Category Archives: music

Let’s Talk About AlunaGeorge’s “Body Music”

alunageorge

Today, the London duo that is AlunaGeorge (Aluna Francis and George Reid) dropped their much-anticipated album, Body Music. I credit this stellar playlist by DonRaphaelAli on 8tracks for turning me on to them. It’s slinky, sexy and got me through most of this winter and frigid spring. Dare you not to adore it, especially if James Blake, Ghost Poet and The Weeknd happen to live pretty high on your list. “Your Drums, Your Love” is the song that got me hooked:

I have trouble describing their work without over-describing it. Let’s just say that there’s something  gorgeous and vulnerable about what they’re doing. Maybe they play in a key that resonates with certain folks particularly and I’m lucky enough to be one of them. My impression of their work, and popular reaction to it, is that it’s delightfully delicious and digestible.

I read today in Lorrie Moore’s stunning short story, People Like That Are the Only People Here, that “The trip and the story of the trip are always two different things. The narrator is the one who has stayed him but then, afterward, pressers her mouth upon the traveler’s mouth, in order to make the mouth work, to make the mouth say, say, say. One cannot go to a place and speak of it, one cannot both see and say, not really. One can go, and upon returning make a lot of hand motions and indications with the arms.  The mouth itself, working at the speed of light, at the eye’s instructions, is necessarily struck still; so fast, so much to report, it hangs open and dump as a gutted bell. All that unsayable life! That’s where the narrator comes in. The narrator comes with her kisses and mimicry and tidying up. The narrator comes and makes a slow, fake song of the mouth’s eager devastation.” (Best American Short Stories: 1998, p.207 – 208)

Is your heart swollen yet?

I hate to admit that Moore may be onto something there; cultural writing and critique very often falls into the echo-chamber category. Very few cultural critics and ambassadors manage to bring original insight to the table, and seem to chatter only for themselves.

With bands like AlunaGeorge, which are currently in that buzzy phase, I hesitate to say much for exactly this reason. My advice: get the album and listen for yourself. While you’re at it, take a gander at the below tracks for some more beautiful work. Then get on to a bit of your own sonic explorations.

1. Cyril Hahn’s remix of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name”

Just yes.

2. Open, by Rhye

My March and April were entirely about Rhye’s album Woman, and this song particularly. The entire album is intricate, sensual, fleeting and forever. The video takes away from the song in a major way, so I didn’t include it. It’s here, if you’re interested.

Here also is a longer set of Rhye songs, courtesy of the FADER:

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xx

kls

Hand on Heart – Moko

If you’re a 90s kid with an affinity for New Age music and slow jams, Moko is your kryptonite. Enjoy. 

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Laissez les bons temps rouler,

kls

Musicians to watch

I wanted to give a s/o to those artists with obviously unfulfilled potential. The early rounds, for these folks, are hopefully just warm-ups.

Jake Bugg: English musician, really compelling for a few seconds at a time, every few seconds. Enough to keep you guessing but also stay a little disappointed. Lots going on, but not enough. Yet.

Lianne Las Havas: Another English artist, beautiful voice and aesthetic. Her sound is wonderful, but her lyrics need a little bit more depth than they have. She will get more confident and her lyrics will get better.

Sky Ferriera: Hard to argue with this beautiful American pop-punk princess. Think Marina and the Diamonds, but she is a touch less refined and maybe more melancholic. While she is a niche artist – that is, I’m not sure she has potential for mainstream longevity – she is doing a great job making a name for herself. I’m interested in seeing how her artistic concepts develop.

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xx

kls

Late Spring Music and a Wes Anderson Reference

It’s a greying day in early May, and I just want to find my way to a slinky, swanky bar and go dancing. Maybe to this one:

Ladino Song – Oi Va Voi 

Something about that song, maybe it’s the subtle horns, reminds me of a Wes Anderson movie. The melody is vaguely unsettling, almost sinister, as most of his visuals are. I love that subtle subversion.

