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Durga Chew-Bose
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Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in brittany julious (23)

Friday
Jun082012

In Which We Are Completely Surrounded By Others

The New York Review of Hooks Vol. 3

Because I am not a musician, I can pretend that musicians create music to fulfill the desires and wants of their listeners. It is a self-centered line of thought. Because of this, I imagine the winters in atmospheric, haunting, post-dubstep. I never have and never will listen to Burial in any other time than late fall. Emotionally, it makes little sense in the summer. Burial’s music is often described as the soundtrack to personal commuting, to urban life, to the individual in a world surrounded by - endlessly, constantly - others.

“Signal Loss” - Pariah (mp3)

"Rift" - Pariah (mp3)

I downloaded Pariah’s beautiful new single, “Signal Loss,” but have only been able to listen to it once or twice. This is not the right time for this kind of single, imbued with the heavy, daunting atmosphere of seasons past. It works, but I wish I had heard it in February, when this slightly uncomfortable, yet still gorgeous style of music couples well with the winter.

"This Can't Be A Crime" - Cocaine 80s (mp3)

The freedom of summer can never be underestimated. Summer is literally more daylight, more sun, more warmth, more comfort. Many of the songs on Cocaine 80s’ new EP, Express OG, create this feeling of comfort and familiarity. The more acoustic tracks like “Take My Keys” and the gorgeous “This Can’t Be a Crime,” fall delicately in listeners’ ears. Later songs on the EP are good, but overproduced in a way that stands out considerably from previously mentioned tracks. A light touch is all that is needed right now.

Summer forgives  all of the troubles that rest heavy in our minds all winter as we hibernate under the covers, in front of the heaters, beneath layers and layers. But summer is also the chance to see more, to hear more. People walk down the streets lazily. They have someplace to go, but not really. And surrounded by the noise of summer, music that compliments our depressed moods only complicates and confuses.

The songs that work best for right now – for the beginnings of summer – are the ones you can sing along to, at the top of your lungs, without worry or annoyance. And so, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” most certainly the best pop song written within the past year and quite possibly one of the best ever, seems appropriate.

“Call Me Maybe” never sounded cheesy to me. But my first instinct was to think of it as a song for people younger than me. I assumed that something so sweet and light and lovely could only have been sung by someone much younger, and only appreciated, truly, by young girls.

The song grew on me. And eventually I realized why it works so well for so many people: it is a perfect pop song. The idea of a perfect pop song usually encompasses one or two core ideas: an instantly-memorable chorus, simple lyrics, and love. “Call Me Maybe” accomplishes this and then some. The synthetic strings are contemporary, invoking the Balearic pop and disco of Swedish band Studio that made past summers so much lovelier. The lyrics, while simple, are smart and relatable.

On playlists, the song couples well with the perfect and timeless “Steal My Sunshine” by Len. Jepsen’s newer releases indicate a strong likelihood that “Call Me Maybe” might become a one-hit wonder, something that seems to have disappeared from Top 40 radio. A lack of artistry for many mainstream singers means that the radio hit, the instantly-purchasable single needs to be replicated again and again. This explains Rihanna’s career of the past two years.

"Manners" - Icona Pop (mp3)

"I Love It" - Icona Pop (mp3)

"The World Is Ours" - CatCall (mp3)

I felt that CatCall’s “The World is Ours” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It” were both fun upon first listening, but it wasn’t until the third or fourth spin when I realized that I had memorized nearly all of the lyrics and was hopelessly in love with their shouty, youthful, anthemic-brand of pop. Both songs have off-melodies. They sound incomplete, as if the resolution of the chorus is yet to come. But their aversion to a routine pop structure in the music gives them a bit of edge. The songs are just different enough.

"Neptune" - Lemonade (mp3)

Diver, the new album by Lemonade, is everything I ever wanted in the last Yeasayer or Cut Copy album: an attention to detail and melody, brief yet perfect instances of danceable fun, and a cohesive sound that is not just a collection of songs. This has been a constant problem borne out of the way we listen to music. Songs are to be consumed, one right after the other, without the clear direction of musical saturation. I often purchase one album in exchange for 30 individual singles. And each song has its own value, but as a whole, it only stands as "My Music Collection," and not as an album or a definitive statement.

