So in 2009 this happened. I did this. I don’t know why but it was funny
Albums I’m Listening To
A completely unnecessary post but I want to write some bullshit about music tonight so here goes
Angel Olsen - Strange Cacti(2010)
I must admit there is a place in my heart for folky singer/songwriter Angel Olsen. In addition to ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’, the first single from her new album, I’ve also been listening to her first proper release, a cassette called Strange Cacti. Both have their own virtues. Her newer stuff has got really rocky, and moved away from acoustic strumming, but the lyrical content is still there and still poignant. Her cassette, on the other hand, is bathed in a hazy flanger/reverb pedal, but once again it’s the vocals that take precedence. Also she ends the last track by just singing ‘fuck you! fuck you!’ over again, which is out of character for her, but I like it.
Majical Cloudz - Impersonator (2013)
Ignore the awful band name. Ignore the it’s-gonna-be-electronic-music album cover. Just don’t think about band branding and listen to this album, it’ll blow you away. Emotional, frustrated bald guy with thick eyebrows sings from the deepest reaches of his heart over sparse electro backing track. Look them up live on YouTube and he sings so painfully, and honestly, and it’ll make you cry.
James Ferraro - Night Dolls With Hairspray, Last American Hero(2010)
What the fuck is James Ferraro on, seriously. That is really all I want to say. This guy’s a cultural vulture, stealing more recently in his album NYC, Hell 3:00AM R&B beats and the sounds of a dirty city. But, in these two ‘albums’ (LPs?) we get to see Ferraro’s h-pop roots. And I think he thrives in tape hiss better than he does in electronic dirge, because there’s a bit more room for fucking around. On tape whatever you do, make sure you’ve got some reverb to it and it’ll be great. Hell, Last American Hero is simply two 30-minute songs. The second one repeats a [not very interesting] guitar riff for a good 15 minutes. But somehow it kinda works. Good background music but not exactly easy listening. Night Dolls is a weirder specimen of tape-era Ferraro, with creepy kids vocals sliced up from what sounds like 80s American high school movies. A couple of things work, a couple don’t. It’s a great atmosphere, though.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - FF» (2002)
Speaking of tape recordings, it seems I’m really into h-pop at the moment. Who better to listen to if getting into lo-fi than Ariel Pink? I’m a fan of Before Today and Mature Themes but I thought ‘fuck it’ and delved into his early work. FF» is fantastic. It really is. Pink knows exactly what he’s doing, and like Ferraro, he picks musical bits and bobs from the past and uses them for his own weird songs. But Pink’s far more accessible because he appropriates from pop songs. ‘One More Time’ is probably my favourite, which though rough and unsettling is actually a very clever piece of music. Go listen.
Allah Las - Allah Las (2013)
And now for some straightforward surf rock. Allah Las sound like the only record they own is Nuggets, so you can’t blame them for being a bit one-dimensional, but they’ve got the 60s surf vibe dead-on. Whether it’s in acoustic-centred songs like ‘Catamaran’ or some killer surf grooves in ‘Ela Navega’, the record’s a decent listen and has some good bits.
Ducktails - Landscapes (2009)
Aaaaand back to h-pop. Turns out before Ducktails made The Flower Lane, or even the relative listenability of Arcade Dynamics, they were right at the middle of the h-pop scene in 09/10. Ol’ Matt Mondanile was really working his 4-track, making some wonderful compositions on Landscapes (and, I assume, the preceding record too, but I can’t find anywhere to get it). Even the straightforward songs like ‘House of Mirrors’ are damn good. There’s a reason Real Estate are so successful.
