Tag Archives: Pitchfork

Sufjan Stevens

sufjan stevens

One of the key benefits criticism can provide is clarity. I am so thankful for this Pitchfork review of the new Sufjan Stevens album.

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EMA

EMA

I’m sequestering myself by not reading about an album I’m primarily interested in because of one of my favorite music writers. And I’ve written a blog post about it. The Internet is a weird place.

I love reading about music. I love the descriptions, the debates, the cultural contextualization, the personal preferences — there are so, so many songs and albums I never would have heard had I not read about them online. (I really think this interweb thing is going to bring people together, ya know?)

That said, every once in a while, it’s fun (important, even?) to listen in a vacuum. To dive into a lake knowing you’re the only one making ripples in it. That’s what I’ve been doing yesterday and today with EMA’s new album, The Future’s Void.

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How To Destroy Angels

How To Destroy Angels

When guest poster Gormie wrote his wonderful review of the music from the movie Flight, I don’t think he knew how close to home one part in particular would hit me.

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This is dedicated…

[Editor’s Note: Today’s the last official day of “OMG! OLYMPICS!” week. If you missed the previous posts, you can catch up by reading Day 1 here, Day 2 here, and Day 3 here.]

On the last official day of “OMG! OLYMPICS!” week, I’d like to send out a few special dedications…

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EMA

Past Life Martyred Saints

I’ve always considered this blog a safe place to share even the most embarrassing stories/insights/confessions, and today I’d like to share a noteworthy and useful discovery that is shrouded in a fairly thick layer of moral ambiguity. [takes deep breath] OK, here goes…

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Read It Later Roulette

Do you use Read It Later? No? You should! It’s a great way to keep track of all the content you don’t have time to check out right away. Apparently I haven’t had much time at all, because my Read It Later list has gotten crazy long. As such (and such as), I figured this would be a good opportunity to play another round of Read It Later Roulette. Let’s spin the nonexistent wheel!

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Cass McCombs

Humor Risk

It’s kind of a freaky thought, but what we like isn’t always up to us. Does that mean there are dark forces at work, surreptitiously assaulting our brains with all manner of suggestions? Well, of course, but that’s not really what I wanted this post to be about. I think what I’m trying to talk about is mystery. Our brains work in ways we can’t understand, and that may be a good thing. What fun would it be if we could map out every notion and its neurochemical origin? That sense of mystery is all that separates us from being squishy, walking computers, so let’s embrace it! And let’s embrace Cass McCombs! The singer-songwriter is a self-consciously enigmatic figure with a well-documented disdain for interviews, a peccadillo that has forced some music journalists to actually sit down with a pen and paper and write to him by mail to get material for an article. He’s even posted a hilarious and self-deprecating faux interview to YouTube, in which he says absolutely nothing. Ironically enough, I started learning about McCombs’ steely and mysterious public persona from a phone interview he did do with Pitchfork, and my immediate reaction after reading the piece wasn’t great. I thought he came across as pretentious, even as he was describing how “a master craftsman is someone who is unpretentious.” At that point, my familiarity with his music was limited to a single listen of his new album, Humor Risk, and though I enjoyed it, his standoffish nature was enough to make me put the record down. End of story. Or is it? I can’t remember why I picked it back up a few days later, but when I made it to “Robin Egg Blue,” something had changed. Maybe the songs needed time to settle, or maybe knowing more about his personality opened a door that had been locked the first time I listened. Frankly I don’t know what switch was flipped that made me like this record so much more when I came back for a second listen, and in this case, I’m OK letting the mystery linger (though I can’t shake the sneaking suspicion that McCombs is actually a Jedi). I do know that Humor Risk is a special album, replete with a kind of brilliance that glows warmly and unobtrusively throughout all 8 songs. With this in mind, I’ve included a stream of the entire album below. If you enjoy it, you can buy Humor Risk on iTunes here.

