One of WOBC’s recent acquisitions, Nightlife is an eclectic addition that rubs up against the vault on all sides. The Saratoga Springs Duo is Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, two high school friends with their hearts set on platonic bandmateship. Their main inspiration is the optical illusion from which they are named. They were those kids with anachronistic upbringings who grew up listening to Cocteau Twins, J Dilla, and David Bowie. And Nightlife certainly illuminates this time-twisted coming-of-age. Off of Barsuk Records, the EP features Sarah on keyboards, Josh on guitar, vocals from both, and a lot of production-level drum-kitty sirens and wisps. Twenty-seven minutes in heaven, for sure, this release feels like it’s ‘just a tasting’.
Let’s do a little run-through, shall we? ’16 Years’, kicks it off, quite a teenage outcry. Kindof like the ‘It’s my birthday and I’ve been socialized into thinking that I must partake in a performative existential reflection to build a narrative upon which I can grow, even though I’m still at the point where I want to be regarded as older rather than younger’. Sarah is spot on here, definitely like a nice teenage car ride with the moon-roof down radio-flipping. Definitely lots of feelings. Next we have ‘Don’t Move’ the album’s successful single from last October. Sarah’s soliloquy is over, Josh comes in, and they partake in a sort of dialogue. There’s a nice clanking in the back over and over reflecting nicely off the otherwise rather alarming words. “I’m not your drinking problem”, “I’m not your paranoia”, “I know that you’re still alive”, la la la, all the meaning is driven right out of these lyrics, its still head-boppy and the track you want to put on right when you come home.
Next comes “Turning Into Stone”, another all-star, building on more clanks and synthy drop-downs, Josh’s turn. We get some powerful chilling harmonies, “it’s a new day, and I’ve got new ways, of turning into stone.” A little more electro-inspired, track 3 still maintains the sort of somber tone within an upbeat sound. Tracks 4-6 bring a few new bends in the roads; whispers, little scats, onomatopoeia, and a platter of emotional spectra. It maintains that youthful urgency, and a perhaps naïve but relatable look toward the past, but the security of a future. Some nice mix-ups, track 5, the title track, slows it down to for the acoustic guitar-fretting to play a big role and interact with some cloudy background. It’s a nice moment of fulfillment, like the ones at the end of a night when you’re thoroughly exhausted and pleased, just genuflecting on hours of satisfying new adventures. Overall, the album strings together a lot of different twists and perspectives of the events we call life into is a big giant sigh of “These Are Days”.
Last week, beloved avant-pop wierdos Dirty Projectors released a new track, “Gun Has No Trigger”, via Soundcloud. This is the first single from the band’s forthcoming full-length record Swing Lo Magellan, due out July 10th on Domino Records. The last time we heard from the band was late 2010, when they released Mount Wittenberg Orca, a 7-track collaboration EP with Bjork. Wittenberg came on the heels of 2009’s acclaimed Bitte Orca, a groovy and wildly successful album that bestowed indie royalty on the previously obscure band of Yale dropouts.
Guitarist/vocalist/producer/jack-of-all-trades Dave Longstreth spearheaded the Dirty Projectors project while he was a college freshman in 2002, and has taken the lead in composing and producing all of the band’s releases since. What is perhaps most distinct about the Dirty Projectors’ music as a whole is that it has constantly evolved, both in concept and sound. From the lo-fi field samples of The Graceful Fallen Mango and the operatic drama of The Getty Address, to the Black Flag-inspired Rise Above and the R&B-infused Bitte Orca, the band is in a continuous state of flux that is still apparent on “Gun Has No Trigger”.
An unusual project: a feature film adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel of the same name. Dealing with sixties alienation, societal hypocrisy, sexuality, growing up, depression, and free (?) love, Tran Anh Hung’s film, released in 2010, is noticeably more subdued than one might expect. It focuses on the story of Toru, his life as a student in sixties Tokyo, his emotional turmoil of losing a friend to suicide, being adrift in the world, and his relationship with two different women, the melancholic Naoko, and the confident Midori.
The soundtrack is equally restrained (and surprisingly, has no Beatles’ references or anything), being equal parts staid, quietly dramatic, understated, with some songs by the ‘krautrock’ late-60s band CAN, providing an interesting contrast to the string heavy, acoustical pieces by Jonny Greenwood. Ah yes, Greenwood, multi-talented musician, composer, member of Radiohead, composer for such movies as Bodysong and There Will be Blood… But, the real gems of this album are not the orchestral pieces, but the guitar pieces. They are quite elegant in composition and tone. Melancholic and meditative, they vanish as quickly as they appeared. This would not be such a problem if the orchestral pieces were not so pallid. At best, they are ethereal and pretty (Watashi wo Toru Toko wa Watashi Dake wo Totte Ne), but mostly they are so unassuming that they gradually just drift off into nothingness. This may have been the point. Occasionally, there is a burst of energy, such as on the track Naoko ga Shinda, a Penderecki-esque piece with tense, dissonant voices under a solo violin.
