Monday, 30 September 2013

Indie White Girls Dance Back

You have to give it to indie white girls. At a time when their male peers are pandering to expectations by putting out music that don’t mean much (I’ll include Arctic Monkey and Kings of Leon as examples because both released routinely rubbish records this month), the comparative indie white girls almost realise that the industry will not take them as seriously as the pop star sisterhood and rock god brotherhood. Therefore, indie white girls have made this September a month of much appreciated uniqueness.

Waxahatchee’s Misery over Dispute
God, this is a song that is criminally teasing. It’s startlingly stark and crushingly effective, but at less than two minutes long (of which five seconds is wasted in titles), Brooklyn’s Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield to her mum) has created the core of a stupendously good song that ought to have gone on for at least 177 seconds more. With a person that looks as cool as Waxahatchee, and moves so mesmerizingly, it seems a shame that she hasn’t got her own syndicated dance show.

Alice Boman’s Waiting
Sweden’s Alice Boman is analogue in a digital world. If Icona Pop is the Swedish music equivalent of Michael Bay, then our Alice is Ingmar Bergman. She creates hauntingly evocative songs, the kind that is recorded on magnetic tape where lo-fidelity hiss and imperfections is part of the emotive experience. This is exquisitely intimate music, almost like she’s rerecording the song exclusively for the person listening to it. Much like Waxahatchee, our Alice also has her indie white girl dance moves down pat.

Au Revoir Simone’s Crazy
One had to be told that this video is a spoof of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (not good for a film blog, I know). If anything, it looks like a parody of me at my big sister’s wedding in 1998. Au Revoir Simone makes enjoyable kooky pop songs and this track is no different. You want to listen it again and again and again until you’re dizzy with glee. This is proper feel good pop music that is more intricate than appears. It’s a lot of fun, even if the video is sorely bereft of moody monochrome and classic indie white girl dance moves.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Mazzy Star Returns with an Album the World Needs

Mazzy Star’s music is like the most gorgeous sleep imaginable. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, the sounds of starlight crumbling into stardust. It exists on another plane of unreality, the kind of music millions love but is unique to one band. There isn’t another artist that sounds like Mazzy Star, and their sound cannot be replicated by imitators no matter how hard they might try. There is no other. Mazzy Star is Mazzy Star.

Because Mazzy Star has not issued an album since 1996, this week’s release of their first LP in seventeen years, Seasons of Your Day, is nothing short of a true music event. It’s a big deal because the world of music has changed so much since 1996, not just in terms of the nature of popular music, but also because of how music is made and distributed. A band returning to this new world may feel inclined to adopt new methodologies and upgrades in order to justify a comeback, but Mazzy Star isn’t that kind of band. Instead, they’re releasing an album that picks up exactly where they left off.

This is timeless music, the type that mattered as much in the late 1980s as it will thirty years from now. Mazzy Star’s music can never go out of fashion, much in the way it never was in fashion to begin with. Mazzy Star is perhaps a band that was never supposed to be famous, becoming popular because of one song that proved irresistible to advertisers, Hollywood studio executives, television producers and MTV programmers everywhere: Fade into You. Even though the band had lost faith in the music industry, they’ve never doubted the enduring brilliance Fade into You or any of their other compositions, with lead singer Hope Sandoval recently declaring "I think a lot of our songs are good". This is about as high praise one can get from a taciturn band known for, according to British music journalist Dorian Lynskey, its “cancelled tours, interview walkouts and profound, belligerent silences”. Like we said, Mazzy Star is Mazzy Star.

This year has seen sleeping music legends like Mazzy Star, Soundgarden, Pixies, Luscious Jackson, My Bloody Valentine and Sebadoh make returns after decades of inactivity. Why they’ve all come back at the same time is unknown, though it most likely has to do with natural timing than anything other. These bands have nothing to prove or much to gain by courting a new generation fans. They simply faded into silence and came back brightly when they had something new to share.

That’s the craziest thing about making records; you can spend years thinking, travelling, romancing, self-destructing and living a life that has nothing to do with what you’re creating and then an album comes together within a matter weeks. It’s hard to think of another art form that’s so painstaking yet spontaneous.

Seasons of Your Day can be streamed track by track here or listen in whole below.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

An Animated Autumn in Music Videos

As the music industry’s major labels scale back on investing in interesting new artists, emerging musicians will often take promotional matters into their own hands, devising bespoke campaigns to get their music heard. Digital technology has reduced the price of creating artistically ambitious music videos, though quality often veers from inspired to enfeebled.
But it’s the presence of animated music videos that has been of interest this autumn, mainly because these musicians are new artists signed to small independent labels, yet their videos are admirably designed and not lacking creative intent. Whereas Coldplay can pillage the loaded wallets of EMI for its expensive animated shorts, the artists featured below probably sought out neophyte animators for their own music videos. The results are of varied quality, but there’s no doubt that the people that made them are driven by energy, enthusiasm and passion. More importantly, each song is a winner.
Caracol’s Shiver
Canadians are like Europeans, aren’t they? After all, they share many of the same values as us and can speak a range of our languages. Carole Facal is a Canadian singer-songwriter who usually sings in French but is branching out into English. She goes by the stage name of Carcol and has produced a catchy indie pop song that is enjoyable enough to play on mainstream radio but cool in ways that preserve a sense of playful hipness.  The video toys with live performance and animation, though it's the latter that works best.
In true Canadian style, Carcol has opted to forsake the countless income she could generate by selling such a pleasing track via iTunes and has chosen instead to give it away for free. That is what you call sonic philanthropy.

Lanterns on the Lake’s Until the Colours Run
Lanterns on the Lake is a Bella Union act that has acquired a devoted fan base over the last five years. Their debut album Gracious Tide, Take Me Home was a critical smash in 2011, and Monday’s release of the follow up LP Until the Colours Run is getting some of the best reviews this year.
The title track from the album features an animated video that is just as cacophonous and beautifully strange as the song. Lanterns on the Lake’s music blends rock, folk and electronic beats in fascinating ways, making them one of the most interesting British acts of now. The band hails from the wastelands of Newcastle-upon-tyne; their ethereal music often entwined with political lyrics about industrial inertia and working-class attrition. This is the kind of music that engages one’s intellect and senses, something that seems hard to come by these days.

Outfit’s House on Fire
The Beatles were perhaps the worst thing to happen to Liverpool. That band’s mythical shadow looms so heavy that we fail to recognise just what an amazing rock city it remains, producing marvellously progressive bands that are as important as anything to come out of Manchester or Sheffield.
Outfit is of the same ilk as that other excellent Liverpudlian post-punk act Clinic, but newer in terms of currency. Room on Fire is rhythmically charged, but there is an intense quality to its sound that unnerves whilst also making you want to dance. That’s not an easy thing to achieve. The video’s surreal animation contributes to its weirdness, amplifying its overall sense of gratifying oddness.