This week’s theme was krautrock, which is an experimental music genre that originated in Germany in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Artists including Neu!, Can, and Faust laid the groundwork for later variations on this far-reaching genre, which can still be felt today (Deerhunter, Wilco, Tortoise). So, think new-wave, space rock, psychedelic, synth, ambient, post-punk, electronica, post-rock.
CRYSTAL CASTLES FEAT ROBERT SMITH not in love
NEW ORDER age of consent- power corruption and lies
SAINT ETIENNE only love can break your heart [inexplicably obsessed with this song/ ’90s tastic vid lately… a most unexpected Neil Young cover]
THE RADIO DEPT pulling our weight- passive aggressive
DEERHUNTER desire lies- halycon digest
LITTLE DRAGON ritual union-ritual union [streaming on NPR fyi]
FUJIYA AND MIYAGI ankle injuries [cool domino vid!]
TANGERINE DREAM stratosphere- stratosphere
NEU! hallogallo- neu! [fun fact: “hallogallo” is german slang for “wild partying”]
WILCO spiders (kidsmoke)- a ghost is born [“Hallogallo” and “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” sound freakishly similar… Jeff Tweedy, I’ve figured out your influences!]
STEREOLAB fluorescents- fluorescents [ep]
i’m okay, i feel good, i can breathe, feel my soul…
FAUST its a rainy day (sunshine girl)
FLEET FOXES mykonos- sun giant ep
congrats andrea!! lucky winner of fleet foxes tickets at the greek theater (80 dollar value, wow!)
BOWERY ELECTRIC lushlife- lushlife
TENNIS seafarer- cape dory
WASHED OUT before- within and without
TORTOISE its all around you- its all around you
STEREOLAB chemical cords- chemical cords
THIEVERY CORPORATION retaliation suite- radio retaliation
AIR mike mills- talkie walkie
MEMORY TAPES wait in the dark- player piano
KRAFTWERK franz schubert
LOVE INKS black eye- esp
LYKKE LI i follow rivers- wounded rhymes
THE HORRORS still life- skying
KINKS powerman- darjeeling limited soundtrack
BRIGHT EYES a machine spiritual (in the peoples key)- the people’s key
OF MONTREAL dirty dustin hoffman needs a bath- early four track recordings
BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE satellite- give it back
BON IVER hinnom, tx- bon iver
MIRAH the forest- (a) spera
ST. VINCENT laughing with a mouthful of blood- actor
YACHT dystopia (glass version)- shangri la
BATTLES ice cream- gloss drop
TUNE-YARDS powa- w h o k i l l
REAL ESTATE its real- days
SHAKY HANDS summer’s life- the shaky hands
BEACH FOSSILS daydream
SUFJAN STEVENS mistress witch from mcclure (or, the mind that knows itself)- the avalanche
VETIVER right way- the errant charm
RAD CLOUD california’s totally rad- super kung fu
[I linked to some of my favorite new tracks of the day… enjoy]
TUESDAYS 4-6pm. http://www.kscu.org / 103.3 FM in SJ
I’ve noticed an unabashedly weird trend in music lately: an onslaught of interpretive dance in virally-successful videos. Interpretive dance, much like “new-age” (which I discussed in a previous post), seems an unlikely candidate to return to mainstream popularity, simply by the virtue of how BIZARRE it is. We continually hear that our pop-culture sphere is characterized by unattainable, photoshop perfect visions of the human body, so the rise of un-self-conscious movement through using one’s body as a palate for artistic expression seems most unexpected.
Thom Yorke’s frequently-spoofed dance for Lotus Flower from King of Limbs is one of the most prominent examples of the popularity of this kooky trend… the video has over 11 million views, sheesh! It is necessary to note that Radiohead’s exceptionally-devoted legion of fans would rabidly consume any new release from the deity of Thom Yorke, but it’s still interesting to consider how Yorke’s weird moves may have impacted our cultural consciousness.
The screen-shots at the top of this post are from “Bizness,” the first single from Tune-Yards’ 2011 release whokill. Merill Garbus has been bringin’ the WEIRD since her group’s inception, check out her super-low budget first video “Real Live Flesh” from Bird-Brains. The visually striking video for “Bizness,” directed by Mimi Cave, makes a link between the un-self-conscious nature of childhood with adult artistry through some seriously silly faces. Check it out:
Sufjan Stevens’s video for “Too Much,” the second single from his 2010 release Age of Adz, shows experimental dance with a surreal, space-age, mechanized feel. Stevens’ tour for Adz featured slightly clumsy, enthusiastic dance moves courtesy of Stevens and his backup singers who encouraged the audience to dance along (especially during the 25-minute-epic “Impossible Soul”). See the slightly-awkward, visually engaging just-released trailer of “musical cosmonaut Sufjan Stevens and his Astral Masters of Song and Dance” from Asthmatic Kitty. Here is “Too Much,” directed by Deborah Johnson (which was projected on a huge screen during his performance of the song, fyi.)
