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dublin, Ireland
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

sanka very much

my heart swelled. this means i'm in love.

knoxville natives
COOLRUNNINGS. heartwarming pop culture reference. heartwarming pop songs. reminiscent of the quaintly crude analogue melodies of casiotone for the painfully alone except infinitely less maudlin, the watery echoed multitracked vocals, arpeggiated synth sounds and drum loops render the songs perfect john hughes soundtrack material. take "burnout", a song about teenage love, loss and being a stoner.

"you're going to have fun but you will still miss me/you're going to be kissed, but not like you kissed me";

the songwriting is simple, but not irritatingly so nor irritatingly shallow (bethany cosetino stand up bitch). it's urgent and earnest, over rolling drums and new wave inflected keyboards and guitars. COOLRUNNINGS adhere to '80s pop song structure and implement euphoric major chord sequences. it can only be described as perfectly fitting that their bandcamp page features a cover of "road to nowhere"; the music is tinted with the electronic pop sounds pursued by talking heads circa brian eno. nostalgic in all facets COOLRUNNINGS may be, their propensity to play with sounds and special effects prevents them from being simply derivative. "buffalo" evokes the kind of fuzzy fairground melodies currently being peddled by no monster club; a wonky, psychedelic pop with jerky doo wop vocals. it's a fantastical formula that is showcased to perfection on "redheads";

i am just besotted. it's simple but textured; nostalgic but not recycled. it's crisp and warm and wistful, like when the sun shines during winter. the two EPs, buffalo and babes forever are availble to download for free on the dracula horse website. i beseech thee to take three minutes of your time to do so; they're just as good as the film. and we all know how good that was. so good my housemates dressed up as the jamaican bobsled team for hallowe'en. the chassis of their bobsled was constructed out of bamboo. it's currently being rained on in our back garden.

stop writing on my pet cloud

What’s in a name? For a band it is the foundation of their identity, yet there is no worthy of note anecdote behind “Cloud Nothings”. Whilst trying to come up with the perfect moniker Dylan Baldi eventually settled on two arbitrary words that he thought sounded good together. Yet though Cloud Nothings may conjure connotations of insubstantiality and froth, it is more the carefree methodology behind the band’s baptism that is infused in their achingly heartening lo-fi power pop.

What started with nineteen year old Baldi in his parents’ basement in Ohio with a four track has expanded to a full live band due to embark on their first cluster of European gigs, the latter of which are support slots on the Les Savy Fav tour. He explains; “the recordings are all just me because that’s what I do in my free time when I’m bored, but eventually I had to find a band so I just got some of my friends (TJ Duke, Jayson Gerycz, Joe Boyer) who play music around Cleveland and asked them if they wanted to be in a band”. To date, Baldi’s recordings include a 7” single, a very limited run of split cassettes with Campfires, and an E.P, Turning On, the tracks from which are being sold for a mere 80 cents each online, as an attempt to combat illegal downloading, a way to make available Cloud Nothings’ music to as many people as possible, or both? It turns out to be an awkward question; “I didn’t even know about that. That wasn’t any part of my plan, that was the label! The guy who runs it is definitely rooted in the DIY scene and I would love for as many people as possible to hear it because it’s a very limited vinyl release so I think getting it out there digitally is the way to go” And the reason there wasn’t a CD release? “There’s nothing cool about a CD”

Cloud Nothings’ first full length LP, also titled Turning On, is an assemblage of Baldi’s previous recordings. Released at the end of October through Wichita, he notes the leap that has been taken from releasing a run of 100 tapes to putting out a record with a highly reputable label (signees have included Bloc Party, The Cribs Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bright Eyes). “With releasing the cassette I sent the guy who wanted to put it out MP3s of the songs and he was like ‘alright, you’ll have your tape in a week!’. With Wichita it felt like doing something real, I didn’t just send them low quality files of the songs”.

The songs themselves are garnering acclaim for their hook-loaded melodies. The instrumentation, reminiscent of early era Pavement endears itself like a crooked smile and the doo wop vocal harmonies are like a Phil Spektor girl group with more testosterone. With testosterone full stop. Baldi is being hailed by many as a precocious talent, his music as throwback to the future; whilst managing to sound fresh and exciting, laden with promise, the songs too are nostalgic sunbursts coloured with flourishes of ‘60s psychedelia, ‘80s punk and ‘90s pop. “That’s my main influence”, Baldi acknowledges, “the poppier elements of everything I listen to- I listen to the radio all the time.”

