I have so much new music to share with you! I know that might seem a little off topic, but I just passed the 50,000 song mark in my music library (51,283 songs if we're being exact), and I'm really excited about it. Plus, this means even more songs to pick from when I'm making each month's mix, so you'll get to benefit from it as well!
But, anyway, onto the topic at hand. We're back again with Volume 59 in The Dylan Samson Mix Series, or "Waiting Can be Painful." This month's mix features new music from Beirut, Run the Jewels and CHVRCHES, as well as songs from Thundercat, Joy Division, and Danny Brown. Interested in finding it? Check Degraw Street in Gowanus.
1. Public Service Broadcasting : Inform - Educate - Entertain
I first discovered Public Service Broadcasting back in 2013, when I saw them perform at a CMJ showcase here in Brooklyn. They instantly fascinated me, how could they not? Such an interesting mix of live instrumentation and samples taken from old public information films and news broadcasts. Not to say that that kind of music is particularly rare, but to manage it so well without ever seeming gimmicky, is worth taking note of. There is an experimental spirit and sense of immediacy that seems to permeate much of their music, making them consistently captivating to listen to, and — since each of their albums has an over-arching historical theme — learn from as well.
2. Theresa Andersson : Na Na Na (Empty Heart)
Theresa Andersson is kind of astonishing. Check out her live performances and you'll see what I mean. Every sound you hear on one of Andersson's songs comes directly from the artist herself, using looping pedals to create these full, luscious melodies you just want to get lost in. On paper this could all easily sound pretentious, "another musician doing something quirky to stand out among the fray," but I promise you it isn't. In fact, there isn't anything about Andersson the is at all pretentious. Her looping pedals aren't there for her to mess around with while she plays a 40 minute guitar solo, they're there so one person can create the sound of a full band. These are complete, complex songs. It's just that every part is played by one musician. Pretty astonishing, right?
3. Teenage Bottlerocket : Gave You My Heart
Few things make me as happy as great pop-punk song. Maybe that's because it's what I listened to when I was first really getting into music, maybe it's because I find it hard to resist simple pop song-form. Whatever the reasons are, it's a simple, reliable source of pleasure, one I don't plan on giving up any time soon.
4. Plastic Bertrand : Ça Plane Pour Moi
I'm honestly not that familiar with Plastic Bertrand's music far beyond this song. That will be changing soon though, because every time I listen to this "Ça Plane Pour Moi," something so catchy, driving, and danceable, I'm instantly left wanting more.
5. LCD Soundsystem : Us v Them [Live]
There's this moment during "Shut Up and Play the Hits" — Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern's fantastic documentary about LCD Soundsystem's final show — that has stuck with me long after first seeing it. During the band's performance of "Us v Them," there's a point when we're introduced to two characters I simply refer to as "the couple" — a young man and woman, who steadily dance closer and closer towards one another, until, at as the song comes to a close, they start making out. These two characters don't say anything. They don't seem to realize there is a camera is on them. I'm not even sure if they knew one another before that show. Yet, in their simple act, they seem to embody everything that was so great about LCD Soundsystem's music. The feeling of catharsis that comes from dancing your ass off, the joy of music that seems so simple can bring, and the underlying, undeniable sexiness that permeates almost all of it. In a little more than 30 seconds these two show us all of that, and though some may balk at their intense PDA, it's difficult to really blame them for simply acting on the way the music made them feel.
6. Joy Division : Disorder
It's almost difficult to believe that Joy Division began their first record with what is essentially a dance track, but with those driving drums and that fast, melodic bass line, it's hard to call "Disorder" anything else. There are some signs of the more "traditional" Joy Division aesthetic in there — the low, grumbling note in the middle of Peter Hook's bass part, Ian Curtis' lyrics about social and emotional detachment, the way the song almost completely breaks apart at the end — but it's definitely not what one might expect if they'd never heard Joy Division before. Put it this way, if this was the only song you'd ever heard off of "Unknown Pleasures," it might be difficult to see how Joy Division had such a profound influence on the goth and demo movements. Don't let that be the case though. This is far too great an album to be ignored by anyone. Just go in with open ears, ready to be affected by four musicians who took their feelings of being profoundly broken, and turned them into music.
