Say hello to the weekend, because it just arrived. I don’t know about you, but my summer weekends are packed with parties, BBQs and outdoor activities. Enjoy it while you can. Try and make some time to see Ted this weekend too. It’s supposed to be really funny. Also, because I mention it weekly, I’d be super appreciative if you’d head over to Facebook and do the whole “Like” button thing on the Faronheit page. Your support means a lot to me, and I try and throw some exclusive content over there to make it extra engaging. If you’re hoping for some fun weekend music, this edition of Pick Your Poison certainly has some of that. I’ll advise you to download tracks from Elk, Jesca Hoop, Joe Jackson with Iggy Pop (covering Duke Ellington), Meyhem Lauren, The Raveonettes, They Might Be Giants, Videoing and Wake Up Lucid. The Jensen Sportag remix of Erika Spring is great too. In the Soundcloud section, stream super fun tracks from Com Truise and Dignan Porch, while CFCF’s remix of Azari & III’s “Into the Night” is positively sublime. Have a great weekend!
Let’s just get a couple need-to-know bits of information taken care of right away. DIIV is the band formed by Beach Fossils touring guitarist Zachary Cole Smith. They used to be called Dive, but decided a few months ago to change it because a Belgian band has been using the moniker for more than a decade. Now when you write DIIV, you’ll know exactly what band is being talked about. After signing to Captured Tracks last fall, they released a few 7″ singles to quite a bit of buzz. Their full length debut Oshin is hot off the presses, pulling together most of those singles along with a bunch of new material. As to DIIV’s sound, it fits well under the label of dream pop, but plays with the conventions of that genre just a bit to make you question whether it’s properly applied here. Many of the songs on the album are instrumental, or at least instrumental adjacent. The ones that do have lyrics are often buried, processed or echoed to the point where you can’t make out what’s being said anyways. The times you can are typically when the song title is repeated over and over again. You’re not intended to gain understanding or purpose from the words; it’s the melodies and the way they’re presented that affect your enjoyment of this record. In that sense the listening experience is like that of a post-rock album, only with each journey packed into three minutes instead of eight. Surrender yourself to the waves of guitar washing over you and get transported to another time and place. There’s plenty of beauty to be found in these tracks, but it’s often the muscular kind of Explosions in the Sky rather than the more subtle crest and fall of Sigur Ros. It’s best on display via “Doused,” which brings forth an intensity and tension the rest of the album lacks. Placed at almost the very end of the record though, it’s off-the-map thrill ride vibe feels like a reward rather than a way to show up everything that came before it. Oshin actually thrives because of the way the whole thing is arranged. Individual highlights like “Human,” “How Long Have You Known?” and “Sometime” are parsed out generously from start to finish, and though the moments in between can sometimes sound like unimportant interludes, everything is essential if you listen to the record in its entirety in order. While the shimmering guitars are probably the most stand-out thing about the album, DIIV’s secret weapon is the rhythm section. It gives the record heft and propels things forward rather than simply allowing it to float in the ether. That’s an essential component giving the band more gravitas and separating them from similar-sounding peers. Oshin might not be the home run the band was hoping to hit in their first time at bat, but it’s a very strong triple that shows serious promise for the future. You couldn’t ask for much more.
Class of 2012 crossover alert! A few months ago I told you that A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Rey were working together on a song. It was originally set to appear on a mixtape by production team KickDrums, but they decided to remove the song and save it for A$AP Rocky’s upcoming album this fall. Funny story: the song “leaked” months ago before it was pulled from the mixtape, and then this week it resurfaced with claims it was “official this time” but of course it wasn’t and got pulled down again. Somebody keeps screwing up with that track. Really what I want to talk about though is the official music video that Lana Del Rey released a couple days ago for her song “National Anthem.” It’s nearly 8 minutes long and features Del Rey as both Jackie O and Marilyn Monroe. A$AP Rocky is not on the song anywhere, but he appears in the video in the role of JFK. Don’t ask me to make sense of it, just watch it. I’m just happy that these two kids found each other. I mean, who hasn’t dated a classmate a time or two? Anyways, onto today’s Pick Your Poison. Strong lineup today, with tracks to recommend from Barbara Morgenstern, Chelsea Light Moving, CIRC, Edmund II, Giant Sand and Rainer, Oddience, Paul Banks (of Interpol), and Trick Shooter Social Club. The Soundcloud section has some great streams as well from The 1975, Dark Dark Dark, The-Drum, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Fang Island, as remixed by Anamanaguchi.