Yet despite Baldi’s endorsement of mainstream pop and the tongue-in-cheek anti-hipster stance on Cloud Nothings’ 7” single “Hey Cool Kid”, they have been adopted by the same ilk he light-heartedly lampoons; “my band’s not very big, you’d have to read Pitchfork or blogs to kind of know what’s going on, and the people who read those, you could describe as hipsters, so it (Cloud Nothings’ music) kind of speaks to them.” And at the contentious suggestion that said hipsters (at this stage an abstract appellation at best) have been saturating modern music with interchangeable simplistic fuzzy guitar pop and lyrics Baldi is ever the diplomat, noting his friendships with Oberhofer and Beach Fossils, fledgling lo-fi outfits championed by Pitchfork and making reference to Christopher Owen of Girls; “If I grew up in a cult I would probably just want a pizza too, or if I was an orphan or whatever he was”

In the last couple of weeks in July Cloud Nothings travelled to Baltimore to record their first full length LP of entirely new material, working with producer Chester Gwazda (Dan Deacon, Future Islands). Baldi has spoken before of his desire to experiment with a less lo-fi sound, and he confirms that it’s something that was achieved with the forthcoming album; “It’s definitely cleaner. It’s not super polished produced sounding, but it’s definitely cleaner […] It ended up sounding a little bit different than how I had envisioned it but it still sounds good”. Is he worried that the fans he has gained off the back of his early, more rudimentary recordings will bristle at his latest, less raw studio effort? “I think that’s pretty stupid. That (production) isn’t really what I listen for. I think it’s good that bands are wanting to go get themselves produced, get their music out to more people; there’s too many niche markets. People are too into their own thing”

Endearingly, Baldi strongly believes that if a song is inherently good, it shouldn’t be judged on its production whichever end of the spectrum. Reiterating his love for late ‘80s, early ‘90s punk, he references Hüsker Dü. Candy Apple Grey, the band’s first album after moving to a major label was criticised by many fans for its gloss. It seems a fitting point to raise. Baldi’s own opinion on the matter is pointed; “they got a lot poppier, but who cares. It’s still a good album.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

stay fly

i have a column in TN2 called "wanderlist". each issue i pick a random theme and then detail a small compendium of songs relating to said theme. i initially thought this was an excellent idea but then i stumbled across a mix tape tracklisting entitled "songs to have an abortion"* to and realised that nothing i could come up with would be as peversely amusing as that. so defeated, spirit-crushed and really jealous, i decided to write an article on purple drank.


“Syrup”, “drank”, “lean”. Popular amongst the Houston hip hop scene and NFL players alike, the cough syrup based cocktail comprised of Sprite and crushed Jolly Ranchers is responsible for codeine induced highs, several cardiac arrests and the vast majority of Weezy’s musical canon. First brought to the fore by Texan producer DJ Screw, in a cruel twist of fate it was in fact the “sizzurp” that brought about his untimely death. Fortunately, his legacy can live on through a myriad of seminal odes to the drank. Warning: may cause tooth decay, obesity and cardiac arrest.

Three 6 Mafia- Sippin’ on Some Syrup

Lyrics such as “we eat so many shrimp I got iodine poisoning” and a Marvin Gaye sample makes this an instant classic

Lil’ Wayne- Me and My Drank

According to the Phoenix New Times, Lil’ Wayne’s a lot funnier now he’s in jail and off the syrup. On the flipside, no syrup = no lyrical content = his musical career will probably go to go to shit. Anyone for some Weezy stand up?

Nicki Minaj- Mind on My Money

A self-styled “ninja Harajuku Barbie” whose song would be entirely neglible if not for a brief reference to lean and a feat. Busta Rhymes. Who is awesome.

Jim Jones- What You Been Drankin’ On?

Regrettably, not the People’s Temple one.

Black Lips- I Saw A Ghost (Lean)

A curveball! Psychedelic garage punk band from Atlanta, Georgia sings of the purple. They may not spit verse, but they’re hardcore because Tesco refused to stock their CD due to explicit content, so it’s ok.

aside from googling recipes for the sweet sizzurp online, i have, of late, been unstoppably enamoured by an act called cloud nothings, the brainchild of 19 year old dylan baldi. technically this means i should hate cloud nothings on account of my propensity to feel suffocating hatred for and bitterness towards anybody who is more successful and of the same age or younger than me.** truly though, this band is brilliant. "lo-fi" is a genre that has been ascribed to so much music in the past couple of years that its mere mention is beginning to irk me more than "chillwave" or "witch house"***, mainly because, like indie and DIY, it's a term that has begun to lose any semblance of meaning. unlistenably shoddy recordings and general talentlessness are given credence and passed off as "lo-fi" it's as if using a four-track nullifies the need for actual musicianship.

but i digress, and find it impossible to extend such bitterness to cloud nothings' fuzzy power pop. it's the musical equivalent of crayons and kaleidoscopes and the feeling of immense pride you get when you ride your bicycle without stabilisers for the first time, emanating warm and '90s nostalgia. the endearingly ramshackle instrumentation is reminiscent of pavement circa slanted and enchanted, there exist sloppy and joyful elements that recall jay reatard's more fizzing pop moments on watch me fall, whilst baldi's vocals evoke and uplift whilst being the just right side of whiney.

