Ryan Power
Identity Picks [full-album stream] / “Sweetheart” [video]

Ryan Power’s Identity Picks is out this week via NNA Tapes. Check out the new video for the song “Sweetheart” below, as well as a stream of the album in its entirety, with some analysis throw in for good measure. And if you want to watch Power play the jams from Identity Picks, be sure to check out his July dates here!


There are many things to consider when discussing Ryan Power’s newest album Identity Picks. I’ve already discussed the musical/structural material of the album to some extent, but it’s definitely something that’s worth briefly mentioning again. Power writes the kind of songs that beautifully marry his lyrical sentiments to chord changes and arrangement developments that complement each other in a manner similar to song cycles from the Romantic era. It’s exactly the kind of thing that other musicians freak out over. For example, on a recent road trip with a group of fellow MFA music students, I threw on Identity Picks and proceeded to watch all of my friends collectively lose their shit over the dude’s ability to work such theoretical/experimental ideas into a pop context. However, while I’d love to nerd out and give you a complete harmonic analysis of mode-mixing songs like “The Prize” or “Earth to Fuckface,” it’s important to look at exactly how Power’s text fits with his infectious music, a combination that makes Power a true songwriting talent.

Whether intentionally or not, Identity Picks is a concept album of sorts that reveals its themes slowly and subtly over repeat listens. Now, obviously the title has something to do with what Power seems to be going for here, but the meaning is not as readily apparent as it may seem. Throughout the record, Power is trying to make sense of what direction his life is taking, and whatever path he chooses forces him to pick out a certain identity of sorts. However, there is lyrical imagery throughout the album that suggests that Power is looking at picking his identity the same way one would pick teammates for a sport or competition of sorts, and as the album progresses, it becomes apparent these songs are about Power competing and fighting for a number of various goals.

This theme is apparent from the first track onward. On the excellent “Sample Lives,” Power sings “You can’t forfeit the game or choose a new side,” as he desperately tries to live his life and socialize. By the end of the track, Power realizes that its too late to placate the blame of his own neuroses on his significant others “need[ing] to go to therapy.” On the next track, “The Prize,” Power presents the most competition-based metaphors, as he proclaims “Shame on you you crazy fool! I am the prize!” The song works on a couple of levels: (1) Power could be singing directly to a lover about lowering their standards in an attempt for them to realize the absurdity of their demands, or (2) Power could be addressing himself and attempting to self-motivate in the same manner as “Sample Lives.” Reading the record’s title somewhat favors the second meaning, but the ambiguity of Power’s use of “you” and “we” allows a wonderful openness to interpretation.

This theme of competition, however inconspicuous, continues throughout the album. On the smooth R&B-referencing numbers like “New Attitude” and the album’s title track, Power expounds on his competition and his feelings towards the game. On “New Attitude,” he proclaims that he “can’t control it when they strut their stuff,” while on the title cut he sings “I’m not having fun” like a kid realizing that they just can’t beat their school’s rival soccer team. Power realizes the ability of his rivals and can’t quite convince himself that he’s able to overcome them. However, he gets feisty and defensive on tracks like “Earth to Fuckface” and “Well on Your Way,” where he essentially realizes that he doesn’t want to join the same club as stuff-strutting foes who wear “80s sunglasses, flannel shirts, and jeans that hurt.” By the time the album nears completion, Power seems comfortably defeatist, but only because he realizes that his rivals are worse off than himself.

Amazingly, the sentiment of each one of Power’s tracks is mirrored musically in some way. The defeatist songs are more down tempo and R&B-based, while his defensive songs are generally more uptempo and Rundgren-esque. Chords change and arrangements shift with the lyrics in subtle ways. It makes for a sort of psuedo-song cycle that becomes clearer with each listen.

In many ways, Identity Picks is similar to From Langely Park to Memphis by Power’s beloved Prefab Sprout. Like that album, Identity Picks is an immediately likable, sophisticated pop record that reveals hidden layers of meaning with each listen. Where Prefab Sprout’s record gives way to reveal simultaneously ironic mocking and sincere reverence for the landscape of 80s American pop, Power’s album functions as a similar portrait of 2013’s personal/musical landscape. And also like Prefab’s album, Identity Picks is in no way overt about this, inviting open interpretation even when the material is there for those who want to dig deeper.