Occasionally I like to keep my Chicago readers informed about the latest and greatest shows happening in and around the city, and today shall be no different. The sextet known as Still Flyin’ will be making their way to the city this Friday, performing at The Burlington Bar with two great Chicago bands Roommate and Magical Beautiful. Still Flyin’ is touring in support of their new record On A Bedroom Wall, which is an excellent slice of 80′s-styled synth pop. If you’d like to hear something from the band, definitely check out the two mp3s posted below. If you’d like to go to the show at The Burlington Bar on Friday, it starts at 9PM and tickets are being sold at the door for a mere $7. It’s worth it if you ask me. As for today’s Pick Your Poison, don’t miss songs from Doc Days, Grand Resort, Ivan & Alyosha (with Aimee Mann), Me and My Drummer, Mungolian Jetset, and Waterlaso. The M Machine’s remix of Passion Pit, which is available for streaming in the Soundcloud section, is a nice slice of fun too.
Fiona Apple is best classified as an eccentric. She’s been that way ever since her first album Tidal came out in 1996 and the video for “Criminal” was damaged, dark, skeletal, and above all memorable. That record and song catapulted her to a level of fame that isn’t handled well by everyone, let alone 19-year-olds with a history of mental and physical trauma. So you get awards show speeches claiming that the “world is bullshit” and tours get cancelled because of “personal family problems.” Even though she returned in 1999 with her sophomore album When the Pawn… which only further solidified her already large fan base, incidents like her meltdown at a show in NYC persisted to the point where she pretty much vanished entirely from the public eye. She said in interviews years later that she thought about retiring from music, and probably would have had things gone a little differently.
What wound up happening was that Apple recorded a number of songs with her friend Jon Brion in 2002-3, and the tracks were submitted to her label shortly thereafter. It’s still unclear if Sony refused to release the Extraordinary Machine album because it wasn’t commercially viable, or because Apple herself asked them not to because she was unhappy with how the songs turned out. Nevertheless tracks leaked onto the internet anyways in 2004 and 2005, and fans finding out the album had already been completed, launched a “Free Fiona” campaign to give it a proper release. Apple says she was moved by the fan support, and Mike Elizondo was brought in to officially complete the record, rebuilding many of the old tracks from scratch and producing a couple new ones as well. Despite lacking a true single, Extraordinary Machine still did reasonably well for her, selling almost half a million copies. Tours with Coldplay and Damien Rice kept her busy through much of 2006, and after a string of dates with Nickel Creek in 2007 she once again retreated into the darkness, nobody knowing exactly when or if we’d see or hear from her again.
One of Apple’s favorite things to do in L.A. is dropping in and playing a set at Largo, which she’s done a number of times. Jon Brion has a weekly residency there, and she’ll show up and mess around with him. She was performing there last November and after a fan asked if she’d play something new, she said she couldn’t remember how to play anything off her new album because it’s been done for a year. Recalling the mess leading up to Extraordinary Machine, things moved a bit quicker this time. No demos were leaked and no tracks were re-cut. Epic Records head L.A. Reid promised in January that the album would be out soon, and five months later here we are. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do is not the longest title Apple has ever affixed to one of her records, but it’s still more of a mouthful to say compared to anything else released recently. This fourth long player has her teaming up with percussionist and producer Charley Drayton to make a raw and uncompromising collection of songs the likes of which she’s never quite done before. It’s not a huge directional shift that’s set to redefine her trademark sound, but a few small adjustments have been made to emphasize her particular strengths that much more.