* including tracks such as the knife's "we share our mother's health"

** i genuinely felt a lump in my throat upon discovering that nika rosa danilova of zola jesus is only 21. i'd also like to take this moment to mention i have never denied nor tried to suppress my pettiness.

*** i only found about this pitchfork spawned abomination today. are people scared of adjectives these days, they have to condense a multitude of musical elements into one wankery soundbite? am i simply trying to justify my own over-verbosity? either way, i genuinely did use the sentence "what is a witch house?" in conversation today.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cuando tengo tiempo libre...

Who would have thought that it was temporally possible for a "Thirty Days of Music" feature to span an exceedingly barren five months? About as possible as it is for there to be 500 Days of Summer and for an be-cardiganed indie boy to think he has found his soulmate just because she knows all the words to "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"

Dear, sweet, crooked-smiled, double-barreled Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Though beautiful you may be, the trite dialogue bestowed unto you was toe-curling, and the Smiths are more cliche than kismet.

Anyway, I give up. I quit these thirty days just like I quit my ballet, jazz, tap, art, clarinet, piano and guitar lessons. I lack perseverance and motivation. More importantly, in total justification of my extended absence from "Brain Tumours for Breakfast" and on a note that absolves me from being slothful and devoid of motivation, I fell out of love with music. Completely and utterly enveloped by inertia and apathy. My voracious appetite for discovering music, be it old or new was replaced by an aural routine that consisted of listening to Too Fast For Love by Mötley Crüe for three months solid. And although I will always have to suppress the urge to air guitar solo to “Livewire” in polite company, there is only so much of Vince Neil’s pitching I can endure for concentrated periods of time. So I had to break my Crüe habit lest there be a repetition of Prefab Sprout Syndrome* and I could never listen to them again.

Thankfully, taking on the position of Music Editor of TN2, with Karl McDonald of Those Geese Were Stupefied as my sensei has been the primary motivating factor in rekindling the love affair. I also finally got around to listening to Adebisi Shank’s second album and it made all the serotonin in my body rush to my head. And then there was a prolonged bedroom dancing moment featuring Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

This weekend, in between working as a waitress in a bar (and believe me, nobody wants me baby, judging on the piss poor tips I made) I’ve spent every available moment rediscovering albums that made my teenage insides surge with excitement** and unearthing new, shiny, delicious, precious gems.

Like THIS one

OK. So Warpaint may not be particularly new; they’ve been around since 2004 and released an EP last year. But their début album The Fool isn’t out ‘til the end of the month. Gossamer-floaty psychedelic folk melodies and whimsical wraithlike vocal harmonies. Throw in a Motown lyric sample and the kin of Shannyn Sossamon*** and I’m indubitably hooked. Plus they’re adorable. TN2’s deputy music editor Gheorghe Rusu interviewed drummer and keyboardist Stella Mozgawa last week, so I’ll post a link on the blog when it’s available for consumption.

I don’t know whether I’m very good at blogging. I’m unreliable, and erratic with my posts and my finger tends to slip off the musical pulse from time to time, but I use footnotes, so that has to count for something.

If you’d like, you can also follow me on Twitter here . Because I do that sometimes. When I remember to. I downloaded a “Tweetdeck” and everything. It translates tweets into foreign languages so I can pretend to be fluent in Spanish.

* Once, I worked for an entire summer in Marks and Spencer. They played but one CD in the store all day every day for said entire summer. I had to listen to “The King of Rock N Roll” six times during the average shift. A perfect piece of ‘80s synth pop with the most bizarre music video of all times featuring a human hotdog dancing beside a swimming pool ruined forever.

** Best Fwends, Alphabetically Arranged, Moshi Moshi 2007 anyone?

*** Who I still maintain is the most breathtaking beautiful human being I have ever seen in my entire life. She is perfection to such an extent that I can only blame her ever so slightly for the fact she named her child Audio Science.