British synth-pop dance party crafters Hot Chip aren’t releasing a full-length follow-up to last year’s very good In Our Heads any time soon, but fans got a little nugget from the group yesterday with their new single, “Dark and Stormy.” Sadly, the song’s title does not refer to the popular strong, summery drink, but to the feeling of “dark and stormy” — as they let the listener know in the opening line, “when you’re feeling dark and stormy / let me sing a song for you.” What a nice sentiment.
Foreboding, hypnotic synths, howling hooks and a dark-edged delivery give this song a feeling reminiscent of the gloomier, creepier dance-floor tracks of the 1980s, as if Gary Numan, Rockwell and Depeche Mode were all nodding in approval in the recording studio. Some 8-bit blips break up the reassuring-and-also-unsettling narrative, but they are fleeting, and a bit out-of-place in this dance party in the woods mood the track creates. Have a listen below.
End of the year listicles are a weird double-edged sword—yeah, they can be seen as agenda-setting and the discourse around them mind-numbing (“Where is [Album I Liked]?” “Why is [Album I Hated] on this list?”), but they’re also a great way to catch up on the good stuff you might have missed over the past year. For those who can’t stand all that clicking and reading, end-of-the-year mixtapes are a tolerable and dance party-ready substitute.
Hype Machine, instead of doing the whole end-of-the-year listicle thing, enlisted a pair of popular dance party curators to do their 2012 mixes, Major Lazer and the Hood Internet. The former, in addition to the international jamz with which Major Lazer are associated, features hits from Kendrick Lamar, Usher, TNGHT, and Hot Chip, as well as some of their own tracks from this year, including a sped-up “Original Don” and the wub-happy collaboration with Flux Pavilion, “Jah No Partial.” Chicago duo The Hood Internet feature Kanye West, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Future, and Chief Keef, among others, and both mixes feature iterations of M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls.”
DJ Daniel Kim takes a more pure pop approach to his end-of-the-year mix, which features some of the biggest singles of the year, with videos to match. More than 50 tracks from the forgettable (“Payphone,” that Flo Rida whistle song) to some particularly choice jams—you may have forgotten “Call Me Maybe,” Grammys, but the Danthology certainly did not. Fun.’s “We Are Young” gets mixed with tracks from Katy Perry and Nelly Furtado, and what’s amazing is how immensely improved all three become.
The only end-of-the-year mix that seems conspicuously missing is DJ Earworm, who has been delivering a mega-mashup pop music State of the Union of sorts for years along the lines of Danthology. But we’re sure he’ll have something along soon. In the meantime, put these on your New Year’s Eve playlist.
Maxïmo Park played in New York last night? The Killers are putting out an album next week? It’s time to reflect on the recent past. It seems like just yesterday that Brandon Flowers was perfecting his glossy pout, but that was 2005, or 16 blog years ago! Here are some other memories from my time as an entry-level alt teen, putting posters from imported copies of the NME on my bedroom wall.
Maxïmo Park – “Graffiti”
Back in the day, Maxïmo Park’s Paul Smith was probably the smartest guy in British rock music. He might still be!
Hot Chip – “Over and Over”
Hot Chip had already released debut album Coming On Strong in 2004, but “Over And Over” was their breakout single in 2006, and for good reason. It’s got all the wit and tension that has led to their success since then.
The Lovemakers – “Prepare For The Fight”
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the sexed-up Oakland duo was always on heavy rotation on the alt-rock station LIVE 105. To this day, I’m not really sure how far outside the region they made it, but they had a good run while they lasted.
The Kills – “Love Is A Deserter”
The Kills have been going strong for ten years now, and “Love Is A Deserter” was the first song I remember hearing from them. They’ve mellowed out a little with age, but this cut from 2004’s No Wow shoots to kill.
Arctic Monkeys – “Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?”
Remember the halcyon days of Myspace, when bands like Arctic Monkeys could suddenly rise to international stardom? Well, now it’s 2012, and high school girls are cyberbullying each other on Tumblr instead.
The Rakes – “22 Grand Job”
The now-defunct favorites of Hedi Slimane were angular and anxious, loaded with sharp everyman observations.
Beck – “Girl”
Do you want to feel old? Guero was the Beck album that came out when I was the right age to get into his work.
