I write this, appropriately, still basking in the afterglow of a very special meal at Brawn on Columbia Road—special because it was playing host to The Four Horsemen, the Brooklyn wine bar-cum-restaurant co-owned by James Murphy, a.k.a. LCD Soundsystem. The meal had twists and turns and surprises aplenty, the greatest of them all arguably being that the night before, Murphy’s band had made their debut on Saturday Night Live, playing two new songs. Continue reading Dancing in the light
Master of None, the Aziz Ansari vehicle which returns for a second season on May 12th, exquisitely describes the predicament faced by any creative, stereotype-defying millennial, surviving but not quite thriving in the West. Continue reading Jack, or master?
Among other things, I find the music of Factory Floor to be perfectly suited to exercising on a rowing machine. The relentless, mechanistic rhythms, alloyed to punctilious electronics and disembodied barking, put me in the right frame of mind for regimen, discipline, and the pursuit of excellence. If this makes my response to their work sound emotionless, you’re mistaken. Music that seeks to elevate the sounds of the assembly line from mere repetition to mantra is, in my book, praiseworthy. (See my thoughts on the essential albums of Kraftwerk.) Which goes some way towards explaining why I have hankered to see them in a live setting: music this ritual and kinetic deserves to be united with its creators. Continue reading Ergo sum fabrica
In the autumn I saw Parquet Courts in concert. The adulation they received from their young fans got me thinking about underappreciated American rock bands. Allow me to elucidate—with reference to the works of The Walkmen, Dirty Projectors and more. Continue reading Great Underappreciated Songbook
The recent debate between David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors and Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, on the state of indie rock, brought to the public’s eye an issue I’ve been grappling with for a little while. In an age of such discontent, even a radical moderate such as myself can find some solace in the sometimes-disproportionate anger of politically-conscious hip hop. Continue reading Beats, rhymes, and the radical centre
The seminal German outfit had arguably been following their own advice for much of their career: “I programme my home computer, Beam myself into the future”. On two rather prescient albums, they considered what effect technology and innovation would have on society, with conclusions that are relevant today.
Anohni (f.k.a. Antony Hegarty) and Hayden Thorpe are owners of unforgettable voices. In the past, their respective œuvres were musically distinctive too. As Antony and the Johnsons, there were four albums of East Village baroque pop, ripe with violin, cello and hollow-bodied electric guitar. Thorpe, with his band Wild Beasts, released an imperial brace of manicured art rock, heavy on carnality, sensuality, and bongos. Continue reading There she goes, my ugly world
It’s no secret that I love Field Music, through their fits and starts and hiatuses and occasional missteps (2012’s Plumb being a bit morose, in this author’s opinion, though it won the Brewis brothers an overdue Mercury Prize nomination). The four-song stint stretching from “Effortlessly” through to “All You’d Ever Need To Say” on Field Music (Measure) is one of the great art rock suites of our age—though on vinyl it is inexplicably torn between two sides—and I told the band as much when I met them in Canonbury’s Myddleton Arms, over several G&Ts, back in March. Continue reading The Commontime gents
A few years back, I had a wretched dream in which Spoon recorded an album of tinkly lounge piano music, in debt to the worst indulgences of Steely Dan’s milieu. The album was titled Raw Repetition, and I’m glad it never came to pass (though They Want Your Soul features a blue-note-tastic cover of “I Just Don’t Understand”).
I mention this because of Factory Floor‘s monomaniacal comeback single, “Dial Me In”, which rides a three-note acid bassline for all its 6.5 minute duration. Continue reading Raw repetition
I’ve written previously about sprezzatura—the hard labour undertaken in order to appear carelessly stylish—in relation to Spoon’s underappreciated 2020 LP, Transference. But Brooklyn immigrants Parquet Courts achieve what might be considered sprezzatura‘s opposite on their latest work, Human Performance: casually executed precision. The end-product resembles a cocktail of rock canon greats—Velvet Underground, The Clash, and The Kinks, primarily—but with a somewhat nihilistic worldview that’s cleverly updated for this millennials’ age. As Brooklyn transplants, and subterranean romantics, they bring an outsider’s perspective to the most happening scene in the most happening city on the most happening planet in the galaxy. Their surface scruffiness is shot through with a surprising amount of melodrama and trickery. And their facility with non sequiturs and Dadaist slogans lends their work a cheerily surreal swerve. Continue reading The Antislacktivists