James Blake – I Mind

First, some confessions: I don’t usually listen to dubstep. To be completely honest, I don’t really know what dubstep is. Many of you probably know a lot more about James Blake – and whether or not the music he makes is dubstep – than I. I’d probably just call it pop music. Personally, it reminds me of Imogen Heap, with it’s gratuitous Auto-Tuned self-harmonizing (especially on songs like “Lindisfarne I” and “I Never Learnt to Share”); I mean that in that in a very good way.

I’ve sat on James Blake’s debut album for a while, but I’m just starting to appreciate it now. As someone with no familiarity with dubstep, James Blake’s record sounds completely fresh and new to me – the stuttering beats, the complex synth tones and sounds, and the simplicity of the songwriting. The album opens with some mellow chords and a sound effect that I can only describe as the lighting of a blowtorch, literally sparking the album. This opening track, “Unluck,” consists of about two lines of lyrics repeated ad nauseam, but the musical development makes it a really exciting composition and a great introduction to the larger musical concepts developed throughout the record.

The album’s penultimate track, “I Mind,” has even less songwriting and even more interesting sounds. While the melody is fairly stagnant (nearly nonexistent), the changes in timbre and texture make this song unlike anything else in pop music, which is usually so reliant on melody (and ignorant of all other musical elements). For its emphasis on these oft-overlooked musical components, James Blake’s self-titled debut LP is the greatest breath of fresh air I’ve gotten from a new pop album in a long time.

Enjoy the chameleonic sonic landscapes of “I Mind.”

James Blake – I Mind

Alabama Shakes – EP

This past Monday was my 22nd birthday, and I have to say, I am really feeling my age. I didn’t even do birthday shots at midnight! Also, I found a gray hair. Which is actually not that disconcerting seeing as I had gray hairs as early as nine. All in all, I’m actually doing pretty well.

The first phone call I got on my birthday was from my long-time friend who called at midnight on the dot. (I had just gotten the toothbrush out of my mouth– par-tay.) I’ve known said friend since we were 10, so we go way back. I can thank her not only for the birthday song, but also for introducing me to Alabama Shakes, were actually be on the World Cafe Live last night at 8, if you were lucky enough to catch them. The next stop after that for the band formerly known as “The Shakes” is the Bowery Ballroom tomorrow in NYC.

This band is really, superly good. It’s impossible for lead vocalist Brittany Howard not to impress you with her gritty, soulful voice, and the guitars and rhythm section lend well to a break-out dancing session. Each of the songs on the band’s Bandcamp page, which includes their four-song EP for $4, reminds me of something much older, before the days of over-production, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new to enjoy here.

Bless my heart
Bless my soul
Didn’t think I’d make it to 22 years old

You and me both, Britt. Well, actually, I figured I would, but it’s nice to know for sure now that I did.

Alabama Shakes EP by Alabama Shakes

Sonic Youth – Disappearer

Have you heard the terrible, tragic, devastating news?

Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, married for 27 years, have separated. Now, I love Sonic Youth, and shudder to think of the implications this will have for the rest of the band (you can’t break up now! The Eternal = so good!). But, at the risk of sounding supremely callous, why do we care?

I don’t mean “care” in a sense that is synonymous with “compassion.” It’s a terrible thing when a marriage dissolves, especially one that appeared to have such longevity. I feel genuinely sympathetic to the fact that they’re going through what is presumably a very difficult time. Yet all condolences aside, we don’t know them. All we really know of them is pictures and video clips, anecdotes, and interviews. To us average non-celebrities, they’re practically fictitious.

Am I saying that we should never be concerned with the lives of those who don’t directly affect us? No! It’s just that to me, this feels like a form of voyeurism. The fact that they’re public figures doesn’t mean we should included in all matters of their private lives, especially the most personal ones.

Simply put, I feel we shouldn’t place inordinate amounts of attention on those who have not touched our lives in any physical, tangible way. (Besides, in this case, creating some amazing songs.)

Now, while I step down from my soap box, let’s talk about music.  

The sliver lining about this depressing news is that it has renewed my interest in Sonic Youth. Goo is one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s almost frustratingly good at times; every song is so amazing, it’s hard to pick just one to highlight.

For the moment, the closest thing I have to a “favorite” Goo track is “Disappearer.”

Let’s hope for the sake of 90’s alternative fans everywhere that Sonic Youth finds a way to stay together.

 

Tennis- Tell Her No (The Zombies Cover)

Tennis has a retro air about them both in look and in sound.  Their earlier cover of Brenda Lee’s “Is It True?” and now their cover of The Zombies “Tell Her No” fit them perfectly.  They do a great job of staying true to the songs they cover while also adding their own flare.  Tennis has mastered making the new sound old and the old sound new.  Check out both tracks below and make sure to listen for what Tennis calls “the best use of a lone-clap we’ve ever heard” on “Tell Her No”.

Tennis has also announced that they have completed their second album with the help of Patrick Carney of The Black Keys.  It should come out early next year.

Tennis – Tell Her No (The Zombies Cover)

Tennis – Is It True (Brenda Lee Cover)