Dirty Beaches - “Love Is The Devil”
Taiwanese-born globetrotter Alex Zhang Hungtai has two new records in the works for his retro-focused Dirty Beaches project, following up 2011’s dusty Badlands LP. Released earlier today on his personal YouTube channel, “Love Is The Devil” is the first taste of Dirty Beaches’ forthcoming albums. It’s a brooding, melancholic swath of instrumental ambience, oscillating between hollow synth drones and warm, crackly strings. It evokes a lot of the same feelings that The Caretaker's eerily nostalgic An Empty Bliss Beyond This World procured when it was released back in 2011, and I wouldn’t be surprised if James Kirby’s work was a large influence on this track. Fans of Hungtai’s Presleyan moans might miss the absence of his voice, but there will likely be plenty of that on at least one of the upcoming records.
Accompanying the YouTube video in which this song was debuted is a Bukowski quote that might offer some more direct insight into Hungtai’s inspiration:
"Love is a fog that burns with the first daylight of reality."
Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Day 3 Recap
I’m sorry for not posting this earlier. I meant to put it up yesterday but I didn’t get around to it. Anyway, the last day of the Pitchfork Music Festival surprised me by how great it was. My apprehension going in was not about the quality of the bands, but rather the quantity — the Sunday lineup was stacked with tons of great bands that I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch all of. Somehow, everything managed to work out nicely, and I ended up seeing more bands on this day than any other.
The day began with a 1:00 PM set by Dirty Beaches, the nostalgic rock & roll project of Alex Zhang Hungtai. Hungtai brought a silent, sunglasses-wearing guitarist along for the show, but his presence couldn’t really be felt until at least 10 minutes into the show. Dirty Beaches began with a lengthy and boring instrumental drone that they really could have done without, but once they kicked into “A Hundred Highways,” the show got a lot more interesting. Although they closed with the rollicking rockabilly number “Sweet 17,” they didn’t play either of their excellent quieter pieces, “True Blue” or “Lord Knows Best.” This was a disappointing start to the day.
As far as I’m concerned, the real kickoff to Day 3 began with the next band. Danish punks Iceage played the green stage, delivering their caustic brand of post-punk with utmost despondency. Numerous technical setbacks during their set only made the teenaged band even more despondent — It was hard to tell what they were saying due to their accents, but I’m pretty sure frontman Elias Rønnenfelt told the crowd to fuck off at least a few times. Nevertheless, the crowd ate it up. Iceage’s set incited the biggest and most intense moshpit at the festival since Japandroids' set two days before. Iceage are frankly not an amazing band, but their set was loud and aggressive enough to get me into the pit, and ultimately that's what matters.
Ty Segall Band
Although they didn’t surprise me quite as much as Sleigh Bells the day before, the next act definitely surpassed my expectations from them. The Ty Segall Band, who released their debut album Slaughterhouse this year after a string of Ty Segall “solo” albums, brought a rabid intensity to their live show that I only wish their album could have captured. When they played “Girlfriend,” a gem from 2010’s Melted, I couldn’t help but crowdsurf, eliciting a few surprised “It’s Intern Chris!” shouts from the audience. Damn, this band was just great. Although we missed Thee Oh Sees due to a set time conflict with Ty Segall, we headed over to the blue stage afterwards just in time to catch the second half of The Men's set. The band performed mostly highlights from their new album Open Your Heart, including an awesome one-two punch of “Turn It Around” and the album’s title track.
The sun was beating down on Union Park by the time The Men wrapped up their set, and what other band’s music befits a sweltering hot summer day than that of Real Estate? We saw a sizable chunk of the New Jersey jangle pop band’s set from afar, and although John and I were itching to get back to the blue stage for Kendrick Lamar, it was really hard to tear ourselves away, even though I’d already seen Real Estate twice before. As it turned out, we probably could have stayed a little longer than we did; in keeping with apparent hip-hop tradition, Kendrick Lamar didn’t go on until well after his appointed set time. When he did go on, the mix was noticeably off and I found it hard to get into his set, even though I’ve really come to love Section.80. Also, Lady Gaga showed up for some reason and was hanging out on the side of the stage during Kendrick’s set. I guess that’s kind of cool.
