Posts Tagged ‘music time’

The 10 Best Musical TV Moments of 2017

December 20, 2017

2. The Young Pope: “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO

“Sexy and I Know It” is Paolo Sorrentino’s ambitious, emotional, confrontational series about an autocratic American-born pope in miniature. Granted, using LMFAO to represent your drama about faith, loneliness, power, corruption, and lies is a bit counterintuitive compared to, say, summing up Twin Peaks with a song from the Twin Peaks score. That’s the joke, in part: It’s very stupid, and therefore very funny, to watch the Holy Father dress up for his first address to the College of the Cardinals while Redfoo drawls about wearing a Speedo at the beach so he can work on his ass tan. Girl, look at that body … of Christ?!

But like so much of The Young Pope, there’s a much deeper and more serious meaning beneath the craziness and camp. To wit, the brand of tyrannical, uncompromising religion the pontiff formerly known as Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) embraces depends on craziness and camp. Look at the obscene decadence of his subsequent entrance to the Sistine Chapel, borne on a litter like an emperor of old. Listen to his megalomaniacal speech, demanding that the Church remake itself in his bizarre and imperious image. Watch how he demands his followers demonstrate their obedience by literally kissing his feet. It’s a contrast to the self-aware silliness of “Sexy and I Know It,” yes, but it’s a contrast achieved by taking that song’s boasts as deadly serious claims to superiority. He’s got passion in his pants and he ain’t afraid to show it. Spiritually speaking, anyway.

I wrote about the 10 best music cues on TV this year for Vulture. As is always the case with lists of this nature when I write them, it is objectively right and I shall brook no dissent.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers

September 24, 2017

“An end to foreign invasions. An end to borders. The total dismantling of the prison-industrial complex. Healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right. The expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again.” Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s demands are firm, but, you know, fucking fair.

These demands come attached to a press release for the band’s new album, Luciferian Towers—a title that recalls the fiery horror that befell London’s Grenfell Tower and the gruesome class inequity that disaster exposed just weeks before the album was announced. Song titles include “Anthem for No State” and “Bosses Hang.” Fire courses through the “context” provided by the band in a press release: “We recorded it all in a burning motorboat.” “The wind is whistling through all 3,000 of its burning window-holes!” “The forest is burning and soon they’ll hunt us like wolves.” By the sound of it, post-rock’s most overtly political and unapologetically powerful band seems ready to toss the ravenous zombie corpse of neoliberalism on the pyre for good and all.

Seen in that infernal light, the sound of Luciferian Towers is the last thing you’d expect. The pulverizing, prophet-of-doom riffs that characterized Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! and Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, the band’s previous two albums, are gone. So are the six-to-ten-minute stretches of drone—the anxious calm before those records’ storms. Ominous field recordings—a one-time Godspeed sonic standby, already pared down to a minimum on Allelujah! and eliminated entirely on Asunder—are again nowhere to be found. The album barely even hits minor-key territory until six tracks in, before resolving the melody into a more uplifting mode within a couple of minutes. If you’re looking for Lucifer, search elsewhere.

I reviewed Luciferian Towers, the new album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, for Pitchfork.

Dean Hurley – Anthology Resource Vol. 1 △△

August 19, 2017

You don’t have to pay attention to Anthology Resource Vol. 1 △△. In fact, I’d go so far as to make that an order: Do notpay attention to Anthology Resource. This album of ambient music and soundscapes from the astonishing third season of “Twin Peaks,” by the show’s music and sound supervisor Dean Hurley, will frustrate focused attempts at listening. Passages feel overlong and repetitive, despite 11 of the collection’s 18 compositions clocking in at two minutes or less. Moments of beauty and terror burst out of the murk, only to dissipate with aggravating speed. Hurley’s airy electronic tones conjure up a sense of space so distinct you can practically see it, as titles like “Weighted Room / Choral Swarm,” “Tube Wind Dream,” “Interior Home by the Sea,” and “Forest / Interior” make clear. Yet the effect of sitting and listening intently to song after song is like looking through a window at these strange new worlds, only for someone to abruptly close the blinds on you over and over.

Here’s the thing, though: So what?

I reviewed the first of this season’s Twin Peaks soundtrack/score albums, Dean Hurley’s Anthology Resource Vol. 1 △△, for Pitchfork. It’s a roundabout way for me to talk about Transcendental Meditation, too.

