I think the majority of us are familiar with The xx. The laid back trio who brought us their fantastic debut album, xx, in 2009. The band’s stripped down minimalism and starry-eyed romanticism captured the hearts of many– romantics and cynics alike. Romy Madley-Crofts vocals were ethereal, mysterious, and sexy; inviting ex-lovers and future-romances to a big stargazing session all at once. Oliver Sim’s bass came in just at the right time, adding seductive layers of baritone to Madley-Croft’s lofty voice and Jamie xx’s production was crisp and exceptionally raw giving the band a creative organic feel. With their sophomore effort, Coexist set for release in September, one can’t help to wonder if The xx will fall victim to the much dreaded sophomore slump. After a (disappointing in my opinion) release of two songs from Coexist, “Angels” and Chains,” apprehension regarding the band’s newest effort began to surface. And then “Try” leaked. “Try” is a pensive analysis of wasted love. Sim and Madley-Croft question their approach to a misused relationship singing, “why do we waste time hiding it inside? I want you to be mine.” The duo’s voices mesh perfectly, blending a perfect mix of treble and bass together. “Try” has a slight reverb edge to it that gives it a watery shimmer. Jamie xx’s production is minimal when it needs to be, allowing Sim and Madley-Croft to clearly articulate their voices. The song leaves you craving love and acceptance like the early morning hours of a disappointing party; it’s just too easy to get caught up in the dreamy swirl of “Try.” If the rest of Coexist plays as effortlessly as “Try,” then The xx have got a masterpiece on their hands.
As “Hipster Runoff” would say, we are in a buzz-drought. Summer is coming to a close and bands are kicking off year-long tours to support their June or July releases, festivals are coming to a close, and the independent world is entering its usual August-September slump. Some people view this as a sort of musical apocalypse; others view it as a much needed vacation. With the recent scarcity of new independent music, I’ve decided to take a time machine back into rock’s golden age: the early 1960’s. Something about this era gets me all jazzed up. Maybe it’s the greaser style, the muscle cars, the preppy cheerleaders, the jukeboxes and malt diners or maybe it’s the melodic simplicity of the period’s music. That G-Em-C-D progression that almost every doowop song used never felt repetitive and the youth’s backyard baseball games never became tiresome. Such a straightforward, catchy time. “Runaround Sue” by Dion is by no means a chunk of hidden gold, but it is a rockin’ prophet sent by the god of rock n’ roll himself: Elvis. Dion’s pompadour-rock jam is a bouncy, six-beers in collage of weeping sax and supercharged “hey’s” and “bum’s.” Dion’s voice is sorrowful yet confident like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Toward the song’s grand finale, a killer sax solo ensues forcing drunken fraternity brothers onto the bar countertop to shred some righteous air-sax. In all, “Runaround Sue” is a classic staple of early rock n’ roll, doowop, and pop in general. Without it, modern pop music might not be so infectiously melodic. Thanks Dion, you slick haired son o’ bitch, you.
Do you remember when indie-rock wasn’t obsessed with being cool? When bands and artists didn’t necessarily care about how many jean jackets they own or how skinny their jeans fit. When bands didn’t drench their work in reverb and make their album covers some old person’s family photo. I miss these days. To me, Galaxie 500 embody the perfect indie band. Their sloppy, DIY, emotional, and highly melodic slowcore is so relatable and emotive that it added a trophy into the indie-rock trophy case for a victory in the best bands category. “Tugboat” is a quickly put together slow burner that boasts memorable lines like, “I don’t want to stay at your party, I don’t want to talk to your friends.” Dean Wareham’s voice wobbles on and on, faintly reminescent of a less vicious Jello Biafra. The instrumentation is dark and opaque, flowing thickly like a bottle of fresh syrup. The song’s emotionally distressed attitude reminds me of the thematic matter of bands like Bright Eyes and Simon Joyner. Galaxie 500 have a big reason to be remembered so heavily in the independent community, and “Tugboat” is a great example of their prevalence.
You know that old dude who works at the record store who complains about true music’s disintegration? The one in the tattered Led Zeppelin t-shirt religiously scanning the “oldies but goodies” section, picking out used Boston and Bread LP’s with a nerdy sweat riddled brow. He’s the guy who claims that “rock” died when John Bohnam did and says that Bruce Springsteen was the last “true musician.” I wonder what the hell this guy would think if I tied him to a chair and forced him to listen to Lil B’s new 852-track mixtape. He’d probably piss himself in anger and denounce the eccentric artist as the guy who singlehandedly killed music. But if you think about it, Lil B is as punk as they come. His DIY ethic, his “I’ll do what I want and if you don’t like it then fuck off” attitude, and his obvious passion is 110% punk. He’s probably the “truest artist to date.” Now saying he’s the greatest musician ever is outlandish; he most certainly is not. His mixtapes and albums are enduring to say the least. His attire and his attitude is so out there that it may put off conservative listeners who are used to traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus pop. Soulja Boy, the rapper/hypebeast responsible for 2007’s club banger, “Crank That,” has taken the hip-hop DIY ethic and morphed it into a much more approachable and accessible form of music; think of him as Lil B training wheels. “First Day of School” is a boastful, semi-stream of consciousness tune that’s got Soulja word-slaying couplets regarding his clothes and “freshness.” The production is crisp and dramatic. A piano loop righteously taunts Soulja’s boastful lyrics and the MC fights right back, spewing line after line about how much swag he’s got. His delivery is undeniably southern, sounding similar to Andre 3000 choruses or Lil Jon rants. Soulja Boy is by no means the most talented MC in hip-hop but he doesn’t try to be. He just does his thing. But did Johnny Rotten know how to sing? No. Did Sid Vicious know how to play bass? Hell no. And that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to be a Whitney Houston to be a singer. You don’t have to be the next 2Pac to rap; you’ve just got to be yourself, and that’s exactly what Soulja Boy is doing on “First Day of School.”
1. Exactly Nothing – Real Estate
2. Resurrection – Common
3. Crazy Love – Daniel Johnston
4. Oogum Boogum – Brenton Wood
5. Hey Ma – Cam’ron
6. Wood – Rostam
7. Time: The Donut of The Heart – J. Dilla
8. Lost – Frank Ocean
9. (Baby, Baby) I Can’t Take It No More – Tommy James & The Shondells
10. Big Poppa – Woody x Notorious B.I.G.
11. High Fantasy – Lace Curtains
12. World Domination – Joey Bada$$
13. Baby’s Wearin’ Blue Jeans – Mac Demarco
14. Slow Down – Poolside
15. Jazz (We’ve Got It) – A Tribe Called Quest
16. Good Time – Donnie & Joe Emerson