joy's music

"Sixteen," Amen Dunes
Love (Sacred Bones, 2014)

Something’s on my mind. It’s there before I fully open my eyes in the morning. A lilting piano, repeating the same four notes over and over. Some half-formed thoughts about being sixteen, when “nothing you say or do will matter.”

It’s there as I pull out my laptop to send emails, when I eat the wrong foods at the wrong times of the day. It’s a break from the Astral Weeks-inspiredpsychedelic guitar pieces that make up a lot of the record, that reach toward the things Van Morrison found once.

"Sixteen" feels like the heart of the album: "Today, my love, you’re gone." Sometimes the piano plays the wrong notes. Sometimes the vocals aren’t exactly on time. Though the album is titled Love, it’s partially about the absence and imperfection of things. 

(Source: Spotify)

"Five Points," Wold
Postsocial (Profound Lore, 2014)

Song of the week (month) for sure. Tune out the static, and notice how beautiful the guitar sounds (my favorite is from 4:30 onward). It’s only in shit this noisy that you can get a sound like that, compressed and humming. 

I have been enjoying picking through this album and hearing little details every time. The first time, it was just static, and now I can hear nuances and have vague ideas of how the songs are laid out. 

I like things that remind me of Metal Machine Music, and Postsocial is definitely an inheritor to the “engulfing waves of obnoxious guitar noise” thing. I like this album because it’s all-encompassing, I can just fade into it without worrying. 

(Source: Spotify)

"Pattern of Thoughts," The Skull Defekts
Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown (Thrill Jockey, 2014)

One of the ways I evaluate bands I’ve seen live is by whether I can remember any of the songs they played that I hadn’t heard before the show. (Of course, the effectiveness of this standard depends on genre, etc.) But I always like being able to listen to the band’s record after the fact, hearing songs that sound familiar, and thinking back to a quality show.

Sweden’s Skull Defekts played the Empty Bottle on April 29. I went, actually, because one of my friends suggested we check out the two local opening acts, Ego and Killer Moon. I had only heard one Skull Defekts song so far, but they were in rotation at CHIRP, so I went. 

And the song above has been playing over and over in my mind since. It remindss me of how the band sounds much better than they do on the record. Not that it’s a bad record at all, but the primal qualities of their music stand out much better live. This is a weird song about animals and sex or something, and it sounded like a weird mix of mathematical intellectual kraut and some illicit basement party from the 60s. The visuals helped too: the band all in black, including one dude who looked like a 90s B-list movie star pounding away on two different-sized gasoline jugs the entire time.

I could pull out the band’s influences while I was watching them: krautrock, especially Kraftwerk, in the repetitive nature of the songs. “Pattern of Thoughts” repeats the same little riff over and over, no variation. Post-punk was another one in the braininess of the music, and punk, and garage. And at the same time, it was something that was relegated to the back of my mind as I crept closer and closer to the stage, not dancing because fuck no, but appreciating those who were. 

The last song of the band’s official set was a long jam, starting with just drums, adding in guitar slowly, ending with the stage lights totally off, sleigh bells if I remember correctly, and the audience stunned and not ready for the band to leave.

It was a small crowd on Tuesday night. The Skull Defekts don’t have a big following in the States, and it was one of only five shows they were going to play in America. I think everyone in the crowd knew they were witnessing something pretty fucking rare, and it was one of the only times in years I haven’t rolled my eyes at an encore. It was a fantastic feeling, us all in this together, broken thanks expressed in Swedish and in the form of applause. 

(Source: Spotify)

"Today More Than Any Other Day," Ought
More Than Any Other Day (Constellation, 2014)

I only want to write about this track for now, because today, more than any other day, it’s what I needed to hear.

I know very little about Ought. Here is what I do know: the singer has kind of a CYHSY vibe to his voice (but not in an off-putting way), the band sounds like Parquet Courts in the more explosive parts of their songs, and they have so many shades of sounds from bands like Krill and Pile that I was surprised to hear they were from Montreal and not the (American) Northeast. 

The song has a great structure. After the opening cut of the album descends into feedback/noise and works its way out for an ending, this second track on the record starts slow, with whispered vocals starting about two minutes in: “We feel like we’re sinking deeper.” It then builds to the wild ending, the singer barely managing to get out, “We’re all the fucking same.”