Diver just works, and the way it works can best be understood by listening to the album. The charms though, are numerous: the sweet, almost youthful crooning of lead singer Callan Clendenin; the instrumentation that channels dance pop, straight house, and even r&b; and the relatable lyrics of youth, yearning, change, and confusion.

“Running” - Jessie Ware (Disclosure remix) (mp3)

Disclosure succeeds in ways in which their contemporaries have yet to accomplish. Their music is sample heavy, driven, and charismatic. But also, each song feels complete. A remix of Jessie Ware’s “Running” is the best argument for their skills. Ware - an enigmatic vocalist in her own right - was transformed into the House Goddess we all knew she could be. Her cooing intonation made impressions on danceable tracks from producers and performers such as SBTRKT, but it was not until Disclosure’s remix that the indelible power of her voice was confirmed.

Most everything from Disclosure’s new EP, The Face, was released earlier online. But together, it makes for a perfect package of smart, well-executed house and dance music. The incorporation of female vocalists (on “Boiling” with Sinead Harnett and “Control” with Ria Ritchie) was probably one of the best decisions they could have made, though their flawless taste indicates a level of intelligence toward their music that is far beyond their contemporaries.

"Harlem Shake" - Baauer (mp3)

We turn to dance music during times of confusion and upheaval. Perhaps we turn to dance music because a truly great dance song compacts euphoria in a only a few minutes. When necessary, we can turn back to what we heard before to relive the way it made us feel. Disclosure understands this as does Baauer.

I wouldn’t call “Harlem Shake” gritty. In fact, it seems to fill a certain formula. Everything sounds clean and well-executed. Despite its execution, something still sounds reckless. Or maybe, it easily summons past memories: late nights, sweat, dirt … a kind of beautiful filthiness one feels on the dance floor.

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find the first volume of The New York Review of Hooks here, and the second volume here. She tumbls here and twitters here.


Thursday
Apr262012

In Which We Think Of A Reason For Our Trip

photo by xaviera simmons

Ripped Bodice

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

I used to work on the block where a man tried to force me into his car. This was not the first time.

The Rhona Hoffman Gallery, the reason for my trip, is located on a block of Peoria Avenue, off the expansive Randolph Street, and filled with other galleries and artist spaces. On certain Friday evenings, the block is bustling and busy with young people leaning against old meatpacking and industrial buildings smoking cigarettes and tying their shoelaces just so. I never fit in around here, even when I worked on this very block, day after day, during the fall after my college graduation. I never fit in around here, even when I visited two friends, former store owners, now embarking on the next chapter of their lives together outside of the city.

I think about this block because it represents different facets of my changing life and the way I see the world. That fall after college, it was a space of learning and responsibility. I hoped my job would lead someplace else. I hoped I had found a sense of place and purpose.

It was also a space of trouble, of quiet evenings and brisk temperatures. For a while, my greatest memory of that block was not the galleries and stores, but the way my neck hurt again and again while walking against the fierceness of the wind. It is a beautiful block, but like many corners of Chicago, it makes more sense during the day. At night, one realizes how long the blocks are, how wide the sidewalks are, how the only thing one passes by are more buildings and more pieces of trash, but not more people.

+

I began reading first romance, then erotic novels during my senior year of college. My interest stemmed from a love of fan fiction and a desire to both write and read beyond the characters I saw on the screen. I've noticed with my friends who appreciate either romance or fan fiction, a love of films and movies. There is the underlying devotion to storytelling and later, the ability to build on what was there. We can always keep going.

I like that the men represent a validation of my fantasies and my fantasies are not merely of the physical, but also of the potential for triumph, for personal redemption, for overcoming the things about ourselves — whether articulated and open or deeply stored within — that often delay the lives we want and the people we want to be. I think of myself as a woman coming back to her optimism. It was lost for a number of reasons in a number of different ways, but a part of me seeks out an interaction with the world that makes risks possible and chances worth taking. What I fear rests in me is a deeply-ingrained thought practice that ultimately makes living and loving seem like things other people do.

