Don’t be fooled, Deerhoof record pop music. If they sound entirely unlike any other pop band you’ve heard, that might be because they have their own unique approach to the genre. As Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier explains it: “Pop = Catchy. Pop = New. Pop = No rules.” Those values are beautifully demonstrated on the band’s latest album Breakup Song, and, as a result, it’s a consistently rewarding LP.
Indeed, Breakup Song is a clean and engaging album. It’s endlessly packed with catchy rhythmic curiosities and melodically surprising snippets. It’s also new and unlike anything the band (and arguably anyone else) has ever released before. And, as always, the band’s only rule seems to be to favor constant experimentation and change. In that regard, it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Deerhoof over the course of their nearly 20 years.
Saunier described their latest album as “Cuban-flavored party-noise-energy music,” and, as bizarre as that might sound, it isn’t too far off from the truth either. As a whole, it’s energetic and lively. It’s often danceable, driving and ever-changing yet rhythmic. Indeed, the album’s pacing and shifting rhythms aren’t entirely unlike any thoughtfully patched together mix by artists like Girl Talk or Diplo. Of course, because this is Deerhoof, everything is recorded with live instrumentation, it’s all original music, and it’s typically high-energy and occasionally clanging and noisy. Oh, and in case you are wondering, the album does, on occasion, boast tropical, Cuban-tinged melodies such as on “The Trouble With Candyhands.”
It pairs well with Kasey’s recipe for Wholewheat Almond Poppyseed Pancakes. After all, the recipe is clean, fresh, and, uhm, poppy. So make yourself a tall stack and drizzle it with all of the maple syrup you want. After all, breakfast = no rules.
I want to tell you all about how awesome Los Angeles/San Francisco-based duo Silver Hands are. The problem is that these two jams by the duo are so sweet, so upbeat, and so danceable that I can’t stop shaking my rump long enough to write anything worth reading. Let’s just say that this pair of tunes from Liz and Drew are pretty damn irresistible and pretty damn catchy – so I guess I’ll just let the music speak for itself. In the meantime, hit play and come join me for an impromptu dance party in the kitchen!
Where can you get more of this stuff? How about on their Soundcloud page.
Vancouver’s Teen Daze has grown a lot since he first his the Internets in mid-2010. His songwriting has matured, his rhythms are more subtly laid-back, and his grooves are catchier. If you need proof, just checking out the first pair of tracks he’s released from his upcoming The Inner Mansions (scheduled for a November 6, 2012 release). I think you’ll like what you hear. I did.
San Francisco’s The Fresh & Onlys have been on an exceptionally solid run since officially forming in 2008. What began in its earliest days as a side-project for frontman/vocalist Tim Cohen and guitarist Shayde Sartin has evolved into an impressive band of its own merit. Indeed, they’ve released four catchy and ever-so-slightly off-beat albums in as many years. Long Slow Dance, which was recorded at Lucky Cat Studios late last year, is their latest and best to date. Not only that, it’s arguably one of the year’s best albums over all.
Long Slow Dance is built upon a foundation of catchy hooks and acoustic guitar-led rhythms imbued with psychedelic grooves and hints of darkly-lit romance. The album opens with the melodically upbeat and glossy “20 Days and 20 Nights.” It’s an acoustic slow-roller drenched in sugary layers of reverb with downcast melancholy lyrics balanced against the tune’s bouncing rhythm.
The album’s title track “Long Slow Dance” features the band at it’s most heart-achingly romantic. It’s a tambourine-spined, black-and-wine love song with a smooth hook as Cohen sings with his most debonaire croon: “Cos true love will drag you out into the road, and set fire to your soul. It’s one long so-called slow dance forever…” It’s a tune full of passion and excitement.
Indeed, Cohen and Co. have stitched their-brand of John Hughes-inspired romance into every available nook of Long Slow Dance. As that implies, despite feel good, crowd-pleasing tunes, it’s often tinged with melancholy and heart break. For example, both “Presence of Mind” and “Dream Girls” are jangly grooves with Cure-esque flourishes. On the latter, which features a beautifully lush vocal hook, Cohen sings atop bright harmonies, his voice dripping with woe: “Dream girls, and the dreams they ruin. Sing a little tune and they break your heart. You can have anything in the world, but you’ll never hang on to a dream girl.”
But things aren’t always so morose in Cohen’s world. For example, “Fire Alarm” is flushed with an upbeat new wave slink and Cars-like rhythm guitar and synths. Indeed, Ocasek and his boys couldn’t have done it better themselves. On it, Cohen is driven to acts of heroism to save the girl he loves: “Tonight I’m gonna dance for the firing squad. Pumping my getaway sticks so hard, to make it to your bed and fall into your arms.”
