This week in Notes from Left of the Dial, we're listening to some songs that span a handful of genres and really make no claims to stay settled within any group of rigid musical guidelines. The sounds that these songs employ are familiar but often employed in vastly unexpected and quite unfamiliar ways. Listen to the songs below, and let me know what you've been listening to this week in the comments section.
Black Lips, "Boys in the Wood"
Self-styled Atlanta "flower punk" rockers Black Lips are set to release their new album, "Underneath the Rainbow," March 18 via Vice. And to give us a teaser of what's to come, they've shared the classic rock raucousness of "Boys in the Wood," a song that reaches back to the '70s for its inspirations. This isn't so surprising, given their penchant for bluesy rock reconstitution, but also because The Black Keys' Patrick Carney helped out on production duties. Described by frontman Jared Swilley as "an ode to Lynyrd Skynyrd and growing up in Atlanta," the song feels almost like a statement of intent from the band. With its fuzzy guitars and slow-boiling harmonies, "Boys in the Wood" wears its grimy ballad heart on its sleeve for all to see.
Oneohtrix Point Never, "Boring Angel"
Oneohtrix Point Never (AKA producer Daniel Lopatin) creates music that lingers on the frayed edges of our emotional and musical periphery. There are no conventional melodies or harmonies to latch on to, but somehow, his songs still manage to work their way under your skin, developing and growing based on your own reaction to them. The often-stark minimalism of his music is just as quickly replaced by a bombardment of skittering beats and warbling synths that feel as enormous as anything you've ever heard. And on "Boring Angel," he draws you in through a series of repetitive synth lines, droning rhythms and euphoric electronic awe. There is a moment when you could swear that you're sitting in a cathedral, listening to someone play a wall-covering pipe organ. This track becomes almost liturgical by the end, and you feel as though some higher power (or possibly just Lopatin) is desperately wanting to communicate with you. All you have to do is listen.
Stone Jack Jones, "State I'm In"
Nashville folk outsider Stone Jack Jones creates ragged, intensely introspective songs that hang off his every half-spoken word. His new album, "Ancestor," was produced by Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Sleater Kinney) and churns with a restless creativity that seems ready to boil over at any moment. On his latest single, "State I'm In," Jones channels the sprit of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Ramblin' Jack Elliott but also manages to inject his own eerie sense of plaintive honesty. Between the snippets of sampled conversations, swaying wind chimes and saxophone, the track feels like the amalgamation of half a dozen artists. But it never feels cluttered nor gives the appearance of relying too heavily on its obvious musical forebears to make an impact on the listener; it's a wonder of folk construction, with just a few things that seem wonderfully bent at odd angles.
Producer Scott Hansen (AKA Tycho) works within an electronic world that often seems far removed from the synthetic rhythms and dance floor machinations of his peers. His music feels far more organic and seems to develop at its own pace, never being forced into situations or positions where it doesn't fit. With the recent announcement concerning his latest record, "Awake," which is due out March 17 on Ghostly International, Hansen has seen fit to share the percussive title track with his fans. Mixing a host of live instrumentation with preprogrammed beats, he finds that sweet spot between overt electronic composition and spontaneous studio coincidence.
Forget about Beyoncé the media mogul and Beyoncé the "product," and simply realize that she has become one of the most talented musicians operating within the heart of mainstream music. Her time with Destiny's Child was merely the forethought to her work as a solo artist—work that has steadily increased in range and relevance. She recently, and quite unexpectedly, released a new album of songs without much fanfare or publicity. Dubbed a "visual album" by Beyoncé, each song comes packaged with a music video, but the songs themselves aren't merely the vehicle for a handful of directors to photograph Beyoncé. On "XO," she puts all her pop prowess into a big, cathedral melody, complete with backing chorale vocals, clacking percussion and tremulous synths that ping back and forth from one ear to the other. This is music developed for the arena, wide-eyed and bombastic. And it's fairly perfect, as well.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 9:22 a.m. on 12/20/13 to correct an embed code.
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