Nine Inch Nails: Add Violence [EP]

July 26, 2017

The EP’s final track is both the strongest and strangest. “The Background World” appears to be a slinky electronic groove that might conclude a big-budget Hollywood thriller, serving the same function as Moby’s “Extreme Ways” in the Bourne movies, or Reznor and Ross’ cover of Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” with their frequent collaborator (and Reznor’s wife) Mariqueen Maandig in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Yet the lyrics are bluntly bereft of sequel-ready optimism: “There is no moving past/There is no better place/There is no future point in time/We will not get away.” Reznor’s detractors tend to mock this sort of sentiment, but in the year of our Lord 2017, who’s laughing now?

The song’s formal moments are even more intimidating. It repeats the same awkwardly edited instrumental snippet—a brief empty hiccup separating each iteration—over fifty times. Seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds of the song’s eleven minute, forty-four-second runtime are eaten up as the segment plays out over and over, each new version a degraded facsimile of the last, until only static remains of the original riff and rhythm. Like an image run through a Xerox machine until it’s no longer recognizable, this makes Reznor’s Hesitation Marks–era worry that he’s just “a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a” legitimate entity real and audible. Its audaciousness would make David Lynch himself proud. As Reznor promises additional work to come in the near future, it gives his listeners reason to hope, no matter how hopeless he himself becomes.

I reviewed the new Nine Inch Nails record for Pitchfork. Proud to be covering this band for this site in this way.

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie – “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie”

June 14, 2017

A good chorus can put a whole lot of questions to bed—about a song, about a band, about a reason to get up in the morning, you name it. Fleetwood Mac, whose catalog is so festooned with world-bestriding hits that they can do a best-of reunion tour and leave “Sara” and “Hold Me” off the setlist, know this better than just about any other band. Their colossal pop collaborations kept them together through years of intense interpersonal turmoil and full decades of cordial détente. Like, in the grand scheme of things, is it really that big a deal if you left your bass-player husband for the light guy if the result is “You Make Loving Fun”?

Which brings us to the curious case of Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, a Fleetwood Mac album in all but name—and the conspicuous absence of the third member of the band’s songwriting trinity. Ending what seemed like a permanent departure from the band, keyboardist and vocalist McVie returned to the fold in 2014 for a massive tour. After it wrapped, she and guitarist/vocalist/production whiz Buckingham headed back to the studio together for the first time in well over a decade, with drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie joining them. As for Stevie Nicks, well: “What we do is go on the road, do a ton of shows and make lots of money. We have a lot of fun. Making a record isn’t all that much fun.”

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie feels like a retort to Nicks’ statement. For McVie, the return to the band has been creatively invigorating as well as financially lucrative (Nicks herself gets that, facetiously describing McVie’s only other alternative to heading back to the studio: “‘Now I’m just gonna go back to London and sit in my castle for two years?’ She wanted to keep working”); Buckingham’s a born striver who kills time between tours by adding guitar texture to Nine Inch Nails records. Going on the road and making money is “what we do”? The pair’s collaboration feels like a “speak for yourself” in album form. To paraphrase a Rumours classic, they’ll make recording fun!

I reviewed the new album by bonafide pop-rock geniuses Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie for Pitchfork. It’s definitely fun, just not fundamental.

Goldfrapp: Silver Eye

March 30, 2017

It takes Alison Goldfrapp more than a full verse into Silver Eye’s leadoff track “Anymore” before she utters a single word with more than one syllable: “You’re what I want. You’re what I need. Give me your love. Make me a freak.” Reductive? Considering her and collaborator Will Gregory—whose past lyrics would gussy up their earthy emotions and desires in hazy surrealism like, “Wolf lady sucks my brain” and, “Now take me dancing at the disco where you buy your Winnebago”—you might be tempted to think so. Prior to “Anymore,” Goldfrapp hid their most verbally explicit expression of lust (“Put your dirty angel face between my legs and knicker lace”) in an elaborate fantasy about a tryst with a traveling carny titled, appropriately enough, “Twist.”

But the direct approach suits this new album, the group’s first since 2013’s Tales of Us. Ever since the pair swapped the John Barry ambience of their debut album Felt Mountain for the electro-glam of its successor Black Cherry, they’ve staked their identity on being able to assume new identities at will. Wanna double down on that sexy “Spirit in the Sky” shimmer? There’s Supernature. Wanna go pastoral? Check out Seventh Tree. Wanna trade Gary Numan and Marc Bolan for the Pointer Sisters and circa-“Jump” Van Halen? Head for Head First. By contrast, Silver Eye is a synthesis—a combination of all the things the group has done well. “Become the one you know you are,” commands a key track, and they’re teaching by example. Who needs many syllables to express something so fundamental?

