Tag Archives: alternative

Catharsis

Music has always been a conduit for catharsis. For the artist, the process is in itself a form of natural release for the pressure cooker of ideas, inspiration, and a compulsion to create. For listeners, music can often act as an emotional trigger, or as a companion to what we are already going through. Of course, music also acts as an elixir that can ease physical, emotional, and psychological pain. I still remember that Michael Jackson’s Dangerous almost singlehandedly helped me forget about the pain of a broken wrist and chipped kneecap at age 11.

As a heartbroken and hormonal teen, The Smashing Pumpkins’ Melloncollie and the Infinite Sadness was my companion as I wallowed in self pity and licked my wounds (although Siamese Dream is by far their best album!)

Though I (and I imagine most people my age) are less melodramatic these days, there is no doubt that a good tune can still be highly therapeutic. So with this thought in mind, here are a few relatively new tracks that I find cathartic for different reasons.

1) Artist: Chikita Violenta Track: Roni

These guys are a bunch of crazy Mexicans, but they sound like they just emerged from a Seattle dive bar. I love the 90’s shoegazing inspiration that underpins their sound. The fuzzy distortion of the guitars, the aloof and almost echoey production around the vocals, and perhaps just as importantly, the commitment to form and tune despite everything else. This song evokes that warm glow of nostalgia in which we all like to bask from time to time.

Artist: Fleet Foxes Track: Helplessness Blues

Sometimes you just want to escape from the confines of your concrete jungle and the scores of humanity that cohabitate it and explore the great outdoors. That is the emotion and aesthetic that Fleet Foxes capture beautifully. If Chikita Violenta have a gritty, Seattleish sound, Fleet Foxes are the guys singing around a campfire in the wooded hills a few hundred miles away. This song from their upcoming album is just fantastic…

And finally….sometimes you just need to space out and weave in and out of consciousness. Lemonade by The Braids (BTW i’ve heard 4 songs from this album and they are all brilliant) is just the kind of song for this kind of mood 🙂

goood night 🙂

Q: Who are These New Puritans?

A: A decidedly strange indie outfit out of the UK. It is difficult to classify a particular genre for their music, as it incorporates and amalgamates so many diverse and discordant influences. Post Rock, Industrial, Minimal Electro, Shoegaze, Post Punk and Brian Eno/Thom Yorke-esque avant-gardism are just a few influences that come to mind. If nothing else, These New Puritans are an ambitious lot. The recently released Hidden LP involves the band moving far beyond the 3-4 piece standard instruments that characterise traditional rock. Perhaps the most prominent examples of this are the thunderous Japanese Taiko drums and the long forgotten Bassoon (yeah, they actually play a bassoon!). The result is a really interesting and surprisingly addictive album. Be prepared to spend a little time with this one…it isn’t designed or instant gratification, and you won’t hear any of their songs in a car commercial.

Not that there is anything wrong with bands who have songs that appear in car commercials. Phoenix’s massively successful Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix LP included a number of tracks that became ubiquitous in large part due to their use in ads. It can be somewhat annoying, but who can blame them in an era when nobody actually purchases music? Anyhow, I always felt that Love Like a Sunset was a song that had massive potential, but ended prematurely and was thus somewhat unsatisfying. In a blatant attempt to appease me, Phoenix have gone ahead and released Love Like A Sunset (Part III), which is essentially an electro remix of the song. It sounds pretty cool, but once again I feel like they could have used the song’s climax so much more creatively and effectively than they did…sigh. Fun track though!

Of course, all good music doesn’t need to be ground breaking and innovative (and in fact a lot of ‘innovative’ music is just pretentious garbage). I (and I would imagine many other people) sometimes crave the comforting simplicity of a well crafted rock song that evokes emotion and just makes me want to sing along. This is the kind of music you will get from the Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit. 2008’s A Midnight Organ Fight was a fantastically earnest and melancholy album that incorporated elements of Scottish & Irish folk music. Their most recent release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (March 2010), is a decidedly more upbeat and ambitious record, incorporating a wider use of instruments and texture. I’m impressed with their ability to progress as a band, and this is a good album, but somehow it lacks that emotional punch that made A Midnight Organ Fight such a great album.

Finally, a parting gift of pure electropop sweetness from that loveable sheep shaggin land of New Zealand (thanks SP) by The Naked And Famous. Very Passion Pit/MGMT…and that’s a good thing.

Themeless, Shapeless….

I’m feeling rather magnanamous today, so I thought I’d spare everyone the arduous task of reading this. Just listen. These are songs that have found their way into my head recently, and if you’re not careful they’ll find a way into your consciousness as well.

The Arcade Fire: We Used to Wait

From the new album ‘The Suburbs’. Highly recommended. Head and shoulders above their previous stuff IMO.

Modest Mouse: Bury me With It

The Gaslamp Killer: Sitar Ride (recommended by Shikha, acclaimed music aficionado)

Kanye West, Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Jay-Z: Monster

Kanye West is an annoying megalomaniac, but it’s hard to deny that he knows how to put a song or two together. Nicki Minaj’s performance, however, is by far the most impressive.

Horse Feathers: In Our Blood


Genre me this.

