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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Ethan Peterson

This Recording

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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 music (10)


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.


In Which We Revisit The Notion Of Music In Time


On an unseasonably warm Wednesday, I worked from home and took breaks to walk around my Ukrainian Village neighborhood. I enjoyed Rhye’s “Open” before, but the warmer weather grounded the song.    

 "Open" - Rhye (mp3)

In early February, Rhye - a collaboration between Milosh and Robin Hannibal from Quadron - released the falsetto-heavy jam “Open.” The song is a smooth, quiet, and sensual jam indebted to Sade’s Lovers Rock. Every blog post I’ve read about the song misses this clear connection and it left me confused. Contemporary music criticism is built on references. A small review for one musician will connect the dots - or create ones that were never there in the first place. We often rely on knowing what came before. It allows us to understand the new music we are listening to. In many ways, it is a means of building substance in instances where we are not sure there is any. Sade’s “By Your Side” coupled nicely with Rhye’s soft song, and later I added Sinead O’Connor’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U." These are songs of comfort and tied to seasonal pleasures: the way the sun grazes your skin just so; the way the air is crisp and fresh, as if it’s been rejuvenating during the brutal and long winter months; the way everything tastes better.

"Night Forest" - Lapalux (mp3)

I purchased When You’re Gone, the debut EP by Lapalux and its maximalism worked until temperatures hit 60 degrees. That sort of intense, intricately-produced sound overpowers one’s moods. It works best when the cold seems neverending.    

"Fuck It None Of Y'all Don't Rap" - Evian Christ (mp3)

Late last year, my friend Gabe - a voracious listener who understands and appreciates the ways in which we produce and consume music - sent me links to Evian Christ. Christ was then anonymous and his anonymity admittedly made his music more interesting. Relying heavily on Tyga samples, Christ’s most captivating song, “Fuck It None Of Y’all Don’t Rap,” is an aggressive statement toward the state of a few years worth of haunting, moody, indecipherable, and often beautiful songs. “Fuck It” is not dismissive outright, but I know that the first time I heard it, I was taken aback by how infrequently I hear music that seems almost downright rude toward its audience. It’s not a cheeky first single like Azealia Banks’ “212” or a startling culmination of beats and samples like on Clams Casino’s “I’m God.” There’s a lot being said and the depth of aggression made many of the rest of the tracks on Kings and Them, Christ’s debut mixtape, pale in comparison. “Fuck It” was a move forward, and it’s difficult to move back from that point of visibility.    

"212" - Azelia Banks (mp3)

Azaelia Banks’ later tracks find the same problems. Imagine sitting in a black mesh office chair in a cubicle in an office that is poorly lit. You’ve been placed in this environment as your job and company is in flux. Sometimes it becomes difficult to discern the days and so you turn to the the clips and edits, mixtapes and soundbites.

I first heard Azealia Banks’ “212” in such a setting and it was her enthusiastic lyrics coupled with production by Lazy Jay that made the song such an instant classic for so many people. Banks has continued to release singles in anticipation of the debut album (Broke With Expensive Taste) she is currently working on and will be released sometime in the fall. But none of these newer singles - such as “NEEDSUMLUV” or “Liquorice” - capture the energy of “212.”    

That’s not to say that any of the songs are bad. They’re not. But the game Azealia plays is one that challenges the formula of popular music. Her singles always feature the production of emerging or eclectic producers (Machinedrum, Lazy Jay, Lone) and it is this dedication that showcases the inconsistency of her sound and aesthetic. Because she is new to the scene, she has the opportunity to figure out what works for her. Or, she can continue what she is currently doing, which is curating a sound that works much like a mixtape or iTunes collection. This is the best that’s out there, she’s saying. I’m presenting it to you right now.      

A week or two ago, the new online music site MTHRFNKR coined and embraced the genre name “arthouse,” a sort of catch-all for independent r&b and “intelligent” cross-genre dance and electronic music. A year or two ago, I would have cringed over attempts at naming emerging genres of music. But now the creation of genres interests me. The easiest route an audience can take is to criticize the creation of such genres and the idea that the music of now needs to be categorized and boxed in by a “term.”    

