After a five year break, Ottawa’s The Acorn have returned with a surprisingly fresh new sound. Doing away with their previous folk-rock selves, in their new song “Influence” The Acorn instead pair electronic elements (that groovy pulsing synth!) with an acoustic guitar. It’s an unexpected combo from the band but wholly welcome.
“Influence” will appear on the band’s record Vieux Loup due out May 19th via Paper Bag Records.
It’s incredibly easy to imagine Copenhagen-based chanteuse MØ as the breakout artist of 2013. After all, with little more than a pair of singles she’s already set the table with a successful 2012. Her performances during New York’s CMJ Festival last October were widely hailed as triumphant and stunning. In fact, the buzz generated her wide praise from Pitchfork, NME, and a score of music blogs and critics (including this one). She’s already been featured on the covers of a number of music magazines and her name was a common entry on many “Best of 2012” lists. She’ll be heavily in demand during this year’s SXSW after which one might expect the hype to grow even more intense. As you can imagine, we’re incredibly proud to be able to share her debut single with you this month!
The 7” leads with her latest single “Pilgrim.” The track unfolds with a stuttering vocal-looped rhythm laced with deep hits of grimy low end. Bright, punchy brass horns punctuate a bouncing, organic beat before segueing into our heroine’s smoky, sexy croon as she intones: “Oh, what a world I was born into, warriors are lying down.” But despite her opening lament she makes it clear that she has plenty of fight left in her as the tune tumbles from those simmering verses into a defiant and energetic chorus.
It’s balanced alongside her debut track “Maiden.” The cut opens with a clean and staggering hip hop beat that crashes into an exceptionally bright, swirling guitar riff. Dense clouds of wet, foggy bass fill the soundstage before the spotlight again returns to her intoxicating vocals. MØ sings sweetly and sensually as she purrs “I am the maiden for you.” However, she also makes it clear that she’s no helpless damsel in distress, simultaneously exuding strength and grace as she croons: “like a warrior’s blade, proud and fine, let victory be mine.” Indeed, with a little more like this, there can be no question that victory will be hers.
I think one of the best parts about compiling my year end list is forcing myself to take the time to look back upon the year in music. Around this time each year, I sit down in front of my record player and pull LPs from my collection to play them one by one. In some cases this means re-listening to records that I haven’t played in months. For example, I’d loved Cloud Nothing’s Attack on Memory, THEESatisfaction’s Awe Naturale, and Shigeto’s Lineage early in the year, but over the course of the year I’d let them slip from my mind. But when I let them needle drop on those albums I was instantly reminded of why I’d loved them so much.
It’s also fun to contemplate the different threads that run through the world of music in any given year – even when it isn’t clear quite where they all lead. For example, when I look at a list of the best music of 2012 (my own list or any other), I can’t help wonder if the world of music is slowly splintering into hundreds of disparate genres or actually converging into a more amorphous genre-defying state.
For example, following up on a strong year in 2011, r&b continues to push into new territory and faces a continued critical and popular resurgence. Some of this is a result of revitalization caused by blending traditional r&b with contemporary aesthetics: Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE & Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream being my two favorite examples of this trend. But r&b continued to get “weird” too leading to some really fantastic experiments – THEESatisfaction’s Awe Naturale being a prime example.
Electronic minimalism continues to embrace lush, sonic texturalism in new and interesting ways, resulting in some of the most forward-facing music you’ll hear this year. Indeed, this could be said of a pretty diverse range of releases including Purity Ring’s Shrines, Flying Lotus’ Until The Quiet Comes, The xx’s Coexist, Jessie Ware’s Devotion, Shigeto’s Lineage, and Zammuto’s self-titled debut. Yet, despite a few superficial similarities, for the most part there is more separating the sound of these artists than unifying them.
Meanwhile, the umbrella term “indie rock” continues to embrace an increasingly unwieldy array of artists. For every talented artist that decided to ditch basic pop song structures in favor of lush, grandiose songwriting (including my top two LPs this year – Grizzly Bear’s Shields and Beach House’s Bloom), there were others that intentionally decided to keep it simple, fast, and loose including folks like Cloud Nothings, Ty Segall, Japandroids, Father John Misty, and The Fresh & Onlys. Similarly, while some artists favored slick, dance-music inspired production (think Tanlines’ Mixed Emotions & Matthew Dear’s Beams), other artists (including Exray’s and Seamonster) succeeded, in some part, because they embraced a more loosely-woven, DIY production to create a cozy warmth and whimsical air.
