BlackBook Tracks #9: Summertime Sadness

What’s your summertime sadness, fellow member of the first world reading this article? Lana Del Rey? Not drinking enough frozen margaritas outdoors? Your best prospect for a potential summer fling not panning out? Your awkward farmer’s tan? Never working up the confidence to wear a crop top? Ryan Lochte? The Teen Wolf season finale introducing too many new ideas? Never finding the perfect pair of sandals? The new Taylor Swift song? Well, it’s mid-August. We’re in the home stretch, so either go out and get it or make this playlist the soundtrack to your wallowing.

Slow Club – “Giving Up On Love”

Oscillate between optimism and pessimism with one of Britain’s finest folk-pop duos. At this point in the summer 2012 game, it’s time to give up on a lot of things, and love is probably #1 on the list.

Beat Connection – “The Palace Garden, 4am”

Seattle quartet Beat Connection’s debut LP The Palace Garden has already proved to be one of this summer’s most pleasant releases. Loaded with smooth harmonies, the title track is simultaneously soothing and super catchy.

Ladyhawke – “Anxiety”

The title says it all, but the effervescent production lightens up the eponymous track from the Ladyhawke’s recently-released Anxiety. The electro-pop artist doesn’t shy away from getting personal, and she’s all the better for it.

Discovery – “Carby” (ft. Ezra Koenig)

Rejection hurts! Dance the pain away!

Kisses – “Funny Heartbeat”

Hard-to-Google L.A. synth-pop duo Kisses made a splash with their 2010 debut The Heart Of The Nightlife, and they’re back with “Funny Heartbeat.” It’s already setting the bar high for their follow-up album.

Efterklang – “Hollow Mountain”

The Danish band is back with more stunning orchestral sounds. Here’s a glimpse at their bleak and lovely new album Piramida, out next month.

Air – “You Make It Easy”

Legendary French duo Air excels at the atmospherics, and “You Make It Easy” is no exception. Nothing restores sanity like a listen to Moon Safari.

The Antlers – “French Exit”

Get tranquil and let some of Brooklyn’s brighter sons help you deal with that sense of lingering shame and regret.

Timber Timbre – “I Get Low”

Haunting vocals make this 2010 track from the Canadian folk trio totally captivating. Listen to this any time the sun isn’t out.

Chad Valley – “I Want Your Love”

Under the moniker Chad Valley, Hugo Manuel makes immersive, glimmering electronic music. The Oxford, UK-based artist is also gifted with a preternaturally earnest-sounding voice that’s hard to not fall for. This song will go great with your pining for someone who has a water filter and non-leather couch.

Cloud Nothings – “Wasted Days”

There’s something both triumphant and crushingly defeating about this nearly nine-minute track from the Ohio rockers with the raw refrain “I thought I would be more than this.” It’s simple, but effective—who doesn’t?

Ladyhawke’s ‘Anxiety’ Leads the Pack of This Spring’s Best Musical Offerings

Electronic effects and treated electric guitars dominate 32 year-old New Zealand alt-rock chanteuse Phillipa Brown’s (aka Ladyhawke) sophomore album Anxiety. Those effects often dress up some occasionally mundane lyrics, but the vocal hooks consistently get stuck in your head, and pretty much all of the songs here have ’em. If this album has an antecedent, it’s ’90s alt-rockers Garbage’s second album Version 2.0: exuberant, expertly produced, and packed with potential singles.

Potential singles are hardly a concern for Nick Zammuto, and there’s hardly a defining moment on the self-titled new album from his new band, Zammuto. Nearly every song sounds like the work of a different band. The album, which features his brother Mikey on bass, retains the spirit of humor, adventure, and experimentation his critically renowned former band The Books has perfected over the past decade. This album is total sonic schizophrenia with a charmingly high "huh?" factor: confusing, amusing, and consistently entertaining.

There’s also a consistently entertaining new album from Brooklyn dream-poppers Violens called True. Lovely melodies and reverb-drenched harmonies abound; think Ecstasy and Wine-era My Bloody Valentine with a Smiths fetish. While there have been some wonderful moments scattered across this Brooklyn trio’s prior releases, this album is where the band pulls it all together and truly earns its place alongside top-tier early-’90s shoegaze predecessors like Lush, Ride, and especially Ian Masters-era Pale Saints (to whom the band most closely resembles). It’s a modern masterpiece of the genre.

Also a masterpiece of its genre is the Cryptocracy, the new full length release from electro music wunderkind Huoratron. Missed your morning coffee? Any track from this album will provide an assaultive jolt of audio adrenaline. Under the moniker Huoratron, Finnish producer and experimental electro soundscaper Aku Raski fills the album with all manner of audio trickery, making pulsating electronic dance music that manages to sound aggressive and raw without being abrasive: First-rate contemporary hardcore techno.

