Posts Tagged ‘Valerie June’

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ROLLING BONE’S 2013 BEST-OF LIST

December 11, 2013

This year I did something I’m totally not doing next year. I wrote about every damn new release (compact disc) I purchased. You can read all the reviews in full here or (in a less edited spew) here. Since these are CD reviews (plus a vinyl or two), there’s a trove of truly excellent releases missing from the following lists. Mostly stuff released on cassette, often by Canadians. In the new year I’m launching a new series called Kassetten which will eventually cover some of these 2013 tape releases. Otherwise, between Weird Canada and Tabs Out, they’ve been covered already and you should be hitting those sites up anyway. I know I also missed most of the vinyl releases I picked up. When did those Fresh Snow and Young Mother LPs come out?  Anyway, great records I never got around to reviewing. Also Salted, Zacht Automaat… the list could go on. Plus there’s a few albums I haven’t gotten around to checking out in any format yet (White Poppy, Booka Shade) which I expect to enjoy. Well, you’re familiar with the limitations of year-end lists. Anyhooo…

THE GOD DAMN RECORD OF THE YEAR

YOUTH CODE RECORD ART

Youth Code: Youth Code 

I originally gave this EBM pummeller a 4.875 (out of 5) rating, but I’m bumping it up to  a solid 5. “…jackhammer, chest compressing, beat and that mechanical bass sound peppered with guttural screams and old movie samples….” is how I described it, suggesting they were only missing the hooks their forefathers Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and Skinny Puppy boasted (I know, bands you totally associate with hummable ditties). Well, fuck that. The hooks are there, buried just beneath the surface, waiting to reward grave robbers who listen to this record on their iPhone everyday while they give their fellow subway patrons the evil eye.

Perhaps my love for Youth Code is a barely disguised form of mid-life crisis. A return to those halcyon days of listening to my Too Dark Park cassette on a Sony Walkman, hating everyone in the hallway of my high school and feeling strangely good about it. It’s the kind of record that makes you feel completely vindicated being a misanthropic loner. I feel like music these days isn’t anti-social enough. It’s all about community building and, ew, togetherness. As if other people can be trusted. The state of the world is proof they can’t. You really want to build a community with those assholes?

Anyway, there aren’t enough records like this. Sweet, sweet social oblivion. 

Just in time for Christmas, Dias Records has just released another run of the vinyl.

13 ULTRA-BESTIES OF 2013

Most of these I gave less than a 5/5 rating at the time, but they’re all 5/5 (or damn close) in my eyes now.

Valerie June: Pushin’ Against a Stone

I might simply live under some kind of counter-culture rock, unaware what the “mainstream” is listening to other than MumfordMiley and Drake, but it’s unfathomable to me how Valerie June‘s record isn’t more widely known. Obviously not in a Yeezus way (it’s not a record for thirteen year-olds and hipsters suffering from willful infantilism), but at least in a Neko Case kind of way. It’s exactly the kind of record you’d expect to see on the Rolling Stone year-end list. It’s a warm, smart, genre-bending, deeply emotional record, epic in scope but full of those intimate moments the mainstream MOR public is supposed to fawn over. Of course, Pushin’ Against a Stone does appear on that list but buried somewhere around 46, where a decade or two ago I feel like it’d have been in the top 5.

If people thought Paul Simon co-opting South African music was ground-breaking, what June does combining Afro-beat and bluegrass should have them completely losing their shit. But that was then and this is now, and for whatever reason (theories abound) no one cares about anything anymore. Information fatigue has caused the culture machine to stall, but no one’s really noticed because we’re still coasting downhill.

Anyway, on the bright side, people like Valerie June are still producing artful folk/rock/country/soul records with (what should be) a wide-appeal.

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King Krule: 6 Feet Beneath The Moon

I gave Archy Marshall‘s debut full-lenth a 5/5 rating originally which was probably a tad generous in hindsight. But there aren’t too many artists coming out today who are this unique, who have his weird sort of charismatic, otherworldly presence—as if he’s less a real live boy and more of a character in a film. Which is, ultimately, what we want from our pop stars. More David Bowie, less David Robert Jones. I described him on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon as a “jazzy Mark E. Smith meets art-damaged Billy Bragg meets punk-thug Morrissey” and time will tell if he and his career lives up to those references. But for now this record does. Though how much I see him as an “exotic other” through a slight anglophile lens is hard to tell. Maybe to the Brits he’s just your average, unremarkable bloke? Probably.

