Electronic Pop Duo Javelin Push Their Own Limits

For new fans of Javelin, a quick, comparative listen to the electronic duo’s most recent records may leave them in a dizzying state of sonic confusion. The samples looping throughout 2011’s Canyon Candy were culled from a collection of vintage records that could easily provide the soundtrack for any given Western picture, complete with lap steel licks, jangling guitars, organs, and the cavernous baritone voices of a handful of cowboys. Hi Beams, which drops today, couldn’t be a more drastic foil to the antique static George Langford and Tom Von Buskirk wrestled with and repurposed on Canyon Candy: lead-off track “Light Out” is ready for the dance floor, and “Nnormal,” Hi Beams first single, is a slow jam that rolls with inventive plays on Autotune and hip-hop percussion.

These records sound like they come from two very different bands (let alone two very different epochs), but Canyon Candy and Hi Beams have more in common than one can necessarily glean through their earbuds. “If you listen to the records side by side, it’s so funny,” says Von Buskirk. “Someone tweeted at us, ‘I like the new Javelin single and I’m excited about their new direction, but I’m going to miss the way that you could almost hear the limitations.’” Limitations? “We used to have these arbitrary rules for ourselves,” elaborates Langford. “We set limits for the body of work we could work with and the tools we could use. We sampled records only [on Canyon Candy], and only a certain subgenre of ’40s and ’50s cowboy music—not country, per se. It’s a very specific aesthetic. I guess with Hi Beams, the exercise was to work with the aesthetic of a pop album but not necessarily in the framework of current pop.”

It may not be intentionally poppy, but Hi Beams achieves this of-the-minute modernity effortlessly over the course of its ten tracks. The synth-ed out, built-up breakdowns of “Judgment Night” wouldn’t sound out of place in a DJ set that features Passion Pit and Foster the People (who Langford and Von Buskirk opened for when the “Pumped Up Kicks” chart-toppers spun at a National History Museum’s planetarium party earlier this month) and unlike Canyon Candy’s soundscapes, the new songs give listeners the chance to sing along as their songs include lyrics this time around—and catchy as hell ones at that.

“There were some new areas that we explored with this one, a different approach overall,” says Von Buskirk. “There are more lyrics; there’s more singing. Right when we first made it, we came home from the studio and there was some shock—like, ‘Holy crap, is this what it is?’ That was the biggest surprise with this record for us. It’s similar to if you’ve made a painting, and you’ve made this external thing that you know came from you, but maybe it’s a self-portrait when you look at it, and you’re like, ‘Did I really make that? Is it really me? Am I going to take that out into the world as me?’ We test ourselves in that way sometimes.”

Whether or not they can put a name to these self-portraits in MP3 form or categorize them according to genre isn’t of the utmost importance to Javelin, either. The variety present in their set list—which does include selections from Canyon Candy, despite how foreign “Estevez” and “Colorado Trail” seem when shuffled in with Hi Beams—speaks to this, especially considering the fact that Langford and Von Buskirk perform with little more than an electronic drum kit, a bass, a kazoo and a couple of microphones.

“It’s interesting that genre is still a constant topic, because I feel like people are so much more open to a wider range of music than ever before,” replies Langford, when asked about what genre Javelin identifies with. “I think the internet has a lot to do with that. I also feel like there’s a whole world of electronic live music and performers where it’s totally accepted to just have a table and some stuff and just be a dude standing there. That’s an artist performing live, but there isn’t a lot of energy onstage, and when you bring that to more of a rock audience, that does not fly. When we open for a lot of different kind of bands, we see crowds that understand what we’re doing. You need to find your niche audience that understands both worlds.”

Western soundtracks, EDM, experimental ambient, whatever: as demonstrated by their new record and the album that came before it, it’s clear to see that one can’t expect a forthcoming release from Javelin to sound a certain way. The good news is that it’ll introduce you to sounds you never saw coming—and that, though unclassifiable, their beat will keep you moving. 

Check out Javelin’s upcoming record release show on Friday, March 8 at Glasslands. Doors at 10pm and Hard Nips and Chances with Wolves are opening. $12 adv/$14 doors.

Photo by Tim Griffin.

Follow Hilary Hughes on Twitter.

Who Won’t Azealia Banks Collaborate With?

Who isn’t Azealia Banks working with with these days? The “212” rapper, who joined forces with Lazy Jay on her breakout track, worked with the Scissor Sisters, and was recently tweeting about a collaboration with hip-hop legend Missy Elliot — the ladies both have overdue releases originally slated for this summer in common. Today a version of Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” was released that features, what else, a new verse courtesy of Banks. Take a listen below.

