Song Roundup 8: Club Music–Indie Mix

Let’s not even talk about the massive gap in posts this time.  Maybe later.

I hate club music.  I try not to hate much music, but club music just represents some of my least favorite parts of sound and sonic mentality.  Club music represents sweaty parties full of people drinking to be drunk and dancing only for the sexuality.  I appreciate fun, but this style of music turns heavy bass into a disgusting sensation, rather than an invigorating one.  So on this latest Song Roundup, I want to look at indie music that would make me more comfortable at that next awful party (if only for a few minutes).

There weren’t truly limits on this list, but I did purposefully avoid “indie” techno, as Daft Punk and Justice are essentially definitive dance music.  I can hope that they’re a given for this type of list.

“Idioteque” by Radiohead

Sometimes they’re guitar gods, other times they fiddle with electronics.  Radiohead is a proven musical powerhouse that can touch many genres.  “Idioteque” is one of the most singular songs in their catalog.  That’s quite an accomplishment, but it goes further, making disaster sound exhilarating.  The terrifying sound of primordial computer composition blends perfectly with the rest of the band.  I always get chills, but the rhythm keeps me from a statuesque state.

“Daft Punk is Playing at My House” by LCD Soundsystem

Most LCD songs would be fair game here, but “Daft Punk” is one of the group’s most muscular efforts.  The song really pops with good speakers or headphones and deserves to be played loud.  I’m personally very fond of the version on the London Sessions release, but whatever rendition you get should do the trick.

“Whoo! Alright – Yeah… Uh Huh.” by The Rapture

Dance punk died too quickly in the early 2000s.  That is to say, I wasn’t really aware of it until it was already dead.  But we do have artifacts like this to keep us happy.  The tastefully complex variation on a simple disco drum is the real foundation of this song.  It keeps everything moving at a high tempo and lets the funky guitars work their magic above the rhythm.  But what pushes this over the edge and into greatness is that last bit of lyrical breakdown at the 2:34 mark – almost makes even me want to dance.

“I Can Talk” by Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club has been my guilty-pleasure band-of-choice ever since I first heard them.  Their debut record (Tourist History) is nothing innovative, but it’s simply brimming with energy.  “I Can Talk” is amongst the highlights.  The song has a blistering guitar attack, fun vocals and a massive disco drum/bass pattern filling all the space.  Embrace this Irish band – I think they’re in for big things.

“Dancing Choose” by TV on the Radio

I normally associate TVotR as dense, thinking music.  But at least a few tracks off their most recent record have worked to break my mental stereotype.  Dear Science has some heavy soul power, and tons of personality, and “Dancing Choose” highlights all of that.  Impassioned vocals blend with a propulsive tempo and wild horns to make the art-centric TVotR seem loose and fun.

“Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Many have discussed this before, but it’s always shocking to listen to YYYs change from a raw garage band to something more like glam rock or disco rock.  In particular, singer Karen O has removed some of that punk edge and suddenly sounds like a powerful diva.  “Heads Will Roll” is the most powerful example of this change, and makes a strong case for why we should embrace the “new” YYYs.  They do this kind of music the right way.

Best Songs 2008: 6 – Dancing Choose

Quick Reminder: check the whole of both countdowns here!

Many will argue that the real highlight of TV on the Radio’s Dear Science is “Golden Age,” a song that offers a very unique, dual-sided analysis of the modern world. I will certainly recognize the excellence of this song (as I have already), but I feel that the real gem on the record is “Dancing Choose.”

The first hook set on the listener is the handclap. While the vocals speed ahead, there are a few instances of clapping that just pop right through and grab your attention. From here, the smooth guitar (like that seen in Radiohead’s “15 Step”) chimes in and continues until the first chorus. Here, the stunning vocals combine and lay down an unnerving and excellent lyric, calling out “in my mind I’m drowning butterflies, broken dreams and alibis; that’s fine.”

After a brief moment for reflection, the song becomes amazing. Saxophones jump in and the noise goes wild, filling out some of the empty space initially observed. The whole thing is very danceable as the chaos works around the relentless rhythm. Then, as if remembering the stunning power involved, the band revisits the chorus with the noise in tow. The whole thing is stunning as the butterfly image is revisited under a more chaotic guise. In a slight glance with rage, the song ends on a strange comment when the band notes, “just keep your dancing shoes off mine.” Then, the instruments carry on for a bit longer as the saxophones bring the song to a close.

