Pop

VIDEO PREMIERE

2012 BID ADIEU - SOMETHING TO TELL YOU

By Gerard Marcus

2012 Bid Adieu is a DIY artist collective headed by Jordan Clark and Gray Hall, featuring a lot of our favorite artists in the New York scene. Their output to date has consisted of three singles and two videos which all exude creative experimentation and high levels of musicianship. The new video for “Something To Tell You” keeps that trend alive. The track, fronted by Hall on vocals and guitar, deals with themes of escapism. How do you move on after finding yourself in a situation where remaining would only make things more confusing. The video, directed by Jeff O’neal, helps bring that story to life through creative use of isolation and distortion, with a spotlight on Hall allowing the emotional content of his words shine through. It’s another truly intriguing piece from the New York based collective, and has me very excited for their debut “We Died In 2012: This Is Hell,” set to release Friday, June 7th of this year.

Words from Jordan Clark himself:

As it stands, We Died In 2012: This Is Hell serves an open-letter to the internet set to release Friday, June 7th. “Something To Tell You” is 2012 Bid Adieu’s third single off their debut album. Sung by Gray Hall, “Something To Tell You” is a conversation with someone who the singer no longer has a relationship with. Frustrated and seeking answers that he is not receiving, the singer ultimately knows that he’ll have to leave the situation (“I’ll move to a city”). While 2012 Bid Adieu’s album begins with a more generic look at escapism in the internet-age, "Something To Tell You," the final song on the album, looks at the singer’s own struggles with escapism.

PREMIERE

Moonheart - Breaking/Broken

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Gerard Marcus

Have you ever loved someone-a mother, a friend, a life partner-who’s emotionally sporadic? It has a way of making you lose yourself in anxieties that aren’t your own. Finding your way out of the maze of another person’s emotions is hard, and it can force you to learn how to emotionally separate yourself from aspects of their life. It’s not easy, not being hugged when that’s all you want, not seeing a smile after you told what you know is the funniest joke ever. But love keeps you there.

Moonheart’s new single “Breaking/Broken” reminds me of this space. The track is simple-lush synths layered over cavernous percussion and flickering electronics, with singer Kim Iman’s voice ping-ponging in stereo like rippling water running over it all. This simplicity is all in service of my favorite aspect of this track: its structure. The song opts-out of a familiar verse-chorus pattern, and instead floats through a lyrical stream of consciousness. It evokes the contemplation one has after yet another failure to connect with someone they love, remembering all the good and the bad in the relationship, while trying to figure out what comes next. This emotional middle ground is hard to grasp, but Moonheart has captured it perfectly.

REVIEW: Triathalon - Online

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Raquel Dalarossa

It’s been nearly three years since Triathalon’s last full-length release. Since 2015’s Nothing Bothers Me, the Savannah trio moved to New York City, recruited a new band member, and changed their sound entirely. Though they’ve always traded in slacker-tinged soundscapes, the new album, Online, sees them move decidedly away from their psychedelic surf rock towards R&B pop.

Those who tuned into the band's 2016 EP, Cold Shower, would have already seen the change coming. Those four tracks introduced an expressly sultry side to the band that hadn’t been spotlighted in either of their two previous full-length efforts. Online is a bit less lusty but just as smooth, with lead vocalist Adam Intrator moving comfortably between an energized falsetto and a lower register, rap-like flow. There’s a catchiness to each of the thirteen tracks on here, though it’s distinctly an after-hours sort of record—hazy guitar chords, synths, and piano keys float above the kinds of beats you’d hear at an apartment party that’s winding down. The more upbeat tracks, like “Sometimes” and “Plant” (the latter being a real highlight for its jazzy instrumentation), stand out from the languid, even anodyne quality of the rest.

Tracks like “Pull Up” and “Deep End” might register as seductive at first, but soon become sedative, especially in light of the album’s lyrics. In the former, broken sentences slowly put together a picture of a dreary routine: “I’m doing / My work outs high / I’m floating by.” And again in the latter, we hear Intrator struggling through the day-to-day: “Go back to my room and watch another show like everyone / Lately I can’t focus, work too much and deal with bullshit.” Online depicts a life of feeling overworked and out of touch, with relationships and substances serving as passive pastimes.