The end of Kendrick Lamar’s set provided us with ample cool down time, so we headed over to the red stage to camp out for Beach House's set. Although I've enjoyed everything that they've put out, I never really identified as a huge Beach House fan before their performance on Sunday. It suffices to say that their set thoroughly changed the way I view them as a band. I was blown away by the precision, the scope, and the sheer weight of their live sound, from Victoria Legrand's majestic vocals, to Alex Scally's lucid guitar lines, to the refreshingly real percussive sound of their newly added live drummer. Legrand's vocals on tracks like “Norway” and 2012 song-of-the-year contender “Lazuli” particularly stood out, floating over the festival crowd like a welcome breeze under a setting sun. As great as Japandroids were on Friday, I'm tempted to say that Beach House's set was the best out of all the performances at Pitchfork this year.
Frankly, I would have been content to have the festival end then and there, but Beach House did not close out Sunday night. That privilege was reserved for Vampire Weekend, the ludicrously popular indie pop band from New York whose first album, some might recall, is actually pretty good. Thankfully, much of their setlist was culled from that album, from which the band played every track save for “Bryn” and “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance.” The Contra hits were all there too, although they were considerably less enjoyable. The band also debuted a new song, featuring a classical guitar lead and some Elvis Costello-reminiscent vocal theatrics.
Of course, I’m not much of a Vampire Weekend fan, nor was I particularly excited about seeing them play at this festival, but I will admit that I enjoyed their set on Sunday. Standing under the night sky in a newly familiar city, surrounded by real life friends, internet friends, and people whom I didn’t know but I’m sure I would get along with, there was really nothing I’d rather be doing than singing along to “Walcott,” unironically enjoying music that I’d always thought I’d hate. Even though their set (which was full of annoying Ezra Koenig stage banter) reaffirmed everything I’ve always claimed to dislike about Vampire Weekend, I couldn’t help but have fun. I never thought that something associated with Pitchfork would actually bring out the anti-hipster within me, but that’s exactly what happened this weekend.
To check out all of my previous Pitchfork Music Festival coverage, click HERE.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 1/13/12
Last night’s show provided a sad, contemplative mix of songs for your Friday evening. I hope those of you who tuned in enjoyed what you heard. The playlist is below, with links to stream each track when available.
- 1. Joie de Vivre - “Summer In New London”
- 2. Joie de Vivre - "Salt"
- 3. Death Cab For Cutie - "Title Track"
- 4. The Microphones - "I Want Wind To Blow"
- 5. The Mountain Goats - "Wild Sage"
- 6. Owen - "The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crespi"
- 7. Into It. Over It. - "Midnight: Carroll Street"
- 8. Suns - "Casual"
- 9. Football, etc. - "Sudden Death"
- 10. Joan of Arc - "Gin & Platonic"
- 11. My Heart to Joy - "Seasons in Verse"
- 12. The Antlers - "Atrophy"
- 13. Beck - "It’s All In Your Mind"
- 14. Bright Eyes - "A Line Allows Progress, A Circle Does Not"
- 15. Carissa’s Wierd - "Drunk With The Only Saints I Know"
- 16. Red House Painters - "Katy Song"
- 17. Andrew Jackson Jihad - "Back Pack"
- 18. Bon Iver - "For Emma"
- 19. Broken Social Scene - "Lover’s Spit"
- 20. LCD Soundsystem - "All My Friends"
- 21. Dirty Beaches - "Lord Knows Best"
- 22. Midi & The Modern Dance - "Where Do You Think I Belong?"
- 23. Modest Mouse - "Bankrupt on Selling"
- 24. John Galm - “Be My Baby” (The Ronettes cover)
- 25. Weezer - "Butterfly"
- 26. Owen - "Nobody’s Nothing"
- 27. The Replacements - "Unsatisfied"
- 28. William Basinski - “Untitled” (#1)
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 8/12/11
Here’s the full playlist from last night’s Left of the Dial radio show that I did on WNHU. Tune in again next Friday at 6 PM Eastern time as always for another live broadcast.