I reviewed Goldfrapp’s new album Silver Eye for Pitchfork.

Nine Inch Nails: ‘The Fragile (2017 Definitive Edition)’ / ‘The Fragile: Deviations 1’

January 11, 2017

The Fragile arrived a stylistic turning point, emerging at the point where the “alternative” sobriquet fell out of fashion and “indie” achieved dominance. Today, though, reservations about the lyrics’ outré confessionality and the music’s jam-packed, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink gigantism seem positively quaint. (Don’t care for titanically hyper-produced albums stuffed with uncomfortably intimate and self-mythologizing lyrics about your emotional world falling apart? Tell it to Lemonade.) The Fragile may lack the tightness of Nine Inch Nails’ other highlights: the concise fury of Broken, the inexorable depressive logic of The Downward Spiral, the late-career professionalism of Hesitation Marks. But it takes the emotional distress that gives it its title and transmutes it into something colossal, defiant, and resilient. Listen to it at your strongest or your weakest (and I’ve certainly done both) and it will offer you a sonic signature commensurate with the power of what you feel inside.

I reviewed Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, one of my favorite albums of all time, plus its recent instrumental revamp The Fragile: Deviations 1, for Pitchfork.

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Music Time: Underworld – Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future

March 15, 2016

Let’s talk about love—with Underworld, you kind of have to. Though still best known for shouting “lager, lager, lager” in their epochal 1996 hit “Born Slippy.NUXX,” the long-running dance duo, consisting of singer-lyricist-multi-instrumentalist Karl Hyde and producer Rick Smith, have quietly but persistently placed matters of the heart at the center of their best songs. Their breakthrough single “Cowgirl” pledged “I wanna give you everything,” robotically chanting the final word like a mantra for emphasis. “Jumbo,” the buoyant highlight of 1999’s Beaucoup Fish, took a (literally) sweeter approach, with singer Karl Hyde purring “I need sugar” when “I get thoughts about you.” And despite the involvement of a series of guest producers whose work never quite gelled, UW’s last studio album Barking was held together by a chain of out-and-out love songs, from its singles “Scribble” to its tremulous closing ballad “Louisiana” (“When you touch me, planets in sweet collision”). Regardless of their reputation for turning late-night urban-hedonism anthems into festival-filling crowdpleasers, Underworld remain romantics at heart.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future—perhaps because Smith and Hyde’s own creative romance needed rekindling.

Today I made my Pitchfork debut by reviewing Underworld’s excellent new album Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future.

Music Time: Nine Inch Nails, Barclays Center, October 14 2013

October 15, 2013

Nine Inch Nails’ 20th-century iteration was a matter of excess. It was excess of abandon during the Broken and Downward Spiral period — smashed instruments, trashed dressing rooms, primal screams on the records. And it was excess of ambition during that era’s summary statement, The Fragile — live-in recording studios, Bob Ezrin on the boards, a level of sonic perfectionism that literally drove Trent Reznor to drink.

Since the band’s post-sobriety return with 2005’s With Teeth, however, Nine Inch Nails has been about keeping control. With Teeth pared the act down to a tight, pummeling rock-band model, one that remains a centerpiece of its live shows. Year Zero belied its concept-album dystopia with a quick-and-dirty recording process — a couple of laptops on a tour bus, pretty much. Ghosts may have been an instrumental triple album, but each track was more of a sketch than a song. The Slip blended several of these modes.

The pattern culminated in Hesitation Marks. It’s a throwback to The Downward Spiral and The Fragile in terms of its visual and sonic vibe, but lyrically it’s a contemplation and rejection of the Reznor of that period. It’s about an emotional life he now has control over, and his fear of losing his grip the way he once did. All told, the career trajectory that emerges from juxtaposing these eras evinces a great deal of thought about what this band does and what it means to its architect.

Nine Inch Nails’ live show reflects that care and attention. It starts in full muscular rock-band mode, with stark white lighting that’s equally no-nonsense. When the set expands to encompass more expansive material from Hesitation Marks and The Fragile, a pair of backup singers are added — their first vocals got a big audience pop, since that’s pretty much the last thing anyone expects at a Nine Inch Nails show, but for the most part they serve to unobtrusively shore up and support Reznor’s vocals, which often play off subtle but crucial harmonies or calls-and-responses in the songs’ studio version that have traditionally been lost in live translation.

