Upcycling Vol. 4
by BRITTANY JULIOUS
"Lost" - Frank Ocean (mp3)
"Pyramids" - Frank Ocean (mp3)
Audiences were immediately invested in Frank Ocean's success. Channel Orange was better because we understood the gravity of its production. Each song is finely crafted, memorable, and enjoyable. Pop hooks are a choice and one Ocean executes with a sense of the familiar. "Lost" sounds like something I've heard before. It sounds like a song from my youth, from the peak of structured r&b.
"Pyramids," the first single from the album, took a while to settle in as one of the best tracks on the album. Unlike many of the other tracks on the record, it is not crisp and concise and to the point. In many ways, it is two songs in one. Mixing the enigmatic simplicity of synth-ready contemporary hip hop with the fun and most perfect grooves of 70s funk, the song — about a woman and her work (in its simplest form) — is stunning. Sandwiched in the middle of the album, it anchors the record, finding the perfect balance and middle ground of ideas that cherish the new and the old.
"Run My Heart" - Twin Shadow (mp3)
"Five Seconds" - Twin Shadow (mp3)
Twin Shadow's music is moody. Each song sounds less like a poetic reflection of life as a whole and more like the frustrations and emotional complications of the everyday. George Lewis Jr. crafts songs that play like romantic, social folk tales or narratives of what it feels like to be a young, eager, earnest person. If Confess was a soundtrack, it would be to a film filled with shadows and long pauses and stares of confusion and frustration and lust.
“Run My Heart” is a perfect example of this play of narrative and emotion. Lewis Jr.’s voice is not as strong as it sounds on the flawless first single “Five Seconds,” but on this track, it works so well because of its imperfections. Throughout the song, he utters, “I’ve been working on making this start again,” and the line works for a variety of different interactions: troubled relationships, job prospects, lost friendships. It is a song of next chapters, of recognizing the differences of time, and ultimately letting go.
"Silly Girl" - Television Personalities (mp3)
"The Glittering Prizes" - Television Personalities (mp3)
Many of the songs on Television Personalities' ...And Don't the Kids Just Love It are underrated and timeless. Listening to music constantly creates that conundrum. A favorite album is a favorite for a variety of different reasons, but most often, it is not due to the singles. Perfect moments exist in between the great hooks. I'm thinking of the universality and steadiness of St. Vincent's “Just the Same but Brand New,” the romanticism of Dirty Projectors' "Two Doves," or the squawking lines of Metronomy's "Love Underlined."
On Television Personalities’ first album, "The Glittering Prizes" and "Silly Girl" exist in that realm for me. I began listening to the album again after a long hiatus and I realized what I have a tendency to forget: true goodness runs constant. "The Glittering Prizes," with its lyrics of wanting and disappointment especially run familiar. That desire to rise above, to be one's best self, to have something greater than what you are left with is not new. It was as true in 1980, when the album was first released, as it is now. Maybe it's even truer. The world is bigger. The stakes are higher. The rewards are greater. The success is sweeter. The failure is forever.
"Just From Chevron" - Dirty Projectors (mp3)
"Swing Lo Magellan" - Dirty Projectors (mp3)
"Swing Lo Magellan" transitions into “Just From Chevron” which transitions into "Dance for You," and this moment on Dirty Projectors' new record is without a doubt the loveliest thing one will hear all year. The music is a subtle break from the heaviness of most current Dirty Projectors songs, employing the effortlessness and charm of Amber Coffman's voice during some moments; incorporating the quirky and comforting intonation of Dave Longstreth's in others.
Much is made of the band's sound. During Pitchfork weekend, I sat in a restaurant in Chicago listening to the band DJ a mix of dance and r&b and pop, never settling on one sound and instead finding the commonality (of production, of strangeness, of memorability) in each. Their efforts were not taken for granted and are evident on this record as in records past. “Indie rock” may not seem as progressive or “of the times” as many newly established musical genres, but like those new genres, there is a subtle play on what was gleaned from the past and how that works for the present. It may not be as obvious as a Destiny’s Child sample, but it is there and it sounds as much 2012 as anything else. This is a band of musicians raised in a generation that could consume sounds easily and thus create with a greater knowledge and curiosity than those of the past. As a whole, Swing Lo Magellan excels because of this execution. The first spin sounds as “settled in” as the 5th or 10th.
Grizzly Bear’s music is comforting. It may not always feel challenging, but a closer listen reveals the depths. In “Sleeping Ute,” the band showcases some of their most progressive and aggressive instrumentation, leaving no moment truly silent. Instruments upon instruments are layered. The band that creates music of overpowering warmth and beauty literally overpowers the listener with guitars, with vocals, with drumming, with sound. If Grizzly Bear’s greatest strengths were their ability to show restraint, here they exhibit the ways in which the breaking free of their sound is still more calculating and exciting than the majority of music currently being released.
"Changes" - LOL Boys (mp3)
LOL Boys make sexy, dreamy, weird disco. Their remix work on tracks like the perfect pop of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” uncovers the best elements of the singer’s music: the sweetly melodic chorus and the memorable lyrics. On other songs, like their new single “Changes,” multiple musical genres combine (jazz, disco) to create a stunning, sophisticated, one-of-a-kind moment. It is slinky and seductive, a welcome break from the anxiousness of both realms (the EDM/brostep aesthetic and the hittery post-dubstep) of the contemporary dance music scene. Its simplicity – a simple horn, a steady 4/4 beat, a clean yet pitch-altered voice – sounds vintage in many ways. This is not a song of 2012, but it’s welcome.
Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about sequins. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.
"Just The Same But Brand New (live)" - St. Vincent (mp3)