Long Slow Dance is so melodically upbeat, so catchy, and so sweet it makes a perfect musical pairing for Kasey’s Chocolate, Cardamom and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Sandwich. I’m sure you can tell from the name alone how awesome that recipe is. It’s supreme. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the pictures. They don’t lie. And I might add that today is Kasey and I’s three-year anniversary. Despite Cohen’s suggestions, I have been able to hang on to my dream girl. But, he was right, true love will set fire to your soul. It turns out that’s a good thing.
From those initial cascading guitar riffs and the taught, sharp rhythm that kick off the upbeat and clean acoustic version of Mikal Cronin‘s “Get Along” you can almost viscerally feel the sunny-day warmth that infects every second of TK012. Overflowing with energy, Cronin and regular co-conspirator Ty Segall rip out loose, sharp guitar riffs atop a ratatat rhythm snapped together by bassist Chad Z and drummer Emily Rose while Cronin sings: “Find, find a way, find a way, fine a way to make your / Home, home alone, home along, then untie yourself and / Run, run along, move along, get along to something / More, more unknown, more unknown, now I’m onto something.” It’s lively and carefree and we couldn’t be more proud to share it with you while rounding out the Pairings Box’s first year.
Yup, it’s hard to believe but Turntable Kitchen’s Pairings Box is officially one year old. And what an awesome first year it has been. In the past twelve months we’ve released an eclectic chain of amazing singles that even if I hadn’t been involved in bringing to life, I’d have wanted in my collection. Specifically, in our first eleven months we featured hand-numbered, super limited singles by (in order): Motel Beds, Evenings, Steffaloo, Cheerleader, Thousand, Leisure, NO, The Record Company, Oscar Key Sung, Ghost Loft, and Save The Clocktower. Most months have sold out very quickly and we now even accept International subscribers. So, it’s incredibly exciting for me to cap off the Pairings Box’s first year with a collection of acoustic tracks by one of San Francisco’s best up-and-coming songwriters (and one of my favorite musicians): Mikal Cronin.
If you’ve been with us for awhile or if you are just a fan of the San Francisco music scene, you’re probably already familiar with Mikal’s music. He’s partnered with garage rock virtuoso Ty Segall for nearly every one of Segall’s albums. And Cronin’s own self-titled debut album, which was released last year, was critically acclaimed and was one of Turntable Kitchen’s Top Albums of 2011. His set at Mohawk’s in Austin, Texas for Pitchfork’s SXSW showcase was easily one of the best I’d seen.
Side 2 of the single features two more acoustic Cronin jams. First, Cronin and Co. rip through an unplugged groove of the rare cut “Am I Wrong” which didn’t appear on Cronin’s debut. It’s tight and smart, complete with a pair of blistering guitar breakdowns as Cronin croons: “Am I wrong? / I don’t think so.”
Finally, Cronin and Segall’s bright, fiery guitar riffs tear loose on a stripped-down and bare take on “Situation”. Especially on this tune, it’s clear from the band’s raw energy and playfulness just how much fun they had during these sessions. Segall’s harmonies underlining Cronin’s vocals are almost jocular like he’s mocking a cartoon ghost and Cronin can’t help but to whoop out between verses. The good vibes are infectious and irresistible. In fact, I dare you to not have fun listening to these tunes.
Sean Hayes isn’t a new face in the music industry. His latest release, Before We Turn To Dust, will be his sixth full length. Indeed, Hayes has been a beloved staple of the local music scene in San Francisco for many years now. He’s worked with a who’s who of other local musicians and he’s been a highlight for many festival goers at two separate Outside Lands Festivals including the most recent one. And despite having arguably reached veteran status as a musician, it also feels as it Hayes is just getting started. Indeed, Before We Turn To Dust is almost certain to bring Hayes a host of new fans.
Hayes blends smooth r&b melodies with shuffling folk instrumentation supporting his woodsy, vibrato-accented vocals. As you’d imagine from that combination, there is a little sexiness to the grooves, yet there is nothing prurient about Hayes’ lyrics. For example, on opening track “Before We Turn To Dust” Hayes crows: “You may spend all of your money before you turn to dust / you’ll never spend all your love” and then “My little boy’s smilin’ / soon he’ll be sitting up / holding his own weight / grabbin’ for ya.”
