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Posts Tagged ‘Dance Punk’

Foals are a five-piece electro-pop outfit from UK. They make swank pop music, a recipe for tenderness that gives way to arrhythmic head-nodding. Sometime this February they leaked out a promotional track, Spanish Sahara, from their soon-to-released Total Life Forever album. It starts with the twinkling of keys, giving way to hollow reverbs, sweetly echoing in our ears; their singer Yannis Philippakis crooning promises about the Spanish sands, as electronic blips dart back and forth, daring us to dance to its dying heartbeat. If this doesn’t end up in my favourite songs of 2010 list, I’ll just extend the dam list to include one more.

*****

Synth pop band Hot Chip are one of those indie darlings kicking alternative dance music in its rear, making it step it up and evolve into something more euphoric, more magnificently shroud in rich layers of infectious harmonies. This is the kind of music that can be fully appreciated when interpreted through another art form; in this case, contemporary dancing. I’m as much of a dancer as Queen Elizabeth II is a nubile virgin, so I’ll let you find the suitable words to summarize how you may feel listening to it. Start with Hot Chip’s fantastic cover of Joy Division’s Transmission; an emerging rival to Nine Inch Nails’ Closer as the best dam Joy Division cover song OMG-ROTFL-WTF-ever ever.

*****

I don’t fancy post-punk and noise rock. Incoherence of sound, be it guttural vocals, erratic snare drum or shrill guitar solos, is acceptable to me only served on a gargantuan canvas of doom and gloom by experimental metal bands like Sunn O))), Neurosis or Electric Wizard. When a bunch of well-dressed kids sporting fancy guitars pretend they are too intense to make any sense, they end up sounding like Facebook status messages, vicious in content but superficial in spirit. Just like how social media forums aren’t as rebellious as they claim to be, post-rock music just isn’t as badass. Scarecrows On A Killer Slant by Liars, a dance punk trio comprising Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill, Julian Gross, is an exception. Three sharp-dressed guys from New York, who look like they might lose a bareknuckle fistfight with the Jonas brothers, have crammed such fury into 4 minutes that it leaves us feeling exhausted. Their guitars groan, crash, and burn against manic percussion blasts, making our ears curl up in fear, as the vocalist angrily shouts, “How can they be saved from the way they live every day?” This is machine gun punk.

*****

Where were you, Maleficent Martini, a half a decade ago when I was listening to heavy metal with purpose? She’s the frontwoman of San Antonio dark wave metallers Maleficent and has a voice that is equally enchanting as it is blood-curdling, shrill, sensual and gnarly all at once. I tried listening to some of their studio tracks and while I wasn’t blown away I can safely say that they are light-years ahead of the theatrical sounds of Tristania, Nightwish or Lacuna Coil. Their awesome cover of the murderous ballad Where The Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue however did blow me away. Martini channels her inner Bob Dylan (of all people) as her nasal vocals, along with co-singer Mortimer Cain’s smothered growls, pierce through the guitar solos, telling Nick Cave’s story like it hasn’t been told before.

*****

Without cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller, Ra Ra Riot would sound like just another indie garage band. Not that it that wouldn’t have made for some interesting rhythm sections, but with the sweeping exoticism of those instruments they just sound infinitely better. The track Everest of their debut Ra Ra Riot EP is blistering evidence of this. A locomotive groove kickstarts the song, with the strings opening up ethereal spaces for the bass licks and percussion notes to run around in, without missing a beat. Wes Miles sounds a bit like a drunken version of Cedric Bixler (At The Drive In) but thankfully sobers up in time to hit the high notes.

Watch

Foals – Spanish Sahara

Hot Chips – Transmission

Maleficent – Where The Wild Roses Grow

Download

Ra Ra Riot – Everest (via beemp3)

Liars – Scarecrows On A Killer Slant (via Flux Blog)

Read

Interview with Maleficent Martini

Buy

Foals’ Antidotes

Hot Chip’s Warning

Liars’ Self-Titled

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I don’t get the hype over Animal Collective, considering their status quo as the indie darlings of 2009. Their album Merriweather Post Pavilion has topped many lists made over the past few weeks. It has critics dangling on its every hook and every lyric, and bloggers gushing over it, talking about it how is the best pop album since Beach Boys dropped Pet Sounds on the late Sixties. Like I said, I don’t get it. Animal Collective is too cutesy for me. Their orchestrated mess of melodies seems contrived and sometimes too lost in its own complexities. Sort of like indifferent people who make it a point to make others fully understand the extent to which they don’t give a fuck. Of course, there is that song No More Runnin. Probably the only song of their 2009 album that doesn’t turn me off. It moves effortlessly and strangely, daring you to move along with it. Like a mad, mad breeze.