• Ryan Power: http://www.ryanpower.org
• NNA Tapes: http://www.nnatapes.com

Locrian

“Eternal Return”

On the Locrian timeline of Terrible YouTube Comment Trolling, previous album The Clearing was to “What is this, it sounds like just an INTRO, where’s the song??? this is BOOoooring, omg so tedious” what new album Return to Annihilation is to “what is this shoegaze-y post-rock bullshit??? too much like a real song! go back to the old stuff!!!” The trolls will never be satisfied, of course, but anyone with functioning ears and eyes can observe that Locrian continue to fucking dominate. Check out the video for the album’s opening cut, “Eternal Return,” above.

What hasn’t changed: visually, Locrian still lead us through the decaying urban spaces that have perfectly accompanied their music for some time now. Steven Hess’s thunderous drums still pound their way into our skulls until our hands raise up as if by their own accord into clenched fists of victory. Terrence Hannum’s synths still occupy massive swathes of aural real estate, swallowing us in the low-end while delivering those airy, mournful melodies in the upper register. Hannum’s anguished vocals still take us there, too, down to a subterranean granite chamber where his howling reverberates from wall to wall to wall to infinity.

What has changed: “Eternal Return,” though admittedly the front-loaded intro of an otherwise deeeeeep album, feels more like a “proper single” than anything the band has released before: three minutes of discernible riffage, something like a verse-chorus-verse structure, and those killer clean-tone leads from guitarist André Foisy (“What is this, the new MBV?”). Even in their most “accessible” moments, Locrian continue to surpass expectations.

Return To Annihilation is available now on CD and 2xLP via Relapse Records. Pick it up, put it on, fall into it.

• Locrian: http://www.locrianband.com
• Relapse: http://www.relapse.com

Lil B

“4 Me”

My main man C Monster recently wrote an excellent post on the new Lil B mixtape, 100% Percent Gutta. In it, he describes “4 Me” as a “Fucking GAME CHANGER,” and I agree with him — so much, in fact, that I want to do another damn post just on the track. So basically, “4 Me” is the BasedGod’s take on Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” a track that was epic when it debuted two years ago but that has since become staler than a bag of Tostitos left in an overheated car for two years. But they don’t call him the BasedGod for nothing, because Lil B brings this track back to LIFE, in a strange, twisted, tone-deaf kind of way. “4 Me” consists of an intro, a verse, and a hook: a trolling, Sadean lovechild of a hook, repeated just the right number of times so that it’ll come creeping into your head 16 hours later. Indeed, the Auto-Tune on this song is unequivocally, awe-inspiringly awful, to the point that it actually makes Our Lord and Savior Yeezus Christ’s singing sound operatic by comparison (collaboration, guys, please?). Depending on who you ask, “4 Me” may be considered a triumph of transcendentally terrible art à la The Room, an earnest but nonetheless shitty take on a hit song — or maybe it’s just another excuse for Lil B to cavort around in a bomber hat and PJ pants. Me, I say it’s a combination of the three, plus a belated New Years’ greeting. Hey, it beats “Auld Lang Syne.”

• Lil B: http://www.youtube.com/user/lilbpack1
• Dat Piff: http://www.datpiff.com

Talibam! with Yasunao Tone and Sam Kulik

Launch Pad #5 (Kanye West’s Yeezus)

Regardless of your feelings about Yeezus, one thing that’s objectively apparent about the record is that the whole album (and especially its first half) is mastered and mixed well into the red, with an emphasis on amplifying both the high and the low ends in the mix. Such mixing tactics, from a purely physiological level, make Kanye West’s music abrasive when played at high volumes or listened to for a long period of time. Even though Yeezus finds West experimenting with musically noisier textures as well, this relationship to the psychoacoustic effects of frequency and timbre is explored even further with episode 5 of Talibam’s Launch Pad series; here, the noisier aspects of West’s music are pushed to their disgustingly logical extremes by Talibam!, Sam Kulik and legendary Japanese Fluxus artist Yasunao Tone.