7. Beirut : No No No
I'm still not sure how to feel about Beirut's newest album. Hell, at barely over 29 minutes, I'm not even sure if "No No No" can be called an album. For the second release in a row, Zach Condon seems to be setting aside much of what made his early music so interesting, not so much playing to his weaknesses as he is ignoring his strengths. No more world music inspiration. No grand, emotional crescendos. No surprisingly complex orchestrations. Instead, "No No No" is jaw-dropingly sparse. Horns, traditionally a staple of Beirut's sound, are almost never utilized. Instead, the album's core instrumentation rarely features more than an electric piano, drums, and bass. But the song craft is still there. Condon's unmistakeable skill with melody and arrangement — though the latter is wildly underused — is still there. The lyrics are simpler than they've ever been, but these are emotionally honest songs, bearing the scars endured as Condon's life fell apart (he got divorced, battled severe writer's block, and suffered an emotional breakdown in the 4 years since "The Rip Tide") for all the world to see. There are moments where everything seems to come together — the title track is definitely one of them — but as I felt he did for much of "The Rip Tide," Condon seems to have lowered the stakes even further. He's avoiding much of what made his music so appealing in the first place instead of finding ways to take those elements to new places. I know I shouldn't be complaining. I hate it when fans moan about a band changing their sound. It's simply difficult to see a musician I so greatly respect avoiding the things that earned it.
8. Run the Jewels : CLOSE YOUR EYES AND MEOW TO FLUFF [Geoff Barrow Remix]
Did you really think I wasn't going to include a song off of "Meow the Jewels" on this month's mix. After almost a year of teases, the remix album that started as a marijuana-fueled joke is finally here, and it's surprisingly enjoyable. Of course it will never be as amazing as the original — few remix albums are, particularly those with source material as strong as "Run the Jewels 2" — but at times it's wildly inventive. Listen to the way Portishead's Geoff Barrow uses a cat's purr to form the backbone of "CLOSE YOUR EYES AND MEOW TO FLUFF." It's somehow both comforting and terrifying, so low that it consistently shakes the walls if you have a good subwoofer. But the second it goes away, and Barrow leaves you with nothing more than a bell to indicate each beat, you want nothing more than for that purr to come back. It's almost the opposite of El-P's dystopian maximalism that so defined "Run the Jewels 2," but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The best remixes aren't the ones that find new ways to express the same thing, but those that illustrate how changing one element can reverberate across an entire song.
9. Björk : Who Is It [Bell Choir Mix]
I can't claim to be a huge Björk fan, but that might be my own fault. Whatever you think of her whole aesthetic — of her experimental impulse, the way she places equal importance the music and the way it is presented, the occasionally silly qualities of her work — you can't deny that she's more than a little intimidating. I've definitely been turned off by plenty of her music in the past, but I have found that when she hits, when I find myself forming a connection, she hits hard. I absolutely loved the EP she recorded with Dirty Projectors, and I find myself humming the stunning highs of "Who is It"'s chorus with surprising frequency. I'm not sure if I'm quite ready to jump into the rest of her catalogue yet, but the more I dip my toes in the water, the less frightening that plunge seems.
10. Thundercat : Oh Sheit it's X
I think this is probably as close as we'll get to a party anthem from a Brianfeeder artist. Though it describes an epic New Year's Eve party that ended up spanning over multiple days (as well as the frustration Brianfeeder label head Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, still feels over not being able to attend), it can't fully escape the wonderful weirdness that permeates so much of Thundercat's music. Listen to the way that bass wobble feels like it's underwater at times, or the sliding, theremin-like synth line that sits at the top end throughout the entire song. None of this is a bad thing, this is and will always be one of my favorite songs off of 2013's wonderful "Apocalypse," I just wouldn't suggest putting it on at a party. Not unless you party with people who love experimental R&B and funk, and if that's the case, be sure to send me an invite.
11. CHVRCHES : Make Them Gold
An absolutely perfect pop song. Not much more one could ask for, is there?
12. Danny Brown : 30
Sexually explicit but emotionally honest. Full of bravado but infested with insecurities. A personal history so warped by illegal substances that, at times, you're forced to question it's accuracy. Like so much about Danny Brown, "30" is defined by it's contradictions. A perfect album closer, it's definitely my favorite song off of "XXX," maybe of his entire catalogue. Its attention to detail, like almost all of Brown's catalogue, has me picking my jaw up off the floor so often that at a point I just leave it there. Seriously, just look at "30"'s genius page. Almost every line has it's own annotation. Not really a surprise with one-two punches like "Kurt hoped the drugs would make the pain go away, But all these thoughts up in my head made the sane go astray," or "The thought of no success got a nigga chasing death, Doing all these drugs in hopes of OD’ing next." It's heartbreaking and earnest, never shying away from the uglier sides of Brown's personality, but placing a spotlight on them. He's not afraid to cast himself as the villain, so long as he can keep working towards that eventual redemption.