Kishi Bashi – 151a

kishi 550x550 KISHI BASHIS 151A [10]

I got in an argument once about the meaning of ten. It was the kind of argument where I had to call the person the next day and apologize for myself, one where the beliefs were so deeply held and disparate that it basically turned into a fight. He held that scoring something a ten is impossible, no album, no piece of art, can ever be perfect. Ten doesn’t exist — it’s fiction. By placing the crown of perfection on something it diminishes the art, making it inconsequential by saying it achieves something it so obviously doesn’t. On an existential plane that’s absolutely true, we all know perfection is impossible, that no human being can ever reach such celestial heights. To me, that is not the meaning of ten. On a practical level it means there is nothing I would change about the album, that the phrase, “I wish…” never enters your thinking when listening to the record. But that’s not what makes a piece of art a ten, that’s what would make a paper an A. What makes an album a ten is indescribable and personal. It’s putting it on for the first time and leaning back on your couch. It’s the way your eyes open wide when you hear that song, the way you sit up charged by adrenaline, the way you ache at its beauty and when it’s over — you press play again hoping the feeling comes back.

Kishi Bashi’s debut 151a is a ten. It’s a ten because even at a scant 9 tracks, it feels epic. Ishibashi, also violinist in of Montreal, uses a mixture of electronic sounds and orchestral swirl to create lush pop. The album seems to expand into a joyously large explosion of whizzing, whirring noise for one track, then contract into restraint on the next. It’s a ten because it’s entirely new, yet comfortably familiar. 151a recalls of Montreal in its brilliant excess, Andrew Bird in its perfect alt-pop construction,Jonsi in its wild beauty, but always stays a singular experience. It’s a ten because there is no track you want to skip, no moment that seems forced or insincere, no song that won’t leave you smiling and singing it for weeks. It’s a ten because the track “Bright Whites” makes you want to skip in flowers and “Atticus, in the Desert” makes you want to groove, and “Manchester” makes you fall in love.

Mostly it’s a ten because it moved me. Because when I heard “Manchester” for the first time walking down the street in the early spring sun, I swelled. Because, in the most sappy and corny way possibly, it forced me to look up, look at the blossoms, the trees, the sun, the city, look at the person next to me, look to where I was going and smile. Because every time I have listened to it since I feel the same way. Because when I listen to it years from now I will remember that feeling, remember it sound-tracking this moment in my life, and remember everything I loved to the point of tears, including the song. That, is perfect.

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ReAddicted: Massive Attack – Protection

Some albums get under your skin and stay there; these are the ones that years later we still can’t stop loving, even if we just remembered why.

Protection was a bit of a disappointment. Considering the brilliance of Massive Attack’s debut Blue Lines, and their third album, Mezzanine, the dub-seeped masterpiece, Protection falls somewhere between “pretty good” and “meh” in the bands catalog. It hasn’t made it onto any of the big “best of the 90s” list like the records it falls between, it doesn’t soundtrack any hit TV show, and it didn’t push the band forward in any real way. And yet it’s also my favorite Massive Attack  record — one that I come back to time and time again. It’s the record that sounds most like the band that I love so much. It’s not their best, but for me it’s the most important.

whyiloveit final MASSIVE ATTACKS PROTECTION [RE ADDICTED]

The core genius of Massive Attack (@massiveattackuk) can be summed up in the first five tracks of their sophomore album. The first track, from which the album takes its name, is an eight minute languid love ballad. It’s a haunting, ambling and achingly sincere song defined by its eloquence and simplicity. The next “Karmacoma” is the definition of trip hop — a seamless mixture of hip hop, reggae and electronica. “Three” is quintessential chill-out electro with beats and hazy treble rolling in and out. “Weather Strom” mixes hip hop beats with jazz piano and “Spying Glass” features Horace Andy, a reggae master, singing with electronic manipulation. Five tracks that define what Massive Attack is — what Trip Hop is — understated and perfectly produced genre bending.

To me, very little is as perfect as those five tracks sitting so beautifully in a row. They’re safe, which is what made critics furrow their brows when they first heard the record, but they’re also comforting. They’re so warmly produced and so tender that the songs hold you. Electronic music often has a problem feeling distant and cold, but Protection gave it a warming glow. Those five tracks slither around, thanks in large part to their codeine bass lines, and act as musical blankets. It may be harsh outside, but I always know that the first wa-wa in Protection will keep me warm.

