Mura Masa – Blue feat. Damon Albarn

Mura Masa wasn’t on any particular musical radar I kept. Mostly, dipping into the memory banks here, when I hear the artist’s name, I countenance the image of a pretty girl in college: two years older, sorority member, laughably out of my league, and an audiophile. We stayed in touch, however, despite my better senses telling me it was perhaps best to put distance between sophomoric crushes out here in the ~real world~. When I saw her last it was autumn. We got dinner and drinks at a noisy Nolita taqueria. Neither of us is particularly loud and, well, you know how pretty girls listen but don’t hear. This was also the night I learned what Vetements is, but that’s a blog for another day. As a popular and raucous song began to play above us, we trapezed back some years and into the unique comfort of a running conversation: songs that sound good on paper but fail upon execution.

It was a tune designated for a land of shadows I call Sweetgreen Music™. Meaning, the song cashes in on the magic of Millennial pop by being of several styles and sensibilities at once without offending anyone. There’s a playlist for everything now, it seems. Mura Masa’s “Love$ick” is a top-earner in the Sweetgreen Music™ economy. We both hated the track. She thought A$AP Rocky soils the virgin production with his warm weather drive-by raps. The original orchestration wasn’t fetching. Though I thoroughly get down with the Four Tet remix of the track.

A graduate of the School of Soundcloud (RIP?), Mura Masa is the nom de plume of 21-year-old Brit, Alex Crossan. His self-titled debut album is here, and the immediate, overwhelming feeling goes as such: sheesh, what are the rest of us doing with our lives, huh? It’s a party album, made for dancefloors and, inescapably, Sweetgreens everywhere as well. What stands out most amidst the bubbling production, rippling and hefty bass lines, afrobeat and dancehall instrumentation, and is conspicuous even among the featured artists (basically a who’s who of i-D, Dazed, or Paper cover stories), is the track “Blu.” An early single and, now, the finale to the album, here is a track for the days ahead.

Damon Albarn lends his unmistakable tenor to the leisurely plod and 808s-rife song. In the background are, as the British musical icon waxes on about a sanguine kind of love, whizzing noises and harp strums. Near the end, there’s only a softly plucked acoustic guitar and Albarn’s magnified, reverberating voice. Finally, the music drifts for a beat and muffled London street noises become evident—where they there the whole time? Lasting for over thirty seconds, the innocuous sounds play the album out.

Albarn, of course, is a polymath and band savant. He’s the frontman of Blur, creator of Gorillaz, and just generally has his hands in all sorts of pots. The most recent Gorillaz album, out earlier this year, was, well, a lot. The personal and critical consensus seems to agree; it’s good in the gestures-of-approval-kind-of-way that doesn’t necessarily satisfy. The deluxe edition is out soon and promises more tracks, perhaps great ones. But why settle for an opus when a song will do? Demon Days was a gateway album for me and young Crossan (who told The Fader as much), revealing to us both the possibilities of music without boundary. Of combined genres, sounds, artistry, and visuals. It’s a weird, sonic showcase that seems to make a point of its genius by being playful and apocalyptic at once. Albarn made up a band, for chrissake. I still haven’t quite recovered. Nothing that outstanding had graced MTV since Kanye West who, dressed as a bear mascot, flipped rap on its head.

Perhaps, all of this is a roundabout way of suggesting that I unreasonably stress over any new output from Albarn. Can he be Demon Days great again? A dumb question, sure. I understand that our past both informs and haunts our every move, both in creative endeavors like music writing as it does in mundane procedures like figuring out lunch. Sometimes you want music that will free you from your teenage ennui. Other times you just need Sweetgreen. “Blu” is a cryptic lullaby. It is also over a half a minute of nothing. And, on repeated listen, it plays its hand. A couple of talented artists—one who impressed me and another who’d done similar to a years-ago crush—from across the ocean combined their talents and made something exceptional. We are all different people in different places now. “Blu” is what I hope to hear more of, wherever I am.

Shoutout to the good folks at Cymbal for sharing their Universal Player with the world. It’s easy, good looking, and intuitive. Like me.

Advertisements
Trouble Knows Me, Samuel T. Herring, Madlib, Hip-hop

Trouble Knows Me

Genre blends, they’re mostly quirky if not plain ol’ repugnant, but when it works, another light bulb turns on in the Bat Cave of your mind. Samuel T. Herring, the frontman of Future Islands, and the rapper-producer Madlib have released a self-titled track under the moniker Trouble Knows Me.

Find this bit of #existentialrap on Cymbal

Leon Bridges – Coming Home

Sometimes a song will remind you of another song. It’ll strike as reminiscent; sometimes it’s as a knockoff; sometimes it’s a better compliment to that music which you already listen to. When it comes to American heritage music, the case for authenticity is, as they sang from Motown to the bayou, a long, difficult road.



Leon Bridges’ body of work immediately reminds you of something you heard, at least, once before. His debut album, Coming Home is a compact collection of 10 works — all originals — that are the ghosts of the revered and oft-cited genres of Billboard Charts past. Bridges is an act of several talents. He sings gospel, soul, and rockabilly in the manner and efficiency of the 50s and 60s stars he emulates. A Texan of the Internet Age, Bridges looks as his music sounds: In short, he’s a Sam Cooke simulacrum. His lyrics are anodyne. The instruments he employs as well as the length of his songs are equivalent to those sixty years ago. He is, however, the benefit of excellent studio production skills.



This music, the contemporary blues, soul, funk, and folk is an affair of the genuine mixing with the hit-making. It isn’t enough for Bridges to sound like Al Greene or Big Mama Thorton. That his music apes their sounds is not inherently a bad thing — it’s enjoyable, really — yet, it is bothersome to hear the past so well duplicated. That he doesn’t (or has not yet) done anything new is what makes Bridges troublesome. The music of the 50s and 60s holds such a heavy sway over a certain set of modern artists that they cannot write a tune without criticism from the old guard. (Though the repackaging of music for commercial gain is a perennial industry gambit.) The Black Keys, for instance, who’ve been playing the same songs on every one of their albums, had to turn the blues into pop records in order to succeed. Perhaps, one of the few artists who’s managed to add something new to the catalogue, so to speak, is Michael Kiwanuka, and he’s British.



Bridges has the ungainful status of being both obsessively vintage and couched in the contemporaneous. It is not an enviable status. His music comes off as innocent, unaffected by the complications of life outside of the simpler happinesses and sadnesses of his, and so many other pop singers’, songs. Yet, so long as we enjoy listening to Coming Home, dancing to it, singing along with it, we at once replicates the music he emulates as well as leave the past behind for something so new our grandparents would of payed to have it on their local jukebox.

Movies, Deep Cuts, Francois, George Fitzgerald, Music For Thought, The Waiting, Full Circle, Debut, Boxed In, Lawrence Hart, Soundtracks, The Aftermath Muzak,

George Fitzgerald – The Waiting (feat. Lawrence Hart)

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.

Gayngs – The Gaudy Side of Town (Live)

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?