Author Archives: bspener

DSC_5741Comparing Bondax to Disclosure is like comparing two similar kinds of apple (cultivars, to be specific). Yes, there’s a difference between Fuji and Braeburn apples, but it’s fairly marginal—for the most part, an apple is an apple granted it’s fresh. So, is there really a difference between Bondax and Disclosure when both artists’ music is very well-suited to be played at your local Urban Outfitters? In this case, freshness equates to >100,000 plays on SoundCloud or some other arbitrary metric of Internet newness.

The art gallery electronic music coming out of the UK generally makes me happy since it lets me listen to that Depeche Mode sound without falling into a dark place for 3-5 minutes. Nevertheless, the lack of emotion in this music is almost alarming; there’s no warmth whatsoever, and it fails to reach that Yeezus level of coldness and abrasiveness. We get these quasi-love songs that fail to communicate any strong emotions. In Disclosure’s “Latch”, we hear the lyrics “I feel we’re close enough // I wanna lock in your love”. My response to Disclosure, in this case, is no, you’re not close enough. Bodax knows that “Gold is not enough” and seems to understand that all this shimmering electronica bullshit doesn’t make a song good on its own. These songs need some kind of progression, either emotional or instrumental/rhythmic.

Bondax gets this a bit more, and that’s why I’d argue that their music is marginally better than Disclosure’s. Bodax’s beats are actually pretty sexy, and they seem to be making progress with their new song “Giving It All”, which compares favorably to “When a Fire Starts to Burn” and other recent Disclosure songs. Our Bondax sample size is fairly small—their only ‘real’ tracks are “Gold”, “Giving It All”, and their remix of “You Know You Like It” by AlunaGeorge, which is much better than Disclosure’s collaboration with AlunaGeorge (at least before the HudMo remix). “Giving It All” closes with an actually interesting lyric: “paper hearts are meant to unfold” (I think…). Its meaning escapes me, but, like Bondax, it’s intriguing.

I still like Disclosure a lot, and I love that they’re getting big with this chic electronic sound. I saw them play a couple of times at SXSW 2013, and they really do kill it live, choosing to play a bunch of weird electronic instruments onstage and otherwise keeping things interesting (I actually lent them my iPhone charger, nbd). I just want a bit more emotion. Latch has some emotional moments, but they go cold after just a few listens. This might happen with the new Bondax track too. I like this genre just as I like apples, and I’ll keep consuming lots of both of them. In the end, I’m probably just pushing the Depeche Mode comparison, which is that amazing honeycrisp apple cultivar.


Purity Ring fills whatever room they play in with an almost unreasonable amount of bass (it’s exhausting after 45 min). We still aren’t sure whether so much deep bass gives them depth as a recording artist, but it makes for an interesting DJ set. All the ambient noises/bass fill up the mix, giving it almost no empty space. They  confirm their hip hop influences by playing a few rap tracks, but it all still sounds like Purity Ring. Check it.

Lemonade became blog famous by bringing back “The Place Where You Belong” by Shai from some CD binder of 90s R&B records. That seemed to go over well, and they released their album Diver to mild critical acclaim—I liked it a lot, especially “Neptune” and “Big Changes”. Now, they’ve released “Perfect Blue”, hopefully to be followed by another album or EP. Regardless, the track is strong. It’s effectively a hybrid of the two tracks listed above from Diver—Lemonade has really refined their sound, which uses some rhythmic elements from R&B, electronica instrumentation and melodies, indie rock singing, and some piano. So, Lemonade basically sounds like all current music. Track below.

bibio-redtee-madsperchWho are you, Bibio? You have, at times, seemed ready for a funky Burial over by Mount Kimbie (apologies for the electronic music artist puns). But then you make calm indie guitar songs like “Lovers’ Carvings” or just pluck your guitar over a kick drum like in “Saint Christopher”.

Bibio is rather uncommitted to the electronic music genre, and he betrays it by including a power pop song as the first song of T.O.Y.S., his new EP. The track is called “Take Off Your Shirt”, and you really have to search for reasons why it’s novel in any way. It’s definitely catchy, well-produced, and just generally good, but the quickly-sung lyrics over power chords is hardly anything new. You could even say it lacks the organic feeling of a lot of rock songs, e.g. “Time for Heroes” by The Libertines, for instance. But it’s still an anthemic, well-executed pop track that I’ll probably end up playing a lot (because that’s what you do with catchy songs).

The truth is that Bibio lets us down a bit on Track 1 only to earn redemption on Track 4, which is actually just an alternate version of the same song called “Take Off Your Skirt” (as opposed to “Take Off Your Shirt”). Now, this record is like a Bibio showcase, from the live crowd noises to the plucked guitar riff, shiny synth melodies, muffled vocals, extraneous sounds, and the keyboard and guitar solos in the middle of the track. Bibio is fucking clever. Around the 3:20 mark, he even manages to switch gears and goes into this glittery reprise. Interestingly, what “Take Off Your Skirt” reminds me of is big-band jam sessions like the middle sections of fifteen-minute live Springsteen tracks.

On this EP (really just the last track), Bibio the man becomes Bibio the band. Bibio seems to be going in the same direction as Daft Punk, trying to use the sounds of real instruments to get away from the standard tropes of the electronic music scene. The middle two tracks off T.O.Y.S. are your standard experimental electronica fare, which is boundary-pushing almost by definition. But too many artists these days get off on making records that my parents would hesitate to call music, and I applaud Bibio for reaching an organic sound by the end of his four-track EP. No, it’s not quite the sweet sounds of Springsteen, but it’s not that far off in terms of style. It’s basically like if Bruce were an experimental electronic music producer.

