Not sure about you, but I was a little taken aback by the news that post-rock legends Godspeed You! Black Emperor won the coveted Polaris Music Prize (an award that “annually honors, celebrates and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music”) last night—mostly because it meant that the college sophomore version of me from 2004 was the sole deciding judge. He was very certain about this choice, which came after an entire 45 seconds of deliberation while on line for tater tots at the dining hall.
Everyone is coming out of the woodwork this year: Godspeed You Black Emperor, The Knife, and My Bloody Valentine have all reemerged in almost totally unanticipated ways after long hiatuses, and each has delivered a huge, haunting record that reaffirmed what we loved about the band. Now, in an era where “BoC” more likely means Blue Oyster Cult, Scottish electronica duo Boards of Canada are teasing a new release with wildly complicated clues, whipping fans into a frenzied scavenger hunt.
But let us save you the viral-underground PR theatrics: after all, the nerds are on the case. It begins with the appearance of some 12” vinyl singles that surfaced on Record Store Day, which contained odd snippets of what had to be new material. (One of those first clues is now selling on eBay for an asking price of $565.00, so get bidding.) Then there was an Adult Swim bumper spot and a strange, password-protected website that a fan cracked, leading us to this spooky but alluring video.
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Now it’s official: the new album, Tomorrow’s Harvest, is out on June 11 from Warp Records. Will anyone be able to resist, given that so much buzz has built up around it already? Will you need a World War II-era decryption device to even listen to the damn thing? Will the new Daft Punk album this year be delivered via hot air balloon? For the moment, nothing seems impossible.
Oh, and here’s the tracklist, in case there’s some kind of a clue in there, too:
02. Reach For The Dead
03. White Cyclosa
04. Jacquard Causeway
06. Cold Earth
07. Transmisiones Ferox
08. Sick Times
10. Palace Posy
11. Split Your Infinities
13. Nothing Is Real
15. New Seeds
16. Come To Dust
17. Semena Mertvykh
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Christ, even typing that headline makes my head spin. I’ve lost any semblance of control here. All my teenage angst and cynicism about the years 1999-2003 came flooding back in a dark, instrumental wave. The drones… the crescendos… the absence of vocals… the climax that may eventually arrive… in like twenty minutes…
Because who cares? You don’t have jack shit to do in high school. You are actually trying to kill time. When did you last try something so preposterous? To think that I actually needed songs this long in order to zone out effectively as a catatonic kid is mind-blowing. Honestly, I’m going to finish writing this post before the first track is over—that’s how long we’re talking.
Wow: I checked iTunes, because this sounded like the final ramp-up (it’s getting faster and more calamitous while trying to read as ice-cool, like a planet-seeking asteroid in a leather motorcycle jacket), but we’ve got a full half of album-opener “Mladic” left. Oh, listen, they’re switching back to their lugubrious sludge mode now. Guess there’s an entire act left in this thing? Might step out for a second lunch and catch the rest later.
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It’s a big year for Frank Ocean, whose Channel Orange is definitely in my top five records of 2012 already. So it’s not quite a surprise that he’s been tapped as a headliner for All Tomorrow’s Parties I’ll Be Your Mirror Festival next month in September, curated by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs.
ATP, which was recently moved to Manhattan from Asbury Park, New Jersey, was boasting a pretty great lineup already, including Lee Ranaldo, The Roots, José Gonzålez, Dirty Three, The Antlers, Chavez, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Braids, Philip Glass & Tyondai Braxton, and comedians Hannibal Buress, Janeane Garofalo, and Kurt Braunohler. Headling Saturday night is, of course, the Afghan Whigs, who played their first show in eleven years back in May at Bowery Ballroom.
In other Frank Ocean / Afghan Whigs news, here’s the stellar cover of "Lovecrimes" that Greg Dulli & Co. recorded:
Saturday started out rough. The weather was very uncooperative, with rain coming down hard off and on for the first few hours of the fest. It even got so bad that Cloud Nothings shorted out their PA during their set. I arrived a little later than I planned in hopes of missing most of this, only to show up right in the middle of a downpour and to find there was no power in the press tent, which was extra steamy with no fans running. The only band playing at the time was black metal band Liturgy, which didn’t help much, either. Still, around 4:00 things started to turn around, and after the Murderer’s Row of Flying Lotus, Wild Flag, Sleigh Bells, and Hot Chip, Saturday turned out to be probably the strongest day of the festival.
Best Set: Hot Chip
I worry that people are taking Hot Chip for granted. They put out a pretty good/great album every other year and always put on a fantastic live show, yet I feel a lot of people just forget about them. It’s the curse of being consistent. If the band feels like people are sleeping on them, however, they didn’t let it show. They kicked off things with a more soulful rendition of “And I Was a Boy From School,” then tore through a set of old hits (“Over and Over,” “One Life Stand”) and new ones (“Flutes,” “Don’t Deny Your Heart”). They even tossed in a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” for good measure. They did their best to remind people that they’re still around and that they’re still great. Let’s hope it worked.
Biggest Surprise: Flying Lotus
If Hot Chip had the #1 set on Saturday, Flying Lotus had #1A. I’d given his albums a listen a few times, but they’ve never connected with me. But seeing him live, where he could mix in things like Portishead’s “Machine Gun” with songs off his last album Cosmogramma, finally made it click. He was definitely responsible for two of the day’s best moments. The first was when he dropped “Simon Says,” which made me and every other right-minded individual lose their shit. The second was when he stopped three-fourths of the way through the set to tell everybody how drunk he was and that he was “going to switch to normal shit, unless you want to hear more of that drunk shit.” He closed out the set with a seriously beefed-up instrumental version of “Hard In Da Paint,” and he found himself with at least one new fan.
Ballsiest Move: Godspeed You! Black Emperor as Saturday’s headliner
Before Saturday, I probably would’ve considered myself a GY!BE fan. After Saturday evening, when I stood there for ten minutes listening to the same note, wondering if they had even started playing yet, I realized that my fandom was really based on the fact that they were the go-to band for me to play during my 3-6AM shift at my college radio station when I needed to go to the bathroom or just didn’t feel like doing anything. Having said that, hats off to the person/s who fought to have these guys close out the day. People who spend a lot of time on the internet like to think that Pitchfork is basically the mainstream, even if most of the rest of the world only know it as “that hipster music site” (if they know about it at all). Ending the biggest day of your festival with an experimental ambient act is a good way to show that you’re still pretty much outside the mainstream.
The annual Pitchfork Music Festival is always a doozy, full of bands you probably want to see before they blow up even bigger. This year’s event takes place at Chicago’s Union Park from July 13-15, as it usually does. Pitchfork has also announced the initial lineup: Among others to come, Vampire Weekend, Feist, Hot Chip, Grimes, Cloud Nothing, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Kendrick Lamar, Tim Hecker, AraabMUZIK, A$AP Rocky, The Field, Liturgy and Willis Earl Beal will appear over three days. As is typical by now for the six-years-old festival, it’s a nice blend of artists who got big in the last year, respectable indie veterans, experimental acts, and big tent headliner types.
Tickets go on sale March 9, costing you $45 a day or $110 for the whole weekend. Be ready with that credit card; the festival typically sells out quickly, so move fast lest you be stuck attending your local bluegrass festival (although it will probably have better food so whatever, do what you want, everything is great). There are more than 30 acts left to be announced over the next few weeks, but why wait to commit?