used up all my affection," and "I lost all of my direction," on "Get What You Deserve," the execution is far from effective, and the character in the song is Pierce personified. Maybe you're piqued by sentiments like "Love lights the flames when there's hearts it can burn," but on most of Sweet Heart Sweet Light, the messages are trite and over-simplified. And maybe taking lyrics out of context to make Pierce sound like a lazy songwriter is over-simplifying the issue, but one spin through the record, and it becomes blatantly obvious that brains behind Spiritualized was grasping at straws for subject matter.

 

When it comes to the very basic language and musical form of Junior Boys' fourth full-length release, It's All True, there is very little obscurity. Clearly, it is an album that only contains words from the English language. Clearly, the music is fairly customary for indie electronic musicians of the Western world. However, a deeper look at the album actually reveals that the songs speak in many different tongues. Whether it is the striking contrast of upbeat electronic music and dark lyrics, which each tell conflicting stories, or the worldly expeditions that were necessary to complete the songs, It's All True turns out to be somewhat of an affirmation of a universal language. Not only did the making of the album cross cultural barriers, but it also explores themes such as, honesty, deceit and authenticity, which have been questioned repeatedly by people over time and around the world in varying ways.

"Selling art doesn't bother me. Making insipid, vacuous art bothers me. The cult of personality bothers me especially because I feel as though I have very little to offer. I'm a bad self-promoter, and I'm constantly reminded of how bad a trait that is for an artist to have. I think that it is sad and frustrating." -- Jeremy Greenspan, of Junior Boys

Conflicting Stories

Though songwriter and vocalist Jeremy Greenspan technically started Junior Boys in 1999 with now former band member Johnny Dark, most people know Junior Boys as Greenspan and engineer Matt Didemus, who entered the picture in 2002. For almost 10 years, Greenspan and Didemus have shown the world that they can make fun tunes with punchy electronics that make listeners want to dance. It's All True is no different. The first – and most immediate – story the album paints is light and upbeat, typical of a dance record. Like opening track "Itchy Fingers," the songs are sultry, enticing, and full of bright keys and wiggling tones. [caption align="alignright" width="215" caption="BUY: F FOR FAKE + IT'S ALL TRUE"]
Artistic Influence:
Orson Welles

F For Fake is loosely a documentary which focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger.

It's All True features three stories about Latin America. 'Bonito the Bull', retitled 'My Friend Bonito', was about a Mexican boy's friendship with a bull; 'The Story of Samba' was centered around Brazil's 1942 Carnaval; 'Four Men On A Raft' was a reenactment of a Time Magazine article about four impoverished Brazilian fisherman who traveled 61 days and 1,650 miles in harsh weather and without navigation instruments.[/caption]