So, I subscribed to Spotify. They had a deal for 99¢ for 3 months and I went for it. I had an Rdio account for several months a few years ago, and while I loved having mostly anything I could want to listen to at my fingertips, I got tired of fussing with my own music library and my online one. When Apple Music launched, I signed up for 3 free months but got so frustrated with how it messed with my playlists and the Music app on my iPhone that I gave it up about a month in. So I’m trying again. I like being able to listen to new releases without spending more money or going through the rigamarole (and guilt) of piracy, but having two apps for my music kinda sucks, and I still don’t feel like artists get much money from Spotify as compared to, say, Bandcamp. We’ll see what happens.
This week’s theme is a combination: throwback stuff and chill bbq jams. Not, uh, necessarily throwback party jams, though, it’s the kind of music to listen to while on the porch, sipping a cold one. There’s also a lot of complex, somewhat futuristic pop that still gets chill and sounds old school, so it works.
Galaxie 500 – On Fire (Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify)
In terms of indie rock (or whatever you’d like to call it), Galaxie 500 is pretty old school. This album dates from 1989. It’s warm and calm, definitely mellow but a bit yelpy. I first heard this album a while ago, but listening to it now I realize it might suffer from a bit of a Citizen Kane/The Matrix problem: so many bands have borrowed and built upon the sounds of this album that hearing it now for the first time might make it seem lame or derivative. The first five tracks are unimpeachable, IMO.
Bombay the Hard Way – Guns, Cars & Sitars (Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify)
In 1999, producer Dan the Automator (of Kool Keith, Deltron 3030, Handsome Boy Modeling School and Gorillaz fame) took the Bollywood soundtrack music of composer duo Kalyanji-Anandji and, with some assistance from DJ Shadow, remixed it into some solid beats. It definitely has that late-90s trip-hop flavor, but it’s still super fun and a solid listen.
Radiohead – The Bends (Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify)
Seriously, Ryan? Radiohead? Yeah well I got into them after Kid A came out, and it’s always a toss up between Kid A and OK Computer for my favorite album of theirs. It took me a long time to get into their back catalog, but I feel like The Bends is definitely underrated, especially by more recent fans of the band. It’s definitely their heaviest by far, and this week I really just wanted some guitar solos while I was driving. My favorite air guitar tracks are Just and My Iron Lung, but it’s a really good album that would be considered impressive in any other band’s catalog. It rocks the way that probably no other Radiohead album does.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love (Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify)
The whole white hipster R&B thing (I REFUSE to call it PBR&B because UGH) has been mostly kinda weird and lifeless to me, even though you’d think I’d be the target market for it. I grew up on Motown and late 70s Stevie Wonder and I guess I have a high standard? I dunno. I’d heard about the greatness of UMO several times over the past few years, but this album (and in particular Can’t Keep Checking My Phone) finally hooked me a few months ago. There’s definitely a bit of Stevie Wonder weirdness, and it’s compressed through some static-y filters and carried by unstoppable rubbery basslines. I like this one a lot.
Georgia – Georgia (Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify)
This one snuck up on me. The track to jump into is Kombine. It’s 2010s deep, sample-based pop feeling thoroughly modern and maybe even a little futuristic in the sense that Demi Lovato or Madonna or someone will be aping this sound in a year or so. Alternatingly chill and heavy, a thread of emotion is knit through the album and carries it through the production and right into your heart. Fans of CRJ should look here for an advanced version of her Pop 101.
George Clanton – 100% Electronica (Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify)
It’s really weird how we’ve come to the point where an album of Tears for Fears-esque tracks can seem subversive and futuristic. But then after you listen to this album, it feels totally believable. Clinton’s taken 80s pop songwriting, squeezed it through a laptop and then coated it with a bit of that late 90s sheen to get something that could only exist in 2016. It might seem unassuming at first, but this album is perennial and gets better with each listen. It’s pay what you want on Bandcamp, so if you choose to pay $0, it’s free.
PS – It’s Independence Day! My favorite version of a patriotic song is, predictably, Sufjan’s cover of the Star Spangled Banner. Here it is on Soundcloud.