Beach House – Take Care

I admit it, I am late to jump on the Beach House bandwagon. Yes, I knew their album Teen Dream received high acclaim when it came out last January, and I knew that it ended 2010 on many of the top album of the year charts, but for whatever reason I just couldn’t get into it last year. Things certainly have changed for me because now it seems that I can’t get enough of it. I’ve been listening to it nonstop lately. Really. Repeat upon repeat upon repeat of this album. My roommate is probably going to be sick of me soon, but I’ll put up with a little of his moaning if it means I can listen to just one.more.song.

This is the duo’s third album and, to me, the stand out track is the eerily romantic, Take Care. (Is “eerily romantic” even a thing? Well it is now.) The first few times I listened to this track I kept thinking it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me – it feels very much like Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space by Spiritualized. It has this dreamy, surreal quality to it that surrounds you with the emotions of the vocals while immersing you in its dreampop textures. I feel the song while listening to it. It’s that good.

The only downside to my new Beach House obsession is the pair seems to have been MIA for the past year. They have popped up here and there throughout the year to play festivals, but their website hasn’t been updated in a while and I can’t seem to find much information about a new album or tour. Even if they don’t put out anything new, I guess I can be content having this gem of an album to listen to…on repeat.

Beach House – Take Care

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.