Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sounds of Iceland, Part I

Recently spent a few days in Reykjavik on the way back from the UK and got into the quite awesome music scene over there.  Actually, I've been into Icelandic music for a while but didn't get a chance to experience it first-hand until now.

Most of the record shops in RVK (yeah I'm cool like that) are just full of overpriced vinyl but I did find this nice shop/record label called 12 Tónar where I was able to sit around listening to CDs and drinking coffee for free!  Bloke there recommended I check out the INNIPÚKINN music festival over the holiday weekend.  I asked another guy for an Icelandic experimental electronic music recommendation.  Among the acts he suggested was Futuregrapher.  I ended up buying his last album Skynvera which you can listen to here:
Sounds quite good on headphones, like Aphex Twin which is probably what he was going for.  Can't really get into it properly though (also like Aphex Twin).

Sunday, August 16, 2015


It's been a while since I posted and that's because I'm in the midst of a pretty major life change.  After eight years living in the same apartment building in Arlington, VA, and after living on the East Coast of the US since 2002, I've moved down to Dallas, TX to see how things go down here.  It's quite a drastic change but I'm taking it day by day; it'll probably be a few months before I have any solid thoughts on life here.  Right before I left I heard a couple of good songs while all my stuff was slowly getting packed away, both on 6 Music.  First up is a Zomby remix of a track by an artist called Gwilym Gold.  I don't know a whole lot about him but I found this track terrifically moody:

Next, a Matthew Herbert track from his latest album, The Shakes.  I've been meaning to post about the album for a while but I'm only just getting around to it.  There was a free preview stream up and several of the tracks were good, so I'm glad I got a reminder about it.  Bonus!  The video features Rough Trade East:

I'm getting some Basement Jaxx vibes without the annoying aspects.

I drove down here by myself a little over a week ago.  Before going on the trip I got together a lot of music to keep me entertained.  It seemed like a great opportunity to listen to some new albums without too many distractions, and maybe some podcasts too.  In the event it didn't really work out that way.  This road trip was 1300 miles but I've done shorter ones in the past and found that what keeps me most awake is actually talking to people on the phone.  Music seems to fade into the background, and even podcasts don't involve me taking enough of an active role.  So, sadly, I didn't do as much listening as I would've liked.  I did do a bit though, including the rather surreal experience of driving on the freeway in the Tennessee night while listening to Burial -- completely out of context but still great!  I also listened to some XLR8R mixes and the newest Tame Impala album.  That one I first came across during an earlier part of this transition; I heard it in Dearborn Music playing over the speakers the day before it came out.  It's one of those rare albums that I've found quite engaging almost the whole way through, and I've heard it a few times already.

Their hazy psychedelia and a summer road trip to the American Southwest went together like... chips and salsa.

Since getting here I've heard a little bit of radio and been pleasantly surprised.  I've found a couple of independent stations without even trying, including KXT, which bills itself as the independent music station for North Texas.  I was listening to it last night and came across a couple of tunes I'll share.  The first band, the Flowers of God, are even based in Dallas.  Can't tell if they're a religious band, but I do like the tune regardless.  The other track is by the Doobie Brothers.  Nuff said.

Any big change can be challenging, but I'm hoping to keep a positive mindset and make the most of this.  Hopefully that will include more radio and checking out local record stores, and maybe even going out!  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, and Kim Gordon

Over two nights I watched the groundbreaking and well-received documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. Like countless others I'm a casual fan of Nirvana and own a copy of Nevermind. You grow up hearing about Kurt and what happened to him and what he did to himself. I've never read any of the books or seen any films about him though, until this one.

What's so great about Montage is its use of archival footage. The filmmaker had full authorization from Courtney and Frances and so he got access to everything-Kurt - his journals, drawings, paintings, recordings, home videos, etc etc. I read somewhere that 85% of this film is new, unseen footage. There are few actual talking-head interviews, and even so they're only with his close family and with Kris from Nirvana. Apparently Dave was interviewed but for some reason wasn't included in the final cut. I wonder what he had to say.