The trio use the first third of Yeezus as the catalyst for their collaboration, and the results present a magical alternate universe where the implicit use of frequency and volume in West’s music become explicit. Opener “Bon Zaite!” (oh yeah, puns abound with these titles) is perhaps the most overtly bombastic illustration of this, with Kulik’s absolutely guttural trombone and Tone’s piercing glitches threatening to swallow the track whole. However, the duo still leave room for West’s verses to cut through, which nicely draws a direct line to the source material. “I AM A SCROD” is another major highlight that nearly approaches prettiness while also thoroughly deconstructing “I Am A God’s” production. The idea of deconstruction is key to this material; listen to the original Yeezus tracks after listening to the Talibam! session, and it becomes apparent that these artists picked certain sonic elements of the original tracks and chose to highlight them by distorting them. The attention to frequency on “Bon Zaite!” mimics and warps the synthesizers on the original track; the rhythmic glitches on “FRACK S{PIN BREAD” subverts the pounding drums of “Black Skinhead;” and similarly the debased kalimba(?) and electronics of “I AM A SCROD” beautifully perverts the sounds of “I Am A God.” Umm, time for a full-album remix, guys?

You can listen to the Launch Pad session below:

• Talibam: http://www.talibam.bandcamp.com
• Sam Kulik: http://www.samkulik.com

M.I.A.

“Bring The Noize”

So, this is totally another workout post, but in vein of M.I.A. Considering she’s probably 10+ years older than you, it’s weird to see that she’s still all about fashion. And in the video for “Bring The Noize,” it’s a fashion RIOT! Errrybody gettin’ theys hair done-up and kicks spiffed, etc. Why don’t you do the same? Get in the gym and grip a couple looks while wearing that fly jog-cloth. Drip in sweat and give that face-down, eyes-up look at someone, anyone, don’t matter if you single or not; the gym is all about looks.

“Bring The Noize” definitely provides the pump when it’s most needed. If you got an extra mile in ya, M.I.A. will provide three via sonic powers [slash] music. Only, if you’s a lady, make sure if you’re wearing white… Also, nobody really wants to watch stocks or the Chew or soaps while they work out, so plug in and bang out. But don’t forget to look fresh while you sweat. M.I.A. thrives on it! Also, she probably gonna try and thrive another year on her fourth album Matangi out this fall on N.E.E.T. and Interscope. Hi!

• M.I.A.: http://www.miauk.com
• N.E.E.T.: http://neetrecordings.com
• Interscope: http://www.interscope.com

Rob Magill

Love Is Mental Illnesses Greatest Enemy

Set aside all your pretenses of emotion or improvement or intuition about music, and submit yourself to the art of Rob Magill. Forever endless in strife, Rob struggles to bring you the rawest form of man to mic to music you’ve heard to date. It’s not about originality. And totally not about ego. It’s Rob. He’s your man, and he’s telling you Love Is Mental Illnesses Greatest Enemy. Now, I ain’t one to tell you what to think, nor am I the embodiment of Rob’s voice, but with a deep back catalog of work, including a slew of releases this year alone, y’all gotta accept he’s got answers. And whether or not their clarity speaks to you, there’s a musical inclination here that is unlike most in the avant community — that in a way of complete feeling. Feeling of tone. Feeling of emotion. Feeling of calloused fingers tapping strings or keys or plugging wind holes. But for what outcome? It’s Rob, friends! There’s a vibe here aching to match your level, and level it is with an array of ups and downs, frustrations and difficulties, assurance and wonder. Makes you feel like there’s hope in none at all. As if there was a society based around no rules or order, and shit just works out. Rob Magill is exactly that: the dude who everyone can relate to when shit’s gone wrong. He’s you pal. He’s got the tons. He’s gonna tell ya Love Is Mental Illnesses Greatest Enemy. Pry a bit more, and you may meld with his soul. Believe!

• Rob Magill: http://rob-magill.bandcamp.com

News

  • Recent
  • Popular

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we'll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.


TMT IS SEEKING CHOCOLATE GRINDER WRITERS

Click here to apply