Is Ridgewood, New Jersey beginning to take itself less seriously? Not Ridgewood the place, but Ridgewood the press construct, the suburban Never Never Land of slurpie-drinkin’, beach-combin’ Lost Boys who move home after college because trying to find a job right now really sucks? Monday’s new Ducktails video marked the descent of Jersey Shore indie rock aesthetics into smiling self-parody. With their new video for “Bite Yr Tongue,” dropped last night from the Olde English Spelling Bee dungeon, Matt Mondanile’s tour buddies (and 2010 backing band) suggests that the younger generation of Ridgewood artists is probably even more fed-up — and more in on the joke — than he is. Starring some of the finest fast-food establishments in Northern New Jersey, Spencer Davis‘ visuals make Ridgewood life seem pretty easy breezy until you blow too much of your parents’ money on rippers from Rutt’s Hut and you have to make a mad dash for the porto potty. Big Troubles indeed. (more…)
I think I’m over the chillwave era. I miss the days when purple bottles were cooler than worrying about my girls. Warm electronic vibes are alright, but whatever happened to acoutistic instrumentation? J. Irvin Dally must feel the same way. His take on the once thriving mini-genre of “freak folk” boasts intimate vocals and impressive acoustic guitar stylings, along with all the usual weirdness that moniker implies. “The Little Ones” from Dally’s new Despistado EP needs only three minutes to warp listeners from an acid-washed campfire to a tiny coffee-house on open mic night. The pluck-pluck of Dally’s guitar and the thump of real live drums provide respite.
J. Irvin Dally, “The Little Ones” (Despistado EP, Camaraderie Limited)
Dream Boat‘s Fevers EP may be painted in the off-color shades of ’70s smut, but this mystery project from Providence couldn’t possibly be the soundtrack for whatever trouble the two ladies on the cover are up to. The space between “dream” and “boat” here is key: Sina Sorab invites aboard a sampler and guides us across the REM seas, on the condition that we sleep four hours past our cellphone alarms so we can access the flashing nightmares that tell us something about ourselves. “Your Beaches” rides the vertiginous contours of the hour-less slow-burn that is sleep; it’s the bleach that burns your hands long after you’ve left the bathroom, the threat of the gas stove you forgot to check twice.
Dream Boat, “Your Beaches” (Fevers, Amdiscs)
OK. Let’s start with some facts. “Cool Runnings” was a 1993 film about a plucky Jamaican bobsledding team. As far as I know Elliott White, Brandon Biondo, and Forrest Ferguson — of COOLRUNNINGS — are not Jamaican, nor can they bobsled. They’re not worried though; the trio offer other talents. With new single “I Am You,” they show a penchant for sweet and synthy lo-fi pop that would be right at home on the soundtrack of an 80’s buddy cop movie. I realize I’ve used a similar comparison before, but it always surprises me how so much DIY music attempts to timeshift my millennial generation brain to a crowded movie theater on the day “Pretty in Pink” opened. It’s cool though, we seem to really enjoy this idea, and COOLRUNNINGS deliver.
COOLRUNNINGS, “I Am You” (Self-Released)
For those of us who often find ourselves watching videos on music websites such as this one, the “beachy” video is nothing new. I’ve even visited the trope once or twice in my own work. Images of sand, sea, and sun just seem to fit so well with the lo-fi bittersweet nostalgia of Ducktails. And the track “Applewalk” evokes a late-night jam around a bonfire, so it is no surprise that Ducktails went the “beachy route” for this particular video.
But there is something a little different about this one, and it has a lot to do with the figure of Ducktails’ Matt Mondanile in the video. When we first see him, he is walking down a path — presumably towards the beach — playing guitar and wearing a long-sleeved sweater. In other sequences — Matt Mondanile standing on a rock surrounded by water, Matt Mondanile playing guitar in an abandoned building — his attire becomes a bit more appropriate, but his attitude toward his surroundings remains equally blasé.
There is a certain amount of humor in this. When something is funny in such subtle strokes, I feel the need abandon my post structuralist inclinations and start wondering about the intent of the author. It certainly seems like Mondanile is in on the joke here. This is supported by the fact that his current Myspace picture is a still from this video of him playing guitar on a rock, with an image of Free Willy superimposed above his head. It is also supported by the presence of the long-haired beach bum character at the end of the video. Unlike Mondanile, this fellow seems to really fit with the environment of the beach. Judging from the structure that he is sitting under, he seems — literally — to be at home there. He and Mondanile are happy to see each other, but they don’t seem to be from the same world.
