Dance

VIDEO PREMIERE: Vansire - That I Miss You

Will Shenton

There's a charming discrepancy between the polished production of Vansire's groovy synth-pop track "That I Miss You" and the DIY goofiness of the video that accompanies it. Tight hooks flow like tides beneath lightly modulated vocals as the duo, Josh Augustin and Sam Winemiller, dance in loosely choreographed deadpan across their hometown of Rochester, MN in matching NASA t-shirts. It's an endearing tableau, but the playful tone and summery melodies belie a more thoughtful undercurrent.

Originally inspired by a nonsensical phrase ("like a Lichtenstein," which Augustin latched onto simply for its alliterative qualities), "That I Miss You" evolved into a meditation on the nature of art and commodification. "Any attempt to make art about relationships or love is, to a certain extent, a stylization of a personal experience for an audience," Augustin explained, going on to say that the track is something of a summation of his mental state since the release of their recent LP Angel Youth. "The original intention was light lyrical fare about a college friend of mine who just transferred, but it ended up being more about the nature of art in general."

That said, the song never collapses beneath the weight of its own navel-gazing. By couching those ruminations in lighthearted (if somewhat bittersweet) pop and garnishing it with some self-deprecating dance moves, Vansire strike a balance that feels substantial and easily digestible at the same time. "That I Miss You" is an infectiously catchy and accessible track, but there's plenty to unpack on subsequent listens.

Catch Vansire on their West Coast Tour this August

Aug. 2 - Voodoo Room - San Diego

Aug. 4 - Bootleg Theater - Los Angeles

Aug. 5 - Daydream Festival - Sacramento

Aug. 6 - Slim's - San Francisco

Aug. 9 - Crocodile - Seattle

Aug. 10 - Mission Theater - Portland

Aug. 11 - China Cloud - Vancouver

PREMIERE: Norty - Alien Eyes

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Phillipe Roberts

“Alien Eyes,” the lead single from Norty’s full-length debut The Years Are Fleeting, begins as a distant echo, a stuttering shimmer of a guitar figure piling on the distorted reverb as it crawls down a long hallway. Listen with your eyes closed and you’d expect to get a face full of indie rock. Instead the Young Heavy Souls producer slams you straight into a glitch-pop drop of sliced-up horns and thick bass. From there, it’s round after round of tasty fusions and juxtapositions on an incisive track masquerading as big-tent dance pop.

Though the message creeps out over the course of multiple listens, “Alien Eyes” is Norty’s attempt to spell out a flavorful missive on the snake-like hypocrisy of mankind’s fixation on profit over people; in his words, calling out the fact that “some humans are just bad at being human.” At its core, however, the track can’t escape the upbeat flair of Norty’s production. Rather than break it down over spare, moody instrumentation, he packs in crunchy bumps to bop those blues away, making it less a call to arms than a nagging voice of political consciousness under the strobing concert lights on the dancefloor.

Still, no matter how high Norty turns up the bass or how hard he drops the beat (and he truly does), the message isn’t far behind. “Alien Eyes” keeps it human by moving your body with playful energy, something worth keeping around as the heat, and the lizard-person madness, ratchets up this summer.

PREMIERE: Le Couleur - Underage (In Flagranti Remix)

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Phillipe Roberts

Some remixes take special care in disassembling a recording. Zeroing in on minute melodic inflections that even the original artist may not have heard, they surgically remove the vestigial waste and leave you with only the purest of grooves, a Platonic ideal of bodily manipulation. Some remixes display a kind of reverence, a deliberate hesitation in scraping the sacred whole for parts. Some remixes prefer a scalpel.

In Flagranti, on their remix of Le Couleur’s “Underage,” prefer a bulldozer. The laid-back, tropical lilt of the original is sacrificed entirely—its sophisticated exterior shattered, the duo up the tempo and double down on the beat to create a high-powered, intensely explosive release of the densely packed pop energy at its core. It’s hack and slash from the minute the track starts, all sharp edges, with stroboscopic bass arpeggiations fluttering about and those glimmering synths crashing like thick waves of neon across an expanded landscape. In Flagranti do tremendous work playing with dimension; the refurbished song breathes easier even as it constricts around a more jagged pulse.

By the time a vocal sample from the chorus begins to infiltrate the mix, you’ve lost track of time and place, marooned somewhere out on the dancefloor. But In Flagranti know how to reel in a listener with confidence, dangling out all sorts of sonic bait in the form of sensor sweep reverse hi-hats that bend around each other in a feedback loop, and sampled French vocals detuned into a long, slow drip of unintelligible encouragement. Carved up to within an inch of its life, “Underage” is a snapshot of controlled chaos.

REVIEW: Porches - The House

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Laura Kerry

“Think I'll go somewhere else / Where I can see into myself / Just watch me go.”