The different movements the song has gives it an epic feel kind of reminiscent of TWIABP, like it’s longer than it actually is. 

And the lyrics. After those first two minutes, and after the singer talk-introduces the song, he sings: 

"Today, more than any other day,
I am excited to feel the milk of human kindness.

And today, more than any other day,
I am excited to go grocery shopping.

And today, more than any other day,
I am prepared to make the decision between 2% and whole milk.

And today, more than any other day,
I’m gonna look into the eyes of the old man across from me on the train and say,

'Hey, everything is gonna be okay.'”

And when I heard it for the first time today, I knew “Today” was going to be one of those songs that I love not only for its sound, but because I heard it at exactly the right moment.

You know when you go through a shitty period in your life, not anything too serious, but you were sick a lot and stressed, and you feel like you changed so much it took a long time for your self to catch up?

And then you move out of your parents’ house because you somehow managed to get a job, and your neighborhood is beautiful and full of nice people, and you actually are excited to go grocery shopping?

And you go to the co-op and you buy grass-fed beef and a zucchini and a pepper, and you’re excited to go home and make tomato sauce on your own goddamn stove in the quiet instead of hearing your parents yelling in the background.

And you do want to smile and talk to people on the train, and everyday decisions like what type of milk to get don’t feel as painful or as important as they did before. 

And you find some small band whose album you like that you can play all the way through on the drive home from work, who have songs about going to shows and feelings about going to shows, which is all you do anyway.

It’s like the song is one of those journeys itself, sinking down, and then one day everything builds up and up, you look around, and more things are okay than they were before.

(Source: Spotify)

"Seventh Song," Jess Williamson
Native State (Brutal Honest, 2014)

This song broke me while I was headed north on Lake Shore Drive one Saturday morning. It was a few weeks ago; it might have still been February. It was one of the first days it was even close to decently warm.

I remember noticing how bright blue the lake was, forgiving myself for noticing because, you know, I just moved back.

The rest of Native State is unsettled, painful at times, like Jess Williamson is trying to keep herself awake on a long drive. The record is about leaving New York for home, leaving people behind, realizing the “power of manic delusion.”

"Feel the weight, your native state," Jess Williamson sings on the title track of the record. It was a different day, same road, when I wondered again what the hell I was doing here. It was just money that brought me back. I thought about Virginia.

"Seventh Song" is a simple, shaky awakening. An acknowledgement of personal shortcomings, a tender testing of support systems. Even the guitar sounds open, hopeful.

The song still recognizes restlessness: “We’re waiting for life to begin.” “Aren’t we always more or less headed west?” but sets it next to domesticity, of noticing that your partner doesn’t sleep on Sundays because he’s worried about work, of wanting to relay snippets of conversations that seem so important.

And I guess it was the settled feeling that got to me. The hoping that “home can be home.” Hoping you don’t have to leave. I spent so long going back and forth (Ohio, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, finally Illinois) that when it all stopped, I didn’t know what to do. I still think sometimes of those long drives when I get in the car.

(Source: Spotify)

I went to a lot of shows these past few days…

First of all, I’d like to say hi to everyone who followed me after my Swans posts on One Week One Band. And thanks for following me! I don’t post as frequently as I should on this blog. I try to remember to do short posts about tracks I like, but I work full time so it doesn’t always happen. (I would like to start writing for less navel-gazey blogs someday too.)

I wanted to at least write something, so here is a list of the shows I’ve been to recently and albums I like. I can’t remember the last time I got enough sleep so I hope it all makes enough sense. Also, if you want to see some terrible concert photography (of these shows), follow my Instagram.

I’ve been listening to two new releases: VI.I.VIII by Coffinwormand Totem by White Suns. I want to write something longer about each of them. I think they complement each other well. They both approach this horrible, desolate, noisy place from different ends of the spectrum (arty Brooklyn noise rock, Indianapolis sludge). Both deal in lyrical abstraction, though Coffinworm reeks of base hate and anger, while White Suns add a touch of mysticism. Both albums hit hard, though it’s fascinating to see one band do it the metal way, and one band build a wall of sound through feedback and those absolutely brutal drums.