Click the song titles to listen to the tracks on youtube.
- 1. Grandaddy - “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot”
- 2. Tame Impala - "It Is Not Meant to Be"
- 3. Dirty Projectors - "Remade Horizon"
- 4. Wild Beasts - "Bed Of Nails"
- 5. Destroyer - "Kaputt"
- 6. Animal Collective - "Banshee Beat"
- 7. American Football - "I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional"
- 8. The Wonder Years - "And Now I’m Nothing"
- 9. Titus Andronicus - "Breed" (Nirvana cover)
- 10. Julie Doiron - "Heavy Snow"
- 11. Dirty Beaches - "Lord Knows Best"
- 12. Washed Out - "A Dedication"
- 13. A Silver Mt. Zion - "Movie (Never Made)"
- 14. Sufjan Stevens - "Seven Swans"
- 15. Sharon Van Etten - "Love More"
- 16. Nana Grizol - "Cynicism"
- 17. The Mountain Goats - "Get Lonely"
- 18. Suns - “This Can’t Be Me”
- 19. Into It. Over It. - "Pontiac, MI"
- 20. The Magnetic Fields - "The One You Really Love"
- 21. Built to Spill - "Made Up Dreams"
- 22. Bright Eyes - "Nothing Gets Crossed Out"
- 23. Modest Mouse - "Heart Cooks Brain"
- 24. Explosions In The Sky - "So Long, Lonesome"
- 25. Elliott Smith - "Somebody That I Used To Know"
Summer Albums Project #4: Eddie Golden III - Grave Jams
Genre: Experimental, Psychedelic rock
Although he is best known as the lead singer and drummer for the Connecticut psychedelic indie rock band The Guru, songwriter Ed Godin composes his own solo pieces as well, which he releases under the name Eddie Golden III.
Although it was released in January 2011, I’m only just now getting around to hearing Grave Jams, the second official Eddie Golden III full-length. Ever since meeting him in April, I’ve always been sort of puzzled by him. In person and onstage, he projects an air of authentic weirdness that I can’t help but be fascinated by, and while that weirdness is definitely conveyed by The Guru’s recordings, it is much more clearly present on his solo material. While his work in The Guru is bombastic and often massive sounding, Grave Jams is far more inwardly focused.
The album is a collection of fourteen songs, the majority of which are under 2 and a half minutes. In a sense, many of these tracks are nothing more than what the album’s title suggests — mere sketches of some bizarre idea culled from Godin’s strange mind; however, the brevity of Grave Jams and the songs therein works on a thematic level. Like postcards from some alternate-reality 1950s America, these spooky jams offer a skewed insight into another musical world. Exploring rockabilly, psychedelic pop, and ’50s rock and roll, Godin channels the music of a past era through a gauzy haze of lo-fi recording quality and otherworldly weird sounds. Heavy reverb and distant chanting define the album’s more subdued points, while Godin’s own maniacal howl permeates the record in all the right places, especially on the bluesy “Can’t Hardly Stand It” and the rockabilly-flavored “Fish Hook Frank”, in which Godin channels Elvis’ iconic voice. Instrumentally, Grave Jams is dominated by noodly organs and punches of surf-rock guitar, supported by blown-out drums and various eccentric sounds provided by what sounds at times like a theremin. At times, Grave Jams recalls the work of Godin’s fellow ’50s pop tributer Dirty Beaches, but Grave Jams is significantly more light-hearted and novel than Dirty Beaches’ dark drones, despite the ghostly subject matter that Grave Jams plays with. When it comes to the “Grave” part of Grave Jams, think “Monster Mash” rather than The Sixth Sense. It’s very easy to get lost in the expansive musical palette of this album, and I highly recommend listening to it with headphones while lying down on your bed with your eyes closed.
Also, Guru fans should take note — “Disco Daughter” from the forthcoming album Native Sun (which will be released tomorrow at their awesome CD release party at The Space) borrows a line from Grave Jams' ”War Chant”, which was a surprising treat, given that I had heard “Disco Daughter” prior to hearing “War Chant”.
