LCD Soundsystem – Yr City’s A Sucker

11 years ago, this song became one of my favorite things ever, for an entire summer and a little bit longer. Part of LCD Soundsystem‘s self titled debut, it ended the bonus disc collecting their massive dance singles. Yr City’s A Sucker is absolutely unfuckwithable.

Any one of the lengthy tunes on that disc could be held up as the vanguard of 00’s disco punk, from hipster lament Losing My Edge to ecstatic rave-up Yeah. Every single one is a club stomping classic, packed with more funky swing than entire albums’ worth of dance music. This one, though. Yr City’s A Sucker always stayed ringing in my head longest.

It wasn’t just the fact that it was the final track; it’s the point where the record’s sarcastic hedonism curdles into a nihilistic snarl. But a sense of humor creeps in, the whole endeavor played for laughs. It’s the band laughing at its own shtick while still kicking in high gear.

The tune is looser than anything else they’d recorded at this point, dragged along with a ramshackle cowbell and languid bass riff. The song hangs together on three major threads: buzz-funk bass guitar, a bed of lightly pulsing synthesizers, and raucous vocals grinding the title phrase, shouting demands, and growing more sinister until unleashing a Joker-like laugh. At any one moment the whole thing feels about to fall apart. In the end, it does.

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To this day, there are few albums that consistently get me moving than LCD Soundsystem’s bonus disc of extended singles from 2005. The project matured and evolved, resulting in incredible material, timeless classics of impeccable construction. But James Murphy’s band never fully gave themselves over to pure ass-shaking indulgence like this again.

Even if you’re sitting in an office like I do every weekday, click play. You’ll be dancing in your seat in no time. Every time I listen, coworkers have to remind me that unlike the tuns in my headphones, everyone can hear my desk slaps and foot taps.

Your city’s a sucker; my city’s a creep!
HA HA HA HA

Mark Van Hoen – Nightvision

Every once in a while, a great album by a favorite artist slips right by me. Nightvision is a perfect example. Mark Van Hoen released the album in November of 2015, and I stumbled upon it only this week. Van Hoen’s work has appeared on my best of lists and his former band, Seefeel, created some of my favorite music of all time. This was a huge oversight, as it turns out.

After just a few listens, I really wish I’d heard the album a few months ago. I have no doubt that it would have appeared somewhere on my best of 2015 list. Nightvision is frankly incredible.

This sounds like a massive refinement of Van Hoen’s prior solo work. The album feels as approachable and eager to please as his debut, Where Is The Truth, yet painted in colors even more abstract than his dark followup, The Revenant Diary.

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Best of Dream Catalogue, 2814-2815

Dream Catalogue has quickly become one of my favorite music labels. Their aesthetic is a utopian ideal for tomorrow’s world. The music they release is futuristic, wrapped in a warm emotional embrace, full of nostalgia and hope. Everything I’ve heard is, naturally, painted with a deeply dreamlike palette. Edges are blurred, time vanishes, and the listener becomes unmoored from tactile reality.

You might recognize the colors of the logo from a certain album that landed on my Best of 2015 list. It’s another sign of the unified aesthetic Dream Catalogue has been laying out for over two years now. 2814’s 新しい日の誕生 (Birth of a New Day) was easily the biggest surprise for me in the past year, sending me tumbling down the rabbit hole that is the label’s roster.

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To celebrate their second anniversary as a groundbreaking, epoch-defining label, Dream Catalogue just released this 65 minute collection of tunes from their best artists, curated for a perfect sense of flow and pace. As someone moderately familiar with the copious output of this label, it’s a fantastic overview. This works as both a handy collage and incredible introduction for newcomers. One listen, and you’ll be immersed in this unique aesthetic, thirsty for more.

If you’re not already familiar, be prepared to have artists like t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, Nmesh, HKE, Death’s Dynamic Shroud.wmv, and Chungking Mansions floating in your brain for days. It’s pure bliss, and you won’t want to ever go back to life before listening.

Even cooler, the label is running a competition with some pretty awesome prizes available only to people who purchase the CD edition. I’ve included all details below the break.

Buy the album on the Dream Catalogue Bandcamp page or listen to the entire set streaming right here:

As the final second of the compilation fades, these words echo:

You’re dreaming.

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David Bowie “Modern Love”

For a week now, I’ve woken with this song stuck in my head.

Modern Love takes off like a bottle rocket, perfect as the lead tune on David Bowie‘s 1983 pop opus, Let’s Dance. It’s about as get-up-and-go as any song has ever been. I feel an electricity pulsing through me the second those first guitar stabs hit, and it doesn’t let up even when the melody fades a few minutes later.

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If you’re not already in the mood for this kind of energy, I present a pair of films that absolutely nailed it. I can’t help but get caught up when seeing either of these scenes; the positivity is infectious.