The Killers – “Mr. Brightside”
Remember when Brandon Flowers wanted to be Morrissey instead of Bruce Springsteen?
The Futureheads – “Hounds Of Love”
When the Kate Bush classic got this barbershop-inspired treatment, it was a big deal, or so I read on the internet.
Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out”
I’d be amiss if I didn’t include the song that completely changed my ideas about what music could be. While it hasn’t quite been canonized the way, say, Modest Mouse’s “Float On” has, there’s still plenty to look back on and love.
So, how about those Olympics? That’s a thing that’s happening, right? London’s being taken over by tourists and athletes and said athletes’ wild sex. Considering that I spend the majority of my time sitting in front of a computer, I don’t really know that much about sports, but here are some tenuously thematic tracks.
Girls Aloud – “Swinging London Town” Sure, the Spice Girls are reuniting for the Olympics, but here’s something from another girl group on hiatus for you. Girls Aloud never grabbed much of an audience outside of the UK, but it’s never too late to discover pop perfection.
Surfer Blood – “Swim” It feels like a while since we’ve heard from Florida rockers Surfer Blood, whose debut album Astrocoast was a favorite from 2010. Go ahead and listen to this while reading internet comments about the number of bags that need to be put over Michael Phelps’s head or something.
Jonquil – “Run” Things I would rather do than actually go running: listen to this song from the perennially pleasant Oxford band Jonquil, featured on their recent LP Point of Go.
Tennis – “Petition” I played tennis as a kid because my mom said I would like it and Michael Chang was a rare celebrity role model for Asian-Americans during the 90s. I wasn’t very good at it, so now the closest I get is listening to the retro-pop duo called Tennis. This is a highlight from their latest album Young And Old.
The Jam – “London Traffic” So apparently, a huge influx of people entering a city makes traffic really bad. Here is a song entitled “London Traffic” from 1977, truly a message for the ages.
The Specials – “Too Much Too Young” The closing ceremonies of the Olympics are set to showcase various artists from Britain’s proud musical history, including ska legends the Specials.
New Order – “Age of Consent” Not only are New Order also performing at the closing ceremonies, it’s scientifically proven (not really) that “Age of Consent” is one of the best summer songs ever.
Blur – “For Tomorrow” A significant portion of America is going to have to find out that Blur made more than “that woohoo song” when they headline the closing ceremonies. Here is my favorite Blur song, from 1993’s Modern Life Is Rubbish.
The Ruby Suns – “Olympics On Pot” It’s almost guaranteed that someone from Vice is going to go to the Olympics on acid, but the title of this song offers a back-up idea.
Did you ever make one of those music videos at an amusement park in which you sang along to a karaoke track in front of a green screen? Did you get a VHS copy of it and a lifetime of memories of your pretend superstardom? I didn’t, probably because my parents wouldn’t fork over the cash. Oh, the indignities I have suffered! Well, I’ll just live vicariously through Hot Chip (which, you know, I pretty much do every day already), who have released the ’90s partie timez-inspired clip for "How Do You Do?" off their great new album In Our Heads.
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.
Looking sharp, 2012. In our first two installments, we’ve already highlighted some of the best songs of the year so far, like Tanlines’ “All of Me” and “I Love It” by Icona Pop. Here’s a sampling of some other great singles from the past six months.
Django Django – “Default”
This relentlessly catchy cut from the London-based psych-rock quartet demands to be put on repeat.
Hot Chip – “Night And Day”
Hot Chip have always been pretty sexy, and they reach their full potential in that department with “Night and Day.” With a nasty bass line and characteristic humor, the song simultaneously fulfills their established R&B-inflected electro sound and pushes it further.
Grimes – “Oblivion”
Claire Boucher’s ethereal vocals and looping production make this song both expansive and intensely intimate.
Kindness – “House”
An earnest, quietly anthemic love song from the British up-and-comer. Kindess’s debut album World, You Need A Change Of Mind was produced by French studio wizard Philippe Zdar (Phoenix, Chromeo).
Chairlift – “Met Before”
On sophomore album Something, Chairlift moved swiftly past the previous success of “Bruises” and went in a dreamier direction, while remaining just as charming.