Apple could well have gotten away with making The Idler Wheel… an entirely a capella record, and judging by the way most of the songs progress, that’s probably how it started anyways. Her voice comes first, percussion second, and piano or other instrumental flourishes third. Such an emphasis on singing means she can wrench every single painful or joyous moment out of a lyric and push it straight into your own heart. On opening track “Every Single Night,” her voice quivers and lowers to almost a whisper when singing the lines, “I just wanna feel everything.” There’s an almost childlike innocence about it, one that’s carefully balanced against her riled up anger in the chorus, as she practically shouts, “Every single night’s a fight with my brain.” Much of the record does find her battling with her personal demons. “Don’t let me/ruin me/I may need a chaperone,” she ominously sings on “Daredevil”. Those feelings only spiral down further as the song progresses, and eventually she throws a temper tantrum, demanding, “Look at! Look at! Look at! Look at me!” with such throatiness you can envision tears of anguish streaming down her face. Yet in spite of the emotions that bleed through her voice, on “Left Alone” she claims to be more in control of those things than ever. “I don’t cry when I’m sad anymore,” she confesses with a calm and even-toned demeanor that nearly betrays the scat-jazz melody built around it. Mentally drained from searching for a reason for her solitude, Apple ultimately concludes she’s sabotaging herself. “How can I ask anyone to love me/when all I do is beg to be left alone,” she cries out.
When she’s not eviscerating herself over her own perceived flaws, Apple largely sticks to the familiar topic of good relationships gone bad. Of course when you tear up your voice yelling lines like, “I ran out of white doves’ feathers to soak up the hot piss that comes from your mouth every time you address me,” as she does on “Regret,” there’s nothing familiar or normal about it. Things don’t get much better on “Valentine,” where the sprightly chorus has the lines, “I root for you/I love you,” but the verses detail a love that has gone stale. “While you were watching someone else/I stared at you and cut myself,” she bemoans somberly. Not everything on The Idler Wheel… is sad, angry or disturbing though. The piano melody of “Jonathan” brings with it feelings of dread, but the lyrics are tender and sweet. Apple wrote the song about her ex-boyfriend Jonathan Ames and has nothing but nice things to say about him. “Werewolf” is in essence a break-up song, but it puts a positive spin on things by taking an equal blame perspective and a bright outlook for the future, where “We could still support each other/all we gotta do is avoid each other.” The sound of children playing that comes in near the end of the track emphasizes the somewhat playful vibe but also adds a tinge of sadness as an expression of lost youth, innocence and a time when love was the easiest and most organic thing in the world. Similar qualities are taken on by “Anything We Want,” which is uncharacteristically optimistic at the start of a relationship that really could go anywhere. Closing track “Hot Knife” builds off that vibe in an even more celebratory way. As Apple gushes over a great relationship, harmonies build atop one another in an off-kilter fashion, each singing a different part of the song until it’s a bird’s nest of voices and you can barely make out a word. The drums fade, and the last 30 seconds are just those vocals alone, each one competing for your attention and representing the many sides of Fiona Apple.
Vocals and lyrics aside, one of the biggest keys to the success of The Idler Wheel… is Drayton’s percussion work. He gets extremely inventive with how the rhythms are put together on the album, quite literally pulling from the kitchen sink for inspiration. When some artists say they experimented with percussion outside of traditional drums by hitting objects they found around the house, you can’t always tell that’s the case. Given the sparse arrangements on this album though, every bit comes through with forceful purpose. Light double taps on a bass drum mimic a heartbeat on “Valentine.” The rhythmic push and pull on “Jonathan” could very well be that of an office copy machine spitting out page after page just slightly offset from the driving piano melody. Shoes scraping against pavement create the march-like pace on the sprightly “Periphery,” and “Anything We Want” features pots and pans and a host of other hollow metal objects being tapped with a stick. The album credits also mention that a pillow was hit for percussionary purposes as well, however it’s not exactly clear when and where that happens (not that it matters). All of it contributes to the record’s unique charms, of which there are many. Apple has never made an album quite like this before, and it represents a seismic shift in the way we perceive her both professionally and personally. She’s still the same unbalanced and somewhat damaged girl we met over 15 years ago, but now more than ever she’s in control of her demons. A new sense of freedom comes along with that, and she takes full advantage of it. Those looking for the next “Criminal” or “Fast As You Can” will be left sorely disappointed. But if you pay close attention to the lyrics and allow yourself to fully engage with these songs, you’ll find a wealth of power, beauty, anger and tragedy poured out with the intent of reaching even the most hardened of hearts. It might not be the easiest thing to listen to, but nothing this brilliant ever is.
