Print Edition: October 2, 2013
Although Moby rose to fame for his electronic dance music in the 90’s, in recent years his style has evolved into mellow, melodic, downtempo electronica that will melt every muscle in your body. Innocents stands out among his work for the collaboration that went into its creation. Inyang Bassey, Cold Specks, Skylar Grey, Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees, Damien Jurado, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, and Moby himself have all lent their voices to this album, and each track takes on the character of its singer’s unique sound. Mark Lanegan’s tender, throaty voice particularly stands out in “The Lonely Night,” and Inyang Bassey gives “Don’t Love Me” a bitter, bluesy growl. The sweet synthesizers and strings, shuffling percussion, and airy, soulful vocals infuse Innocents with a soothing vibe – but if you listen closely, its dark lyrics lend it an unexpected grit and substance. “The Last Day,” sung by Skylar Grey, is a haunting lament for lost opportunity, and the misleadingly cheerful track “The Perfect Life” speaks of drug abuse and dreams of a better time. Slow, peaceful, and lonely, Innocents is a masterpiece of the downtempo genre. Moby has outdone himself.
The Bones of What You Believe
Out of the mostly pointless remixes and covers preceding the release of Chvrches’ first album, the most overlooked but fitting was a merging of “Recover” with Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” While Lauren Mayberry’s voice carries out more cynical and synth-poppy commands than Swift’s ever does, it’s closer to that dialogue than it is to the morass of electro-themed blandness hypeblogs can never carry the torch for once their half-lit longplays show up (Charli XCX, AlunaGeorge, London Grammar). On The Bones of What You Believe, the vocal tricks of Iain Cook and Martin Doherty sometimes create hooks where unsuprisingly metaphorical songwriting would otherwise falter (“We Sink,” “Lungs”), but even if the words aren’t always a cut above, Mayberry is always in control – even when the floor is yielded briefly to Doherty or both in backing, there’s no heeding warnings (“By the Throat”) or letting a word in edgewise (“The Mother We Share”), the tracklist a mixture of post-mortems and predispositions but strung together by one guiding confidence. Chvrches’ main descriptor might be pop songs already in their chopped and screwed form, but there’s enough play with that concept – as in the guitar intro and stunned pauses of “Tether,” the album’s most Swiftian moment, and also its best – on Bones that fatigue doesn’t set in.
With over two decades of making music under his belt, Bill Callahan finally seems to be at the peak of his powers. Apocalypse, his 2011 record, demonstrated maturity in his music and control over his baritone voice, both of which have only deepened and enriched with age. The opening track of Dream River, “The Song,” situates Callahan in this moment of relaxed, solitary drunkenness, blankly staring in a bar, where people buy him drinks and Callahan repeats, “The only words I’ve said today are ‘beer’/ and ‘thank you,’ / ‘Beer’ / and ‘thank you.’” At its heart, Dream River is about accepting the simple realities of life and relationships, even as it explores how demanding it can be to embrace these certainties in life. This is articulated on the record’s most minimalist track, “Small Plane,” where Callahan simply dwells in the moment, flying this small plane with his co-pilot. It stands as a testament to Callahan’s true contentment and his acceptance of the here and now. There is something very human about Dream River. You can almost feel the blood pumping through these songs, with Bill Callahan’s battered heart right at the center of it. I only wish there were more than nine.
Don’t Get Heavy
Vancouver duo Fur Trade blends a diverse selection of electronic music influences on its debut album Don’t Get Heavy. The end result is something between British electro-funk-dance and experimental west coast Canadian rock and roll. To be clear, that’s a good thing, and the mixture of dance and synth rock works well throughout.
If you want a quick taste, the entire album has been blasted out on the web. Listen to it for free. I grabbed a copy from iTunes after getting hooked on the songs “Voyager,” “Glory Days,” and “Our Life Starts Now.” The tunes on Don’t Get Heavy kick out some thick production values. Things sound big, wide, and slamming. It’s got the smooth sort of distortion that makes your left leg shake it with your right. The album keeps a nice swing between bombastic energy and the relaxing calm vibes of the west coast. Spliced, diced, and chilled like Canadian vodka, Don’t Get Heavy is a good time for hipsters and old school electro heads. Imagine a young Peter Gabriel drinking hemp-flavoured beer on Wreck Beach with Does It Offend You, Yeah? and you’ve got an idea of what Fur Trade sounds like.