But when people ask me what types of music I most enjoy, when I say “classic disco” or “mutant disco” or even “90s r&b,” they know what I’m talking about. I don’t need to recite a list of band names. I’m not a facebook profile. And I understand why people try to do it now. Genres ground the music we’re listening to in many ways. It puts them in a place, in a time, in a setting, in a moment of history. It’s a way of thinking about music on a larger scale. It’s not just about this one band. It’s about these bands, these musicians, this moment and the way the world works and how we consume the things that matter most to us.    

"Climax" - Usher (mp3)

The greatest thing Usher could have done with his career is go back to his roots (singing) in order to create a song that sounds more original and interesting and unlike everything else out there. He has been a Top 40 singer moved not by his artistic pursuits, but by the force of the market. “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” was an embarrassment not because it was a bad song (taken as a whole, the song was better than the majority of the chorus-less, dubstep-driven singles of his peers), but because it was further demonstration of the sacrifices the Top 40 performer must now make in order to stay on top. Usher is no longer a 16-year-old prodigy of hard abs, baby face cheeks, and an overstated swagger.    

“Climax,” released with production by Diplo and orchestration by Nico Muhly, is the best single thus far of 2012. If it breaks through, it will be the song that brings the underground (a different underground, a non-dubstep underground) to the forefront. Like many genres and aesthetics, this can go a number of different ways and although I wish for the best, I understand that “they can fuck this up.” If this production and intonation succeeds, it will reinforce the appeal of a clear voice, a smart instrumentation and lyrics that beg to be memorized. This is “intelligent” music, through and through. 

photo by Zainab Adamu "Queen$" - THEESatisfaction (mp3)

“QueenS” by THEESatisfaction fulfills a similar role of charm and instant gratification. Members Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White’s song is so catchy that I was certain I had heard it many times before. It instills in the listener the sort of knowing familiarity of a perfect pop song.    

"Sayso" - Evy Jayne (mp3)

Evy Jayne’s “Sayso” is not a perfect pop song, but it perfectly captures whatever it is we call the music that’s been coming out of Canada: dark, lonesome, pained. I’ve been listening to the song for the past month or so and still can’t discern the lyrics. That’s irrelevant; this is music that plays to a mood. I don’t need to know what the singer is saying. It’s about the saunter in her diction, the wobble of the bass. It is a long song and sounds even longer the more you listen to it. It drags you in and won’t let go.    

"Nova" - Burial & Four Tet (mp3)

Everything I’ve heard from Four Tet, I’ve enjoyed. But I’ve never felt motivated enough to want to listen to a whole album. Burial works differently. Before first listening to Burial, I was told that his music was “important”, and more than five years later, that description holds true. Each new work fulfills the desire to listen to music that is grounded and substantial. Burial soundtracks certain aspects of life in the city: the moments before you open the door to a venue of sound and sensuality, the night bus home, the walks late at night to one’s bed. And “Nova” fits within this narrative scope, satisfying and emotive.    

photo by jason nocito

"Myth" - Beach House (mp3)

I maintain impossible expectations for my favorite performers. Unlike my reactions towards the latest Burial, while listening to “Myth,” Beach House’s latest single for their fourth album, I realized that I was more excited to be Hearing New Music From Beach House than the song itself. Fan devotion can mask the problematic aspects of a new song. “Myth” is a good song, but it is not great, and it pales in comparison to the strength of “Norway,” the first official single from Teen Dream.    

"Halcyon" - Orbital (mp3)

Earlier this week, Orbital released “New France”, a song featuring Zola Jesus. I admittedly never listened to the band before and so this first single was a chance to go back. “Halcyon” is probably the loveliest and one of the strangest songs I’ve ever heard. First released in 1992, the song is a classic electronic and acid house track.    