The film is disturbing at parts, mostly due to Kurt's own drawings, at least for me. The guy was seriously disturbed from a young age. I've had a fair amount of experience with mental health/illness, and it seems to me Kurt should have received serious therapy since at least his teenage years. The stuff that he was drawing, what he was writing, etc - the guy needed help but couldn't get it, because hey we know that poor people in this country have great access to healthcare, right?! And by the time Nirvana blew up and Kurt had money, he was already a heroin addict...still, if only someone had taken him to see someone. Maybe it would've been too little too late, and also, what's the point of doing all these what-ifs - still for me, from a mental health perspective, it was clear that Kurt needed professional help. Actually, maybe someone did try to get him to a mental health professional, what do we know after all.

Since most of the film consists of Kurt's own artistic outputs, its kind of like seeing things from his perspective, or as close as we can get to that. May he rest in peace inshallah.

Since watching the film I read about Kurt and Frances, and about Nirvana, and came upon videos of Nirvana being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year in 2014. It was at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and was open to the public - if only I had known! Dave, Kris, and Pat performed, and for Kurt's vocals they had 4 female singers. It was a pretty great nod to Kurt's feminism. Joan Jett and St Vincent I feel were good, but they also just kind of imitated Kurt's recorded vocals. Lorde did her own thing but I don't think it really worked.

Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth though - wow, what a revelation. I LOVE THIS PERFORMANCE. I think its how Kurt would've done it and/or he would've definitely approved. Kim is badass and punk to the core here. I love it. I've been watching it on repeat.

I've included the full video of all 4 performances so that you can compare. Kim's starts around 15 minutes in.

The New Yorker did a piece on Kim and here's a bit about this mindblowing performance:

"The performances with Lorde, St. Vincent, and Jett had an odd, denatured quality that left both song and singer exposed, missing the viscera of the thing and, in effect, the point. For her number, though, Gordon chose “Aneurysm,” not a hit but a B-side, released on the 1992 compilation “Incesticide.” Wearing a black-and-white striped minidress of the sort she favored in the early nineties, Gordon seemed to pull the song from her guts and trap it in her throat, her body switching, bouncing, and lurching to get it free. “Love you so much it makes me sick,” she spat, “Uhhhhhh-huhhhh.” Not a singer, exactly, Gordon was perhaps the only hope for a song like “Aneurysm,” which in the absence of its author requires less a vocalist than a medium for translation.

In the final pages of “Girl in a Band,” Gordon’s sober, ruminative new memoir, she recalls that night. One of her first appearances following her split from her husband and former bandmate, Thurston Moore, for Gordon the performance became “a four-minute-long explosion of grief,” a purge involving both “the furious sadness” of Cobain’s death, twenty years earlier, and the recent end of her nearly thirty-year marriage, her band, and whomever she was inside of both. Afterward, Gordon reports with some pride, Michael Stipe told her that her singing was “the most punk-rock thing to ever happen, or that probably ever will happen, at this event.”

I've been listening to more Nirvana of course since watching Montage, but I'm also gonna read Kim's book and check out her tunes. Rock on Queen Kim! 

Jamie XX at Terminal 5

Saturday August 8th I went to a proper show after a long, long time. I found out Jamie was on tour the day after tickets went on sale; they were already sold out. I got a pair of tickets on Craigslist though for a decent price. The girl I bought them from was a blonde from California, with a gross boyfriend who was all over her. Anyway, I found a friend to go with and there we were at the gig!

I haven't actually bought Jamie's album "In Colours" yet but I know the main tracks off of it. I dunno why everyone likes "Good Times"...its a weird tune to me. I prefer "Sleep Sound", "Girl", and "Loud Places", which I wrote about here.

The opening guy was Mike Simonetti. He DJ'd for TWO HOURS. Two flipping hours. Not only that, but he was pretty terrible. His set had some good moments but they were few and far in between. His set had no flow to it I felt.

Jamie came on finally to everyone's relief at 11. I've listened to a few of his sets so I'm pretty familiar with how he builds up things and with what he plays. The highlights of his show were definitely his own tunes, especially everyone singing along to "Loud Places". Also "Girl" at the end was a win. The other stuff he played though was ok...the other sets I've heard of his are better. For some reason this one seemed a bit random and not as good of a soundscape, in my opinion.

Still, I'm glad I went. One nice thing was how diverse the crowd was, much to my surprise. I thought it'd be all white hipsters. That really wasn't the case. It was a good night, got fish and chips after and was able to take the train home, didn't have to pay for a taxi, woohoo!

Photos by my friend Sarah R.