Check out previous Summer Albums Project entries HERE
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 5/20/11
I had so much fun during last nights Left of the Dial radio show on WNHU! I played a lot of music from bands who are playing B.O.M.B. Fest in Hartford next weekend, along with some old (and not so old) favorites of mine. The full playlist is below, complete with youtube links to each song (when available). Remember to tune in next Friday, where I’ll be getting everyone psyched up for B.O.M.B. Fest the next day!
- 1. Low - “Sandinista” (Daytrotter Session Version)
- 2. Broken Social Scene - "Meet Me In the Basement"
- 3. Anamanaguchi - "Dawn Metropolis"
- 4. Dan Deacon - "Red F"
- 5. Man Man - "Dark Arts"
- 6. Beck - "Peaches and Cream"
- 7. The Postal Service - "Recycled Air"
- 8. Best Coast - "Bratty B"
- 9. Real Estate - "Fake Blues"
- 10. High Pop - “Concrete Surfer”
- 11. The Guru - “Aloha Hawaii”
- 12. James Blake - “Lindisfarne” (Single Version)
- 13. LCD Soundsystem - "Home"
- 14. Dirty Beaches - "True Blue"
- 15. The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - “To Miss Catherine (A Birthday Gift. Sorry I Can’t Do Better, But Still…)” (Live in New Haven 3.4.11 Bootleg)
- 16. My Heart to Joy - “Can You Feel It, Captain Compost?!”
- 17. Midi & The Modern Dance - “Out the Room Pt. 2”
- 18. Bon Iver - "Holocene"
- 19. Bright Eyes - "Arienette"
- 20. Man Man - "Black Mission Goggles"
- 21. Tom Waits - "The Heart of Saturday Night"
- 22. R.E.M. - "Hyena"
- 23. Sebadoh - “Give Up”
- 24. Cap’n Jazz - "Little League"
- 25. The Antlers - “Putting The Dog To Sleep”
- 26. Primal Scream - "Damaged"
- 27. Big Star - "Watch the Sunrise"
I hope you enjoyed the show!
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 4/15/11
I’ve been pretty bad about posting my radio show playlists lately. I’m really sorry about that, and I promise I’ll be posting them more regularly from now on. Below is Friday’s playlist, complete with youtube links where applicable.
- Grandaddy - "He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot"
- Cymbals Eat Guitars - "And The Hazy Sea"
- Dirty Projectors - "Cannibal Resource"
- Animal Collective - "Grass"
- The Guru - “Arizona”
- Low - "Try To Sleep"
- Deakin - "Country Report"
- Panda Bear - "Last Night at the Jetty" (Tomboy version)
- LCD Soundsystem - "I Can Change"
- The Postal Service - "Sleeping In"
- The Magnetic Fields - "Famous"
- Suicide - "Ghost Rider"
- Dirty Beaches - "Sweet 17"
- Joan of Arc - "If There Was A Time #1"
- Fleet Foxes - "Bedouin Dress"
- Midi & The Modern Dance - “Eleanor’s Song”
- Belle and Sebastian - "Expectations"
- Sufjan Stevens - "Decatur, or, Round of Applause For Your Stepmother"
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Crosstown Traffic"
- The Feelies - “Way Down”
- Beach Fossils - "Sometimes"
- Sebadoh - "Drama Mine"
- Tigers Jaw - "Smile"
- Snowing - "Kirk Cameron Crowe"
- My Heart to Joy - “Taken With A Presence”
- The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - "Victim Kin Seek Suit"
- Built to Spill - "In The Morning"
- R.E.M. - "Near Wild Heaven"
- The Magnetic Fields - "Boa Constrictor"
Tune in this friday from 6-8 pm eastern time HERE.
So, I stopped by Redscroll Records in Wallingford for Record Store day earlier. I posted a video about my experience on my personal blog just now. I’d appreciate it if my followers would follow this blog as well. Thanks a lot. This kind of thing is going to get posted on my personal blog from now on, as opposed to this blog.
Hey everyone! Chris here. I just got back from shopping at Redscroll Records in Wallingford and picked up some great records for Record Store Day!
