Tag Archives: dance

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

12 Dec

Hot thoughts

No band embodies the idea of independent rock better than Spoon. Since 1996, the Austin band has churned out a great album every two to three years (see: Gimme Fiction, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga).

Every other band with similar discography and enduring success (U2, RHCP) inevitably seems to fall prey to arena rock and millions-strong fan followings. Not Spoon though. They don’t wear leather pants. They don’t talk about their fame in songs. They never moved en masse to LA or NYC; one of them still lives in Austin, where he’s been a key element of the city’s music scene for decades. After all these years, Spoon’s self-worth seems to stem not from the limelight, but from an innate source of cool. And that’s what makes them truly indie rock.

Lead man Britt Daniel doesn’t like the “indie rock” label, though, and it kind of makes sense. In in our present understanding of the term, indie rock often refers to great-sounding upstarts that shot to fame through a combination of luck, marketing and the Internet – but whether their fame endures beyond the debut is a different matter. Spoon grew up in a different world, painstakingly building their sound (and fan base) without sacrificing their passion.

Hot Thoughts, their ninth full-length album, is the latest fruit of this passion. It’s full of the typical Spoon sound – punchy drums, wailing guitars, feverish bass lines and Daniel’s megaphone-via-voicemail singing style – peppered with a certain Spoon-y quirkiness that makes it a unique new album in their discography.

It’s the quirky details that make the songs stick: the first listen may entertain, but the fourth will truly intoxicate. On “Do I Have to Talk You into It”, the swaggering drums over a nervy piano are enough to make a great song, but Daniel’s idiosyncratic renditions of the song title is what stays with you. He shimmies up and down the scale one time; shout-asks in another; fades into the overpowering drums in a third; a magnetic presence on a magnetic track.

One of the verses on “First Caress” talks about a girl who likes to tell Daniel that coconut milk and coconut water are the same thing; it’s such a weird detail, but you somehow end up replaying the song just to hear him say that line. “Pink Up” has a dreamy, atmospheric sound, full of light xylophone touches and folksy maracas, as Daniel exhorts the listener to live life in the moment by taking the train to Marrakesh.

Of course, Spoon isn’t all about the quirk – some of their songs are just pure rock classics. The eponymous song is a good old-fashioned paean to a girl who gives Daniel some sexy ideas, set over fretty licks and Jim Eno’s confident drums. The frenetic energy of the drums and bass on “Shotgun” could and probably will incite a riot at some point, which is fitting because it’s about getting into fisticuffs. “Can I Sit Next to You” thumps along to a funk guitar and dance beats, a strutting theme song to Daniel’s unabashed pick-up line (“Can I sit next to you? Can you sit next to me?”).

Hot Thoughts is a very enjoyable album through and through by the guys who basically invented the genre. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t give it a listen.

Best songs: “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”, “Can I Sit Next to You”, “Shotgun”

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Five Fresh Songs for Your Feel-Good Sunday Morning Fix

13 Apr

We have already expressed our deep and undying love for Saturday mornings soundtracked to new music, so here’s a companion piece to that. This list is about those magical hours of optimism on a Sunday morning, right after a Saturday night party and right before the weekend rapidly fades away. And what better way to make the feeling last than with five fresh new songs? So, without further ado, here’s our suggestions for a soundtrack to your feel-good Sunday morning. And we promise it’ll only take 22 minutes and 6 seconds of your life to listen through it. Go on, then.

“Alley Cats” by Madboy/Mink

Madboy/Mink is a jazz-dance outfit from Bombay that has been blowing our minds since their debut EP All Ball dropped on SoundCloud last week. The group comprises the young and talented pair of Saba Azad (“Mink”) and Imaad Shah (“Madboy”). Azad has the perfect voice for electro funk/jazz: velvety, eccentric and deliciously retro at the same time. She’s worked with the legendary Blackstratblues before (source: Rolling Stone), and she seem to carry along that band’s nonchalant sense of joy in music with her. Shah has already created quite a following for himself as Madboy, courtesy a raw talent for musical arrangement (see: “Martinis in the dark”). He’s also otherwise known for being Naseeruddin Shah’s son (!).

Azad and Shah.

Azad and Shah.