First, here’s a scene from Leos Carax’s 1986 feature The Night Is Young. Starring incredible physical actor Denis Levant, it’s about the character’s transition into real feeling in the real adult world. His “dance” is an entire life in miniature. To me, it evokes the feeling of Modern Love more than the music video itself.

Next, here’s a scene from Frances Ha, a 2012 film by Noah Baumbach. It’s a clear and direct nod to the previous film, and works wonders in the context of its subtle story about a woman who’s coming of age a little bit later than she should.

Fellow Bowie devotees might appreciate my piece on the man and what he really meant to me:

David Bowie Is Dead // This Is What He Means To Me

Colin Stetson is reimagining Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony

I just read on twitter that Colin Stetson, one of the greatest saxophonists alive, is working on a new version of one of the greatest symphonies of the 20th century.

Here’s the trailer, featuring a minute of the newly recorded composition:

Henryk Górecki’s famed third symphony, perhaps the absolute standard when it comes to mournful modern classical music, is a personal favorite of mine. I played it after both of my parents died. I even listened after my cats passed away. It evoked perhaps the purest expression of sadness I’ve ever heard. Some music is perfect for anguish, some for anger, and some for absolute despair. Symphony No. 3 is sadness distilled, a cathartic listen if there ever was one.

This symphony was my introduction to holy minimalism, a term coined to describe the work of Polish-born Górecki and fellow Eastern European composer Arvo Pärt, as well as many others. This is perhaps my favorite “genre” of modern classical music, so you could imagine how excited I am at the prospect of one of my favorite current musicians tackling this monumental piece.

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Colin Stetson’s solo work has been a juggernaut in the world of experimental jazz. His playing and recording techniques have produced saxophone music like the world has never heard. I imagine the man can channel that unrivaled ability and passion into this timeless masterpiece, and I’ll believe it when I hear it.

Here’s hoping it turns out as incredible as it deserves to be.

Gabriel Saloman – Movement Building Vol. 2

Here’s an album that received so little mention upon its release, I’m surprised to learn that anyone else got to hear it. Gabriel Saloman’s Movement Building Vol. 2 is a self-contained explosion. It made my best of 2015 list, but I didn’t see it on literally any other. Here’s my bid for wider recognition.

This is the full album:

This is experimental chamber music for walking the streets of dystopian megacities. The music feels borne from some fantasy ideal of jazz, conjured by traditional Japanese instrumentation, blasted through an industrial framework.

Coming from one half of the late, great noise titans Yellow Swans, you might be expecting extreme cacophony, howling drone tunnels, or feedback for days. Instead, there’s a spare delicacy at play, with each instrument living and breathing in its own space, slowly converging on a distant supernova. While the music eventually gets to that heavy moment, the chaos is contained, laser focused. All sounds are pressed into a flat circle as the album crescendos. And then he ends with a crumbling yet elegant cover of My Funny Valentine.

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Although I think nearly anyone with interest in jazz, drone, or experimental music of any sort will appreciate the album, it comes highly recommended for fans of Bee Mask, Morton Feldman, and John Coltrane. I can feel elements of all three of these disparate composers in the shuffling landscapes planted across a slim 31 minutes.

Released by Shelter Press, you can purchase the album digitally or on vinyl right on the label’s Bandcamp page.

Rachel’s – The Mysterious Disappearance of Louis LePrince

Yesterday I decided to have a fresh listen of one of my old favorite bands, Rachel’s. This chamber-post-rock outfit may have disappeared soon after I was introduced, but they left an impact for years.

It was nearly 15 years ago when, funny enough, a girl named Rachel gave me a burned CD of Selenography, the band’s 1999 masterpiece. It’d been at least a decade, but when I cued the music up on spotify yesterday, this is the tune that struck me hardest, shooting right through the years to that old memory. It’s an incredibly catchy harpsichord jam called The Mysterious Disappearance of Louis LePrince.

I had remembered the band’s appeal as something ephemeral, understated, and always just out of reach. I nearly loved them at the time, but the music was indefinable in my head. They were, to put it bluntly, pretty out-there for my twenty year old tastes. I was swimming in bombastic post-rock like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, and Explosions in the Sky. Then this band comes along, just as handily destroying my notions of rock music with a three person ensemble, crafting quietly disruptive, subtly disorienting tunes. There were no giant crescendos, no guitar feedback waves, and no apocalyptic imagery. It was simply music I’d never heard before, and didn’t have a framework for truly understanding.

Now, at age 33, it feels like perfectly meditative sound, an organic mixture of spare elements set in clockwork precision, spinning in its own quiet little galaxy far away from the David Bowie and Young Thug albums I’ve been rinsing.

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I was curious about the fate of the band, so I looked them up to see if anything was recorded after 2003’s Systems/Layers. Unfortunately, I learned that founding member Jason Noble passed away a few years ago. At least he can rest in peace, knowing he helped create some of the most unique music of the turn of the century.