When it comes to engagement in music (consumption, not creation!), I’d say that my engagement is moderately high. I’m always reading reviews, checking out new music, posting music blogs, attending gigs (when I can afford them) etc. I’m not an obsessed teen and my interests do vary, but when I consider my extended group of friends, I’m pretty sure I’m more into this music thing than 90% of them. Despite all this, I am continually perplexed at the proliferation of genre’s, subgenre’s, and subsubsubsub genre’s that are out there. Who comes up with names like ‘Dreamcore’ and ‘Chillwave’? What the hell is that supposed to tell me?! I must be getting old…..

Anyway, Beach House is apparently a central part of this dreamchillcorewave movement, and if they are anything to go by, I’m in. I heard about this group through the Guardian Music Weekly podcast a few months ago, but only gave them a chance recently after stumbling onto a fantastic music blog called letmelikeit. I suppose I can understand the ‘chill’ aspect, as Beach House‘s music certainly evokes the languid, laid back feeling you may have while chilling at…well…a beach house. Yet the truly arresting aspect of Beach House’s music is the fact that the detached ‘chillness’ is really just subtle camouflage for the melancholy and nostalgia that filters through the melody and lyrics of their songs. Gwaan, listen to it!

Genres are by definition an attempt to draw a clean little box around something that is by its nature often very difficult to categorize. I suppose conventional wisdom would put Badmarsh & Shri in the catchall ‘World Music’ or ‘Asian Electronic’ genres. I don’t doubt that genre labelling is a necessary evil, but I can’t help but feel that sometimes we should just relinquish this obsession with categorization and just appreciate the creativity. These two songs are from Badmarsh & Shri’s Dancing Drums LP (2001). Just love it!

Listen (1)

Listen (2)

Finally, lets take a trip back to some good old post/punk alternative (no genre bending there!). The Hold Steady seem to be intent on bucking the recent trend toward more instrumentation and the infusion of electronic sounds into what was traditionally hallowed ground for the guitar, drums, bass, and maybe a piano key here and there. There is something strangely alluring about their under produced meat and potatoes sound. Surprisingly, they still manage to sound pretty contemporary, perhaps because their lyrics reflect the ironic, sarcasm tinged humour that the kids these days love. These two tracks are from the Stay Positive (2009) and Boys and Girls in America (2006) LP’s respectively.

Dinner time…

Music. New. Old.

It never ceases to amaze me how pop culture trends evolve in a circular fashion. I suppose it has something to do with the need to rebel against the status quo by alluding to an era that itself was jettisoned for the same reason. In any case, there is no doubt that 80’s synth pop is back, albeit in a less earnest and more ironic avatar. I’m surprised to find myself really enjoying this genre, because this is exactly the kind of stuff I would have baulked at in my teens. Se la vie. Electropop groups like the Junior Boys, Hot Chip, MGMT and Cut Copy have influenced mainstream pop, and some of these artists have found mainstream success in their own right.

Of course, the first album I’m submitting to you has absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned trend, other than the fact that this artist also has a keen sense of history, which is evident in all three of her albums. The artist in question is M.I.A, the UK’s underground hip hop and indie pop darling who shot to mainstream superstardom following Slumdog Millionaire’s prominent usage of her Paper Planes (which itself liberally borrows a key part of its melody from The Clash’s Straight to Hell) song. Her new album, MAYA, has received mixed reviews from the music press, but I disagree. I think that the self important ilk that constitutes indie reviews (Pitchfork for example) devise their own expectations about who and what should be, and then are dissapointed when she doesn’t conform to that expectation (ironic because that lack of cookie cutter conformity is what they liked about her in the first place).

MAYA is adventurous, fresh, and intelligent. Of course it didn’t help that she decided to release perhaps the least accessible (and in my opinion perhaps the worst song on the album) as her first single. Nevertheless, MAYA succeeds in blending a wide range of musical influences ranging from straight pop to reggae to dubstep and electroclash into raucous yet compelling and surprisingly cohesive album. There are fewer overt references to South Asian music here, but its influence can still be heard. Oh, and she’s hot!

Top Songs: It Takes a Muscle, XXXO, Story to Be Told

Second on the list is Big Boi‘s superb debut solo album Sir Luscious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty (if you don’t count the Speakerboxx part of Outkast’s The Speakerboxx/Love Below album). In an era when mainstream hip hop sounds more and more formulaic and driven by market research reports than creativity, Big Boi’s genre spanning and veritable party of an album is both refreshing and reassuring. The guy clearly hasn’t lost his passion for music, rapping, or storytelling, a feat that is all the more surprising since he’s been on the scene for the better part of two decades. Sir Luscious Left Foot is what great pop music should aspire to be: Fun, immediately appealing yet capable of longevity, daring, and a little challenging. Big Boi also has enough lyrical dexterity to satiate the more traditional hip hop heads. Bottom line: One of the best Hip Hop albums to be released in the last half decade.

Top Songs: They are all great but if I have to choose….Shutterbug, Hustle Blood

and a few other tracks/albims and artists that are worth a listen…

Artist: The Cave Singers Album: Welcome Joy

I love this album. Chilled out, melodic Northwestern folk rock sounds…nice.

and one from the old school!