Inevitably, at each SXSW or CMJ a handful of young artists steal the show. Although I was forced to pass on this year’s CMJ, it was easy from watching social media to identify the bands that were receiving the most hype. Flume was easily one of the three names that I kept seeing appear over and over again (the other two being MØ and Savages). Indeed, this 20 year-old Sydney-based producer has been the focus of endless mountains of hype ever since. Not without good cause. “Holdin’ On” is a huge stone-washed banger, studded out with neon-bright synth stabs and some heavy soul vocal samples: “No no, / Yes I do / you’re a hip shakin’ mama / I love you.” Meanwhile, “Sleepless” is a sparkling, low-end scuttling groove featuring Jezzabell Doran. It’s upbeat, swaying, and BIG. Something tells me that we’ll be hearing more from Flume in the weeks and months to come.
Chet Faker‘s Thinking In Textures EP has been a common weeknight listen in our home for the past few months. I originally stumbled upon it because of Faker’s sexy “No Diggity” cover which I featured in our Blackstreet Served Three Ways post. It turned out to be a great find as the tune served as our gateway to the rest of the album. Since then Thinking In Textures has steadily grown into a comfortable groove that Kase and I can regularly turn to when we’re looking for some chill downtempo vibes to fill the home.
In case you’re wondering, Chet Faker is an alias. The Melbourne, Australia songwriter prefers the mystery that his relative anonymity provides. He’s been described as hailing from Melbourne’s “tight-knit disco scene” and he lists a wide-range of influences on his Facebook page that includes Thom Yorke, Four Tet, Jai Paul, Flying Lotus, Nicholas Jaar, Gold Panda, Burial, Star Slinger and Motown Records. Although not nearly as trail-blazing and experimentation-prone as his influences, you can hear the mark of most of those artists on Thinking In Textures. It’s sparse, electronica-steeped indie r&b that can be as comfortable as a warm blanket on a cold night. Indeed, the worst I can say of Thinking In Textures is that I’d like to see Faker explore the boundaries of his songwriting to experiment with even more textures and challenging structures. At its best it’s sexy and soothing. At it’s worst it’s easy to ignore.
Kasey’s recipe for Weeknight Noodle, Vegetable and Shrimp Soup is an excellent pairing for the EP. It is warm, soothing and a little sexy. It’s a little fiery (especially if you get happy with the Sriracha) and almost tastes too yummy to possibly be as good for you as it actually is.
Typhoon are the best little big band in America right now. Hands down. While their following steadily grows with each new listener, in my mind there is no reason this band shouldn’t be selling out the Greek Theater. In time, I’m sure they will. A band with this much skill and creativity can’t remain a secret for long. Their latest single “Common Sentiments” teases at what we can expect from their recently recorded upcoming full length.
Both “Common Sentiments” and it’s b-side “Green” are lush, slow-building, orchestral tunes. The a-side opens with a click and a whirl before a rustic and folksy melody gradually builds into a clattering, propulsive swell. Here, Typhoon simultaneously serve up intelligent songwriting and a catchy melody. It’s original and fresh, but not with out precedent. Indeed, if you like artists like Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire, then you’re going to love this track which blends Illinoise-like instrumentation, Funeral-like songwriting, with frontman Kyle Morton’s thoughtful, often poetic, lyrics.
And, if you were wondering, the single’s b-side is definitely not a throwaway. Indeed, it is a particularly gorgeous track. It’s a swaying tune blending together a bright piano melody, full horns, lovely harmonies, and a crisp rhythm section to accompany Morton as he sings: “Take my heart and paint it green. I never wanted to be jealousy. I only try to keep you close to me. I only try to keep you close to me.”
Buy a copy of their new 7″ single from their Bandcamp page. I already did. You won’t regret it.
Matthew Dear is not a new entry in the music scene. In fact, he’s been charting his own course in the music industry for some time now. You probably wouldn’t guess it, but he actually released his first single in 1999 (a year after he co-founded Ghostly International). Indeed, while a number of artists who first debuted over 13 years ago sound stale, bored, or like they now lack direction, Dear suffers from none of those concerns. Instead, Dear continues to prove that he is one of those rare veterans who continues to find new innovation and new direction in each passing year. In fact, judging from his last two records, Dear may be just getting started.