*****

You should pay more attention to women like Neko Case, Regina Spektor and Cara Beth Satalino. Achingly delicate vocals and dreamy notes that would have your toes twitching in pleasure. Cara Beth is so conventionally unpopular that Google only has precious little information about her. She doesn’t dramatically croon. She doesn’t over accentuate monosyllables. She sure as hell doesn’t have one of her songs remixed by a member of her boyfriend’s posse. She sings, plays the piano, strums the guitar and probably yawns a lot after sex. Whatever. After listening to her sultry single Bizzaro, I say, shame on Google.

*****

Dance Punk. Electro Pop. Indie Disco. Irregardless of how you want pigeonhole MGMT, the bottom line is that they make incredibly catchy music. Their sophomoric album Oracular Spectacular lives up to the hype that preceded it. Chockfull of colourful guitar melodies and synthesized beats that wash over them, it rightfully should have invaded every dancefloor, along with Mika’s Life in Cartoon Motion, in 2007. The track The Youth has MGMT dreaming a dream that could make hippies collectively sob for three days. Even as they sing “this is a call of arms to live and love and sleep together, we could flood the streets with love or light or heat whatever,” you feel no anger. Only the strange sensation of music bringing out the optimist inside you.

*****

Mika is a cocktail of synth pop, cough syrup and Freddie Mercury. Some have compared him to Lady Gaga, but I can only see similar intentions. See, she fails where Mika succeeds – making ridiculously fun music that doesn’t insult one’s intelligence. If only Star World didn’t incessantly playing the chorus of Love Today to introduce every one of their dam sitcoms, it would sound infinitely more refreshing than it does. Grace Kelly is pitch perfect and if you haven’t shaken a hip to it, do it before life sucks all the fun out of you. Relax (Take It Easy) should be given an international bravery award. From the stupid song title and the sampling of a horrible 80s pop rock song (Cutting Crew’s I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight) to the infusion of techno and a chorus that goes “relax, take it easy for there is nothing that we can do”, it boldly goes to strange places and comes out sounding good. I’d totally go gaga over the prospect of him recording a Freddie Mercury tribute album.

*****

Israel-based Panic Ensemble, comprising Feldman, Kraus, Yarkoni, Golandsky and Yarkoni, is an art rock cabaret group that makes wonderfully whimsical music. Sometimes folkish, sometimes jazzy and always tight. “Spring From Your Heart” from their self-titled debut is one of my favourite discoveries of this year. There is something so very sensual about a delicate voice singing, “I’m closing down on you my butterfly, dance…so the stars will remember” as the rest of the band gently launches into an orchestral folk section. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Panic Ensemble!

*****

I loved the hell out of French indie band Phoenix when I first heard them on their fourth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix a few months ago. Their brand of shiny electronica rock music gave me sugary goosebumps then, but now they all seem so suddenly ordinary. And then I stumbled upon their epic Love Like a Sunset. Over seven minutes of beautiful post-rock riffing drenched in glossy reverb and shimmering acoustics. One of those songs that make me go “ahhh”.

*****

Who’d have thought the coming together of the discreetly Christian pop rock band (Coldplay) and an evidently mediocre East Coast rapper (Rick Ross) would make for such a spectacular mashup? More props to Plan B and his Paint It Blacker mixtape. If only he got someone else to write his lyrics, I’d hardly have to take him off my daily playlist.

*****

In 2007, The Hoosiers released The Trick to Life – one of the best modern garage pop albums since Blur’s Think Tank. These lads from Sweden sound notoriously drunk on coffee and high on the visceral energy of music. You might mistake them for White Stripes rip off # 23, but that’s only because bouncy garage riffs kickstart a few of their songs. The single Cops and Robbers struts around the speakers, with the swagger of garage rock and roll and a hint of the low-brow eccentricity that made bands such as Madness and Mighty Mighty Bosstones irresistibly likeable during the early Nineties. Stay tuned to their sophomore Album Deux.

Watch / Listen

Animal Collective – No More Runnin

Cara Beth Satalino – Bizzaro

MGMT – The Youth

Mika – Grace Kelly, Relax (Take It Easy)

Panic Ensemble – Spring From Your Heart

Phoenix – Love Like A Sunset

Plan B, Rick Ross and Coldplay – Hustling

The Hoosiers – Cops And Robbers

Buy

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion

Cara Beth Satalino’s Crowded Mouth

MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular

Mika’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much

Panic Ensemble’s Self-Titled

Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

The Hoosiers’ The Trick to Life

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