It’s a little something, but here’s one of my favorite songs (this one’s actually from a Wes Anderson short film, Hotel Chevalier.):

If that can’t get you where you’re going, then you’re going the wrong places.

xx

kls

what’s good

Screen Shot 2012-07-24 at 12.22.12 AM

A day late and a dollar short, deep in the summer’s inevitable introspections, I had a realization: I’ve allowed my tastes to be not just directed but shaped by others’ opinions. I think in following others’ lead, I lost some of my own sensibilities. While aesthetics, zeitgeists, shift through time I’d experienced more than that. I was looking at different kinds of artists, diving into different kinds of music, criticizing different sorts of things. One hundred thousand adages can tell you things like “Be Yourself” but it takes a preoccupation with trends to feel the need to remind yourself. With that in mind, I’m dissecting some trends and in the process, calling bull on myself where necessary.

As an aside: My friends are interesting and my age is of the inter webs, which I took for granted earlier but feel the need to declare now. The highlighted trends that will be relevant to the discussion, because it is likely common ground and visible, are from the world wide web.

1. Rap/Hip-Hop, depending on what definition you prefer: I do love the music, appreciate the style, the whole nine yards. I’m into it. But let’s be real here, Kitty Pryde is not a high-quality rapper. Whatever arguments you can make for Kitty Pryde, or Lil B, or whoever Twitter’s #rapperoftheweek is, I’ve made them. I’ve listened to them being made, paid attention and if not agreed, at least acknowledged. The fact that, at this stage of her career, she’s anything more than a very minor blip on the radar screen proves the point that it’s a trend. Lil B, whose enthusiasm and general goodwill I am fond of, or Kitty Pride, whose style I despise but cadence/flow I begrudgingly enjoy (look at me still justifying myself), gain a fan base and that’s great. Power to them. I’m not here to take away anything from their accomplishments. But I am here to say that 1. it’s a trend, and 2. this type of music industry doesn’t produce high-quality artists. When every sound can be sold, there’s not value to being good. There’s only value in being different. Which is fine if different and new is all you want, but I’d rather 100 Frank Ocean and early The Weeknds then 1,000 Kreayshawns and Lil Bs. While we’re at it, I like soulful music and I love old-school country. While Taylor Swift makes my ears bleed, sign me up forever for Johnny Cash and Justin Townes Earles and Willy Nelson and the soulful stuff.

2. Internet art: The accessibility of the internet is its greatest asset. But so-called internet art is lazy. By internet art, I mean the images and symbols and compositions that occur so frequently on the interweb. Cosmic cats? Graphic photo-collages? Pixel art? That lacks originality and artistry. If that’s what you want to surround yourself with, by all means, do. But I’m not going to pretend it’s anything other than simplifications, visual representations of pop cultures endless echo chamber. Theorize all you like about what internet art says about our generation- I’m sure it’ll be wonderfully interesting and full of all the usual bull. But don’t call it inspired- that it is not.

As an oblique sort of proof, an emphasis on the medium and method as an intrinsic end is required to justify its artistic value. That necessity on explanation shows that it’s a flattened sort of art, an easy, an unsustainable art. Quirky, funny, clever, accessible, current, yes. Da Vinci didn’t need medium and method to prove his point, and neither did Dali or Miro. Means to an end, but not the end in itself. This emphasis on the medium and method are characteristic of modern art, and even contemporary art. I have a theory that art became sterile and too oblique around the time medium and method became the primary movers of the art world. Jackson Pollack, one of the first to emphasize method, was revolutionary, but method was again a means to an end, not an intrinsic end. Besides the “if you’re not first, you’re last” idea, it’s important to recognize that Pollack’s work, and other  revolutionary artists’, struck people and resonated. That being said, I’ll never give up iheartcatgifs.tumblr.com. GIFs are, for now, manipulable enough to be a whole different story. I’m not a fan of so-called “internet art,” though I might have fooled you a year ago.

3. * cRaZy SyMbOls *:

It’s not always bad but it’s not always good, and it’s always indicative. For me, trendy frivolity is nothing to be proud of. If it looks good, roll with it, but if your diamonds and snowflakes and capitals are a desperate internet plea for quote-unquote relevancy, just, no.

The bottom line is this: You Don’t Need Anyone To Tell You What’s Good. You Know.

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As always, and especially now, laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl

think pink, etc.

pink peonies

I guess it’s a sign of growing up that I’m coming back around to things I once rejected out of hand, or something like that. One of those things is the color pink. I haven’t been a big fan of pink on its own in a long while. I read it as garish, simultaneously bodily and plasticine. But I’m reevaluating it, and while my favorite color will ever be orange, pink is making a comeback.