Similar to “Bizness,” Stevens’ video is characterized by jump shots, a flurried pace and a neon, rainbow-bright aesthetic. These vids have seen considerable viral success, and I wonder if the fast pace, unavoidably bright color-scheme has something to do with it.In our quick-clicking, short-attention internet culture, are jumpy shots and bright colors the only way to lure viewers in and keep them engaged?
And our final example comes from the NSFW-ish video for Battles’ 2011 single “Ice Cream” from their upcoming album Gloss Drop. Directed by Canada, this video gives off that seedy American Apparel vibe with plenty of shots of girls licking various objects (pinecones! ow), pretty foolproof strategy in guaranteeing viral success. The video features an interpretive dance breakdown from 1:30-2:05.
Whattya think? Do you dig interpretive dance in music vids or is it a little too out-there for your taste?
My vote: the weirder, the better!
In the “indie” music realm (a loaded term, but ya know what I mean), musicians are often judged on their authenticity, how “real” they appear to be, their refusal of mass-market appeal. Doesn’t it make you squirm when you hear your favorite song bastardized in a commercial, like this Ford Fiesta commercial featuring Edward Sharpe’s “Janglin”? Or this Cadillac commercial with Phoenix? Or Tune-Yards’ “Fiya” in a Blackberry commercial?
OR THE WORST commercial- the infamous Outback Steakhouse remake of Of Montreal’s “Wraith to the Mist (And Other Games)” from The Sunlandic Twins. It’s hilariously bad that they changed the lyrics from “Let’s pretend we don’t exist” to “Let’s go Outback tonight,” it kiiiiills me. Not a good sign when everyone starts associating your work with artery-cloggin’ Bloomin’ Onions.
Master of satire Stephen Colbert tackled this topic with a “music-whoring throwdown” between The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig on The Colbert Report last January. Skip to about 4:00 to see the “sell-out off” between these Alternative Rock Grammy nominees.
Indie culture is centered around authenticity, a sort of subversion against the mainstream. Clearly one could make the argument that independent rock has become the mainstream, what with Arcade Fire winning Grammy of the Year and countless other examples, but regardless authenticity is still a tenet of this far-sweeping genre.
Existentialists describe authenticity as a sort of autonomy; in Being and Time, Martin Heidegger argues that authenticity is the act of allowing a unique, embodied self to emerge. It is not to be confused with the idea of “being true to yourself” within a particular definition of humanity or set of standards. There is no standard, and instead you should aim to embrace the artificiality of yourself and increase awareness of the reasons behind your world-view. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy gives a great definition of authenticity (by the way philosophy nerds, CHECK OUT this free online resource if you haven’t yet!):
The norm of authenticity refers to a kind of “transparency” with regard to my situation, a recognition that I am a being who can be responsible for who I am… Authenticity thus indicates a certain kind of integrity—not that of a pre-given whole, an identity waiting to be discovered, but that of a project to which I can commit myself.
In understanding music licensing, one needs to take a realistic look from the perspective of a musician. The era of the talentless mega-star raking in bucks from album sales alone is a thing of the past, as today’s musicians need to maintain a small-business mentality through multiple forms of revenue (touring, production work, etc). Licensing one’s music for commercial purposes is a guaranteed paycheck in a volatile industry, where benefits and a steady income are difficult to come by. It does not seem that one is acting inauthentically if one’s motives behind ‘selling out’ are to provide a means of livelihood for oneself and one’s family.
Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal actually responded to the Outback backlash in an Op-Ed piece in Stereogum, writing:
Selling out, in an artistic sense, is to change one’s creative output to fit in with the commercial world. To create phony and insincere art in the hopes of becoming commercially successful. I’ve never done this and I can’t imagine I ever will. I spent seven years not even existing at all in the mainstream world. Now I am being supported and endorsed by it. I know this won’t last forever. No one’s going to want to use one of my songs in a commercial five years from now, so I’ve got to take the money while I can.
An artist needs to examine their motives for ‘selling out,’ and whether the message that they are promoting is cohesive with their understanding of their own ‘unique, embodied self.’ But still, KB, that Outback Steakhouse commercial is pretty god-awful.
On July 3 The LA Times published “A New Age for New Age?”, a piece written by Andy Beta that discusses the revival of the “much-disparaged” genre of new-age music through young artists like Animal Collective, Teengirl Fantasy, and Gang Gang Dance.