White Fence - White Fence Live In San Francisco (2013)
I saw White Fence live last month supporting Ty Segall, and I was impressed by his live show. If it were a straight White Fence show, I’m sure it would have gone down better with the audience, but sadly people were there to listen to every track from Sleeper, not watch Tim Presley work his Jaguar like there’s no tomorrow. Everyone’s favourite dude John Dwyer recorded White Fence for this Castleface release, and if you like White Fence it’s a must. Just to listen to it and hear that there’s more to WF than those bedroom-sounding sprawling tracks of, say, Family Perfume. The live version of ‘Swagger Vets and Double Moon’ has been playing almost constantly over the past few weeks. Fuck, he goes so hard. And it works. “Don’t nobody say nothing you’ll regret…”
Sic Alps - Napa Asylum (2011)
I would never listen to this album all the way through regularly, but when you do (and it’s 26ish tracks long), it’s a really great trip into Sic Alps’ unusual way of doing things. Nonetheless there are some great tracks to be found, from single-style songs like ‘Eat Happy’ and ‘Jolly’ to more abstract, noisy pieces like ‘Ranger’ and ‘Trip Train’. I do miss Sic Alps and it’s a real shame they split, but hopefully more cool stuff will come in time. I also bought their single ‘Battery Townsley’ on vinyl and that sounds fucking rad, dude.
The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers (2006)
Oh god, whoever designed the cover to this album should be shot, or at least told to stay in 2006 and never move forward. Jesus it’s awful. But there’s some classy Jack White-and-others-I-don’t-care-about blues rock in the record, with highlights being ‘Steady as She Goes’ (you’ll know it) and the fantastic ‘Level’.
Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal (2010), Replica (2011)
Oneohtrix isn’t quite h-pop any more but he’s always an interesting listen. Not much changes between his records, which is a shame, so I really only like R Plus Seven, but these two preceding albums are each good in their own, not very different way. Replica is R Plus Seven with some different ideas, and Returnal is a bit more noisy and scattered.
Swans - The Seer (2012)
I always ignored Swans, considering them too weird and just too fucking long to appreciate. But, despite its colossal and almost overbearing length, The Seer deserved all the praise it got. Apocalyptic, satanic, dark, noisy, droney, horrific; it’s all that and more. Glorious.
Rangers - Low Cut Fades (2009), Scrap (2013)
How can we end a Listening post with so much h-pop in it without mentioning my fave, Rangers? After quickly listening to and loving both Rangers LPs, these two are cassettes consisting of 30-minute pieces. Low Cut Fades preceded the albums, and is a wonderful trip from normality to Joe Knight’s stoned brain and back (twice). I really wish I could find that story of these guys who did shrooms and listened to it, but it’s been deleted. Wah. On the other hand, Scrap came after the albums, and it’s much more produced. But it’s also a double cassette, so that means 4 tracks. So that means 2 hours of Rangers’ lo-fi drone. Gotta admit, even for me, that’s too much. I had to listen to it over a few days, just because. But it’s still decent shit! Listen to it kids!
Albums I’m looking forward to in 2014
Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Black Lips - Underneath the Rainbow
DIIV - tbc
Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
Radiohead - tbc
Real Estate - Atlas
St Vincent - St Vincent
Temples - Sun Structures
Thee Oh Sees - tbc
MAC’S BACK WOOOO
My new record is finally finished! Ladies and gentlemen, I present Dusk at Castle Farm, an EP under my pseudonym Erno.
The EP consists of four weird and wonderful ambient tracks:
1. ‘Zabriskie Point’, which was the first song I made since I’ve been at uni, which was heavily inspired by Rangers and Oneohtrix Point Never. Surprisingly it hasn’t changed much since I released it as a single.
2. ‘No Woods’, which features some weird fuzz solos that were also inspired by Rangers.
3. ‘W. Hill’, which is probably my favourite song on this record, because of its simple, laid-back chord progression and its unusual bassline that powers the song along.
4. ‘Dusk at Castle Farm’, which is the only real strumming-chord-progression song. But that doesn’t matter. This one’s an acoustic piece with two guitars, interacting with each other.
I hope you all like it, and if you do, please share it with people!
The Fourth Song from my next record
So now they’ve all got a theme of some sort - they’re meant to all describe a certain place, at a certain time. At the end of the summer I did a photoshoot in a lavender field at dusk, with a few of my friends. For some reason, the first song I made reminded me of that night. So I decided to make a concept record, about that field at dusk on that summer day. There’s some variation in the songs: #2 sounds like a chibi version of a rock song stereotyping itself from a passing car’s speaker, whereas #1 and #4 (above) are slower, ambient, dark. #3 is a strange beast and will need a lot of rerecording before I consider it good enough to include. I hope to record a good ol’ chord-progression strumming song as well to end the record, but we’ll see about that.
