Alec Rojas is afraid to sleep. With a law degree and a philosophy degree, he works in law during the day and writes by night. You can find him DJing in downtown LA or on top of a California mountain, probably talking about Hegelian Aesthetic philosophy as applied to the Snoop Lion record.
In the UK, Darren Williams isn’t just a producer, a music student, or just a scruffy Mancunian. Also known as Star Slinger, his brand of UK bass/house/future garage has set the model for dance music this year. Toss in the Jet Jam party scene (an audio/visual expansion of this club party) with his fresh exciting remixes and you get some of the best party music for today’s youth.
Take This Up was the precursor for the Jet Jam parties that popped up during his current U.S. tour. I went to the one at the Echo and it was a gully-as-hell trap party with these 2-step vibes. Take This Up is no different, as the sample gets squashed to hell, restarted at an almost manic pace and chopped to pieces into a speedy, seizure-dancing beat. Not as bass-heavy as most other tracks, it’s a hip hop dance floor banger for 2013.
As much ambient and shoegaze rock as pastoral pop, itsnotyouitsme has been a hidden favorite in the realm of new classical and electronic ambient. The genres overlap so beautifully (maybe it’s the “glacier rock” movement that started it all, or the efforts of Philip Glass and Brian Eno that planted the first seeds) that it is hard to ascribe itsnotyouitsme’s sound to a specific spot. The Harlem-based duo of Caleb Burnhans and Gary Mcmurray take the best from both worlds – string instrument chops, meticulous looping and effects – to create an otherworldy reflection of chamber music.
Kid Icarus (Little Jam) is from the much beloved 2010 album fallen monuments. The album was recorded entirely live but one could never tell. The string melodies fall on top of each other, sequenced and improvised together with enough distance to hear the phrasing. Yet it is mixed enough to feel like each new string line is an inevitable conclusion, a relaxing, thoughtful conclusion.
Morphing into folk, bluegrass, country, western, or even the blues, “Americana” takes much from it’s environment and the instruments that populate it. In that regard, the native Appalachians of Old Crow Medicine Show, one of the best live acts in the country, are as much punk as they are country and old-time music. The band are real DIY-ers: they got their start busking in Nashville over a decade ago, like the medicine shows at the turn of the 20th century. This is a 21st century take on that classic music. If anything, Old Crow Medicine Show charge their music with veiled political references, foot-stomping rhythms, and corn liquor. In other words, all the good stuff.
As a tribute to one of the hotly contested states in this years election, Carry Me Back seems like a classic from the old-time string bands, extolling the excellence of Virginia. Based off the old Virginia state song, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, it tells the story of a young man filled with pride to fight in the Civil War and the accompanying false nationalism. But by the end it is a staunch anti-war song – dead horses, starvation in prison camps, and bayonets can’t shake the love of country and home. Carry Me Back isn’t just a faced paced hoe-down but exalts the love of country and home – that America is for you and me.
Another member of the Brainfeedercult. Flylo’s former roommate and maybe chief inspiration, Teebs, hails from Chino, California. It’s been exactly a year since this Collections 01 dropped in all of its meditative glory. Pretty Poly exemplifies the beat of Los Angeles like few other tracks before it. It’s fast or slow depending on whether you listen to the drums or the scratchy beats. It’s precise or loose depending whether you listen to the rhythm or the vocals. He presents a musical contrast more expansive than any of his contemporaries, tearing a massive canvas of ideas into two minute sound bites.
Pinback can pull a vanishing act like none other. Five years since the solid Autumn of the Seraphs and 11 years since the breakthrough Blue Screen Life (I admit – I stared at many a ceiling fan with a girl I may have liked and made her listen to Penelope), the current offering Information Retrieved rolls on with the shoe-shuffling, starry eyed metronomic bass and guitar
In this case, with a bit more oommmmphhhfff – the running guitar riff decays into an upbeat run of staccato notes, only to return with the rocking chorus. This melodic technique, though, takes a lyrical shape. This is a song about moving forward, past times of your life, even those as as constant as the seasons. Thank God these guys are that consistent, an unchanging singular sound in the sea of rock.