And now for something completely different: I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a song by Pink Martini, that jazzy band from Portland with the great album covers. However, their youtube page is s-l-a-c-k-i-n-g, and this is the best video I could find. Most of their other songs are better than this one, but this video’s set in Italy mostly. Then again, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t include Ariel Pink, whose vibes I’m especially digging on:

The weird home-video qualities of this vid remind me of Beck, which I’m okay with, and somehow it also reminds me of “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” Back to the show.

I’d go so far as to say that I see a renaissance of a feminine aesthetic, modern and a little brutal, and pink has all the dynamism and vibrancy to spearhead the movement. First, a small collection of pinked images, culled from voyages across the interwebs. Second, an investigation of some artists whose vibes are vibing with mine these days. Let’s get to it:

Printed pencils? Sign me up twice. My latin teacher in high school had them made for her classes every year around exam time. My favorites said ERRARE EST HUMANEM, to err is human, but either Magistra McQuaid intentionally had them done this way as a latin joke- the best and nerdiest kind- or it was perfectly, ironically true. The correct translation of “to err is human” is “err are est humanum.”

Pretty pink polly want a cracker?

Though I usually try to avoid inane-Tumblr-photoblog-ness, I like all the vibes going on here. When my hair starts going grey, it’s also going to start going pastel I think. Pink and purple pastels seems to carry that undertone in hair, and artfully pink hair? I’m into it. There are also so many pink accessories I’m not even going to get into it. But the look is  goooooood.

In case you were wondering. This image is part of Benefit’s advertising campaign. The cosmetics company is actually owned by Louis Vuitton.

The Princess of all Princesses, Grace Kelly playing photographer at a swimming competition at Palm Beach, Monte Carlo in 1972.

An image ripped straight from Pinterest. This is, according to the inter webs, a textile designed by Leah Bartholomew and Beci Orpin. I’m having a bit of trouble finding their site, as I’d love to have this print, but alas. Everything online is simultaneously accessible and buried.

Though obliquely related, here’s a thing:

J Dilla. RIP. 

Here’s a place that looks amazing. Senegal’s Lake Retba, or as the French refer to it Lac Rose, is pinker than any milkshake. Experts say the lake gives off its pink hue due to cyanobacteria, a harmless halophilic bacteria found in the water. Lake Retba has a high salt content, much like that of the Dead Sea, allowing people to float effortlessly in the massive pink water. I hope it’s real, because I really want to go there.

Though I’m pretty sure this isn’t real, she’s still beautiful and perfect and melancholy in all the best ways. Here’s to the girl/woman of all years.

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As promised, below are a few artists doing daring and beautiful things featuring pink:

Melancholie, Sarah Illenberger

Sarah Illenberger, a beautiful, cool German artist, does fantastic things with food. Though not all of her work features edibles, the ones that do are particularly appealing.

This pop-up paper cut installation of hers, titled Ambpur, is really strange and beautiful.

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The fantastic Mr. Gray Malin‘s work often has a faintly pink feel, though it’s not overtly feminine or brutal. I think that the “pinkness” is more an element of the manmade/natural boundary he works with. His aerial photographs of the worlds beaches are graphic, eye-catching, quirky and oh-so-sunny in an almost apocalyptic way. Maybe that’s just me. Images of people from really high in the air always seems to be accompanied by catastrophe in the movies.

Sagaponack Main Beach, Bridge Hampton

Lisbon, Portugal

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50-year-old Korean artist Do-Ho Suh is one of my all-time favorites. I was fortunate enough to see his phenomenal Floor, at the Ackland Art Museum a few years ago. His work is always intricate, always astonishing, always requires an active interaction between piece and viewer. I’m a sucker for installation art, and his is usually pristine. Here’s a fascinating clip from PBS’ fantastic series Art21, featuring him.

This piece of his, 2007’s Cause and Effect, is a huge installation of acrylic and stainless steel:

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Here’s one via the anonymous depths of Tumblr. If you know from whence it came, holler:

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signing off, combining my favorite, orange, with a great version of pink:

laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl

a summertime feeling

aloha

Running headfirst into the deep middle of summer, I’m feeling a little swamped in this casual bedlam and controlled abandon. My to-do and to-don’t lists are both miles long; they’re not getting any shorter and tomorrow is still coming on strong, but I think there’s still time for a brief detour. With that spirit, I’m diving into a couple songs that I just can’t get enough of. Get ready for the short sonic vacation, boat departing now:

A slinky, shimmering cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love,” by Girl Crisis. Girl Crisis is the kind of supergroup you’d dream about if you dreamt of Brooklyn’s female musicians banding together and recording haunting tracks in that dewy Super 8mm film. Their version of this song loses some of Cohen’s charm in favor of seduction:

Every few months, the band releases another cover track. And though the women involved have changed slightly since the first videos in 2008, the aesthetic is cohesive. If you like this one, scoot through the other tracks on their YouTube account. I liked most of them, but like the tracks better individually more than back-to-back.