We Are Not the Same, the first album from Seattle-based duo Lux, is a self-released, home basement-recorded tribute to D.I.Y. ambition and a music geek’s affection for their indie rock forebearers like Sebadoh and Black Tambourine (whose song "Black Car" is covered here as a hidden track). The band members alternate vocal duties amidst a sea of echoey synths and warm guitar fuzz, emulating their musical heroes with intoxicating enthusiasm. It’s a total charmer.

Chris and Dexy Valentine, the husband/wife team who comprise indie band Magic Wands, have dubbed the sound of their debut album Aloha Moon "lovewave." This seems to mean either ready-made porno soundtrack music or atmospheric, mid-tempo psychedelic pop that alternately shimmers and smolders. This is what space-age bachelor pad music sounds like in 2012, even though some of the lyrics might inspire laughter in the object of said bachelor’s seduction.

New Build is a new project featuring members of Grammy-nominated alt-rock/dance hybrid Hot Chip, multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle, and drum machine impresario Felix Martin and producer Tom Hopkins. Their debut, Yesterday Was Lived and Lost, gives them an outlet to celebrate their fondness for Human League and Born Under Punches-era Talking Heads with rewarding results. The songwriting is solid, the choruses stick, and there are plenty of nice sonic touches like the computerized steel drums that carry the languid "Finding Reasons" to keep things interesting throughout.

Ladyhawke Discusses Her Eating Habits

If you’ve had the chance to listen to tracks from Ladyhawke’s confessional self-titled debut album, you have an idea of what occupies the New Zealander’s head: insanity, break-ups, and groupies–typical rock star stuff. But what about her stomach? What does this diva from down under eat while she’s on tour Stateside? What delicacies from back home does she miss most? Earlier this week, she answered these and other pressing dietary inquiries while on tour via e-mail.

If you were getting the death penalty, and you had to choose a final meal, what would it be? That’s dark! I wouldn’t make it to the last meal. No way I’m dying at someone else’s hand.

What do you miss the most about Australian/New Zealand cuisine? The freshness and variety to begin with. You can find all sorts of different types of food. New Zealand and Australia are very multicultural countries and that is definitely reflected in the huge variety of restaurants and supermarkets about. Amazing Thai restaurants too!

When you’re touring, is there something from home you crave that you simply cannot get in the U.S.? Whitlocks tomato sauce, Marmite, and Whittakers Dark Peanut Slab.

Where’s your favorite place to eat when you’re in New York, or the best place you have eaten? There was this little Italian place close to the Tribeca Grand that I went to every day when I was there because their pasta was the best I’d ever had. I can’t remember the name of it though!

Where’s your favorite place to eat when you’re in Los Angeles? Well, I eat lots at California Vegan, it’s nice to be able to enjoy food without having to check if there are sneaky bits of dairy in it!

Are there any sorts of food you’ve discovered in States that you didn’t know existed or that you’ve never had before? Churros haha, but I haven’t tried one yet because I think they have butter in them.

When you order from a restaurant, are you health conscious? I’m dairy and allergy conscious first and foremost. The amount of people that don’t listen to me at restaurants when I tell them my allergies gets ridiculous. The fact that I can’t eat dairy instantly makes things healthier anyway!

What are your drinking habits? I drink a lot of bottled water, it’s almost like a security blanket for me to always have a bottle on hand. Alcohol, I drink beer mostly. Definitely not a cocktail girl, I like my beer.

Do people drink more where you’re from? It’s hard to say. There is a huge drinking culture in New Zealand, and in Australia as well, quite different to here in the states. The laws are so different from place to place though when it comes to alcohol consumption.

How does the nightlife compare in NY/LA to Sydney/Melbourne? Well I guess no matter what city you are at in the world there are always a whole bunch of people wanting to go out and party. New York and Los Angeles obviously have larger populations than Sydney or Melbourne, which usually means more options. Some of the best parties I have ever been to have been in Melbourne and L.A.

What’s your favorite neighborhood to party/hang out in when you’re in New York? When in Los Angeles? I’ve never had an opportunity to properly hang out in New York unfortunately. It’s always so brief, in and out for a show. My friends though all seem to live in Williamsburg, which I imagine is where I would probably end up hanging out! In Los Angeles most of my friends all live in Echo Park and Silver Lake. I usually end up hanging out in Silver Lake.

What do you like to drink with your food? Water or Coke. I can’t drink wine, it makes me sick.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Sydney? Mad Mex, great Mexican food there.

If you had to eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? That’s a really hard question, I wanna say burritos and tacos, but I also want to say roast potatoes and cauliflower….

What’s on your tour rider food-wise? Nachos, salsa, hummus, guacamole, dairy free sandwiches, a variety of fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables like carrots, celery, broccoli etc (to dip in the hummus and guacamole!)

What city that you’ve traveled to has the best food? I think Melbourne has the best food I’ve ever come across. Although L.A caters way more for vegans and people with allergies (I realize at this point I sound like an allergy infested dork).

