2014 is filled with some great music and new albums. But there are some longplayers from late 2013 you should own. Artists like Rocky, Lissie, Men, The Blow, Oddience, Mariam The Beliver surprised us with their outstanding sound. If you don´t own those albums already: Get them NOW! Selected by Bénédicte Lelong
Rocky – Rocky EP
Whoever said size matters was dead wrong. Especially when it comes to music. The shorter the better. Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories has 13 tracks. If you ask me it is 12 tracks longer than it should have been. The duo’s so-called “epic, awesome, genius, album of the year” turned out to be a pretentious, overhyped snooze fest of a record. Gaga’s Artpop is 18 tracks *yawn* and it sounds ridiculous and big surprise it’s the same old tired, factory-sealed, fake poppy sound and navel gazing lyrics. S.T.O.P.
Big names don’t necessarily mean big hits. So yeah, you probably don’t know these “Rocky” guys just yet. And that’s OK. That’s kinda why we’re here. Bottom line is, this French band’s 4-track EP sounds undeniably better than any other full length record you’ll hear this year. And that’s almost all you need to know.
Their self-titled freshman effort is nothing but a 17-minute nugget of cool, groovy, reggae-disco-house gold. Pretty freakin’ awesome for a debut, to be quite honest. AND they’re FRENCH (from Lille, in the north of France). Who would have thought? They could be from The Big Apple as far as we know. Lead singer Ines Kokou’s voice is a soulful invitation, taking Rocky, an otherwise all-male band, to new heights. Eargasmic. Danceable… Hell, as far as I am concerned Rocky is a true Champion (queen of lame jokes, I plead guilty). So buy their EP, go to their shows and help out with their gas money so they can come to your city. Sooner rather than later. And most of all keep an eye out for these Frenchies. PS: they don’t need to “Chase The Cool”, if they keep this up The Cool is gonna be chasing them. Ha!
Being French, listening to music in English has always been a weird process for me. First, I’ll get hooked on the music itself, the beats, the synths, the guitars, or even just the voice of the lead singer. Only then will I pay attention to the lyrics. First I let my ears do all the work, and then I give up all control to my brain. And that’s the thing with MEN: they make music sure, but it’s about something else too. It has brains. It has meaning. It’s weird to admit but an awful lot of the electropop sound we like to listen to today doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s plain dumb. The music these guys do has nothing to do with the usual cr*p we’re served day in and day out, empty and emotionless.
If I had to name just one track that, to me, encompasses this record and the vision I have of MEN in general, it would be Neon Poles. It’s 1) insanely danceable and 2) its deeper meaning about love, relationships, identity, duality and life is I believe something that we can all relate to as human beings.
They tell it like it is too “Do I have to choose what side I’m on?” – “We sit around and wonder where we can succeed”. As for “Next” it kinda plays plays like a leimotiv: “Never afford a house / Never retire”. It’s simple and straight to the point so much so that after a while you start to realize that yeah that’s probably what’s gonna happen and maybe I’m OK with it. And that’s when you start dancing, yelling “I don’t care!” at the top of your lungs. I’m in my 30’s, I don’t have a house of my own, I’m underpaid and I probably won’t be able to retire let alone afford a house any time soon… and maybe that’s OK. At least that’s my interpretation of that song. Last but not least, don’t miss their videos for “Club Thang” and “Making Art” as well as JD’s featuring on Parisian band The Aikiu’s “Win”.
Album: Labor Genre: Electropop Label: Men Make Music Origin: USA Released: October 22, 2013 Members: JD Samson
Lissie – Back To Forever
If you’re a hip-hop fan, you have to have heard of Lissie and her heartfelt live rendition of Kid Cudi’s song “Pursuit of Happiness”. That’s how I knew she existed. I thought her cover brought something fresh to the original track, taking it to a new level, giving it a new life. Maybe it was just that female touch, maybe it was that sexy, rebellious voice of hers. You’ve already seen her live?? Even better! Let this be known: the blonde folk-rock guitar player / singer gives her everything on stage.
Sometimes barefoot, she likes to let her hair down, and occasionally enjoys a shot of tequila. Originally from Illinois, Lissie now lives in California. And that’s exactly where I picture her when I listen to this new folky album of hers: on a California beach at sunset, strumming an acoustic guitar. She’s a true American hippie. Of course you might also just be a Morgan Page / electronic music fan and recognize Lissie’s voice from The Longest Road, a track the American DJ recorded in 2008. She’s been around for a long time.
Or maybe you’re a fan of House MD, The OC or Veronica Mars, shows where her music was featured. Yeah, on second thought you’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard of Lissie. She’s also covered Fleetwood Mac, Metallica and Lady Gaga, so make sure you visit her YouTube channel and give these a listen as well, you won’t be sorry. This is her second full length album, 3 years after Catching a Tiger in 2010. If it’s your first time with Lissie, I’d advise you try and listen to some of her older songs like Worried About or When I’m Alone before easing into this new record, which is in my opinion on first listen a little less catchy than its predecessor. But it grows on you. Better yet: GO. SEE. HER. LIVE.