A digital light show of genuinely stunning sophistication and ambition fleshes out the visuals accordingly, rivaling if not surpassing your widescreen rock band of choice for sheer spectacle. But again, the range of effects is carefully considered, primarily involving shifting digital colors, three-dimensional wire frames, and silhouettes. It’s evocative but non-narrative, designed to command audience attention during lesser-known or more difficult songs.

The lighting cues often get very specific, highlighting individual musicians in frequently unorthodox ways: I think pretty much every trick in the book was used to spotlight drummer Ilan Rubin except an actual spotlight, while one memorable solo from guitarist Robin Finck was reverse-spotlighted, a digital projection sort of burning away to blackness as he played. Bassist Pino Palladino, who takes his on-stage comportment cues from the similarly stoic John Entwistle (whom he’s replaced in the Who), is barely ever lit at all.

And for all its high technology, a couple of its strongest moments were callbacks to the band’s rich design history: a Batsignal-like projection of the classic NIN logo ended the main set during the final notes of “Head Like a Hole,” while the encore’s closing performance of “Hurt” was accompanied by the same black-and-white montage of disturbing images that ran when the band played the song during the Downward Spiral’s arena tour nineteen years ago. It’s a clever way to emphasize the time period during which his relationship with the largest segment of his audience was forged, while connecting it visually to his more recent and forward-thinking work — a capstone for a thoughtful, frequently spectacular show that incorporates the person he was then into the artist he is now.

Music Time

July 25, 2012

Recently I wrote about “Voodoo-U” by Lords of Acid and “Born Slippy .NUXX” by Underworld for my tumblr about music and coolness, Cool Practice.

(I used to call all fast-paced electronic dance music “techno” — was that a common thing, like how all non-punks used to refer to all punk and post-punk people by shouting “DEVO!” at them?)

You shouldn’t have worn that dress?

June 15, 2012

I wrote about a memorable live performance of “Sex Type Thing” by Stone Temple Pilots for my music tumblr, Cool Practice.

Music Time: Lords of Acid – “The Crablouse (Ludo’s ‘Coming Even Harder’)”

April 20, 2012

In its original version, which I think is the ’90s dance-industrial act Lords of Acid’s single best recording proper, “The Crablouse” was already one of the sleaziest songs I owned. What can you say about a paean to the erotic and orgasmic potential of pubic lice? The lyrics, barked by a female vocalist in a mic-distorted Euro-rap that gives way to a reach-for-the-heavens ululation in the chorus, don’t actually, you know, make any sense, but they didn’t need to. The point was simply “THIS IS A DIRTY SEXY SONG ABOUT DIRTY SEXY DIRTYSEX,” and the music flung a gigantic beat and huge guitars and synths and snarling raging panting jungle-beast vox at you to reinforce the point. (The immortal album cover by friend of the blog COOP didn’t hurt, either.)

Much as I like that original version, though, I think I like this remix by Carl. S. Johansen even better. I like it for its focus. Instead of the frantic, distortion-laden industrial instrumentation of the original, this is just big glittering washes and skittering snakes of synth, the kind of beat that always sounds like you’ve turned the bass up in your car too loud to be properly heard, and seven words’ worth of lyrics (not THOSE seven words, but you’re not on the wrong track) that boil the Lords’ entire dirty-dance project down to its barest and most goal-oriented essentials. (The EP it came on had a pretty great cover of its own.)

Maybe I’m overthinking it now, years later, but looking back this song must have hit me at just the right time. It’s loud, scary, heavy, danceable, utter anathema to square notions of taste, futuristic, weirdly lovely at times, and hyperbolically sexual in a relentlessly pleasure-seeking and bluntly honest way. A terrific fantasy version of adulthood for someone just becoming an adult! It didn’t all work out quite that way for me, I suppose, but you know, I did alright.

Music Time: Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne

August 12, 2011

Crossposted from All Leather Must Be Boiled.

On Watch the Throne, the new collaborative album by Jay-Z and Kanye West, the title phrase or a variation on it is uttered nine times over the course of sixteen songs. Meanwhile, a recurring orchestral sample — its nervous energy evoking the spooky bits of Magical Mystery Tour, sinister ’60s children’s movies, and the shifty-eyed rhythm of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” — shows up in looped form as an unofficial theme at the end or beginning of four separate tracks, including the opener “No Church in the Wild” above.