Britney Spears Inspires, from Ladyhawke to Lily Allen

imageThe theory that Britney Spears may be the tenth muse (simply lost a long way from her home on Mount Helicon) may finally gain credence as of this past weekend, thanks to the Brits and their penchant for half-baked experiments in pop irony. London’s Radio 1, the same entity that encouraged Barbie-doll band Girls Aloud to vocally annihilate one of Robyn’s finest in the past, gave fringe popstrel Ladyhawke (recently branded “cool” by NME) the go-ahead to perform “Womanizer” — tinny when compared to Lily Allen’s performance of the same song, though neither was poor enough to redeem Britney’s recent lip-synch debacle. It’s above-average enough for a quick romp through the piano bar, but more importantly, it’s also a blessing for the chavs who previously shunned the ditty while secretly singing it into their mothers’ flatirons.

Music Reviews: From Killers to Ladyhawke

The Knux, Remind Me in 3 Days… (Interscope) – With 10 years of bling under their belts, brothers Krispy Kream and Al Millio fled their Katrina-ravaged Big Easy for a fresh milieu in the Hollywood Hills. And it shows: The lyrical drive of their debut album is now bedecked in club-crazed, West Coast extravagance. Tracks shimmy from remix-friendly singles like “Cappuccino” and “Powder Room” to intense guitar-jams in “Bang! Bang!” and “Daddy’s Little Girl.” Although the duo is routinely slammed for rehashing Outkast beats from back in the early noughties, Remind me in 3 Days… is an astute hybrid of fiery, clap-your-hands punk rap and garage hop. — Eiseley Tauginas

Labelle, Back to Now (Verve) – Trading 1960s bouffant cuts for space-age pantsuits, Labelle, the original girl-group power rangers, have been strutting their stuff, on and off, for 47 years. Back to Now is easily the reunion of the year, and on tracks like “The Truth Will Set You Free,” the gospel-funk-rock fusion poured on heavy by Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash sounds as mighty as ever. On “Roll Out,” featuring Wyclef Jean, the makers of “Lady Marmalade” bring their women’s lib sensibilities to the automaton generation. But they overplay the sap on too-earnest tracks like “Tears for the World” and “Dear Rosa.” A previously unreleased version of Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets” from 1970 demonstrates the glory that was, and isn’t quite now. — Evelyn McDonnell

Fires of Rome, You Kingdom You (The Hours) – On their debut album, this New York-based trio bursts out of the gate with vocals reminiscent of Bowie and guitars that rage like Zeppelin. Steadily piloted by lead vocalist Gunnar, You Kingdom You is an ode to the classic days of rock ’n’ roll doused with post-modernism. The album oscillates between soaring falsetto (“Dawn Lament”) and rousing aural kinesis (“Bronx Bombadier”) with such ease that it leaves listeners with a tinge of nostalgia for the golden age of rock. — Cory Carroll

The Killers, Day & Age (Island Records) – Frontman Brandon Flowers has always rocked a dazzling powerhouse voice, and on the band’s third studio album, the Killers tone down their synthesizers, showcasing his soaring vocals. Day & Age elevates the band out of their sophomore slump, as they return to their dance-pop-rock roots, and branch out into new sonic territory with emotive epics (“Goodnight, Travel Well”), stirring anthems (“Spaceman”) and pulsing ballads (“A Dustland Fairytale”). And while Flowers promises an angst-ridden exit on “I Can’t Stay,” by the album’s end you’ll wish he wouldn’t go. — C.C.

Morel, The Death Of The Paperboy (Outsider Music) – Morel, nom de groove of Richard Morel, remains both an icon and iconoclast of dance music, from his work with legendary deejay duo Deep Dish to “Blowoff,” his club-night collaboration with Hüsker Dü founder Bob Mould. Famed for merging heartfelt songwriting with atmospheric electronica, Morel, on his masterful new album, takes this alchemic approach to unexpected heights, exploring the inevitable love hangover following nights of “disco drugs and lots of fun.” One song, “Shoegazer Disco,” aptly distills his genius for transforming smokescreen guitars and spacey, emotional vocals into poignant dancefloor anthems. — Matt Diehl

Ladyhawke, Ladyhawke (Modular Records) – Like snorting lines of glitter from the neon surface of a just-completed Rubik’s Cube, the disco debut album from New Zealander Ladyhawke (known as Pip Brown to fellow Kiwis) is thrilling, heady and a little dizzying. This eponymous collection of dance anthems and power ballads bleeds, sweats and tears the 1980s into shreds on each buoyant, breathy track, relying heavily on thick synthesizers that pay homage to everyone from Cyndi Lauper and early Material Girl to ELO. “Paris is Burning” and “Dusk Till Dawn” are standouts, but picking favorites on this album is like having to choose between the guys from Wang Chung. — Nick Haramis