Every Tuesday I like to give you the list of artists releasing new material, as a way to remind you that music is still for sale and you can in fact buy it if you like it. That said, you can hit up your local music merchant or online retailer for new stuff from Air Traffic Controller, A Place to Bury Strangers, Beachwood Sparks, Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, DIIV, Echo Lake, Everest, Exray’s, The Flaming Lips, Henry Clay People, Infantree, Jesca Hoop, Joe Jackson, A Lull, Milk Maid, New Beard (new mp3 featured below), The Offspring, Sonny and the Sunsets, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and Ty Segall Band. So that’s your notification list. The Pick Your Poison list for today is below, and has a few songs/artists I’d like to personally recommend. Those include tracks from Apollo Cobra, Chris Cohen, Codeine, Crypts, Dragonette, Guardian Alien, John Maus, New Beard and Warm Weather. Lots of great stuff here worth learning more about, if you’re so inclined. Hip hop fans might like to know there’s a new Nas track (with Rick Ross) up for streaming in the Soundcloud section too.
Sigh. I don’t know about you, but I love Blur. I think they’re one of the more unsung heroes of the 90′s, even though they are/were pretty popular. The thing about Damon Albarn, especially in the last 15 or so years, is apparently that he’s restless. Blur wasn’t enough for him, and so came Gorillaz, then The Good, the Bad & the Queen, then DRC Music and most recently Rocket Juice & the Moon. I’m not even going to get into his soundtrack work. The point is, we’re going on nearly a decade since the last Blur record, and there’s been a bit of back-and-forth about whether they still exist or not. There have been a few Blur shows in the U.K. recently, giving hope to that idea, along with reports they were in the studio recording. Yet Albarn has been coy and has suggested that Blur is over. While we continue to wait and see where that whole saga will go, the band is giving one little nugget of confidence suggesting they’re still around. Next Monday, July 2nd, Blur will perform 2 new songs on a London rooftop. Whether or not they’re trying to recreate The Beatles’ famous Apple Corps rooftop performance, you can watch them play “Under the Westway” and “The Puritan” at 6:15PM BST (aka 1:15PM EST) live via a link they’ll be posting on their Twitter page. I’m excited to hear and see what will happen, and I hope you are too. Okay, onwards with today’s Pick Your Poison. I’ll recommend tracks from the bilinda butchers, Howth, Pixel Memory, Saint Motel, Tassels and thenewno2. In the Soundcloud section don’t miss streaming a new song from Stars.
If you’re American and care anything about sports, you probably heard that last night the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship. This is a music site and I rarely mention sports on purpose, but this one stings just a little bit. If you’re from Miami or simply love the Heat, now’s the point where you want to stop reading and dive headfirst into the mp3s below. Okay. I’m not going to call Lebron James a bad basketball player. On the contrary, he’s one of the NBA’s best and deserved the MVP trophy he won. It’s the way he goes about it that feels almost criminal. Leaving Cleveland for Miami in an hour-long TV special a couple years ago was a classless move. So was the big “presentation party” where James, Wade and Bosh came out on a stage to confetti and cheers from adoring fans. They assembled a monster team with every intention of winning an NBA championship. I couldn’t have been happier last season when the Heat lost in the finals. Yet if I lived in Miami or Florida in general I’d probably be ecstatic over the collection of superstars the Heat have assembled. Sometimes you just want to see the underdog triumph against such a behemoth. The Oklahoma City Thunder are sort of the ultimate underdog team too, because they’re pretty new and just a bit “off the radar” versus other major cities like Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Alas, it was not to be, and the Heat conquered as it has been expected of them. Now I’ve got to hope that doesn’t continue for multiple years. This, from a guy who loved every second of the Chicago Bulls’ 6-peat from the 90′s. Ah, what a time to be alive. Alright, sports talk over. Pick Your Poison talk now. Gold stars today go out to tracks from Barna Howard, Benjamin Francis Leftwich (covering The Beatles), Chomp, Daydream Vacation, Funkywalkman, Physical Therapy, Poolside, Purity Ring and Strand of Oaks. In the Soundcloud section don’t miss streaming songs from Holograms, The New Pornographers (covering Fleetwood Mac), and OM.