Sometime ago, I found myself in need of that sort of comfort. Instinctively, I put on the album — turning up title track so loud that the lethargic throbs were completely consuming. It had been years since I listened to that record, and I still knew all the words, still knew where every thump, scratch and dip fell, and still knew how to rap along to Tricky. I listened through Protection with myopic focus, and when it came to the end, I pressed play on the first song again. My loneliness abated, and as corny as it may sound, I felt protected. The album has been on repeat ever since.

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Valentine’s Day Playlist

Untitled 2 LOVING/TENDER VS. DIRTY/RAUNCHY ON VALENTINES DAY [SPOTIFY PLAYLIST]

What are you doing tonight? Do you have some special plans? Some special love related plans? Let’s not fool ourselves, you guys are doin’ it tonight aren’t you? Everyone should be involved in some kind of sexy time activity this evening, and because we here at The Wild Honey Pie are absolutely 100% pro-sexy time, we did our part and made a couple playlists. If you’re loving someone and feel a deep, personal and spiritual connection, then the Lovin’ mix is for you. Are you taking someone home you picked up from the annual Union Pool Lonely Hearts and Open Pants Club meeting? Well, we have a mix for you too (no emotions required). Are you with your personal vibrating device or hand (or both) this evening? Put the two on shuffle and make yourself feel alternately happy and very sad. Happy Valentine’s Day lovers, don’t do anything we wouldn’t do.

LOVE LOVING/TENDER VS. DIRTY/RAUNCHY ON VALENTINES DAY [SPOTIFY PLAYLIST]

listen LOVING/TENDER VS. DIRTY/RAUNCHY ON VALENTINES DAY [SPOTIFY PLAYLIST]

“Are you the One I’ve Been Waiting for?” – Nick Cave
“Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating In Space” – Spiritualized
“Pagan Poetry” – Björk
“Calgary” – Bon Iver
“Samson” – Regina Spektor
“Aeroplane Over the Sea” – Neutral Milk Hotel
“For You” – Sharon Van Etten
“Up All Night” – Oliver Tank
“Say Yes” – Elliott Smith
“Slow Show” – The National
“Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” – Arcade Fire

raunchy LOVING/TENDER VS. DIRTY/RAUNCHY ON VALENTINES DAY [SPOTIFY PLAYLIST]

listen1 LOVING/TENDER VS. DIRTY/RAUNCHY ON VALENTINES DAY [SPOTIFY PLAYLIST]

“Comeback Kid” – Sleigh Bells
“Skin of the Night” – M83
“Same Damn Time” – Beat Connection
“Speaking in Tongues” – Eagles of Death Metal
“Fuck the Pain Away” – Peaches
“Playground Love” – Air
“Prizefighter” – SPORTS
“Love” – Daughter
“danceworkdancesex” – Model
“Monster” – Kanye West

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Childish Gambino- Camp

childish gambino camp CHILDISH GAMBINOS CAMP [5.0]

I cannot even tell you how much I wanted to love this record — how much I wanted to sing from the mountaintops of its glories and rush to the little children bearing tidings of its masterful production and rhymes. I loved all of the Childish Gambino EPs and listened to them religiously, and I adore Donald Glover’s show Community more than most things in this world. I truly think Glover is a fantastically talented writer and comedian and want everything he does to be amazing.

I wanted to love this record so much that, when I put it on, I thought I did. It wasn’t until the second listen that I realized, quite honestly, that it’s not very good. Actually, it’s a little heavy handed and kind of over wrought. The album’s overbearing beats don’t allow the lyrics room to breathe, and when they do, they hit the same themes over and over again until you are forced to sigh, “ugh, I get it.”  It borrows so heavily from the intellectual self-doubt of DrakeKid Cudi and Kanye West that it often seems like more of an impression album than one from a man who is actually a pretty self-assured rapper. What happened to the fast spitting, one-liner king from the mix tapes? Was he buried under visions of grandeur?

The record isn’t all bad, and there are several songs that are high in the running for best tracks of the year — specifically “Heartbeat” and “LES”, which ditch the meditations on race and borrowed styles to showcase a guy who can be funny, self-deprecating and dance-worthy. The best parts of the record, not surprisingly, are the one-liners — the places where his background in clever wordplay (this is the man who wrote some of the best Tracy Jordan lines on 30 Rock, after all) are front and center. That’s Glover’s talent. That’s why his mixes caught people’s eyes, and that’s why we all love him. His pension for silly word play could put him in the league with Das Racist — if only he would commit to a style and vision that allows for joking like they did.

