If you were to ask me around the time that everyone was blowing themselves over the debut Vampire Weekend album what I thought about them, I would have eagerly chastised the notion of a few spoiled Ivy Leaguers who cited Graceland as a primary influence. Sure, the inspiration was novel for its time, but Graceland? Christ, I was in college around the time that Simon released that plagiarized “masterpiece” and I can cite no peers who offered, “Let me throw on that new Paul Simon album” during any social setting. You wanna know why? Because we were tired of hearing our Dads remind us that Chevy Chase is “hilarious” in the music video for “You Can Call Me Al.”
If you can tell how good a band is based on how they sound without all the dress-up, then the XX is surprisingly accomplished even at this early stage of the game.
There’s so little going on musically that it’s hard to peg them as an electronic band, but this London quartet (now paired to a trio thanks to keyboardist Baria Qureshi’s recent departure) is obviously indebted to ’80s electronica on their debut.
The very things that keep XX as qualifying as an electronic album are the same ones that make it special. There’s an incredible amount of depth going on from just a thin layer of atmospheric keyboards, a twangy guitar and the hushed vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim.
So cool. American poet Gil Scott-Heron is back, and it looks like he’s got a new album, I’m New Here, coming out in February on XL. Scott-Heron has struggled with drug abuse and incarceration for much of the decade, and that hardship is definitely reflected in the ominous tone of this video. But his voice sounds great, and the poetry is raw and effective. 100% badass. You can download the song from imnewhere.net.
With such impressive lineage in his genes, it’s easy to question the legitimacy of someone like Elvis Perkins. Growing up the son of actor Anthony Perkins, he surely must have been afforded the luxuries that many of us couldn’t attain, so why believe that someone like him would be able to channel the rustic Americana that’s so prevalent in his work? But after one listen, I was taken with Perkins’ voice, a frail and emotional instrument that clears away any sense of doubt that his format not only feels good, it enhances the weight of his material.
The Doomsday E.P. is an economical and tidy way to discover this. It touches on Perkins’ rustic charms, from the ramble tamble of roadhouse swing numbers, to Sunday morning gospels, and at no point does his approach seem like a gimmick.
We should be preparing for the grunge revival right about now, so what’s with the influx of bands during the past few years that seem to focus their gaze on the New Romantic glow of the early ’80s? More importantly, what’s with these bands actually doing it with more accuracy, intelligence, and hooks than, well, since the early ’80s?
The Golden Silvers is yet another entry into the arena with limited guitars, layers of keyboards, and ass moving disco beats. These cats are so legit at their approach that it wouldn’t surprise me if they documented the making of True Romance on fucking Betamax.
Vampire Weekend will let you download their new song if you give them your email address. Otherwise, stream away…
So what do you think? Alice Cooper still isn’t gonna like it, but those of us (non-golfers) who enjoyed the first album (review) will probably appreciate many of the same qualities featured on the debut.
The title is bullshit: this is straight up UK pop that would fit snuggly in between your ABC and Paul Young singles, albeit with a less refined take on pale white soul. But give the boy a little time—he was just a gleam in his dad’s eye when Young’s No Parlez was released—and give him a few more records to fill out his collection, because Jack Penate is eating up influences like Andy Clark ate a shitload of sandwiches for lunch in The Breakfast Club.
Everything Is New is Penate’s second effort, and he is already taking listeners to places that even he has never explored. Sounds of Cuba, Brazil, Nigeria, as well as regions of the U.S. are visited within the nine tracks, and don’t believe for a minute that this youngster went into these sessions with such a worldview in mind. If anything, credit this travel itinerary to producer Paul Epworth.
MP3: Discovery – “Orange Shirt” from LP, out July 7 on XL.
Chipper, synth pop from Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend and Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot. According to the publicist, the project is “an attempt to realize Wes’s concept of a band where everyone plays synthesizers, and of Rostam’s concept for an album where handclaps keep the backbeat instead of snare drums. It’s an embrace and also a commentary on the pop music of the past decade, of booming 808 bass and jittery sixteenth note high-hats.”