Did this remind anyone else of George R.R. Martin’s character mantras/catchphrases from A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones? “If I look back I am lost.” “Where whores go.” “It rhymes with…” “She’s been fucking [names redacted] for all I know…” “Kill the boy.” “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” “Valar Morghulis.” “Weese, Dunsen, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling…” In each of these cases, these are phrases that wounded, worried minds keep circling back and back and back to, obsessively. They’re phrases they cling to and phrases that haunt them.

Can you think of a better way to describe what the the repetition of the words “watch the throne” might mean to two men whose unquestioned position at the top of their field means, as Jay-Z puts it, that the only place they can find an opponent is in the mirror?

I’ve been writing a post comparing Watch the Throne to ASoIaF/GoT since my first listen, but when you play the game of Game of Thrones comparisons, you publish or you perish. Oh well! I actually don’t mind that other people have gotten there first, because it means that the initial, incorrect critical narrative about the album — two rich people rapping about how rich they are, which is bad because of the debt deal and the London riots or something — is falling by the wayside. It’s as if the pressure to turn reviews of an important album around in 24 hours (due to the record’s unexpected, exclusive, leak-thwarting midnight release on iTunes) led critics to forget that anything ever happened at any other time. If it’s not okay to rap about fame and wealth to a struggling audience, then flush the last two decades of hip-hop, including multiple chart-topping critically acclaimed albums by Jay-Z and Kanye West, down the toilet.

But not only is the thesis ridiculous, it’s not even accurate. Obviously Kanye and Jay rap a lot about their money and the stuff they’ve bought with it on this album, and obviously the names they’re dropping are high-end and/or highfalutin’ enough to stand out to critics under deadline pressure. (I bet the Museum of Modern Art didn’t expect to have almost as much of a role on this record as Frank Ocean does.) But you’d almost have to purposefully ignore the rest of the lyrics, and most importantly the sound of the thing, to think that’s all there is to it, to characterize this album as a less forceful-sounding Rick Ross record. For all the talk about life at the top, they seem about as comfortable there as Robert Baratheon, Eddard Stark, and the stained knight Jaime Lannister. The music is foreboding and paranoid, minor-key prog samples, witch house synths, and soul legends chopped and pitch-shifted into demon shouts and banshee wails. The lyrics describe difficulties — from Jay-Z copping to depression, to Kanye’s R. Crumb-like dissections of his sexuality and misogyny, to overcoming the obstacles of a racist society to “make it in America” only to discover that the higher they go, the fewer people like them they find — that go a lot deeper than the usual litany of complaints about haters and biters. Both aspects of the record are embodied by those repetitions — that cycling, recurring, uncomfortable theme music; “watch the throne, watch the throne, watch the throne,” over and over again. If they were comfortable on the damn thing, they wouldn’t constantly be telling themselves and everyone else not to take their eyes off it for a second.

Jay-Z Kanye West “Why I Love You”

Music Time: James Brown – “Cold Sweat” (Live in Dallas, 8/26/68)

July 21, 2011

Download it here

When my baby daughter gets fussy, which usually happens every night around 7:30, the one thing guaranteed to calm her down and cheer her up is for me to pick her up and dance around with her. So every night for about forty minutes or so we have a Daddy Dance Party, also known as Family Funky Time when my wife joins in. An undisputed highlight of the DDP playlist is this live version of “Cold Sweat” by James Brown from 1968, which over the course of its twelve minutes has exposed my daughter to more funk before age 2 months than I heard before age 20.

Virtually everything great about James Brown is on ample display in this recording. For starters, the man’s skills as a bandleader, even outside the studio and in a less controllable live setting, are quite simply astonishing. Listen as he and official bandleader Pee-Wee Ellis lead the group through an airtight version of the song, through minute after minute of vamping and solos, and back into the song again: Every note, every beat is hit hard enough to draw blood. As I listen to the thing, I marvel at his rapport with the band as they turn on a collective dime time after time — they seem linked almost at a telepathic level, where no cue comes as a surprise to anyone except everyone in the audience. Meanwhile, Brown’s charisma as a frontman is equally astonishing here. Those shrieks and yelps are really quite something, if you can try to forget you’ve heard them a million times and appreciate their ecstatic insanity afresh. But beyond that, his banter with both the band and the audience is funny and effortless, making cool-dude nonsense like “Excuse me while I do the boogaloo” or “If you ain’t got enough soul, let me know and I’ll loan you some — I got soul to burn” or introducing the latest dance move by challenging the band to guess its name (spoiler alert: it’s “the Detroit Pimp”) sound inspired, like a template young fans can apply when they want to be awesome.