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Justice- Audio, Video, Disco

 

justice audio video disco album cover art work 1 JUSTICES AUDIO, VIDEO, DISCO [8.5]

Prog rock and stadium-ready sounds have always been a part of Justice. Hell, Gaspard Auge has worn his love of Yes on his belt buckle since day one. It’s not surprising then, that they would release a record filled to the brim with 1970s throwback rock — the same way it’s not surprising that the McRib has 70 ingredients. Much in the same way that a McRib is a little delicious in spite of itself, Audio, Video, Disco is incredible in spite of itself. It’s awesome even though it’s trying to be sleazy and gross.

Granted, Cross was one of the dirtiest albums to be released in the last decade. Even with the plucky pop gems “D.A.N.C.E” and “DVNO”, it’s covered in special French club grime and clad in leather like the two skinny Parisians who made it. Regardless, Cross had more club gems than anything released since the heyday of Daft Punk. Audio, Video, Disco is not Cross – it has nothing as earworm-y as “D.A.N.C.E” nor anything as crazy as “Waters of Nazareth”. What it does have, though, are balls to spare. It has soaring vocals, thumping bass, guitar tones that weave in and out and prog keys straight out of a Yes record.

Tracks like “Civilization” with its bombast, “On and On” with its manufactured swagger and “Ohio” with its gothic keys are all cheesy, sure, but they also make you dance. “Civilization” in particular, boasting a hugeness and groovy breaks, will make even the most ardent hater of clubs put on his leather bomber and bust out on the dance floor. In the end, isn’t that what we want out of Justice?

Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge, by their own admission, are not musicians, and Prog Rock is truly a musician’s genre. The most successful bands were the ones filled with music dorks that could do literally anything on their respective instruments. AVD betrays the fact that these boys are better with a computer than with a guitar, but it’s that balls-to-the-wall attitude, the willingness and desire to fail spectacularly in creating a prog record, that makes it such an amazing club album. Dancing is all about not giving a fuck, and Justice made AVD all about not giving a fuck. They simply fused two things they loved and, in the process, happened to make a sound that will probably lead the way forward for dance music in the coming years.

Sure, the fusion of arena-ready prog rock and techno seems surprising, but one listen to Audio, Video, Disco proves that it was the obvious next step in the continuing saga of Justice. The Parisian’s created another record for dirty, dirty dancing and made it a great listen in the process. It’s grimy, messy and more than a little sleazy, but that’s their sexy charm. Now, take out the leather bomber and Yes belt buckle hiding under your bed, and go dance.

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Interview: Yellow Ostrich

We sat down for a quick interview a while back with the Brooklyn-based band Yellow Ostrich (@yellowostrich) at the Austin City Limits festival to talk about being signed to a label, how they translate their unique recordings to a live setting and, of course, Radiohead. Alex Schaaf, Michael Tapper and Jon Natchez also hung out with The Wild Honey Pie recently for a Buzzsession, premiering soon.

The Wild Honey Pie: Have you been at the festival long, have you been able to see much?
Alex Schaaf: We got here yesterday and saw the bands that were playing then.

TWHP: Is there anything you are looking forward to seeing today or tomorrow?
Jon Natchez: We really want to see Stevie Wonder, but we can’t stay that long cause we have to play a show tonight.

TWHP: You guys have some really interesting and wildly complicated vocal looping and looping in general. Is it hard to translate that to a live setting?
AS: I mean, the way we do it- you know we use vocal loopers on stage—so we can get pretty close if we want to, to how it is on the album. But now we’re doing a lot of stuff where we’re doing less looping. So we can do it if we want to but sometimes we try to, you know, do something else.
Michael Tapper: Those songs on the album were written live by [Alex Schaaf]. So the album was sort of a replication of what he can do looping live. So then, to translate it to a live setting works pretty well.

TWHP: How has it changed going from a solo to a three piece, does it change the dynamic of the show?
AS: Yeah, definitely. Like I said, we do less looping because we don’t need to do so much. Like, I did shows by myself where it’s all looping. But now we have three people and so—
JN: Now we can just rock.
AS: It’s just bigger, and heavier super heavy. It’s more live.
JN: More textures.

TWHP: You had a huge output before getting signed, has being on tour and signing to a label affected that output in anyway?
AS: Yeah, I mean, I think I’m still writing. I’m not writing fewer songs, that hasn’t changed. But the rate that stuff will come out changes because a label doesn’t want to come out with something every month. So, yeah, it’s just a matter of trying to figure out when we can put out stuff. There will definitely not be an EP every month.

TWHP: How has the process of re-releasing Mistress going for you?
JN: We wanted to, because it had been out on it’s own for a while. We wanted to have it be different in some ways. So there are some new tracks on it and that’s been fun. But also, Barsuk has been great and definitely, its actually surprising, it seems like more people are seeing it. I know that sounds simple, but you figure, “oh, it’s the internet everyone knows of everything.” But then you see it come out and new people really do see it.