Cass McCombs — Humor Risk

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Youth Lagoon

Empire Records has to be one of the most underrated music movies. For one thing, its advocacy for locally owned record stores seems more relevant now than ever, even though the nature of their enemy has changed dramatically. Little did we know that Warren, the shoplifter, would evolve and become the real villain. Another great thing about Empire Records is that it’s chock full of well-encapsulated truths about rock music, from the disappointment one can feel upon finally meeting/trying to have sex with a teen idol, to the difficulty that rock stars have maintaining their credibility as they age, to the fact music can act as a filter for our raw emotions, rendering us better equipped to deal with the pressures of day-to-day life. But of all the musical truisms that Empire Records illustrates, my favorite has to be Lucas’ band name advice to Mark: “Always play with their minds.” It seems like an overly philosophical piece of dialogue when Lucas delivers it, but he’s not wrong — cognitive dissonance is crucial to rock music. Taking cues from blues (the blue note gives you a musical itch that only the root note can scratch) and jazz (crazy shit happening everywhere), the most interesting and important rock musicians have always been the ones that challenge us, both in terms of the songs they write and the image they project. One artist currently has different parts of my brain pitted against one another in a ridiculously enjoyable fit of cognitive dissonance, and that artist is Youth Lagoon. On one hand, you have Trevor Powers’ age (just 22) and his vocal style (as vulnerable-sounding as it gets). On the other hand, you have the quality of his debut album, The Year of Hibernation (wonderfully layered and sophisticated), the wisdom of his lyrics (well beyond his years), and the overall feeling of nostalgia he projects (manifested poignantly in the sepia-toned video for his song “Montana”). It just doesn’t add up… and I love it. Pitchfork recently took this set of contradictions one step further in their new series Tunnelvision, which invites innovative directors from all over the web to shoot unique performance videos. I had gotten so accustomed to the yearning, sentimental, and therefore removed texture of Powers’ reverb-soaked vocals on “July” that director Charles Bergquist’s decision to use tightly framed shots was startling at first, like a conceptual version of the dolly zoom shot in Jaws, in which the camera advances on Chief Brody’s face while zooming out at the same time (or maybe it’s the opposite — it’s really hard to tell). It’s an intentionally disorienting experience, but oddly pleasing at the same time. I’m not sure if this is exactly what Bergquist had in mind, but I found his video, and Powers’ performance, to be wildly enjoyable and engaging, and I hope you’ll check it out above, listen to the album version below, buy The Year of Hibernation here, and have some fun confusing the crap out of your brain.

Youth Lagoon — “July

 

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Marnie Stern

Marnie Stern

Marnie Stern. Where have you been all my life? Listening to the first moments of guitar-ninja Marnie Stern’s most recent album was like eating deep fried Oreos for the first time — “Holy bejeezus! How have I not gorged myself on these before?!?” — and I have Pitchfork’s new “Over/Under” series to thank for the revelation. I’d never heard of Stern, and watched her episode completely on a whim (OK, so the series’ name made me think it was about gambling, and the thought of Pitchfork employees gambling was amusing to me for some reason. As in, what would hipsters gamble on? Please leave any theories you may have in the comments below). Turns out, “Over/Under” asks famous musicians to decide if random things, like “Guitar Center Sales Dudes” and the TV show Lost, are overrated or underrated. After hearing her thoughts on Lost’s disappointing finale, penis size and Ryan Gosling, I headed to Spotify to give her self-titled album a try. Cue the deep fried Oreos. The opening seconds of “For Ash” were so explosive and chaotic and pleasing, and my mind immediately started soaking in the sound like a happy, overstimulated sponge. Stern’s music combines the technically-demanding practice of guitar tapping with constantly shifting rhythms to create colorful and exhilarating songs that transcend their technicality and make you want to scream “This is crazy and I love it!” See what I mean by trying out “For Ash” below, her episode of “Over/Under” here, and if you like what you hear, grab her eponymous album from iTunes here.

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Youth Lagoon

Hearing music you love instantly is an amazing feeling. Everything around you seems to fall into place, as if there’s a sense of order to the world floating just below the surface of everyday life that comes up for air briefly and without warning. I love it. Youth Lagoon gave me this feeling, and even though there are only three songs in the entire world attributed to this one-man musical project, I have to share them with you. I heard about Youth Lagoon (real name Trevor Powers, not to be confused with this Trevor Powers, who has a kickass website with a boss yellow background) from a Pitchfork post, which mentioned that he’s just 22, lives in Boise, Idaho and makes music in his bedroom. These facts are hard to believe, as his music sounds like the work of someone with years of experience arranging and performing, and his style does not seem in the least bit cloistered or juvenile. Of everything that seemed A+ about these songs on the first listen, my favorite element by far is his voice. In an age where anyone’s voice can be futzed with to sound perfect, the effects on his voice make him sound more vulnerable. When he sings “I have more dreams than you have posters of your favorite teams,” it sounds beautifully and painfully earnest, like the tiny voice inside the head of an embattled outcast who won’t give up hope for finding happiness. It’s a vocal sound that’s both unique and endearing, and I can’t wait to hear more when his debut album The Year of Hibernation comes out on September 27. In the meantime, enjoy the three tunes that are out there for our enjoyment: “July,” Cannons,” and “Montana,” the first two of which are available for download on his Bandcamp page.

“July”

“Cannons”

“Montana”

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