Sharon Van Etten – “Leonard”
Sharon Van Etten’s been around for a while, but she’s earned some new fans from third LP Tramp. This highlight from the album lets the singer-songwriter’s voice soar.
Perfume Genius – “Dark Parts”
Seattle’s Perfume Genius, aka Mike Hadreas, is known for his stark, minimalist style. “Dark Parts” shows off his ability to distill imagery and make you cry.
Bear In Heaven – “Sinful Nature”
Bear In Heaven’s shimmering electro-pop sounds perfect right about now. With lines like “Let’s get loaded and make some strange things come true,” this song puts romance in a weird place.
New Build – “Do You Not Feel Loved?”
There’s a bit of overlap here, as New Build is a side project of Hot Chip’s Al Doyle and Felix Martin. This track from their excellent album “Yesterday Was Lived And Lost” is gently delivered, but urgent all the same.
Santigold – “Big Mouth”
It took four years for Santigold to make her return, and tracks like the rattling, blistering “Big Mouth” make sophomore LP Master of My Make-Believe worth the wait.
The British electro-rock group Hot Chip might still be best known for their output in the earlier part of the aughts, with rock-club dancefloor tracks like “Ready For The Floor,” but there’s increasingly proof that the band shouldn’t be remembered as one that had a moment, but paid attention to as one having a string of them.
June will see the release of In Our Heads, the band’s addictive fifth album. Today we’re treated to the first video from the record, a strange, monk-filled joint for the driving banger “Night and Day.” And if the song wasn’t catchy enough, the dancing is amazing enough to inspire Filipino prisoners.
In its multi-decade, 500+-episode run, The Simpsons has sported all sorts of popular culture references, from the Immortal Bard (a Hamlet parody still shown in high schools all across America by English teachers who want to get hip with the young people) to Spider-Pig (does whatever a spider-pig does).
Last night, The Simpsons aired a surprising homage to David Foster Wallace, titled “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again,” which borrows its title — and plot — from DFW’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. The episode, in which Bart assumes the role of Wallace on his disdain-inducing luxury cruise, also includes musical snippets from Hot Chip (“Boy From School”) and Animal Collective (“Winter’s Love”).
With a television run as long as the one Matt Groening’s iconic series has had, there have been a whole lot of other surprising, notable and overall funny salutes to important literary tomes, from Hemingway to Stephen King to the Bible. Here’s a look back at just a few of the other key Simpsons moments that went by the book.
Edgar Allen Poe has been a rather popular source of inspiration, particularly with the Treehouse of Horror Halloween episodes. One of the first Halloween shorts was a direct take on "The Fall of the House of Usher;" in “Lisa’s Rival,” she replaces perfect Allison Taylor’s diorama of "The Tell-Tale Heart" with an actual beef heart, with the real diorama torturing her from the floorboards. But this early Treehouse of Horror installment, a retelling of “The Raven” featuring Marge as Lenore and Bart as the titular bird, is the best of these.
Lisa meets a group of college students in her gymnastics class and pretends to be one of them in order to belong to a group of her intellectual equals. One of her new friends is re-reading Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (one of a few Pynchon references that have appeared on the show), but more importantly, the episode includes one of The Simpsons’ best lit. moments. Lisa attends a reading from former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky (as himself), who gets some support from a group of frat dudes with “BASHO” painted on their stomachs. It did make us wonder about the possibility of a world where poetry slams sported SEC football-caliber tailgates.
Harry Potter has had a few nods as well, including a pretty-okay Treehouse of Horror installment. But it was Lisa’s encounter with the real J.K. Rowling that included the words all fans wanted to hear. When she asks the author what happens to Harry at the end of the series, she responds, “He grows up and marries you. Is that what you want to hear?”
And finally, the Hamlet episode, inspiring curricula since its airing. Although it’s certainly difficult to condense a five-act play into a digestible TV mini-sode, The Simpsons did it as only they could. The episode is notable for its expert use of Ralph Wiggum (“I’m gonna go kill Hamlet! Here’s my mad face.”), “Rosencarl and Guildenlenny,” Lisa’s brief cameo as Ophelia and Bart’s one-sentence review of the play, which sums up the feelings of so many: “How could a play with so much violence in it be so boring?”