It seems fitting that such a game-changing, bizarre group like Animal Collective would be the first to warrant an unconventional post from T&C. After listening to the free stream of their new album Centipede Hz several times, I had an impossible time picking a track to review. That’s not to say there aren’t phenomenal songs and brilliant moments like the screaming discomfort in “Today’s Supernatural” or the insanely good beat on “New Town Burnout.” Rather, I couldn’t escape the reality that the album’s ferocity and strangeness simply can’t be summarized by the moments that most clearly exemplify them. Animal Collective is famous (at times infamous) for reinventing their sound with each new album, and Centipede Hz is no exception. Tribal percussion and psychedelic instrumentation have replaced the sample pads and electronic drums of Merriweather Post Pavilion which had previously replaced the tom drum and spooky guitars of Feels. Tare’s spacial philosophy (however effected by drugs) is as dizzying and fascinating as the warbling synthesizers around his voice, and likely as brilliant. But it’s not always easy to make sense of this madness, and I’m not sure that it’s important to do so. Animal Collective creates moods and emotions, drawing on verbal imagery and cacophonous instrumentation. Centipede Hz does so with profound attention to detail and wonderful musical originality. If accepted on its own terms, it’s probably a masterpiece.
Listen to the album and watch the accompanying videos here.
I can’t speak for my co-blogger Colin, but I’m convinced Captain Murphy is the most exciting / mysterious / wtf-inducing artist of 2012 so far. As I’ve previously written, Murphy is an “anonymous” rapper most likely to be some combination of Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Flying Lotus, and a great number of filters and digital manipulation. The result? A new villain for west coast hip-hop unrivaled in the arenas of intrigue, originality, and creepiness. This time, he (they? it?) raps over the phenomenal pseudo-trap jam “Bugg’n” from TNGHT’s game-changing self titled EP. In the first minute, Murphy manages to reference Rachmaninoff, Star Wars, cocaine, and Sexy Beast. No official word yet on who Captain Murphy really is, but here’s hoping we see a mixtape soon.
Don’t get me wrong: this post isn’t really a recommendation, per se. Rather, it’s a post of obligation: it would just be wrong not to bring this to your attention. Snoop Dog is releasing a reggae album later this year, and has recorded several songs with Major Lazer in Jamaica. “La La La” falls somewhere in the crossroads of “not bad,” “probably awesome if I did drugs,” and “wtf?” What’s fascinating to me, though, is that Snoop actually seems to have found his voice in this project. As a permanent fixture in the pantheon of hip-hop, Snoop is essentially safe from harsh criticism, but let’s face it: he’s not a very good rapper. But here, simply singing “You reap what you sow / La la la / Oh yeah” with a lovely back-up vocalist, he seems at home! He sounds, dare I say, good. This song is not phenomenal. But it does have a great instrumental, thanks to Diplo, and it shows us what Snoop should have been doing all these years: comercial stoner reggae. And that’s enough for me to listen to it a few more times this summer.
Dan Deacon lives in a world of his own, and ought to be critiqued accordingly. This first single from his upcoming album Lots is aptly titled: frantic drum samples, euphoric backing vocals, and too fast for comfort tempo perfectly embody Deacon’s over the top attitude and style of overwhelming walls of sound. Since his first two albums, electronic dance music has taken the throne of popular music, even influencing underground hip-hop and the indie movement (or what’s left of it, anyways). One curse of EDM’s prevalence has been the codifying of its forms and certain aesthetics within particular sub-genres. Dan Deacon doesn’t seem to have noticed. “Lots” rips around bizarrely and uniquely, rocking fuzzy vocals and blazing synths set to an outrageous pace. Lacking subtly and awareness, this first cut tears through the fabric of popular electronic expectations in just under three minutes. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that Dan Deacon hasn’t listened to any music but his own in the last few years. And that’s part of what makes him so fascinating.
Jayson Greene’s recent (brilliant) review of Paul McCartney’s Ram provided me the opportunity to revisit this truly phenomenal album, the best effort of any of the Fab Four after the end of the Beatles era. Throughout Ram, McCartney jumps between characters and scenes without warning, creating a web of provocations and inklings that guide the aesthetic of each song. And in one of the albums most daring, complex tracks “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” he runs wild, speaking for somewhere between four and six characters or groups. Each is accompanied by a different theme performed by starkly contrasting instruments, much like a musical or opera. It would be wrong to say that “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” was ahead of its time. Rather, it was in a time of its own, suspended above that odd, early 1970s crossroads between the birth of drug rock, the end of the Beatles, and a growing experimentalism in psychedelic pop. Ram was just reissued on Hear Music.