What We're Listening To This Week 10/14/17

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"Lonely World" by Moses Sumney

Moses Sumney described his new album, Aromanticism, as “a concept album about lovelessness…that seeks to interrogate the idea that romance is normative and necessary.” On the LP’s riveting centerpiece, “Lonely World” (which originally appeared on the singer-songwriter’s 2016 EP Lamentations), Sumney explores this untraditional, decidedly uncommercial approach to popular music’s most pervasive obsession. With lines like “the void speaks to you in ways nobody speaks to you” and “after all the laughter, emptiness prevails,” it’s clear that Sumney is not in the mood for catching feels. His world is a world of isolation, completely distinct from the world of synthetic romance propagated by the American culture machine.  But instead of using music to further succumb to this sense of despair, Sumney deploys a stellar set of musicians and an incredibly imaginative arrangement to help him transcend it. Climaxing in an almost mantra-like repetition of the word “lonely,” set atop Ian Chang’s frenetic drumming and Thundercat’s blistering bass guitar work, Sumney transforms the track into a cathartic epic whose layers upon layers of sonic detail will reveal more pleasures with every listen. ~Steven Norwalk

 

We Think We Alone by Deem Spencer

Deem Spencer is an up-and-coming...something. It doesn’t feel all that necessary to put him in a box. Regardless, his Grandpa just died, and out of the heaviness of taking care of him, and later mourning his passing, came a 23-minute project titled We Think We Alone.  Spencer says “this tape reflects on me trying to understand harsh personal details during loud times and maturing from a young man a to man.” Even though this project is inward and personal, Spencer’s thoughts are broad meditations on original sin, and the plight of humanity on a collapsing Earth. The EP doesn’t feel neat, or even fully finished, but the eight stream-of-consciousness sketches (and one instrumental break) are enthralling scraps of painful genuineness. One gets the sense that this art is barely presentational. A lyric sheet is required to get every word. But the raw tone of the parched warbles is something prior to language. The beats are brillo pads upon which Spencer unfurls his mind--dragging out mumbled sequences like the bluish wisps Dumbledore extracts from his head while hunched over the pensieve. ~Noah Franklin

 

Love What Survives by Mount Kimbie

The season is changing, the leaves are turning, the cold and the rain are coming. Why not change your listening habits to match? The new Mount Kimbie record, Love What Survives, has the perfect amount of electronic moodiness to suit the chilly weather and early sunsets. It’s a wonderfully cohesive mishmash of arty pop tracks, post-dubstep beats, and indie dance tunes. I’ve loved the English production duo since their 2010 debut, Crooks & Lovers, and this record shows tremendous musical progression. The sound is darker overall, but there’s an organicity and hopefulness in those clever synth progressions and infectious beats. Stand out tracks include “Marilyn,” “You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure),” and “We Go Home Together,” the last of which features the haunting vocals of James Blake. Recommended if you like James Blake, Shlohmo, or Caribou. Listen on rainy days and public transport! ~Luke Cimarusti

 

偶然の確率” by Girl Next Door

Recently, I’ve gotten into a big Japanese pop phase in my music listening, and this 2008 single from Girl Next Door’s self-titled album is something I’ve been super into. This 7 minute song starts with a cool orchestral piano and strings intro but then incorporates an electronic groove with an extremely catchy chorus. It’s a fantastic piece of pop music that’s got everything I’ve been missing from the typical radio-friendly material here, and certainly is something different for the average music lover. Also, watch the music video for this song; its eclectic imagery complements the slick electro vibe really well. ~Jordan Pytosh

 

"You're the Best Thing About Me" by U2

U2’s recently released “You’re the Best Thing About Me,” is the second single from their upcoming album, Songs of Experience. The love anthem, complete with powerful guitar riffs, a catchy chorus, and a bridge worth belting at the top of your lungs, is the type of song that makes you want to take a drive with the windows down. The track’s wistful lyrics about a self destructive relationship are brilliantly contrasted by an upbeat tempo and light hearted melody, which may be a commentary on the complex nature of love. Bono, in a recent interview about their upcoming album said, “clear thoughts and big melodies — if they come from a true place, they not only capture the instant, they become eternal in a way.” “You’re the Best Thing About Me” captures those big ideas and refrains that Bono strives for. If U2 had the same success on the rest of Songs of Experience, then we have something to look forward to. ~Sam Baldwin

 