“Dancing Choose” is an amazing and difficult song. The precise meaning is tough to read, but the mild anger of the music is very clear. Even without the complete translation, it is readily clear that the music and singing are impressive. TV on the Radio knows how to gain attention (the handclaps and guitar), then further hold your attention (the chaos of noise) and ensure your continued listening by offering a strange narrative. These men are masters of their craft, and this song is a testament to their excellence.

Best Albums 2008: 6 – Dear Science

Return to Cookie Mountain was a very powerful release in 2006, and continues to be a very important album for fans of art-rock. The strange combination of rock, gospel and electronic music was able to transcend each genre thanks to a one-of-a-kind production and superior songwriting skills. Needless to say, Dear Science had much to live up to. And somehow, it did.

Yet again, the production is the first thing to discuss with TV on the Radio. Band member David Sitek creates a true feel to the album that is unlike anything you’ve ever heard – even past TV on the Radio releases. Yet this time, we find a more accessible version of this sound. While there is still a great deal of distortion and induced claustrophobia from Sitek’s work, these all fall back slightly in the mix. What results is a very clear vision that is accented by the grit. But Dear Science does not merely deal in simple access. As the album is replayed (almost a requirement for this band), new details emerge, particular bits of sound that weren’t clear originally. The more familiar you become with each song, the more that TV on the Radio will reveal.

But good production alone does not make a great album. It is the previously mentioned “vision” that makes Dear Science such a noteworthy release. Each song seems to be displaying the balance between the world and the individual. While this would be a tall task for any band to accomplish, TV on the Radio seems to meet that end. The very range of topics through the album lends greatly to this vision. On “Crying,” the band speaks of “the wrath, and the riots, and the races on fire.” This powerful line speaks volumes about the world around us, the politics of fear and racism. Yet in this same track, the discussion goes to the “blood on the cradle,” leading to an understanding of personal anguish.

No clearer is this stunning division than in the amazing “Golden Age.” Initially, there is talk of violence and exclamations of “Oh Lord” or “mercy me.” But then in a glorious chorus full of strings, horns and perfect rhythm, the band sings in unison that “there’s a golden age comin’ round!” No sooner has this ended than we hear word of natural disaster, and that it’s “blowin’ up like a ghetto disaster.” The Katrina implications are evident for but a moment until the glory and hope of the chorus enters again.

Perhaps it is this disparity that most reflects the modern society. We continue to grasp to the American Dream as our world falls apart around us. TV on the Radio understands this and displays it beautifully for individual reflection. Dear Science will probably have the longest lifespan of any album released this year.

Album Review: Dear Science

A short review of a very good new album

Released in 2006, TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain was an instantly appealing album that sounded like no other, thanks to impressive vocals and stunning production values. The record appeared on many “Best of” lists, and set up a great deal of hype for the band’s newest album, Dear Science. Luckily for us, TV on the Radio manages to impress yet again, releasing one of the year’s most compelling albums.

The most important element of Dear Science is the sound. Nothing on the album sounds particularly like any other music, popular or otherwise. At best, TV on the Radio can be described as a soul or gospel band with electronic elements, mixed with the work of David Bowie. This combination, while strange on paper, works brilliantly. As a start point, “Dancing Choose” allows the listener to enter the realm of TV on the Radio. The upbeat tone, wild horns and engaging lyrics (including “drowning butterflies”) are all great, but are enhanced by crazed production. The dense noise is enthralling and claustrophobic. Your ears need to hear this.

After accepting the basis of the band, everything else falls into place. Nigh-maniacal falsetto vocals blend with amazing percussion and a wall of sound to engage both the ears and mind. Romantic themes and political protest join together in the 11 songs, including the memorable “Halfway Home,” the danceable “Golden Age,” and legitimately touching “Lover’s Day.” Anyone interested in the artistic progression of popular music should definitely pick up Dear Science and be amazed by one of the best releases of the year.

SCORE: 8.6/10