After years of dreaming about it, two weeks ago, I finally made the move to Brooklyn. Every day I wakeup and walk outside here, and I think, “Yes. I made it.” And I think my living here finally has led me to better understand the music of Brooklyn. So I put together a little mix with just nine of the amazing bands that this borough can proudly claim as its own.
There is kind of an overarching Brooklyn sound. It’s tattooed and bearded. Fearlessly experimental. Almost sunbaked and windswept. And the musicians are incredible, but smart and talented enough not to fall into cliched patterns or sound overly ‘professional’.
Well, well, if it isn’t David Bowie, back from a long hiatus with a new song and a new album on the horizon, produced by old chum Tony Viscontino less. Alright then, let’s get into it…
“Where Are We Now?” is the first song off The Next Day, which drops March 12th. The song isn’t a smash success, but let’s say it’s decent, and perhaps a sign of good things to come from the full album. Essentially, the song feels like an exercise in songwriting rather than something really genuinely inspired. The chords are kind of basic, not too interesting – the lyrics don’t really say anything much, but rather wrap some vague phrases and streets names around an easy anchor phrase – there’s nothing about the song that really stuns or impresses much. But that being said, as an exercise, it’s not a particularly bad one: the chords are decent, Bowie’s singing is affecting, and the lyrics aren’t downright bad. So let’s call it ‘interesting’, and leave it at that.
As for the album, I can’t imagine that in the course of so many years Bowie hasn’t amassed at least a decent amount of interesting songs out of the fourteen album tracks (plus three bonus). Maybe the record company felt this was a good starter for the moronic masses, who knows. In any case, I’m looking forward to hearing it. Also, Bowie seems to keep up with shit – digging Arcade Fire and TV On The Radio and all – he’s not like Elton John or Bruce Springsteen or other bygone artists who seem these days to just peddle their new shit because they’ve got nothing better to do.
Ok, obviously this is a biggie. As we all knew Passion Pit came out of nowhere and blew up big time. And deservedly so – the debut EP and the album that followed it, Manners, were by almost all accounts great, and on numerous levels. Both were releases that anyone could like, and pretty much everyone did. So now, three years later, how does album number two, Gossamer, hold up? Actually, for this question, I don’t have such a clear answer.
Here’s the deal: there are a couple things I don’t like about Gossamer, but on the other hand, there are a number of things I can’t help but like.
To start with the bad, Passion Pit‘s lyrics used to be largely indecipherable gobbledegook delivered with some kind of magic conviction that made you not care what they were – at other times, they could be semi-obscure emotional statements. Only rarely – like in “I’ve Got Your Number” – was it clear what was going on lyrically. Vocals were high-pitched and usually just flowed so well with the music you’d have to really put some effort in to figure out what they were. I did, and decided I was actually better off not knowing. Now, while I wouldn’t like to discourage a songwriter from writing more complex lyrics, if you’re going to write more complex lyrics, you have to actually be able to pull them off. Most of the time Passion Pit main-man Angelakos – who almost single-handedly wrote and performed the entire album – manages to pull things off lyrically. But there are a couple instances where he doesn’t really, and I’m really talking for the most part about the first song, “Take A Walk”, which I’ve already torn apart, so if you want to read a full-scale attack on that one, there’s the link, be my guest. But basically, this song is just so stupid that if you took it off the album, the whole thing would be like way better. So basically – want to enjoy the album more? Delete this song from it.
Second problem is that with major label money sometimes comes major label ego and studio production. Most truly great indie bands that go major (TV On The Radio, Flaming Lips, Etc.) just make their records sound bigger, better, and cleaner. For the most part this is what Passion Pit did, but in the process they also got rid of some of their indie charm. Everything on Gossamer sounds bigger – which can be good – but also more ‘digital’, more radio-ready, sometimes to the point of being to clean and even sonically bloated. Luckily it doesn’t go too far, but kind of teases the line – if the excellent Chris Zane hadn’t been kept on board it’s likely things would’ve been a lot worse.
But now the good: the songs and the hooks. Angelakos is still a gifted songwriter and delivers great, catchy hooks and choruses time and time again, particularly on the second half of the album. And when he does, it’s something special, and that’s why he was able to go major. Just look to the almost Disney-esque beauty of “On My Way”‘s chorus, or the un-avoidable infectiousness of “Love Is Greed”‘s. Though Gossamer slows down a bit more than Manners, even trying out old school Boy 2 Men-style Rn’B on one track, “Constant Conversations”, no track is without at least some interesting melodies or changes. So, as a whole, Gossamer is a pretty solid, coherent listening experience – though perhaps not quite to the same extent as Manners was.
Gossamer is destined to be a decisive album: the casual, mainstream-ish fans will probably just grab the songs they like and throw them on their iPod playlists (not as though they’d go full front to back for any other band or artist); many other less-pretentious types will also adore it. But then a hipper contingent will (predictably) declare it a sell out album, one not worth even talking about. Unfortunately I may find myself closer to the latter crowd – ultimately, the album may just be a little too clean, overriding the appeal of the hooks. But I’ll admit that this is by no means a worthless album or one that deserves to be ignored. In fact, I may just change my mind about Gossamer as I continue to explore it.
So, this is the first monthly mix. I noticed that a lot of blogs I like do mixes, which are cool and also nice for people who don’t check the blogosphere constantly. They can just come by, grab the mix, get the skinny on some cool musics being made – right? Admittedly some of the stuff on this mix is pretty popular (Fucked Up, TV On The Radio, Panda Bear) but there’s also a bunch of up-and-comers for peeps to discover. It’s just some of the cool stuff that’s come out in the last month of so, or maybe I just discovered it in the last month. Anyways, check it, dig it, etc.
1. TVOTR – Repetition
2. Generationals – Greenleaf
3. Panda Bear – Surfer’s Hymn
4. Fucked Up – The Other Shoe
5. The Soft Province – Lazy Minds Die
6. Ruby Coast – Liza Liza
7. Loko – Cove City
8. Dona Nicha – The Gentleman From Paris (Water Babies)
So TV On The Radio recently announced their next album Nine Types Of Light (that’s the album cover above) which is dropping April 12th (and leaking like, tomorrow). First single is “Will Do”. Danny and I weigh in on it.
Danny: I like it, the chorus is actually really catchy. The first time I heard it I thought, “Oh it’s kind of like slowed down, weird choice for a single,” but then I listened to it a couple more times and now I really like it. It’s got more of a ‘flowing thing’ going on and the vocals are a lot more in the foreground, which is unusual for TVOTR, but I’m interested to hear what the album will sound like.
Marc: I don’t know if I trust this new kind of TVOTR – where’s the bitter heartbreak-y stuff? Or the edgy, inventive production and odd chord progressions and furious multitracked vocal delivery? Instead we get a wimpy four-chord chorus, schoolyard melody, noodly guitar fills and, “Anytime will do…my love…”? Bullshit man. The only hope for the song is that cool, one note chorus and the part where it swoops back into the song, but other than that, I’m just hoping their [major] label Interscope was like, “Can you guys give us like one normal song and then go nuts for the rest of the album? Just one normal song for lame people? Please!?” And they were like, “uch, fiiiiiiiiine.” Not even close to the worst song on their last two albums, whatever it was.