As for #4, which I just finished, it’s the happy combination of a chord progression I made up a month ago and a bassline inspired by some song I heard in the hairdressers. Simples.
Guess who’s back in the musicmakin’ game? Yep it’s your buddy William N. Dalton and his imaginary band Erno, with his first new song since P.G.R. was released in August.
This one’s heavily influenced by h-pop and experimental music I’ve been listening to recently: Rangers, Ducktails, Oneohtrix Point Never, James Ferraro. The basic structure is very much Rangers, maybe too similar to ‘The Mule’ but nevermind. Then there’s a whatevs lead guitar, and - get this - A DRUMKIT! Not a real one, but a GarageBand fake one. And hey, with a heck of reverb, it sounds good. I couldn’t do pots n’ pans percussion this time (living with other people who might not ‘get it’), so instead I keyboard-typed the drums. And it sounds decent.
Also, there’s a dab of occasional phaser-drenched ‘slap guitar’, which is kinda inspired by Blood Orange’s album Cupid Deluxe, which is an excellent PBR&B album, let me just say. Anyway there’s offbeat slap bass in that so I included a bit of offbeat ‘slap guitar’ here.
Hope y’all like it, hopefully this song will lead to a release at some point in the next few months. When I get back home for Christmas, and back to my bass (the bass in ‘Woodland Point’ is faked), maybe some of the rest of the ideas I have floating in my head will find realisation. It’s weird how this song basically wrote itself, and it’s so simple… a bleak riff became the bassline, the strumming is just Em and E, alternating, then the lead guitar is noodling on the Em scale. Yet this song, of all the songs I’ve written, has the firmest musical foundation: strumming, bass and drums all seem to form one coherent chunk, like a granite block at the centre of the song. The lead guitar noodles its way on top of that, and at some points the fabric is changed slightly (drums stop, more static, etc), but that foundation is still there. Huh, weird.
OK, so I usually write some sort of blog post when it’s my birthday. In earlier years a post would go on Johnspace, or my Twitter, or god even my Facebook. This year the only place I see fit for such a post is here, on my Tumblr.
This year (yesterday) I’m 19. Which feels really, really big. 18 means you’re an adult and 20 means you really are an adult, but 19 is some uni age in between. Fittingly, I’m at uni now (Central St Martins, London) and making new friends and having new experiences and everything. It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on, really. I don’t have much to say here. Maybe I’ll summarise it better at a later date.
I’ve been busy with uni which means there’s little progress with What Hype 2, which I’m sad about, but we all have to accept. Also, I finished a collection of short stories about a month ago which is called So Far, it’s a collection of my writings from the past few years, with a few photos. I’m in the process of perfecting the design, then maybe I’ll write up about that when it’s done.
A couple of albums I’m listening to at the moment:
New Order - Power, Corruption and Lies (1983) [not sure exactly what this is all about, considering I’m not a Joy Division fan, but for some reason I like the dancey post-punk-meets-electronic thing these guys have got going on. ‘5 8 6’ is too good to ignore.]
Deap Vally - Sistrionix (2013) [two women make blues/hard rock that sounds like something the White Stripes might’ve made if Jack White was a) a feminist b) a woman and c) a bit shit at playing guitar. Nonetheless the singer has a brilliant voice.]
SKATERS - ‘I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)’, ‘Deadbolt’ (2013) [these guys are from NYC but sound like some Cali indie favourites like Howler or FIDLAR. They’re a bit less snotty and a bit more RnB and electro, but they’re super catchy. Look out for their debut album, I bet it’ll be great.]
Dr. Feelgood - Down By The Jetty (1975) [way back when I was a kid, my dad used to listen to a lot of Dr. Feelgood, who were a blues rock band from Essex, England. They’re a bit corny but they got groove. Just, just, just listen to ‘Roxette’]
KissKiss Karate Passion - I Can’t (2013) [I came across these guys on a blog featuring garage rock bands, but I can’t necessarily say they’re garage rock. They’re French, and really weird, writing songs about shooting dogs and not being able to have sex (for some reason). However they run a pretty tight sound. Don’t judge them on their singer’s weird voice, and maybe start with ‘Long Hair BB’.]
