Angel Olsen’s stage presence left the audience in the Gothic Theater silent. You could hear a pin drop as she crooned out notes from many hits of her newest album, “My Woman”. At first one could look around the theater wondering why everyone got the memo to act as a phalanx of statues staring straight ahead. But it was not that the crowd wasn’t enjoying themselves. Following their gazes it was not difficult to figure out why; and fall under Angel’s spell and be captivated by her stage presence. Although Angel sounded amazing on stage, her presence was one of the best aspects of the show. She had the complete attention of everyone around, I think even her bandmates had stars in their eyes.
Her set lasted around an hour, where I was left hungry for more (of course) but I knew it wasn’t the end. Soon to follow was one of the best encores I have seen in a while. Featured was an amazing cover of Motel’s “Total Control” and after being subject to that I can’t think of one person in the audience who wasn’t obsessed with Angel.
Just wanted to say a quick happy birthday to one of the most soul-touching, delicately constructed albums of all time –– Elliott Smith’s Either/Or turns 20 today. Speaking (with no authority whatsoever) on behalf of thousands of angsty teenagers and disappointed adults, I want to say thank you to Elliott Smith on this album (as well as some others) for being able to evoke such a wide range of emotions, most stemming from melancholia, in slightly over (or under) three minutes. The expectations for the power that music can have on emotions have shifted a lot in the last twenty years, and we definitely owe some of that shift to Either/Or. If you have a spare three minutes today, pick any song from the album below, hit play and dissolve a little bit.
“Multi-love” is the colorful title track of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s latest album. It’s about a polyamorous relationship, a subject that intrigues me but is rarely explored (from what I know) in music, or even generally talked about. Lead singer and songwriter Ruban Nielson articulates the confusing challenges that polyamorous love poses to his concept of conventional relationships and gender roles with lines like “She don’t want to be a man or a woman/ She wants to be your love” and “We were one, then become three,” singing with an anxious sense of urgency in spite of his playful lyrics. I also love his voice, which is a sort of terra cotta brown and has the consistency of wet clay.* Give it a listen!
When I was about 11 years old, I heard my sister playing a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song (I think it was Runaway) and instantly felt shivers rush down my spine –– the vocals were so haunting, so beautiful; they struck me right to my core. I spent the rest of the day downloading their music off LimeWire (those were the good old days of torrenting). To my disappointment, when I listened to the rest of their music, I found myself at an odds; I felt addicted to the vocals, but could not quite get down with the slightly too aggressive lyrics and drum beats in most of their songs. Thus, with a void in my heart, I put the Yeah Yeah Yeahs away to never be revisited again… Until a faithful day in 2014, when my then-boyfriend and I went to see Her at the cinema. Once again, I heard that captivating voice, except this time it wasn’t screaming at me to dance till I’m dead; it was almost whispering to me, in tones that, for me, matched the singer’s voice perfectly, about love. Later that day, my void was finally able to be filled with Karen O’s solo tracks; here is a beautiful example of the kind of enchantment her voice holds.
One of my favorite sounds in the world is that of the vibraphone, a lesser-known jazz percussion instrument. When I hear it I see* small, luminescent, neon green (a color I’ve never seen in any other sound) orbs that tumble over each other like marbles and constantly swell and contract.
“Bag’s Groove,” composed by vibraphonist Milt Jackson and first recorded in 1952, is a 12-bar blues track with a catchy head comprised of descending notes. It features lively solos by Milt Jackson, alto-saxist Lou Donaldson, and pianist John Lewis. I personally go for the first and less famous recording because it’s concise, its pace is brisker, and (of course) because it has more vibraphone.
For the famous version, check out the Miles Davis Quintet’s recording. This track feels cleaner and more spacious in contrast to the rushed vibe of the original recording, probably because it’s eleven minutes long and has a more laid-back pace. And while Milt Jackson (who was part of the quintet) has a strong presence, it’s definitely more horn-heavy.
Here’s a rough illustration of the song:
A recent favourite of the internet’s music critics, Sampha has previously featured on songs from Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, and one of my favourite electronic albums, SBTRKT’s SBTRKT. The song below, off his new album Process, sounds reminiscent of James Blake in Sampha’s more soulful voice, and of Joni Mitchell in the melancholy evocativeness of the lyrics.
If this song is up your alley, I encourage you to check out the whole album –– while Sampha is very versatile, his stunning voice weaves a thread from beginning to end.
Surreal electrifying energy. “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” is a hypnotic track on Electric Music for the Mind and Body, an album full of psychedelic strangeness. I cannot get over the seamless switches from bluesy garage rock to soaring, euphoric organ that pervade the song. Take a listen.
I am definitely late in terms of boarding the Mitski train, which is surprising –– she’s toured with Frankie Cosmos, whom I’m a huge fan of, and is generally considered an integral part of the DIY indie scene (or whatever the “correct” name for this kind of music is). I’d tried listening to her in the past, and was, I guess, a little put off by what I thought was a much more aggressive, rocky sound than I was expecting. All I can say is that I must have listened to the wrong songs, or had gone temporarily deaf, because dang! This girl can sing! (and write).
Sometimes she seems to look into the soul of the classic American sadboy (or girl); other times, she writes from her own perspective –– that of a triculture disillusioned outsider. Either way, her music is almost always very emotionally evocative. The song below, for example, instantly transported me back into the days of all-encompassing, identity-dissolving and unhealthy first love. It’s off her third album that came out in 2014: “Bury Me at Makeout Creek.” Have a listen!
In October, the Rolling Stone featured Lewis Del Mar as one of ten new artists you need to know.
Lewis Del Mar’s whole album will awaken your music taste buds. Their songs have a circus of clashing sounds that cleverly resolve. Each song feels scrappy and exhilarating. Fans of Foals, Alt-J, and the beach goth genre will enjoy the beach dreamscape feel of Lewis Del Mar. I feel as if I am washing up onto a serendipitous island full of vegetation and allure every time I listen to them. “Tap Water Drinking” has an electronic background layered with a folk guitar and a hip-hop sounding beat. The end of the song is a wild and satisfying cacophony. As a listener, I also loved how the lyrics of “Tap Water Drinking” validated the universal feeling of shallow attraction.
My friend from KALX Berkeley impulsively took a bus to Colorado Springs, surprising me on this stressful start to the fourth week. We’ve spent most of the day sitting on my couch showing each other songs we’ve been into lately. Aside from the classic “Caught In A Butt Sandwich” by The Mangfather Bob Katz, the best song she showed me happened to be by a kickass multiracial artist named Kohinoorgasm. Kohinoorgasm is a bay area artist that used to DJ at KALX, now working as a solo artist. She strives to empower people of color through her music. The music video of “Azaadi Is Freedom Is Fate” has an evident motif of hair, which Kohinoorgasm notes as a “distinct issue for femmes of color.” The song itself is an exploration of the concept of freedom, Azaadi meaning freedom in multiple levels. As a multiracial woman who identifies strongly with my Indian culture, I find Kohinoorgasm to be an empowering presence in the DIY music scene.