EVEN IF you don’t care, Patrol is committed to not throwing away weekly features of renewable content and this week, for your ignoring and skipping over pleasure, I’m proud to present the eighth installment of This Week in Music.
I apologize for the absence but it’s been an insane few weeks that saw my MCL tear with a sickening twist, my internship applications barely get into the mail, and Barack easily get into the White House. Then, despite all my griping and criticism, I took a warm run through nostalgia with Coldplay’s Halloween extravaganza at Verizon (you may revoke what little indie cred I have left), wrote a few papers for class, and spent a weekend beating every alien filled, chainsaw buzzing level of Gears of War 2 (one of my finer moments).
And if this pointless run through a sleep sated memory wasn’t good enough, there’s the startling fact that tomorrow I will be donning the colors of the blue and green and cheering for the, deep breath, Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Yes, my loyal and devoted readership of three (hi mom), the world is turning and I’m still sitting right here in the blue state for lovers.
Without further ado, This Week in Music, complete with downloadable links for every song, and a ridiculously clever title, courtesy of my favorite dorm dwelling Dexter watcher. (this typed out entrance should be read and envisioned closely alongside the lines of Bono circa Mexico City 1997).
(skip ahead to 3:30 if you want)
M83, “Kim and Jessie”
One problem afflicts those of us nubile children born in the year of 19 and 86—all our jokes about the 1980’s just fall flat. While I can make any number of cutting and partially witty remarks about the state of the boy band thumping gel slapping music of the 1990’s and reference the acid tripping rock and roll of the 1960’s and 70’s (what, there’s a difference between 65 and 78?), I just can’t talk about the 80’s with any degree of realistic understanding or brilliance. I blame fear, because whenever I started to crawl into that culture, I just got lost in Nikki’s hair, or a sea of Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club re-runs.
When I imagine the 80’s, through my rose colored retrospective glasses, the entire world sounds and looks like the dreamy synth driven artistic canvas drawn by French artist Anthony Gonzalez and M83. Yes, this is a band that has been out there for awhile. Yes, they have their own session on Pitchfork. And yes, you may have been listening to them for the last year, but if you’re like me and hadn’t joined the party, today is your day of salvation. Kim and Jessie serves as the first single from Gonzalez’s lovingly crafted homage to my birth decade, Saturdays = Youth, and it’s probably one of the best songs that I’ve heard in a while.
Adjectives like transcendent and ethereal get thrown around far too quickly by inspiration lacking hack writers, but when the synth dripping strains of this song open, it feels like you need to discover an entirely new book of words to try and describe what’s coming out of the speakers. The band gets compared to My Bloody Valentine which works on one very small level, but while you’ll end up in an ecstatic place of pain and heartbreak with the legendary shoe-gazers, M83 takes you to a place that’s a little dark, but has the promise of so much light.
The whispy vocals may, “shatter the peace,” but Gonzalez takes the listener on a journey that’s as mysteriously dark and promising as that of the song’s protagonists. Possessing the type of dream-like quality that seems to be reserved for the most dramatic movie-time montages, Kim and Jessie defines the use of “cinematic song-writing.” It’s a floating piece of ambient writing that still maintains a sense of coherency and focus that precludes the directionless synth bludgeoning that characterizes the best attempts of so many self-important sweater wearers. If Take Me to the Riot, rocked your leg warmers off, then Kim & Jessie and Saturdays = Youth is perfect. This is pretty much my favorite band of the week, if not the month.
Download: Kim & Jessie
Modern Skirts, “Like Lunatics”
This little pop band from Georgia has been on heavy rotation in my life for the last few weeks. Their new album, All of Us in Our Night, arrived in our office the same day that Zipf headlined a show with them at IOTA, and their manager threw a copy of the first album my way. Despite the gimmicky feel of the electronic drum line and the vocal distortion, these guys have a knack for writing incredibly catchy and soulful pop songs. Like Lunatics highlights lead singer Jay Gulley’s emotive voice that stretches over a foundation of deceptively difficult harmonic layers.
