Amanda Petrusich describes Matt Berninger’s voice in her recent New Yorker article by conjuring up a somber image: “Listening to it, I often think of a deep-sea diver, weights slung low on his hips, being tugged toward the ocean floor.”
“Beautiful but a tad over-written”, joked my Mom when in awe, I read the passage out loud. But after a few glasses of wine and the appearance of thunderheads in the backyard, The National’s new album, Sleep Well Beast, and its gloomy opulence, fit the grooves of our night.
The National can either be crushingly depressing or wholly inspirational. Either way, it’s undeniable that Matt Berlinger’s voice is a magnetic force, a polarizing crack that goes straight to the source.
It’s the first day of fall. Not technically, but last night a crisp air flooded NYC and turned the leaves in Queens. From the Ridgewood M station platform, the flat roofs give way to the treetops in Highland Park.
Usually, I’ll throw on the headphones and avoid shifting eyes for the 48-minute commute into the city. Today, I actually see the other passengers: a boy running a toy truck along the window, a quiet woman juggling papers, coffee, and a cell phone, a brace-faced teen laughing with her friend while studying for a test.
Between the weather, the view, the unusually serene train ride, and the following song, my mind saves this memory as the mark of a new season.
George Fitzgerald’s debut album, Fading Love, is careering and moody. While the sound and temperament of the songs are consistent, many of the tracks are instrumental, which places the album in the choppy waters of the soundtrack genre.
Some movies have memorable soundtracks, where a particular song or suite of songs, evoke acute memories for a specific film and the time(s) and place(s) we watched them. Drive, The Darjeeling Limited and Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, come to mind for that reason. Yet, removed from their original contexts, movie soundtracks become adaptable, translated as the background music for deep concentration or travel.
No doubt, Fading Love has many of those qualities. The lead single, “Full Circle (feat. Boxed In), is a well-balanced, mid-tempo, blend of synthesizer pops and drumming over which a skulking voice broods about heartbreak. Maybe someone should cast it in the next sci-fi love story à la Her or Ex Machina.
Like many of Fitzgerald’s songs, “The Waiting” is driven by a scaling melody, that is, neither complicated nor over-produced. Not quite as pop-sensitive as Disclosure or as overwhelming as Caribou, George Fitzgerald has created a more somnambulistic sound. Though I’m unsure whether it’s the stuff of summer festivals, his songs should be a presence on your Deep Cuts playlist.
Last to the concert gets a bad seat. How come, in this age of overshare and well-populated search engines, do I still get to good bits of news late? Then again, I could of sworn I was listening to 10cc. Maybe it’s the ghost in the machine? Whatever it is, Gayngs, which indeed sounds ethereal, ghost-like at times, was worth ‘discovering’.
Gayngs is one out Justin Vernon’s many bands. The term side-project may not do the man justice, for, unlike his friend and collaborator Kanye West, Vernon has scuttled his main project and looks to venture into new musical acts so long as they feel right.
As such, best known from his high-pitched goodness as Bon Iver, Vernon left that identity in 2012, telling as much to Rolling Stone:
I look at it like a faucet. I have to turn it off and walk away from it because so much of how that music comes together is subconscious or discovering. There’s so much attention on the band, it can be distracting at times. I really feel the need to walk away from it while I still care about it. And then if I come back to it – if at all – I’ll feel better about it and be renewed or something to do that.
Previous and concurrent acts Vernon has been associated with include, in no particular order: Shouting Matches, Volcano Choir, Bon Iver, Eau Claire Jazz Memorial Ensemble, DeYarmond Edison & Mount Vernon. Robert Durst didn’t even have that many alibis.
Now, Gayngs which some may describe as a mega group, seems more like a collaborative act to me if we focus on Vernon’s role in the music. Vernon, who appears fond of 80s sounds — see “Beth/Rest” and The Outfield cover Bon Iver played of “Your Love” — hits the soft noise and electronic poings! and reverberating croonings of that decade to great effect in as a Gayngs member.
Some of their songs could have been the backdrop to a scene of Twin Peaks.
Others, update a vintage sound with modern preferences for noise, solos and rap-singing.
Then there’s “The Gaudy Side of Town,” which is a combo velvety-trancey-smokey record that does justice to the classic front man-backup singer dynamic, Vernon filling the rafters with his high-frequency wails. It’s a great listen, but, what’s next?
My buddy Sam was dead on. The guy at the turntables did not sound like Bonobo. Before arriving at 60th 6th street, I had always thought of Bonobo’s albums as background noise when studying for finals. His music was slow and meditative. The perfect soundtrack for deep contemplation and an anecdote for too much coffee.
But the guy standing in front of the black and white knobs, beneath a light that looked like an open tanning booth, didn’t sound like slow, contemplative Bonobo. Instead, his beats were electric, sound waves bouncing off the concrete walls like sonar.
The crowd responded with its own electric energy. Probably because the dank basement felt less like a SF bar and more like a scene out of Fight Club – sweaty t-shirts flailed and heaters lit up the crowd.
I had planned on taking videos at the show, but it became clear from the start that my phone belonged in my pocket.
Musical Proof: If Caribou’s “Can’t Do Without You” is a headfirst dive into a surge of romantic intensity, then Jack Garratt’s “The Love You’re Given” is the keening before a divorce. While its subject matter is something wretched, the intensity of the song is on par with Dan Snaith’s.
Remember Jack Garratt? The wünderkind is back with a scary good follow-up to his previous ballads. Bending a wailing vocal over what, in another lifetime, could have been the crux of a Kanye/Raekwon track, Garratt traces a dark arc here. A spooky twist comes about two-thirds of the way in, where what sounds like a downtempo Destiny’s Child belts something emphatic.
“The Love You’re Given” maps a faith counter to head-over-heels optimism. It leaves a chilly impression; like watching your Facebook News Feed at the moment you find you’re deepest relationship is terminal – the divorce that reels you back, spins you around and around, lest it feels like the stars are falling – until it’s settled in a crashing wave of pounding noise.
Or, does such an intensity prevent any separation, physical or mental? That a wail is only grief in its briefest of forms? A fading five minute looping sample?
The Brits are relentless! We’d like to introduce a couple of English blokes intent on blowing up the electronic scene: Maribou State, a duo hailing from London known for their atmospheric dubstep.
Don’t expect this stuff to jump start a party. Their sound is dark and cerebral – the type of music you put on as your plane takes off from the runway. So the next time you’re in the mood for the heady activity of your choice (me: night time bike ride through city streets), don those noise cancelling headphones and vibe to Maribou State.
Fascinating song by the British duo, Mount Kimbie. Their dis-harmonic style will definitely test your musical boundaries. Certainly not a song designed for partying or any group setting for that matter. This one lives in your head as a production masterpiece.
Give er’ time to build.
“I remember the first show we ever did – actually getting paid money to play in this church in Oslo. It was a really bizarre feeling, almost like we’d cheated the system.”
*Editor’s note: After posting this I realized that Francois posted Made to Stray over a year ago. We weren’t even tagging our posts back then. Touche Frankie.