But what I find most fascinating is the way that many artists are increasingly demonstrating their appreciation for music outside of the confines of their own genres. Whether it’s Frank Ocean crooning Radiohead tunes at live gigs or Flying Lotus deciding that 2012 was the year to directly engage with the world of hip hop, it increasingly feels as if this creative cross-pollination has simultaneously created a more diverse – but nonetheless unified – musical landscape. However you look at it, the result is that 2012 proved to be another fruitful year for people who love new music.
Finally, I’ll add a few notes about the methodology of my list. First, only LPs were considered. As a result, I didn’t include any EPs despite the fact that some of my favorite music of the year was released on that format (including essential collections by Pure Bathing Culture, Evy Jane, Dum Dum Girls, NO, AlunaGeorge, Rhye, Turtle Giant, Teen Mom, Joey Bada$$, Hands, Oscar Key Sung, Ender Belongs To Me, and The Bones of J.R. Jones). I’ve always differentiated between the two, and in my mind it keeps things a little easier. Further, the numbering is intentional but I’ll confess that this year the numbers feel a little looser than usual. For example, I don’t think there was a clear “No. 1 album of the year.” I could easily swap any of the top three into first place and feel pretty good about my list. Not only that, because of the breadth and diversity of good music this year, I feel like just about any of the albums on my list deserved to be in the top ten. And on a different day and in a different mindset, any of the albums I listed out for “Honorable Mention” could have found a spot on this list. What can I say? There was just a LOT of great music this year.
Special Mention (in no particular order): Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, Frankie Rose – Interstellar, Lemonade – Diver, Grimes – Visions, David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant, Menomena – Moms, BRAINSTORM – Heat Waves, Deerhoof – Breakup Songs, Conveyor – Conveyor, The Walkmen – Heaven, Window Twin – Wish, Motel Beds – Dumb Gold, Saint Maybe – Things As They Are, A.C. Newman – Shut Down The Streets, Memory Tapes – Stella, Geographer – Myth, Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
I can’t imagine it’ll come to a surprise as any of our regular readers that I’ve been enjoying Purity Ring’s debut album Shrines. After all, over the past year and a half I’ve already featured roughly half of the album’s tracks on our monthly mixtapes. And yet, as much as I loved each of the singles the duo had slowly teased out over that time, I have to confess that I had reservations as to whether the music would translate well to the album format.
Indeed, we first featured the duo (Megan James and Corin Roddick) on Turntable Kitchen back in February of 2011 after the release of the track “Ungirthed.” It’s a mesmerizing electro pop jam featuring stuttering low end and a tight snare-based rhythm to guide James’ poetically abstract lyrics: “the scent of my hands is familiar / to fosterly men in their coats / who guard not their spirits from fire / who speak with some tenderly coax.” It’s refreshingly unique and engaging. It’s the type of pop groove that manages to sound familiar and yet not quite like anything else out there. It made no. 3 on my top tracks of 2011.
A few months later they released the tonal and darkly lit b-side to their single titled “Lofticries” which was another brain-pleasingly enigmatic pop groove. Distorted, almost chopped and screwed-like vocals build a backbone for sludgy synths and slowly twinkling electronics. It was a perfect companion piece for their lead single. Following the release of the track “Belispeak” later that fall, James and Roddick had cemented their credentials for releasing strong singles. “Belispeak,” like it’s predecessors, is lush and beautifully textured.
Yet, strong singles don’t always translate to strong albums. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the possibility that the album’s best tracks would prove to be those previously unreleased singles. Happily neither of those concerns prove to be true. Indeed, the album’s first two jams alone prove to be worth the price of adding this record to your collection. Opening track “Crawlersout” features the same stuttering, snare-heavy percussion and syrupy vocal-based synths that textured Purity Ring’s early singles alongside shimmering, mystical ambiance. Likewise, “Fineshrine” explores the same dark, unsettling spaces as their earlier jams, but with a heavier focus on James’ lyrical vocals.