Perhaps the sentiment here is that although we can all agree that the beach is a wonderful place and indulge in a certain amount of nostalgia regarding nature, those of us who are trying to succeed in an urban space and struggling with “real world” concerns will always be a little bit removed from natural environments such as the one portrayed in this video. Unless we are willing to grow our hair out and build a hut on the beach, there will always be a feeling of distance. That being said, could this be the “beachy” video to end all “beachy” videos? We shall see… (more…)
There is a love, and a sadness, that transcends our borders. It tunnels through our bodies of water, discovers microscopic holes in our great walls, threads through our forests and our skylines. It passes under the noses of snoring watchman everywhere, stealing through the invisible white hot circuitry of satellite radio, syndicated television, and early am streaming sites. When it hits it bores straight through the skull, sprouting fresh shoots in the mind like weeds pushing up in the spaces between paving stones. It’s the shared references that imprison us all, colonizing the mind but also binding minds together. Joy in art is a movement within context — for there is no escape.
Stellar Om Source, “Here Is Tonight (California Erotica Remix)”
I am always a fan of obvious song titles. Birmingham, Alabama’s Drew Price must be too, because “Ghost Dance” conjures images of spirits shimmering and shimmying at a haunted hoe-down. These ghosts are friendly; they’d rather boogie then “BOO!” And Price understands what they look for in a good dance tune. Restless souls have no use for fist-pumping anthems and heart-pounding bass, disembodied as they are. Instead, “Ghost Dance” is rhythmic, swaying, repetitive, and chocked full of “oohs” — just how they like it beyond the grave.
“A drone isn’t a sound you create,” a friend once told me; it’s a force you tap into.” It’s the ringing in your ears after the house has fallen silent, the flutter of a fan or a walkway lined with trees. You can take it or leave it, hear it or ignore it, lure it out of its hiding place with a keyboard or a bow. Meridian Signals‘ “Taos Hum” may feel like an entreaty to tune in, drop out, and do a few downward dogs. But cast it as the soundtrack to the most infuriating part of your day, and you’ll tap into the fellow feeling in a sea of blaring car horns, the calm within the information flow. Rise above, ride the plateau.
Meridian Signals, “Taos Hum” (Mercator Songs, self-released)
A compilation of independent psych and electronic artists doing covers of Lindsay Lohan sounds terrible on paper, doesn’t it? I could be wrong. Maybe it sounds amazing on paper. Either way, Tri Angle Records‘ new Let Me Shine For You mixtape certainly sounds great. Laurel Halo’s take on “Something I Never Had” resembles how Lohan herself might hear her own music during a well-fueled binge. The teen-pop hooks and lovelorn lyrics are absolutely smothered by Halo’s faraway vocals, drowning with a smile into the ambient pastel haze. Re-imagined in this way, “Something I Never Had” might actually manage to touch you.
Let Me Shine For You‘s five other tracks leave you with a similar impression. If you weren’t already aware that these songs were Lohan’s, you would never be able to tell. Many say that the mark of a good cover is when an artist is able to “make the song their own.” If we judge it according to that benchmark, Let Me Shine For You succeeds from start to finish.
Laurel Halo, “Something I Never Had (Lindsay Lohan cover)” (Tri Angle Records Presents: Let Me Shine For You, Tri Angle Records)
Despite his choice of title, I don’t really think Virginia’s Tommy Davidson — aka Dream Cop — wants me feeling stranded and desperate between my headphones. This is a good thing, because the song sparks off a lot of other feelings that are way more interesting to write about. Slick and simple guitar riffs clash against pounding drums, full of hope and determination. Still, Davidson’s vocals sound frustrated, grasping for air beneath barrels of reverb and fuzz. Awkward as it is, this combination of feelings is not uncommon; in fact, it’s one myself and countless other recent college graduates struggle with everyday as we try to figure out where the hell we are going with our lives. If only we were as good as Davidson at combining these feelings into songs, we might realize we have already arrived.
Dream Cop, “Marooned”