What’s also impressive about Dear’s latest material is how much he has grown from his earliest efforts. His first single “Hands Up For Detroit” is pure 90’s Detroit house/trance. Now, you’d be hard pressed to peg a clear genre label on Dear’s output. Indeed, album opener “Her Fantasy” owes as much to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust as it does to Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Similarly, there are threads on Beams plucked clean from Trent Reznor, snippets stolen from Depeche Mode, chunks copped from Talking Heads, parts plagiarized from Devo’s notebook, and plenty of pieces pillaged from Brian Eno. It’s a diverse roster to for one’s inspiration from, and partially for that reason, Dear’s vision is also beautifully unique and often exotic.
Which isn’t to say that Beams is without contemporaries. Without question, Beams consists of noir dance music tailored perfectly to fit a dark, gritty club. Nearly every song on Beams is built upon wobbly synths, heavy bass, and danceable rhythms. But it’s also layered, thoughtful pop music – catchy and radio friendly. As a result, on Beams Dear sounds like a mature songwriter, confident enough in his own sensibilities and skills to deliver an album worth of inventive material blending together all of the best elements of the artists that inspired him into something uniquely his own.
I’ve paired Beams with our recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. The salsa is a little spicy (owing to the Jalapeno), a little sweet (owing to the citrusy flavor of the tomatillos), and herb tinged. It’s a versatile, slightly exotic salsa that can be eaten with chips, added to tacos/burritos, or even used to liven up proteins or tofu.
Let there be no doubt, alt-J (a.k.a. ∆) are poised to freaking explode into your world this year. And if you’re a fan of future-pop then this is probably a very very good thing. On the other hand, if bands like Yeasayer and TV On The Radio make you cringe then that may be a little less awesome for you than it will be for the rest of us. If you’ve not already familiar with this Cambridge-based trio, I’ll go ahead and explain the name (the rest of you might want to skip this bit). Their name is officially written as ∆, but is pronounced “alt-j.” As you might imagine, ∆ is the symbol you get when you press the alt key on your keyboard and press “j.” It’s also the mathematical symbol for change and was selected because the band formed when the band was undergoing change in their personal lives.
Their debut album An Awesome Wave is all things promised by the genre-title “future pop.” On the one hand, there are many familiar elements of pop songwriting and clean production. On the other hand, the arrangements are enigmatically unpredictable and the production is experimental. You can see their brand spanking new video here. You can also stream a few tracks below.
You’ve no doubt heard that The xx are poised to release their sophomore album Coexist on September 11. In fact, they’ve already released the first single “Angels” from the album. It’s sparse, velvety and as hot as wax dripping from smooth white candles.
As you might imagine, it’s already getting the remix treatment from pretty much everyone on the Internet. As you can also no doubt imagine, most of those remixes aren’t particularly interesting or good. Thankfully, folks like Bodhi are out there working hard to justify the remix as an artform with his lush, newly composed version of the slow burning ballad. Hear his take and the original below.
There are at least two popular, well-known tunes that sport the name “Cocaine Blues”. The first of the two is the tune made popular by Johnny Cash which was originally by The Western Aces. The second is a popular finger-picked blues track originally laid down by Reverend Gary Davis. Today’s Served Three Ways features the latter of the two featuring covers by Keith Richards, Townes Van Zandt and Nick Drake. Born in South Carolina in 1896, Davis was a crucial figure in the Piedmont blues scene. And, indeed, his songwriting and style influenced countless musicians including Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Townes Van Zandt and the Grateful Dead. The voluminous covers of this tune alone are a testament to that influence. I’ll let you pick a favorite, but I will say that the Keith Richards version makes me daydream of an album compiling Richards’ take on popular blues classics. Since he’ll probably outlive our solar system I suppose he has plenty of time to consider it.
Pairings Box subscribers will recognize this as the jam I opened the TK009 mixtape with. It got the nod because I couldn’t resist that rubbery, slinking bass-forward melody and that bright, smooth choir vocals-esque chorus. It’s hard to believe that Electric Guest is only a duo from the sound that their producer (some fella named Danger Mouse) was able to coax out of this soft roller. This one’s for fans of folks like Broken Bells and other Danger Mouse produced LPs.