The black heroines in many of the novels I read are not traditionally beautiful, but they are interesting. They struggle and weep alone; keep their heads up and minds focused in private. They do a lot and feel a lot and often find peace through extraordinary circumstances that are more difficult than their lives pushing toward financial success and the desire to overcome a challenging society, a prejudiced society, an unforgiving society.

The ways in which I can overcome the world at large are through myself. I can not depend on outcomes of others, but must instead push myself to work harder, to think more, to pursue more. And in my favorite novels, the heroines must overcome the limitations of affection by challenging their willingness to love and trust.

+

The older I get, the more aware I am of how I lack a true understanding of normal. To me, normal is pure and right and exact. There is a real idea of normal love, of normal relationships, of normal intimacy. And even though a rational part of me knows that there is no way that a unique, individualistic, surprising world could produce a tried-and-true normal, I still hold on to the idea that there is a “right” way, and I am not doing it.

A friend once asked me what it was like to date as a black woman. She was asking not as a point of othering, but because I told her that “things are different.” We were discussing our parents’ relationships and how rare and strange it was that they are still together. This idea of marriage, of happiness, seems more like an exception to the rule of confusion, pain and regret.

Two years ago, a group of black teenage girls sat across from me on the 66 bus. An older black man, much older, at least in his 50s, began hitting on them, blatantly and disgustingly and physically. They were obviously turned off, because he was crass and because they were young, and this man thought that he could say and do anything he wanted to because these young women tickled his fancy. One girl, agitated, yelled, “I don’t care. Leave me alone! Leave us alone!”

It could have only been the culmination of years of frustration and annoyance because I too felt that anger and grief. This was not a random occurrence for them. This was the everyday, the day-to-day, the moment they stepped outside until the moment they locked their door.

There are slight come-ons, cheesy pick-up lines, catcalls which in hindsight are child’s play, and then there is harassment — physical and verbal — much like these teenage girls on the bus suffered, and what I’ve faced numerous times in the past. Harassment is different, and terrifying, and traumatizing. But once you’ve faced it, in all forms, whether it is a man calling you “A stupid stuck-up bitch” or another grabbing you off the street, a block away from your own home, attempting to rape you before you’ve even gotten your first period, you learn to toughen up, to always be aware, to call out the aggressors from the get go in the hopes that this time won’t turn dire. It’s not about hate but about safety and street smarts. As a black woman, unfortunately, I believe it’s something we become accustomed to at a young age.

It shapes the way you look at life and the way you encounter the people around you. If you are like me, it stifles your freedom, creating an existence of confusion. What does it mean to be loved? What does it mean to be happy?

I still think of the moment when everything changes, when that loss of youth shapes one’s days from here on out. It is that critical age of post-innocence, yet pre-adolescence. In my head, the other girls were able to still feel somewhat young and somewhat free, but I remember knowing more than I should, and feeling angry about it at 12 years old. Even now, I yearn for my age, meaning, the ability to be young and feel young and have that be enough. A co-worker said, “What do you have to stress over?” And I thought, most everything. It’s the same as it ever was.

+

Last Thanksgiving, we sat around my aunt's great big television — the place of common gathering for my family — and my grandmother tried to run her weak hands through my thick hair. She couldn't get far. She made a comment about it being unkempt and unright.

A friend shared a conversation she had with a mutual editor and they discussed not my fear of the body, but my fear of the expectations of the body. I am fearful that I lack ownership, fearful that my personality is not good enough or pleasant enough or funny enough to warrant love. If I only have the physical than these interactions must be representative of something inherent in me, something others see but I am unable to recognize or know. There is the me I know and the 'real' me, the me everyone else sees. That distance makes me uneasy.

At the holiday dinner, I tried to talk to my family. We’ve spoken before, held conversations and shared jokes, but the older I get, the more I recognized the full formation of my internal self. The older I get, the more I recognize my dual selves, the one that thinks and sees and feels so much that emotions manifest in stomach pains or stiff joints, and the one the world sees.

“I just don’t like it when people make comments about my appearance. I don’t like being touched without knowing,” I said. But what I actually meant was, I don’t like knowing that there’s something wrong with me, that it is visible, that what I sometimes feel and think deep down can be confirmed through appearances.

