Exec Files: Vol. X
by WRMC Middlebury College on January 18, 2015
Posted in: Country, Eclectic, Electronic, Hip Hop, Music, Pop, Pop Punk, Punk, R&B / Soul, Rock, World
The WRMC executive board presents their favorite tracks, albums, artists, and/or music videos of the week, old and new, but mostly new.
TRACK: Waxahatchee – “Air”
On January 3, Katie Crutchfield aka Waxahatchee rang in her 26th year with a gift for the world– the first few snippets of a new album and the assurance of a release date within sight. She’d already spent the fall previewing tracks from her unnamed follow up to the incredible 2013 LP Cerulean Salt, but only recently has she decided to grace us all with a title – Ivy Tripp – and the fully fleshed out form of one of these recent experiential musings, the swirling and fluid single “Air.” Much in the vein of cuts from its predecessor Cerulean Salt, “Air” starts with three simple melodies – a sharpened guitar riff, steadying drum rhythm, earnest vocals – stacked flush and pressed tight; yet unlike the singular, somber aim of her earlier pop cuts, here her voice and guitar swell and soar off course with a pained mourning diffusing through her initially stoic exploration of a past romantic failure. And it makes sense – Katie has said of her working conception behind the album: “I have thought of it like this: Cerulean Salt is a solid and Ivy Tripp is a gas.” If “Air” is any suggestion, and with the backing of increased production values and powerhouse indie label Merge in mind, Ivy Tripp promises the most matured, confident and ambitious Waxahatchee material yet, and yet another addition to the myth-in-the-making year ahead of us. -Chad Clemens, Music Director
ALBUM: Shinobu – 10 Thermidor (2014)
Label: Really Records/Lauren Records // Genre: Indie Rock, Punk, Pop Punk // RIYL: Joyce Manor, Modern Baseball, Cloud Nothings, Jawbreaker // Best Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11 // Grade: A-
“What do you do when you feel you have to be / true to the way you see, / but no one seems to agree?” Mike Huguenor croons on “Untitled Michael Haneke Project,” the opening track on San Jose punk outfit Shinobu‘s 2014 album, 10 Thermidor. The track simultaneously functions as an exploration of keeping a distinct identity in a consumerist society and a summary of the band’s mission statement. It might seem weird to call a band whose basic elements, frenetic dance rock and angsty, existential lyrics, are pretty common an idiosyncratic one, but Shinobu fits the bill. Starting in 2002, near the heydey of pop punk, the intellectual band never caught on quite like more blatantly pop-minded Vans Warped tour groups. When emo came and went, they continued to crank out albums about finding purpose in life, and all the problems along the way. Amidst the current emo revival, they’ve kept doing their thing, not falling into the #highschoolproblems pitfalls of many bands in the scene.
The band’s maturity shines on 10 Thermidor, where angst is present, but the end goal of the songs lies beyond reveling in it. While some emo listeners may be turned off by an album focused on parsing difficult elements of modern culture like consumerism, technological disconnect from the real world and the necessity of breaking free from societal influences, the raw poetic quality of the album’s lyrics is undeniable. The catchy, energetic sound Shinobu‘s been rocking for years has never been more popular, and their intelligent, insightful lyrics are more relevant than ever. Hopefully the band gets some long overdue credit for staying true to themselves. -Charlie Dulik, Concerts Committee
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TRACK: Ibeyi – “River”
Twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz make up Ibeyi (“twins” in Yoruba). “River,” off Ibeyi’s 2014 debut EP Oya, features haunting and soulful vocals, and a distinct mix of traditional percussion instruments and modern electronic effects. Daughters of Anga Diaz, the late Cuban percussionist who played with the likes of Buena Vista Social Club, Ibeyi embrace their percussive roots in “River,” a track driven by the pulse of percussion. -Halley Lamberson, Geneal Manager
ALBUM: Viet Cong – Viet Cong (2014)
Label: Jagjaguwar/Flemish Eye // Genre: ice goth, shoegaze, post-punk // RIYL: WOMEN, Wolf Parade, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Wire, TV on the Radio, Ought, Ben Frost, My Bloody Valentine, Deehunter // Best Tracks: 5, 3, 6, 2, 7, 4 // Grade: B+
Viet Cong begins with an ominous harbinger; a noisy, distorted drumline that sets the tone for the bleak darkness to follow. The effect is a jarring, but seems logicial in the context of band members Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace’s former, now-defunct band, WOMEN. Reformed in 2012 as Viet Cong and joined by two new guitarists, Flegel and Wallace have drawn on the best elements of WOMEN’s two album deep discography; 2010’s excellent lo-fi sprawl, Public Strain and their reverb laden eponymous 2008 debut, toured relentlessly, fine tuned, and turned the dial up to 11 on their latest effort. Near the opening track’s conclusion, the dense layers of pounding drums and grating guitars evaporate along with the subjects at hand–violence, destruction, disintegration, and alienation–to reveal a shimmering moment of clarity, which, in turn, is cut short by the following track’s shoegaze hiss.