Indeed, much of Before We Turn To Dust hinges on sentiments of mortality, fatherhood, and love. If that all sounds a little, well, boring… it isn’t. Hayes clearly writes personal lyrics inspired from his own life and experiences, and yet they are universal enough to offer broad appeal. For example, the album’s second track “Miss Her When I’m Gone” is an ode to the loneliness and struggle of a career spent on the road, away from the people you love, working hard to support those same loved ones. Even if you aren’t a touring musician, if you’re a working stiff you probably relate to the sense of working hard, sometimes struggling, to support the people you love.
Yet, it should be noted that Before We Turn To Dust isn’t all death, fatherhood, and work. The album’s third track “Bam Bam” for example features a loose, piano-led groove to accompany Hayes’ croon: “Damn, the way you walk that thing / all locked in a pocket make a grown man sing.” But, unlike a lot of contemporary r&b, Hayes can be sexy without being lacivious: “I want to do you… right. I want to be with you.”
Before We Turn To Dust makes a great soundtrack for the recipe Kasey is featuring in the Kitchen today: Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon. The recipe is exotic, yet surprisingly straight forward. It’s flavorful and unique. And so smooth and crowd pleasing.
San Francisco’s crunchy-pop garage rocker Ty Segall puts other “prolific” artists to shame. The amount of music Mr. Segall’s released in the past two years alone could be described as “torrential.” A quick scan of Wikipedia and I counted approximately a dozen total releases (if you include his collaborative albums) in 2011 and 2012 alone. And that doesn’t even include his work supporting other artists (such as Mikal Cronin’s phenomenal self-titled album). And, as you might imagine, the man isn’t done yet. After all, it’s only August.
His latest release is Twins and you can get a taste of it now with the incinerating psych-rock jam “The Hill.” It opens with some smooth, sweet female acapella harmonies before he blows the top off the whole damn party with buzz-saw guitars and explosive percussion. Bottom line: this song rocks.
Dead cats being mummified. Dog’s saving babies from pools. Bob’s Donuts in San Francisco. Racing stripe haircuts. Vegetable hating teenagers. These are the things that Aesop Rock had on his mind when he recorded his latest triumphantly dense LP of occasionally near-indecipherable strange-rap mind-melters. Titled Skelethon, the record is another win for the San Francisco-by-way-of-New York emcee.
It’s immediately clear that Rock’s remains at the pinnacle of his game. As usual, his lyrics again alternate between cryptic, impressionistic, and abstract to narrative, colorful, and entertaining (oh, and quite often very funny). But what struck me on my first listen wasn’t just that Rock was as “on” as usual, but rather just how instrumentally organic Skelethon sounds compared to his prior albums. More than ever before Rock’s tunes blend samples, scratching (via long-time collaborator DJ Big Wiz) and live instrumentation. Rock’s wife Allyson Baker (of Dirty Ghosts) returns providing either bass or guitar on at least five of the album’s cuts. Hanni El Khatib provides guitar on three tracks and El Khatib’s long-time ally Nicky Fleming-Yaryan provides crisp percussion on four jams. Kimya Dawson and Rob Sonic provide additional vocals on several tracks. Finally, Grimace Federation, a Philadelphia-based band known for making an ungodly messy groove out of samples upon samples swirled into a multi-percussionist rhythm, provide additional instrumentation on a pair of cuts.
The result is that the beats and accompanying instrumentation sound fuller, more lush, and livelier than they’ve ever before. It proves to be an ideal stage for Rock to showcase his lyricism and songwriting. It’s entirely unsurprising considering the fact that Rock’s wife provides the track’s grungy guitar riff, but the track “ZZZ Top” instrumentally sounds like Rock rapping over a Dirty Ghosts’ album highlight. Baker does her work atop clattering, break-beat percussion as Rock lyrically explores the minds of three individuals as they, in order, carve a word into a desk, write on a pair of chucks with a magic marker, and scrawl a band name onto the wall in a bathroom stall.
The album’s first single “Zero Dark Thirty” is the album’s most immediately catchy groove and also the track most able to bridge the gap between Rock’s latest and None Shall Pass. It’s one of the least lyrically straight-forward jams on the album as well. But, despite the puzzle-like nature of the lyrics, Rock manages to evoke the vision of an unpopular kid rising up through the rap scene to become the last man standing as he spits about a “minotaur-fugly stepchild” with “zero friends” that “nevermind straw to gold [can] spin hearts on sleeves into heads on poles.” In the end, it’s “down from a huntable surplus to one.”