But best of all, especially for those of us who’ve heard rock bands of Brown’s funk era stretch songs out into double-digit running times to enervating effect when performing live, there’s never a dull moment. The solos — fiery saxophone by Maceo Parker, follow-the-bouncing-ball bass from Alfonso Kellum, and most impressively, a double drum solo from Clyde Stubblefield and Nate Jones that ends with literally the funkiest break I’ve ever heard, driving the audience totally batshit — feel vital and exciting, an integral part of the performance, rather than a self-indulgent opportunity for the given player to show off while the rest of the band sneaks off for a cigarette break. And you never know when a lengthy vamp will be punctuated by Brown saying something funny or badass, or leading the band through snippets of Allen Toussaint and Lee Dorsey’s “Ride Your Pony” or Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man,” or quoting “my friend Sammy Davis,” or eliciting wild cheers from the audience with some unseen but undoubtedly crazy dance move, or god knows what else. The song is simply packed with pleasures I’m still discovering and delighting in after innumerable listens.

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Music Time: Washed Out – “Before”

July 19, 2011

My friend Matthew Perpetua is fond of pointing out that beneath the gauzy haze of shoegaze is sex, at least when it’s done right. The formlessness and distortion isn’t just an anti-mainstream distancing aesthetic, it’s an evocation of sex’s obliteration of the self, the way the boundaries between you and your lover, your conscious and unconscious, your conception of the present as a step toward the future and a present that envelops all of existence, all blur. There’s more to it than Kevin Shields blowing Alan McGee’s money on the perfect guitar tone, and a bunch of lesser lights ripping it off.

If the maligned alt-pop subgenre commonly called chillwave can accurately be described as bouncy beats and bubbly synths subjected to a shoegazey sheen, then it seems to me that Washed Out has always been the act that acknowledges that heat beneath the Hipstamatic filter. I think people looked at the cover of his debut EP, Life of Leisure, and came away thinking it was the usual amorphous hat tip to summer and beaches and nostalgia, but I always thought something crucial was being conveyed by the fact that it’s not just any beach scene, it’s photo of his wife swimming in the ocean during their honeymoon. There’s an erotic component to it that goes beyond making the music sound like your synthesizer was left out in the sun to melt a bit before you started playing it. That’s what I get from “Before,” the standout track from Within and Without. (And hey, you wanna talk about a cover that tips the album’s hand?) I say this even though I can’t understand a word Ernest Greene is singing, even though I can’t even make out the two-syllable sample that recurs every fourth measure. That last bit is sort of the barb on the end of the beat, the part that hooks you, makes the beat exciting to listen to as it cycles through the song (itself the most beat-driven on the album, in a sort of trip-hop sense). It’s what keeps you moving through showers of sound that ebb and flow in intensity: high-pitched cascades, low pulses of synthesized strings, tinkling melancholy melodic lines where the chorus might go, texture provided by live percussion. In other words, for all its shimmering softness, it’s actually quite a pressure cooker of aural information, designed to create an intensely sensual listening experience — not background music, not hey-remember-when nostalgia. It is a super sexy song. Listen to it with someone you fucked on your honeymoon.

Download it from

Music Time: Drake – “Marvin’s Room”

July 5, 2011

When last I checked in with Drake he was sounding like Everything But the Girl. In “Marvin’s Room” he’s sounding even more like Everything But the Girl — specifically “Single,” in which Tracey Thorn engages her ex in a bit of extraordinarily bitter concern-trolling over a hotel phone, accompanied a shuffling beat and ghostly synths. Voila, I’ve just described “Marvin’s Room” as well. But what Drake lacks in Thorn’s luscious vocal instrument he more than makes up for in a level of lyrical candor that is either really exquisite artistry or the complete lack thereof. This is a guy who’ll lilt “Fuck that nigga that you love so bad” like it’s the most romantic thing in the world, who’ll say “After a while, girl, they all seem the same / I’ve had sex four times this week — I’ll explain” in a song whose sketch of a chorus revolves around chiding his ex “I’m just sayin’ you could do better.” I have no idea if he knows what a leap it is to expose his assholishness to the world like this and is consciously making that leap, or if he’s simply so fascinated by himself that he’s sharing this information because he’s his own muse. In the end I’m not sure it matters if it makes for sad, lovely, disturbing music like this. Bonus points for repeating the ex’s incredulous “Are you drunk right now?” like it’s one of those Houston-to-Apollo transmissions from The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld.