Surprise!! Back again today with a bonus mix for you. Volume 70 of The Dylan Samson Mix Series is titled “Must Warn Others,” and features new music from Explosions in the Sky, Whitney, and DJ Shadow. Those interested in finding it should look in Central Park.
1. Captain Murphy : Cosplay
Since it was introduced, Steven Ellison’s Captain Murphy alter-ego has proved to be a fascinating way to explore sexual perversions. Fantasy, masturbation, empty encounters, and much, much more have all found their way into Murphy’s songs, often in somewhat disturbing ways. But it’s not Murphy’s distressing sexual proclivities themselves that are interesting. No, what’s interesting is that, as Murphy is a character whom Ellison created, the listener is forced to question how many of this is a part of the character, and how much is an outlet for Ellison’s own perversions. And, beyond that, what does it say about our own acceptance of these ideas when we keep listening?
2. Earl Sweatshirt feat. Vince Staples : Burgundy
Earl Sweatshirt’s relationship with his audience is, put lightly, unique. As fans, we want nothing more than to hear him rap, to hear this prodigy string rhymes together in truly fascinating ways. Earl, however, never seems that excited to give us what we want. He does things strictly on his own schedule, giving us inches when we want miles. And, like an ignored, love-struck teen, Earl’s indifference towards our desires just makes us want him more. So much so, that, to Earl himself, it’s easy to see us as having little interest in him or his personal life. He discussed this disconnect on his album “Doris,” tackling the differences between our perception of him and the realities of his life. But as he predicted here on “Burgundy,” it seems we’ve continued to care about nothing in Earl’s life other than the bars he’s been kind enough to grace us with. It’s a dysfunctional relationship to say the least, but it does not appear that anyone, including Earl himself, is in any rush to do anything about it.
3. Shabazz Palaces : Gunbeat Falls
Even now, 7 years after they were released, Shabazz Palaces first two EPs feel remarkably fresh. No, they are not as pioneering as the group’s two full lengths would be, but Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire were still experimenting on these first two releases. Listen to the sectioned structure of “Gunbeat Falls.” The longer “A” section that begins the song, the shorter “B” section in the middle, and an abbreviated return to the “A” section to close things out. The sections are similar, marked only by the switch from a sample based beat in the “A” section to a live, percussive beat in the “B” section. It might not seem like a lot on its own, but this clear interest in song structure helps form the core of Butler and Maraire’s experimental impulses. They’d explore these ideas further with the long, multi-sectioned songs of “Black Up,” and the suite-oriented structure of “Lese Majesty.”, Butler and Maraire weren’t yet the innovators they’ve since become known as on the “Shabazz Palaces” and “Of Light” EPs, but they were still doing just enough to remain ahead of the curve from their very first note.
4. King Krule : Out Getting Ribs
I was something of a late-comer to Archy Marshall’s music as King Krule. I was well aware of him and his music, but it wasn’t until last year’s fantastic “A New Place 2 Drown” that I was able to find my entry point. It’s a dark world he’s crafted, bleak and defeated. At times his work can feel so emotionally draining that I have to put it down for a while. In fact, after almost a year of regular listening, I still don’t feel like I have a great handle on his work. But you know what? That’s great! As I’ve said, there is nothing that will turn me off of a record faster than when I feel like I understand it before it’s even finished. So I love that Marshall’s work continues to challenge me. It just makes me want to work even harder towards cracking his code.
5. Cristopher Owens : Lysandre
I’ve had a very long history with this song. I first heard it in 2010, when Girls performed at Pitchfork music festival in Chicago. I found it to be a really beautiful little pop song, and instantly fell in love with it’s ultimately positive message. From there, I kept trying to find it on the internet, but at the time it hadn’t been recorded, so all I could find was shitty concert recordings. Then I stumbled upon a higher quality live recording/fan video. Then, after Girls broke up and Christopher Owens was preparing to release his first solo record, Pitchfork released a video of the singer performing the song and others from the album in a bathtub. I ate it all up, but was still looking for some kind of recording, a demo, a good quality bootleg, to sate my desire to have this song in my music library. And then, in 2013, “Lysandre” was finally released. And, you know what? I was kind of underwhelmed. The album version felt over-produced, with extraneous sounds like flutes and a female harmony line that distracted from the song’s inherent fragility. I liked the previous versions of the song more, I still do to some extent. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is the version I’m going to get. And luckily enough, “Lysandre” is such a beautiful, well written song, that if I really focus, those extraneous elements just fall away, and I can hear what it was that I fell in love with in the first place.
6. The National : Apartment Story
Once you learn the lyrics to a song by The National, it can be very difficult not to sing along. Matt Berninger is so good at walking the line between personal and universal songwriting that forming a deep connection to his words becomes alarmingly easy. They become a simultaneous reflection of his and your lives, completely different in their interpretation, but similar in the emotions they bring up. So from there singing along at the top of your lungs simply becomes like a therapy session, a cathartic way to speak your mind without actually sitting down and coming up with the right words to express yourself.