Happy Summer Solstice! Yes, my friends, today is the day in the northern hemisphere with the most sunlight. If you’re planning to do something outside, such as grill or play sports, there’s no better day to do it. Maximize your productivity and have some fun while doing so. Even the graveyard shifters get a little more light than usual, though that may be a detriment if it makes it tougher to sleep. And hey, solar power earns an extra boost today too. But who am I kidding. Yesterday was really bright too, and tomorrow will be as well. These additional amounts of sun amount more to minutes than hours. Today’s sun is probably no more than 30 seconds more than yesterday’s. I guess the grand point is: it’s summer. Enjoy it. This edition of Pick Your Poison is a nice soundtrack to it as well. Pay close attention to tracks from Acid House Kings (THREE of them!), Chandeliers, Donnis, Lorelai, The Royal Concept, Western Affairs and Zulu Winter. In the Soundcloud section there’s also a great remix by Four Tet of a track from Neneh Cherry + The Thing.
One of the greatest challenges about the dance music genre is how easily things can become stale. If dance artists aren’t consistently evolving from record to record, they’re prone to stagnation and may fizzle out. Don’t ever let the beat drop or let your audience get bored. James Murphy as LCD Soundsystem played his cards almost exactly right, crafting three of the best dance records so far this decade, each one building off the previous one, before calling it quits at the top of his game. Not every attempt at reinvention works out though, as best evidenced by Justice’s most recent effort Audio, Video, Disco, which boldly sought to bring bits of 70′s prog-rock into their club-heavy, pop single sound. Nice thought, but the end result was far weaker than it could have been.
Hot Chip probably fall towards the middle of the pack when it comes to building a successful career in dance music. Their 2005 debut album Coming On Strong was filled with smarmy bedroom pop, the kind that needed work instrumentally but was quite funny lyrically. Building off that, 2006′s The Warning hit almost all the right notes and generated hits like “Boy From School” and “Over and Over.” That trend continued on 2008′s Made in the Dark, though it peppered in more mature themes and slower balladry to calm the waters a bit. Such an adjustment suggested they were growing up, but the end results were more mixed and off-balance, like a teen going through puberty. 2010′s One Life Stand was the band’s full-on attempt at maturity and adulthood. It was a skillfully moderated meditation on love and settling down and the pleasure one could derive from that, and many loved how well it balanced the band’s celebratory and fun side with something calmer and more mature. Others balked under the impression that a more domesticated and ballad-dominant version of Hot Chip wasn’t what they signed up for based on their earlier material. In the time since that last record, band members took time out to work on some side projects. About Group, The 2 Bears and New Build were the three results, and while each carved their own distinct paths musically, they all had one thing in common: an upbeat and playful demeanor.
Thankfully, that seems to be where the members of Hot Chip’s heads are on their new album In Our Heads. This past March, Joe Goddard said in an interview that they intended for the album to exude “positivity.” That means an increase in tempos and moods and a return to some of the dance-addled style their first couple records played up so well. This time though, the band isn’t retreating so much as they are refining. The lessons learned in One Life Stand are not lost, but incorporated into the album both lyrically and in how some of the songs are structured. The electro-funk of “How Do You Do?” might function as the best distillation of what the entire record is about, with a chorus that includes the line, “You make me want to live again.” “Dont Deny Your Heart” smartly lays out a case for why a partner should “say yes” to love, using an 80′s-style synth pop base to make it that much more memorable.
