The Womb sounds chill like any womb should feel

Psychedelic music is essentially a nice day in the sun, spent idling around, sitting under a tree and letting the thoughts drift (no need to enhance them with additional…erm…remedies). However, you don’t have to just idly stroll along if you’re a psychedelic band as White Denim continuously and gorgeously demonstrate every damn album.

The Womb are likewise the kind of band whose album (dto.) starts smooth and chill but eventually lifts up into „Batstone“ and feels like that shadow over your face, of someone standing right in front of you, asking you to take a walk or dance or maybe have a grillwurst with. „The Womb“ is not as eclectic and energetic as White Denim at their best but it plays likewise with the expectations that psychedelic music creates – you expect a slow boat ride and then – if you’re lucky – get some (safe) rapids along the way to get the heart pumping and the adrenaline going. Oh, and don’t worry, instead of the crazy waterfall or some murderous forrest-people (tuck away that banjo!) you’ll get a beautifully open lake to keep that smooth sailing.

Susanne Sundfor ‘Ten Love Songs’ is not what you think it is

I recently compared Jenny Hval to bits and pieces of Susanne Sundfor (not literal bits and pieces, obviously) and totally forgot to mention that Susanne released an album this year as well. „Ten Love Songs“ is what you’d call a „Slow Burner“ because it starts a little tame and very much in the safe realms of pop* and slowly develops the typical Sundfor sound of grand classical compositions and this weirdly uncanny valley feeling of electronic alienation that never gets too intense (intense as in „Please make the Polar Express drive off a bridge“). Imagine a weirdly lit prom in the 80s where the adults are absent and everyone is too tired to really freak out. That’s the effect some of the slower songs evoke in me (maybe I should reconsider my life choices, though).

The album picks up speed around „Fade Away and somewhere around the end it has reached the „Silicon Veil“ heights of deliriousness (coincidentally, one of the outstanding songs on this album is called „Delirious“).

Weirdly, on the recorded version she doesn’t sound that Kate Bush-y as in this live version. It’s probably the total Kate Bush-move when she sings “I am not the one holding the gun”. I dig it both ways. 

I don’t know how much thought was put into the tracklisting but would bet that Susanne didn’t just draw some numbers. Therefore, let me openly admire the bold move to please and then surprise the new listeners (probably SIA-fans) with pop tunes that go out into the wild and simultaneously confuse and then excite old listeners who don’t have to fear that Susanne will anytime soon write a “simple! album.

*Let’s just say that it is safe pop in my world. There are probably Britney Spears fans out there that would be absolutely alienated by this.

Echo Movis ‘Beautiful Glitch’ – no word about Ralph

Oh, deceitful pop, those sweet sweet melodies and lovely vocals, those relaxed vocals like summer-warm waves lapping up at the beach. Echo Movis will cradle you and then suddenly edge out into experimental dissonance or slowly descend into a truly psychedelic route. The true wonder of these day’s music is the fact that a genre is not a room you get settled in but rather a loose, wobbly frame that you can use to tame the beast of your own creativity. Echo Movis do just that with their album „Beautiful Glitch“ (I am thinking of this animated movie about a glitch, “Wreck-It Ralph” right here). You will dreamily slip into a zen-like state and suddenly get roused up with a sweet-sour shock like „Rodriguez Bike“, only to fall back to that warm beach with the following title song of the album.

SOAK ‚Before we forget how to dream‘ – yay for debuts

Bridie Monds-Watson does not only have the name to become a musician by day, crime fighter by night but also is one of the chosen musicians who release a debut that should sound ambitious-but-trying but instead gives off the vibe that she’s doing this since decades now and is already fully settled in her abilities and style.

I am usually a sucker for very strong, dark female vocals but Bridie’s voice has a softness and a hint of youthfulness (partly because she is youthful partly because she just has a very lovely voice) that is quite mesmerizing. Add to that some folk-notes of her Irish heritage (there’s a violin and also a 60’s vibe in the kind of melodies she plays with) and I am sold.

There’s this song by Royksop featuring Karin Dreijer Andersson from The Knife „What else is there“ which sounds like the evil sister of some of SOAK’s music because there’s a depth in most of her compositions, luscious space and a calm that is unusual for this kind of music. Given that there are songs that are great but what you would expect from a debut, the other songs, those wild beasts roaming near the seaside, truly stand out and make this album a great listen and this artist one to watch.

Jenny Hval ‚Apocalypse, girl‘ – substance over lyrics

I do write a lot about female artists but hardly ever use the word ‚feminist‘. Not because they aren’t but simply because there’s no overt agenda in their music (consider this a judgement-free comment). Jenny Hval, though, plays with ideas, slam poetic lyrics and a certain 80s bluntness in imagery that she (along with artists like Peaches, for example) can be considered a very feminist musician.

On first glance, this bluntness and the alienation she works through her music, was hard to swallow for me (feminist symbolism not intended). As some of her more „catchy“ songs and bits of songs reminded me of Susanne Sundfor who has – despite her experimental compositions – a very melodic pop-appeal, Hval was too fragmented for me, the full story of her songs on “Apocalypse, girl” never really unravelled. Instead, I had a patchwork of impressions, styles and vocal stunts in front of me that was annoying as soon as it got endearing and was overpowered by lyrics that were close to a parody.