The track is the first remix from Smims&Belle, the DJ duo of Foster The People’s Mark Foster and Isom Innis, and hit the web this morning, just a few hours before it was announced that Banks is canceling a substantial series of concert gigs to focus on what her management called “recording commitments.”

She’s got plenty of them. Banks, who recently signed up with Lady Gaga’s management team, is supposed to be releasing an EP, titled 1991, this summer and her debut full-length, Broke With Expensive Taste, is due out in September.

Still, we can’t help but think about other possible Banks projects that are so far not out there. Considering how willing the Harlem native has been to get in the studio with and for other artists, we can’t imagine that she doesn’t already have a few up her sleeve. Still, that doesn’t stop us from considering some dream collaborations: the duo of Azealia and fellow New Yorker Lil Kim springs almost instantly to mind, though there also wouldn’t be anything surprising about seeing Banks get involved with other young up and comers like Odd Future. Really, as long as we’re not talking Iggy Azalea, anything is possible. 

Afternoon Links: Zac Efron & Taylor Swift’s Cute Cover, Vivienne Westwood Thinks You’re Conformist

● Zac Efron and Taylor Swift are probably not an item but their "Pumped Up Kicks" cover on Ellen today was so charming that we wish they were. [Vulture]

● Khloe Kardashian reports that pregnancy has Kourtney Kardashian hyperventilating at first mention of queso dip. [Us]

● People have "never looked so ugly as they do today regarding their dress," laments Vivienne Westwood, who is, at 70-years-old, still cooler than you. "We are so conformist, nobody is thinking. We are all sucking up stuff, we have been trained to be consumers and we are all consuming far too much." [DailyMail]

● Skrillex’s fans come for the drops ("Wom-wombzphz!"), stay for his hot face ("His face [is hot], but I don’t really like his, erm… head."). [Vice]

● You might want to think twice about those skinnies you’ve been wearing because they may be causing you nerve compression, interfering with digestion, or, worst of all, giving you lipoatrophia semicircularis aka "ribbed thighs." Yuck! [WSJ]

● Stephen Colbert is writing a children’s book. "I hope the minutes you and your loved ones spend reading it are as fulfilling as the minutes I spent writing it," he says, setting a high bar for himself. [GalleyCat]

Beach Boys Reuniting at the Grammys, Will Play With Foster the People & Maroon 5

For their 50th anniversary, the Beach Boys have planned a full-scale international reunion tour involving the long-estranged Brian Wilson, as well as a new record and a series of reissues. The tour is set to kick off in April, but they’ll play at least one set before then: the 54th Grammy Awards, which are happening this Sunday. Before you get too excited, there’s a kicker: Wilson and company will be joined by Maroon 5 and Foster the People, apparently the only modern artists deemed worthy enough by the Grammys. That’s what we get for expecting nice things, apparently.

It’s obvious what they’ll play: a medley of Beach Boys jams like "I Get Around" and "Fun, Fun Fun" which will segue into Maroon 5’s modified smash single, "Moves Like Wilson," at which point Adam Levine will light the stage on fire*. Foster the People will shuffle out afterwards to do "Pumped Up Kicks," but hopefully everyone involved in the telecast will be dead by then. Or, even better, they’ll all be joined by a rambunctious Katy Perry for an all-star "California Girls/Gurls" mashup, making everyone at home the dead ones. How’s that for a scenario?

* Supposedly, Wilson destroyed a number of the Smile recordings after he became convinced that one of them was responsible for a series of California fires, because that is justifiable logic when going mildly insane. He got better, thank God.

Morning Links: Big Boi Caught With Ecstasy & Viagra, Charlie Sheen Dies in ‘Meat Explosion’

Harry Potter beat out Twilight in the Choice Sci-Fi/Fantasy category at last night’s Teen Choice Awards. Everything else went to Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber, more or less. [E!] ● Antwan “Big Boi” Patton was arrested in Miami for possession of powdered MDMA, ecstasy, and viagra — you know, the makings of a real good night. [TMZ] ● Michael C. Hall seems to be adjusting quit nicely to the single life, bonding with his furry friends as single people are wont do. “Things are great. I’m loving life,” he said. “I spend a lot of time with my cats…. They’re my four-legged friends.” [ShowbizSpy]

● Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler are so over that they’re returning their wedding gifts. And with them, they’re attaching a sweet and sometimes personal little note! Aww. [Deadspin] ● TMZ has done the dirty work and discovered that Charlie Sheen is killed off Two and a Half Men during a brutal “meat explosion” after he getting hit by a subway. Anyways, Charlie seems into it. [TMZ] ● It seems that Weezer has taken to covering Foster the People’s song of the summer, “Pumped Up Kicks.” We all age faster than we’d like, but Rivers Cuomo is perhaps aging the fastest of us all. [NME]

Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” (Finally) the Song of the Summer

A while back, I came across the song “Pumped Up Kicks” by LA boy band (they’re a band, and they’re boys) Foster the People. After the first listen, I immediately recognized the song’s potential to reach “Song of the Summer” status. In fact, I was so sure that I wrote a post about it called “Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” Is the Song of Next Summer.”

I called it “stunningly catchy” and predicted it “should be reaching song-of-the-summer status by late May.” That was on February 23, 2010, so “next summer” was actually last summer, and as May rolled around and “Pumped Up Kicks” was nowhere to be found on poolside speakers, I thought, ‘Shit, I’m not the cultural prognosticator I thought I was!’ It was a crushing defeat.

Then came today. Stereogum, the respected online curator of good music, published the results of their “Indie Song Of Summer 2011” poll. That meant no obvious choices like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, and only songs you might see performed on Jimmy Fallon. Guess who the winner was? With 34.83% of the vote, Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” finally attained that vaunted status I knew it was capable of reaching all those many, many months ago. But enough about them! If you’d like to know who you’re going to marry, or how you’re going to die, I’ll be here all week. (Hint: The answers are no one and alone.)

Foster the People Downs the Demon Water at LexBar

It’s 6:40 on a damp evening in New York when Mark Foster, Mark Pontius, and Cubbie Fink arrive at LexBar, a posh lounge in the St. Giles – The Court hotel frequented by a certain gaggle of raven haired sisters whose names all start with K. The three young men are known collectively as Foster the People, an LA-based indie rock band that rose to prominence last summer with “Pumped Up Kicks,” an addictive party anthem about a guy looking to blast away at some fancily-shod kids with his dad’s six-shooter.

They’re in town to play a few gigs at local clubs The Box, Mercury Lounge, and Knitting Factory in support of their debut album, Torches.

Tonight is an evening to relax and sample rum cocktails by the venue’s head bartender, Drew Maloney, who boasts 25 years of experience and a master’s grasp of flavor, balance, and presentation. As we settle into the black banquette and chat about the new record, the cocktails start arriving, one after the other. What follows is an inspired, scientific, and somewhat poetic take on a decidedly tropical evening in Manhattan.

Cocktail #1, Rum-Two Punch: 1 ½ oz. Don Q Cristal rum, 1 ½ oz. Bacardi 8 rum, 1 oz. fresh guava juice, 1 oz. fresh pineapple juice, 1 oz. fresh cranberry juice, ¼ oz. fresh lime juice, ¼ oz. agave nectar. Garnish with orange slice and cherries. Mark Pontius: I like it because it’s kind of bitter, like grapefruit, which reminds me of my grandmother, who ate grapefruit every morning. It’s good in that way, but I could go sweeter. Cubbie Fink: The initial blast on the palate is tropical, like sitting on a beach, but there’s a tart aftertaste. A tropical drink should be smoother. Mark Foster: When I drink this I think about naked female pirates holding me captive and pouring it down my throat.

Cocktail #2, Strawberry Mojito: Muddle in rocks glass: 2 medium strawberries, 3 lime wedges, 1 tsp sugar, 5 mint leaves. Add ice and 2 oz. Bacardi Limon rum, splash of soda water, splash of fresh sour mix. Garnish with strawberry. MP: The strawberry is awesome, except I just tried to sip it and a mint leaf got stuck in the straw. CF: I can’t get any drink, my straw’s clogged. Okay, I’ll sip it. I’m definitely not a sweet-drink drinker, but this is really tasty. MF: It makes me think of Aunt Jemima jumping up and down on a huge stack of pancakes and tossing strawberries into the air.

Cocktail #3, Mandarin Delight: Muddle in rocks glass: 3 sections of mandarin orange, 3 lime wedges, ¼ oz. agave nectar. Add ice and 1 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse rum, 1 oz. Cointreau. Shake vigorously and top with 2 oz. Piper-Heidsieck Champagne. MP: My least favorite because it’s too sour, and I’m not a sour drink person. Good for one sip. CF: It’s kind of a shock to the senses, which I like. It has bite and good flavor. My favorite of the three so far. MF: It’s something I think Mark Twain would have loved. Even though it has mandarin in it, it still feels like a man’s drink.