Aaron Maine of Porches sings these lines in a desperate tone that peaks in a vulnerable falsetto as synths swirl and a dance beat pumps beneath him. From the second song, “Find Me,” off of his new work, The House, this moment perfectly encapsulates the album and—if the songs are any indication—the space (both physical and mental) in which Maine wrote it.

Maine’s third full-length as Porches, The House picks up where his last album, Pool, leaves off, continuing to draw from a palette of danceable synths and beats to create surprisingly reflective and dreamy tunes—a departure from his more straightforwardly rock roots. Perhaps a result of newly living alone and mostly recording alone, though, the new album feels quieter and, as the lines from “Find Me” suggest, more introspective.

Beginning with Maine’s bare falsetto singing the surrender “Let it have me,” The House is an intimate experience. In lyrics such as “It's my fault / This I know / It's just hard to swallow” (“By My Side”), “I wonder if you think about me / Not anymore” (“Anymore”), and “I like the thought you think of me” (“Goodbye”), it reads as a breakup album (a reasonable read, considering that Maine wrote it in the aftermath of a breakup). This sentiment reflects in the expressive sadness of Maine’s voice, which is beautiful when allowed to shine.

Elsewhere, though, The House reads as more hopeful. These moments emerge in his odes to love, albeit filled with a dejected kind of longing (“Anything you want / Anything you need / Anything at all / I love you,” he sings in the final song, “Anything U Want”), and in the bright, warm combinations of electronic instruments that demand movement in response.

Sometimes, these two opposing strains feel at odds with one another. In the muddiness on “Swimmer,” the stab of deep bass that feels wedged in on “By My Side,” and a few unnecessary uses of auto-tune (those in which he fails to use it in intriguing contrast to the rawness of the other elements in his songs), Porches’ introspection can occasionally fail to mesh with the sounds that surround it.

When it works, though, it does so to an incredibly satisfying degree. On “Goodbye,” for example, Porches alternates between a bouncy synth melody and a somber piano ballad. As his voice rises, the two parts join, welcoming a gentle but crisp beat and a light touch of guitar, and later, a disco riff and house beat. Here and in many other moments on The House, Maine simultaneously manages to deliver a dose of emotional strife and its antidote, catharsis.

REVIEW: Tune-Yards - I can feel you creep into my private life

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Laura Kerry

When facing a challenging political climate, music often falls into two different camps: escapism or head-on confrontation. Tune-Yards’ new album does both.

The group’s first album in three years, I can feel you creep into my private life responds to the current moment. More specifically, it is a response to two very of-the-moment—to an almost comical degree—experiences that Merrill Garbus, the duo’s frontwoman, had in the past year: a DJ residency that catapulted her into the world of dance music, and a six-month workshop on what it means to be white in America at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland that fostered a better understanding of her “participation in racism and white supremacy.” The result is an exuberant album that is equal parts danceable and politically engaged.

The first of those two sensations to come across is the former. Starting with the opener, “Heart Attack,” Garbus and her collaborator Nate Brenner build a track that with its clapping percussion, sputtering melody, funky bass, and variations of the four-on-the-floor rhythm, impels the listener to move. Here, Garbus poses her message in fragments of more abstract and personal imagery (“Let me speak / Let me breathe / Oh, let me be”). Here, as in many other places on the album, the sound and feel of the music—a more focused and beat-driven version of Tune-Yards’ signature energetic freneticism—outweighs the content of the lyrics. While this has the effect of slightly muting the message, it also means that the listener is hooked by the time they start to consider meaning. There’s also something sneakily transgressive about propelling an audience to dance unsuspectingly to music with political motivations.

While Garbus couches much of her social justice bent in glittering pop and an introspective gaze, it occasionally pierces through the surface of I can feel you creep with clear—and sometimes clunky—force. On “ABC 123,” a song whose simple balance of bouncy bass, buoyant percussion, and catchy melody make it one of the clearest and most fun on the album, the artist swings between loftiness (“Sitting in the middle of the sixth extinction”) and intimacy (“I want so badly to be liked”), ultimately addressing the audience directly with the cheer, “No abstentions! VOTE.”

Like the call-to-action on “ABC 123,” the  most straightforward of the political lyrics on the album can feel jarring, like a blunt wack across the head in contrast to the rest of Garbus’ deft deliveries. On “Colonizer,” for example, when she sings over a deep bass in a voice scratchy with effects, “I use my white woman voice to tell stories of travels with African men… / I cry my white woman tears carving grooves in my cheeks to display what I meant,” it feels downright uncomfortable. It’s hard to tell whether that discomfort comes from confronting my own complicity in the privilege that Garbus sings about, or if it stems from the feeling that a white woman acknowledging “white woman tears” in song still calls attention to herself in the problematic way that crying—and subsequently broadcasting—white woman tears does in the first place.

According to Tune-Yards' new album, though, beginning to disentangle that kind of discomfort is a necessary effort. It’s important to recognize and talk about it. And, in the midst of that effort, Garbus offers, you can always dance.