A few #longreads for your enjoyment this weekend…
You might need to find something else to do this weekend than find new music articles to read, because we only have a few pieces to share with our readers for this edition. One article that we do recommend is this discussion of Deafheaven’s new album New Bermuda in Pitchfork that somehow ties the album to Lana Del Rey, but is definitely worth reading if solely for the analysis of the record alone. Also, since Deafheaven is set to perform in Portland on Monday, now is the perfect time to check it out.
Elsewhere on Pitchfork, Josh Langhoff has a fascinating look at the strange history behind the song “El Karma” and the saga of narcocorridos in contemporary Mexican culture.
In an amazing coincidence, there were two articles on the iconic and innovative group Suicide published this week. The Quietus has an excerpt from a new biography on the band as well as a Q&A with the author of Dream Baby Dream, Kris Needs, while Noisey has a first-person recollection of the group.
Finally, it seems like we have a link to this story every few months, but here is another scientific explanation behind the cover art that was used for Joy Division’s seminal debut, Unknown Pleasures, courtesy of Scientific American.
With their latest album Shadow of the Sun, Moon Duo takes the listener on a psychedelic journey whose thrills are often laced with a subtle menace. Underneath the hazy guitars and bright keyboards, the band traffics in Krautrock-inspired motifs, with the recurring figures alternately grounding the songs and pushing them forward with an ever-insistent beat. Though the constant repetition can have an overpowering effect of grinding down the listener if their attention is focused too much on the details, Shadow of the Sun is perfect background music for getting lost and zoning out.
Most of the songs revolve around a simple bouncy riff built atop the sparest of chord progressions; a catchy introductory melody ensnares the listener, but the lack of deviation creates an almost unbearable tension that can only be pierced by the addition of a new chord or a solo of some sort. Moon Duo does a fantastic job of crafting specific melodies like the keyboard line in “Zero” that are seemingly self-contained but in fact keep the listener anticipating a true resolution. However, the lack of a true conclusion to most of the songs works against the album as it often leaves the listener feeling unsatisfied.
Shadow of the Sun consistently evokes the work of Suicide, as each song is anchored by straightforward and persistent drumbeats that help give the impression of a dark undercurrent lurking beneath the surface. The consistent repetition of simple patterns mirrors the mechanistic nature of the drum machines that help characterize Suicide, but Moon Duo distinguishes itself with the addition of live drummer John Jeffrey*, who helps add a touch of vitality to the music. Other influences pop up as well, some more obvious than others. One can easily hear the impact of the neo-psychedelic forays of The Dandy Warhols circa-Come Down, and a song like “Slow Down Low” is dominated by a vamp on a single chord that brings to mind the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” so much that one could easily sing “I said I couldn’t hit it sideways” as it bounces merrily along. The delicate “In a Cloud” helps break the potential for monotony on the album and is a welcome change of pace, but is also the source of the most unexpected connection of the album, as its simple two chord progression bears a striking resemblance to Grizzly Bear’s “Knife”; Moon Duo add enough of a personal touch of their own, but I did spend a large amount of time racking my brain trying to pin down where I had previously heard the melody.
Moon Duo does a great job of blending the elements of psychedelic drone and Krautrock repetition to create an overall heady experience. However, Shadow of the Sun does not exactly stand up to strict scrutiny, as the repetition of only a handful of ideas and motifs can potentially bore the listener; the album works best when the band keeps the mood as light as possible, as in the lively opener “Wilding” or the energetic finale “Animal”. Nevertheless, Moon Duo has crafted an album that is one of the more pleasant surprises of the year so far.
*His presence increases the number of members of the group to three, making their band name a complete lie; if they wanted to be more accurate, the band should be called Earth Trio.
Kicking off the official beginning of fall (even if it begins a day later this year) with some new music and videos…
Jeff Tweedy is set to release the album (Sukierae) he recorded with his son Spencer tomorrow, and the duo stopped by the NPR offices to perform as a part of their “Tiny Desk Concerts” series.
The Antlers have another gorgeous, dreamy video from Familiars, this time for the song “Refuge”. Not much actually happens, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying all the pretty colors.
If you’re in the mood for a little more action in your music videos, and don’t mind handling a bit of the bizarre, then check out the video for the Suicide-inspired track “Grid” by Perfume Genius, whose new album Too Bright is also set to come out tomorrow.
King Tuff’s new album “Black Moon Spell” is also set to be released on the 23rd, and if you’re quick you can listen to a stream of the glam-rock album on NPR right now. The title track is the best song that T. Rex never released, if you ask me.
Kele Okereke from Bloc Party will be releasing his second solo album on October 13, and today released the second single from Trick. Listen to “Coasting” here.
On Friday we linked to Pitchfork’s extensive interview with Richard D. James, but we we wanted to make sure that you saw this video that was linked to in the article of an early performance of “Aisatsana”, featuring a piano swung across the stage as if it were a pendulum. That should be enough of a signal for you to watch:
And finally, Carl Newman and Neko Case from the New Pornographers talked to NPR about what it takes to write a good pop song, and the piece includes video of their performance at the Brill Building which gave their new album its name. Unfortunately, the piece also didn’t include Neko’s cover of the Squidbillies theme song, but we got you covered.
Everyone else seems to have settled into the August doldrums, so we’re keeping it short and sweet this week.
Jason Heller wrote an appreciation of Steve Albini for Pitchfork, highlighting some of his greatest moments as a musician. It’s a nice change of pace for music fans of today that know only of his legendary work as a producer (or as an “engineer”, as he preferred to be called), and should help provide an intriguing playlist for your weekend.
That is, if you need a playlist for your weekend–Lollapalooza is happening right now in Chicago, and you can catch a stream here, courtesy of Pitchfork.
The Colbert Report had a couple of excellent musical guests this week, with Beck stopping by the studio to play from both Morning Phase and his Song Reader project, which just saw its official release this week. “Heart is a Drum”, the song that was played on the broadcast, also had its official music video released this week, and it’s embedded above. The next night, Colbert had Jon Batiste and his Stay Human group, and they proceeded to blow the roof off the studio with a memorable performance of “Express Yourself” that you need to watch now.
The AV Club reminds you that it’s a good idea to listen to Suicide, and also inform you that The Killers wrote apparently the weirdest lyric ever (personally, I think “I Am The Walrus” is weirder, and that’s not even getting into the fact that the list is just pop music and it’s easier to find “weirdness” when you go further beyond the boundaries of Top-40/Classic Rock).
With the news that TV on the Radio will be releasing a new album this fall, Stereogum took the opportunity to list their 10 Best Songs. Not a bad list if you ask me (though “Staring at the Sun” is underrated), and I’m glad they didn’t decide to be pricks and avoid the obvious choice for number 1.
And finally, here’s what looks like an interesting piece in SPIN that talks about a composer who “after coaxing Kevin Shields and Mark Hollis out of hiding” is finally releasing an album, satisfying our longread requirement.