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“Bashful” by Kwes. The only original song on the list, unintentionally.

Their EP came out late April of this year, and I’m pretty fond of it so far. Kwes is a producer and musician from London, and it’s no surprise that he’s worked with Ghostpoet, as they’re tonally similar. Kwes is a synesthete, which is that fantastic thing where senses are linked differently than they are in other people. For Kwes, who has color synesthesia, particular notes correspond to specific colors in his brain. How loverly.

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The fantastic Seu Jorge’s cover of Bowie’s “Changes,” filmed for Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, just never loses it’s perfection:

Every performance of his I’ve ever heard has this trademark gorgeous treatment and delicacy.

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For those late nights:

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Finally, Nina Simone’s rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” :

And on and on.

Laissez les bon temps rouler,

the girl

imaginarium

tunnel vision

In the sound scene, new artists need to be innovative/creative/boundary-breaking. This has always been true; this edge is where the excitement is.

If you’re looking for a unifying theme for today’s music choices, it’s only the feeling of being deep in fog and dense static. These are the artists that I can’t get enough of right now.

The following artists are making wavves:

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odd future

Everything about them is filthy. Formally known as OFWGKTA, or Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, this rap collective is exploding. They’ve been most active in the past year, but each member has been working for a while longer than that. Tyler, The Creator is the “leader,” if there can be such a figure in a superficially radical, mostly anarchical, seemingly nihilistic group. If those modifiers tell you nothing else, it’s that this group is nearly impossible to define and understand. OF is releasing conflicting information and the press doesn’t seem to know how to deal with them, making for a difficult analysis and even more fraught consumer experience. Anyhow, this is Tyler’s most popular solo song, “Yonkers”:

And a video of them being interviewed that embodies their approach:

Odd Future is outspoken, offensive, insensitive and makes something that is either shock-art, aimless, destructive fun or trash. As a listener, you’re never really sure whether they’re having a go at you, at themselves, at everything or at nothing. Whatever it is, it’s compelling. Here are some links to articles about them, and images:

from a buzzy source, the fader

from a mild source, npr

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james blake

Maybe the best thing from britain since the british invasion, James Blake is a young, fresh, impressionist musician. To describe his work would be to over-describe it, but you better believe it’s an experience. “Limit To Your Love” is his most well known song/landscape:

Here’s the version of the song that Feist did a few years ago, apologies for the junk video quality; Youtube is a terrible mistress:

And here he sounds quite like Antony Hegarty of Antony and The Johnsons. I’m a lonely painter, and I live in a box of paints:

Perhaps the most interesting of his songs is the interpretation of the wilhelm scream. The wilhelm scream is, according to the oracle, the scream equivalent of a laugh track. Need a sound effect for being shot in an old western film? Time for the wilhelm scream. And now, time for James Blake to make a sweet and inventive track:

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porcelain raft

It’s neat, subtle and delicate. Porcelain Raft’s music could break your heart. Clean and soft like rain, here it is, take a listen:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/16889978]

While looking at THE FADER about OFWGKTA, I ran across a tender little article about Porcelain Raft. Looks like he’s got a little buzz.

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bill callahan

I can’t get enough of Bill Callahan. His music falls right into my sweet spot of elegant alternative country, and this song has been my soundtrack for the past month. With a new album out, it’s worth the mention:

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I leave you with this, the fifth:

the weeknd

Grimy, depraved, intimate, The Weeknd dives deep into the lusty sonic swamp. The romance of the songs spiral into a beautiful kind of broken. Toronto R&B sensation Abel Tesfaye is the notoriously unknown mastermind behind the music. For now, I’ll leave you in this house of balloons:

Bring your love baby, I can bring the shame.

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Thanks for hanging in there, and as always,

laissez le bon temps rouler,

the girl