Perhaps a week in California has started to rub off on me, cause I’m going all natural and organic for this post. Well sort of. As organic as digital media can be, which is pretty inorganic, but at the very least it’s far more green than a ‘zine. So, here are four songs that have captured my attention of late for varying reasons and of varying genres – R&B, Electronic Folk, Indie-Pop and Guitar Jam.
Frank Ocean‘s “Thinkin Bout You”
As a contributing member of the L.A. Rap/Hip Hop collective, Odd Future, you wouldn’t necessarily think Frank Ocean would be the type of old-school R&B crooner that could make a track drip with sweet, sweaty heartache, the sort of song teenagers and young adults spin in the dark crevices of their interior spaces. But, don’t underestimate this vastly talented young Louisiana native. “Thinkin Bout You” is a the story of a spurned lover reminiscing over the whirlwind of emotions brought on by the immediacy of passion. Ocean clearly draws from an older Soul and R&B tradition in the way he allows the words and emotions to flow over and against the minimalist base beat, but his music also has strains of the more refined production elements that have catapulted Toronto’s Drake to stardom. Also, check out this fabulous piece by NPR’s Ann Powers on Frank Ocean’s recent “coming out” and discussion of his sexuality and sexual identity.
Taken by Trees‘ “Dreams”
Some songs just take you somewhere special in seconds. Taken by Trees’ “Dreams” (a fitting title) does it at the outset and continues unfolding throughout. Opening with a blend of analog fuzz, ambient soundscape and a simple downtempo beat, Taken by Trees (the stage name of Victoria Bergsman) takes us on a journey into a musical landscape somewhere between modern electro-folk ruminations and tropical Island meanderings. For fans of jj, Grimes, Beach House, or (old school) Cocteau Twins, this is a Dream Pop/Chillwave classic in the making. Admittedly, this is my first exposure to TbyT and this makes me eager to go back into her catalog. From what I read her previous record, East of Eden, was inspired by a trip to Pakistan; I’m so excited for a new musical adventure.
Listen and download (via Stereogum) here.
Stars’ “Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It”
Of late the discussion of relationships and love has been quite frequent and all for very good reasons. Perhaps that is why this song captured by ears and eyes. Stars have always had a flair for the musically dramatic (lush and epic production elements, see In the Bedroom After the War) combined with a lyrical sincerity and straightforwardness that hits the spot (see Set Yourself on Fire). (Note: Lyrical sincerity doesn’t mean not using “figurative” language, but a measured lack of sarcasm.) This probably comes as a shock to those who know my adoration of the witty, tongue-in-cheek writings of The Smiths or The Magnetic Fields; however, I think there is plenty of room to appreciate both. As with much of their work, “Hold on When You Get Love…” demonstrates Stars mastery of 80s Brit-Pop’s up-beat dance sensibilities and a penchant for an indie rock version of baroque chamber sound. For fans of Belle and Sebastian, Beaulah, the Smith, and OMD alike.
Delicate Steve’s “Afria Talks to You”
I’ve been listening to Delicate Steve’s new record Positive Force quite a bit lately. It is a full-on jam-oriented instrumental guitar rock record in the vein of Ratatat or early American Analog Set. Knowing that the word “jam” will probably make many a reader recoil with visions of Phish fans and Deadheads, I suggest you eschew your associations and lend Delicate Steve your ears for this short little reverie. (For the record, I do enjoy Phish and the Dead. Hopefully, this doesn’t lose to many readers/followers.)
Listen and download “Afria Talks to You” here.