"Silence" by Marshmello ft. Khalid

What do you get when you blend Khalid’s R&B style with a sick EDM beat? Marshmello's recent hit “Silence” offers a banger as an answer. The song is a new way to listen to Khalid, because it parts ways with the beats and production that characterized his first album. You can still find Khalid’s familiar voice full of soul and passion, but it’s mixed with Marshmello’s flair, which together create a wholly new music experience that shows the whole is better than the sum of it’s parts. But, if we move past the actual sound of the song, its lyrics reveal a powerful message; they grapple with Khalid's struggle to build meaningful relationships with those he cares about. As he sings, “All this time, I’ve been hiding,” it's clear that he has been isolated from others, shielding himself from relationships as a means of personal protection. But over the course of the song, Khalid realizes that this shell is self-imposed, and that he is ready to build the connections he has been afraid of, closing each chorus with the line "I've been silent for too long." Khalid is making waves in the music world, and a prominent showing in a collab like this solidifies him as an artist to watch for many years to come. ~Kevin Chan

 

"Young Hearts Run Free" by Candi Staton

For anybody looking for girl-power, self-love anthems reminiscent of Chaka Khan and Tina Turner, Candi Staton’s "Young Hearts Run Free" is the one for you. This song makes me want to strut down the street, arms open wide, 80’s rom-com style. Its funky upbeat trumpets, soothing vocals, and strong message for independence and confidence make this a song to jam to, alone and in pajamas. The song itself has a darker story. Based upon her controlling and violent marriage to Jimmy James, Staton tells us, “young hearts, to yourself be true. Don't be no fool when love really don't love you.” Saton’s producer, Dave Crawford, wrote the song for her and was able to push James out of the picture as well. Still, Staton’s fun-loving energy shines through. Young Hearts Run Free, a catchy mix of soul and disco, was a chart-topper for Staton during the summer of 1976. With her fame, she was able to buy Elvis Presley’s limo and frequent New York’s Studio 54 nightclub (where Diana Ross was rejected at the door!). A perfect karaoke song, this song warms your heart, shakes your booty and gives you a minute to be kind to yourself. If you’d like a modernized version, be sure to check out Ralph’s version. When you see me doing the Cabbage Patch or dramatically reaching into the air, you’ll know why. ~Shenali Perera

 

"Empty" by Kevin Abstract

“Empty”, the first song off of Kevin Abstract’s sophomore album American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, sounds like he took a wide assortment of songs he liked and mashed them all together to create one amazing track. However, “Empty” also sounds like your new favorite song for the next month because of how brilliantly and seamlessly Kevin Abstract brings all of the different pieces together, despite his Dr. Frankenstein methods. “Empty” starts with a cinematic orchestral build up that sounds like it could be straight out of the new Star Wars movie; so, already off to a great start. But then it changes directions, fast, as it switches over to a bopping piano beat with Kevin Abstract slowly rapping along. He sounds dejected and fatigued, yet because of the piano it feels energetic and fun. The first verse invokes a desire to start dancing, even with the juxtaposition between the slightly melancholic lyrics Abstract spits and the effervescent essence of the beat. After the first verse, the brass (yes, brass) jumps in. Kevin Abstract kicks it up a little to match the instrumentals, and it just works. By the time the chorus starts to play, you’ve already been sold on the song, so when the second verse pops back in it’s impossible not to bop your head along with the piano. And that’s when Abstract pulls out the last trick in his bag- the outro beautifully features his autotuned vocals singing along to a children’s chorus. ~Peter Pribyl Pierdnock

 

"Changes" by Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley is the definition of a late-bloomer; born in 1948, he spent the majority of his adult life working odd jobs and moonlighting as a James Brown impersonator before being discovered in the late 90s by Gabriel Roth, the co-founder of Daptone Records. The label’s Stax and Motown-inspired aesthetic proved to be a perfect home for Bradley’s soulful croon and an ideal launching pad for the three excellent albums he released form 2011-2016. “Changes,” a cover of the 1972 Black Sabbath song and the title track from Bradley’s third and final album, features one of singer’s most show-stopping performances. His raw, soulful delivery, at times reminiscent of Otis Redding, wrings the emotion out of the ballad’s heartrending lyrics. Though, sadly, Bradley passed away from stomach cancer a couple of weeks ago, songs like “Changes” have ensured that he will be remembered as an important figure in American soul music. ~Steven Norwalk

Steven Norwalk