Meanwhile, on “Ruby ’81” Aesop paints the tale of two year-old baby Ruby who escapes from the house when her parents aren’t looking and falls into their pool. Only the family’s beagle notices what’s happening and is able to save the small child. Later in the album, things don’t end nearly as merrily for Aesop’s feline friend on “Homemade Mummy” which (as the title implies) provides instructions for making your own D.I.Y. mummified kitten.
A personal favorite, is the hilarious “Grace” in which Rock narrates the story of a stand-off between himself and his father when he refused to eat his vegetables. A few key lyrics for me: “Chris and Graham hate ’em too but advocate a braver chew invented for the code red, cola chaser, nose held, gulp moments. Later two have been released, leaving me the legroom and the legume police” and later “a single portion canned, frozen or fresh, defies the glory of the Poultry or fish.”
Kasey’s featuring a recipe for Chanterelle Tacos today in the Kitchen. For me, chanterelles are an unusual and pretty non-traditional ingredient for tacos (or in any other traditional street food). But although the main ingredient is relatively unorthodox in this context, it’s a beautifully flavorful recipe. Similarly, rap is often regarded as street music, and within the context of the genre, Aesop Rock is wildly untraditional both lyrically and instrumentally. Considering those similarities, (and despite Aesop’s childhood aversion to vegetables) I think today’s recipe makes a great musical pairing for Skelethon.
I love albums that slowly burrow a place in your heart. Those slow-growing albums that beckon you to just kick it with them again and again. Once you’ve given them room to blossom, you’re hooked. Anyways, that describes my relationship with many of my favorite albums. My favorite slow-burner this year? Definitely Exray’s Trust A Robot. If you haven’t spent a few lazy afternoons with this album, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Jon Bernson of Exray’s has been kind enough to share his favorite new music discovery of the year. Along the way he shares some enlightening tips regarding the band’s origin. So, to discover what one Oakland four-piece band, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Michael Jackson, and old comic books all have in common, simply read on! ~Matthew
My favorite band and album of 2012 is Mwahaha’s ‘Critical Mass’. Don’t be fooled by the name. Mwahaha has been around for a long time. Mwahaha will be here for years to come: “Evil laughter or maniacal laughter is a stock manic laughter by a villian in fiction. The expression “evil laugh” dates back to at least 1860.“Wicked laugh” can be found even earlier, dating back to at least 1784.Another variant, the “sardonic laugh” shows up in 1714 and might date back even further. In comic books, where supervillians utter such laughs, it is variously rendered as mwahahaha, muwhahaha, muahahaha, buahahaha. These words are also commonly used on internet blogs, bulletin board systems and games. There, they are generally used when some form of victory is attained, or to indicate superiority over someone else. The words are often used as either interjections or less frequently, as nouns.
During the 1930s, the popular radio program The Shadow used a signature evil laugh as part of its presentation. This was voiced by actor Frank Readick, and his laugh was used even after Orson Welles took over the lead role.The most recognizable and copied evil laugh is probably the one voiced by the late Vincent Price as it has been used or copied in radio, film, music, and television, notably in the end of the music video Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In films, evil laughter often fills the soundtrack even though the villain is off-camera. The laughter therefore follows the hero or victim as they try to escape. An example is in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Belloq’s laugh fills the South American jungle while Indiana Jones attempts to escape from the Hovitos. Non-human characters such as King Ghidorah and Destoroyah from the Godzilla series can also have extremely unique and sinister laughs or laughter-like sounds.” – Wikipedia
In a way, Zach Saginaw became an electronic producer by accident. As a self-taught drummer with a love for jazz and hip hop, Saginaw hadn’t begun composing electronic music until around 2003. Although his drumming was excellent, his self-taught technique was hard on his body, eventually resulting in chronic tendonitus in both arms. He had to quit playing. When he related to his brother that he missed creating music, his brother installed Reason 2.5 on his computer and suggested he give it a try. Saginaw soon discovered that he loved the freedom that creating music electronically offered, so he stuck with it. Blending together his love of jazz, hip hop and IDM, Saginaw has since adopted the moniker Shigeto (his middle name) for his work as a producer. His headphones-friendly music demonstrates the subtle rhythmic sensibilities of a jazz drummer, the beats of a hip hop aficionado, and the crisp textures of a producer.