The other day we finally received a sneak peek of Frank Ocean’s new album. Said “sneak peek” comes in the form of a sexy, nearly ten-minute long r&b jam thats simply oozing with extra awesome-sauce. It’s a smooth, twisting groove with grimy low-end and swirling, ambiant synths to accompany Ocean’s characteristically velvety vocals as he slowly relates the story of a “Cleopatra” who works at a stripclub called “The Pyramid.” The verdict? It sounds freaking great. Safe to say this is going to be an album to watch for.
I’ve always suspected that our readers have great taste in music, but that suspicion was again reaffirmed this week when one of our readers clued me into the crispy garage-pop jams of the Little Rock, Arkansas / Lebanon, Ohio-based band The Coasts. The duo, Eric Mount (drummer) and Ike Peters (guitars/vocals), met as freshmen in college, and after discovering a shared love for Radiohead decided that they wanted to lay down a collection of garage-roughened rockers together. Although that might sound straight-forward enough, despite having met in college, the duo did not record their debut while living in the same city. Instead, the tracks came together only after they’d graduated, married, and move apart. Instead, Eric traveled down from Ohio to Ike’s home in Little Rock for a long weekend to lay the groundwork for a dozen tunes. The tracks were then finished by Ike and the band’s producer with Eric providing feedback from Ohio.
The somewhat hurried process, although limiting at times, proved to be a great recipe for the band. Because of their distance from one another they didn’t have the luxury of over-thinking the recordings. Instead, they had to work with what they were able to get down in that short time. The result was a raw, rough-and-ready approach that befits the material they’d written for the album which blends bluesy, The Black Keys-styled garage rock riffs with clean, Dr. Dog-esque melodies, Kinks-like upbeat pop grooves, and occasional hints of Exiles On Main Street-era Stones (especially the organ on tracks like “Hard-Working Man” or the skanky boogie-woogie on “Handshakers”).
The Coasts explodes open with the concise, toasty, and uptempo “Poltergeist”. At a clean minute-and-a-half in length, the friendly, haunted jam is over before it’s had time to even settle in. It’s a smart, restrained pop rock jam. Next, “Stranger/Danger” is a more casually meandering tune with ballad-like verses balanced neatly against bouncing, grinning choruses. It’s constructed with a tight piano-led melody buttressed against crashing percussion and a guitar line that swings between sluggishly lackadaisical and brightly howling. Meanwhile tracks like the clean, rolling “John Lennon” and the brassy, horn-tinged “I Only Want You” showcase the band at a more steady-grooving clip while finding fun, new combinations and structures for the pieces they’d worked out before. There are plenty of highlights throughout including the shuffling and rubbery “Hard-Working Man,” the blistering and gregarious “RIOT!!,” and the harmony-washed and tightly-wound “Handshakers.”
The album pairs well with Kasey’s Yogurt with Toasted Quinoa, Dates & Nuts which features a raw, sweet foundation that blends intriguing textures with a toasted and crispy coating. They’re also both great ways to start your day.
Support a great band and buy their album from their Bandcamp page. If you do a little sleuthing you can probably even find the collection of covers they recorded from Disney’s Robin Hood for charity. Afterwards head to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s recipe for Yogurt with Toasted Quinoa, Dates & Nuts.
Today’s Served Three Ways is a special one for me. Radiohead have been my favorite band for over 15 years now. I’ve seen them numerous times including gigs in Oxford, England; Toronto, Canada; Cleveland Ohio; and both San Francisco & Berkeley, California (amongst other places). Tomorrow I’m heading down to San Jose with Robert from See The Leaves to see them again. So today’s Served Three Ways is a little nod to tomorrow’s show. Today’s track, “Exit Music (For A Film)” was written by the band for the closing credits of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet. Yorke explained his inspiration for the track’s lyrics: “I saw the Zeffirelli version when I was 13 and I cried my eyes out, because I couldn’t understand why, the morning after they shagged, they didn’t just run away. The song is written for two people who should run away before all the bad stuff starts.” The track subsequently appeared on the band’s 1997 masterpiece, OK Computer.