The last track on Totem, “Carrion,” a song from the perspective of a dying hunk of flesh, ends with what Tiny Mix Tapes called a “prayer”: “Let flowers burst from my chest/ Let roots coil in my skull/ Let them grow old and die again/ Let me give back all I ever stole.” I don’t want to say it’s a respite, but the noise fades a bit as the lines are delivered. It reminds me of that Edvard Munch quote I used to put places when I was in high school: “From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”

I also saw a bunch of shows. Here are some vague recollections (note that there may have been more bands on the bill but I either didn’t want to mention them or didn’t catch their set):

Saturday: Night Terror and Oozing Wound at Situations
After the Zine Fest (I got mixtapes!), I went to a benefit for the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo basically just to see Oozing Wound. They are working on new material, most of which is going to appear on a new album soon. It sounded 20% doomier, but there’s a really fast-tempoed song they have been playing that I really enjoy. The band is so versatile and so much fun to watch.

Sunday: KEN mode, Helms Alee, and Russian Circles at Metro
First of all, Metro was packed, especially considering it was a Sunday night. It’s not my favorite venue because it’s not laid out well and it was hard for me to see anything going on unless I was on the third floor near people who insisted on talking through sets.

I love KEN mode a lot. Helms Alee was pretty all right. Russian Circles I found a small bit disappointing, which shouldn’t have happened. They are a tight band, they play together well, they are nailing the post-metal thing, but it was a little on the boring side. I may have been having a bad day. I will see them again (they’re local) and maybe I will like them more.

Monday: Indian at Subterranean
Very scary. A slight uneasiness settled over the crowd. Band looked like they were performing exorcisms on their instruments/their faces. Absolutely pummeling sludge. People were pummeling each other in the audience. (This was the record release show for their latest album From All Purity, which is a great complement to Coffinworm’s new record.) Honestly reminded me a bit of early Swans.

Tuesday: Priests and Ex Hex at Schuba’s; Murmur, Psalm Zero, and Pyrrhon at Cobra Lounge
Help me, I am officially insane. I went to see Ex Hex at Schuba’s because my friend Betsy from Charlottesville is the bassist for the band. Priests was a good surprise, doing heavy punk like White Lung. Ex Hex was stylistically on point and every member can play the shit out of their instrument.

Then I should have gone home, but instead I drank an iced coffee at 10:30 and went to Cobra Lounge because I had been hearing good things about Pyrrhon. And I was in the mood for some technical death metal. I liked Psalm Zero just fine (they have a slight goth tinge and a drum machine). Then Pyrrhon killed it and totally made the whole night worth it. They also officially confirmed that if you add noise to anything, I will like it. It was basically technical death metal with tempo changes and complicated riffage but played with copious amounts of feedback. At times the songs just descended into plain (heavy) noise, and then would roar back up again into their twisted, angry form.

I’ve been finding generally that metal bands are either completely fucking boring, or I’m hanging on every chord change (if they are changing) waiting to see what will happen next. Pyrrhon definitely fell into the latter category.

If anyone makes it to the bottom of this rambling post that I will probably hate in the morning, let me know if you have suggestions for what I should write about for real, or comments/thoughts/feelings/etc. about all of this.

Swans Day 5 Round-up



Major Label Experiments, or Swans Sell Out (not really)

Sacreligous bogusity”: Lydia Lunch of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks reacts to Swans’ new, quieter sound

The “Love Will Tear Us Apart” official video

"Love Will Save You" and thoughts on White Light from the Mouth of Infinity

More on Swans’ legacy. This time: Swans and Dark Folk

(Follow my music blog if you like what I wrote. Oh, and listen to my radio show streaming live on Saturday 6-9am central standard time. I may or may not be playing Swans.)

Tomorrow is for Soundtracks for the Blind, pretty much.

Swans Day 4 Round-up: Live Swans



"I have a healthy fear of breaking my bones now…" - a quote from Gira on how his onstage demeanor has changed with age

Live Swans, then and now: watching old videos of Swans performing and comparing them to the present day

A performance of “Beautiful Child” from 1987 that just rules really hard, okay?

Musings on three versions of one song, “Coward”: how Swans are able to interpret their body of work through live performances

"Oxygen" at Pitchfork Music Festival Chicago in 2013, a performance I was there for and that is very close to my heart

An hour-long 80s VHS of live performances called “A Long Slow Screw”

Up next: Swans Sell Out?

(as always, follow my music blog if you like what you read)