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What is it about the piano? The fact that it’s a completely physical instrument, that you can hear the hammer hit the string? That it can be delicate or make a racket? That it sounds nice?
Whatever the reason, I also love this new record Dogs by Kim Hiorthøy. Hiorthøy is a remarkably subtle pianist; these songs are impressive for, as the cliche goes, what isn’t being played. Notes tumble out as if by happenstance, but he’s is in complete control.
For the last 15 years or so, I’ve been making mixes on a semi-monthly basis. Through various moves across the country I’ve lost or broken most of them, but occasionally I come across one in a box or a pile or tucked into a book. They are never perfect; far from it. They are always works in progress, like small snapshots of what I thought I might like at the time. Sometimes I immediately hate them and never listen again. Other times they become well-worn favorites. I figured that enough time has passed that I could dissect a few here and there on the site. So first up we have an entry from April 15th, 2008.
Sometimes a song comes across my desk that I know would’ve blown my mind back in the early days of the site. With a voice like Victoria Bergsman of Taken by Trees /ex-The Concretes, SOAK would’ve totally melted my heart and been a favorite thing back in say, 2006. Knowing that she would’ve been 10 years old back then or whatever has no impact on me. The point is that is allows me to channel a younger part of myself that was excited and hungry and fresh, and to me that is an incredible thing. This is not to say the song sounds dated – not at all – it sounds very much a product of its time having absorbed the last decade of influences. I think it sounds perfect and I want to hear the rest of the record.
I can’t say it any better than Steven Hyden: “This band wants to be Constantines in a world in which Constantines are bigger than Coldplay. If you want to be reductive about it, you could call it a fantasy, but I prefer to think of it as aspirational.” It wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t also apt.
The easy answer is that in today’s modern world the we must willfully slow things down to relax in the quiet, in the stillness. With folks on their cellphones 10 hours a day, blasted with leaks and news and the increasingly literal usage of the word dystopia, it would only seem natural to sink low, low, low in the hazy padding of a slow, slow, slow song. Torch bearers like the Weeknd and Lana Del Rey pile on ever slower songs until albums become one long fadeout. Beats become as minimal as half a resting heart rate. Instruments drift in and out like foam on the sea, and eventually we too drift in and out.
But I think that’s only part of it, and I think that ignores the tension here. Repeated Measures are from Diamond Bar, part of the packed parched desert of Southern California, where each dribble of water comes like the tense loping beat of the track, and I think that’s a clue. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for each snare crack, not knowing if it will come, listening to the disembodied vocal call and hoping for some kind of release from the heat. The breakdown at three minutes in only provides more tension, and then finally a brief denouement to close the song. But even this is full of mystery, not knowing why we’re so relieved or what mountain we just climbed. Our day is no less busy than it was before, but we took five minutes to revel in the tension, in the problems, in the stress. And it is with this rumination that we find peace, and is the reason why we choose the slow, slow song.
Perhaps this is the result of my listening habits for work, as this doesn’t seem like something I would normally post on here. Obviously there is a cultural shift to this sort of British-style, Sam Smith, James Blake, minimal r’n’b production. Crisp drums, clean vocals, all well produced and quiet and mostly about relationships and all that. I think this one does a better job than most of actually capturing some of the effortlessness necessary if you really want to nail this. It doesn’t really on some falsetto vocal constantly riding the breaking point. And the bridge is just one of the many, many reminders that Kanye’s 808s and heartbreaks is easily the most influential album of the last ten years. But that’s just a 15 second digression. Dude just wants some real talk with his lady who clearly is on the way out.
Point is, this one hit me today, so there it is. Episodes are from New York and that’s all I know about them.