Haim - Days Are Gone (2013) [I try my best to stay away from the mainstream, and not listen to what everyone else is listening to, but hell I just can’t ignore Haim. I’m putting my snob hat away and saying, I love this album. It’s not fluffy 00s/10s pop, it’s like a classic 80s pop album, with gorgeous melodies and a healthy balance between modern pop’s electronic touches (‘If I Could Change Your Mind’) and traditional guitar music (‘My Song 5’). Maybe not a classic, but certainly damn good.]
MGMT - MGMT (2013) [Yeah, I’ve lost track of where MGMT are going. Oracular was fantastic in its own way, then Congratulations was - a curveball, yes, but still a classic, of a different kind. Now, with their third album, MGMT have delved deeper into the universe of Congratulations, and we’ve lost them to their whimsies. It has its moments - ‘Alien Days, ‘Cool Song #2’, ‘Plenty More Girls in the Sea’ - but ultimately it’s a disappointing mess. So much for MGMT.]
Fuzz - Fuzz (2013) [I love Ty Segall as much as the next - erm, OK maybe it’s just me who loves him. Anywho Fuzz is a bit too intense, a bit too heavy for my liking. It has some great bits - ‘Loose Sutres’ and ‘Sleigh Ride’ - but there’s no break, it’s just full-on for 8 tracks, which then makes it fairly monotonous. ‘Loose Sutres’ nailed it by contrasting loud with quiet, using drum solos as a break. But sadly the album as the whole doesn’t have enough time to give ample contrast to the volume.]
The Dirtbombs - Ooey Chewy Gooey Ka-blooey! (2013) [Pitchfork may have slated it but I find there’s a strange part of me that loves the Dirtbomb’s bubblegum opus. It’s awful, it’s corny, it’s cliché, and yeah maybe the singer’s voice isn’t correct for bubblegum, but these guys nail it nonetheless. The only problem is that there isn’t really place for a straight bubblegum record in today’s industry, so sadly Ooey doesn’t have much longevity.]
Perfect Pussy - I have lost all desire for feeling (2013) [demo from angry no-fi punks who, if you’re into that, are pretty fucking good. I’m not really a massive fan of noisy, scuzzy hardcore punk, but there are times when the singer’s voice is just perfect, like a slice of humanity in the middle of chaos. I guess that’s just riot grrrl, though.]
The Strange Boys - Nothing (2007) [EP from lo-fi 60s-throwback band that you can probably imagine pretty well in your mind. The riffs are simple, but effective. Just give the descending melody of ‘Nothing’ your time, it’s good fun.]
Bazooka - Bazooka (2013) [Speaking of fun, these Greek garage rocker’s debut album may at first seem incredibly referential (‘Summer Song’ is a carbon copy of a Ramones song), but admire their skill. It’s a crazy, loud, energetic album. You just can’t help thinking they know what they’re doing, like on my album highlight ‘Mountain S.A.’, when a crazy whammy-bar breakdown builds until it bursts into the chord progression again. Glorious.]
Rangers - Suburban Tours (2010), Pan Am Stories (2011) [Rangers is lo-fi murk of the murkiest order. Just think of Real Estate's happily mundane riffs and blurry psychedelia. OK, now move from Real Estate to Ducktails. Imagine that as an arrow and follow that arrow far, far, far away, and you’ll find Rangers. It’s lo-fi psychedelic soundscapes that are so lo-fi and so psychedelic that they’re musical blurs. First album Suburban Tours bundles Rangers’ sound into manageable songs, whereas Pan Am Stories lets them run free a bit more, such as in ‘Zeke’s Dream’. For some reason I find myself liking Pan Am Stories more, but they’re both quite tough listens.]
Also listening to, but not yet formed an opinion on:
Bill Callahan - Dream River (2013)
Bonobo - The North Borders (2013)
Destruction Unit - Deep Trip (2013)
Foxygen - Take the Kids Off Broadway (2012)
Joy Division - Closer (1980)
The Reatards - Teenage Hate (1999)
Royal Headache - Royal Headache (2012)
The Stooges - The Stooges (1969)
Tyvek - Nothing Fits (2012)
Waxahatchee - American Weekend (2012), Cerulean Salt (2013)
The Weeknd - Trilogy (2011)
Woods - Bend Beyond (2012)