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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.
There is a long history here with DFA 1979. They were on our first compilation, Music for Robots vol. 1 way back in 2005, almost ten years ago. And honestly, it doesn’t sound like either of us have changed all that much. The huge riffs are there. The piano driven chorus. The thumping, floor-rattling drums. The hoarse tired-from-the-party vocals are there. It makes me think of all-over-print hoodies, myspace, and late nights at Cinespace. This is all to say that this is great. Despite my initial feelings this is not about nostalgia. It’s about a sound. DFA 1979 have clearly mastered it, so why not keep at it. There is more gold in that vein and we’re all the better for it. Album’s out in September from our old friends at Warner Brothers.
2776, out on July 4, is a record whose sales benefit the OneKid OneWorld, a non-profit that provides education resources in Kenya and El Salvador. That’s a pretty serious mission, but you’d never know it from listening to the sublimely silly 2776, which features, among many others, Will Forte, Aubrey Plaza, Patton Oswalt, Aimee Mann, and k.d. lang. The liner notes are by George Saunders (and they were published in The New Yorker this week). It’s pretty great.
“These Aren’t The Droids” is by Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, and it imagines a future not determined by fanboys. What a crazy, mixed-up world that would be.