Lineage, Shigeto’s sophomore album, demonstrates his continued maturity as a producer. It’s sensibly sparse and reflects a brigthly-lit kaleidoscope of sonic textures. The opening cut, “Lineage (Prologue),” opens the album with ambient crackling, a breezy and shuffling rhythm and crystalline, sparkling wind chimes. The title track maintains a hazy groove, but folds in hip hop influenced rhythms and tinny, tactile percussive flourishes. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear you could reach out and touch the sounds with your hands. Meanwhile, “Ann Arbor Part 3 & 4,” begins with a foundation of looping keys and a hip hop groove before mixing in hints of understated dub and a fresh, shimmering melody. Kinetic and shuffling, “A Child’s Mind” is a lively and atmospheric standout.
Almost like a jazz band reinventing Moon Safari-era Air, “Huron River Dance” is a jazzy balance of smooth keyboard tones and flinty cymbals and tight snare drum. “Field Trip” is another clean, percussion heavy composition fleshed out with xylophone-like tones and warbly sounds effects. Lineage ultimately comes to a close with analog synth and steady, stop-and-go drumming on the echo-y, hand-clap studded “Please Stay.” In all, the mini-album breezes by for a very satisfying 30 minutes.
The album pairs well with Kasey’s recipe for Sesame Salt Kale Chips. The album and the recipe are both crisp, clean and demonstrate the value of simplicity. There is plenty of complexity to savor in the taste of the kale chips, but the recipe doesn’t rely on many ingredients to succeed. The same is true for Shigeto’s Lineage.
My birthday was last week. On Halloween to be exact. In recent years, Kasey and I had celebrated our birthdays with little getaways, leaving our foggy little city to visit other, sunnier locales. But not this year. Instead, this year I decided I wanted a good, old-fashioned San Francisco-style birthday. And it was great: it was sunny and 75 degrees and we did all of my favorite things. For example, when I first moved to San Francisco I’d spent a plurality of my weekends hanging out with my former roommates at a maroon-colored, rock ‘n roll, German beer garden-inspired, biker bar called Zeitgeist in the Mission District. I love that place still, but rarely make it out there. In fact, it’d been over a year since I had last visited the place. We met a crew of some of our closest friends there on Sunday afternoon and drank Bloody Marys and pitchers of beer, took over the jukebox all afternoon, ate tamales courtesy of the Tamale Lady, and gorged ourselves on birthday cake. Oh, and there were women dressed as Stormtroopers (remember: it was Halloween). The birthday cake, a Banana Cake with Nutella and Cream Cheese Frosting, was of Kasey’s creation of course, and it was completely out of this world. If you have a pulse you probably love Nutella – so I think I shouldn’t have to explain how delicious the frosting was – but the banana cake was so moist and flavorful. Want to impress a friend for their birthday? This cake is a sure shot.
Since this was a Bay Area birthday, it only makes sense to pair the birthday cake with one of the most welcoming, upbeat, catchy and irresistible new albums from the San Francisco music scene: Dominant Legs’ Invitation. The appropriately titled album from Girls’ contributors Ryan Lynch and Hannah Hunt is warm and all-inclusively inviting. Loose, jangly guitar that could have been stripped straight from an old Motown LP, buttressed by synths that intermittently shift from pulsing to disco-y, opens the album on lead-off hitter “Take A Bow.” The preceding track, “Where We Trip The Light,” is charming and rhythmic featuring a backchecking melody that shifts almost defensively to accommodate a bright, lively horn blast on the chorus. “Already Know That It’s Nice” and “Darling Girls” are light and springy homages to the 80’s synth-pop that is so ubiquitous in the indie scene nowadays. Both tracks are polite and fun, but you’d be forgiven if you forget about them (through no fault of their own) only seconds into “Hoop of Love” which may be the album’s most perfectly cut slice of pop music. It’s tight and concise with a buoyant and celebratory chorus (“Are you gonna be the one that stays entertained? / Are you gonna be the one that calls me hungry / When there isn’t anyone to say what may / become of what is already lovely?”) and sweet, hopeful verses (“I was just ticking off the time waiting for you / while everyone resumed to do just what they do.”).
Although the album never again reaches the same dizzying heights reached on “Hoop of Love,” it nonetheless remains steady and appealing throughout with plenty of other highlights. “2 New Thoughts About U” has a slack bass line with a steady gait which serves to center the jittery guitar riff that forms the songs core. Blown out, blistered guitars and laser-like synths ride a chugging rhythm on “The One That You’re With.” A personal favorite is “Make Time For The Boy” which has a particularly easy-rolling melody. Bottom line is that this is an “any time” album. One that Kasey and I find ourselves listening to frequently, especially at the end of a long work day.