7. The Rural Alberta Advantage : Stamp
There is always a small part of me that gets really excited whenever The Rural Alberta Advantage does anything new. Release an album, sign a record deal, have a song featured somewhere, I get a excited every time. That’s because they are among a small group of bands I discovered before most others had. I first saw The Rural Alberta Advantage in 2009, when they opened for Grizzly Bear at South by Southwest (strangely enough the other opener that night was this other new band called Girls). I have the self released version of their debut album, have seen them whenever possible since that first show. They feel very personal to me, a cool, special band that I was turning anyone who would listen on to. So I feel good whenever they succeed, not because I have any real connection to them as people, but because I was there at the beginning.
8. Whitney : Dave's Song
“Light Upon the Lake” was easily one of the most enjoyable surprises of the year. I did not expect to like this album, to like band that created it. Whitney, after all, was started by Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, two members of the Smith Westerns, a band I still feel received an outsized amount of praise for two wildly average albums. But a my brother and a close friend (two people who’s opinions about music I really respect) both insisted I check them out, and boy were they right. “Light Upon the Lake” felt like something truly different, a far more grown up record than anything Kakacek and Ehrlich had released before. It’s more soulful, more laid back than the Smith Westerns’ lo-fi garage rock. It’s a sound that feels more natural for the band members, they feel more comfortable in this territory. “Light Upon the Lake” is a relaxing record, never attempting to be groundbreaking or demand anything of its listeners. No, Whitney are just writing simple, good songs, ones even a skeptic like myself can get behind.
9. LCD Soundsystem : You Wanted a Hit
James Murphy has a strange relationship with the music industry. He is wildly dismissive of the industry as a whole, penning now classic industry kiss-off’s like “Us v Them” and “You Wanted a Hit,” but still clearly desires traditional success within it. Never one to hide his desires, he’s been public about his wish for a #1 album (back in 2007 he even directly, repeatedly asked fans to buy “Sound of Silver” within its first week on sale, in hopes of getting the album to the top of the charts), but the highest he’s been able to achieve thus far was when “This is Happening” reached #10 on the Billboard Top 200. Now, that’s nothing to sneeze at on it’s own, especially for a band like LCD Soundsystem, but with the group’s recent reunion and impending fourth album, it’s clear that Murphy hasn’t given up the dream. Now, does that mean Murphy will be taking LCD in some new, mainstream direction on this new record? Doubtful. Not only would doing so alienate his existing fanbase (some of whom are already distrusting of the LCD Soundsystem reunion to begin with), but it would fly in the face of the ‘coolest dad at the party’ image he has cultivated since the release of “Losing my Edge” in 2002. No, he’s just going to have to hope that the public has caught up with his music. The industry won’t help him. All he has is the rep he’s built over the last 15 years. Who knows, it might be just enough to get him that #1.
10. Can : Spoon
Seems kind of fitting that I was only able to make a Can song fit after “You Wanted a Hit,” seeing as James Murphy cited the krautrock pioneers as his largest influence going into the recording of “This is Happening. But the truth is that I’ve been trying to get Can onto a mix for weeks. I’ve tried different tracks, from different albums, from different eras, but until now, nothing has worked. Frankly, their music is just a tough nut to crack. Their mix of rock and free jazz, wildly experimental song structures, and challenging, poetry-guided lyrics doesn’t tend to play well with a lot of other music. I absolutely love Can though, and am so thrilled they finally made it on to a mix.
11. Explosions in the Sky : Disintegration Anxiety
Explosions in the Sky really red something new on this year’s drop dead gorgeous “The Wilderness.” No, they didn’t do anything to change up their sound. No misguided attempts to work vocals into the mix. No, for “The Wilderness” the band played with structure and song length, often with fantastic results. Gone are the 10+ minute songs that made up their previous albums. Instead we get nine shorter compositions, ranging from about 2 to 7 minutes each. It’s a unique approach to instrumental post-rock, a genre that is somewhat defined by long tone pieces. And while the idea of shorter songs itself might not be completely novel, it is wonderful to see that the members of Explosions in the Sky are not content with coloring completely inside the lines.
12. Portishead : Strangers
This is actually my favorite song of of Portishead’s masterful debut, “Dummy.” I love its smokey, backroom feel, that rock solid drum pattern, the horn sample. And don’t even get me started on Beth Gibbons’ beautiful, haunting voice. It’s scary. It feels a bit dangerous. But all that does is make the song seem sexy as hell.
13. DJ Shadow feat. Run the Jewels : Nobody Speak
I’m still a little surprised that “Nobody Speak” caught on in the way it did. As important and innovative as his work is, DJ Shadow has never been known as a hit maker, and though their popularity is currently skyrocketing, Run the Jewels are still a relatively small act. Don’t get me wrong, “Nobody Speak” is one hell of a track. That sexy little guitar lick. Those horns. Killer Mike and El-P’s lyrics that manage to be both hilarious and threatening all at once. But all of that can be said about plenty of DJ Shadow and Run the Jewels tracks. What was it that made “Nobody Speak” into such a success?