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 the month in music. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Photos by Xaviera Simmons.

photo by xaviera simmons

"Ruby Blue" - Róisín Murphy (mp3)

"Sow Into You" - Róisín Murphy (mp3)

photo by xaviera simmons

Thursday
Apr052012

In Which We Return To The Land Of Sweet Hooks

Vol #2

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

The haunting qualities of any good song transcend genre. The way we listen to music now requires the sort of voracious appetite - a never ending sense of hunger for music - that makes us always search for something new. There are blogs I do not visit and songs I do not listen to, but so much of it is heard on iPods and laptops, in house parties and basement bars that music has become the noise of my day-to-day. The hum of my refrigerator in my small apartment, the screeching of the cars that race quickly down Chicago Avenue, the grunts of the men who play basketball at a nearby park … these are the sounds that infiltrate the constancy of a new album, remix or mixtape.

But certain songs stay put. They resonate long after I first listen to them. Although their appeal eventually wanes, the next band or album or song I discover has touches of them, allowing me to revisit what felt so powerful for minutes, hours, or even days.

"Into the Black" - Chromatics (mp3)

“Into the Black," from the Chromatics’ first new album in forever, Kill for Love, is one of the most startling songs you’ll hear all year. It is not outrageous or flashy, but the first few notes from the ominous guitar riff that settles throughout the song reminds the listener of their tremendous power. Like any great work from the band, it establishes the mood of the rest of the album. In this case, one should expect sorrow, mourning and the perfect soundtrack to late nights.

"Jasmine" - Jai Paul (mp3)

"BTSTU" - Jai Paul (mp3)

My greatest fear for new music from Jai Paul was to step away from my desk only to come back later in the day and realize that he had finally - finally! - released new music. And this happened. I missed the demo release by about half an hour. This amount of time seems minimal taking into account Paul's contemporary classic "BTSTU" was first released in 2010. Audiences haven't heard much since. After waiting this long, we can wait a while longer.

“BTSTU” was and is enigmatic, but also damn catchy. It’s not just a good song, but a good pop song. It deserves a larger audience. Perhaps a great pop song is another example of the way music haunts. A good pop song, both infectious and relentless, demands respect. Only a few people can accomplish something so pleasing and melodic to the ear. And “BTSTU,” years later, hits that mark every time.

Paul's music requires patience; you have to savor it continually, given the frequency at which it is released. Unlike a large majority of the music I listen to, I've been coming back to "Jasmine," Paul’s newest single. Much like “BTSTU,” it includes all of the makings of a perfect pop song: a nice beat, a memorable chorus, an even more memorable voice. But Paul’s music differs from the norm, asking the listener to unravel the layers that hide the value of his work. Once past the immediate appeal, its other stories - the hand claps, the grainy quality, the thumping bass - also deserve to be told.

"Joy" - Julian (mp3)

"Lust Spell" - Julian (mp3)

Ostensibly Julian has a better voice than Jai Paul. Whereas Paul often performs in a quiet falsetto, Julian’s voice sounds stronger and more forceful. But it is less compelling, and coupled with the production of such songs as “Joy,” it takes away from an otherwise solid single. The first few seconds sound like the beginning of a smooth, contemporary house track, but Julian keeps his sound in the vein of contemporaries like Drake and The Weeknd. This is not meant to sound like an insult.

When I listen to another early single, “Lust Spell,” I am reminded of the emerging r&b singers of my 90s youth: young, bright-eyed, and usually singing about experiences that seem more foreign to the singer than what is presented. Something about his range and intonation feels very much like a recent past, and the sound can be jarring when coupled with the contemporary, often bleak and minimalist sounds of the production.

"Leila's Tale" - Szjerdene (mp3)

Szjerdene understands restraint. Many of the emerging or underground male r&b vocalists understand production, but their vocals are second to the music. I first heard Szjerdene’s “Leila’s Tale” late last year. Like a lot of instant classics, it required repeated listening. Oftentimes I got dressed in the mornings or read late into the night with the song on repeat. Szjerdene couples her voice with the instrumentation. She listens to and sings with music, rather than against or above it. A guitar strum is the second vocalist, the other “singer” that complements her song. Like “Leila’s Tale,” new single “Blue Lullaby” has a deeply felt quality that hovers somewhere between disquieting and lovely. But as the listener takes in the steady and driven beat, they are immersed completely in the force of the song. That’s another quality of the haunting: it grips you completely and won’t let go.