Such is the cycle when it comes to resolving the intense culminations of noise that populate Viet Cong’s forty minute barrage. These build-ups tend to break not into chaos but instead into tightly into wound orchestral spirals and delicate pop moments; both unexpected and satisfying twists. Album highlight and three part beast, “March of Progress”, starts out like a Ben Frost experiment, distills into a whole other psychedelic prog rock dimension, and later comes to with the anxious frenzy of a chugging LCD Soundsystem anthem on which Flegel repeatedly queries to no one; “What is this difference between love and hate?” However, it’s “Silhouettes” and “Continental Shelf”, that provide the biggest and most immediately gripping hooks on Viet Cong. I had a theory late last year that “Continental Shelf”, the album’s best track and one of my favorites of 2014, was really about Vlademir Putin’s efforts to claim parts of the Arctic continental shelf for militarization and natural resource extraction–hence the ice, folding skyline, falling edges, and liquid gold imagery–but have yet to hear back from the band on that one. If so–hell of a timely song considering the collapse of oil and the resulting economic decline and desperation felt in Russia as of late, but I’m also starting to sound like a crazy conspiracist. The song’s brilliantly creepy video doesn’t do much to support that theory either. It’s more likely that Viet Cong was inspired by the frigid climate and bleak cityscape of their Calgary stomping grounds, gothic rock/horror, and general feelings of existential dread. In keeping, the album culminates and concludes in an eleven minute post-apocalyptic epic titled “Death.” All in all, a very fun record–great for parties too! -Kate Leib, Creative Director
Stream the full album for a limited time here via NPR.
TRACK: Sun Kil Moon – “The Possum”
Mark Kozelek takes a break from ripping on “Budweiser commercial music” to sing a song about an opossum. He goes to a concert and like, calls his girlfriend, who’s in Berkeley (?) from San Francisco. Ballin’. -Eric Hass, Technical Director
TRACK: J.J. Cale – “Tijuana”
J.J. Cale gets limited burn on my 40’s and 50’s show for someone whose career lasted over 50 years, until his death in 2013. Always more famous for his songwriting than his performing (Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”? Phish’s “After Midnight”? John Mayer and Lynard Skynard’s “Call Me the Breeze”? All Cale songs.), Cale still strung together fifteen albums that combine elements of Cajun music, blues, country, and deep south swamp rock into a package difficult to describe and impossible to ignore. I first heard this song in a coffee shop in Amsterdam, which is about the strangest place to hear a song about people smuggling out of Tijuana. This 1990 track’s simple chord progression combined with Cale’s soft-spoken vocals give this song a haunting quality that elicits shades of John Layton and early Johnny Cash. This is the kind of song that stays with you, popping up in the small hours of the morning after a few too many glasses of tequila. –Charlie Mathon, Business Director
- Charlie Mathon is back!
- Charlie Dulik is often confused with Charlie Mathon.
- Kate Leib is a sixth grade goth.
- Halley Lamberson likes Punk AND Funk.
- Chad Clemens is more of a liquid than a solid.
- Eric Hass is a man of few words and “eclectic” tastes.
You can find these people plus the rest of the WRMC general board in the station lounge every Monday at 5 pm.