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Recent Releases Round-UP: King Krule, Valerie June, Crocodiles, Julianna Barwick, Medicine, David Lynch

September 13, 2013

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More recent release reviews at THIS PAGE.

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King Krule: 6 Feet Beneath The Moon

I first ran across Archy Marshall when he was still going by Zoo Kid. Really, it was just a photo that I ran across on Flickr that reminded me of a cross between the characters Baby Boom and Wizard in Julian Temple‘s 1986 film Absolute Beginners. But possibly trans. Anyway, I was all like “Fuck, yeah! Who’s this? Zoo Kid? He’s got a video? Let’s hit this shit up!” That’s what I was all like.

Then when I heard his jazzy Mark E. Smith meets art-damaged Billy Bragg meets punk-thug Morrissey, well, I was hooked. Kid could do no wrong in my book. Except I couldn’t find any Zoo Kid product and his Bandcamp songs were only streaming. Hey, kid, I just wanna give you my money. Anyway, I pre-ordered his first EP as King Krule as soon as it was announced. It was, admittedly, a bit of a letdown. But I wasn’t remotely deterred. So I’m probably not really a reliable witness when I say 6 Feet Beneath The Moon is everything I hoped it would be and is the hands-down album of the year. For whatever reason this stuff is just on a Kamikaze trajectory zeroing-in on my heart and soul. Marshall is an original,  the real deal, a true post-modern wizard of song.

Apparently Jana Hunter, on the other hand, thinks differently.

5 Mealy-mouthed troubadours out of 5 Misfit balladeers in smoke-filled diners

Valerie June: Pushin’ Against a Stone

I’d have been impressed if Valerie June had been good at any of the half-dozen styles she attempts on Pushin’ Against A Stone, but the fact she’s a master of bluegrass, trad-folk, indie-folk, soul, and blues is just kind of sickening. And the way the album opener “Workin’ Woman Blues” seamlessly blends bluegrass and West African funk, it’s perhaps the most successful attempt at world-fusion I’ve ever heard. On top of all that, she’s pretty easy on the eyes. God damn.

One-upping albums by the likes of Gillian Welch or Sharon Jones—fantastic as they are, they tend to be a tad samey-samey—Pushin’ Against a Stone album plays like a really well curated mix-tape from someone with a record collect consisting only of deep cuts. I took issue with Dan Auerbach‘s production on Hanni El Khatib‘s latest album but he knocks it out of the park here. Or, I suspect, June does the heavy lifting and he just pressed “record”, sat back and let her work her magic. It’s not polished, sanitized, Nashville magic either. There’s a gritty, outsider feel to the proceedings. Something like the underlying hint of danger in Tom Waits’ music before be went the full Beefheart.

The only flaw with the album is the songs themselves are all only really good. There’s nothing to rival the classics they might bring to mind like “Jolene“, “Fever” or “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay“. But since there doesn’t really seem to be  anyone writing songs of that caliber anymore, she’s still ahead of the pack.

4.5 Versatile down home divas out 5 Complete histories of popular American song

Braids: Flourish//Perish

Only one track in as of yet, but the Björk influence that was an ingredient on Braids debut is in full effect, taking over the recipe. Not just in the fragile, lisy-whispy vocals, but in the skittery ambient electronics of the backing tracks.  By track four (“Hossak“) the Björkiness isn’t lessening. Not sure it’s getting more prevalent, but an innate Braidsiness isn’t coming to the fore either.

So, taken as a Björk album, how does it fare? Very well, actually.

It falls somewhere post-Post and pre-Medúlla. That is to say, it’s pretty much exactly Vespertine. That’s not precisely true, there are moments which are very Thom Yorke circa The Eraser (especially the merping synth bass and clacking drum stick rhythms on “Juniper“). But anyway, now that I’m at the end, I feel confident saying Flourish//Perish should please Björk fans (like myself) who’ve been waiting for another Vespertine. But I’m still waiting for Braids follow up to Native Speaker.

4 Elfin chanteuses out of 5 Vespertines

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