Cocktail #4, Lexcolada: 2 oz. Bacardi Light rum, 1 oz. pineapple puree, 1 ½ oz. pineapple juice, 1 ½ oz. coconut milk. Garnish with pineapple slice. MP: This hits my heart. Before I was 21, I used to order virgin Piña Coladas, the kind from the machine. This is better than that, and boozier. CF: It’s as if I bored to the center of a coconut and somehow found alcohol and other ingredients in there. It’s like chewing on coconut milk. Definitely the best Piña Colada I’ve ever had. MF: I could wake up and have this with cereal.

Cocktail #5, Mai Tai: 1 ½ oz. Mount Gay Eclipse rum, ¼ oz. orgeat syrup, ½ oz. pineapple juice, ½ oz. lime juice, ¼ oz. grenadine. Garnish with lime. MP: This is actually the first Mai Tai I’ve ever had, and it’s great. My first thought was of a chocolate bar. CF: It’s a Mai Tai that’s been brought to the city. It has some edge that a Mai Tai on the beach lacks. There’s a creamy aftertaste that’s really interesting. MF: The first thing I thought of when I sipped it was Freddy Mercury, because he was so tough on the outside and tender on the inside. Actually, my first thought was leather, and that brought me to Freddy Mercury. It’s an S&M drink. It’s a muscular man that likes other muscular men.

‘Zion I’ Feels Underappreciated and ‘Sims’ Owns the First Night

By noon yesterday, lines are almost around the block for KCRW’s showcase at Phoenix Lounge, the Fiat Fader Fort has a half-mile line for just the wristbands. There are two primary blocks of music in your typical SXSW day: Day parties, which run from about noon to 7, and evening showcases, which begin at 8 and run until the bars close, at 2am. This schedule is not set in stone, and you can find music anywhere, anytime—from bands playing in hotel lobbies at sunrise, to hippies marching up and down 6th Street, banging drums, and strumming guitars, never letting the music die.

Yesterday, I decided to start East and work my way West. At the I Am Sound Label showcase at the Shangri-La, I caught the last bit of Foster the People, one of the busiest bands at the festival. Also, a set from electronic Londoners Mount Kimbie, was soothing, as they played casually, bent over a wooden picnic table.

The line at Red 7 was shockingly long, but I squeezed in to see two vastly different bands. First, an incredible set from Brooklyn’s hardcore punk band Death Trap, and then a solidly disappointing set from Tune Yards, in which the lead singer spends about half of it making sure her snare drum sounds right. As the sun set, I snuck into The Mohawk, through the back, where Blueprint opened to a lucky few, with his DJ and a blissed-out bassist in tow. Next was Grieves & Budo, a Seattle duo who looks like a couple of kids who might ask you to buy them beer beside a convenience store, but perform like old hip-hop veterans. Speaking of veterans, Zion I and The Grouch perform next, two Godfathers from the Oakland rap scene who I saw captivate a sold-out Pretty Lights show at Red Rocks last summer. The Mohawk crowd wasn’t nearly as responsive for some reason, and The Grouch literally asked them why they weren’t “feeling it.” They left the stage one song later, just twenty minutes into the set. However, the best performance of the night, by far, was Sims at The Flamingo Cantina, a Minneapolis-based artist who will undoubtedly be described as a pre-8 Mile Eminem as his popularity grows, though lyrically, he is completely different. Decide for yourself, here.

Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” is the Song of Next Summer

If our calculations are correct, then Foster the People’s stunningly catchy “Pumped Up Kicks” should be reaching song-of-the-summer status by late May. That gives it about three months to percolate through the blogosphere, into iPods, and onto a Gossip Girl episode. By then it’ll already be playing in Mike’s Apartment on repeat. Congratulations four guys that nobody knows yet, you’re about to become the next MGMT (their chorus says “kids”!)—or is it Peter Bjorn and John (they whistle!).

How no one’s picked up on these guys or this song on the music-saturated web is a great, great mystery. (Nylon TV apparently used the track to accompany footage of an Anna Sui fashion show, but we’re happy to pretend that’s not the case.) We found it on Hype Machine. Their sparse, official site has some more songs, but more songs are irrelevant when you’ve got yourself a hit like this. What looks like their first show ever is happening at the Viper Room in L.A., tomorrow night. Enjoy the intimate venues boys, they won’t last long.