"DDD" - Machinedrum (mp3)

"She Died There" - Machinedrum (mp3)

Machinedrum is prolific. I don’t say this lightly. Producer Travis Stewart is skilled at what he does and each new release, regardless of what genre he manipulates or elevates, fits his signature. Throughout many of his best releases (Room(s), SXLND), he incorporates a use of vocal samples that sound, if not lively, then at least lovely. “She Died There,” from Room(s) and “Give a Lil Luv,” from Dream Continuum (a collaboration between Machinedrum and Om Unit) elicit a strange beauty. The songs are neither quiet nor slow, but their use of vocals are startlingly compressing. They root the listener and sound on the cusp of something greater.

Trying to write articulately about what makes so much of Machinedrum’s music so great proves difficult. I was so excited and scared the first time I heard Room(s). It had been a long time since dance music felt so powerful. I asked my friend about it the next day and he said he had deleted many of the songs from his computer. They weren’t instantly compelling to him. Some music takes patience. Certain albums need to settle before revealing their charms. But Room(s) never failed for me upon first listen. It felt and still feels smarter than most anything I heard last year. The way that we listen to music now is often similar to how (I think) some musicians make music. A lack of focus, of a definitive statement stands out. But Room(s) is ambitious. Setting itself apart, it still doesn’t neglect its audience. How could it when it sounds so forceful, so elegant?

“DDD,” from the SXLND EP is unabashedly house, invoking the spirit of the early 90s in its subtle, rapturous groove. Unlike the majority of his most recent work, which blend elements of footwork and jungle, “DDD” has a steady 4/4 beat - a rhythmic pulse that is sexy and fun. It might be my favorite song of Stewart's, and although I know his work is often a testament to the styles and aesthetics he enjoys and experiments with, a part of me craves more music that felt like the first and second and third time I listened to “DDD.”

"Push the Feeling On" - Nightcrawlers (mp3)

Nightcrawlers are an established element of a good night out. “Push the Feeling On” is a song for the moment before the moment the night winds down. It is the final go, that last turn around the bend. You are then most in the element of the room: the strangers around you, bodies pressed close together, the thumping of the bass. I could listen to this song forever and not get bored if only because of the memories of it in public with my friends or alone, but always dancing.

"Crazy-Shaped Lady" - Le Le (mp3)

Although Le Le recently released Party Time, the album sounds retro. By retro, I mean that late-aughts period of French electro house that sounded so exciting as a college student. There was always an element of “the party,” of good times and drinks and dancing. The lyrics are inconsequential to the music, which sounds just right anywhere but on your laptop speakers. Songs like “Damien” and “Crazy-Shaped Lady” (or the new club classic from an earlier release,“Breakfast”) are fantastic because they require little to be enjoyed. It’s a level of fun that permeates through the song, and for Party Time, throughout the album.

"Chicago" - Fred Falke ft. Teff Balmert (mp3)

A week or two ago, my friend and I left a work party and attended a DJ set by French producer Fred Falke at Smart Bar. Falke gets the dance floor. He understands the importance of the moment, and making it last. The feeling doesn’t need to be the same, but it should always be a good feeling, a pleasant moment, an eager moment. To lose that feeling is to no longer know your place and why you're there and how to feel good.

It takes root and won’t let go. Being surrounded by strangers can be both exciting and terrifying. Being surrounded by friends and acquaintances can feel surreal. It is the disruption of place. You’ve been taken away from the music and brought back to your thoughts. Most of the time, you don’t want to go back there.

Falke played “Chicago,” his re-working of the Roy Ayers song and yes, it was a little ripe for the city and the setting, but sometimes a good song is a good song. Falke recognized this in the original and recognized this in the moment of the dance floor. “Chicago,” with its vinyl-sounding quality and smooth disco beat, fit the bill nicely. And weeks later, I still can’t stop thinking about how great it was to hear it again. It was a reminder of something good and now that it’s here, I don’t want it to go away.

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find the first volume of The New York Review of Hooks here. She tumbls here and twitters here.


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