Rather than relying upon the electronics for any type of crutch, Modern Skirts takes the tool and uses it alongside strong backing vocals, understated piano lines, and well-proportioned drumming. It’s the type of music that will never feature thirteen minute drum solos or a spontaneous live reworking of a song, but it is a sound that has a very definite place within the landscape of the musical world and deserves a long and slow listen. Catalogue of Generous Men, their first album, and deserves more than just a short name-check. We told you about these guys back in the spring, and I’m still preaching the virtues of these young geniuses that make pop song into anything but a slur.
Download: Like Lunatics
Ron Sexsmith, “This is How I Know”
Ron Sexsmith is 44. He started his own band when he was fourteen, released eleven albums since 1991, and has never received widespread success. None of those factors should matter to you, because this honey voiced song-smithy is still crafting some of the sweetest sultry music that you’re not listening to. This love song drips with the confident swagger of a musician that’s been writing songs and crafting hooks for far too many years and if there’s any problem with the piece, it’s that it’s almost too polished. When Sexsmith croons, “This is how I know that you’re near me,” you don’t really care that it sounds like it could be at home in a martini-ridden lounge or in the soundtrack to your parents favorite movie, it’s just good music and deserves to be listened to.
There will always be a place in the world for those voices that have not been overwhelmed by joy-robbing cynicism and pain, and those voices that still believe that one honest word and note can be sung. Sexsmith writes songs that depend on the listeners ability to transcend dried out musical categorizations of “lounge music” and let the slow trumpets and piano melt pretension and bitterness. It’s cold and gray here in Virginia, but when I walk down Clarendon Blvd, with my jacket buttoned tight and Sexsmith whispering into my ears—the world doesn’t seem too bad.
Download: This is How I Know
Kanye West, “Streetlights”
There are few things sadder than to realize that the artist or band that you used to depend on for vicarious pleasure is not the same person anymore. Every single song that’s been leaked from Heartbreak and the 808’s has made it’s auto-tuned way out of my speakers and has been accompanied by the hope that just maybe, just maybe, this song might actually be more than a grating walk down a uninspiring road. To be perfectly honest, Streetlights isn’t that inspiring in comparison to the rest of the selections this week (with the possible exception of Kraak & Smaak, but they’re Dutch, so give them a break), but when you compare the individual track to the rest of the upcoming album, it positively glooooows.
Kanye would love to write meaningful and heart-wrenching pop ballads but he can’t sing well enough to bring the audience close, and auto-tune separates the ear from the heart. There are few people better with the beats than Kanye, and he writes some of the most inventive hooks and choruses to flow out on a dance floor but when he goes away from what he does best, he just doesn’t have the voice to pick up where the rap leaves off.
Here’s the other problem that most people don’t get with auto-tune—it doesn’t allow for ballads. There is something about the computer drone of the effect that precludes the possibility of writing a song that can get next to a persons heart. Yes, you can write all the songs in the world about partying in the club, or buying her a drink, but when it comes to actually sharing your heart with a person through a slow ballad, auto-tune acts as an electronic divider between the ear and the heart. Take someone like John Legend crooning, “I know my destination/but I’m just not there,” and even this underwhelming song would take on a profundity that’s lost in the electro-crackle.
Then there’s just the fact that Auto-Tune is absolutely beaten to death in this album and isn’t used effectively or sparingly. Kanye is the kid with a new toy, and he just doesn’t want to put it down. Enjoy the best of his worst album.
Kraak & Smaak, “Squeeze Me”
These Dutch wunder-kids make the type of pretention-less dance music that contains some highlights of infectious danceable delight. The entire album of Plastic People runs a little long for my taste, but the single Squeeze Me takes a few dance beats, a little sarcasm, and a strong dose of funk and throws it all out there with a rambling little piano riff. Perez Hilton raves about these guys, but that’s no reason for you to run away.
“Cuz you make everything alright, when you hold me, you squeeze me tight”
Download: Squeeze Me
One more from M83, one piece of WTF? and one from the actual decade of my birth, complete with blisteriiiiiing guitar solo and Girl Talk ripping line.
M83, "Graveyard Girl"
3OH!3!, "Don't Trust Me"
Rick Springfield, "Jessie's Girl"
Nathan Martin is Patrol's Washington, D.C. music editor and an intern at The Washington Post Express
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