I have heard it described as a perfect rave song, a memorable moment for the dance floor. As I listen to it now, it fits in with most of the music I devour day to day. Created for what many unfortunately describe as a subgenre, the appeal and production mirrors the hip hop, the house, the pop that is heard everywhere from dingy nightclubs to radio stations. The soft vocals, the perfect sample, the euphoric beat. It’s a simple formula, but one that works. Created for ebullience, it is a classic, memorable, and addictive song. This is intelligent.     

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about Party Girl. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

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In Which We Experience The Finest Sound Of 2011

The 50 Best Songs of 2011


From the audio animated gif of "Is This Power" (is that a YTMND?) to the viral video villainy of Kreayshawn/Rebecca Black/Lana Del Rey, 2011 was nothing if not meme-orable. The list presented below is guaranteed to be 50 of the 300 best songs of the past twelve months. Many of the songs were featured on our best of the half year list, but we've tried to adjust the rankings to give some shine to songs that haven't already been featured, so take these rankings as seriously as you should.

1 "Is This Power" - The Field (mp3)

2 "The Morning" - The Weeknd (mp3)

3 "How I Roll" - Britney Spears (mp3)

4 “I’m On One”- DJ Khaled f. Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne (mp3)

5 "It's Not Real" - Dead Gaze (mp3)

Araab Muzik

6 "Make It Happen" - Araab Muzik (mp3)

7 "Motivation" - Kelly Rowland (mp3)

8 "Anteroom" - EMA (mp3)

9 "Last Night At The Jetty" - Panda Bear  (mp3)

10 "Le Troublant Acid" - KZA (mp3)

11 "212" - Azealia Banks (mp3)

12 "Getting Me Down" - Blawan (mp3)

13 "Everything Goes My Way" - Metronomy (mp3)

14 "Ghetto" - The Dream (mp3)

15 "Neon" - Dark Sky (mp3)

16 "Gentle Persuasion" - Doug Hream Blunt (mp3)

17 "Ten Years"- Shocking Pinks (mp3)

18 "Out Getting Ribs" - Zoo Kid (mp3)

19 "Stolen Dog" - Burial (mp3)

20 "Ego" - Four Tet, Burial, and Thom Yorke (mp3)

21 “Zan with That Lean” - Soulja Boy (mp3)

22 "Headlines" - Drake (mp3)

23 "Twerk It" - LDFD (mp3)

24 "Yardman Riddim" - Balistiq Beats (mp3)


25 "Fever Dreams" - Nurses (mp3)

26 "Gucci Gucci" - Kreayshawn (mp3)

27 "I Got AIDS"- Lil B (mp3)

28 "Der Tanz der Gluehwuermchen" - Dominik Eulberg (mp3)

29 "Tell Me (Kingdom Edit)" -  Jacques Greene (mp3)

30 "Mindkilla" - Gang Gang Dance (mp3)

31 "Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism" - Big Krit (mp3)

32 "Vanessa" - Grimes (mp3)

33 "Powa" - Tune-Yards (mp3)

34 "Guitar Solo"- Danny Brown (mp3)

35 "I'm God" (instrumental) - Clams Casino (mp3)

36 "I'll Take Care of U (Special DJ version)- Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx (mp3)

toro y moi

37 "Still Sound"- Toro y Moi (mp3)

38 "Swerve the Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile" - Shabazz Palaces (mp3)

39 "Hope" - Munchi (mp3)

40 "Every Minute Alone" - WhoMadeWho (mp3)

41 “On My Level” ft. Too Short - Wiz Khalifa (mp3)

42 "Chrysalis Records" ft. Trust - Egyptrixx (mp3)

43 “Slime” - Sleeping Bag (mp3)

44 "High Together" - Siriusmo (mp3)

45 "Battle for Middle You" - Julio Bashmore (mp3)

46 "You Always Start It" - xxxy (mp3)

47 "Survive It" - Ghostpoet (mp3)

48 "Songs for Women" - Frank Ocean (mp3)

49 "Hey Muma" - Cam'ron & Vado (U.N) (mp3)

50 "The Breaks" - Planningtorock (mp3)

Danish Aziz is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Portland. You can find his best songs of 2010 here. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the best singles of the half-year.

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