Tuesday, June 02, 2009
I've been working on a new mixtape for a while, the theme for which is movie couples/crushes. It's called Something in the Air, and here it is. Along with a picture of Joel and Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favorite movie couples of all time. For a free physical copy, complete with cover art, shoot me an email.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
A few weeks ago I met Annie Clark, the waifish, bright-eyed chanteuse behind St. Vincent, outside of a record store in Georgia. She was there with some family, who were laughing and pointing at the record cover for her new album "Actor," which is essentially a huge picture of her face, in the window, and urging her to go in and buy a copy.
The cover of "Actor" can speak to the music as well. Clark is pictured staring into the distance, her eyes wide and her hair curling in every direction. The result makes her look like some sort of otherworldly fairy. This large image of her face is set against an almost garish orange background. Similarly, Clark's music is composed of her ethereal, breezy vocals over top jarring, distorted guitars and drums.
Given her background as a former member of the Polyphonic Spree, and given that I never heard her first album "Marry Me," I expected St. Vincent to be light, poppy ballads, bordering on twee. As I mentioned before, the music is quite the contrary. First of all, it's loud. While Clark's voice might be light, songs like "Actor Out Of Work" and "Save Me From What I Want" are thick with distortion and wrecking beats. After stalking YouTube, I learned that Clark is a master on the axe, and shreds live like a member of an 80's hair metal band.
On the other hand, she does have a more restrained side. "Black Rainbow" is a hushed track that pairs Clark's voice with jabbing guitar and floating keys. Eventually, however, the song climaxes in a goopy, cinematic swamp of organ, strings, and synth.
If "Actor" proves anything, it's that Clark is a master of both the quieter, simpler aspects of songwriting and the convoluted, complicated aspects of orchestral arrangements and production. Even on tracks like the jazzy and buoyant "Laughing With A Mouth Full Of Blood" Clark layers vocal effects, strings, stuttering drums, and a plethora of other instruments without sounding overcrowded or noisy.
I can't wait to get more into St. Vincent's catalog after hearing "Actor." This is a truly dynamic album featuring an extremely talented songwriter and artist.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone talks during a song. It's supposed to seem really serious and meaningful, but to me it's just annoying. In the middle of M83's "Graveyard Girl," one of my favorite songs last summer, a girl starts talking about how the graveyard is her home or something and those few seconds almost made me hate the song. Luckily the rest is so John Hughes-y awesome that I can't throw it away. But seriously, if it weren't for the talking, I would listen to the track much, much more.
However, I recently found one exception to the rule. I picked up Comet Gain's "Broken Record Prayers" two weeks ago, and the opening track, "Jack Nance Hair," is a talker. A girl with a thick accent recites verses about believing in art and music over strummed guitars and a light rhythm. Partway through, a boy comes in singing heartbreaking lines about "escaping movie blues." The juxtaposition of the girl's more aggressive delivery against the lo-fi music and the boy's earnest lyrics blend to create a truly sweet song that I enjoy without being distracted by all the talking. Somehow, Comet Gain stumbled upon the formula for making talking in a song not painful and awful.
I believe this is the only song on the album with talking (I haven't listened to the whole thing thoroughly so I'm not positive though) but the rest is great as well. I'd never really heard Comet Gain before, but they make really sweet lo-fi pop songs. I can tell that I'll get a lot of listens out of "Broken Record Prayers" this summer. My favorite tracks so far, besides "Jack Nance Hair," are "You Can Hide Your Love Forever," "Books of California," and "Asleep on the Snow." Check out Comet Gain if you haven't already! I believe they have been around for a while, in which case they are very underrated.
Listen to Comet Gain HERE.
I have a LOT of playlists on my iTunes. I have a few Smart Playlists, made up of my most recent singles and another of my most recent albums, and then a third which is a combination of the two. Then I also have a few "best of" mixes to showcase the good cuts off of new albums. Plus I have quite a few "car mixes" which are different from regular mixes in that there is no mood or order- just a set of good songs that have been stuck in my head lately. The rest of my playlists are precisely curated mixes that I spend literally hours creating. I usually make one or two a season, and, depending on the quality, I'll listen to it for months afterward. Some are better than others. I still consider last summer's mix, titled "A Waste of Time," the best mixtape I've ever made. The songs on it completely define summer for me, and I think I listened to it every single day. One year later, it still isn't old.
"A Waste of Time" includes songs from Nada Surf, Feist, Coldplay, Iron & Wine, the Whigs, Sun Kil Moon, and ten others. Since I've listened to this mix so many times, it's now difficult to listen to each song individually or in the context of its original album. I just prefer it on the mix. I worked really hard on making smooth transitions between each song, and I'm amazed that I went from Santogold to Elliott Smith in four moves, and they still sounds great and fluid together.
I'm currently working on a new summer mix for 2009, but I don't think it will ever live up to '08's. I'll be sure to post it when it's finished, though.
Here's a tracklist for "A Waste of Time." If you'd like me to mail you a copy, complete with homemade album art, feel free to shoot me an email.