In light of this, the album’s title becomes intriguing. Though cynical takes on internet culture are overdone and overblown (see, for example, those videos that your aunt shares on Facebook, darkly portraying kids on their iPhones as the voiceover talks about how “disconnected” we all are), I think we all recognize, from time to time, the truism in the cliches. Being online is like switching our brains to a channel of white noise, our thumbs scrolling in absent-minded habit. How often do we find ourselves in that mental mode even when we’re not necessarily staring at a screen?

Online hardly mentions the internet outright (except for a couple of references to social media) but its portrayal of the everyday—sleepwalking through life and trying to fill our time—feels like the online ghost worlds we create for ourselves, spilling over into real life. Even on the most enamored and alive track (“I haven’t felt this way in a minute,” Intrator says), he’s still, at the end of the day, stoned and just sitting in his living room. “Couch” is a love song for the disengaged, eyes glossed over but dick somehow still hard.

There’s something odd about listening to pop that’s so depressing (particularly, for its relatability). Triathalon successfully explore a new genre without losing their talent for a conversational kind of lyricism that upends our experience of their music, putting escapism into a harsh light that reflects back on us.

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.

REVIEW: KOKOKO! - Tokoliana / L.O.V.E. // Tongos'a / Likolo

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Phillipe Roberts

Go ahead and drop those thoughts of trying to tie KOKOKO! down by boxing them into any lineage of influences. These Congolese DIY revolutionaries are their own heroes, positioning themselves at the forefront of a groundswell of artistic radicalism currently seizing their native Kinshasa. A loosely organized collective of musicians, their relentless grooves are quite literally designed from the ground up; without a speaker in sight, the crew assembled a small hoard of junk instruments using readily available metal and plastic scraps. KOKOKO! are purpose-built, recycling and refining yesterday’s rubbish into “the sound of Kinshasa’s tomorrow.” For now, that sound is distilled into a scant four tracks that manage to cover a tremendous amount of emotional and musical territory without skipping a beat.

On the two EPs that make up their current discography, the band is produced by French artist Débruit, an enthusiastic musical excavator whose last album, Débruit & Istanbul, fused his modern electronic and hip-hop sensibilities to collaborations with local musicians. Débruit took an even more active role here, playing in live incarnations of the band at clubs and street parties until those freeform jams crystallized into discrete songs. On the recordings, however, his influence is felt to varying degrees, and comes through more clearly on the earlier Tokoliana EP, where his thick slabs of synth lend some familiar tone and take a more commanding role in dictating chordal structure.

But even on his most pronounced turn, the title track, Débruit is keen to highlight the harsh textures and mangled beauty of KOKOKO!’s organic instrumentation. The track has a post-punk strut to it, courtesy of an scratchy one-stringed bass line that croaks with just the right amount of distortion, light reverb on the drums, and dark, insistent vocals from singer Makara Bianco that deliver a hypnotic warning in Lingala: “We are devouring each other.” A sharp staccato rhythm from an impossible “guitar” (made of what I imagine to be steel pipe) blasts along, adding a funky edge that makes “Tokoliana” their strongest candidate for neon-lit success. The B-side, “L.O.V.E.,” winds down the pace for a smoother vibe without sacrificing any grit. Live or sampled, the brittle bent notes and unpredictable harmonics played on the wire harp are unnerving but mesmerizing, snapping you to attention if you get lost in the whirl of R&B vocals panning from right to left.

Tongos’a, arriving two months after Tokoliana, throws a similar one-two punch, but the closer, “Likolo,” may be the most intriguing track of the handful. Showing off the band’s frightening versatility, “Likolo” rounds off those edges for a slow-burn, bass-heavy disco track that piles on the anthemic chanting to elevate existential lyrics to a collective battle cry. “We are all naked bodies under the sky,” Bianco cries, heart tearing at the seams, “We all know how it’s going to end.” Given how thrillingly unpredictable KOKOKO!’s journey has been so far, here’s hoping they keep that particular spoiler to themselves. Four tracks in, they already sound limitless.