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I’ve gotten pretty into Lena Dunham’s Girls recently. I don’t want to get mired into the whole self-indulgent display of white privilege vs. biting satire debate—something I myself haven’t decided definitively on—but given Girls’ fairly honest portrayal of what we would broadly term “hipster culture,” the show’s relationship with music is interesting and potentially instructive for us denizens of alternative music fandom.
The night started cozily enough, entering the small space of a frat house about as big as the living room of a slighty-larger two-story house. Dark, ambient, smoke in the air (of all kinds), and bands soundtesting on a stage where they were a mere armslength away created a laid-back atmosphere in which folks mingled and chilled off to the side before the show would get started. People were almost resistant to taking the center of the room, instead hugging the wall as if it provided comfort for them to reassure they made the right choice in dedicating four hours to the show for night. But as soon as the first artist, Amtrac, took the stage and more folks trickled in, any sense of apprehension fell away to give rise to the most energetic, hype-swag show I’ve ever seen in my life. Penn’s Jazz & Grooves group introduced electro and hip-hop house music, and ear-shatteringly good instrumental hip-hop jazz to make this night one of the best Penn has ever offered.
I precisely remember opening Beach House’s newest album Bloom in the back office of the radio station just when it came out. While flipping through the booklet I happened upon an image that I immediately recognized: a star illuminated upon the side of a mountain under the night sky. This star in question is located in the West Texas desert, in my hometown of El Paso. It was then I remembered a friend mentioning that the band had taken residency at Sonic Ranch, a world-class, live-in studio located in the outskirts of the city on an old pecan orchard. Now, upon the release of the short film “Forever Still,” Beach House shows how they captured the landscape of the vast West Texas desert, and how that desert in turn captured them.
Find out what Yoel and Joe of ‘Songs That Are Good’ have to say about Foxygen’s second full-length album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic…
It wasn’t a great start to the night. The crowd this last Tuesday at Union Transfer was a motley bunch of teenagers, yuppies, punks, and college kids, and the lack of common ground between many of the groups meant a fair amount of animosity in the early goings. Many people complained passive-aggressively (or full-on aggressively) as the room filled up and people started squeezing up to the front. (I myself got quite a dressing-down while I inched forward and craned my neck to get a better view.)
Much to the joy of chillwave fans all over yonder, Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick greets the new year with a collection of immediately enjoyable pop songs to whet the appetite of ever-hungry listeners looking for that never-ending “new sound.” But let’s get this straight — Anything in Return, as Toro y Moi’s third album release, does not break ground with as a new pop sensation destined to make the masses bow-down in bliss. Instead, what it amounts to is a simply strong release, with Chaz Bundick ever-so-slightly treading beyond his comfort zone into slightly-new sound territory. And he does it with command and a kind of chill-smooth-suave that Chaz Bundick is known for. He’s just doing what he likes, and it works.
Walking into The Electric Factory on Sunday, one was struck by a strange see-through sheet that was right in front of the stage and a massive projector hanging above the crowd’s head. Whispers went through the air: “Are they really going to play behind a sheet the entire time?” and “Did they lug that huge thing in here?” Adding to the intrigue was that The xx were actually playing a rescheduled performance, cut off by Little Miss Sandy back in October.
2012 claimed a bright star in Jessie Ware, the late twenties British singer-songwriter whose debut album Devotion landed a nomination for the prestigious Mercury Prize last year. Yet her talent and appeal has yet to wear off, as she now makes her way into her first North American tour early on in 2013. Returning to Philadelphia to showcase her solo vocal chops (her first appearance in the city was as a backup singer), Ware brought with her an incredible musical register as well as quite the flirtatious zeal.
With 2012 drawing to a close, the DJs of WQHS give to you their top ten albums of the year.
Check out the entire list after the jump.