“Alley Cats” is about snazzy, bowling cats with snazzy bowler hats, and the fun doesn’t stop there. The duo tells the silliest tale – of fish-stealing, rat-chasing cool cats – with such verve that you just can’t help feeling great just listening to the track. Madboy/Mink boasts at the end of the song, “Yes, this band is pretty tight/We’re the kings and they’re the rats,” and they may really be onto something there.

“Dont Stop” by Tankbund

The first minute of “Dont Stop” features lead singer Ritwik De vocalizing what could be the soundtrack to someone’s unsaid feelings on a rainy, lonely Saturday evening. His gauzy, warm voice lulls you into a false sense of introspection, so that when the song suddenly breaks into six-beats-a-second, you tend to feel just a touch of disorientation. De’s soulful, deep voice syncs perfectly with the stop-start, almost trip-hop electronica in the background. His plaintive request (“No, don’t stop”), stretched over several heartwrenching seconds, is persuasive, emotive and entirely lovely. If you loved this track, be sure to check out “Tres Bien”, also from their debut EP Inside. We’re definitely listening to more of this New Delhi band.

“Good to You feat. Siddharth Basrur” by Sandunes

Sandunes, aka Sanaya Ardeshir, is one of the most intriguing artists in the country. Her music is an eclectic confluence of influences: there’s a lot of Air and Zero 7 in there, with playful hint of old-school jazz thrown in for good measure. “Good to You”, featuring Goddess Gagged lead singer Siddharth Basrur, seems to be a post-break-up ode of promises and thinly-veiled remorse, backed by Ardeshir’s top-class production sensibilities.

Sanaya Ardeshir

Sanaya Ardeshir

“Good to You” breaks and crests and pulses at exactly the right places for exactly the right amount of time. There’s a point in the song, about two and a half minutes in, when Basrur’s repeated “I’ll be good to you” precisely syncs with splashes of woozy electronica, that especially blew our minds. Listen to it on a Sunday morning, and we promise it’ll leave you feeling chill the whole day. What more could you want?

“Fire” by Machli

Bangalore-based electro-acoustic outfit Machli is made up of design students who, true to stereotype, have an uncanny sense of aesthetics. “Fire” is a lush, ambient tapestry carried by Sandhya Visvanathan’s despondent, lilting voice and Aniruddh Shivakumar Menon’s percussive talents. The song is addictive and just perfect for half-sleepy Sunday mornings. Also check out their ‘Tigerbalm Mix’ (found here) for a more dreamlike, trip-hop take on the song.

“Epileptic” by 30ton Capacity

Bangalore has seen its fair share of talented post-rock bands lately: Space Behind the Yellow Room and Until We Last come to mind. With their debut EP Season One Episode Nil (you know, like S1E00 like at the beginning of a series), post-rock-veering-on-prog band 30ton Capacity joins the growing list. Our favorite track from the EP is “Epileptic”. The track starts with a quirky, Radiohead-like spoken-word sample (“Try to relax your toes, Gloria. Feel them tingle. Relax them one by one…”) that immediately sets the young band apart. Robin Srivastava’s shrouded vocals create a beautiful, delicate wall (curtain?) of sound, complemented ably by drummer Sumanth. We’ll definitely be listening to this band a lot more!

Here’s the full playlist for your easy listening pleasure.

The Top Five Songs of 2013: Neeharika’s List

23 Dec

With about a week to go before the end of the year, 2013 is being hailed by critics across the board as a good year for music. We saw the emergence of new, promising artists like Haim and Lorde, and saw great followups by established acts such as Arctic Monkeys and Daft Punk. My Bloody Valentine made a reappearance twenty-two years (!) after their previous album, while Kanye West released a mad-hatter album whose hype rivals, if not exceeds, that which surrounded his blockbuster from 2010. Chance the Rapper and Earl Sweatshirt, too, released important rap albums. All in all, it was a good year for music. Here’s my take on the top five songs of the year. Hope you like it!

– Neeharika

5. “The Wire” by Haim

Haim

There are a handful of songs in the world where all the elements – the music, the lyrics, the style and the influences – sync perfectly and irrefutably together. These songs are very, very few and far between, and are invariably propelled to ‘instant classic’ status. It can be said, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that “The Wire” is one of these songs.

Haim, a trio of sisters from sunny California, has been making all the right kind of headlines since their debut Days are Gone released in September. Even though they have been compared to everyone from Fleetwood Mac to the Dixie Chicks, Haim has an unshakeable foundation which lets them use their influences as flavoring rather than as the main ingredient. However you look at it, Haim is one of the most attractive and truly talented bands out there today.