Perhaps the greatest moments on In Our Heads come from the longest songs. It’s not because they’re long that makes them good, it just so happens to work out that way. The seven minutes of “Flutes” makes for one of the darkest yet most exciting tracks on the album. It’s a swirling techno beast that morphs into this shining dance party pillar before you can fully grasp what’s going on. Hot Chip have never made a song quite like it before, and it speaks exceptionally well towards their continuing evolution as a band. The same can be said for “Let Me Be Him,” which brilliantly skirts the line between ballad and dance track by placing a soft rock melody atop skittering beats. The longer it glides, the more beautiful it becomes, eventually breaking down into bird chirps and spaced out electric guitars that will make you salivate with sheer passion. Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor’s vocals swim in these fertile waters and set the right tone thanks to a line like, “My soul, my love is running away with me.” Played differently, the song could very well have fallen into the realm of excess or even poorly concocted parody. Its escape from such a fate only makes it stronger.
For those that prefer their Hot Chip funky and loud, as on a past single like “Ready for the Floor,” In Our Heads has “Night & Day” for your enjoyment. The groove is built around a wobbly bass line, and the chorus splits open with some laser-guided synths that send things into the stratosphere. Hot Chip’s trademark humor is well in place too, and if the video for the song doesn’t cause you to crack a smile, hopefully the deadpan faux rapping during the bridge will. “These Chains” also does excellent work by playing the darker cousin of “Boy From School,” quietly pulsating as Taylor and Goddard trade verses and harmonize with one another. It’s one of the record’s more subtle numbers, but pay close enough attention and you’ll find it sticking with you far longer than expected.
The greatest thing about In Our Heads is how ecstatic and joyful Hot Chip sound from start to finish. As One Life Stand could be a bit of a drag for those seeking the band that churns out dance hit after dance hit, that album remains a necessary step in their continued growth. Finally reaching maturity and adulthood doesn’t always mean putting away childish things though. In fact, maintaining a positive attitude and staying active can help keep you young. That seems to be the lesson the band is trying to teach us with this record. Even as they sing about love and holding onto the key relationships in your life, they’re still compelled to craft melodies that bring a euphoria of a different sort. Whether that pleasure lasts a minute or a lifetime, Hot Chip seem intent on spreading and sharing it with us. We should consider ourselves lucky.
If you’ve not heard already, there’s a new supergroup lurking about the indie world these days. They’re known as Divine Fits. The trio is made up of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks’ Sam Brown. Sounds intriguing, right? Well, their first single “My Love Is Real” is finally available for you to hear and stream, but in order to do so you need to “Like” them on Facebook. Here is their Facebook page so you can go do that immediately. So long as you’re logged into Facebook, maybe head over to the Faronheit page and click “Like” on that too? I don’t have any content you can unlock by doing so, but I do post a number of great music videos and links to posts on the site there as well. It’s just another way we can keep up with each other. Okay, now onto today’s Pick Your Poison. I’ll advise you to download new music from Br’er, Cat Power, Dazzletine, I Come to Shanghai, Museum and White Violet.
If it’s Tuesday, that means there’s new music releases out for your consumption. I like to give a quick rundown of all the artists coming out with stuff, just in case you weren’t aware or forgot that one of your favorites has something new you could be enjoying this very second. So, be on the look out for new full lengths or EPs from Blues Control, Can, Fiona Apple, Glen Hansard, Grace Potter, Hacienda, John Zorn, Men Without Hats, Moby, Neneh Cherry & The Thing, Peaking Lights, Silver Jews, Smashing Pumpkins, Walk the Moon, White Arrows and Zulu Winter. As far as Pick Your Poison goes, allow me to recommend tracks for download from Buffalo Killers, Cold Cave, Cowgill, Drug Cabin, Lockah and Shark?.
Hello, and welcome to Faronheit! I hope you enjoy your stay. Before you read onwards, let me quickly explain a couple things.
All mp3s hosted on this site are for sampling purposes only. If you are an artist or record label or somebody representing said artists or copyrights, I would appreciate it if you'd send me an email should you need me to remove any content.
If you would like to send me any music, links, press materials, and the like via the web, please email me with any attachments or links to where I can find out more. Please note that if you send me mp3 attachments as well as Bandcamp or YouTube links, I will not be able to post them on my site. I will still listen to the songs and watch the videos, just don't expect them to appear in a post. Soundcloud or direct download mp3 links only please and thank you,