But (oh, you had to expect the but) with the second and third listen, the underlying musical concept got more and more visible. Hval is being compared with artists like Björk or Kate Bush. But both Björk and Bush understand the amazing and magical mixture of beautiful pop melodies wrapped up in musical experimentalism. Hval does not go for the pop melodies to carry the art but instead uses the art to defragment the pop melodies. Does that make sense? Imagine a Daily Soap episode cut into pieces  and rearranged into a different narrative, an off-putting story with hints of the normal and cheesy story-telling hidden deep within the new structure. With „Apocalypse, girl“, we do have a basic material that is obviously superior to a mundane daily soap. But it still is a nearly meta approach to art pop. Initially, I wanted to fight against that term in combination with Hval as much as possible. This is no pop, I thought, this is too shattered, too expressionist. But take a few steps back and you discover the soft shapes and warm melodies that make pop. They’re only rearranged to a point where – as soon as you get lost in a song – you’ll get hurled back outside to watch everything shift and change in front of you.

Let’s not put that much weight on those lyrics, those clits and shavings and bananas and ironic capitalist critics that cry for an aggressive collage by an 80s teenager with only one earring. Let’s focus on the insane fragility of beauty and unease that this album presents which is far more impressive as a statement of feminism nowadays than those lyrics.

Nadine Shah ‚Fast Food‘ – if only Fast Food were like this

There’s a very sensual feeling of unease with Nadine Shah’s new album „Fast Food“, the kind that feels endearing despite that voice in your head that you shouldn’t venture out too far. From the dark vocals to the deliberately subtle yet heavy-weight compositions, the whole album feels like a Kubrick-movie – you know about all the details that went into the making, all the unseen cutlery in the kitchen, the functioning machines that are turned off in the background, the unspoken backstory (and the stressed out close to a breakdown actors) but you don’t feel them as oppressive because there’s just the feeling that they add another layer to the art.

The British singer with Pakistani and Norwegian roots apparently gets compared to Nick Cave and PJ Harvey a lot, the latter probably because of that full and dark voice but both comparisons only go so far because with Shah you have a certain live aspect in her music, that one diva in the foreground of a bar in a Lynch-movie (I am thinking here of the scene in „Mulholland Drive“, that singing lady on the stage, the reveal of the tape recorder and this intense sadness and beauty of it all). You listen to the digitalized record but it feels as if you’re there in the studio, half lit, somewhere in a corner, trying not to breathe too loud.

And because Shah was careful to add traces of her cultural identity as Pakistani in her music, this smooth, dangerously sensual and strong scent is as haunting as it is. You would have to look quite hard to find anything like it right now.

Sorry, there’s no recent official music videos of Shah. But here’s that “Mulholland Drive”-scene I was writing about, to get a little creeped out (and feel moved to tears)

FYI: FFS ‚FFS‘ – ftw or wtf?

Here’s a difficult supergroup: I don’t really like Franz Ferdinand because personally, their music doesn’t interest me one bit and it’s the epitome of the Britpop revival in the early 2000s resulting in a bunch of great bands that mostly developed into generic drivel (sorry, this is really harsh but as I had my musical blossoming during this time, it still stings that most of the bands back then turned out to be One, maybe two hit wonders).

On the other hand, Sparks are f***ing genious. There is nothing like a constantly hyper and manic pop outfit that creates music that is ironic but seriously professional and perfectionist at once. How does that work? And can Sparks save FF from the fate of their Britpop-Brethren? (well, save them from that fate to repeat because they already messed up the chance to be interesting on their own)

The answer is: well…not really. The Franz Ferdinand-ish ‚let’s do a song that is so repetitive in its building blocks that you are kinda annoyed by it even before you’ve listened through it once’ is still a big thing and therefore a big problem with quite a few of the new songs. But here’s the good news: there are hints of this over the top excitement that Sparks developed into an art and those hints are the saving grace for songs like „Save me from myself“, “Police Encounters” and „Dicator’s Son“. 

To be fair, they’re much better on record. Live – man, that’s close to a trainwreck. No wait, it is a trainwreck. 

However, thinking of the amazing soundtrack for the movie „Frank“ which played with the mixture of theatrical melodies paired with noise experiments and absolutely nailed art pop in reference to – amongst others – Sparks, the overall result of the real deal featuring the not really real deal is a little lackluster and weirdly…normal.

One might have expected a little more excitement and weirdness with a mixture like this but hardly any song got my full attention (for better or worse). Maybe, I am overly critical and maybe the comparison to „Frank“ is unfair (a single person doesn’t need to compromise with a bunch of others when writing odd songs) but this is amusing and interesting in theory but hardly revolutionary. To be fair, though – at least it’s not Metallica ft. Lou Reed-ghastly.

And to send you off with something charming, lovely, artsy and fascinating, let’s just revel once more in “Frank” – man, I love the music and the movie.