THWP: Can you describe how Jon and Michael got absorbed into the band, the story behind that?
MT: I was on tour with another band and we played at [Alex Schaaf’s] college, when he was in college, and he opened for us solo as Yellow Ostrich. I think it was his first show as Yellow Ostrich.
AS: Yeah.
MT: And so I saw him play there and I thought he was really good and I talked to him afterwards. When he moved to New York a few months later he got into contact and we started playing together. And then six months later Jon joined us. We asked Jon if he wanted to play. He played with us on one show, one time on sax and we were like, “hey, we like Jon.”
JN: And Michael and I had played together in another band.
MT: Yeah, we’d know each other for years.

TWHP: I was going through your bandcamp page and I noticed the Morgan Freemen EP, which is wonderfully whimsical–
JN: (laughs) Can we use that as a blurb on a record? Wonderfully whimsical.

TWHP: Oh yeah, you can use that whenever. I was wondering what inspired you to do that and why specifically his Wikipedia page.
AS: Yeah, it was just a time when I had the musical ideas and no lyrics. So I wanted to do a sort of concept thing about a famous person. I think it was the first one that popped into my head and then I looked at his Wikipedia and it was interesting. And then there was the part about his alleged relationship with his step granddaughter and I was like, “this is it.”
AS: (Laughter) Without that story he’s still interesting but like, that put him over the edge for me. That was it.

TWHP: Well, it’s a great song. Now to close up, have you been listening to anything specifically on the road that you have been loving?
JN: We’re not breaking any new ground here — but that new Girls record is awesome. We always listen to a healthy dose of [Harry] Nilsson too. Harry Nilsson has not come on this trip. For some reason when I think Yellow Ostrich van I think of Nilsson.
MT: And this trip we are teaching Jon about Radiohead.

TWHP: Teaching you about Radiohead, you’ve not listened to them before?
JN: I’ve always heard Radiohead and I know OK Computer, but Radiohead has always just been on and I don’t know any individual songs. Like, “oh what album is this, what song is this?” So now I’m really sitting down and learning.

TWHP: How’s the education going so far?
JN: We’re only into two albums, but I know every single song. Like, names—it’s good.
AS: He can play them
JN: I can play them.
MT: He can only hear it once and then he can play them all.

 
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Foundations: Heartbreaker

It may surprise some of you, but we at The Wild Honey Pie weren’t born with spectacular taste. Taste, especially for music nerds, is a slow Lincoln Logs like journey with artists and albums laying the foundation for the snarky music writer to come. So every month (or so) we writers will share with you the records that made us the snobs and geeks that we are today. These aren’t the most important records, or even favorite records, they are simply, our foundations.

 I can remember the exact point that I listened to several earth shattering records. When I heard Radiohead’s OK Computer for the first time I was ten, at home in the living room with my dad, and was forced into a stunned silence within the first few bars of “Airbag.” Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was first experienced in the car with my dad stopping every now and again to say, “holy shit, someone made this.” I cannot remember the first time I listened to Heartbreaker. Ryan Adams was 25 when he recorded Heartbreaker, the first of his solo records. He was in the middle of disbanding his first band Whiskeytown, had just moved from South Carolina to New York City and had been through a particularly terrible break up. It is a painful, emotionally tumultuous record. The opening tracks, an argument over a Morrissey song followed by the upbeat “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be High)” offer the only joyous moments on the record. “To be Young” is fun on the surface but, in the end, it is also a window to the horrible substance abuse and pain that was a part of Adams’ life for so long. Lyrics have always been Adams’ strong point, though his gift for melody and despair ridden voice should be given just as much credit for the musical punches that he creates. “Come Pick Me Up,” the most popular song from the record, shows his talents off brilliantly. Every note he sings aches, the melody groans and the words hit you in the gut like only the pain of loving the wrong person can. Heartbreaker’s magic comes from making even the most grizzled and hollow listener feel empathetic. Heartbreaker is not earth shattering; it is not the kind of record that makes music sound hard to do or is anything entirely revolutionary. It is the kind of record, however, that gets under your skin. It buries itself in you until you know all the songs, until you have three Ryan Adams posters on your wall, until you are suddenly an expert in Alt Country (whatever that is)[1]. I do not remember the first time I listened to Heartbreaker, but I remember crying to “In My Time of Need” in the throes of a toxic relationship, I remember dancing to “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high)” with my best friend before she moved to Switzerland, I remember singing the harmonies to “Come Pick Me Up” with my Dad.

——————————————————————————– [1] Thanks to No Depression for that catch phrase.

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