New-age carries a mockery-worthy connotation as cheese-tastic adult contemporary music, which brings to mind smelly yoga mats and talk centering around healing crystals and ‘chakras.’ But this genre is seeing a revival through artists such as Animal Collective, who featured pan flutist Gheorghe Zamfir on “Graze,” a track from Fall Be Kind, their 2009 follow-up EP to breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavilion. Fall Be Kind gained the most press at its time of release for featuring the first-ever licensed Grateful Dead sample (of “Unchained Melody” on “What would I Want? Sky”). AC linked their thoroughly modern sound of looped layers with new-age through the inclusion of instruments generally used by centaurs.
[Disclaimer: I write this post while wearing an aqua Grateful Dead skull tee, having recently burnt the last of my favorite Nag Champa incense. I hold a soft spot in my heart for patchouli-drenched drum circles and tie-dyed apparel resembling rainbow vomit… I blame this affinity on my upbringing in Eugene, Oregon. So, I may not be the most unbiased of all sources on all this hippie shizz.]
Beta of the LA Times describes new-age as a “balm in the age of digital overload.”
” ‘New Age’ is a thoroughly discredited term,” said Douglas Mcgowan, who reissues rare New Age albums through his Yoga Records imprint. “Part of why I like the term is because of how much it bothers people. I think it’s more fun to enjoy something that is frowned upon. There’s a rebelliousness to embracing something that has been discarded and deemed worthless by the culture at large.”
Contemplative, meditative music has seen an upswing in terms of live festivals, most notably through the popularity of 4-day yoga/music fest Wanderlust, which takes place at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe. (Shameless plug: check out my coverage of Wanderlust 2010 here, featuring an interview with founder Jeff Krasno.) This year’s music lineup definitely has new-agey feel (Jai Uttal, The Wailers), a departure from last year’s whomp-heavy, electronic lineup (Bassnectar).
Music videos featuring out-there visuals are also makin’ a comeback, featuring fractal patterns and fluorescent imagery straight outta an iTunes visualizer circa 2003. Teengirl Fantasy’s song “Cheaters” was directed by Greek new-age legend Iasos, lookie here to see it in HD.
Check out Gang Gang Dance’s video for “Mindkilla” from Eye Contact, released last May on 4AD records. Jellyfish-looking celestial orbs, wowee.
TUNE-YARDS gangsta- whokill
RATATAT neckbrace- lp4
GANG GANG DANCE mindkilla- eye contact
FRIENDLY FIRES live those nights tonight- pala
HORRORS sea within a sea- primary colors
GREENHORNES saying goodbye- s/t
WHITE STRIPES dead leaves and the dirty ground- white blood cells
KAREN ELSON the ghost who walks- the ghost who walks
THE BLACK BELLES what can i do?- s/t
THE BLACK KEYS have love will travel- the moan
TY SEGALL my sunshine- melted
THE RACONTEURS steady as she goes
BLACK LIPS bone marrow- arabia mountain
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE plastic fantastic lover- surrealistic pillow
MMJ victory dance- circuital
THE CHARLATANS we’re not on the same trip
DEERHUNTER revival- halcyon digest
BLACK KEYS howlin for you- brothers
CAPTAIN BEEFHART AND THE MAGIC BAND too much time
DAVID BOWIE five years- ziggy stardust
BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW gold splatter- eating us
BROADCAST AND THE FOCUS GROUP oh you chatterbox- investigate witch cults of the radio age
THE SEA AND THE CAKE four corners- one bedroom
VELVET UNDERGROUND oh! sweet nothin- loaded
COUNTRY JOE AND THE FISH rock and soul music- together
CONGRATS kiyo and andrea on winnin tickets to david bazan (pedro the lion)/ rocky votolato at the independent!
SBTRKT wildfire- sbtrkt
PANDA BEAR afterburner- tomboy
YEASAYER tightrope- dark was the night
VETIVER hard to break- the errant charm
TUNE-YARDS powa- whokill
ZOMBIES beechwood park- odyssey and oracle
CULTS you know what i mean- cults
DOMINANT LEGS clawing out at the walls- young at love and life ep
THE SHAKY HANDS sunburns
BEACHWOOD SPARKS sing your thoughts- make the cowboy robots cry
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE hot fun in the summertime- greatest hits
GRATEFUL DEAD sittin on top of the world
MMJ victory dance- circuital
BRIGHT EYES/ NEVA DINOVA i’ll be your friend- one jug of wine, two vessels
ALEXANDER EBERT truth- alexander
DR. DOG worst trip- daytrotter session
OKKERVIL RIVER your past life is a blast- i am very far
MORNING BENDERS excuses- big echo
DEERHUNTER revival- halycon digest
MEMORY TAPES wait in the dark- player piano
TY SEGALL girlfriend- melted
SEABRIGHT feel good- feel good
BATHS maximalist- cerulean
WASHED OUT echoes- within and without
ZOMBIES i want her she wants me- odyssey and oracle
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN ease your feet into the sea- boy with the arab strap
BEACH HOUSE you came to me- devotion
BSS PRESENTS KEVIN DREW safety bricks- spirit if…