The album, which runs at just over 38 minutes, doesn’t continuously rely on the same bag of tricks to progress though. In fact, the track “Saltkin” may be the album’s finest moment. It’s also the LP’s brightest and (relatively) cleanest tune. Likewise, sparse album closer “Shuck” is *nearly* acapella as it slowly begins to unfurl before James’ vocals are met with foggy low end and skittering, echoey claps.
With a hyper-contemporary sonic fingerprint alongside highly textured rhythms and relatively annuated lyrics (James’ lyrics almost sound like they are pulled from a dark, old fairy-tale), Shrines makes an excellent pairing for the David Chang (of Momofuku fame) inspired Carmelized Pork Belly Buns that Kasey is featuring in the Kitchen today. If you’re a fan of pork belly, bacon or mind-blowing food, you’ll want to try this recipe.
Maybe it’s the summer weather, but we’ve been feeling slow, relaxed jams recently. So it’s no surprise that we’ve quickly fallen in love with the chilled out and sexy vibes of Los Angeles-based producer Danny Choi who records music under the name Ghost Loft. And let me tell you, these jams were lifesavers in Sicily. The sun was swelteringly hot and the air bone dry as we wandered small baroque towns and waded in the Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian, and Ionian Seas. In climates like that, this pair of grooves are like crisp and cooling sea breezes welcomingly wafting in to chill things out. I just wish my headphones and iPod were waterproof so I could have floated on my back in the sea, staring up at the sky, while listening to ‘em.
The single’s a-side, “Seconds,” is a sensual and slow-burning r&b-influenced electro jam built upon a sparse hip-hop rhythm. Ambient synths blow like chilly cooling winds through the steamy atmosphere making this a perfect jam for warm weather kicks. Meanwhile, Choi softly exhales soothing love whispers like soft caresses to his distant lover: “No one will ever know. No one will have to know.” Its sultry ambiance shares the same spacious, echo-y DNA that gave life to the music of artists like The XX and Rhye. Nonetheless, there is no question that Choi’s hit upon his own spot in the music scene.
The single’s b-side, “Morning,” was completed by Ghost Loft exclusively for debut on this Pairings Box single. Like the single’s a-side this jam is sexy and grooving. But while the a-side is 100% smooth seduction, the b-side is the contented but uncertain ode to the morning after. Swirling samples float up like bright effervescence refracted in light spilling across the bedroom floor. The rhythm is slower and steadier than “Second” and there is a hint of melancholy in the melody and accompanying lyrics: “In the morning I’m wasted lying next to you – wondering what to do.” It’s really, really good stuff.
Copies are going lightening fast so sign up for the Pairings Box before the weekend to guarantee a copy. As always, you’ll receive three original recipes, an exclusive digital mixtape, the single and a premium ingredient used in making one of the recipes. This month we’ve partnered with Just Cook for this month’s premium ingredient.
Andriana, a.k.a. Dre, is one ridiculously cool lady. As I discovered when I met her earlier this year, she seems to know everyone. Bands, bloggers, industry folk. They know Dre. Trying to figure out where the cool showcase is at a mess as big as SXSW? Ask Dre. If you aren’t familiar with her site Gluttony Is The New Black, you should be. Her ability to constantly discover hot new grooves is undoubtedly why she is in hot demand as a contributor to Yours Truly and in social marketing for Shuffler.FM. I think you’ll agree, we’ve left you in good hands. ~ Matthew
Producing synthetic harmonies that make you feel a little more alive, Brighton’s Luvian is like a one man electronic church choir, making that shit sing.
Luvian pairs fluffy bobs with crunchy distortion, with an overall vibe that’s super sexy and smooth. Roller Rink music if those places still existed. Lubed up clicks and downtempo breaks glide through 90s RnB samples to create a luscious sound you could eat with a spoon. Best treat you will find all summer. Dig in Turntable Kitchen.
Digits is the project of London-by-way-of-Toronto electro pop stylist Alt Altman. His latest mixtape, Death & Desire, beautifully blends sparse, plaintive electronica with soft, sensual R&B vocals on a slew of new Digits tracks mixed alongside cuts from Altman’s more R&B-focused project, Bad Passion.
With it’s clean, bouncy IDM rhythms and Altman’s intimate, hushed vocals, Death & Desire is an album I keep coming back to for repeated listens. Indeed, it’s been a regular presence in our home for some time now. Download it and see for yourself.