Quartertone Bloom is a stunner though, with the greatest thematic resolution and cosmic yearning that is prevalent throughout the album. It is a culmination of themes that could exist as a stand-lone concert piece (if it was longer). The ending is particularly gorgeous, reminiscent of Poulenc, Dukas, and Messiaen. The sense of ecstatic, sublime, romanticism bursts forth but is absent everywhere else on the soundtrack. That is the greatest weakness of the album. Despite its attempts at musically portraying un-fulfillment, anxiety, love, sensuality, and melancholy, it ultimately falls short. How appropriate, given the story’s tone of young ennui.
The Archive Sounds: Oberlin and Activism in the 1980s engages critically with found sound from the largely neglected collection of old radio shows, news reports, and station IDs that make up the WOBC audio archive. The project highlights the peculiarity of an archive created and cared for haphazardly over three decades by various DJs and station staff. The Archive Sounds weaves interviews, speeches, and recordings of public events together to present an imagined, curated, narrative of Oberlin activism in the late 1980s.
With this project, I’m not looking to create an objective historical account of activism in Oberlin. Rather, I hope to present my version of the story as the archive might tell it. The program covers several themes including labor and union organizing, race, racism and gender in the city of Oberlin and within the institution of the College, and the anti-apartheid struggle for divestment from South Africa. In addition, the program draws on various audio ephemera played on WOBC in the 1980s and 90s in order to situate the social and political content within the more general context of WOBC programming during that time.
Pride is 41 minutes of loneliness. It’s like listening to Skinny Love on codeine. Slow, quiet and unsettling in every way. Interludes of noodling guitars underscore Phosphorescent’s multi-layered vocal harmonies to create a sound unlike anything that I’ve ever heard, and when the melodies come in, they’re slow and reserved. Phosphorescent is the working moniker for Matthew Houck, a singer-songwriter from Athens, Georgia. His fourth album, Pride, evokes feelings of solidarity through this contrast of slow, driving melodies and subtle interludes of drones and hisses. The beauty of the album is that it cannot be pigeonholed into the genres that it swings between, folk and ambient, because it captures both so perfectly. The record is hopeful in its tone, engaging with its pop melodies and unnerving with its ambience, to create a unique sound that makes even the toughest traveler nostalgic of their home.
Pride is an album for The Soul-searching Traveler. The person who embarks on journeys to far away lands and returns immersed in new knowledge. The traveler will find solace in the strength of Houck’s vocals and lyrics and a rhythm to travel to in the thumbing bass drum. “Wolves,” arguably the best track on the album, is the perfect example. The song opens with soft, nylon strings strumming a simple melody, until Houck enters with a youthful voice asking for protection from the wolves from his mother. “Mama there’s wolves in the house / Mama, they wont let me out. / Mama, they’re mating at night / Mama, they wont make nice.” As the lone traveler bounces from city to city, from hostel to homestay, the cry for domestic protection is the traveller can relate to. Then, the home-sickness sets in. Read More →
M. Ward has returned with his seventh and latest release, A Wasteland Companion, released today, April 10. He is one of the great musicians among contemporary folk and indie music. M. Ward is mostly known for his last two releases, Post-War from 2006 and Hold Time from 2009 and his work and collaboration with actress and singer Zooey Deschanel and their band, She & Him. M. Ward has a very distinctive style of playing and singing that resonates a warm atmospheric sound that would captivate any listener. A Wasteland Companion is one of his best efforts yet that captures a sweet sound that compliments his usual vintage tone. This album introduces a more mellow sound than his previous records that reflect off some of his work with She & Him. Read More →
The Mosaic is a covers show that airs Monday mornings at 1AM (Sunday late night). Tune in next time!
Last week we compared Elton John versus Ellie Goulding with their renditions of “Your Song.” It’ll come as no surprise that Elton John was voted to be the better half of the pairing. Goulding’s version of John’s song adds in this cool electronic element and makes it her own. While Goulding successfully held her own against the pop icon, John’s version had more heart. Which is understandable considering he wrote it.
This Week: This Woman’s Work
This week’s song was originally written and recorded by Kate Bush, a musician from Kent who’s big break came in 1978 when the song “Wuthering Heights” topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks. Some of the songs on her first album The Kick Inside were written when she was thirteen which is, you know, pretty early. She had a very successful career before deciding to take a year off in 1993. That year turned into twelve with her career restarting in 2005 with the release of Aerial. Her 2011 album Director’s Cut contained a couple of re-recorded songs with changed lyrics—“This Woman’s Work” included. She remains an influence today with everyone from Placebo to Pat Benatar attempting to cover her songs. Coldplay’s “Speed of Sound” was originally an attempt to recreate her hit “Running Up That Hill.”
I guess that means Greg Laswell finds himself in good company. About Greg Laswell. Ahem. He started out as the frontman for a band called Shillglen. At the 2000 San Diego Music Awards, the band was nominated for Best Alternative Album and Best Alternative Band, but otherwise received very little acknowledgement. In 2001, Shillglen disbanded at Laswell’s suggestion. Laswell went on to be an alternative rock superstar (Do they have those in alternative rock? Well now they do.) and has been recording music on his own ever since. A lot of his music gets put into TV shows—I would assume because his music is unassuming and kind of, well, sad. Laswell said that his latest album Take A Bow differs from his other music because he wasn’t miserable when he wrote it. Also, fun fact: He’s married to Ingrid Michaelson. So yeah. There’s that.