Here’s what I got:
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Josh Is Dead (2011)
Panda Bear - “Last Night at the Jetty” b/w “Drone” (2010)
Dirty Beaches - “Sweet 17” b/w “True Blue” (2011)
Low - C’mon (2011)
Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances (2008)
Animal Collective - Feels (2005)
Built to Spill - Perfect From Now On (Deluxe Edition) (1997 - Reissued 2011)
Algernon Cadwallader - Algernon Cadwallader (2008)
Did any of you guys / girls shop at a record store today? What did you get?
Song of the Day Number 128
Dirty Beaches - “Sweet 17”
"…The album’s best moments are those which do adhere to the principles and sounds of 50s rockabilly. The track “Sweet 17” is a clear highlight on the record, due to its initially unassuming pop sensibilities. The surfy guitar riff might that might in another context appear to be joyful and upbeat takes on a sinister tone over the course of the song, aided in part by the bassline and Hungtai’s indecipherable Elvis-like croons. The repetitive riff instantly recalls the looped synth lead in Suicide’s “Ghost Rider”, but the track is even more lo-fi, and much more organic sounding. Still, the same haunting ghostliness prevails throughout both tracks. Other songs, such as “Speedway King” and “Horse” follow similar formulas, to only slightly lesser results.”
Dirty Beaches was just featured in my most recent Obscure Artist Spotlight. Check that out HERE, and stream perhaps the album’s best track above.
Dirty Beaches (~15,000 Listeners)
Thanks at least in part to his recent spotlight on Pitchfork’s Rising section, Taiwan-born global nomad Alex Zhang Hungtai’s project Dirty Beaches has been receiving a decent amount of buzz lately among various independent music-conscious blogs. On his new album Badlands, Hungtai’s approach to music is fairly simple; using mostly just guitar, vocals, and occasionally looped drums, he crafts pop songs with nostalgically familiar chord progressions and melodies, and then drenches them in swaths of lo-fi soundscapes. Although in theory his formula seems to fit the mold of every lo-fi buzzband out of California or Brooklyn these days, his actual music draws influence from a very different place. Rather than interpret the pop sound of the 60s, or the classic punk jeer of the late 70s with his dreamy lo-fi approach, Hungtai miraculously combines reverb-heavy 50s rockabilly with the rhythmic attack of the proto-synth punk band Suicide. The resulting music is incredibly dark and spine-tinglingly eerie.
While the music feels very much derived from a specific time and place, Hungtai makes it feel unique and special. This is a self-aware approach to the archaic 50s rock and roll sound — one that is both grounded in the limitations imposed by the recording quality and simple nature of the music, and set free by the accuracy of hindsight. Hungtai is unafraid to explore beyond the confines of rock and roll, even adding synthesizer pads on the instrumental “Black Nylon” and creating a droning, repetitive soundscape on the album’s closing track “Hotel”.
However, the album’s best moments are those which do adhere to the principles and sounds of 50s rockabilly. The track “Sweet 17” is a clear highlight on the record, due to its initially unassuming pop sensibilities. The surfy guitar riff might that might in another context appear to be joyful and upbeat takes on a sinister tone over the course of the song, aided in part by the bassline and Hungtai’s indecipherable Elvis-like croons. The repetitive riff instantly recalls the looped synth lead in Suicide’s “Ghost Rider”, but the track is even more lo-fi, and much more organic sounding. Still, the same haunting ghostliness prevails throughout both tracks. Other songs, such as “Speedway King” and “Horse” follow similar formulas, to only slightly lesser results.
On Badlands, Hungtai occasionally trades in repetition for increased melodic substance, such as on the piano-led “Lord Knows Best”, which sounds like some sort of distorted old pop hit being played on a radio far away. Perhaps that’s the best way to describe this music — distant and obscured as if hidden from the sands of time for sixty years. It’s an artifact of a pop world that was once real, but the image of which has been distorted in the transferring of the tapes from analog to digital. We don’t mind though, because even if it’s not always great music, it’s certainly fascinating music.
- Speedway King
- Sweet 17
- A Hundred Highways
- True Blue
- Lord Knows Best
- Black Nylon