Must-hear tracks: Can’t Take It Back, Shameless, Further Away
Interpret: Lissie www.lissie.com / facebook.com/lissiemusic Album: Back To Forever Genre: Country, Folk, Rock Labels: Columbia & Sony Music Entertainment Origin: USA Released: October 14, 2013 Members: Lissie Maurus, Eric Sullivan, Lewis Keller
The Blow – The Blow
Originally formed in Washington, The Blow relocated to Portland, Oregon and is now based in Brooklyn, NY. I don’t know exactly why (maybe I watch too much TV) but whenever I hear the name of either one of these two cities I see weirdness (thanks Portlandia!), arts and musical experimentations. And that’s exactly what The Blow is and why you should give this quirky duo a listen. If you’ve never heard of The Blow, don’t worry, you won’t be scolded by musical Gods but just to be on the safe side, go Google their band’s name and “Parentheses” or “True Affection”.
“Parentheses” is pretty much the track that put them on the map for me. It was at one point dubbed the “gayest break up song ever” or something to that effect. You be the judge of that. Bottom line: it’s pretty good. Not sure why but I fell in (musical) love with The Blow five years or so ago. You know what, it just feels real, like music YOU could be making in your own bedroom, with simple lyrics about love and life that you can relate to.
From the arrangements to the lyrics, there’s a sort of homemade quality to every song released by the band.
And this second record is no exception. Mind you several of the industry’s most trusted sources (Pitchfork, among others) ranked “Parentheses” one of the best tracks of 2006. No less. It’s no accident. For singer Khaela Maricich, the stage is a theatrical place, and music a true performance, an act. Although I’ve never been to one of their shows, I heard it was quite something. Come to think of it I don’t believe they’ve toured outside the US, but I kinda wish they had. How about we try and help them make it happen?
Must-hear tracks: A Kiss, Make It Up, From The Future, Invisible
Interpret: The Blow facebook.com/thebl0w / www.theblow.org Album: The Blow Genres: Indie pop, electro, lo-fi Label: Kanine Records Origin: USA Released: October 1st, 2013 Members: Khaela Maricich, Melissa Dyne
Mariam The Believer – Blood Donation
Breaking away from husband and wife duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Mariam Wallentin embarked on her solo-project Mariam The Believer to create something that would challenge her own relationship with music. What the listener needs to know upfront- although it comes apparent immediately, like a blow to the senses- is that “Blood Donation” is full of raw emotion; it oozes soul, it moves the listener and dunks them into an ethereal abyss.
The subliminal debut album is characterised by tribal rhythms, marching drums, jazz inflections, and a possessed voice that reminds one of Karin Freijer Andersson, Kate Bush and Beth Gibbons. Inspired by the purchase of a white Gibson guitar in New York, the album is first and foremost, an experimentation- both rhythmic and emotional, which boasts stunning dream-pop songs. Mariam’s commanding cadence and the spiritual boldness in her lyrics forms a world of escapism that the listener readily succumbs to.
Low, bellowing notes and jangly shimmering guitars allow the record to soar and leap, to slink and swoon. Amidst an undulating rhythm and lyrics that elevate, the record exposes one to an existential discussion. Moving song-writing that includes the lines “To be alive, or to be kept alive” and “To have everything and nothing/ to want everything or nothing” show Wallentin focusing on the trajectory of life rather than the infinitesimal; we’re sucked into her world and we come out of it wide-eyed, embracing life and the beauty found in it.
The album is a statement of steadfast intent; it’s an uplifting deluge, which has Mariam stating, “[the record is about] learning how to give without demanding anything in return.” On Invisible Giving, her haunting reverbed vocals pierce the air with the words “I want to keep the echo of your voice in my head” and we couldn’t agree more Mariam- guiding us, that’s what we want, too.
Must Hear Tracks: Somewhere Else, The String of Everything, First Haiku, All There Is And More / Text by Ange Suprowicz
Artist: Mariam The Believer facebook.com/MariamTheBeliever Album: Blood Donation Label: Moshi Moshi Records Release date: 15 October 2013 Genre: Experimental Pop Country of Origin: Sweden
Oddience – Um, Yes You Can
Straight up: the members of Oddience met in L.A’s Koreatown. This is of importance when you picture the district: its myriad of sights, smells and sounds; its kaleidoscope of colours and the endless distractions caused by the tinkering of arcades- it’s easy to see how the district inspired them to form a band. Consisting of brother and sister Eddington Again and Miche Maya alongside producer Tulip Pezley and video-star Pablo Balderas, the California hip-hop crew is creating soulful, crisp kicks beats that would require you to psychically nail your feet to the floor should you want to not tap to the trippy tunes.
The first, full-length studio album Um, Yes You Can features ten tracks that are heavier, grittier and sonically more demanding than its seven-track predecessor. Sun-dazed mediations, stoned rap detours and cool female vocals push the album forward like a seasoned surfer riding the day’s best wave – a light, heady instrumental in the middle of the record, with softly sung lyrics “really, really good”, drifts in to confirm this. The tight, top-notch lyrics burst with tales of the group’s enviable pastimes, making the mellifluous male-female vocals the most rewarding element of the record.
It’s endearing- rather than pretentious- that the album opens up with the siblings cooing “Oh what a day, what a day, what a day”. With each member bringing their own panache to the record, the L.A collective blossoms under the sun-dappled haven they have created for themselves. Refrigerator harmonies as cool as the beer they rap about, melodies as dizzying as L.A’s board-walk rollercoasters and stitched samples of 80’s soul, jazz and hip-hop come together like a cascade of coins that spills out after drawing a lucky line of four fruits on a particularly woozy summer’s night. Text by Ange Suprowicz
Must Hear Tracks: Goldblum, Baby It’s Good, Nitro, Smile Artist: Oddience @Facebook www.weoddience.com Album: Um, Yes You Can Label: Sharper Image Release Date: 11 December 2013 Genre: Psychedelic DripHop Country of Origin: California, USA