“The Wire”, a confessional about wisely letting go of a failing relationship, is an irresistibly catchy example of Haim’s allure. Existing in a universe where The Bangles open for Madonna (or maybe the other way around), “The Wire” is one of the best songs of the year and perhaps one that 2013 will be remembered for, well into the future.

View our full album review here.

4. “Right Action” by Franz Ferdinand

In early 2004, a Scottish indie rock band released an eponymous debut album, smartly titled after a European archduke who catalysed one of history’s largest events. Fittingly, the album provided a similarly intense shot-in-the-arm for the indie rock world, which had been languishing since The Strokes released their unbeatable debut three years prior.

Franz Ferdinand’s post-punk/steampunk hit “Take Me Out”, which was coupled with a video that showcased the band’s monstrously creative art-school sensibilities, remained the band’s song to beat. Now, almost a decade later, Franz Ferdinand has finally created a true successor to their best-known song – and man, it’s good.

“Right Action” is an almost-love song (“Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting”) that paraphrases Buddhist tenets (“Right thoughts, right words, right actions”) over a relentless dance-party riff. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that the song’s a riot and a half. The video, like all Franz Ferdinand videos, is mindblowingly artsy, and the boys are as slick and well-dressed as ever. Alex Kapranos has said that the band’s raison d’etre is to make music that girls can dance to. Franz Ferdinand may be a decade old, but you can bet your skinny tie that they can still own any dance party.

3. “Bad Girls” by M.I.A.

London-via-Sri Lanka swag goddess MIA has always been known for her ridiculous amounts of devil-may-care confidence. But nowhere in her career has she been as swagtastic as in the video for “Bad Girls”. In front of an audience of traditionally-attired Arab men, MIA drag-races – on cars tilted 45 degrees to the vertical – while repeating her feminist, fuck-you mantra: “Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.”

MIAThe implicit understanding that the video is taking place in Saudi Arabia – where woman drivers, let alone irreverent women atop cars, are forbidden – makes “Bad Girls” one of the rowdiest things that MIA has ever done. The song itself tilts, much like MIA’s cars, between exotic mysticism and gilded braggadocio, and in a way, it’s a metaphor for the artist herself. Whatever the angle, though, it’s just a ridiculously good song.

2. “Royals” by Lorde

Ironically aristocratic teenage sensation Lorde is, ironically, 2013’s It-girl. On “Royals”, her break-out, chart-topping lead single, Lorde sings about her inability to associate with the gaudy extravagance of popular musicians. “We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair,” she asserts, placing herself firmly in the zone of the non-celebrity.

Over a deep-drum, threadbare beat, Lorde eschews the trappings of fame for a more localized aristocracy: “Let me be your ruler, you can call me queen bee,” she says. Ironically, though, this very song catapulted her into immediate pop royalty, charting her over self-indulgent pop mainstays such as Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. Not bad for a sixteen year old, wouldn’t you say?

View our full album review here.

1. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk

“Get Lucky” was first released into the world through a 15-second advertisement on Saturday Night Live in early March. The rabid craze that followed that brief snippet foreshadowed the near future: a particularly enthusiastic fan even spun that 15-second sample into an extended 10-hour jam (!).  At that point, the world didn’t even know much about the song – apart from a warm, glittering riff that somehow automatically brought to mind a disco ball. By the time Daft Punk released the song in April though, everyone knew all the words. It was, in mid-spring, already the song of the summer.

“Get Lucky” is musical perfection enveloped in four minutes. It’s the reckless abandon on a disco dance floor. It’s the magic of meeting someone more promising than you’ve met in years. It’s the realization that love keeps the planet spinning, that music rebirths from itself like a phoenix. “Get Lucky” is a gift from a pair of robots to humankind, reminding us of a forgotten truth: that the past is golden and the future holds endless possibilities.

In 2013, musicians around the world made music that impacted some of us in certain ways. In 2013, Daft Punk made a song that could – and should – eventually be sent out of our world into endless space as a symbol of what humankind can achieve… with a little help from robots, of course.

View our full album review here.

So there you have it! Stay tuned for more Top Five lists coming up soon, including our Top Five Albums of 2013!

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