The point is that you should listen to “Take Off Your Shirt” and then listen to “Take Off Your Skirt” quite a bit more.

Let’s suppose that I had been born in 1962 as opposed to in 1992. Then, in 1987, I would have been about 25 years old. This 25 year old version of me would have then made his way to the room shown in the music video for “Teardrops” by Womack & Womack, which is one of the freshest settings I’ve seen. Linda Womack, daughter of Sam Cooke, has the style that so many people try to emulate these days—she’s got the denim jacket, the shades, the lightwash jeans, and the snarl when she sings. Cecil Womack, her husband and Bobby’s brother, sits down with a denim vest, equally cool sunglasses, ripped jeans, an open shirt, and a beard to pull the whole look together. The backup vocalists and musicians are a multiracial bunch, all dressed in similarly fashioned 80s attire. I would pay a lot of money to be part of that team. Seriously, when they leave the studio, they probably look very cool walking down the street together.

Moreover, this song is incredible. What we get here is something that feels musically timeless and hard to peg in a certain genre. It’s not just 80s pop, since it has such a soulful quality (and pedigree), but, then again, it’s clearly a dance track (especially if you get the 12″ extended version). The lyrics of the song are sad, as she sings about being reminded of an ex-lover, but the song isn’t tragic. It has the emotion needed to truly draw listeners in, but Linda doesn’t hang on her words, choosing not to dwell on the thoughts she expresses. In a sense, most pop songs are either about love or loss, and this is definitely a track about loss, but its groove offsets its gloom, making it profoundly easy to listen to over and over again. No element of the composition, apart from maybe the bass and drums at the beginning ever seem like too much—we have backup vocals when appropriate and subtle guitar and keyboard parts. Everything is balanced perfectly. None of the things that often annoy listeners are present on the track. There’s no guitar solo, no overly-dramatic singing, and no breakdown that changes the vibe of the song. Form beginning to end, the track is a charmer.

Also, this is my favorite type of music video, since it attempts to show how the song was created. Although there’s nothing that exciting in the video, we get to know the artists in their natural habitat, a recording studio. It’s not some contrived live concert setting where the original track is stil played, nor is it some ridiculous portrayal of the song’s themes in narrative form. It’s just Linda and Cecil, Womack & Womack being themselves and doing their thing. Now, let’s suppose that Linda and Cecil had a son, and that son was me. Then I would be a significantly cooler person that I am now—it’s just genetics.

Oh, there are some cover versions of this song by The xx and Joss Stone, among others. They’re worth checking out after you listen to the original until the end of time.

hudson-mohawke-butterSo, it turns out that the Hudson Mohawke song called “FUSE” that I currently have on heavy rotation (i.e. play loudly every time I return to my room) is not, in fact, anything new. I downloaded it last week, but HudMo released it in 2009, back when I was listening to things like Weezy’s “Ice Cream Paint Job”, Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and, you know, a lot of things that were not Hudson Mohawke’s Butter. Really, HudMo did a Fader mix before I knew what Fader mixes are.

We can argue over whether my taste was more sophisticated then or now—in my opinion, it’s more sophisticated now, but that may just be because I’d like to think that I’ve progressed since I was 16. Anyway, the point is that, with regard to Hudson Mohawke, I definitely arrived very late to the party. In my defense, Hudson Mohawke has only recently risen to real prominence in the last couple of years, as he produced some songs on Cruel Summer and formed TNGHT with Lunice. Still, as someone who follows music, I should have downloaded some of his music before 2012, which is really when I figured out who he is. I should mention that Michael, another author of this blog, learned about HudMo’s beats long before me.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that I arrived late to a party, For instance, I’m really just starting to like Kendrick Lamar. I was about six monts late in liking A$AP Rocky’s Live.Love.A$AP. And I still don’t really like any part of Odd Future. This is probably because I stubbornly listen to 80s music and other not-new things most of the time because, really, I can’t compete with those other bloggers and professional listeners. I really just need to get a job where people send me all the new music, especially with Google Reader scheduled to be shut down in July.

Nevertheless, with the Internet that way it is, there’s at least as much (likely more) old music available as new tracks, and it’s not hard to find. Ask me how hard it is to find an obscure alternate version of a song by The Cure. My answer: not hard. Was it hard to find “FUSE” on the Internet? No. Therefore, am I not smart to wait 3-5 years after its release before getting into ‘new’ music? It’s just so much easier. I get to do some digging as opposed to just refreshing my Google Reader until something interesting pops up.

You can expect me to write about quasi-obscure songs by Spoon or Creedence Clearwater Revival because, for me, it’s way easier than trying to say something novel about really new music. Yes, I’ll try to jump on a new track occasionally, but I’ll leave most of that to the professionals. Also, the more you dig through old tracks, the more you realize how little new music actually has an original sound. Listen to “Fuse” and then listen to “BasedWorld” by Ryan Hemsworth. Stylistically, they’re quite similar, but the former was released in 2009 while the latter popped up on the blogs in 2013. I love Ryan Hemsworth, and I want more music like this to exist, but the point is that his sound isn’t entirely original. This is great for listeners, because it means that we can get tons of new music that sounds fresh like Hemsworth just by doing some Googling. Of course, I now feel special for identifying that “BasedWorld” is a lot like “FUSE” from 2009, but there’s probably someone out there who said that “FUSE” was a lot like _____ released four years earlier. Cheers to that person. Send me the link.

But yeah, I heard the new Daft Punk single within two hours of its release. We out here.

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